Sunday, July 05, 2009

Pre-Purchase Panic


I'm not very good at "hurry up and wait."

My mind starts to race, and it doesn't always end up in the nicest places.

Because I'm in an over-sharing mood, here are a few of the things that I've been fretting over.

Robb and I, who have lived so frugally in order to afford this little house, will not be able to trim any more "extras" from our budget, go broke, and lose the house. (Big worry.)

All the contractors we have met with will turn out to be incompetent at everything except taking our money. (I've been reading renovation blogs. People love to blog about What Went Wrong.)

Our little house, after existing for so many years will fall to pieces under our watch. It will go the way of all the antiques that died once we to own them. Do I regret the beautiful silk parasol that got ripped in half in a tussle outside of Penn Station in NYC, or the mourning jewelry that broke in the bag on the way home from the antique fair, or all the vintage textiles that I've hastened to their early, tattered demise, or the mountain of vintage china and glass ware that Robb and I have smashed, due to our clumsiness? Sadly, I remember wrecking these things more vividly than I remember enjoying them. Guilt is a powerful force.

Every second of my spare time will be eaten up by the house, and we'll never hang out with our friends. We'll be all alone, inside of a half-restored cottage.

Robb and I will fight about renovations. He'll come up with complex schemes, and I won't have the skill or energy to get the job done. In my mind, the plan had always been that Robb, who had the skills, would use me for unskilled labor, and I would finally learn carpentry. God knows, I've failed to do this in over twelve years of working in scenic fabrication studios. I've never met a carpenter who's had the any interest in (or time for) teaching me how to use the power tools. But I've worked with plenty who have expressed their contempt for my lack of knowledge. Crikey, guys! How am I supposed to learn to use dangerous expensive machinery, if nobody is willing to teach?

We'll never fully unpack and we'll end up living in a tiny house, crammed full of disgorged boxes. This leads back to worries about never socializing, and losing all our friends.

We'll have spent every dime that we've worked so hard to save, done all the renovations, and the Big One will hit. Our house will be destroyed, and we'll learn about the scam that is earthquake insurance. Robb and I will spend the rest of our lives in a toxic FEMA trailer.

I worry that my job will be de-funded, and that there won't be any other local opportunities for my esoteric skills. Or that I'll get injured, and that neither of us will be working. This fear circles back to us going broke, and losing the house.


As long as I'm able to step back from my fears, and laugh at myself, I'm okay. But sometimes that's not so easy. I'm really, perversely, insanely good at convincing myself that I can singlehandedly ruin my own life, and drag Robb down with me.

That's the downside of having a creative mind. You often get the Fertile Imagination for Disaster tossed in, free of charge.


Gina said...


This is my giggle of recognition....I laugh only because I sign the new lease at 6:30 today and WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING ALL DAY LONG?

In the grand spirit of over-sharing , these are amongst my nightmare fantasies:

1. Liam will be horribly warped by the new public school and be ignored or made fun of or fall woefully behind or start fights out of boredom or simply come down with the deadlier version of swine flue that will be around this winter because he'll be exposed to a larger population of germ-carriers. He'll never get back into Park as a result because of his anxiety over the new place. Or the flu will kill us.

2. I'll be horrifically in debt because of the extra $ on this lease and things will be even worse off than they were before and my credit rating will sink even lower and I will never be able to get a loan for anything again. Of course my car will break down and need replacing as soon as the new year starts.

3. There'll be a horrific fire at the place and Liam won't get out of his cute attic bedroom in time.

4..I'll be even more isolated in
Roland Park than I already am and won't even have the benefit of a great front room (aka, party room) in which to lure people over every now and then. The Roland Park people will shun me and my shaggy hair and unkempt clothes.

You get the can we torture ourselves or what?!


I love you!


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the joys of home ownership! :)

Most of what you said may happen in one way or another- but since you have your eyes open, they probably will not. Consider yourself lucky. An older friend of mine helped his (spoiled) kids buy a house, and they thought "well, of COURSE its ok to pour this big jar of stinky grease down the sink!" or (of COURSE I can leave the water turned on to the outside faucet all winter long!) YIKES......Those kids still dont knwo whay dad is mad at them!

Hm- needless to say, their journey into home ownership has not been an easy or inexpensive one. You guys, on the otherhand, are not living in a home that Daddy bought you, nor are you 19 and inexperienced. You will be fine. Things will break- thinks will be built and fixed. It's all good. And when things seem to go miserably, and you will be able to laugh about it later- you will be a part of the club. Its all in the mindset- no matter what. The drippy pipe turned into "Adventures in plumbing week". We laugh about it now.

Getting rid of cardboard boxes we have been toting around for 25 YEARS felt MAGNIFICANT.

Get ready for more grey hairs!

