We just knew. Maybe you understand what I’m talking about. We walked
into the house and we knew that we would live there. The realtor was
talking but we were looking, at the stairs up to a loft, at the three
bedrooms, at the large backyard, and not really listening to him.

It did turn out to be a great house. I failed to notice the deplorable
condition of the sidewalk out front, and as it turns out the homeowner
is ultimately responsible for sidewalk upkeep, but that was the only

Our mortgage however, was another matter. First there was the car loan
that my brother defaulted on some years before. In order to get the
loan he needed someone to cosign for him. That was me. It put a black
mark on my credit record that I didn’t even know was there. Didn’t
know, that is until our real estate lawyer called us about it. I had
to have my brother write a letter verifying that I had no financial
interest in the car or something like that.

The lawyer I mentioned? We tried to vet him carefully. He seemed
adequate and he was cheap too. What could go wrong? Early on we asked
him what we needed to settle on the house: was a personal check okay,
how about a money market check? He said either would be fine.

So came the day before closing. We called the lawyer to double check
on everything. He said “just make sure you show up tomorrow with your
certified check.” I said, “What!?”

We did settle on the house the next day, as planned, and paid our
first payment and all the closing costs in an acceptable form. But to
this day I’m not at liberty to say how we pulled it off. I can say
that we didn’t sleep much that night after the phone call with our
idiot lawyer.

“Congratulations!” The lawyer said suddenly at a point during the
closing when we thought we had another hundred or so forms to sign,
“You’re homeowners!” Thirty seconds later we were getting into the car
to drive to our new house. The one we knew we would live in as soon as
we walked in.

We bought it for more than we thought we would have to pay. About 15K
more. But it was a great house and for the first 18 months that we
lived there we had no major problems, except for the sidewalk that I
mentioned earlier. We had more problems with our dog than with the

Then after 18 months, we had a big problem. The problem was that we
had to sell the house. We were moving to Cleveland. We bought in a
seller’s market and since then, real estate values throughout the area
had tanked. Sellers were revising their asking prices downward. This
happened to two other houses on our street.

The timing couldn’t have been worse but I wasn’t in charge of the
timing. I was going to Cleveland, making a change of venue and a
change of career. That process moved more quickly than I could have
imagined. The process of moving would move slower than I could have

We commissioned the realtor who had sold us the house. He was a nice
guy but after a month we had not a single showing. Then I moved. That
was in March of 1993. I pulled out of my driveway in the snow, which
would turn out to be the worst snowstorm of the year. My wife and our
dog stayed behind to sell the house.

Three months later we changed realtors. No hard feelings, we lied to
him. The new realtor got our house shown almost immediately. Well,
almost immediately. We had to re-list the house at a lower price
first. Our asking price was now at exactly the figure for which we had
originally hoped to buy the house, which, you will recall, was 15K
lower than what we ultimately paid. Not long after that we lowered it

But people were coming to see the house, I was being told by phone in
Cleveland. By now I just wanted to sell the damn thing, so I was happy
even though we were going to lose a ton of money.

Then a buyer materialized. They made a verbal offer on the house at
the listed figure! We had finally hit our target. The agent was
ecstatic. She and the buyers came over to sign the papers on the
offer. The realtor arrived in her car and the buyers in theirs. She
stood on the lawn with my wife smiling as the buyers exited their
vehicle. The female half of the buyer couple stopped on the
beautifully repaired sidewalk, exchanged a look with her husband. They
turned and walked back to their car. The realtor said, “Wait! Where
are… what….?!”

The agent turned back to my wife. She was in tears. This had never
happened to her before, she said as the buyers’ car disappeared around
the bend.

That was in early July. The house finally sold at the end of the month
for somewhat less than our asking price. At least we didn’t need to
lower it again. Joy moved to Cleveland five months after me. I came
back out to Edison to help with the process. The church where I was
working paid for the move.

When they arrived in a huge truck that could have held our stuff four
times over, the movers told me a different arrival date than the one
we had agreed to; a date which was three days earlier. That meant our
stuff would be arriving at our new rented half of a duplex three days
before we were allowed to put it inside.

I called my employers. They offered to store my stuff in the church in
a large hall that they were not using. Then they offered to pay for
the additional move from their hall to our house. In return I had to
preach that Sunday. I thought that was more than fair.