May 9, 2004
Considering that it’s the biggest purchase I’m ever likely to make, I’ve been strangely passive and fatalistic about the whole house thing. The process takes on a life of its own, and sooner or later you realize the futility of trying to struggle against it. You make up your mind whether you really want to own a house at a particular time — whether you’re willing and able to do what it takes to get a house that will be worth the trouble — and you get to pick a few things that are important to you — in our case a dining room, an office big enough for both of us, and a short commute. After that, your realtor, your banker, and shadowy market forces take over and determine everything else: how quickly you find the house, how much you pay, what repairs are necessary before you move in, whether you’re going to have cable or DSL, when you get to move, and a gazillion other details.
The process sorts out your priorities with ruthless efficiency. For instance, we never even considered looking in Cupertino — the next town across the freeway — because that town has the best school district in the area and therefore commands a 20% premium from education-mad Chinese and Indian engineers. Our realtor steered us away from one property on the grounds that we would have nothing in common with the neighbors. I’m thinking: less than five years ago I was living in an apartment with a bullet hole in the living-room window, in a school district notable because it was funnelling library money to a Puerto Rican terrorist organization — and now I’m supposed to think this is a bad neighborhood because the neighbors all drive pickup trucks? I know people for whom househunting becomes a full-blown therapy-inducing event — like one couple I know who had to balance their desire to have the wife stay home with the (theoretical) kids against their desire to be within walking distance of an area with lots of restaurants.
It was always kind of in the back of my mind that this process could go horribly wrong at any time… but actually it’s been incredibly smooth. We signed our future earnings over to the bank on Friday. On Monday we wire a fuckton of cash to the escrow company; and on Tuesday we get keys. Now I have to start making the arrangements to have everything turned off here and turned on over there.