You will find even more ways to save money- trust me on this for sure. Remember, our relatives were starved and beaten Eastern Europeans- so we can definately take whatever life throws at us. It could always be worse. Plant the bejesus out of your yard when you get it and grow everything you can to eat. You will both be healthier for it.

By the way, Roland Park (Baltimore?) had fantastic old mansions to live in. I'm very jealous. Can I trade my big crap-filled barn for an empty house?


Anonymous said...

Engage in one more primal scream followed by a huge laugh at yourself and your fears. Okay, now you are ready to put your fertile, creative mind to work imagining all the fun, inexpensive, little things you might do to make your little cottage your home. You didn't get there in a day; you and Robb don't have to do it all in a day. Enjoy the journey and the junk will take care of itself. Oh, and start with a moving in party - using the muscles, laughter, and box emptying hands of your friends and colleagues. Warm that house!

Grumpy Grinch

Anonymous said...

Wait, Lisa, you forgot a really big one--WHAT ABOUT THE NEW NEIGHBORS?

This can be a whole chapter in your book of things to worry about!

Like the drunk guy who came over last night and asked us if he could set off a big-*** firecracker at 1:30 am...

Maybe your new neighbors will cover their backyard with blankets and you will have something to entertain us with!

--Leah from AQ

mamakin said...

Whoa, you've had every thought I did when buying each of my homes - each time. I think everyone who's going to be successful at owning a home has these feelings - otherwise they'd be tossing that gunk down the sink & leaving the water on all winter. The worst things we worry about will probably never happen, but cars will break down, boilers will need repair & you will find someone listed under handyman who is licensed & bonded & good & you'll offer him lemonade & conversation as you carefully watch what he's doing so you can do it yourself in the future. There's always Ramen noodles to live on when necessary. The pay off is the garden & birds you listen to when you eat the Ramen. If this house is meant to be yours it will be. It's such a sweet house & you & Robb will make it a home. Friends will come more often to help with whatever you need as you have Ramen & beer & great conversation. The house is really in pristine condition from the photos I saw so you can pick one room to work on & just dust the others. Take your time, pick your projects, give each other a kiss & a hug at your good fortune, and may you have all your best memories in your new HOME.

Kellyann Brown said...

My parents bought a house they could barely afford (1959, the real estate fellow let them live in the house for three months to come up with the $300 down payment). Fifty years later, they now own four houses. The house they currently live in has six bedrooms and three baths (it doesn't look that big from the outside).

You will be fantastic homeowners, because you will love your house and the house will love you back.

If you ever need extra money, you can sell hand-knit socks on .

Anonymous said...

Sleepless nights filled with endless doubts are a requisite part of the home buying experience. Knowing that doesn't help. Hang in there!

marmalade said...

Thinking up all these scenarios keeps you alert to the potential pitfalls. Now, take a shower and don't think up all the ways you will sail over them IF they dare make an appearance (they will just pop into your mind during the shower). And rest easy, knowing you are probably more prepared than you think you are for such dangers... at least you know what MIGHT happen.

Go, fight, win!

Gina said...


I'd gladly trade our new dark apt. on the upper floor of a smaller bungalo in the "lower Roland Park" area (it's really more Hampden) for a big ol barn full of crap! But that's because I ADORE big ol' barns full o' crap and made plans to run away and live in one as a young girl!

Actually, it's the darkness that's freaking me and my son out - I thought having a (shared) yard would FINALLY mean a garden, but we'll actually have to research shade loving plants, at least for the next year.


You're gonna LOVE your place! The pictures alone SCREAM Robb and Lisa and I think everyone else here is exactly right. If you didn't worry, you wouldn't be worthy of your own place; your friends (even those of us thousands of miles away) will be thrilled to help you make your house a home; and it's all normal, normal, nromal. Now, if I can only tell MYSELF that....


On a completely unrelated note, I'm seriously considering a housewarming bunny for Liam!

gollygee said...

I totally understand your worries, but it will all be fine, trust me! :) Your friends will not abandon you while you renovate (and if they do, they weren't worth it to begin with), you'll do research on the contractors and they'll all be fine, Robb will show (or tell :D) you how to use the powertools (which is such a gratifying experience, trust me!), and the house will be glorious!!! :)

slowe said...

shit, Lisa, I'll show you how to use any tool you want. Just ask.

Lauren said...

Lisa, Hope this helps:

1) Budget: even for time-frame. You may have to choose one part of the house to work on at a time. This may be painful for a while during the time everything isn't perfect.

2) The parasol wasn't really that traumatic to lose, was it? Just the actual loss activity probably hurt. But in the scheme of your life, the parasol isn't important. The house will NOT fall to pieces. You will care for it because it is truly important.

