The Closing From Hell
On March 28, 2008 we closed on the house we currently live in. We’ve been super happy living here, and we've had fun throwing parties and making improvements. Getting into our happy home was over the top, however. The process to buy the house was annoying, challenging, and ridiculously dramatic.
We kept looking at the real estate listings here in RI. We lived in a raised ranch in the Apponaug section of Warwick, Rhode Island. We bought that house in 2001, and it was a house that served us well. But we wanted to have more land. Our old neighborhood, though we lived across from a tidal flat filled with ducks and geese and had a few things we could walk to—like an outpost of the library, a few stores, etc., it was noisy. We had neighbors right on top of us. We had a police and fire station a mile or two away, so the sirens got noisy. We also lived three miles away from the airport, and the planes flew directly over our house. I literally walked home from the airport once only because I’d felt like walking, dragging my suitcase the entire three miles.
We inputted our parameters into the real estate listing site. We wanted a few acres of land, we wanted three bedrooms for when we’d have guests stay over, we wanted a garage, and Todd wanted a separate garage kind of building so he could create a woodworking shop. We scoured the listings several times per week, went to a see a ton of houses, but this house always came up in our very specific search parameters. We kept disregarding it until one time Todd said “We should go see this house, it keeps coming up in the search, it’s obvious it has what we want.”
By the time we went to see the house that day it had been on the market for six months. We met the owner on that Saturday and then he left so the agent could show us around. The owner kind of looked like Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. I looked in the basement for a moth collection and the well. We walked the rooms, marveled at the size of the basement and imagined a room for all of our adventure gear. The house really hit all the criteria, it had 6 and a half acres of land and across the street was forest that was donated to the Audubon society. We could barely see the house to the north and the other neighbor to the south through the trees that separate our lots. It was perfect. We made an offer, and that’s where the nightmare began.
The former owner, Bob, was… well… I am not sure what his deal was. But he wasn’t happy to be selling the house, in fact he was downright angry over it. We shared a real estate agent and we spent six months working on the deal to buy this house. Bill, the real estate agent, came and sat with us around the table in our old house to go over the offer paperwork. Bob rejected our offer, we offered again. He finally agreed to a price when Bill agreed to forego his commission just to shut him up. We signed the purchase agreement, and Bill brought it to Bob to sign at which point Bob tore up the agreement right in front of Bill’s face and screamed at him. This back and forth took approximately six months until we finally settled on a price and a closing date. When we had finally agreed on everything Todd and I went over to the house to shake hands with Bob. Todd bought a nice bottle of red wine on the way and gifted it to him.
I met with the home inspector and walked through the house with him. He pointed out the wood stove, and suggested that the first thing we do is get rid of it. He pointed out that it was so warped that the corners didn’t meet anymore and it was propped in place using a folded up paper magazine as a wedge beneath it to keep it level. “This is a slammer,” he said, gesturing to the stove. “As in, people just slam these crappy stoves into place and just hope it doesn’t burn the place down.”
The day of the closing was March 28th. And then we were to close on the sale of our house in Apponaug on March 31st. It was the perfect set up, really, as we’d then have 3 days to vacate the old house. We were originally scheduled to close on March 14th. But Bob threw another tantrum and demanded the closing get pushed back another 2 weeks, I think he forgot to start packing. The day of the closing we came to the house to do one more walk through. Bob had lit the slammer wood stove, I could see the flames through where the walls of the stove were supposed to meet. He had left the house to go to the closing and left the sketchy woodstove lit. Let me say that again. He lit a fire in the woodstove and the left the house with the fire poking out the holes in the sides of the stove. Todd found a pitcher Bob had left behind and poured it into the stove to extinguish the flame. We continued to walk through the house and discovered the washer and dryer were removed from the basement, despite the stipulation that appliances would stay. We’d left our washer and dryer in the old house, and planned on having them come with the new house. Another thing we discovered was that Bob had left the house filthy. He had three chocolate labs, two males and a female. In the six months it took to settle on a deal to purchase his house, that female had given birth to two litters. The second litter was born just before the closing date, so he had three dogs and twelve puppies. There were piles of brown dog hair everywhere. The off white carpet on the stairs was brown with all the dog hair that was left on them. The basement reeked of dog pee. It would seem that the first things Bob packed were his broom and vacuum.
We drove to Bill’s office in Warwick for the closing. Bill is a super kind man. Spend five minutes with him and you’ll know that he is very active in his church. He would often say when we would meet, leading up to the closing, “I can’t stay too long, I have to meet the youth group at the church…” or something like that. Todd and I aren’t religious people, but we know to be respectful of those who are. “Sure Bill, let’s finish the paperwork and then you can get over to the church on time…” There's a reason why I am telling you about this, just wait to see what awful thing Bob said to poor Bill.
We sat around the table in Bill’s conference room: me and Todd, Bill and the agent on Bill’s team who was working with us, the lawyer, and Bob. Todd commented on the fact that Bob had lit a fire in the unsafe woodstove and left it unattended in the house. Then more pointedly asked “So, where are the washer and dryer? We understood those would stay.”
“What are you going to do about it?” Bob replied and smirked. Good question. At that point we had the choice to stop the closing and redo the paperwork to cover the price of a replacement washer and dryer, or demand that he bring them back. Todd and I looked at each other and silently communicated that we wanted this asshole out of our lives. We decided to let it go and just buy another washer and dryer.
“Normally I wouldn’t do this,” Bill began from the head of the table, “but I have to keep my phone close by. My mother in law is in hospice, and we are getting very close to the end. I am hoping we can get through this closing quickly so I can go back to be with my wife.”
