The House That Never Was

Gather round, children, to hear the tale of the house that never was.

Picture a Swedish summer house, a gorgeous little thing with two floors, built in the 1820s. It has no running water or indoor plumbing, like many Swedish summer houses. The owner bought it because it was located beside a parachute jumping course, and they did parachute jumping. So they used the house very occasionally to sleep in after jumping out of a plane. There was a well, which wasn’t working, a very basic outdoor toilet and no rubbish collection. But that didn’t bother them, as they performed all their bodily functions and collected water from the parachute club.

20190707_182852(0)I’d heard about this house through the person who stayed there occasionally as a caretaker, cutting the grass and such. I visited her and kind of fell in love with the place. Quaint didn’t begin to describe it. There was also a nice little shed, a half-built chicken coop, an earth cellar (collapsed) and ten thousand square meters of prime land. Also, a wood next door. Lovely.

There was also a man living in a box in the yard, but we’ll get back to him later.

The caretaker told me the owner was sort of interested in selling. In fact, she’d occasionally show up with people to view the house, totally unannounced. She’d also freak out occasionally over nothing. The owner, it seemed, was a bit special, with quotes around the special.

Anyway, I told the caretaker I was interested in buying it. She told the owner, who gave a price of 700,000 Swedish crowns (go look it up yourself). A good price, especially for the amount of land. So, as one should do, I booked a surveyor to go through the house and invited the owner along on the same day, so we could all meet. The surveyor surveyed, the owner shook my hand and laughed and nodded and only mentioned parachuting about eighteen times.

A week later, the surveyor sent me his report. The house was old so there was plenty wrong with it. Roof tiles incorrectly attached. Holes in the facade. Some rot in the wood. Also no water, and since the non-functioning well hadn’t been used for years, it might not even be drinkable. Water is quite important for most carbon-based lifeforms, so that was a concern. Also, their toilet solution was illegal, consisting of an outside loo where you shat more or less directly on the ground, violating environmental regulations. But, besides all that, still a pretty decent price.

There was also the man living in a box in the yard, but we’ll get back to him later.

I pondered the report. I would need to do many repairs, but the major issues were the water, the toilet and the roof tiles. So I adjusted down the offered price, put a bit back on for the furniture in the house, which I knew they didn’t really want, and offered 685. A good price. Or so I thought.

20190707_160702The owner didn’t think so, and flipped out, fuming that I was trying to change what she considered a fair price. That, however, is not how a fair price works. Both people need to agree that the price is fair, and I wanted a symbolic reduction, just to feel I was getting a deal, and to cover the costs of the vital jobs that had to be done – toilet, water, roof over head.

And then there was the man living in a box in the yard, who we’ll get to now.

The man was a parachute jumper, who stayed some weekends in a container they’d put on the property and wired up to the house’s electrical system. Badly. Possibly illegally. He paid enough rent to cover the house’s bills, and the owner had informed me that he couldn’t be thrown out, even if the house were sold, until the parachuting season was over (because we all know when the parachuting season starts and ends). She didn’t see this as weird at all.

Anyway, when she’d calmed down after my scandalous attempt to cut two percent from the price, she called me. This is a woman who likes to talk on the phone. I am not a woman who likes to talk on the phone (or, for that matter, a woman) and prefer everything in text, so that people who are good at talking don’t manipulate me. So I listened as she tried to manipulate me.

The lack of water apparently wasn’t a problem, as she’d been there for years and had never needed it. So that didn’t deserve any reduction. The toilet wasn’t a problem either as yes she knew it was an illegal solution, but she didn’t think the regulations were fair or even relevant, so that did not require any reduction. The roof tiles weren’t a problem as the man who’d installed them told her so, and the professional and independent (and expensive) surveyor I’d paid was therefore wrong.

The man who lived in the box in the yard wasn’t a problem either, as he was lovely, and he’d only need to be there until the end of the season, regardless of whether the house was sold and when, and could not be thrown out. He was even, it was argued, an asset.

DSC_0048Then came her deal. Instead of paying the 700, as was her original price, or the 685 I’d suggested, she offered that I buy the house for 650 thousand officially and pay her 50 thousand in cash. This would mean she had, officially, made no profit on the house, and would therefore pay no tax on the sale. And it would mean that I would pay more tax when I sold it in the future. Ten thousand crowns more.

She also wanted me to pay half of her fees connected to the sale, while I would pay all of my own fees. Which meant her “deal” actually made the price of the house go UP from 700 to 715. Win-win, was how she put it. Or, as I put it afterward, win-get-shafted-up-the-arse.

I explained my attempt to improve the price as a thing that we do in Ireland. Every price, I said, gets argued over, it’s just how we are. She informed me that she’d been to Ireland years ago, and I was wrong about that too, it wasn’t at all how we did things in Ireland.

It took me a few hours after vaguely agreeing to her terms (I’m not good at taking discussions on the phone, see above) to grasp the extent to which she was trying to fuck me over. I realised, as much as I wanted the house, that I was not willing to get screwed for it, especially by a person whose idea of a good deal is one where she gets 100% of what she wants and the other person gets sweet fuck all. I texted her to say thank you but no. She sent a furious reply, which I didn’t read.

I’m still looking for a nice little summer house, but now I think I’ll go through a realtor. At least I know in which way they will try to screw me. If you have one (a house, not a realtor) let me know.

But at least I learned something: Don’t trust a parachutist, they’ll always let you down.

/ paddy