Buying The Perfect House

Twenty five houses in four days and we still hadn’t found the perfect one.

As we climbed into our minivan the morning of the fifth day of house hunting, hot coffees in hand, our realtor got real.

“You know most people find what they are looking for in the first eight houses they see.”  Ella was so patient and competent and we were so obsessive. Transplanting ourselves from California to Minnesota was a big step and we wanted to find the perfect place. God, it must have been exhausting for her to schlep with us from Golden Valley to Edina to Shoreview but she did it with a smile.

And a great sense of humor. Who knew that house hunting could be so funny? Our top three house picks for sheer entertainment value:

  • The Sex Dungeon House.  Of course, we didn’t know it was a Sex Dungeon House at first.  To be fair, it was probably more of a Depraved Swingers House but Sex Dungeon has a more poetic ring.

    The listing showed a large custom house with a quirky mix of wood paneling and rock facing throughout a series of unique rooms. It would require a lot of sweat equity but the house was in our price range and situated on a large wooded lot in an upscale neighborhood.Immediately as we crossed the threshold, we knew something was weird. There was an odd, unlived-in feel about the place as if it were never a home. As we continued to walk through, the weirdness escalated.

    Inside the kitchen was a huge industrial walk-in refrigerator. My first thought? Boy, they must host a lot of parties to need a fridge that big. Next room held a sunken heart-shaped hot tub that could fit 12 people. Ok, this pink monstrosity wouldn’t be my first choice but maybe they liked to relax with all of their friends at once. Then we found the one-way mirror that looked out at a large open den, linked by a secret passage. The little kid in me thrilled at the idea of my own secret passage. The adult in me looked through that creepy mirror and wondered if Shannon and Ella had touched anything in the house because we really should wash our hands thoroughly before leaving.

    Giggling nervously, we walked into the final bedroom where a swing was hanging from the ceiling. It was made to look like a children’s swing but when I walked over to examine it, I noticed a line of industrial hooks and bolts imbedded in the ceiling. Why all the massive reinforcement for a single swing? Because with that hardware, the seat could probably hold a few people… Oh, oh, now I get it. Eeewww.

    “So that’s a no, right?” We couldn’t stop laughing and wishing we had Sani-Wipes in the van.

  • The Disco Ball House. The next house on our tour was much more in line with our dream house, beautifully staged liked a photo spread in Traditional Home magazine with its gleaming dark wood floors, expensive rugs and perfect bronze accents.  As we walked through admiring the large downstairs family room, something caught Ella’s eye.

    “Is that a… a disco ball?” This was no cheap toy, but a professionally installed disco ball system on the ceiling.The discovery was closely followed by the question, “do you think it really works?” I squealed happily as we found the wall switch and it sparkled to life. We flipped through the various setting and themes from classic white strobe to multi-colored Saturday Night Fever to neon colored epilepsy inducing rave lighting. As the room lit up around us, the three of us started to dance and laughed so hard tears squirted out of my eyes. Even my husband could not resist the siren’s lure of that disco ball.

    “What do you think?” Ella said locking up the front door as we left.

    “That was AMAZING!” Disco Ball House made our top three list. Still not sure if it was because of the house itself or the draw of hosting our own personal dance parties.

  • The “Mad Men” Mid-Century Modern. This one was perfect on paper – one owner, huge open layout, original fixtures from the 1960s that would have fit right in on the set of a Rat Pack movie and a peaceful view of the small lake outside giant picture windows. Only problem was that it was pushing our price range, and after exiting the Northern California real estate market, we never wanted to be mortgage poor again. But our dream house fantasy won out that day and we forced Ella to check out the house with us.  Walking through the rooms, we were living that fantasy, talking about the renovations we would make.

    Our fantasy was brought back to reality when the owner showed up and let himself into the house with us.  Ever wonder why realtors don’t want owners to stick around when houses are shown to perspective buyers? Because it’s annoying and counterproductive.He proceeded to follow us around and ask a ton of invasive questions. Where did we move from? Who did we work for? What were our jobs?  I thought he was going to demand to see our pay stubs and our son’s school records. When he heard we sold a house in Northern California, he stated that we could definitely afford to pay his inflated price. After all, it was a special house for a special buyer. What a dickhead.

    Ella stepped in and began to ask questions about the condition of the property, keeping it real by noticing all the little details we had overlooked in our blind attraction. The dickhead owner became overly defensive that the property wasn’t perfect and I thought, if you can’t take the heat, then don’t show up at a walk through, buddy. We couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Now, as we drove to the first listing on our fifth day, Ella was keeping it real once again, nudging us towards where we needed to be. Time to make a choice. We had to find a place before the school year started but what if we didn’t find “the one”? Would we be willing to compromise?

Driving up to the first house of the day, I was thrilled by its modern look and how you could see through the house’s many windows to green trees in the wetland behind.  Within five minutes of walking in, my husband and I were in love with it.

“This is it.”  Number 26 was our perfect house.

** Special shout out to our realtor now friend Ella Ritzman.  In addition to being a kick-ass realtor, she runs E’s Emporium in Minneapolis during all of her non-existent down time.

** Not so special shout out to the dickhead owner of the Mad Men house. He never found that special buyer and took the house off the market a year later. Schadenfreude, baby.

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