I often spend time looking at real estate ads. I quite enjoy looking at houses and fantasising about what we might be able to buy eventually. I look at fanciful dream houses that we could never afford. I look at derelict wrecks that could be transformed into the house of our dreams. I look at houses that we just might be able to live in and be able to afford.
Back in February I bookmarked a sweet little house in an nearby area that we love. It seemed to be priced a bit highly and the ad informed me that it required a lot of work. That wouldn’t put us off, we’ve renovated a few houses, but we never bothered to look at it because it just wasn’t the right time for us to buy. On Friday we noticed that it was still on the market and so we decided to call the agent and ask to have a look through it. We arranged an inspection for late Saturday afternoon.
We were excited but realistic about the fact that there had to be some reason the house had not sold up to this point. We thought perhaps it was in pretty bad condition and the vendor was refusing to come down in price. This particular part of Adelaide sits on clay soil and as the soil dries over our long, dry summer, the clay dries out and walls crack causing pretty bad sturctural damage. It is managable if kept under control but it can get pretty bad in a house where no one is taking notice.
When we arrived at the inspection there were two or three other couples who had come to inspect as well. As we all waited on the footpath, the owner put leads on his two dogs and went off walking so that we could inspect. The place looked a little bit scary but from the front it was nothing like the worst we had ever seen. Not even close. We were opitimistic.
We went in.
Oh, how I wish we had not.
The house had been tidied, the bed had been made in the sole occupied bedroom. As I walked into the room, however, I was nearly overcome by the smell. There were large brown stains on the pillows. The stench of human and animal living side by side in that room was almost overwhelming. I can’t describe it and I don’t care to think too carefully about what had produced it. Let’s just say that I was thankful that Grub had fallen asleep in the car and we had Rhubarb with us to stay with her. We only had Pudding in the house and I could steer him and make sure that he didn’t touch any of the surfaces.
It only got worse. In the second (unoccupied) bedroom the cracks were so large that you could see through to the next room and the ceiling was falling down. The lounge room was covered in a visible layer of thick black sludge, about a centimetere thick. The smell and the grime and the structural defects continued. I was nearly overcome in the kitchen and actually dry-wretched. I grabbed Pudding and tried to use my best ‘nothing’s wrong, let’s be lighthearted’ tone to suggest we look at the back yard.
There was an outhouse toilet and shower that were so encrusted in filth I couldn’t do more than glance at them without nearly being sick. On the plans it stated that there was an inside bathroom, however the door was closed and no one dared open it. All of us stood out in the yard for a few minutes to collect ourselves for the trip back throught the house in order to leave. It was unanimous, we were all utterly shocked by the state of the place. One brave soul looked down the side of the house but suggested it might be best if I did not.
I have never seen or smelled anything like it in my life. It would have been a nice house only a decade or so ago. It had been renovated at some point but clearly the man with the dogs is unable or unwilling to clean and maintain it now. The agent is adamant that the asking price is just the land value but I don’t think they’ll be selling it any time soon.
After we left the smell and the grime and the feeling of darkness and despair that hung around that place clung to me. Beefcake tried to make a joke about my new bag having brushed against the walls and I just lost it. We were in the car driving with all the kids and I became hysterical, sobbing and hyperventilating. There are few things that can trigger an outright panic attack in me but apparently densest filth in combination with my new and most precious handbag is one of them.
I feel quite guilty about it now. Rhubarb was shocked. He had never seen me be upset like that before. Beefcake had only ever seen it once or twice. My precious Rhubarb gave me a big hug when we came home (after I had come inside and changed my clothes). He said “Oh Mum, I love you, it’s been a while since I’ve given you a hug”. That kind of made it all better, really. I steal a hug or a kiss on the cheek here and there but he never volunteers a big long cuddle like that these days. I haven’t had a hug like that for weeks. I still can’t think about the house without a shudder but at least I got the hug from ma boy.
P.S. Also found the house of our dreams in the newspaper (gorgeous area, gorgeous, very doable house with just enough work to do, a price we can afford) and we made an offer today. Now we must sit and bite our fingernails while they decide if they’ll accept our offer. Wish us luck!!!