Tuesday, October 12, 2010

House Haunting: Beetlejuice!

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A guest post by my partner in house hunting a pretty much everything else, DH.

As Halloween approaches and our search for a new home continues, Beetle Juice is on my mind.

Remember in the Michael Keaton film, Beetlejuice, how recently deceased homeowners Alec Baldwin and Gina Davis wanted Winona Ryder’s family to vacate their beloved house, so they worked hard learning how to haunt it?

Well, Beetlejuice is my newest house descriptor. A house for sale haunted by its occupants (dead, undead or living), who make the place as ugly as they can to scare away potential buyers.

We toured a short sale recently. Unlike a foreclosure, where the owners can’t afford the mortgage, so the bank tosses them out, leaving an empty, unloved building, a short sale is a compromise. The bank lets the family stay in their domicile and offers the house for sale for less than the unpaid remainder of the mortgage. Today, banks have enough evictions to deal with and people forced out of their home can do some pretty nasty things to the structure on their way out the door.

But why should a short sale be any different? In this case, the owners (really, occupants) know that once the deal is complete, they’re to be out and won’t make a dime off the deal. Not a penny of profit.

On the other hand, if the home does not sell quickly, the residents have a place to live without having to pay the full cost of their mortgage.

The house in question was a mess. When we were selling our house, we kept it ready to show at a moment's notice. Not only did this place have dirty laundry everywhere, making us feel like unwelcome invaders, but it appeared as if this family had never cleaned the bathtub or wiped the caked-on grease off the stove.

Had they floated up to us carrying their severed heads in their hands like in a Scooby-Doo cartoon, we would have been less grossed out.

The exterior was worse. A broken screen door lay against the side of the garage. Bricks had fallen from the chimney and the wood siding was peeling paint (presumably lead-based). Each blade of dead grass on the patchy lawn cried out “nobody loves us!”

This house of horrors left me not so much chilled to the bone as irritated to the core. Yes, we are strangers looking at a real estate deal. But we are also guests.

Couldn't these people at least have disposed of the bucket of oil near the garage? Or should we have inferred that the oil was a feature that comes with the house?

Bolstering my point is that when we showed up the following Sunday for the official open house, no sign announced the event. A call to the Realtor explained that the occupants “forgot” they had a guest coming over that day.

Puhleeze. Obviously, the family couldn't manage to or didn't feel like cleaning the place.

The agent assured us the open house would be rescheduled for this Sunday, but I’m willing to bet the occupants will suddenly remember an obscure holiday involving used motor oil and rubber tires. Maybe other buyers have a tolerance for haunted houses, but I don't.

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