Todd and I and the lawyer piped up with our condolences and agreed to sign everything as promptly as we could; Bill had a tear in his eye. It was obvious that he was incredibly sad to be losing his mother in law. The Bob said something that, I can’t even find the word to describe how tasteless his next comment was, it was incredibly vile what he said and I will never forget it.
“Well, it just goes to show you that Dr. Kevorkian was right,” he dead panned. Every eye belonging to every person popped out of its owners’ heads around the table that morning. I gasped in response. I think I knew what Bob was trying to say, that it was a shame Bill’s mother in law was suffering at the end. But the way he said it came off as incredibly unfeeling, unsympathetic and downright terrible.
I could see Bill’s jaw tense. I could almost hear the voice in his head slowly counting to ten rather than lunging across the table to punch Bob’s lights out. Bill said, through gritted teeth, “Thou shall not kill.”
“So, let’s get the seller’s portion of the paperwork done,” the lawyer began. “There’s less for you to sign, Bob, so we can send you on your way.”
The papers circled around the table, Todd and I signed, Bob signed. Over the course of signing we tried to break the tension. “So, Bob, where are you moving to?” Todd asked.
“We’re moving back to Massachusetts. We haven’t found a place, so we are moving in with my wife’s parents until we do.” I didn’t even realize he’d had a wife. I never saw her over the course of dealing with him to buy the house. There weren’t any pictures of them up in the house, as I am sure they’d taken them all down to stage the house. I eventually found her hair everywhere in the house as I power cleaned it before we moved in.
“OK and that’s all the paperwork for you to sign, Bob,” the lawyer stated. “All you have to do now is give them the keys.”
“What’s the point in that? They’re just going to change the locks anyway,” Bob protested.
“You have to give them the keys to finalize the sale, Bob,” the lawyer explained.
“But they’re just going to change the locks,” Bob protested again.
At that point Todd stood up from the table. Todd is the calmest person in the world, and it was his turn to unclench his jaw. “Give us the fucking keys, Bob,” Todd glowered at him.
“Fine!” he reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys. He threw them across the table at Todd, and it wasn’t a gentle toss, it was a throw. “Enjoy my house,” he seethed at us.
“Oh we will. And it’s our house now,” I replied with a grin.
Todd held out his hand to shake Bob’s hand. Bob rolled his eyes and shook his hand. At the beginning of the meeting I let everyone know I couldn’t be shaking any hands because I was at the end of a cold. But I couldn’t resist. I coughed directly onto my hand and then thrust into Bob’s to shake his hand. I can be an asshole too.
Bob left, and took the tension with him. We finished all they buyer’s paperwork and then Todd and I left Bill’s office. We wished his family well with his mother in law’s hospice. We got into the car and headed back to our old house. We were going to work on some more packing and then head to the new house to spend the night on an air mattress in our new house.
“Man, that guy just killed my buzz,” Todd groaned. “What a dick! Can you believe that Dr. Kevorkian comment?”
All I could do was laugh. “What are you laughing about?” he asked me.
“He has 3 dogs and 12 puppies right now. He is moving in to his in laws’ house with 15 dogs!” I howled with laughter and Todd joined me. We laughed as we drove to our old house for one of the last times.
We collected up the air mattress, bedding, a change of clothes, toiletries and a few things to eat and headed to the new house that evening. We inflated the air mattress and set it up in the living room. We talked about our plans for the new house, once we managed to give it a thorough cleaning after Bob left it completely filthy. I opened the fridge to see that Bob had left the bottle of wine that Todd had bought for him in it. We ended up serving it the first Thanksgiving we held in our house, at which we'd named the turkey Bob and Todd slashed into it with the carving knife.
Once we turned the lights off we barely slept a wink. Air mattresses are terrible to sleep on as it is, but without furnishings the house was incredibly noisy. We set up the air mattress in our living room, with the hardwood floors and the high cathedral ceiling even our breaths echoed. It was the end of March, the very tail end of the Rhode Island winter, I turned up the thermostat in the living room and we hunkered down under the covers we brought with us for our overnight.
When the boiler kicked on to heat the house it the pipes in the walls clanged to life with a thump thump thump. In the old house our heat was forced hot air, and was much quieter than this thumping which sounded just like someone like a knife murderer—or a weirdo former homeowner who wouldn’t give up the keys—coming up the stairs. We both sat bolt upright in bed and listened to the noise. Todd got up and turned on the light we sat in silence and listened to the thumping subside. Every time the boiler kicked on it sounded like Crazy Bob was in the house coming to kill us.
It took me about a month to feel comfortable in the house. The boiler stopped thumping once I had it maintained and cleaned. The maintenance guy uttered in "Oh dear God" when he opened the access panels and canceled the rest of his appointments it was so bad in there. Over that first weekend while I cleaned Bob’s disgusting mess, Todd went to Home Depot and got new door locks. The garage door openers didn’t have remotes, who knows if Bob forgot to give them to us or what, Todd bought some new ones and coded them to the door openers. Cox Communications was half way through setting up our new phone, we could receive calls but not make calls. Our cell phones didn’t work at the time because there was no signal in the area. Rationally I knew that Bob wouldn’t come back. But he didn’t strike me as incredibly rational. Would he come back to make trouble for us?
There was a point a month or so later when a car had pulled off the road right in front of our house. It sat there idling for awhile as I watched it from the window. I decided to find out who was in the car. I grabbed the cordless phone handset and tucked it into my pocket. I walked out to the mailbox the whole time my eyes on the car. I checked the mail and saw that the driver in the car was an older gentleman, not Bob, looking at a map.
Bob never came to cause any problems. For all I knew he moved into his in laws house with the fifteen dogs. When we met our neighbors and when we met the guy who owned the pizza place down the road, they all asked “Oh, you bought Bob’s old house? That guy was a piece of work.”
added on 03.29.21