Next, part three

This is the final part, the one that began when our real estate agent asked, “Do you guys seem to attract this kind of craziness normally?” Because if you take the insane factor of the first homeowner, multiply it by a hundred and then feed it a truckload of Twinkies, that’s the owner of my dream home. She who at one point said, “If you leave the shed unlocked that bobcat will come back. But don’t worry, I’m pretty sure it’s friendly. It purrs.”

So our real estate agent put in our offer the morning after we walked through the house. They countered, we accepted the counter, the end, right? THAT’S HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO WORK. Although I happen to have a track record of breaking things. Toes, tailbones, and apparently the rotation of the earth because that’s when all hell broke lose. I was in New York City on Mother’s Day when we had to sign the counter papers, unable to get a signal on my phone, unable to hear the 17 frantic voicemails Jon had left going I’M GOING TO FLY OUT THERE RIGHT NOW AND STRANGLE YOU MYSELF. And not in a kinky way.

The fax machine at the hotel was working, and then it wasn’t, and my car was on its way to pick me up to take me to the airport, and WE WERE GOING TO LOSE MY DREAM HOME. It felt like a scene out of a really suspenseful thriller as I ran around and around the block searching for a signal to talk to Jon, the fax machine creaking along… did you get it? No? Let me run back and try again. Clock ticking, ticking ticking… around the block again… attempting the fax again…my car waiting… ticking… ticking… BOOM! When the woman at the hotel finally managed to get that fax to send I asked about her name and told her that if my husband’s vasectomy miraculously reversed itself, we’d name our next kid after her.

It’s a boy? Sorry, kid. I promised Susan in New York.

So we had signed papers. Signed papers! Dates! Signatures! Deadlines to meet! YAY! Except, two days later the owner fired her real estate agent. That’s the first thing that raised our eyebrows, and then she made it really difficult to schedule an inspection. Second thing. And then she basically refused to let anyone in to make an appraisal. Third thing. Notice I haven’t mentioned the purring bobcat yet. That’s like, 300 things down on the list.

I’m not sure how earnest money works in other states, but in Utah you write an initial check with your offer that basically says $This Is How Much We Are Interested in Buying Your House. Usually about one percent of the asking price. And if everything goes like it’s supposed to go, that check is released the day of closing and is applied toward the price of the house. Well, this home owner thought that after a certain date on the contract had passed, she’d be written a check for that earnest money. And she could just spend it willy nilly.

When she was advised that this is not how it works, she said she wouldn’t sell the house because she needed that money to move.

But we have a signed contract.

But she didn’t care.



If we didn’t write her a check for the earnest money, she was going nowhere.

I don’t know what it’s called in other languages, but I think in English this is called extortion.

Yes, we could take her to court, but that could end up being thousands of dollars in legal fees, plus months and months of duking it out. We were still waiting for our loan to be approved, and the real estate agency basically said this: if you don’t take this risk, she won’t move out. This risk being: she takes that check, spends it on kibble for her bobcat, and then still refuses to move.

You guys, Jon and I didn’t sleep for days. I know, first world problem. But it was a total nightmare. It was making us physically ill. We’d already paid for the inspection and two appraisals, not too much, no, but I guess the biggest thing was, well, it was my dream house. A dream house I could afford. One I’d already foolishly imagined would be the place where we could host our entire families for holidays and graduations.

We took several days to weigh our options, and I guess the Universe was feeling generous, or perhaps it couldn’t stand the green coloration of Jon’s face, but in the meantime she hired a lawyer to sort out her options. And that lawyer told her to suck it that if she didn’t show up to sign closing papers, he would not represent her. She HAD no options. Also, LADY. DON’T PET THE BOBCAT.

Needless to say, we did not write that check.

A few days later we drove by the house and saw moving boxes and trucks, and it was like my brother that Christmas morning when he got the Millenium Falcon. We called our real estate agent, my mom, his mom, my sister, the mail carrier… WE EVEN DIALED RANDOM NUMBERS just so that we could shout SHE’S MOVING! And then Jon pretended he was Han Solo and I was Princess Leia.

But then. Yes. There is a but then. A very large but then. A but then that required the services of six different lawyers representing six different interests. Turns out that the homeowner’s ex-husband whose name was still on the title of the house had one enormous lien taken out against the home in his name. Like, huge. Like, more money than she was going to walk away with from the sale. And since the two of them no longer speak to each other, his lawyer was talking to her lawyer was talking to the lawyer of the title company was talking to the lawyer of the real estate agency was talking to the lawyer representing the lien. Add in our lawyer, and it’s a wonder the temple didn’t fall into the giant black hole that formed in the middle of Salt Lake City.

