This house, which apparently saw only three viewings in eight months last year and was thus pulled from the market, has now had three viewings in two days, and two of those are coming back for a second look. I have been really quite startled by the reaction it has caused in me. I mean, I knew it was coming and I thought I’d just handle it like any other hurdle in this move, but it’s really hit me hard in the guts. As soon as the first appointments were made, I developed a stonker of a headache — and that almost never happens to me — and felt in a foul mood for hours. I think it’s just the realisation that the place we live — the roof over our heads — is not a sure-thing anymore. I mean, home should be the place where you can find refuge, where you kick back and relax, regroup, recharge. But now, we can’t relax because we know that the phone can ring any minute, seven days a week, with the news that someone is coming around in a little while to look around and decide if they’d like to live here. There’s something quite frightening about knowing — or not knowing — if the place where you’re living is securely yours to stay in. And, under present circumstances, where everything is new and unfamiliar — from M’s job to the grocery shopping — and we neither of us have the comfort of our friends (but the added stresses of inlaws instead), and this pain continues to plague me unabatted… well, I think not knowing how long this roof over our heads will remain ours was just too much, and so it hit me much, much harder than I expected. I am frightened — disproportionately but truly frightened, in a primal way. I went into a blind panic: I shouted at the girls; I couldn’t think straight; I burst into tears; I was terrible to my mother and my husband.
I have also been scrambling like mad to organise a way out. Yesterday, the mortgage guy said, yep, no problem, he could preapprove us for a mortgage (“go find a yourself house!”), but the rate would be slightly higher because of M’s unusual background. Fine, ok, whatever — it’s a mortgage. Based on that, I contacted a realtor we’d been speaking to and said perhaps we should start looking at houses next week. But, this morning, when the mortgage guy sent the details through, he said he’d come upon an unexpected hurdle and needed quite a lot more documentation from M’s UK creditors — and anyone who has lived in Britain will know that these things can often take a considerable time to materialise — and that the rate, unfortunately, may be higher than he’d hoped. It looks like I will have to ring the realtor back and tell him to stand down.
So, to cover ourselves, we’ve started looking at rentals instead. The rental market in the US seems so different from the UK — so geared towards apartments and a younger (more transient) clientele, rather than houses and families– and I am having trouble finding something we can afford that I feel comfortable housing my family in. It’s incredibly difficult to trawl through the classified ads in the paper when you don’t know the area at all. Is this a good neighbourhood or a dodgy one? I don’t know which areas are downtown or way outside the city… north or south… east or west… Is that place a bargain because it’s out in the sticks or because it’s next to a crack den? I have no idea. Doing this was hard when I was kid at university in a city I knew well enough. Trying to do it now, in a strange place and with the welfare of my two precious daughters always on my mind, is really quite stressful.
The realtor who scheduled an appointment for 11.30 this morning didn’t turn up until noon. I know these things happen, but I had been jiggling the baby on my hip to hold off her feed for half-an-hour, and I was annoyed. E1 was tucking into her lunch when the bell went. I opened the door and the realtor walked boldly into the hallway, swiveling her head around to look everything over as she did. She stuck out her hand and said, “I’m Kim,” then motioning to her client, “and this is Sarah.” The baby had slipped her hand in my top to find my bra-strap and was tugging at it. Then she added, in a tone that bordered on condecending, “You can stay if you want, while we look around.”
I smiled politely and said thank you, and then closed the door behind them. She had no idea how close I’d come to shoving her neatly coiffed head against the wall, and hissing, “Yeah, I know I can stay. I paid the rent. I live here.”