Johnny America


How to Buy a House



If you’re will­ing to save the re­la­tion­ship, but not ready for kids, it might be time to buy a house. Plan­ning is the first step. Talk about gar­dens, an of­fice with a win­dow look­ing out over pecan trees. Goats, some­day; cows, maybe. Pick names for them. This is the work you’ve heard about; shared ex­pe­ri­ences are what bind us together.

Evenings and week­ends, dri­ve ran­dom­ly around neigh­bor­hoods close to parks and his­toric dis­tricts. Take in­for­ma­tion pack­ets from the most ex­pen­sive look­ing hous­es you can find. This gives you an idea of range. When you ven­ture in­to shab­bier neigh­bor­hoods, work­ing class neigh­bor­hoods, ghet­tos, places clos­er to where you cur­rent­ly live, make jokes about rolling up the win­dows. Then turn around and make your way back to the high­er end hous­es. Avoid mak­ing eye con­tact with any­one walk­ing the streets, sit­ting on their porch­es, etc. Play mu­sic loud­ly to cov­er the sound of your rat­ty en­gine. Ig­nore the fact that your muf­fler fell off two months ago.


Stop at an up­scale gro­cery store to pick up some of those ‘Home Buy­ing Guide’ pa­pers they give out for free over by the au­to­mat­ic doors. If it is so up­scale that they don’t have any, go to the Kroger a cou­ple blocks over. Com­pare prices and lo­ca­tions, find the most rea­son­able seem­ing deals and try not to won­der why they are so rea­son­able. Make maps, plot out trips to look at hous­es. Pack a lunch, (re­mem­ber- you’re sav­ing for a house; this is­n’t the time for friv­o­lous trips to Wendy’s), and park in the dri­ve­way of the nicest look­ing house you can find and share sandwiches.

If you find a house you like that is for sale, cir­cle back to it a cou­ple times to make sure you want it, then, with the en­gine run­ning, one of you hop out and steal the ‘For Sale’ sign from the yard so no one else will know about it. It might be best to do this at night. Be­gin to se­ri­ous­ly con­sid­er try­ing to get a home loan, or, if ap­plic­a­ble, a job.


If you can’t find a house that you want for sale, you might have to try an­oth­er ap­proach. Take off work (if you’re work­ing), pack a tent, a grill. You can take shifts if you have to, but be care­ful you don’t turn this in­to some­thing too much like work. Bet­ter yet- both of you go; treat it like a va­ca­tion, a camp out, which it is.

Pitch a tent on the side­walk in front of the house you want to go on the mar­ket. The side­walk is pub­lic prop­er­ty. If the cur­rent oc­cu­pants of the house threat­en to call the cops, tell them this. Once you’re pret­ty sure they have called the cops, strip the camp and take off. It’s best if you use an eas­i­ly re­mov­able tent, or maybe just sleep­ing bags.

Don’t go too far. Climb a tree, go to the top of a hill or just use a po­lice scan­ner. The cops will come, the (cur­rent) home­own­ers will com­plain. The cops will leave.

This is when you go back.


As I’ve hint­ed at above, anonymi­ty is an im­por­tant fac­tor in house buy­ing. When camp­ing in front of a prospec­tive home, you may want to wear masks or dis­guis­es. This can be not on­ly an ef­fec­tive means of dis­guise and a good way to fur­ther con­fuse the (cur­rent) home­own­ers, but it can al­so be fun and stim­u­lat­ing. Many cou­ples find this to be a good op­por­tu­ni­ty to add a lit­tle spice to their love-lives. Why not en­cour­age your wife to dis­guise her­self as a se­duc­tive nurse, and you, a Hol­ly­wood stunt­man, re­cov­er­ing in your sleep­ing bag from a near-fa­tal ac­ci­dent on the set of a Hol­ly­wood block­buster? You can de­vel­op fan­ta­sy lives, pre­tend to know fa­mous or even dead or imag­i­nary peo­ple, such as race car dri­vers, or Richard Dean An­der­son. This is an op­por­tu­ni­ty for qual­i­ty time be­tween you and your sig­nif­i­cant oth­er; a chance to work on build­ing that mythol­o­gy be­tween the two of you. In do­ing this, you may dis­cov­er that every sit­u­a­tion of­fers an op­por­tu­ni­ty for ad­ven­ture and for strength­en­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween you and your loved one. This is an im­por­tant les­son and one you’ll be glad to have learned.


