Okay, wow. Just wow. I couldn’t have timed buying my first house more poorly. My experience has been just as aggravating and demoralizing as most people’s, but I don’t have the credentials to discuss real estate markets or the economy. So what could I really say that would have any authority?

What I can do (in the interest of emotional wellbeing) is share some of my anecdotal experiences. Shall we commiserate? Perhaps you can laugh or gasp at these stories, especially if you are in the process of changing apartments or trying to buy a home. My experience rests at the outer edge of the bell curve, and hopefully your experience in housing isn’t so crazy as mine.

It never occurred to me how much this process would undermine my mental health. Thankfully, I discovered a couple new ways to reduce stress, which is essential for me right now. Perhaps for you, too? One is a breathing exercise, and the other is a free app.

The properties

The first property was listed by Opendoor — never use them, as they are a huge part of the spiraling problem — and my foot went through both the wooden deck, as well as through one of the bedroom floors. It had huge issues on top of that as well. I didn’t get hurt, but it was disconcerting. It (along with practically every listing I have seen or visited) was priced so ridiculously high that I thought it was a typo. Hard pass.

I also saw a poorly maintained property with a spiral staircase. It wasn’t a permanent piece of architecture. It was metal, and was installed at some later date, connected to the ceiling and floor by way of bolts. While I was on it, the thing came detached from the ceiling. It made my heart stop. That was scary, but I didn’t get hurt. 

A week later I did get hurt. As per usual, the pictures were completely inaccurate. It had never occurred to me that I could be catfished by a house. On the backside, there was a patio that required a step directly down to the ground. I stepped down to inspect the degree to which the wooden fence was rotted, and I instantly collapsed. What I thought was a six-inch step down onto solid, level ground was actually a thick layer of dead leaves. The yard had been abandoned so long that years of autumn leaves had accumulated and settled into a perfect carpet. My foot collapsed another four inches through this layer, and I fell so fast that I didn’t understand why the ground was in my face. Had I not reacted so quickly, I would have dashed my brains out on the bricks next to my temple. I sprained my ankle so badly that I nearly fainted. I went to get x-rays, and nothing was broken, but nearly three months later I’m still not completely healed.

Not long after that I went to see two properties within 20 minutes, one right after the other. The first had a decrepit outbuilding in the back yard. When I opened it, I staggered backward, because I wasn’t expecting to find a rotting pig leg hanging from the inside. I will send a picture, but I don’t know if QNotes will want to include it here — it’s morbid to say the least. The shed was an abandoned smoke house, and the owner had never removed the leg. I mistook it for a human limb, until I saw the hoof.

Immediately after that, my realtor took me to what I suspect was a meth house. There were several heavily scented candles and a dozen security cameras around the property. Upstairs was a computer monitor with a grid of at least 12 recordings showing the live feed of the yard and home. In one of the feeds, we were looking at ourselves looking at the monitor. That was not particularly endearing. Upon leaving, one of the motion activated cameras was triggered. It happened to be mounted right by my head, and without warning at full volume it yelled, “HI! YOU’RE BEING RECORDED!”

It startled me. Bad. And I was already upset. I lost my temper and screamed, “Fix your house!” into the camera. Later, the listing agent told my agent that the owners were extremely offended. I was very glib in dismissing that. Then my realtor fired me.

It is what it is.

Such is the nature of the market right now: Owners and landlords don’t have to care at all about anything really. The demand is too high for any of them to need to exert any effort. If I could have timed it otherwise, I would have. But I’m working with a new realtor, because my rent is going up $500 in October, and I cannot stay at a property where the new owners are determined to ruin the place.

Two new coping mechanisms

The universe knew I needed some refreshers on breathing and focus. Here is a cool breathing technique I learned from NPR: Hold up one hand with your fingers splayed apart. With the pointer finger on the other hand you will trace both sides of each splayed finger. Start at the top side base of your pinky finger, and inhale as you trace your pointer finger to the tip. Exhale as you trace your index finger to the bottom side. Without lifting your pointer finger, inhale as you trace the bottom of your ring finger, exhaling as you trace the top. Continue this pattern without lifting your pointer finger from your hand. Go all the way through to both sides of your thumb, and if you need more time, reverse this all the way back to your pinky.

The other new coping mechanism I found is an app I discovered by accident while imagining color schemes for the rooms of my future house. That’s the fun part: Envisioning how I will make the house my home. This free app is called Sorting Therapy, by a developer named Ben Morrison. For iPhones, use the search term “color sorting therapy,” and you will find it about a dozen titles down from the top. All you do is sort tiles of colors into gradients. That’s it. Just look at the pretty colors, and let yourself fall into focusing on sliding the tiles into new orders. Your thoughts will go silent, your breathing will relax, and several minutes later you will feel much better.