Estimates were that not only were they not going to be able to figure out the lien situation by the closing date, but that it might take so long that we might lose the interest rate on our now-approved loan. Since Jon’s phone was our point of contact for everything concerning this house, I developed a pavlovian response and would vomit when I heard the first three notes on his ringtone.

Cut to the week of closing, and I’m in New York City AGAIN, this time for the HGTV event, and I’m grabbing a quick bite to eat at a deli when, no joke, the song from Jon’s ringtone comes on the radio. That was the end of THAT sandwich.

Closing date comes and goes, and still no progress on the lien. I was capital L LIVID. And no one was giving a straight answer. But how could anyone? Because one lawyer had five other lawyers to check in with, and you know they were all off either golfing or busy billing someone for paperclips and staples.

Three days passed, and at that point I couldn’t go on living not knowing what the hell was going on. So I go, Jon, this is it. I want you to pull the My Wife Is Crazy Card. I want you to BLAME ME. Tell them I am ready to sue FOR EVERYTHING. For all the money we’ve spent up to this point, for all our lawyer’s fees, for what it is costing to hold our interest rate every day past closing, and oh! Mention that I’m emotionally unstable! In fact, tell them I once spent a few days in a psyche ward! THINK YOU’RE INSANE, BOBCAT LADY? THINK AGAIN.

And I think our lawyer believed him. Because the email he wrote to all those other lawyers will go down as my favorite email ever written. By four o’clock that day, we had keys to the house.

And when we showed up to have celebratory champagne on the giant porch, guess who was still there? And guess whose stuff was still pouring out of boxes stacked to the ceiling in the garage?

It was then that she approached us and asked if legally we could speak to each other, even though she was the one who had four weeks previously stated that she wanted no contact with us or our real estate agent without some sort of intermediary. We said we didn’t see why we couldn’t speak, and that’s when she wistfully showed us where the bobcat had lived. And when she got to the part about how it purred, well, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I started laughing. Maniacally. Like, to the point that I had tears coming down my face, and I almost fell over.


WE GOT THE HOUSE! And with it, so many amazing ideas and opportunities. I can’t wait to get started.

  • CathyJ

    For some reason I felt compelled to look up what my account information was for the Dooce community just to tell you how insanely JEALOUS I am of that house. THAT HOUSE!!!!! THAT HOUSE WILL HAUNT MY DREAMS!

    I WANT a new house badly. We do not NEED a new house at all, perfectly fine home, okay on space, neighborhood okay, not perfect but not terrible. Schools just ok. But I WANT an open floor plan with LIGHT. I WANT NO CARPET. I WANT WINDOWS THAT FACE THE FRONT OF A HOUSE. Our house is in a track neighborhood and it basically one box on top of the other, I feel closed in. Our backyard is the size of a average size bedroom. I WANT ROOM FOR A PLAYSET bigger than that fit for a polly pocket.I WANT I WANT I WANT.

    Alas, we refinanced several years ago when the market was fab and now we are upside down in our house by about $10,000. Not the end of the world but enough to prevent us from selling and moving.

    To make the pain more real…a FABULOUS house in this market in AZ to fit all my desires and more is a FREAKING STEAL right now and that only makes me grind my teeth harder.

    So I remind myself CONSTANTLY, It’s a want it’s a want it’s want it’s a want. ALL I HAVE IS ALL I NEED ALL I HAVE IS ALL I NEED over and over until the need passes.

    But now you’ve brought this beautiful house into my life and the pictures are beyond incredible and now I’M AS JEALOUS AS THE DAY IS LONG.

    Why I am I telling you and the community this? This is definitely not like me, I never comment.

    Maybe I’m cleansing my soul.

    Despite being jealous crazy person, congrats to you. It’s crazy beautiful home and you totally deserve it! :0)

  • Grey.and.Vis.Mom

    well, here i am 7 pages into the comments! you’re famous:)
    i hope the bobcat continues to “purr” for you, and maybe you should get some bells for the girls shoes to scare it off:)
    congrats for getting rid of the crazy bobcat lady, maybe it will follow her where ever she goes next.

  • Kris Mulkey

    What a crazy story! I think I would tear down the shed – just in case. Who needs to worry about a bobcat every night? You did change all the locks, right???

