This post is the 4th in a series of posts I have dubbed “The Fire House Chronicles.” See all episodes.
We stood in the middle of the apparatus bay admiring the thick, old beams and high ceilings that was traversed by pipes and electrical conduits. The room was still filled with boxes and odd bits and pieces of a life. A pile of photos, some loose, some contained within broken-paned frames littered the large built-in workbench. I wandered over to a box of old records and began to sort through some of the top ones. I lifted a copy of “Peter and the Wolf,” the same children’s classic that I had grown up with and it seemed like a sign. I know these people, I thought.
EJ explained to us that sellers were elderly and that the husband had done a lot of the work in the house himself until he was diagnosed with kidney disease and wound up on dialysis. The wife was now ill as well. It was clear that moving out had been a difficult process and there was still a lot of stuff around that they clearly either didn’t want or didn’t know how to get rid of. The scissor lift was a case in point.
“They will be accepting bids on Tuesday, but they have said that if a cash offer came through they would seriously consider it. I get the feeling this will become a bidding war.”
I looked at Jim. I could tell he knew what I was thinking. It would deplete my nest egg, but I could conceivably come up with a cash offer. The thought was terrifying.
“I might be able to do the cash thing,” I said, in what felt like a whisper. Could I really be considering buying another house?
“Would you want to do that?” Jim asked.
“I don’t know. But I think I could. My financial guys won’t be happy though. They will want me to sell Pine St. (my existing house).”
EJ got on the phone and found us an inspector who could do an inspection at 10am the next morning. We bid farewell, and drove away in a daze.
“Are we really seriously considering doing this?” I asked Jim.
“I don’t know. Are we?”
“The house is perfect for the both of us. It has a huge workshop for you, a double lot, historical interest for me…”
“But I don’t know much about the neighborhood,” Jim said.
“No. It will be a haul to get downtown. It’s a long way from my place.”
“But close to my work, and to the highway.”
“Yeah, it’ll be a 5-minute drive for me to get to work, and it’s only about 3 minutes to the highway.”
“Well, that’s certainly a plus.”
Our conversation mimicked the circles around the neighborhood we were now driving to try and better acquaint ourselves with the area. The local houses were generally non-descript, mid-century homes, interspersed with a few lovely old craftsmans. Along the main drag, a Safeway, RiteAid, MacDonalds and a handful of other fast food restaurants offered a kind of convenience not available in my existing neighborhood.
At home, we poured over Google maps looking at the house from every angle, researching the history (see the 2nd photo under “horse-drawn chemical Engine #1 for a picture of Fire Station #33), finding old photographs of the Firestation and Rainier Beach. We hunted the online archives and found that the city had some of the original architectural drawings. We discovered snippets of history about the fire station and grew more excited. I browsed the listing again and again, looking at the photographs, trying to glean as much information as I could. I set up a Pinterest Board to contain all the existing photos and to collect inspiring decorating ideas; everything from stair designs to what it might look like if I painted the interior all white to attic bathroom ideas.
I called my financial advisor.
“I like the idea of your downsizing,” he said. “I assume this means that you will be selling the Pine St. house?”
“I don’t know yet. I’m hoping that maybe I can rent it.”
“I’m not sure that will pencil out,” he said cautiously. “But we can talk about it in more detail if this works out. In the meantime, we can put the money together if you decide to move on it.”
His next question was inevitable.
“If you do buy it, you will need to decide how you are going to purchase it with Jim. Will it be Tenants in Common or Joint Tenancy?”
“I have no idea.”
“Do you have any kind of agreement between you and Jim as to the payment of the property, what will happen if something happens to your relationship, that sort of thing?”
“No, not really. I guess we better think about that.”
“Well, you will need to be very clear what happens to the property if something happens to you. Do you want your kids to get the proceeds? Does Jim have heirs?”
“God, it sounds like we need a prenup.”
“It’s not far off. You need to get all those questions answered before you buy a house together.”
“Yeah, I guess we do.” It was beginning to dawn on me that buying a house with Jim demanded a deeper look into our relationship together. Buying this house was going to mean a lot more than just buying a house with Jim. This was going to take our relationship to a whole new level. Were we ready to make that leap?