The im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber when buy­ing a house is­n’t just per­sis­tence, but ran­dom­ness. In war movies, when they talk about wa­ter tor­ture, no­tice that it is drops of wa­ter that dri­ve peo­ple crazy. If it were a steady stream, one could adapt.

Bear­ing this in mind, it may be a good idea to pack up camp every so of­ten and leave. And just when they think it’s over, come back. If you’ve got your eye on a dif­fer­ent house, this would be a good way to di­vide your time be­tween the two. Hop back and forth be­tween them ran­dom­ly. Af­ter a few days, you won’t even have to camp there any­more. It will on­ly re­quire oc­ca­sion­al vis­its to re­mind the (cur­rent) home­own­ers of your pres­ence. You can even get away with sim­ply dri­ving by play­ing mu­sic loud­ly at late hours. But be sure to vary the types of mu­sic you play: coun­try one night, sal­sa the next. This serves a two-fold pur­pose: 1. it dis­tracts from the fact that one per­son or one group of peo­ple are the cause of this dis­tur­bance, and 2. it con­fus­es them. (See above.) Just imag­ine them, sit­ting in their com­fy house/s trem­bling in ter­ror every time a loud ve­hi­cle dri­ves by or back­fires, while you sit on your tat­tered couch watch­ing re­al­i­ty shows. It is al­ways best to take not on­ly pride in your work, but en­joy­ment from it.


Now it is a ques­tion of wait­ing. I’ve known peo­ple who’ve wait­ed months or even years for a (cur­rent) home­own­er to break down and move out. Many lose sight of the long-term goal, un­til they’re tak­ing Sun­day dri­ves through neigh­bor­hoods they’ve long giv­en up on mov­ing in­to, play­ing tra­di­tion­al Ger­man folk mu­sic at full blast and not even re­mem­ber­ing why. Maybe they see a For Sale sign on that house they’ve al­ways liked, but all abil­i­ty to move for­ward has been lost in the blare of accordions.

Even worse are the ones who suc­ceed and wake up one day to find a pair of strangers dressed in sky­div­ing ap­pa­ra­tus mak­ing love in a ham­mock in their front yard. These poor souls have be­come the thing they once hat­ed: they hud­dle on the linoleum on their kitchen floor, drink­ing bot­tled wa­ter and wait­ing for the po­lice to come, hop­ing that will be the end of it, but know­ing some­how that it won’t be; all the while try­ing to re­mem­ber some­thing about this that all seems familiar.

These are ex­am­ples of the most dread­ed of words: habit. Habit is death not on­ly to home buy­ing, but to a re­la­tion­ship. Imag­ine a life as an au­toma­ton, do­ing the same things day in and day out. It is­n’t dif­fi­cult be­cause it re­quires lit­tle imag­i­na­tion. Now we are be­gin­ning to see what this has been about all along. It is to be hoped that in buy­ing a home, you will keep in mind not on­ly is­sues of com­fort and se­cre­cy, but al­so the ad­ven­ture of it all. Home buy­ing is a big step, it marks a tran­si­tion in one’s life from ado­les­cence to ma­tu­ri­ty. Re­mem­ber, it was on­ly a cou­ple cen­turies ago that the on­ly peo­ple who could vote in this, and many oth­er coun­tries, were ones who owned homes. This idea can be looked at in two ways: 1. it shows that home own­ers were gen­er­al­ly seen as be­ing ma­ture, re­spon­si­ble peo­ple ca­pa­ble of mak­ing big de­ci­sions. 2. since these laws were made by home own­ers them­selves, it serves as a warn­ing to prospec­tive home buy­ers to re­mem­ber where they came from and nev­er take them­selves too se­ri­ous­ly. It is to be hoped that when you suc­ceed in buy­ing your home and wake up one morn­ing to find that ragged pair camped out on your side­walk, you’ll pack your things and move on. In this way, we all can ben­e­fit, as you will have ac­quired eq­ui­ty, and will make a nice prof­it on the sale of your home. This is the fi­nal les­son of home buy­ing. Now, you are ready. Good luck.

Filed under Non-Fiction on March 13th, 2009

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