So We Bought a House

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If you’re looking to buy or sell real estate, you want to pay close attention to my wife and me. Not in a good way. After we married and were comfortably settled in Maine, it became clear that owning a loft 2200 miles away in Denver was less than ideal. So we put it on the market. A new, modern apartment – with a huge patio and two parking spaces downtown, even – it should have been easy to move. Except that we listed it in the midst of the worst real estate market the US had seen in decades, and possibly since the Great Depression.

Real estate crashes too shall pass, however, and eventually we found ourselves a buyer. We even managed to eke out a profit in the process.

Free of the Denver anchor, our attention turned to finding a home of our own in Maine. There was just one problem: the real estate market had recovered. In a major way. Every day NPR had new, “thrilling” news about the housing recovery. Thrilling news that was terrifying from a buyer’s perspective. When our broker informed us that inventory was so tight that even average properties were getting upwards of four offers the same day they were listed – as if Maine had somehow become San Francisco – it was pretty clear that we were doomed.

Then one random Friday a property that we had looked at last fall, and had assumed to have been sold, hit Zillow. After debating over the weekend, we decided to schedule a showing first thing Monday morning. So obviously it went under contract that day.

In the end, however, as it so often does for me – eventually – things worked themselves out. Having struck out on one property from the fall, we looked up another we assumed had sold. As with the first, it hadn’t: did we want to take a look? It was a few weeks away from listing, but available. On the water, in Freeport, with a huge deck? Why the hell not?

Two plus months later – and a horrific secondary mortgage market disaster that will be fully chronicled in gory detail for posterity at a later date – we closed on the home, finalizing the paperwork late this afternoon.

The most immediate change as a result of our move involves our respective commutes. My wife’s is maybe ten minutes shorter; mine is almost thirty. If thirty minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, remember what an extra half hour of sleep means before a 6 AM flight. The only real downside to the location is that we moved ten miles further from the Oxbow brewery up in Newcastle, though it’s worth noting that we’re now less than three miles from the Maine Beer Company.

Longer term, we are both of us going to learn a lot about home improvement, because it needs a lot of improvement. Everything you need to know about our plans for the property – which is, to be fair, completely livable at present – can be summed up in two purchases: the ten pound sledgehammer I bought at Aubuchon Hardware two days ago, and the Senco drywall screwgun that Amazon delivered today. Oh, and the Benjamin Moore paint my wife picked up on the way to our closing.

But to be on the water, in a good town that halves my commute, I’m happy to trade some labor. Particularly because I actually enjoy working with my hands. If you have suggestions on that front, by the way – I’ve already discovered the Finehomebuilding.com YouTube channel – please sing out.

In the meantime, it’s time for me to get back to packing up our beer cellar. The new house, after all, has a corner room in the basement with no windows.

Question 1

As a rule, I do not discuss politics. Not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not here. Three years ago, I made an exception to that rule and publicly commented on a political matter. Not because it affected me personally, but because I don’t believe it to be a political matter. For me it was a matter of standing up for what I believe to be right.

In November 2009 Maine had a chance to make history, to become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage via the legislative process with a governor’s signature. Instead, the law was overturned by a state referendum, 300,848 to 267,828, on November 3rd.

The defeat was a surprise. Polls had shown support for same-sex marriage, and Nate Silver forecast a narrow victory for advocates of same-sex marriage. But the loss at the polls was more surprising because the vote seemed at odds with who we are as Mainers.

Liberal or conservative, the people of Maine have something of a deserved reputation for being private. Minding your own business is a way of life in this state, which admittedly can be an adjustment for transplants. That a majority of the population, then, felt it necessary to vote in a way that negatively affects other Mainers’ lives was as baffling as it was disappointing.

In the aftermath of that decision, however, it became apparent that much of the opposition to same-sex marriage was based upon what we refer to in the technology industry as FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt. Nor was this an accident: as the head of the campaign to overturn the law says in the first minute of this documentary, “All you have to do is create doubt. You don’t have to convince people that you’re right.”

Many Mainers believed, as an example, that the same-sex marriage law meant that homosexuality would be taught in schools, even when the Maine Attorney General had confirmed otherwise. Others whose faith prohibits same-sex relationships were concerned that their respective churches would be required to perform same-sex marriages, which was not the case.

This November, same-sex marriage is back on the ballot. It remains to be seen what difference three years have made with respect to the levels of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Certainly some have changed their minds upon further consideration. For me, however, this is still a simple matter. As an American, I – like WWII veteran and lifelong Republican Philip Spooner above – believe that “the proposition that all men are created equal” is one of the things that makes this country great, and a country worth dying for. Whether someone was born gay or straight, therefore, can have no bearing on the “unalienable rights” granted to them as an American. And as a Mainer, I believe in minding my own business. Even if I personally opposed gay marriage, I would not favor legislation that imposed my personal beliefs on someone that did not share them.

And ultimately, that’s what opposing same-sex marriage is about. It is about imposing your objections – whether those are personal, religious or otherwise in nature – on your neighbors. And that is not what this country was founded for.

If you live in Maine, then, I would ask you to please Vote Yes on Question 1. In 2009 Mainers voted to deny other Mainers equal rights. We can do better this year.