Mom weighs in on house hunt


My daughter and son-in-law are house-hunting in Portland. They've taken a few steps down this path before, but this time, it looks like it's set in stamped concrete. Or faux brick, something like that.

My daughter is shooting off Internet links to real estate listings at the rate of one per day, minimum. Usually many more, with exclamation points and little "squee!!!" notations.

In addition to having placed an offer on a "short sale" house, the fervent couple is attending open houses as recreation and looking, looking, looking on every real estate site they can.

It's a lot like watching this kiddo date. First comes the house she can't live without, may simply die if she can't have it.

And it is a great starter home -- not far from where they now live, nearly new construction and a beautiful old tree in the back yard that was spared by savvy builders.

However, the house is in "short sale" status, meaning the price eventually paid for the house is expected to be short of the amount owed by the current title holder. There may not be a real estate process designed to be more frustrating to everyone involved. What the lending institution will really accept as its final answer is as clear as the mud on a Portland hillside.

As the lovers wait for the bank to continue playing hard to get, their attention has begun to wander. The newest candidate on the list is a 1945 "English cottage" that's waaaay out in the Northeastern stretch of the city. My daughter says it feels like home and she did indeed grow up in a house blueprinted in 1946.

But this abode is going to need some serious rehab. It has classic bones, but just about every square inch will need updating. In a hurry.

Husband and wife will have to strip or cover paneling, rip up disgusting carpet, paint kitchen cabinets, replace counters and paint from dawn to dusk.

And that doesn't even touch the parking-lot sized yard the house sits on, peppered with shrubs that have long outgrown any attractive qualities.

None of this fazes my girl child. From the time she was tiny, she watched me garden all summer. When she was 8 years old, we moved into the Home Place, site of Forever Renovation.

She spent most of her remaining childhood years walking around ladders, stepping over hand tools and picking spackle out of her shiny, auburn hair.

This kid also pledged she would never, ever, do any of those things as an adult in control of her own life. Especially the lawn care, which most of my children have despised with a passion reserved for tuna sandwiches and playing their trombones for company.

Attitudes change, of course. The teen is not the adult, or something like that. Knowing what I do now, however, I hate to see anyone enter into a relationship where the balance of power is so lopsided.

I know perfectly well what happens to your social life, for instance. Nope, can't go out with friends because Home Depot is having a paint sale and you've got to get over there right now.

Can't have friends over because the kitchen is one sledge-hammered wall to the other.

Every date ends up being a carpet-hunting and tile-comparing expedition.

Basically, the house calls all the shots in these situations. I'm still waiting for Home Place to decide if and when I can go on a real vacation.

But ... and I am loath to admit this ... I worry about more and it's really all about me.

Here's the dealio -- I always wanted to live in an urban setting. Since I was 12 or so and woke up to the fact that I would not always live in Milton-Freewater (yeah, yeah, who's laughing now?).

Presently the happy couple lives in what I consider the perfect neighborhood in Portland.

St. Johns was once its own little town. It was named after James Johns, who laid out the original eight block town site in 1865.

The are is bordered on one side by the Columbia River and the Willamette on another. One boundary line is etched in the air with the magnificent St. Johns bridge, a breathtaking feat of engineering. There's a park on every corner, it seems.

St. Johns -- considered now to be in an upward transition -- has long been absorbed into the metro area, but has clung fiercely to its original identity. There are community events that feel every bit as connected as we enjoy here.

Yet there is a big-city energy and vibe. A block in any direction from my daughter's apartment offers something to do, people to see, music to hear. Markets, unique shops, tiny restaurants carved into nooks -- all within a softball throw.

I like it all. The kid is living my dream and I get to visit that dream every time I go west.

I don't want to give it up for a 1945 "project" house out in Suburbia.

Nonetheless I recognize it's not about me. I promise I will be supportive whichever way the housing wind blows. If it's the fixer-upper, I will help paint on the weekends I come. I'll pull weeds and strip wood, run to the hardware store and make more pots of coffee.

I just won't be walking to Starbucks in the early morning, mingling with the city folk and pretending I am one of them, just for a moment.

I wonder if anyone at that bank can be bribed?


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