  • joni l

    What is it with crazy ex-owners?! We have lived in our house for 18 years, the people before us lived here for 8 years. The lady that lived here before that brings her kids back EVERY year to take their pictures in front of our house. Her kids are now in their late 40′s. I think I would welcome a bobcat… to bite their butts! Congratulations on the new house!

  • Brea

    The older I get, the crazier other people seem. And there is a good and bad crazy – crazy that I relate to, versus crazy that breaks boundaries and reeks of batshit.

    What an ordeal! I am glad that you are moving forward in your escrow, and Mrs. Bobcat McLovin is moving on.

    When we bought our condo, our first Thanksgiving we invited so many people – I even invited my boss, that I had to rent tables. We were that excited. Thanksgiving in our first home!

    I was frantically cooking, my boss had even come early to help us, when I heard someone ‘yoo hoo’ over our gate. It was the previous owner, who had come by with her best friend to show her the house. To make matters worse, her husband had recently died and she wanted to come back and revisit better times.

    I was too stunned to say no, and then there she was in my home making comments like, “This was the room where we fucked ALL THE TIME.” I wish I could say I was kidding; it was terrible, sad and awkward all at once.

    So, no – don’t feed the bobcat. Also? I love the masthead. Someone brilliant must’ve come up with that – HA!

  • Sneeka

    Congrats Congrats!!!! This will be a fun project for us to watch on the HGTV blog! We want more pictures!!!!

  • m.l.e.

    Favorite masthead ever.

  • hello_katty

    Wow.. Congratulations. I hope all the frustration was worth it in the end and the house of your dreams is a dream come true. I can’t wait to see what you do with it.

  • gretchie

    Chicgeek75… I agree with you 100%. Heather, if you want to write about the time you left that $1000000 in your twice-used Coach bag and then gave it away to one of your maids, I’m sure it will be a fun post to read. I don’t think that would ever happen to me, but… if I want stories about things that make me nuts, I’ll start my own blog. And I’m sure NO ONE will read it. What’s Heather supposed to write about, anyway? Orphans in Haiti? Oil in the Gulf? The heartbreak of psoriasis? Let Anderson Cooper report that stuff… it’s a good excuse to look at him some more. :)

  • maggievt11

    Yes, but you’ve left out the most important detail: What is Armstrong’s ringtone???

  • apostate

    I’m glad you got the house. I have to admit, however, that I’m a little disappointed by the bobcat persecution. It’s really about a small few bad owners giving good bobcats bad names.
    I’d expect more from you, Heather.
    Fluffy and I are going to go sit in the corner and cry now.

  • MeganPaige


  • Larkspur

    Sure, I’m jealous. I live in a small, shabby apartment, and I’m never ever going to be able to buy a house, much less a Dream House. And I don’t have a clog-wearin’ adorable husband, or two whip-smart daughters (one of whom has the bluest eyes in recorded history).

    But I love a good story. And to the best of my recollection, I have never sent Heather any cash money, so she hasn’t gotten what she’s gotten off of my back.

    Also? In many, many places in the world, my small, shabby apartment would be home to two or three families. Water and electricity would be hit and miss. There might not be a half-dozen well-stocked supermarkets within walking distance.

    So I cannot lose sight of the glaring fact that MY problems are also first world problems, and everyone in the world should be as lucky as I am. I can turn on the tap and clean water comes out, every time. Is that not the most awesome thing ever?

    I totally DO NOT subscribe to the notion that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all. Phooey on that. Say what you want, explain why (as several of you have done eloquently). Having just said what I wanted to say, I am stopping now. Best wishes to everyone.

  • LexiMac

    Well, this is what I get for being late to the game. And by “late,” I don’t just mean with commenting on this post, but with commenting on this site altogether. What is it they say again? “Long time lurker, first time poster?” I, too, have been reading Dooce for years. I think I started when Leta was still a baby. (I can’t believe she started school this year! She’s growing up so fast! I’m a single, childless woman in her late 20s, and even I’m making a remark like that!)

    Anyway, after finally getting to the end of post 3 of 3 on the new house last night, I was pretty fired up. I wanted to leave a comment about how I’ve been reading Dooce long enough to kind of understand Heather’s unique brand of humor, but I just couldn’t muster any sympathy for a woman who ran into a few hurdles in the process of trying to purchase a home that’s probably larger than any one I’ve ever been in, let alone one I could ever hope to own. Especially not when I think about how my grandmother raised five children in a house that was less than 1,000 square feet. Or when I did a quick Craigslist search and found out that I could rent a four bedroom, two bath home in Sugar House (wherever that is…I’ve never been to Salt Lake City, but it seems like a pretty desirable neighborhood) for less than I’m currently paying each month for my 650 square foot apartment in a D.C. suburb. I started reading through the comments, and I came across Gigantic’s post and thought, “RIGHT ON! Couldn’t have said it better myself!”

