Saturday, May 21, 2011

Craigslist Adventures

I know I promised you a post about a log cabin and a deer head, but that will have to wait. Stay tuned!

This week we explored the world of buying things from Craigslist. Let me clarify this post by saying that I think everyone should buy stuff from other people when they can’t or shouldn’t be spending or paying full price. With the upcoming move we have found ourselves in need of a few things. (I should really state that the list was quite long but we moved a lot of it to a dream list and are focusing on the must have’s) We even got to see our new house one last time before the move. This visit we saw more of the things that need fixing, but we also saw all the potential our new house has. The two kids that had not seen it yet agreed our new home is exciting. They loved their rooms and are excitedly making plans.

The first Craigslist posting promised us like-new stainless steel appliances for cheap prices among a long list of other things including their granite countertops which made us wonder exactly what was going on. We managed to get them to agree to show us the goods ahead of the crowds on the sale date. The evening that we drove to the house we found ourselves getting more and more excited as we passed large well maintained homes. Until we got to their driveway at the end of the cul-de-sac. The house was tucked into the trees and not visible from the road. The driveway was solid mud. We have had a lot of rain, but the mud was mostly due to the fact that the driveway was in pieces in a pile in the yard. We started to get the feeling we knew what was going on: House in foreclosure, they have to get out and they aren’t going to leave anything in the house, not even the driveway.

As we got to the top we parked between a brand new Mustang, an older Mustang and several Junker cars and trucks. We saw old furniture scattered in piles all over the yard and we were about to make a run for it when a lady (a rather intimidating one) came out of the house and waved us in.

Here’s the skinny: The house was massive, a fairly new build and left in mid-construction. The house was filled to the brim with stuff – oriental rugs, clothing, furniture, jewelry, authentic African pieces from their travels, and kitchen appliances that Martha Stewart would own. My current bathroom could fit in one the refrigerators.

Most of the stuff was not for sale, yet the owner told us a tale of woe that goes like this: She and her long time husband up until a year ago were living the high life. They owned five houses, many, many cars,(their Hummer was for sale for a mere $25k) travelled and bought the best of absolutely everything. He made his money working 3-4 jobs, sleeping no more than 3 hours a night. She made her money cleaning for his clients and took care of their four kids (all with Mustangs of their own) and a menagerie of pets. (we saw one rather scary cat and heard the deep barks of what sounded like super sized dogs somewhere deep in this massive house).

The economy, bad planning and lack of luck caught up to them and they were begrudgingly liquidating everything so they could come up with enough cash to buy a small house in a not so great neighborhood.

I am pretty sure the neighbors are counting the seconds until they leave. I could just sense this from the plume of smoke that followed this lady out of her house and the way her loud voice traveled throughout the streets.

We ended up with a table (we pretty much stole a $4500 table that has made our basement where we set it up to admire, smell like sweetest wood smell ever)

As we left, we wished this lady luck. You could tell this new adventure she was on was hard on her. Whether they were smart or not in their decisions prior, they had been thrown for a loop and it was like watching someone sitting atop all of their treasures and purchases and asking people to take from the bottom, carefully so she didn’t fall too hard or soon.

Because we didn’t get what we intended to (the fridge, because she sold it to someone else) we searched the ads again. I found a local ad promising a fridge in new condition, barely used with a stove to match. (One of the things we discovered at the new house was just how old the appliances were – gotta love buyer blinders!)

When I called, I spoke to  Captain Irons.  He was the sweetest man and told me a tale of when he came home three years ago to none of his electrical appliances working due to a botched electricity repair across the street causing a power surge in his home. Because he is the kind of guy who holds onto everything until the bitter end, he was a little put out to now have to buy all new appliances with the City’s money. Being a retired fireman, living alone in the house his parents had died in; he found little use for fancy appliances. He was moving to the beach in a week and had to get rid of everything. (30 minutes later) I agreed to come and take a look at the Fridge.

The hubby and I arrived to a ramshackle house that had an original kitchen straight out of the 1940’s. But in the kitchen stood the most immaculate three year old refrigerator you ever saw. Doug, dressed in over the belly jeans, and a cut off t-shirt, talked to us for three straight hours. Clearly this was a man who needed to talk to someone. I could hear the news channel on in a distant room and after hearing that his beloved German Shepard had passed and his wife had left him many years ago and his kids lived far away, I knew he hadn’t told the stories we heard for a long time to someone who had never heard them before.

We learned that Doug had two bought’s of extreme bad luck. The first time after he retired from fire fighting and was told they had no record of the money he had been putting into a special savings account. The second when he received a letter a month ago that stated his mortgage had been sold to an off-shore company and he now owed double of what he thought (which was well over the amount the house was worth) . He filed for bankruptcy and was walking away. Walking away but back to his ex-wife who would take care of him while he had major surgery. He excitedly threw in the stove that had been used once in three years to cook Texas toast when he made himself spaghetti.

He told us story after story and I realized just how lucky I am buying a house right now. How lucky I am to be in my life right now. While he talked about the various side jobs he did, I couldn’t help but notice the navy fireman’s jacket hanging on a hook, and the two soap box derby cars on his desk, and the fireman training books lovingly worn. He asked us if we could pick up the appliances on Wednesday so he could make himself a nice brunch on Sunday before his big trip and he promised to clean the already immaculate appliances before we came back. He even promised to include the cleaning supplies.

We decided to drop the money off today, rather than wait, in case he really needed it. When we arrived (with an escape story at the ready if needed) we found him in the barn practically giving away his snap-on tool chest, Harley Davidson, and lawn mowers. It’s hard to imagine someone of his character and work ethic having to just walk away from it all. He told us what he didn’t sell, he would burn.

Finally, today we were after a twin mattress and box spring. The ad promised one that had never been used. We travelled out of town to a neighborhood full of little salt box houses with a garage sale on every corner. (This is the first nice weekend since last fall). Everyone was out mowing lawns, riding bikes and garage sailing. We ended up with a slightly used mattress and box spring that will work well for our needs. The Harley driving, smoky voiced owner loaded it into our van and excitedly told his family the sale was a wrap.

I feel so grateful to have family and friends give us the things we need when we need them. This week I feel even better knowing I bought things we needed and paid money to people who needed it the most.

And that’s my adventures for the week. Next week, I really need to get serious about the packing, sorting, and giving away of my own. We even put some of our stuff on Craigslist. Maybe our story will be as interesting to someone as the stories this week were to us.


.bec said...

I loved reading these stories. Good luck with the move!

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

i can relate to both of those stories. combine them and take out a few details here and there, and you could be reading my life. only, i didn't have houses all over or mustangs coming out my ears. lol! throw in medical problems, stocks that dropped extensively in value, etc. etc. etc. and you have a recipe for disaster.

would love to see a picture of that $4500 table when you get it set up. so cool! i need a twin daybed for my 2nd bedroom/craft room/office so i have someplace for guests to sleep. when i come up with a little bit of extra money i'll be checking craigslist, too.

The Schweitzers said...

I wish I had more patience to scout for things like that. And an eye for what is "good" and what is not. Must be very exciting for you to have things falling into place!

Cheeseboy said...

They should really make a reality tv show about your adventures finding stuff on Craigslist. I would watch just to see muddy driveway lady.