The House Of Seven Figures
(by Dave Barry)
BEFORE MY WIFE, BETH, LEFT ON THE JET AIR- plane
to buy us a new house, we sat down and figured out what our Price Range was. We used
the standard formula where you take your income and divide it by three, which gives
you the amount you would spend annually on housing if you bought a house that is
much cheaper than the one you will actually end up buying.
With that figure in mind, Beth took off for our new home-to be, South Florida,
and my son and I, who had neverbeen in charge of each other for this long before, embarked
on the following rigorous nutritional program:
BREAKFAST: Frozen waffles heated up.
LUNCH: Hot dogs heated up.
DINNER: Choice of hot dogs or frozen waffles heated up.
Also in the refrigerator were many health-fanatic foods
such as presliced carrot sticks placed there by Beth in hopes
that we would eat something that did not have a label stating
that it met the minimum federal standard for human armpit
hair, but we rejected these because of the lengthy preparation time.
Some of you may be wondering why, considering that
this is the most important financial transaction of our lives, I
didn't go with Beth to buy the house, The answer is that 1
am a very dangerous person to have on your side in a sales
situation. I develop great anxiety in the presence of sales
people, and the only way I can think of to make it go away is
to buy whatever they're selling. This is not a major problem
with, for example, pants, but it leads to trouble with cars and
Here is how I bought our last car. I didn't dare go di-
rectly to the car dealership, so, for several consecutise days
-this is the truth-I would park at a nearby Dairy Queen,
buy a chocolate cone, then amble over to the car lot, dis-
guised as a person just ambling around with a chocolate
cone, and 1 would try to quickly read tile sticker on the side
of the car where they explain that the only part of the car
included in the Base Sticker Price is the actual sticker itself,
and you have to pay extra if you want, for example, trans-
parent windows. After a few minutes, a salesman would spot
me and come striding out, smiling like an entire Rotary Club,
and I would adopt the expression of a person who had just
remembered an important appointment and amble off at
speeds approaching 40 miles per hour. What I'm saying is, I
shopped for this car the way a squirrel hunts for acorns in a
When I finally went in to buy the car, I was desperate to
get it over with as quickly as possible. here is how I negotiated:
SALEsPERsoN: (showing me a sheet of paper with figures
on it): OK, Dave. Here's a ludicrously inflated opening
price that only a person with Rice-A-Roni for brains would
ME:You got a deal.
I am worse with houses. The last time we were trying to
buy a house, I made Beth crazy because I was willing to make
a formal offer on whatever structure we were standing in at
ME: This is perfect! Isn't this perfect?!
BETH: This is the real-estate office,
Me: Well, how much are they asking?
So this is why Beth went to Miami without me. Moments
after she arrived, she ascertained that there were no houses
there in our Price Range. Our Price Range turned out to be what the average home owner down there spends on roach
control. (And we are not talking about killing the roaches.
We are talking about sedating them enough so they let you
into your house.)
Fortunately, Beth found out about a new financial con-
cept they have in home-buying that is tailor-made for people
like us, called Going Outside Your Price Range. This is
where she started looking, and before long she had stumbled
onto an even newer financial concept called Going Way Out-
side Your Price Range. This is where she eventually found a
house, and I am very much looking forward to seeing it
someday, assuming we get a mortgage.
They have developed a new wrinkle in mortgages since
the last time we got one, back in the seventies. The way it
worked then was, you borrowed money from the bank, and
every month you paid back some money, and at the end of
the year the bank sent you a computerized statement proving
you still owed them all the money you borrowed in the first
place. Well, they're still using that basic system, but now they
also have this wrinkle called `points," which is a large quan-
tity of money you give to the bank, right up Front, for no
apparent reason. It's as though the bank is the one trying to
buy the house. You ask real-estate people to explain it, and
they just say: "Oh yes, the points! Be sure to bring an enor-
mous sum of money to the settlement for those!" And of
course we will. We consumers will do almost anything to get
our mortgages. Banks know this, so they keep inventing new
charges to see how far they can go:
MoRTGAGE officER: OK, at your settlement you have to
pay $400 for the preparation of the Certificate
CoNSUMER:Yes, of course.
MoRTGAGE oFFICER: And $430 for pastries.
But it will all be worth it, to get to our house. It sounds,
from Beth's description, as though it has everything that I
look for in a house: (1) a basketball hoop and (2) a fiberglass
backboard. I understand it also has rooms.