“You Have the House!”   Leave a comment


Every now and then, Paul and I find ourselves trying to maintain a course of action and  make what appears at the time to be a mistake.  In short order, the mistake reveals itself as the better solution.

We call it ‘screwing up in reverse’.

Firing Allied Van Lines and hiring North American Van Lines was a screw-up in reverse.  NAVL proved themselves the mirror image of Allied.  Real people answered their phones.  Callbacks were prompt.  Randy Scharpen, their international move coordinator knew his stuff.  If he didn’t, he got back to us quickly.

Why didn’t we hire these guys in the first place?

Allied never gave us clear instructions on packing specifics.  Clothes were packed away into Space Bags, which are great for storage, but the bane of movers everywhere.

Moving crews passionately hate Space Bags.  They slip and slide all over the place and won’t stack – true also of Space Cubes.  Essentially, they become a safety issue for moving crews and drivers.  As Randy explained, the truck has to be packed in a manner preventing the least amount of cargo shift or movement.  NAVL didn’t mind them as long as we agreed to purchase large packing boxes to stuff them into.  This we were happy to do.

Boxes to accommodate our wall and other art were needed along with advice on packing our stained glass panel lamps.    Randy asked for the measurements of the framed pieces.  Within days, they were in their temporary homes.

Delaying the pick-up date by two days required a new overall strategy.  It left us with too little time to pack the trailer and clean the apartment before our mandated check-out deadline.   Part of the solution was to call the management office to ask if we could extend our stay.  To our horror, our apartment was already rented out effective May 1.  A renovation crew was slated to change out carpet, vinyl flooring, paint, replace appliances, etc.  The short answer was no.  However, as our last official day was on a Friday, we were told we could stay through the weekend to get as much done as possible.  Early Monday morning became our final deadline.

The other was to have someone at Poplar Bridge (our apartment complex) tell us what absolutely had to be done and what didn’t.  It didn’t make sense  to scrub an oven on a stove about to be replaced.  This they were happy to do.  I ended up with a list of prioritized cleaning that took a lot off my mind.

By this time we learned that Paul was a finalist for a position outside of Vancouver; the company was willing to delay their decision until they could meet him in person after our arrival.  But we still didn’t have a place to live.  The stress of not knowing where to send the truck wore us thin.  Still without an address, my dad was stressed out also.

How does one immigrate to another country without having an address to give its immigration officials?  Without one, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Services personnel could deny me entry – and rightfully so.

Desperately, we continued the search, expanding it to Maple Ridge, another bedroom community exurb across water in Vancouver’s eastern suburbs.  We really didn’t want to live in Maple Ridge chiefly because of its lack of public transit connections.  Getting across the Fraser River requires driving across the new Golden Ears toll bridge (so named for a nearby twin mountain peak and provincial park).  We didn’t want for Paul to have to drive daily towards Vancouver from Maple Ridge and pay daily tolls fares.  We were that desperate.

We learned of a house for rent in Langley.  Thoughts of living in Langley again sent shudders down Paul’s spine.  It brought back bad memories.

The Langley house was situated in the Brookswood neighborhood within the City of Langley (as opposed to adjacent township by the same name).  A bus stop was conveniently located only a few houses down the block on the same street.  It was a stand-alone whole-house rental with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.  The photos showed a nice looking modified open layout with a living room, dining room, big and bright family room having what appeared to be three vinyl casement windows and kitchen.  A pass-through snack bar separated it from the kitchen.

Its kitchen screamed for our attention.  Instead of the usual small or galley kitchen we found in most Vancouver area homes, this one could accommodate a cooking party.  It lacked a pantry (larder), but cabinetry was abundant.  Off the family room patio was a large 10′ x 20′ deck with a smaller concrete pad nearby suitable for setting up an outdoor kitchen.  The fenced backyard featured a large lawn, flower gardens and several evergreens including a tall cedar.  The rental included a range with oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, range hood (the number of kitchens without electric ventilation around Vancouver is surprising), washer and dryer.  A storage shed was located in the back yard.  The ad mentioned a garage.

We called on it to learn more.  The landlord sent back a fuller description of the house.  We were given a link by which to see its exterior on Google Maps.

The landlord wasn’t put off by Paul’s lack of a job.  He did, however, ask for a year’s worth of post-dated rent checks.  In BC, it’s a perfectly legal request.  This would not happen, not on our watch.  Canadian banks do not cash post-dated checks early before their effective date.  American banks do.  The landlord offered to reduce the advance payment time to two months, post-dated.  This arrangement was one with which we could live.

Although we were told the house was built around 1990, the style of the house’s architecture was more reminiscent of a 1950s through 1970s rancher.  Its age didn’t put us off.  More important to us is the quality of maintenance and upkeep over the years.  It appeared to have good bones.  Distressingly, the windows appeared to be old-fashioned aluminum sliders.  (Passionately, I hate aluminum windows.)

Renovated only a year earlier, the house had tile and laminate floors throughout. The landlord planned eventually to switch out the existing white kitchen appliances to new stainless steel ones.  Currently rented, the tenant faced eviction by the end of the month for falling four months behind in payments.  Strapped for cash, the landlord and his partner were forced to delay buying new appliances.  The two spent $30,000 in renovations to the kitchen, living room, dining room and one bathroom only a year earlier.  As part of the reno, a third bath was added off the family room.

The “garage” was really a carport – not an unusual feature in British Columbia homes.  There was no space for a woodworking shop.

No way did this house meet the 2,500 SF requirement.  It appeared smaller from the front, though the photo gave no clue as to the house’s actual depth.  Our memories of the square footage quoted by phone was are muddled.  Paul remembers 2,300 – 2,500 square feet from the original Craiglist ad, all traces of which since were removed and not cached.  I was not a party to the initial conversation with the landlord.  It may have been as little as 1,700 SF.  We talked to a lot of people about houses around that time.

The landlord was open to the idea of enclosing the carport to create an enclosed garage, but didn’t have the money to do it.  Paul called a friend living a few miles away in Abbotsford who has a workshop on her property equipped with a table saw, planer and jointer.  She strongly felt that Paul could work out a deal with her husband to use that workshop.

Much information about the house in Langley was traded by phone with the landlord.  I wasn’t convinced it was the best option for us.  Nonetheless, we agreed to fill out a rental application form.

We agreed to ask Paul’s daughter Jennifer to meet with the landlord and look over the house in person.  Jenn was asked to pay particular attention to the bedrooms and bathrooms, none of which were previously seen in photos.

A day later, armed with a camera, she did.  Still occupied by its former tenant in the last stages of packing and stacking, the house was a total mess.  Boxes were strewn everywhere.  Jenn could barely walk through the maze.  Eventually, she made her way to the kitchen and family room.  The kitchen, in Jenn’s words, was huge.  She liked what she saw of the family and living rooms.  No chance of inspecting the bedrooms; boxes blocked their entry.  In one bathroom, blue nail polish was spilled on the toilet seat cover.

It was not what we hoped to hear.

No other remotely suitable properties were available.

We talked to the landlord about the condition of the house.  Only the family room and rear third bathroom featured newer vinyl windows; the remaining rooms contained aluminum sliders.  All but one were sealed double-clad units.  The lone exception was the living room window, which was single-clad aluminum.  He assured us the house would be professionally cleaned before move-in (anytime between April 8 and April 11).  The overgrown hedge would be trimmed.  The tall grass in one of Jenn’s photos would be clipped.  We assured him we could cut the lawn if it could not be done prior to our arrival; our priority was that the house be clean and the hedge trimmed.  He apologized for his financial inability to replace the kitchen appliances – not a problem for us as long as they were in proper working order.  He would provide a lawn mower and weed whacker.

A decision had to be made.  Jenn felt the house had good potential.  Still, it lacking in areas and was a mystery in others.  With time winding down and no home to go to in a few days, we agreed to rent it.

Money covering the damage deposit and first month’s rent was wired to Jenn for personal delivery to the landlord and his partner.  Several hours later, I received an email from the landlord:

“We have the money.  You have the HOUSE!”

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