Dreamhouse.com: How I Bought a Summer Home in the Recession
Falling in Love with a Cottage
That's why, on this particular night, I knew I'd hit the jackpot. The photos showed a little red house with a dormer that sat on an acre of land with a "distant water view." That probably meant you could see the bay if you climbed onto the roof, but I was betting you could smell salt water from the porch.
"Honey, you have to look at this one," I pleaded.
"I'm asleep," Dan said.
"You are not. This house is perfect -- we should buy it."
"With what money?" Dan muttered.
"It's just a little house," I said. "It costs less than a lot of new cars."
"That's why we don't own a new car," he said. "The house isn't going anywhere. I'll look at it in the morning."
I clicked on "print." When the pages emerged I carried them to the bed. "God, you're a pest," Dan said, but he sat up and put on his glasses.
"I really need your opinion," I said.
"Yeah, okay," he said after studying the listing sheet. "It's a cute house."
That was all I needed to hear. I picked up the telephone.
"What are you doing?" Dan asked.
"Calling the real-estate agent," I said.
"It's 11 o'clock at night!"
"I'll just leave a message," I said, dialing. "I can't let this one get away."
"You have to -- we can't afford it."
To my shock a man answered.
"It's funny about that little house," he said after I told him what listing I was calling about. "I just posted it yesterday and already I've had three calls."
"I want to make an offer," I blurted.
There was a startled noise from Dan beside me and a long silence on the phone. "Hello?" I said. "Still there?"
"I'm here," the agent said. "I think you just said you want to make an offer."
"That's right." I named a figure 30 percent lower than the listing price -- a little trick I'd picked up from my informal night course in real estate.
"You do know," he said, not unkindly, "that most people actually look at a house before buying it?"
"I'll see it during the inspection."
"It's the middle of January," he warned. "There could be snow."
"You plow the roads up there, right?" I asked, suddenly uncertain.
"Oh yes, we plow," the man said. "Just mind the drifts. Sometimes the road disappears."
Two weeks later Dan and I were driving north. In Maine the big, lazy snowflakes of New Hampshire turned small and mean. I reduced our speed to 10 miles an hour on Skyline Drive, the two-lane road that serves as a shortcut to Canada from Bangor, if you don't fly off the road.
"Whose idea was this?" Dan asked.
"Maybe we should turn around," I said as we passed a third ditched car.
My husband, however, had learned to drive in Wisconsin, where real men wear T-shirts in winter. He took the wheel and we soldiered on. We were head to PEI for the home inspection -- $275 thrown away if the house turned out to be a dud, Dan reminded me.