Archives for category: Pre-purchase

With a few days until closing we stopped at the house to make sure all was well, and again a car pulled up and a woman was at the door. Yet another buyer trolling the property? To our delight she was not there to buy it. She had lived in the house 25 years ago and was just stopping to have a look. She reminisced about her time growing up in the house and people in the neighborhood, and she remembered a lot about the original interior details.

Patricia had tracked down William Morgan’s original brief, sketches, and photos of the house from the University of Florida School of Architecture archives, but until then Richard and I didn’t know that originally much of the furniture had been built in (master bed and night tables, kids’ beds and desks, stereo cabinet). Our visitor even remembered William Morgan’s chairs they kept out by the pool!

Sigh, I could have pictured myself sitting by the pool with a bouffant hairdo and cat eye sunglasses in one of those chairs. This house sure stays with people. I hope our kids will be back in 25 years with such strong memories. We feel pretty strongly now, we’ll probably go ahead and buy it.

It was anticlimactic to get Bahman’s call that the bank was finally ready to close. We’d gone back to our lives, it was the holidays, and I was in no mood to open Pandora’s box just yet. So we requested the very last day allowed under contract for the closing, December 30. Bahman agreed that seemed like a much more auspicious day to close on a house like this.

The angry blogger bat link guy was also a crazy guy. He had filed a lien on the property to recoup his expenses for the WDO inspection, structural inspection, bat removal (I’m sorry, the “removal of adarida brasiliensis”), and thermography study with inflated prices over what he actually paid. Get this, the bank just paid it off so they could close the deal. Great side business, putting fake liens on bank-owned properties just hoping to get paid off.

So I can only imagine how pissed off She Who Shall Not Be Named was when she found out afterwards that the city had legit liens on the property. Funny enough, they tried to fight those for a bit before they paid ’em.

Richard and I stopped at the house to check on things and discovered water burbling up in the middle of the yard. Broken pipe from the water main. It took almost a week to get it fixed because the bank requires the listing agent to bid out most jobs. Annoying, but we were happy to have one surprise so far that we weren’t responsible for.

When I stopped in to check the repair had been made, a car pulled up and a lady walked up to ask if the house was still for sale. When I explained we had it under contract, she offered to buy it “for a profit.” I was silly enough not to ask for a number before I said no. Often when I stop at the house there is someone there, or a door is open that wasn’t the last time…and Bahman has said he is still getting calls from agents who want to know if the house is going back on the market.

Bahman called to let us know that the title company handling the closing finally got around to checking on code violations, discovered them, and has started to investigate. I reminded him about a possible outstanding lien. A week went by with no progress so Bahman called the city himself to see if he could help. He never waits long to spring to action. His call was answered by Sally Moooooney, who said the city was just too busy to help clear violations to allow the sale anytime soon. Her name doesn’t really have that many “o”s unless you hear Bahman say it with contempt. She was so rude to him that he called the mayor’s office to demand that the mayor go to that awful woman’s office immediately and fire her for her shocking behavior toward a member of the taxpaying public. Bahman is a better advocate than many attorneys I know.

Meanwhile Bahman was also pushing the listing agent about the city’s delay, so She Who Shall Not Be Named (the well-earned nickname of the bank rep) apparently got on the horn and got some dags rattling. By the end of the following day, the city had promised to get onto it pronto. They don’t teach this stuff in school, that’s fer sher.

We are still waiting on the bank to confirm the house and land are in compliance with city code and there are no liens. I called my friend Isabelle Lopez, a land use attorney, to ask about code compliance issues. She gave me some great practical advice and suggested I head downtown to check it out for myself.

The next day I wandered the interior of three different city buildings before I was finally steered to residential code compliance. Only after showing my driver’s license was I allowed to speak with a clerk, who provided a very confusing printout of the violation history of the property for the last two years. She was unable to decipher it herself or provide any further information but she did give me the name and number of the compliance officer.

The compliance officer was a friendly guy who gave me a general education about the violations and where the complaints came from. He told me there was probably also an outstanding lien that wasn’t yet recorded. I called Bahman to give him the update. Can’t buy the house YET.

