... with the part of Bob Cratchit shared between Pynchon and I. If Munchkin were smaller, she could be Tiny Tim.
Monday, December 17, 2007
The thing is, Christmas is coming up fast and we're facing penury and the dashing of our dreams. This past week in particular, I'm clocking more time crying than I am actually doing any of the grading that stands between me and my much-needed break; I'm spending nearly as much time desperately crunching numbers in spreadsheets, calculating loans and trying to find some path that leads from the terrifying now to a calmer future.
The furniture store that owns the property directly behind and to one side of us wants to build a 14 storey condo building where currently a one-floor office space and a small delivery area sit. They want to build the condo right behind our house; the delivery area will serve as the main access point into this 'luxury development'. We live on a busy-ish street, sure, but this 'neighbour' is a 9-to-5, very quiet and low-key operation. A 14 storey luxury condo tower peering perpetually down into our yard and our home is a very different proposition.
They want to buy our house. After a few weeks of heartbreak and mourning--our finished basement and fireplace! Our garage! All the renovations and hard work we've put in! Our daughter was conceived here! This is our family home!--we decided that, obviously, we couldn't stay.
The worse news? They seem determined to get a 'bargain' on our house, to extort the lowest possible settlement. Vague terms, lowball offers, snippy remarks about how we live on a busy street and can't expect them to pay what it would actually cost us to replace our home with a comparable one a couple of streets over. They claim urgency, then they stall. They tell us they'll buy us a replacement home, and then cry poor when our agent finds a home with near-identical specifications just around the corner. They cajole us with their concern for our quality of living, and then they threaten us with plummeting property values. They tell us they want our property. Then, worst of all, they threaten to just build around us and let us rot.
We've only been here 2 years. We have barely any equity; if this development drops our property value, we will actually have negative equity in our home. The neighbourhood has rapidly gentrified since we've moved in: mall redevelopment, another condo loft conversion, new office spaces, slew of upscale retailers, a flagship LCBO, and a Starbucks. We're on the main bus line and so get by with our one car. It's a fantastic location, and we were so lucky to get so much house, in such a location, for the price we did at the time we looked. We are so happy here; we don't want to leave the neighbourhood. But unless we actually get a real deal from these people, I don't know what we're going to do. We just can't afford to add any more to our monthly mortgage payments: we pay a full second mortgage payment for daycare, and our plan was to stay here at least 7-10 years, at least until daycare and the car and the student loans were paid off, at least until we were settled in our jobs. And Pynchon is trying so hard to leave his toxic, toxic, but well-remunerated soul-killer of a job, so our income will soon be cut. We're poor because we're doing what needs doing for our family--but all of this was easily enough doable here, in our home, on our busy street, bought at a terrific deal and with a great mortgage. And now we're going to lose our home, or all of its value, or our position in the neighbourhood of my dreams, or a good number of features and square feet, because ... because Scrooge wants to maximize profits from a luxury development that leaves no room for us.
I bite my tongue to keep from asking them, "You want to build a 14 storey luxury condominium and you can't fairly compensate a new family that didn't want to move, that can't afford to upgrade, that tried to invest in a home for now and for the future?" They ring our doorbell and enthuse about what a wonderful project they've concocted and how excited they are, while I can hardly stomach the idea of Christmas shopping and feel a shudder of dread when I try to imagine a future beyond the next couple of months.
They talk about fair market value, but I wonder: how is it fair when every real estate agent in town knows about this proposed development and our house might as well be contaminated by radiation for all its desirability to the 'market'? How is it a market when there's only one buyer who would ever even consider purchasing this property now, from a seller who never wanted to put it up for sale? How is it fair when they have urban planners and development lawyers and multiple real estate agents and a home they can snuggle into a night to dream of profits future, while we have an emotional attachment to our home, the feeling of the world being pulled out from under us, and a lawyer we can afford to consult in 15 minute increments? God, if it were a couple of years from now, once I've got tenure, once Munchkin is out of full day care, once the five-year loan on the car is paid off, we could take whatever they might offer us, and leverage our way into wherever we liked. But not now. We just can't. We're cornered.
Their L-shaped property wraps around three houses. They've already bought the other two: the first was a flip-gone-wrong I'm sure they got for pennies; the second was Bill and Helen, those wonderful neighbours who shoveled our walk when Munchkin was a squalling and demanding Miss Baby, terrified retirees on a fixed income, nothing but their house as an asset, Bill and Helen who told us they're just too old and scared to fight. Now it's just us.
I'm very scared. I'm very angry. Every night, I'm up for hours, roaming the dark and fearing the future. Every day, my thoughts race away from me and my work goes untouched. I'm having trouble eating, but find drinking a little too comforting. I worry. I cry a lot, and fume a lot, and write itemized lists of grievances just to stop them from swirling in my head. Pynchon holds me and comforts me as best he can. He wishes he could make me feel better. I try not to cry in front of Munchkin, but when we pull into the driveway after daycare, and she shouts out 'Home,' my heart breaks again.
My home ... my home. When I get stressed or scared, I retreat to here, I wash dishes, I dust, I hang pictures, I paint. But now, everywhere I look I see futility and fear: I don't feel safe here. The house will be knocked down--it's too much, really--for surface parking, a guest lot. I've seen the site plans. All our love and all our work and all our payments reduced to rubble. We've been working so hard to build our future here, and when I look around all I see is a past, a past I hoped I could keep around me for years, a sense memory of newlyweds and pregnant ice-cream binges and our first cordless drill and Munchkin's first ... day, tooth, smiles, steps.
We need to sell to them by tomorrow, they say, or they're writing us out of their plans. Merry Christmas. Hallelujah, holy shit, pass the Tylenol.
What can you say, bloggy friends? Do you have any comfort to offer? Any advice? I've been needing for weeks to write this out but it's hard. I'm struggling so much with this; I'm falling apart. Poor Pynchon is trying to hold me together, but I think it's just too much for one person. Maybe it will be okay. But real estate to me is a matter of commitment, of heart and soul, and I haven't the stomach for this kind of ruthless greed, this rapacious bargaining. Not at home. I just can't imagine.
Posted by Mimi at 10:42 PM