Friday, August 28, 2009


My wife and I have been having an 8 month affair with Madeline. Secret meetings, never calling her home phone number, destroying any paper trail that might link us to her, especially documents that might allude to our profession. Shhhhh! Real estate agents.

Madeline (not her real name) has been house hunting on the sly. We are her co-conspirators, sneaking around town and entering homes for sale. We don’t have to break in, exactly; we do have licenses and lockbox keys, and computers and offices, and reputations, and stuff like that.

What we don’t have, that Madeline does have, is a scary, abusive boy friend. This “man” has not physically assaulted her (that we know about), but he is a verbal and emotional rapist, a skilled bully, and a master manipulator. “If you ever leave me, I’ll kill myself.” Do you know this asshole? I bet you do.

Except for her propensity to hook up with soul-sucking vampires, Madeline is an otherwise sharp cookie, and in fact, the kind of tough broad I really like. Her profession? Maintenance technician. Madeline is a janitor. She can re-seat a toilet on a new wax seal faster than you can. Madeline’s got game. She’s also got some good common sense and had managed to save and hide about $200,000. She planned on putting down $60,000 (about 20%) and borrowing the rest.

So for 8 months we shopped for Madeline’s sanctuary. Like most of the buyers today, she was stuck on “foreclosures and short sales.” She thought “distressed property” was a magic incantation that would conjure the deal of the century. Seven failed offers later (I’m not making this up), my wife finally found the perfect home for her. It was not a short sale or bank-owned home, though it was being sold by the trustees of an elderly woman who had found her own sanctuary in a local care facility.

I’ll use the real numbers here. The asking price was $299,000 which Maddy was eager to pay. I had to talk her into making a lower offer. She wanted this house! Buyer and seller agreed on $289,000. Let’s blast through the usual escrow ups and downs, appraisal, inspections, loan conditions, repairs, contingencies, and mountains of paperwork. Yesterday afternoon, the title officer called with the real magic words “We’re on record.”

I drove into Auburn at sundown, one of those beautiful evenings, warm and soft. I kept reaching down to feel her keys in my pocket; just making sure they were still there. We met at her new home and gave each other a hug. We turned and looked at Sanctuary, sitting up there on its own quiet hill, surrounded by tall pines and old oaks. We imagined what it was going to look like with a fresh coat of paint, her choice of colors.

I felt pretty damn good. Ya’ think?

So, why don’t you join me in a round of applause? Raise your glasses high, and let’s give a big cheer, Hip Hip Hoorah for Madeline!

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