    But then, since I’m a lurker, I had to register for a username and wait to be approved before I could make a comment. So, when I got home from work, I read through the comments that had rolled in since last night, and I came across Lurkalicious’s and Duckie’s posts, and I thought, “RIGHT ON! Couldn’t have said it better myself!”

    Then, I started thinking about how I haven’t really been reading Dooce as often as I used to. There was a time when this blog was at the top of my “most visited” sites. Clearly, this was pre-Facebook, but that couldn’t be the only reason I’ve stopped visiting every day, waiting for the page to load in giddy anticipation that I’d be greeted by a hilarious new post or a beautiful new picture. I couldn’t really put my finger on why my visits have become so infrequent–I was single and childless when I first found Dooce, so it’s not exactly like there’s anything less for me to relate to here now than there was then–but I think Lurkalicious and Duckie hit the nail on the head. There is less for me to relate to here.

    As I was sitting here trying to compose a comment of my own, I started looking for posts that reminded me why I became a faithful Dooce reader in the first place. I really had to dig back through the archives to come up with more than a handful of posts that reminded me of the “old Dooce.” Things like the newsletters to the girls, stories about the Avon World Sales Leader, and stories about Chuck and Coco’s wild adventures.

    Then, I finally got back to April or March and found out HOLY CRAP, DOOCE WAS IN D.C.! HOW DID I MISS THIS?!! (Fantastic job, by the way. I guess one thing I have to be thankful for that many others don’t have is that I’m fortunate enough to work for a federal agency that really “gets it right” when it comes to workplace flexibility–if and when I ever have children, I know I’ll be able to balance a career and family if I’m still working there.)

    I guess “Mrs. Armstrong Goes to Washington” slipped by while I was busy ignoring posts I absolutely couldn’t relate to about a woman coping with hard-earned success while pioneering a profession few could have fathomed 10 years ago. I don’t have a blog and certainly can’t imagine how I’d ever be able to make a living writing one. I’ll also never be a published author (unless you count all those reports I write while toiling away at that federal agency). My tiny apartment is furnished with mix-matched furniture from Ikea and my parents’ basement.

    Maybe what was really bothering me about the three part series on the purchase of the new home is that I finally realized my “old friend” was moving on, moving up, moving away–literally and figuratively. I’ve been dealing with some of this in my “real” life recently, so it’s something I’ve become more attuned to lately.

    It sucks when you feel yourself growing apart from people who once played a big part in your life. But it happens. The important thing to remember is that while life circumstances change, people don’t really change all that much. Sometimes the best friends are ones you have a “history” with–the ones who remember the “real” you, the ones who’ve been there through all your ups and downs.

    So, Heather, I’ll stick around. I’ll just ignore the posts I can’t relate to and focus on the things that I’ve always loved about your blog. Maybe I’ll check out this Dooce Community thing you’ve started. I’m no expert at social networking (I think I’ve tweeted about five times in the last two years, and my parents update their Facebook statuses three times as often as I do), but you attract some really cool people–I should check out what they’re saying.

    Thanks for reading my very long-winded first time comment, and congratulations to you and your family on your beautiful new home.

  • screwdestiny

    WOW. That sounds like the house buying experience from Hell. But I am SO SO SO HAPPY for you that you got the house!!!

  • fmh4105

    Congratulations! As an Australian, the first thing I think of when I read “bobcat” is a piece of machinery that moves dirt etc in small areas. So when I read that it purrs, I thought “Sweet! It runs well”. Now I know you mean a living snarly beastie-thing with pointy teeth! Eeek.

  • Kelly East Coast Canada

    Congrats indeed! ditto on the excitement, loved the suspense.. you made me laugh and my coworkers look at me odd and wonder if I had Bailey’s in my morning coffee.
    Off topic, had to share this… my 4 year old Erica was sitting with me this morning while I was on the computer uploading her insulin pump to the site the doctors use to analyze the data — and while it was loading she asked “can we watch a little Marlo TV?”
    I had showed her Marlo saying Mama and the crawling video and she now wants to check in on “sweet baby Marlo and her mommy” when I’m on line!
    If you’re curious about where in the world we are, watch Regis & Kelly this week, they’re live from our gorgeous PEI in part for the Taylor Swift/Keith Urban beach concert weekend. Take care, can’t wait to hear about the big move, hope you sell your current place quickly.

