All photos taken live from Chicago properties & environs

Friday, April 29, 2011

I Always Wanted to Marry a Foreclosure

“Hey, can we go look at that two flat, the one in Logan for $120,000?,” my client asked excitedly, delightfully oblivious to the car crash he was about to encounter.

“Uh, yeah, sure, but you know it's going to most likely need some work, and you weren't that keen on anything more than painting and some floor refinishing.”

“I know I said that but I've got a good feeling about this one. Something about the outside photo speaks to me.”

Apparently, he'd never explored the all too real world of online dating, where dreamy avatars arrive for coffeeshop dates aged by vienna beef and a cracked rolodex of spoiled romances.

“Alright, we'll take a look. Maybe you're right. I'm sure somewhere in Chicago real estate history a solid underpriced property has been forsaken by buyers for months, while it waited for just the right visionary, who keenly understood that painting those purple walls white would change everything. I'll meet you tomorrow at 3.”

A clean vinyl sided two flat awaited, taunting us like a cantankerous curmudgeon of an old maid, determined to thwart suitors until her rapidly approaching death. VINYL SIDING...Is there a more heinous material in the history of home building? A house built with wet dung is more architecturally appealing. Duct taping giant garbage bags around the exterior wall studs would even surpass the nausea that vinyl siding brings to the senses. Write your Senators. And your alderman. Ban that Shit! (Full disclosure: I'm so embarrassed by the vinyl that enshrines my building that I meet guests on the corner and escort them blindfolded to my door).

“Let's do it,” my client said with no hint of irony, a lifetime of happiness still awaiting him behind Door number one.

The smell of abandonment pervaded like the metamorphosis of mold and cat pee. The floors were still original hardwood though, which should be Chicago's new moniker. Fuck The Windy City. It's the City of Hardwood Floors. You may find a home drowning in yellowed Tribunes and Harold's Chicken boxes, mold blackened bathrooms, and shot out windows, but I guarantee you the realtor (or seller) will turn to you with the straightest face possible and earnestly declare, “Look at the hardwood floors. A quick polish and they'll really turn this place around.” Sure, if you're ok bathing in a plastic tub in the rear corner of the basement and inhaling cracked plaster on your elevated air bed.

“Hey, check out these moldings,” my client barked, still refusing to face the reality that his cyber date isn't even a woman.

“Yeah, not bad, only three, maybe four layers top of paint to strip.”

The rotting galvanized plumbing clawed out from the broken bathroom walls. Two presidencies worth of mold extracted the Bush empire from the forgotten bile in the pit of your belly. Stepping inside the oval office was not an option. The Spinster was beginning to show her spite. Walking down the brief hallway revealed everyone's new favorite room, the former dungeon of domestic servitude, El Kitchen.

A violent storm of post foreclosure looting dropped a Category 5 on my client's Emeril fantasies. Bam!

The countertop had been completely removed leaving only the plywood skeleton, which hung in the air like a subprime diving board. More broken rusty pipes poked through the cracked cabinetry to offer a salutary welcome. And then the Old Lady crapped on us.

“What was that?”the first octaves of concern bellowed from the buyer's mouth.

“Um, she wants us out.”


“Look up”

A crop circle of peeling paint neatly framed a tub size crater. A small FHA obstacle.

He wanted to swear of internet dating unaware that it's a numbers game. Everything's a numbers game.

“Hey, listen, you can get a rehab loan, and really make this place something. Probably add $80-$100 grand to the purchase price, and in a year you'll have the place you wanted,” I consoled, trying to minimize the hurt a misleading photo will do to a young man's heart.

“You know, I think I'll have to pass on this one. It's a little more work than I thought.”

“But don't you want to see the upstairs unit. Or the basement. Maybe those were kept pristine. This is the classic 'show 'em your ugly side first, and if he can bear with it, than he may be the one' move.” Again, consoling the bereaved.

“Uh, well, uh, ok. Let's take a look upstairs.”

The back porch was quickly reclaiming it's place in Chicago's clay earth, the perilous slant inebriating us for our upper deck arrival. A rusty water heater greeted us with the tip tap tip of it's final fluids. The kitchen had vanished. Abducted? Transplanted? We walked a circle of wonder around The Bam room, two old men at a Mapplethorpe exhibit. The matron waited. So what's it gonna be boy. Can you handle me?

“It's alright. We can go back downstairs. I'm ready,” the solemnity dripping from his mouth like the water tank that now bid us adieu.

Passing back through the downstairs kitchen was a painful Christmas tour of a childhood family album, now digitized by Dad to allow immediate trauma, On Demand. A sticky spatula glanced from the spot where the stove once sat. My client did the foreclosure walk of shame. Look around Chicago for wood boarded windows or a giant orange sticker on a padlocked door. If you see somebody leaving that home, not the one with the bad suit and a bluetooth, but the person accompanying, dejected, face to the ground, wondering what he was thinking, questioning why she couldn't have just posted some real time photos of herself. Everyday in Chicago, hundreds of prospects do the same walk.

But there's hope. There's always hope. It's what makes us human. And, of course, the Bank, who despite tight-assing their soaring profits, is still happy to give you a few more dollars to get the home you deserve.

“Hey, c'mon now,” I said like Coach after another beatdown, “Chicago's a big city. There's no such thing as only one soul mate. We're flooded with options here. I mean, did you see at least see those hardwood floors?”