As a home inspector I see details about people’s lives not generally shared with the public. It’s not my intention to pay attention to these details but sometimes they sort of speak to me. My focus is always on the job but I’m human, certain things have an impact.
The first time I became aware of this was while inspecting a foreclosure/short sale. A short sale home is the result of the owners inability to meet their loan obligation so instead of having the home taken away from them by the lender they sell it at below cost. The first time I became “aware” was when inspecting a short sale home with clothes in the closets. One room was obviously a child’s room with toys and toddler clothes in the closet. I remember how I felt when I paused for a moment to consider the family who lost this home. My first thought was, “I wonder where they are now and I hope they are alright.”
I’m a family man with kids and a wife. That last part is only a legality now as the papers have been signed to dissolve those terms but still I consider myself a family man. When I enter a vacant home that was once occupied by a family I always wonder about them. It makes me sad at times.
Yesterday I entered one of those recently vacated homes but by the looks of things you would think it was sealed off for the past 30-40 years because everything inside was so dated. The wallpaper was metallic with earthy tones like what you would see in a home build in the 60’s as this one was . Some of the furniture matched the wallpaper. I laughed to myself more than once. The buyer said they had plans to gut most of the house and start over. I nodded in agreement. When you buy a house that’s what you do. The carpet, paint and sometimes the layout changes to fit your taste.
As I moved along the rooms inspecting this home I started to get an idea of who lived here. Like I said my intention is to inspect the home not spend my time figuring out what the people were like who lived there but it’s not easy to ignore some things. I am looking for material deficiencies so I’m focused on certain details past the cosmetic aspect. But because I am focused and looking for defects I see everything, it’s not possible to not see things.
There were pictures on the walls in some rooms of the previous occupants. The pictures were old, black and white, and based on what I could tell from the 40’s. I came to that conclusion because there were a couple of images of the gentleman in his military uniform from WWII. He was a pretty sharp-looking fella too. Then there was a large framed photograph in one room of his wedding day. They were both pretty sharp-looking.
Across the top of the photo were the words, “50 Years, Congratulations.” At once I felt a mixture of happiness and sadness. I thought it was wonderful that these two were able to celebrate their 50 year wedding anniversary. I felt sad too that they were no longer alive and that one had passed on before the other. I thought about my grandmother who lost her husband a few years ago and my grandmother in law who celebrated her 50 year anniversary then lost her husband. Then there was a moment of self pity in knowing I won’t celebrate a 50 year wedding anniversary. Even if I got re-married tomorrow I would be 93 in the year 2064.
After that I saw things in a different light. The old wallpaper and various items were the taste of this couple, he must have wanted things to remain the same. Her perfume and brush were still on the bathroom counter, he must have kept them there as a reminder of his late wife. The hospital bed had a knitted blanket on it, just like the blankets my grandmother in law knitted. He must have taken care of her in the later years as her health slipped away. The couple who spent their lives together through all the trials that life brings. I felt ashamed that I had laughed inside at the color of the furniture and wallpaper.