We're Probably Moving (And Can Be Very Happy)

As I may have mentioned, we sort of maybe bought a house. I don't know for sure. That's because we're in "escrow" and I don't actually understand what that means.

"Escrow" is one of those words that people use as though everyone should know what it means so you can't ask because what kind of dumbass are you? But then to try and figure it out in context doesn't help at all, because people use the word "escrow" in so many ways.

Sometimes "escrow" seems to be synonymous with "bank account."

Realtor: ...and then the deposit will go into escrow.

Right, okay.

But then in the same conversation your realtor will tell you that YOU are in escrow, and you'll be like, Huh? I haven't even left your office. But you won't say that out loud because you know that's an even dumber thing to think.

Still, it's weird. Your money goes into escrow, and then you are in escrow, except you most certainly are not in the same place as your money. Somehow "Escrow" has become a sci-fi planet, and you and your money are both on it but in parallel dimensions.

But if not actually parallel dimensions on a made-up planet, escrow is at least a magical place with special language properties. Your deposit goes INTO escrow, and somehow that makes YOU now be IN escrow.

And just when you want to take this situation up with the context police, you discover that hey! You know the word, "contract"? Which you've never had any trouble with before? Well now "contract" also has magical "escrow" properties! Because, see, you enter INTO contract (or "a" contract, just to keep things interesting) immediately after which you are IN contract. Poof! Sign a dotted line, the "to" comes right off of "in."

But we're not finished! Because the most hilarious thing about all this is that if you enter into (a) contract on a house, you're IN escrow! Right. For no reason that makes any sense to someone grappling with vocabulary-by-context, "contract" suddenly becomes synonymous with "escrow" even though they mean two totally different things.

And somewhere around the point where "escrow" and "contract" and "contingencies" turn into convoluted conversations about non-non-refundable increases in deposits and your husband is having heated debates over the tax implications of entering into a loan agreement WITH HIMSELF, I'm like, Hmm, I wonder what color we'll paint the baby's room.

The good news is that if we jump through about half a dozen more hoops, we'll cross the there-honestly-can't-be-any-more-contingencies-now threshold and we will close on the house a week from Tuesday.

So really, it's time to start packing.

* * * * * * * * *

Speaking of packing...

I wasn't kidding when I said I have more than one box full of stuff labeled "blog fodder." I don't care if the stuff is months or years old, either. It's still funny. Or you know, my version of funny.

Today's gem is from a little over a year ago, when I left a note for my landlord saying I was moving out of my old place to move here with Pete.

My former landlord was the sweetest lady in the world. Her name is Fumi, and she came here from Japan a few decades ago. Still, her English was exceptionally choppy and made for challenging and sometimes uncomfortable hallway conversation. She ran a small personalized embroidery shop next door to our building that was closed seemingly all of the time. Sometimes she'd go on vacation to Japan for weeks on end.

Fumi would often wear Japanese-inspired clothes (kimonos, for example) and had frizzy, permed hair circa 1985. She would decorate our small entrance with gorgeous flower arrangements, which stuck out against the horrible tacky hotel-like prints and paintings of things like ships on a stormy sea.

At Christmas, she would put colored lights on the one potted pant near the stairs, along with tufts of cotton to suggest snow had fallen there. She'd also stick candy-cane and wreath decals on the doorway, the kind reminiscent of 2nd grade classrooms. She'd also buy little felt stockings and put all our names on them (there were only six apartments in the building) and fill each with a bottle of wine and leave it on our doorstep.

At Halloween, she'd put out bowls of candy and hang fake cobwebs. She'd also put a sound-maker under a hidden mat at the foot of the stairs, so that anytime you'd step on it, it would scream. Hilarious on so many levels!

The best part about Fumi, though, were the little notes she would leave the tenants. They were all handwritten, and then copied using a fax machine (remember when that was the most efficient way to make a photocopy at home?). All her letters were printed on fax paper. I imagine younger tenants having no idea where on earth the semi-opaque, rolled-up paper would have come from.

Notes from Fumi often had misspellings, especially where she spelled phonetically and was clearly mispronouncing the words in her head. She also always used very interesting and somewhat inexplicable punctuation.

I have a few of these saved, which I'll post here (my favorite is the "house rules" which read like haiku). The last one she sent is below.

Perfectly charming. I hope you enjoy!


  1. Love this note. If only all the Fumis in the world were appreciated so lovingly...

  2. Fumi sounds amazing. I adore her!

    And thank you for the escrow post. I bought a house several years ago and *still* don't know what that word means. And I've never told anybody that!!

  3. Awww. . . . And I was laughing so hard at the "escrow" stuff. I feel the same way. I'm just starting to research how to buy a house, and I'm like, "Ive never had to research how to buy something before! Usually, I pay some money adn they give me what I bought! Why is it so complicated?"

  4. i'm so glad you said that about the escrow thing! i remember running to the computer after talking with my mortgage lady or talking to the building people here. running through my head: escrow, points, and something else i didn't understand. oh! and how do we really know the interest rate is really a good one?

    anyway! so so so happy everything is moving along so smoothly. i'll have my packing supplies at the ready. just let me know when it's time...

    -el snarkster

  5. I'm jealous. My apartment landlord was a dirty old man who would "joke" about taking my rent in trade. I so wish I was kidding.

  6. Just to save you a little bit of disappointment, I want to share with you my first experience of buying a house and escrows and "next weeks".

    Take the original date they gave you to close and add 2-3 months to it. Seriously. I don't understand what the deal is, but just when they've told you that you have everything, suddenly you're going back to banks and digging through files from 5 years back to find some unicorn of the paperwork world. Until they give you a date AND time to meet in the office, assume it's not going to happen any time soon. The rollercoaster ride is hard enough when you aren't pregnant, I can only assume the emotional tole it's taking on you.

  7. I work in insurance and therefore have to communicate with loan closers and mortgage companies all the time, to coordinate insurance for people buying homes and stuff. And they're constantly telling me that "The insurance premium is escrowed." And not being a homeowner myself, I have just always played along like that makes perfect sense. So you have a deposit in escrow, you are in escrow, and your insurance premium may or may not be escrowed.

    Of course.

  8. The REALLY fun part is if your loan requires your property taxes be paid monthly and held in 'escrow' until it's time to pay them to the county. If you can avoid this, do. Save the money yourself, and pay it yourself when it's due. Otherwise, every year you'll get a byzantine explanation about why they have to raise the amount to be held in escrow. And then... no, I'll spare you the confusion. Just trust me on this!

    More letters from Fumi, please.

  9. Ok so I'm a bit late to the party but....

    Your escrow rant was so funny to me because the entire time I was reading it I was imagining in my head the squirrely guy with the lisp from The Princess Bride arguing with the farm boy/The Dread Pirate Roberts about iocaine powder. Yeah. And I'm not pregnant either. Hrm.


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