My Mercedes Benz gently slid around the corner and into my mother's driveway. I had to be careful not to let the car brush into the branches of the overgrown bushes. It was rare that I drove this car anymore, seeing as how my four children could not fit into the passenger seat together, and I worked diligently to keep it in prime condition.
Every since my father had passed away, my mother had been unable to keep up with the chores around the house; that's why I was glad to see her finally selling it. The paint was peeling off the siding, the driveway had cracks so wide that trees were starting to grow in them, and the house would probably need a new roof in about two years. I was glad to see her selling it.
She had come to an agreement about a month ago. Her little, three-bedroom cape on just under an acre was selling for $225,000, a very modest number in southern New York. The buyers did not have a mortgage or home sale contingency in the contract, but did insist upon a home inspection. My mother agreed to the inspection, but insisted that I be present for it. I wanted to be there, because as a realtor, I know the type of shenanigans that take place at these inspections. Inspectors point out minor issues, realtors blow them out of proportion, and buyers threaten to walk if they don't receive some sort of compensation. Sometimes they really will walk, but I can always tell when they're bluffing.
I was about ten minutes early, but there were already four cars in the driveway. I should have known that they would try to start without me. I hopped out of the car and swiftly ran into the house.
"Well, you'll have to have someone replace this the whole door frame," I heard the inspector saying. "If you try to replace just the one leg, it's not going to match the head or the other leg. And don't forget that the casing will have to come down on both sides for you to remove the frame." He was standing in the hallway pointing at the doorjamb where my father used to mark our height when we were children.
The inspector, realtor, and buyer all nodded and proceeded towards the kitchen. While we were entering "Mom's Shop," as my brother and I had nicknamed it when we were children, I gazed over the pine cabinets my father had crafted years ago and wished that he was still here. I could still see him out in the garage sanding the panels, then rubbing them down with water to raise the grain, and sanding them again. He did that over and over again until the panels were smooth to the touch. He had poured his heart and soul out into this kitchen for my mother.
The realtor said, "John, you'll definitely want to update this room. It will probably run you about $20,000, but it won't classify as a necessity so you won't get a concession for it."
As we proceeded through the house, each room brought back a special loving memory of my childhood. Also, with each room came a nasty comment about the house from either the realtor or inspector. Sure the house needed some TLC, but this was my family's home. I shouldn't have taken offense, but I did.
When the inspection was complete, I offered the buyer, realtor, and inspector an opportunity to sit in the kitchen and talk. "We'll give you some privacy and go wait outside so that if you have any other questions, you can ask us," I told them.
It probably wasn't the right thing to do, but my mother and I went outside and stood under the vent.
"You're getting a great deal on this house," the inspector said, "but I can right up enough things in this inspection that you can probably negotiate at least another $5,000 off of the price."
At that point, I realized how I felt about this home. I didn't care about the $5,000. I would have given it to my mother if she needed it. My problem was that they didn't care about this house. This was my family's home. My father had built it. My parents had raised a family in it. My childhood memories were within its confines. I looked at my mother and said, "Let's tell them the deal's off."
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