Like Picking Through the Trash

“Well what do you think?” asked our real estate agent, with that false sense of brightness that only people trying to showcase trash as some sort of treasure can muster.

I had left the children with R’s parents at home in Ohio.  R was already working out in Connecticut, so I flew out to meet him early on a Friday morning so that we could spend the weekend house hunting.  It was not going well.

This was the sixth house we’d looked at today.  All of them had been at the top of our quoted price range, or even well above it, and all of the houses were significantly less nice than the one we currently occupied in Ohio.  I was simply unprepared for how expensive Fairfield County, Connecticut was.  I knew that some areas were expensive, I’d seen it online.  But when it came to brass tacks, I had hoped we could move to a town further outside of the commuter corridor to NYC and save some dollars.

Unfortunately, the only towns that were less expensive were either urban areas where we were told we definitely didn’t want to live, or so far from R’s work that the commute would be insane.  The entire county it seemed was priced well above $400,000, which was roughly double what our current home was listed for in Ohio.  I couldn’t believe it.

“I think we’re in some serious trouble,” I responded to the real estate agent, who clearly was used to a much higher level of corporate relocation client.  Perhaps someone who would slide into her Mercedes without batting an eye, or who would consider half a million dollars “affordable”, as we saw in some of the house descriptions she presented to us.  “I just don’t think anything we’ve looked at as being viable for us.  I suppose we’re going to have to find something further out from his job; we simply can’t go much lower in size.”  I glanced at the peeling paint in the horribly painted kitchen, and noted the dirty laundry on the floor of the closet that was left half open down the hallway.  “I mean, what, the market is so hot here that people can sell their house without even putting their dirty laundry away?”

The agent looked at me, with a mask that clearly tried to hide her level of frustration.  She specialized in relocations, which meant a short but intense house search with an guaranteed and usually quick payoff for her.  She clearly hadn’t expected us to be so picky about things like home maintenance.  In Fairfield County in 2004 houses sold quickly, with little effort on the part of the seller; the economy was hot, and the proximity to New York sold places that would be considered unsellable nearly anywhere else in the country.  But I just simply could not swallow spending so much money on a house that felt like a step backwards.

“Let’s do this.  You both go back to your hotel tonight, and I’ll prepare some showings for tomorrow a little further out; that will give you more house for your money, since you’re a little more flexible on location. And try to think about today’s listings with a bit of an open mind.  The locations on these were all good; everything else about a home can be changed.  I promise you we’ll find something that you can live with.”   She smiled warmly as she led us out of the red raised ranch we had been in, the rotting wood steps out front creaking with each person’s descent.

I’d never thought of looking for a place to live as a search for something I could live with.  Was that what this move was going to be?  An exercise in how much we could all stand?  R could sense my frustration and took command of the goodbyes, leading the way back to our agent’s car full of enthusiasm and optimism for the hidden gems we had in store for us tomorrow.  Maybe I was just being too pessimistic.  After all, there was something to be said about living a train ride away from New York, having beaches close by (something I had missed terribly since leaving Michigan), living in a place with the historical significance I’d always craved.

This move was supposed to be a step up for us.  I vowed to try and see the positives before tomorrow.

Until then, R and I were going to have to have at least one bottle of wine with dinner tonight to wash away my weariness.

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