Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

They Do Things Different Down Here
by James Glaser
May 8, 2009

Wanda and I are house hunting here in North Florida. I moved down here from Northome, Minnesota. That is a town of less than 300 people, and that includes the nursing home. So, with a population of around 180,000, Tallahassee seems pretty big to me. Therefor, we are looking for a place in or near some small town where I'll feel more comfortable and in truth safer.

Tallahassee is nice as cities go. It is clean, has plenty going on with two universities, but it is a big city, and I am not a big city kind of guy. I like small towns, where you get to know your neighbors and they get to know you. Back in Northome we had a saying, "when you drive around town, you don't have to use your turn signal, because everyone knows where you are going to turn." In Tallahassee most drivers think that same rule applies here, too. Northome didn't have any stop lights, and for much of the driving public, Tallahassee might as well not have them either.

There are small towns in North Florida that appear to be a lot like any small town in Northern Minnesota, but they do things differently down here. I have bought five or six houses in my life, all in Northern Minnesota, and when you buy a house up there, you talk to the owner and go back and forth until you arrive on an agreed price, then you go see the banker about a loan.

Down here you fill out some papers and write down what you want to pay, put up some earnest money, and the seller has 24 hours to give you a number. Then you have 24 hours to answer. I suppose this can go on for a long time if you are far apart at the start.

I don't like that way of doing business. It is too impersonal. We bid on a house last week and told the realtor that we wouldn't go much higher than what we bid, so because the seller couldn't talk to us, they came back with a number $30 thousand over what we said.

I hope they didn't get mad with our offer, and if we could have spoken face to face, I could have explained my offer, but when it is just written out on a piece of paper, there is no communication.

Every one tells us we should low-ball our bid on any house we want to buy, but I don't know if I can do that. Yes, I know... it is just business. But it isn't just business as far as I am concerned. Many people are selling their homes because they are forced to, and that is tough. I don't want to be the guy that took advantage of some family's hard times. I want to pay what I think the house is worth to me.

Yes, I want a good deal, but I don't want that good deal to leave a bad taste in my mouth. We are not looking for a house to flip, we are looking for a house that will be our long term home. I am hoping it will be the last house I buy, but then again I have hoped that about every house I have ever bought.

Next week we will start looking again, but this time I'll sit down with the owner and talk face to face and try and come up with a figure we can both agree on. I'll tell you if it works.

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