3) Yes, you may cut back on frivolous stuff. But you may learn to enjoy "3-buck Chuck" (Cheap, fairly ok wine from Trader Joe's) or evenings talking a walk, instead of fancier dinners.

4) You won't be alone. in fact, you can invite friends over for pot-luck dinner parties in the cute house. It's a cheap dinner out for everyone.

5) You will learn carpentry, even if you have to teach yourself. You may even find a local handyman who will give you money off by being his assistant. Theatre carpenters are frequently too busy (or too jaded) to teach - you are right. But you don't want theatre tech, you need house tech. You'll solve it. You may even find good recommendations from new neighbors. If you want, I can recommend a guy out here who will charge you little money to fly out there and do it cheap: may be worthwhile to fly someone out in exchange for round-the-clock renovations that are done right away.

6) You'll unpack. It only took me 2 days.

7) You can't stop The Big One. That's a really nice worry but you can't stop it - and if it comes, you'll still manage to live somewhere. You have friends and parents and intelligence. Stop that; that's a worthless worry that you just threw in there ;)

8) At the moment your job is funded, so don't tempt fate to change it. Just see the top 6 suggestions.

You'll be ok. You will land on your feet - you always have. You and Robb still have each other. You are doing great. Just think carefully and make the best decision for you. It may take a while until the whole house is "finished perfectly", but rarely do anyone but rich people do this immediately anyway. The house looks sound and clean, which is what you want right now anyway.

All our minds do this. I did it too, even about renting. Your mind will ease up. Even the odd things you hate may become quirky and cute. (My current bathroom has 1940's pink tile, just so you know... I combined it with nice green details and now it's 'artsy', not ugly ;) . Just make sure all electricity works, plumbing is ok, and nothing is rotted. Everything else can be scrubbed and fixed 'in time'. You'll learn how to use tools. You can throw "Habitat for Lisa and Robb" parties, whereby everyone pitches in to help fix a room at a time. It will be great -- maybe not ritzy at first, but great.

Hope this helps.

Lynne Rutter said...

had the same fears and most of them came true and then some. within a year after i bought my house:
i lost my job
the house devalued in the [last] housing market crash and i could not borrow money to finish the rehab of it,
i spent 3 years working IT and not much else only to find it was worth less than when i started.

and yet i did not loose the house! even after a divorce and yet another recession and i am self-employed with no back up whatsoever.when i lost my studio i worked in my house. i have had housemates and rented my garage and done whatever i had to to keep a roof over my head.
my friends came over and helped me paint and plant adopted bushes, and break down boxes. and now they come to enjoy my garden and years on, despite everything it is worth 3 times what i bought it for, and now i own a very nice place to live that i could probably not afford to even rent.

take care of your home and your home will take care of you, it IS worth it.

Gina H. said...

The first time I rad Robb and your stories I thought"What a beautiful gift they have... unconditional love" You truly are living the wedding vows. If you caan do that after Robb's accident you can do it thru the house repairs and unpacking. Sure you might not do it in two days but Rome was built that quickly either and YOUR HOME is better than a fallen dynasty ANY day. I've always been a bit of a tomboy but since my dad was really handy I only got to watch and all though it helped nothing is better than a good book of simple home repair and diving in, I had never put in a brick walkway but when I moved in with Joe it was nothing but grass from garage 100 feet to door.(SUMMER) You guessed it spring next year came and we had MUD and cream colored carpets. His ex was nuts- cream carpet thruout- they only had one boy and a cat. Add my group 3 more cats two more dogs two more kids... Cream carpet the bane of my existance! So I challenged the4 brick. Now it's not completly level bit it's there and has held up for 5 years now and every time I look at it I think I DID THAT! It makes the front of our house. I goofed, I learned . You can do it! One day at a time , sweet Jesus, one day at a time.

torirot said...

A quote from Winnie the Pooh (after my memory)

- What if the tree falls down? says piglet.

- What if it doesn't? says Winnie the Pooh.

(In my life, I am piglet and my husband is Winnie the Pooh...)

Best wishes, Tori

Anonymous said...

you are doing what many call catastrophizing... I do it too, believe it or not,, i hatch defenses against these events and sometimes it works

MLB said...

The only advice I have is that once the ball is rolling for buying a house it'll have it's own momentum.
Try to sit back and let go.
Moving and buying a house is the most stressful thing EVER!!!

Renovating is challenging and rewarding. You'll figure out when to call in help (for me that meant plumbers- I don't do plumbing).

You know enough carpenters around the country- start inviting some for a working vacation. JUUUULIIIEEEEE!!!! She'll need a little break from grad school!

Hang in!

MLB said...

Oh, and I lost my job 3 DAYS before closing on my first house (and I was SINGLE- buying it alone). I took the opportunity to take 2 months off and work on the house exclusively.
Found another job, and it all worked out.

It'll all work out!


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