Cautious? Or Crazy?

There was a piece in the industry trades this week about a new ‘trend’ among home buyers. Seems some folks are making their offers contingent on a ‘sleep-over.’ They want to spend a night in the home before they solidify their commitment.

Before you snicker, too loudly, think about it . . . from the home buyers’ perspective. You love the house, you love the neighborhood, at least you love it during the day . . but what happens after the sun goes down? Is the house next door owned by young Jesse Pinkman from ‘Breaking Bad,’ trashing the place with regular week long parties?  Is that rarely used rail line half a block away actually used every night around 2 am?  Is the proximity of the Hospital Urgent Care facility comforting and disturbing at the same time (what with the near constant siren noise)?  How else would you know about the ambiance of this particular house at night unless you just GO THERE?  Spending the night, while unusual, is certainly not weird or strange.

I’m remembering the condo I owned in Atlanta 25 years ago.  It was what I could afford.  Enough said.

After I settled in, a very predictable night time pattern emerged.  I’d hear my upstairs neighbors laughing a Johnny Carson close to midnight (the floors were not that soundproof).  Soon after, they’d go to bed  . . . and then the squeeking would begin.  Rhythmic bed squeeking.  You know:  eek eek eek eek eek eek eek eek. It would eek and eek and eek and then it would stop for a moment and then it would start up all over again.  Sometimes the eeking would continue for an hour or more.  I’d lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, almost as much in awe as a I was angry for the loss of sleep!

After several weeks of  sleep deprivation and hours wondering how in the heck I was going to deal with it, an opportunity presented itself.  I happened to be coming into the building at the same time as my neighbors.  When we got to the front door, I opened it for the lady and then turned to the guy and asked if I could speak with him for a moment.  As the wife started up the stairs we hung back.

‘I don’t know how to say this,’ I began.  And I didn’t; it was possible he’d take great offense, possible he’d threaten violence, who knew?  ‘But your bed has a squeek.’

‘A  sqyeek?’ he came back, head tiled, brow knit.

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘You know:  eek eek eek eek eek eek eek.’

‘Oh, that!’  he answered.  ‘We hardly notice.’

‘Yeah, well, I can’t help but notice, and though I am in awe of your stamina, I need my sleep!’  I said chuckling.

‘Oh!’ he said,’I had no idea!  I’ll go work on it right now.’

And he did.  No more sleepless nights, no more  eek eek eek eek eek.  And the best part was that I’d met my neighbors!  We became friends and socialized a bit over the next couple of years.

Now, what if I had spent the night in that condo before buying it?  What would I have done differently?  Would I have gone ahead with the purchase?  I don’t know – but I’d like to think I would.  My time there – and the appreciation I experienced  – were worth a few weeks of discomfort and it was strangely rewarding to take care of the problem the old fashioned way:  by talking about it.

I don’t want to suggest that pre-purchase sleep-overs are a great idea.  It’s certainly a stretch and I’m sure there are some serious paperwork issues that would need to be taken care of before anything like this occurred.  But I do believe that home buyers should get to know their prospective new neighborhood at all hours of the day and night.  I think you can usually learn what you need to know by simply walking the neighborhood after dark, by visiting the super market during a peak time, by visiting the closest school when kids are getting out fo the day.

Beyond that, as a purchaser, you have an implied duty to be flexible, to get along, to work with your neighbors to make your neighborhood a better place to live for everyone.  And never be afraid to put a damning squeek in its place!



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