My plan last year: To look around Sarasota just to get an idea of what might be available, go home, sell my house, come back, and buy something the next year. So, I do not get a real estate agent because I don’t intend to buy anything. I merely peruse the newspapers for open houses and drive around to look at them on my own. It’s very discouraging. There is nothing at all I like in my price range.
After church one Sunday I get into my car depressed about the housing possibilities. “Wait a minute,” I think. “There has to be something here that would work.” So, I start cruising the open houses again. No. No. No. No.
Then I stop at one just below the border of Sarasota in the small town of Nokomis. Surprisingly, I really like it. A lot. It’s everything and more than I want: Spanish tiles, freshly painted stucco, a cozy little courtyard, lovely entrance. Inside: two bedrooms and a den, arched doorways, all upgraded-kitchen, two-car garage. All very clean and nice. “Wow,” I think as I look around. “Yes. I could live here. It’s quiet and only a short drive to the beach (for sunsets, not sunbathing), and not too far to the theaters.”
I feel nudged to make an offer, but I’m scared. I think it’s way too soon. I leave, but it’s nice to know that there is something I like so much that I could afford.
I try to dismiss it, but in the next few days I can’t stop thinking about the lovely place. Still it is not in my plan, so I take no action.
However, it seems God decides to take action. Two friends from Winter Park come to visit me. One just happens to be a Florida realtor. I mention the villa. “Let’s go see it!” Linda says. “I love looking at real estate!” Her sister Karen jumps in. “Yes. I want to see it too!”
So, I arrange for another viewing. Before we even see it all, Linda hisses at me, “This is great. Make an offer!”
Her sister is just as enthusiastic. “This is perfect for you! I love it! You should make an offer!”
That night their certainty supports what I’d really like to do, so even though I’m scared, I call the agent and make an offer. It’s low. I doubt if it will be accepted. After a few exciting phone calls and upping the price a little more, the deal is made. I’m pretty sure I would not have done it without these angels.
I am now on an unexpected trajectory. I get through the tedious mortgage application process, and the closing date is set. When it is only a few days away, the owner moves out. I buy a bunch of kitchen stuff at Walmart that she lets me store in her garage.
Then. Surprise. The bank refuses the mortgage because the appraisal comes in too low.
We’re all in shock.
When the dust settles a bit, I think, “Well, okay. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. I’ll go get all that stuff and take it back.”
I drive to the villa and wait for the agent to come and unlock the garage. It’s a gorgeous day. I sit in a chair that the owner left in the courtyard. “So. I’ll go home, sell my house, and come back next year. I’ll find something else I like.” I’m fine with the way things are. I’m a little relieved, actually. I turn my face to the sky, close my eyes and listen to the swishing sounds of the palm tree in the breeze.
“We’re not done yet.” Some voice or thought intrudes on my meditative state as if the house is speaking over my shoulder. I laugh. “I don’t know about you, whoever you are, but I’m done.”
“Nope. It’s not over.” I roll my eyes and shake my head hoping I’m not going crazy.
The agent drives up. I don’t tell him that the house is talking to me.
He walks up and says to me, “I don’t think you should take those things back.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I don’t know.” He smiles and shrugs, “I just have a feeling.”
Has the house been talking to him? I shake my head. My plan is clear. “No. I’m going home. I don’t have a place to stay here in Sarasota any more. Open the garage. I’m taking all that stuff back.”
So, he does, and I do.
That afternoon, I’m on the phone letting my friends know that the deal has fallen through and I’m okay about it. I’m going to pack and go home.
One of the friends, Louise, calls me back. “Katherine,” she says. “I was in my bathroom, and I swear it’s as if the angels were talking to me. What if I took your mortgage and you bought it outright?”
“What?!!!” I scream. “That’s crazy.”
“I’ve got the money. You can pay me the interest you were going to pay the bank. Make a lower offer. Remember, cash is king.”
“Louise, this is too much. Let me get off the phone and go breathe or something.”
When I recover a bit, we talk on the phone several times. I decide that if I take most of my savings, I could offer cash and borrow a much smaller amount from Louise, a much more reasonable amount in my mind.
“Okay, that’s fine,” she says. “It will take me a week to get the funds to you.”
Amazed at her generosity, I tell John, the realtor. He starts renegotiating with the owner. “But the closing is supposed to be in two days,” he says. “That may be a problem.”
I am now in a giddy whirl. I tell another friend, Barbara, about what’s happening, laughing at the wildness of it all saying that the only problem is about the closing.
“Well, that’s not a problem,” She says. “I’ve got the money in my bank account. I’ll go tomorrow morning and wire it to you.”
“What?!!!” I scream. “Barbara!”
“Sure,” she says in a bright voice. “It’s just sitting there earning no interest given today’s rates. Let me do it.”
“Oh, my god, oh my god, oh, my god, oh my god. Really?!” I am stunned at the outpouring of love and support from my friends.
Before the day is out, another friend, Liz, hearing about all this also offers to loan me money if I need it. For someone who is as alone in the world as I am (or think I am) I feel and am blessed beyond words.
So, my plans change once again. Later that day, the owner accepts a lower price cash deal, saving me beaucoup bucks. Barbara wires money. I move in on March 9.
God is silent. I do not hear, “I told you so,” But I imagine I hear a lot of self-satisfied chuckling.
To Be Continued: