The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Tortured Metaphor of the Day: Buying a House is Like Baking Brownies

In theory, neither baking brownies, nor buying a house is rocket science. Both have fairly straight-forward processes that, when followed properly, will result in delicious-chocolatey goodness or a roof over your head.

The first step is identifying the right boxed brownie mix (oh you thought we were going to make them from scratch? You’ve come to the wrong blog. I have three children and a career. You want Picking the right box mix can be a long complicated process. You may have to visit 37 stores and read the ingredients for every brownie type in each of the stores. If you’re of the meticulous sort you’ll probably need to shake each of the boxes and sniff the exteriors for bag leaks that could compromise the contents. You’ll have to search deep within your soul to decide if you are a ‘fudgey’ person or a ‘cakey’ person (if the answer is cakey, you’re probably a communist who pulls the wings off butterflies, just FYI. Fudgey is the only correct answer). If you’re lucky, you’ll eventually find that perfect box mix that meets all your needs (gluten-free, made with African dark chocolate, with a lactose-intolerant-sensitive cheesecake swirl). If you’re a masochist who’s trying to torture your real estate agent you’ll look at 1147 boxes in the store and then eventually order a special box online from Japan you heard about from your aunt. Can you tell the brownie mix is the house you’re looking to buy in this analogy?

It seems like once you’ve identified the right box mix, everything else should be pretty easy, right? Follow the directions on the back (always take them out 3 minutes before it says you should, though, because gooey = better in so many things in life) and voila, right? Although, you still have to actually have on hand all of the correct ingredients to add to the box mix. You need to have eggs, water, veggie oil, a pan, spray to grease the pan and an oven. And when you buy a house, you still need a bunch of people to make the transaction actually happen: escrow officer, home inspector, lender, termite inspector and appraiser. Generally speaking, if all of the ingredients are fresh and measured correctly and the people involved all actually do their jobs the way they should, you should end up with your dream house or slightly chubbier thighs from the pan of brownies you just wolfed down before dinner; whichever you were actually going for.

The thing is, sometimes you don’t even know when one of ingredients you’re using has gone bad until it’s way too late. This summer I told my kids they could each have a friend over for the day once a week (this lasted one entire week, after which I realized what a ridiculous hassle it was to pick up all of these children from their various homes and feed them and monitor their safety and then drop them all back off alive). So the first (only) week I planned a whole kid-friendly menu for lunch that involved all of the children-friendly delicacies you’d expect, including brownies for dessert. I made the brownies about mid-morning while the kids were all upstairs playing happily but not in an excessively raucous manner. I was practicing my Mother of the Year Award speech when I took them out of the oven (I’d like to thank all of the sub-par moms out there who didn’t hand-craft boxed mac and cheese, microwave cut up hotdogs to add in, slice cantaloupe and buy special juice boxes in addition to baking fabulous brownies for several hungry children some of whom aren’t even their own).

I’m a total sucker for fresh-baked brownies and I had skipped breakfast, so I cut myself one immediately. And it’s a good thing I’m such a pig. Apparently the vegetable oil I had used was rancid. I thought it smelled a little strong when I measured it out, but who knew strong smelling vegetable oil = brownies that taste so bad you want to scrape your own tongue out after one bite and for the rest of the day? Like I’m just saying I had to do shots of tequila to get it out (or maybe that was just for fun). I guess veggie oil doesn’t keep for two years in the cabinet. They should totally do something about that. Like put a little ‘use by’ date on the top. Oh wait, they did, I just didn’t see it. It was a total momfail.

Last week one of my transactions went the way of the browines-so-bad-they-made-angels weep. It’s a short sale and we’ve gotten through eleventy different hurdles just to get approval to even sell the silly thing. Plus, of course, we’ve been through five offers (I’m the listing agent) where the buyer has backed out for one reason or another. Last Thursday I got to the point where everything was looking really good and I said to myself, “Well hotdamn, it looks like this baby is going to actually close!” Which is, of course, the kiss of death.

Friday I got an email from the buyer’s lender that basically said, ‘Um, sorry, Dudes, but I totally can’t make this one work for reasons I knew about from the very beginning. Also? I told the buyers 10 days ago that I probably couldn’t. Didn’t they say anything to you?’ At which point I got out the tequila again to rinse my mouth of the vile taste of utter incompetence (even though it was 11am).
Things that should have tipped me off this lender was a total dud:

1. I had never heard of the lending institution.

2. When I called, her voicemail just said she was the assistant of Someguy and nothing about any kind of lending or banking or money or anything of the sort.

3. I never actually spoke with her on the phone. She only replied in email.

4. Her answers sort of made sense, but were absent of the technical lender jargon I’ve come to know and expect.

5. Her name was Melisa. With one s. Like her mom was so stupid she forgot the second one on her birth certificate and they all just decided to go with it. (That one was a little offensive, right? Sorry, I’m just a touch on fire from the heat of my anger over her total uselessness as a human being. She makes me feel stabby.)

So the point of all of this is: make sure you choose your ingredients carefully. Sure, you might have a cousin who moonlights as vegetable oil on nights and weekends, but does he really know what he’s doing? Your real estate agent works with all of these kinds of professionals regularly. She should be able to help you select the best pan to use and vegetable oil that’s not going to turn on you any second. I’m not saying you’ll never get a random bad egg, but she should at least help avoid the obvious pitfalls. And then no one has to get shanked.

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