Road trip vignette — Part Two: Too loud, too bad, too close, too sad
House hunting has become for us a tour of decrepitude, misfortune, and self-discovery. In our recent expedition, each house on our list, in its own way, tacitly spoke its owner’s reasons for parting ways with the listing they once called home.
We had pegged a favorite early on, but nixed it after our friends drove by and gave us a brief rundown on the neighborhood. It was a very nice house, on a very attractive acre, cozily nestled between a power station and a horse arena offering public events most evenings and weekends; and for local color, there was a trailer full of miscreants across the street.
We scheduled a time to see a small cute house with a view of the Snake River and a rocky hillside behind the house, which meant having no one behind us. It was on a quiet lane, another plus. It sounded so wonderful, that I was afraid of losing it. Enter the reality zone.
The view was a peekaboo view, but that was all right. The rocky hillside was indeed a beautiful and desirable amenity, but it also occupied nearly all of the quarter acre. Our realtor had given us to understand that there would be room to put up a shop or garage. Well, there is, but one would have to excavate into the hill. The next-door neighbors on both sides were very close, and there was no fence. The manufactured home had apparently not been installed with all due consideration for foundation stability. We did not conduct an intrusive inspection, but didn’t spend a lot of time wondering as to the cause of the palpable hump in the dining room floor on a direct vector with a crack in the foundation. The lane was indeed quiet, and this quality was enforced by the simple physics that two cars could not pass at the same time. When the neighbor across the street whipped out of her driveway, her gravel dust joined our company. I don’t mean to be picky, but the kitchen counters were designed for someone who would need a step ladder to set the table. When my husband casually pointed out the skateboard ramp in the backyard of the house next door, we moved on to the next candidate.
Number two had a sad history, which the next-door neighbor congenially came over to recount to us. We already knew of course that the house was a foreclosure, but our realtor had previewed it and said it was pretty sound. And the house itself was pretty sound, because the house itself does not include the illegal addition with the water-damaged roof — and that’s fair, because that structure would need to be torn down anyway. The two acres were the real appeal, and my heart leaped at the view of the prairie and hills. The realtor disclosed that the dump was below us, and that sometimes the wind blew the dump dust up the hill. The solicitous neighbor told us of covenant breaches no one could afford to enforce but everyone resented. In the car on the way up, I had read the bidding provisions for purchasing a home from HUD, and we had already pretty much decided not to participate in this inefficient government process.
We did take time on this trip to scout neighborhoods and get a better idea of where we would or would not like to be. But it was somewhat reminiscent of the days when we were trying to move to Seattle, and simply couldn’t find the right neighborhood. This caused me to wonder, why is it so difficult for us to find a neighborhood in which we’d like to live? We’ve had only a couple of experiences with challenging neighbors, one where we are now, and one at our previous home, where the owner’s friend, a drug rehab dropout, house-sat for her most of the time.
My acutely perceptive husband zeroed in on the inconvenient answer: We don’t like neighborhoods.