Recently, I took a nice young lady to see some property in a neighboring town with a population of about 1,200. Small town; cute little area and very rural. It was 107 degrees outside that day and it had been over 100 degrees for the last 60 days. Showing homes was definitely not a fun event this particular summer. I told my customer, Janis, to meet me at the home and the listing realtor would meet us there to open it up. When we arrive, it’s only me and my client, Janis. No listing realtor.
I call the listing realtor and he says, “Oh, I can’t go but the owner is going to open the door and give you a tour.”
“A tour?” I asked. It’s a mobile home on 2 acres. I’m sure we can figure it out!
“Yes.” The listing realtor continued. “Oh and by the way…don’t look at what the lady has done to the house, just think about what it could be,” he said and hung up abruptly.
Uh oh. That usually means that the place is in deplorable condition and if your client wants to spend a boat load of money, they can make it look habitable. It’s like those listings with the roof caving in, water pooling in the middle of the floor from a slab leak, the post mortem remains of a squatter that took his final nap in the bedroom, that the listing Realtor proudly announces that it’s, “As is. A fixer-upper. Handyman special!”
There’s not enough “fixin'” in the world that can do what renting a bulldozer can! But this house doesn’t look too bad on the outside. If you look beyond the 12 terrifying scarecrows that are scattered around the yard (that aren’t guarding any sort of crop or vegetation and just look like a scary dead guy hanging from a stick), the weird gothic fountains with no water and piles of trash everywhere; you could see a little promise of a humble abode.
I step out of the car and at the same time, Janis steps out as well. This is my first time to meet her so we exchange pleasantries. I’ve learned a long time ago that one person’s nightmare home could be another person’s dream, so I say nothing of the Tim Burton movie-scape that is the front yard and we make our way to the front porch.
Just as we reach the rickety wood front porch with three barbeque pits on it, the door opens and out staggers a portly woman in her sixties or seventies wearing a tube top dress that the sun was shining straight through; allowing us a view of what God has so bountifully blessed her with. I avert my eyes and look at her face in order to make eye contact and initiate a “hello” and a handshake.
I try not to act shocked when the lady in the tube dress has a full mustache and patchy scruff for a beard. I silently curse hormones in my head and promise to put money aside for laser hair removal for eternity.
“Hello! Your realtor says you’re going to help us out today? I’m Myka. It’s nice to meet you.”
“It’s hotter’n hades out there. Ya’ll come on in. It’s not very clean but you can do whatever you want to it when you buy it. My cat just runned away and I’m perty sad. I hope she don’t run off with no pack of wild cats and never come back.” She started to get a little misty eyed and her voice broke.
“I’m sorry.” I said, trying to break the silence and also to keep her from starting to cry. “Maybe she went under the house. She’ll come back. I bet nobody loves her or feeds her like you.”
“Why she runned off then you think?” she asked in a desperate tone with pleading eyes.
“Oh. Who knows. But she’ll be back. Do you want to show us around or can we wander around ourselves?” I asked.
At this point, I was trying to figure out what the musty smell was. It was irritatingly sweet and sour at the same time. I was stifling a gag. Janis said absolutely nothing and was just staring at a wall in front of her.
“Pack’a wild dogs ate up my air conditioner. That’s why it’s so hot. Ya’ll can look around if you’d like. I ain’t got nothing to hide.” She said as she searched with her eyes out the window for her prodigal kitty.
Janis was attached to my hip and we moved around like a two headed beast trying not to touch anything. I started in the kitchen and look up above the cabinet and saw another scary sight that made me want to just go back out to the car and burn rubber on the way out of here. It was a two foot statue of the grim reaper with several other little reapers around it. I was so uncomfortable that I made a comment about it.
“Oh look at that. That’s different for a kitchen décor.” Oh gosh! Why did I say that? That’s great! Make her mad and she’ll put some weird voodoo scarecrow spell on me.
“Oh that’s my little friend.” She said, not even really paying attention to us.
There’s just enough room on the floor for us to go room to room in a conga line. The master bedroom had carpet and there were urine stains all over the floor and an ammonia smell. I was trying not to hurt this lady’s feeling by going in and out quickly but I was having a hard time keeping the contents of my stomach in my stomach.
Next we meandered to the guest rooms and the first one had a bunch of furniture stacked on top of each other up to the ceiling and about eighteen to twenty vacuum cleaners. Again, I should have kept my mouth shut but I was just nervously talking at this point. I said, “Oh wow. Look at all these vacuum cleaners. Why do you have so many?”
She sighed and said, “Well…you seen them chickens out thar in the chicken coop? Before I had the money for a coop they used to stay in this room and I’d just vacuum up their mess every day. I don’t know how to fix a vacuum so I just bought a new one every time one would clog up.”
Well that’s a first! Raising chickens inside the house. Never seen that one until now. I just acted like that was normal and continued the tour. We finally finished inside and she started to show us the boundaries of the property. I was just thanking God we were outside. She had a few goats behind the fence and one of them came running up to the fence bleating with excitement upon seeing the owner of the home.
“Hey! Momma’s here!” she baby talked the little goat. “You see that thar goat? I raised her from a little baby with a bottle right thar in my living room. She lived with me for a year until she was strong enough to go outside on her own. That’s my baby.”
Oh for God’s sake! Goats and chickens inside the house! They didn’t even do that on Little House on the Prairie! I keep looking at Janis for any sort of emotion and she’s been silent the whole time. I bet she’s mortified. I am!
We finish the tour as the owner loses interest in us and wanders off calling her lost kitty cat. Janis and I walk over to the cars and I say, “Wow,” with a shocked look on my face.
“I know.” Janis says. “So should we make an offer today or make them wait a little?”
Huh? I thought she was joking. She wasn’t.
“I really like it. Maybe we can get a good deal. Let’s start low and see what happens.”
I’m still in shock and waiting for her to bust out laughing and say, “Gotcha!” No such luck.
“Okay.” I said slowly. “We’ll definitely want to get an inspector out here to make sure it’s a good investment.”
“Yeah. Good idea. You call the inspector and we can go write up the contract.” She said excitedly.
As I stared unbelievingly at a gothic scarecrow swaying in the breeze, I realized that it’s never my opinion that counts. Everyone has their own dream home even if livestock was raised inside of it. Even if the grim reaper watches over you while you do your dishes, and even if every kid in town is scared to tears by your front yard. To each their own. Long live the American dream!