SOLD!On August 5th, we got an offer on Grandma's house. It was lowball again. But higher than the last lowball offer. The buyers reasoned that they were basically buying the land—not the house—and that the house would be torn down. You know how I feel about that. I resisted.
I've spent the month dickering and bickering, with the realtor, the sister, the buyers, the estate lawyer, and my own conscience.
In recent months, everyone else's opinion about the value of the property had shifted. I was the last holdout who believed with a vengeance that this old house could and should be saved; that buyers weren't seeing its true potential; that we were on the verge of being ripped off if we settled for a lowball offer.
Yes, for the land only, it was a pretty fair price. But I maintained stubbornly that they'd be buying more than the land; they'd also get two outbuildings in good condition that to build new would cost upwards to $30,000, and they did get a house if they were willing to use it.
The buyers and realtor said that the condition of the house was so poor that it could no longer be saved. Since the fire last year that widened the hole in the roof, mold and mildew had set in due to the amount of moisture that got past the huge tarp attached to the damaged corner of the house. It was becoming a health hazard, and it needed to be torn down as soon as possible because it was a liability. On top of that, the 121-year-old stone foundation was failing.
When we reached an impasse on price, and my sister suggested we let the Probate Court decide how much the house was really worth (to the tune of a $500 filing fee and who knows what else afterward), I thought about it and realized how many more months this could drag out if we went that route. Mother will have been dead for three years at the end of September.
That's long enough.
And with every day that passes, the house deteriorates more, the chances increase of more bad things happening, and the estate is no closer to being closed.
Finally, I gave up. Then I gave in.
We pushed for the highest possible counter, and we took it.
As of Friday at 4:00 PM, I no longer own any property in Southern Ohio. It is over.
Yesterday, I went down there to be at the closing, to see who bought the house, and to have one last look at it to say a final, permanent goodbye. I thought I would be a wreck.
The closing was complicated and almost didn't happen because we are in the middle of an appeal with the auditor over the tax assessment. (Have I written about this? They assessed it for 2008 at double what it was worth before, AND failed to recognize the lot splits, so it was assessed on the entire acreage, not on the 2.5 acres remaining after the sales of the land lots last year. The initial appeal was flatly denied by the School Board which filed a counter-complaint against the estate to keep it at the super-high price. However, I have a contact in the auditor's office who is EXTREMELY nice and helpful, and is going above and beyond the call of duty to help us rectify this because he sees clearly that the amount is in error. He's pulling strings to push it through faster to avoid going to a court date in the fall. This man is a Godsend, and I commend him. The end result will be a refund to us for overpaid taxes, and the records will be corrected to value the lots at the sales prices which, ironically, combine to be very close to what the original valuation was before the re-assessment.)
It was just a basic paperwork nightmare, compounded by the fact that the Will made us co-executrixes, so both have to sign all the documents; my sister wouldn't agree to ever let me have one iota of Power of Attorney because it would mean giving up control; and she is out of state, retired, and doesn't have a fax machine. It looked like I'd made the trip for nothing.
But I sat in the realtor's office, and I just decided, "OK. If this house is supposed to sell today, then it will all work out. If it's not, fine. Then it won't, and I'll go back home, and wait for Guidance to tell me what to do with it." Then I accepted whatever outcome happened.
The buyers said they'd really wanted to save the house, but they'd determined (with the hlep of experts) that it was too far gone to be healthy. What happens is that the mold gets in between the walls, and permeates the frame. I guess it rots. Either way, it's impossible to kill once it's that far. So they were going to tear down, salvage what they could from it, and build new.
I met them out at the house for a final visit.
When I opened the door and walked in, it literally took my breath away, and not in a good way. I had to cover my nose and mouth. Had I been asthmatic, I'd probably be in the hospital.
I took a flashlight and did a very fast walk-through anyway. I was horrified at the condition. It is literally falling apart. It is a sick house now. It is not the beautiful Victorian my grandmother loved so dearly. It is a decrepit, forgotten health hazard. It made me so sad I cried for it. But it also cemented what I hadn't wanted to believe before—that we were lucky to get this offer, low as it was, and that it was time to sell it, and to let it go. Even if that meant tearing it down. I understood now that just as it is with animals who are too sick or injured to fix, sometimes the kindest thing is to let it go.
While I was up in the attic looking for the old headboard (which would not go down the stairs no how no way and was beginning to rot anyway, so I said forget it), I was a bit of a wreck. I sobbed out, "OK, Grandma, Mom, if you have any last words, now would be the time to appear, because this is it—it's sold, it's over. Now or never."
Almost immediately, I heard my Mom and Dad saying, "Let it go now, Jeanne". I felt a peace descend upon me.
And then it was time to say goodbye. It's no longer in our family. It was the last time I will ever drive up that driveway and see it standing there. Standing—more like shakily gripping the walker. I took one long last look, with a flood of memories pouring through me, and silently thanked it for all of the years it sheltered my family and the good times we had there. Then I drove out that driveway and on down the road.
I have a cousin (well, several) who lives close to the old house. She's 92 now, and one of the last of the elder matriarchs. I stopped in to see her, and wound up staying for dinner (she is living with her daughter and son-in-law now as her hips are failing). It was such a lovely visit. She looks and sounds so much like Grandma, and some of her mannerisms and phrases sound like Mother. It was at once bittersweet sad, and comforting. She's still pretty sharp, and full of stories.
In a way, I feel disconnected, because we no longer have a "stake" in the ground down there. But I have family. They will always welcome me. And I have memories.
And now, we've cleared the last major hurdle that prevented the Estate from closing. We're on the downwind turn, headed for home.