I have contacted some of the publications and media outlets we discussed with Diane and Jorge, but thus far everyone wants to see if we can really pull it off. Well, the way they put it is that they usually do stories on the completed project. That’s not the fun part! So we’re stalling there a bit.

I had contacted the AIA president (who I met on the walking tour) about meeting William Morgan. She said she’d have him call our architect, and the following week Patricia got a call from Mrs. Morgan to schedule a meeting for the next day. Despite the short notice we all dropped what we had planned – Patricia, an architect colleague of Patricia’s, Jorge and I. Richard had to work. Jorge brought the William Morgan book he’d purchased for us as a gift, hoping to get it signed.

We met at Mr. Morgan’s house at the beach, next door to his famous Dune House (which is on the market for anyone who’s interested). We spent what was for me a surreal hour talking about his material choices reflecting native northeast Florida materials (coquina, cypress, yellow pine), his thoughts on the pinwheeling design, the ceiling acoustics, the connected spaces. When asked what he did in response to the cypress siding shrinking and pulling out of its tongue and groove joints he answered “drank heavily.”

I got a bit schoolgirl-ish and gushed that as a math minor I loved the symmetry and repetition throughout the design of the number 4. He jumped seamlessly from building materials into an explanation of the golden rectangle, the Fibonacci series, nautilus shells, and Le Corbusier’s continuous museum.

He explained that he positioned the home to take advantage of the views, which I hadn’t thought about because the vegetation has grown in areas and screened the view. Patricia showed him the photos that Tony had taken, and he suggested removing plantings along the base of the house to showcase the horizontal versus vertical planes that you see when viewing the home.

After the meeting our little group stood outside Mr. Morgan’s home talking about how people live in spaces and how those spaces affect our lives. Can’t help but think beyond the house to the lives we want to live. Oh yeah, and Mr. Morgan signed the book for Richard and me. Jeez we really, really might have to buy it.

I had tracked down a number for a William Hatcher, hoping he might be the original owner and namesake. I held onto the number for almost two weeks before I got up the nerve to call. A female answered the phone and I introduced myself, stated that I was looking for William Hatcher, and explained that I was purchasing a home in Jacksonville called the Hatcher House. The responsive “ooooooh!” let me know I had the right number. Mrs. Hatcher called for Mr. Hatcher to come to the phone, and after a brief conversation he offered to meet us at the house in a few days. As an unexpected bonus, Mrs. Hatcher said that she had some original photos of the home!

Richard, Patricia, Jorge and I had already arrived at the house when Mr. and Mrs. Hatcher pulled up followed by their son. We spent a wonderful hour or so wandering the house with them, asking questions, and listening to stories and reminisces. Their son’s stories were my favorite because he remembers the home through the eyes of a child, and I thought of all the fun our kids would have living here.

Mr. Hatcher told us that the massive wall speaker, my favorite feature of the house because it’s this colossal surprise behind this demure screen door, he built! The strange wee trapdoor under the stairs was finally explained as well – the cats stayed under the stairwell at night. He showed us the approximate site of the well, discussed site and construction details with Patricia, and chuckled about the shipbuilder who somehow single-handedly replaced a twisting yellow pine beam under a 12’x12’ sheet of glass. Mrs. Hatcher showed us her scrapbook with newspaper clippings and photos of the place during and after construction.

Their son was kind enough to send us color copies of all of the photos and clippings, and I sent a thank you note to the Hatchers for the gift of their time and memories. Their stories and presence at the house were exhilarating and also sobering regarding the work that lies ahead.

I needed to do something constructive instead of sitting around fretting. I started researching Bill Morgan. Jorge lent us his Master Architect Series book on William Morgan which I read cover to cover, then I got online and roamed around on the topics of modern design, the Bauhaus, Eduard Sekler and Louis Kahn (Morgan’s professors at Harvard), and pre-Columbian architecture. The Hatcher House itself had been featured in the Architectural Record, a few Florida newspapers, and been recognized with an AIA Regional Design Award and a Society of American Foresters Award. Ok, this romance with the house was progressing.