  • Lanie

    For the record, I was one of the people who thought I’d be disappointed if all this turned out to be was “the Armstrongs buy a house.”

    Having read Part 3, I WAS WRONG.

    This really was quite the humdinger, worth the build-up. There really were hundreds of lawyers (allowing for a hyperbolic zero or so. Hyperbolic zeros are the ALL-CAPS OF THE NUMBER WORLD, after all :)

  • rosane

    Congratulations, Heather, Jon, Leta, Marlo, Chuck and Coco!!!!!!!!! :)

  • Ariel


  • tmehraban

    can i just say how much i love your masthead this month!?

  • ChickWhitt

    As a present to all of us for waiting 8,000 years to get to that final line, I am pretty sure we need pictures of every single surface of that house.

    Congratulations! Dooce Community party at the new digs next week, right?

  • randi33

    YAY! I assume you sold or are selling your other house? Or are you going to keep it and rent it out??

  • Pixie

    Yeah!!! Go Team Armstrong!!

  • Fitz and the Dizzyspells


  • acm

    wow, congrats! the photos looked awesome.
    we expect some major redecoration paroxyms, and possibly one failing-pipe disaster story, just for leavening.

    good luck, and may all the rest be much smoother sailing!!!

  • kathleennavin

    Yay! Congrats- I’m assuming she eventually finished moving out? Unless she is out back living in the shed with said bobcat?

  • fabnelly

    Congratulations! My goodness I hope this is your last house purchase, that was one stressful experience to read, nevermind live!

    I want to see photos of the bobcat!

  • josephine

    YAY!!! That is AWESOME!! I Am so freakin’ excited for you guys!!!

  • kayakgrrl

    Remind me to never buy a house in SLC.

    (It’s a beautiful home. Stunning. I’m glad it worked out. Also, I’m sure Coco would love to play with the pretty cat. =)

  • Ariel

    Meaning I know I’ve seen pictures as the bobcat ladies house, but I want to see it as YOUR house:)

  • Fifi Coon

    Thank God!! I figured you left us hanging to tell us you didn’t get the house………… Congratulations!!!

  • tracy

    Great ending. Totally worth the wait. And now I will be waiting for my invite to the house-of-your-dreams warming. I promise to bring Makers.

  • Amanda Patchin

    Go you. Pull that crazy card :)

  • dooce

    Many more pictures to come, and don’t get me started on what the guy quoted us on fixing the boiler. Another post entirely.

  • cameron_barrett

    Does the bobcat end your dream of owning chickens?

  • mrs.notouching

    Can’t wait to see the bobcat… being balanced on Chuck’s head of course. Congrats!

  • crooked_teeth

    wait a second, so are you living in the new house WITH the batty bobcat woman? Did she eventually move out? Confused over here.

  • filmgoerjuan

    Congratulations to you and Jon and the girls!

  • souphead

    Mazel again, Armstrongs!

    I can’t wait to see what you do with that beautiful house.

  • noL


  • Angeerah

    Perhaps you should name the bobcat Susan since you aren’t having more children.

    ETA: congrats on the new house.

  • MJBUtah

    OMG change the locks! I bought a house from a crazy woman, she still drives by and tries to look in our windows, and once she told my husband that we had the couch in the wrong place.

    The last time she “wandered” by (driving slowly and staring at us in the backyard) I grabbed a big stick and ran towards her car like I was going to smack it. She hasn’t been back.

    Who’s crazy now, beatch?!

  • addtova

    Congratulations on your gorgeous amazing house! It looks like it is going to be perfect for you! I also attract crazies I think so I sympathize with you for dealing with the crazy bobcat lady.
    P.S. LOVE the masthead this month!

  • dooce

    She and her sons finished moving the boxes by late that night. And HELL if I’m leaving open the shed so that the bobcat returns. I value MY LIFE.

  • theurbancowgirl

    Umm wow. And I thought our homebuying experience was a disaster. Yours, totally takes the cake.

    So glad to hear it’s yours! YOURS!

    Maybe bobcat lady is living in the forest with the bobcat?

  • barbara

    Pulling out the crazy card always works! Sometimes, you just gotta go a little nuts to get things done. Can’t wait to see pics of the new house!

  • The Prima Momma

    Congrats Heather!!!
    So excited for you guys. Can’t wait for pics.
    Happy early b-day to you, huh?

  • WhatForMomma

    Holy thank Jeebus.

  • christine1127

    THANK GOD!!! :D

    Love the new masthead, Heather.