S Avenue Crew

I want to say I’ve never done anything like this before. Trying to buy this home is the toughest undertaking of my life. Or, so it seems when I am in the throes of it. After hustling like a horse trader, I managed to get the loan officer to talk to the realtor to talk to the seller’s agent to start all working with me again. After being sure we were just beyond losing, we turned it all around and were just days away from closing.
 
Then wham. Today, my bank slammed the book shut for the last time. Not (just) because they’re scoundrels who serve The Man but also because central stairs in the condo complex are under repair. Without a property manager forthcoming enough to provide documentation of the extent of the damage, my bank couldn’t approve the loan. It’s sensible. It’s cautious.
 
It sucks.
 
So here I am six (SIX!) months into this short sale, thinking to myself, “This is the hardest *&$% thing I’ve ever done. Harder than parenting. Harder than the divorce! I’m not up to the task!” Etc. and all that jazz.
 
All of that internal chatter? Total B.S.
 
At 22 years old, about a century ago, I lived in a housing cooperative in Vermont. Just about the time I moved in, the 5-year deadline on the financial support from the local land trust came screaming in at us. We had two dozen residents in two buildings about to be hit with an interest rate hike of several percentage points. We were all living on a shoestring. The cost of home ownership, food, utilities, maintenance, insurance, and every other little thing was shared among a band of bohemians and revolutionaries. Without the gap support from the land trust, that house would have been back on the market and in the hands of yet another city landlord.
 
Not a chance. We were a posse and this was our block. We went to work. Buckling ourselves in, we powered through days-long meetings with federations and experts, poring over legal documents and funding application guidelines. We dug and dug deeper still to find pockets of money or ideas. We tried allying ourselves with the Canadian co-op associations, the local credit union, members of the Progressive party, Congressman Bernie Sanders. Anything and everything. Giant three-ring binders littered our floors and we flipped through them in twos, threes, until the wee hours.
 
We went to the state capitol building. We lobbied, we bent and twisted. We re-wrote our bylaws and changed our mission.
 
And we swaggered home with our suitcase of money.
 
It required significant adaptation. Our co-op residency requirements had to change to designate a certain percentage of the units as low-income housing. We alienated some of our more off-the-grid members (who am I kidding? That was everyone) by kicking ourselves up to a professionally run property with an application process involving tax documentation and pay stubs. Everyone grumbled. We pushed through agonizing consensus-based meetings to ensure that the whole of the community could live with the concessions.
 
We saved our home.
 
Somehow in all of that, we also scored a major grant to make massive structural repairs. New roof, new porch, new beginning.
 
Maybe the only difference now is that I’m putting all of that grit into a place for my very own self. It is weirdly disorienting. All this effort, not for any identifiable community good but just for my son and dog and me to have a place to shake off? If it’s only for us, can I command the determination? The resources? The support? Gerry Connolly ain’t taking a meeting with yours truly. This is my game now. My block.
 
And where’s my posse now?
 
It turns out it is right here. My realtor and I have become thick as thieves in the last six months. As soon as I got the bad word, she was back in the driver’s seat with her foot to the floor and zeroing in on other banks with more flexible standards for collateral soundness. My erstwhile lender has answered half a dozen calls from me today even though she’s not making anything off of me anymore. She just keeps sending on over the documentation and details I will need for working with someone else.
 
And this is just the beginning.
 
There’s the firecracker of a guy I’m seeing who’s not only helped me think through every step of this latest kerfuffle but is also just waiting for me to say “go” so he can take his circular saw and hard hat over to the site and get this damned thing fixed.
 
There’s the assortment of friends strewn from Mexico to Toronto sending me links to housing sites, mortgage brokers, credit unions. They also pile oh encouragement and perspective.
 
There’s my boss who has given me the freedom to take off on a moment’s notice, as well as all the assembled co-workers who have picked up the slack whenever I’ve disappeared to douse another real estate fire.
 
There are my folks. Willing to work it, work it, work it in whatever way it has to be worked. Do I need cash? A co-signer? More time? An ear? Granted, they have a dog in this fight. If fish and houseguests start to smell after three days, what happens when you approach three years? In any event, their support is beyond generous.
 
There are all the new friends in my community who tell me their stories, listen to mine, ferry me around to shop for knock-off furniture, offer to come help paint and move, offer me names and ideas, and just provide the much-needed release from the intensity of it all.
 
And there’s my son. “Mommy, you can have the $44 in my bank account to help you buy your house.”
 
This posse is tight and tough. Because of it, I can’t wallow in my dank alley of defeat for more than one hiccup before someone shoves me back out onto street. That suitcase of money is sitting right there in plain sight. “Get on out there, girl! Do what you gotta do. Tell me where you need me, and let’s get to work.”
 
This fight ain’t over. My little dream has just taken a hit and is coughing in the dust, but we’re all closing in. Minutes ago, a text arrived from the realtor. We’ve got a backup bank willing to overlook a few questionable details and move with utmost haste to close the deal. Now, on to the seller’s gal who is also in this crew, trying to squeeze out a couple of extra weeks. All of us, defending the block. My block.
 
Consensus and compromise and hustle as we close in on high noon.
 

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2 thoughts on “S Avenue Crew”

  1. You make me scared to come back to the States to tackle this same process!
    Fingers crossed that long before we do, you will have finally exhaled and collapsed into a chair in you new home…

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