You just can’t trust people. Beneath every bit of apparent altruism, of friendliness and good intentions, under the layers of pretense we spend a lifetime collecting and carefully positioning...we are, each of us, in every situation, simply trying to get what we want.
Let’s take these people who have, for the past several months, been in the process of buying my home on a short sale. Before David and I accepted their offer (which was the same exact amount that another person had offered the same day), we tried to get what we wanted: an agreement for flexibility on a moving date and a promise that the buyers might also take some of our furniture off of our hands — not only because we knew we wouldn't have room for it all in a smaller place, but also because we were looking for a little extra cash to help us with the move.
We could have gotten them into a bidding war. We could have said, “Someone else made an offer of the same amount, now it’s up to you guys to outbid each other.” But we didn’t. In good faith, we said, “Okay, you’ve been nice and accommodating, we’re just going to go ahead and accept your offer, and let us know which pieces of furniture you want later.” They were so positive about it all, with all their talk about "good karma" and “don't you worry, it’ll all work out, just you see.” They even offered us their house to stay at if we needed a place to crash between close of escrow and moving into wherever we ended up moving.
“No, thanks,” we said. “We appreciate that, but if we can just have some flexibility as we discussed — say, moving out just after close of escrow in case we’re traveling when all of this is resolved, that would be a huge load off.”
“Of course,” they said. “We are not on any kind of a timeline.”
But then, a few months later, we had found a new apartment, but the place wasn’t yet ready and wouldn’t be until the very middle of that trip we had planned (for David’s work...it's not like it was an arbitrary vacation). David contacted the couple by email. He wrote, “Hey, we still have no idea when this is closing. Could be July, could be August, but if it closes in July, can we have until the end of July to move out?”
He received a curt response: “I’m not sure that’s going to work with our plans.” In a subsequent email they added that they were no longer interested in buying any furniture or artwork.
David was disappointed, but I was seething with misanthropy. We immediately scrambled to sell or just give away much of the bulky stuff; we packed the rest and make arrangements for things to happen before and during the time we’d be out of town.
“Better just to have it done,” I said. “We might as well just get out and move on." But I couldn’t believe how they played us. We could have just sat back and let the two parties go up and up until one of them won the prize that was our home, but instead we tried to save these people money because we liked them and we were led to believe they had the luxury of time to move and were interested in taking some of our stuff off our hands.
“The weirdest thing to me was how nice they were at first and how cold they are now,” David said.
We scheduled everything to fit the timeline. The bank had approved, the paperwork had been done; it had taken months, but we finally had a close-of-escrow date. We signed a paper promising to be off the premises by July 27 (a few days after we were scheduled to return from our travels). Things were starting to look up.
Yesterday, we ran errands and worked on packing some necessities for the ten-day excursion for one of David’s gallery exhibitions and talks. We even had time to spare, so we made plans to grab a drink and a bite with my dad at Small Bar. I was even smiling. Ten minutes before we had to leave to meet my dad, David received an email from our real estate agent.
The buyers had changed their minds. They were no longer interested in buying our condo. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I said. David turned his laptop sideways so I could read the words for myself. “What does this mean? We didn’t have to hustle so hard? We have to start all over, listing the place and hoping for nibbles? We leave town tomorrow.”
David nodded. “We need to clean tonight, before we go. Make it presentable for anyone who shows while we’re gone,” he said. “All that work and expense to have it staged and keep it clean, and now people have to see it with crates and boxes. There are so many adverse consequences for us. We’re one step closer to foreclosure now. This isn’t high school. Do they just go around pretending to buy houses like it’s some kind of joy ride?”
“We should have gone with that other offer, from the nice girl. The only reason we chose them is because of the promises they’d made. They seemed so sure. Oh, man. I feel sick. My parents were right — you can’t trust anyone.”