Tuesday, December 11, 2007

And so begin the new adventures

Yesterday I went to see an apartment. I had seen it listed on homeless.co.il. It is in a building I've seen before, one in a great location for me, and though not very pretty, at least tolerable. I thought the woman with whom I arranged the meeting was an agent, but it turned out to be the owner herself.

Up four flights of stairs -- 71 steps total -- and a little bit of a wait to be let in because the owner, whom I'll call Y, had mixed up the day of my visit. Her husband is home, and lets me in.

The first thing I notice is that the walls look dirty. The second thing I notice is a cat who runs by my feet. And then another cat. And, oh, there is a third cat!

"You have lots of cats, I see," says I.

"Yes, at last count we officially have 20 of them," says he.

20. cats.

20 housecats.

They were everywhere. What was supposed to be the Master Bedroom was instead dedicated to cats. There were about 5 cats sunning themselves on the windowsill, and a mean orange tabby with one eye missing sitting atop an old filing cabinet. On the floor: A few pieces of rusty furniture, several litter boxes, and a couple of kitty beds.

The place reeked.

In the second, smaller bedroom: a double bed on which were lounging about 8 cats.

"The apartment belongs to my wife," says the man. "She has been living here for 22 years. We just got married a few months ago, and with all my stuff she feels it's too crowded."

Decent, recently renovated (but filthy) bathroom and (cleaner) kitchen. Clearly while I was waiting outside the man has mopped with bleach.

Kitty urine and bleach odors. I wanted to gag.

"And here is the view on the northern side," says he. (Yes, please, the window, think I. I need air!) The living room couch has several cats lying on it. While we talk, one of them eyes me steadily and with suspicion.

I imagine the apartment without the cats, without the fur-laden furniture, without the smell, and realize that other than the 71 steps, this place would be ideal for me. It is spacious and has light and air coming from two directions. And it is just a few blocks from Emek Refaim Street.

But there are visible signs of cat urine in the walls. And signs, too, that the entire floor would need to be replaced.

"We had a buyer," says he, "but my wife didn't like the payment terms they were offering. They wanted to spread out the payment over too much time. We've had many offers, but the offers are ridiculously low. People will really try to get away with anything."

Alarm bells.

They are selling with no agent, they do not realize how filthy the place is, and then they reject the understandably low offers. And they jerked around a buyer. Just what I need.

"Thank you, I'll think about it," says I.

At home, I speak with two realtors about other matters, and mention the apartment I had just seen.

"Oh, you saw Y's place," they both say.

"How much is Y asking for today?" asks one.

Asks Chayyei Sarah: "Do you think Y is really committed to selling, or is she ambivalent?"

"She's definitely ambivalent," says the realtor. "Her mother gave her the apartment and she is very, very emotionally attached to it. But who knows? She just got married a few months ago, so maybe now she'll really try to sell it."

I am thinking: I will keep looking. In a few days, if I see nothing better, I will make an offer, something low enough so that I can still afford to pay to replace the floors and bleach all the walls, and see what happens. In Israel, making an offer is not a commitment.

And also, I am thinking: This story gives me hope.

Because if a woman with 20 housecats can find a man to marry her and move in with her, then there is hope for Chayyei Sarah.

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