32: The World’s Worst House

32: The World’s Worst House

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

The World’s Worst House

Home wasn’t built in a day.

~Jane Sherwood Ace

When my husband Mike and I were first married, we lived in a tiny rented house near downtown. It was old. It was ugly. Parking was bad. It was on a noisy street. We talked about the day we would be able to buy our own house. But that would be a long way off. Property in this area is really expensive. Still, we could dream.

Sometimes, we’d hop in the car and go for a drive. We loved the back roads of Santa Barbara. We’d drive all around Santa Barbara and the surrounding towns, talking about our future and dreaming of our someday home. One evening, Mike drove the back roads that lead to Summerland, a charming, quaint beach community just south of Santa Barbara. He drove up behind a little cottage and parked on the street next to it. What a view! You could see the ocean and all the way to the Channel Islands! And what a great yard! It was huge. It was getting dark, so I couldn’t clearly see the house, but it looked cute. Rustic, but cute and homey, nestled in amongst the other Summerland cottages, like it had been there a long time and was comfortable in its surroundings.

Mike told me that night that someday we would live in that cottage. After laughing hysterically, I told him there was no way we could afford to live there: In that cottage, with a great yard and a view of the Pacific. He told me we would.

Mike is a contractor and had worked on this cottage one time years earlier. He explained that the cottage was rented to tenants, but the owner was a client and someday, he’d figure out a way for us to buy it from her.

One day, our dream became a reality. The owner decided it was time to sell, and knew Mike wanted to buy it. We made a deal that worked for all of us, and before I knew it, we had agreed to buy the sweet, cozy little cottage… without seeing the inside. Mike had seen the inside once when he worked on it, so he wasn’t worried. A little paint, maybe some new carpet. And of course I’d hang some cute beach-themed things on the walls, light candles and put new towels in the bathroom. It would be perfect. Mike assured me we could make it really cute and we’d be able to spruce it up in no time. No worries.

Finally it was ours. Paperwork signed and keys in hand, Mike, my in-laws and I opened the picket fence gate that lead to our dream home. Well we tried to open it. The latch literally fell off the gate and then the gate fell down. No worries. We all laughed and continued walking. The outside of our cottage was pretty run down. “Paint,” my father-in-law said. “Not to worry.”

We walked up the creaky, crumbling steps and onto the creaky, crumbling deck that led to the crooked front door. We pushed the door open — no key needed because the lock was missing — and stepped inside. The first thing that got to us was the smell! All four of us instinctively covered our noses with our hands. And we had to duck down when we walked! There were cobwebs everywhere. We couldn’t believe that people had actually lived here.

This was the worst excuse for a house that any of us had ever seen. We just stood there looking around. The living room ceiling appeared to be much higher on one side than the other. The reason for that was that some of the ceiling was missing. The house was single-wall construction, which meant the sun was actually streaming into the living room through holes in the boards that were supposed to be our walls. Insulation? Ha! No insulation whatsoever. I was completely in shock.

We all quietly wandered around the rest of the so-called house. It looked like the windows would also need a little help. They were louvered windows, and several of the louvers appeared to be missing. “No worries. We’ll buy new energy efficient windows,” said Mike, as he looked at me reassuringly. I figured he knew what he was talking about since he was in the business.

I guessed at where the kitchen should be. There were only a couple of doors on the cabinets and when I opened one of them, it led straight to the outside! Paint was peeling, there were no doorknobs, the doors were off their hinges. The laundry room, if you could call it that, had a dirt floor. Mike, following behind me, admitted he didn’t remember the cottage being in such bad shape when he had worked on it.

The bathroom had to be better, since the woman we bought it from said it came with the original, beautiful claw-foot tub. Well, that was something. We headed for the bathroom, looked around and commented on how big the bathroom was for such a small cottage. My mother-in-law agreed as she tried to smile. It did seem quite roomy. It occurred to us all at the same time. It was so roomy because there was no tub in the room. The renters stole it when they left! This was going from bad to worse.

The last room to check out was the master bedroom. Small, but nothing awful. Until I looked into the closet. A closet with no roof. It was wide open. When I stepped into the closet to verify that it was actually the sky I was seeing, my foot fell through the floor! That’s when I lost it. I cried harder at that moment than I think I’d ever cried before. All I could think was, “We just paid how much money for this? This has to be the worst house in the world.”

I ran (carefully) out of the house, down the rickety stairs, past the dumb gate and got into the car and cried. Hard. For a long time. Mike and my in-laws came down to the car and explained that although the cottage was awful (and they agreed it was), there really wasn’t anything that couldn’t be changed to make it better. And it had the most awesome view. No worries. They promised.

Two months later, we moved into our cottage, complete with functioning gate, sturdy stairs, energy-efficient windows, a new kitchen with cupboards, a claw-foot bathtub and master bedroom closet (with roof). Mike and my father-in-law worked day and night to get our place ready. They literally put their blood, sweat and tears into it. It was now a brand new house. And when we sit on our deck and watch the boats sail by, I think about how lucky we are to live in the world’s worst house.

~Crescent LoMonaco

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