09 September 2009


I was not yet two years old.
My folks bought a little crackerbox house South of Indianapolis, Indiana...
Two bedrooms and one bath, they added another bedroom and extended the living room after my little sister was born. I slept in the bedroom of that little house for seventeen years until Uncle Sam requested my services in 1966. I was crushed when I came home to find my mother had turned my bedroom into a sewing room.

Anticipating Dad's retirement, in 1978 my folks bought another crackerbox, a 2BR/1 Bath house on lakefront property outside Bloomington, Indiana. For a while they lived in the house near "Naptown" during the week and spent weekends at the "Lake House". But soon they realized how much they loved drinking that first cup of coffee while watching eagles soar over the lake, and sold the only house I ever knew and moved to property I had no sentimental attachment to whatever.

Pretty quickly they again felt cramped by too little room and built an addition to this house, nearly doubling the size of the place while adding what it needed most... another bathroom. The addition included a huge second-floor kitchen overlooking the lake, which became the most comfortable room in the house...
the views of changing seasons on the lake were beautiful!

Dad retired in 1983 at the age of 62. He and Mother enjoyed that home together and we made memories with them there until his death in 2003. Mom stayed another year, but had a minor stroke in 2004 and was forced to leave.

From an uncomfortable distance, I became sales agent and caretaker of the property.

I had heard my Dad talk about properties around the lake selling for extraordinary sums. One little house, really no bigger than a small mobile home but on an absolutely beautiful finger jutting out into the lake, had sold for $160,000. Dad figured since his home was nearly four times the size of that home, his property might be worth something in the vicinity of $240,000... (amazing, for a house he and Mom had bought for a small fraction of that figure.)

I contacted a Real Estate agent expecting the property, because of its location, to sell quickly and for a princely sum. This guy toured the house and surprised me with his answer...
"I'm not interested in listing the property." It was the beginning of the bursting of "The Bubble" in real estate, and he had several upscale properties on the lake that weren't selling. My folks' property not only wasn't upscale, it needed lots of work to bring it up to sellable condition.

So for several weeks Sara Jean and I drove most of a day to this sad, empty house on a lake that brought back memories of the good times we had spent with my parents. Upon arrival we'd get to work. Weekend after weekend we mowed the lawn and did outside work-
Painting, replacing rotten fascia, spray cleaning concrete and stonework during daylight hours, then painting and doing minor carpentry work inside after darkness fell. We were exhausted and disheartened because we still had not found an agent to list the property for sale. Another surprise... when Mom's homeowner's insurance came up for renewal the insurance agent refused to cover the house because it was unoccupied. I had to scramble to find a specialized carrier, then purchased high-cost coverage for the empty house.

We finally found an agent who listed the property. Shortly after we finished "shining the place up", we got an offer on the house. It had been on the market for quite a while with no one showing any interest whatsoever, so we reluctantly accepted an offer that would certainly have dismayed my father.

That was four years ago. Now my neighbor across the street finds himself in a similar situation. He just lost his mother and inherited her home. Although it is just down the street from where he lives, making it much easier to do the necessary tasks to be able to sell, he faces a more depressed market with a house that has nothing much to offer in the way of "location".

His situation has sparked some sad memories.
I'll watch with interest and empathy to see how long he has to worry about taking care of two homes.


cary said...

Sorry to hear this.

It would have been nicer to be able to hang on to the Lake House, whether you had grown up there or not, just to have a place to decompress.

But, costs being what they are...

cj said...

There are a lot of broken dreams in this mess we're in.