Friday, June 1, 2012

The Game of Homes

I'm in Las Vegas this week, visiting my kids. Yesterday, as often happens when we get together, my daughter Jo introduced me her latest favorite television show—an HBO series introduced last season, The Game of Thrones.

The show is based on the first book of a highly successful fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George Martin, and first published in 1996. The action takes place in a medieval setting, replete with knights, kings, swords, arrows, mythical creatures, whoring, and all the political intrigue you can shake a stick it. Yesterday I watched five episodes, which was half of the first season. The acting is supurb, with the main character, Eddard Stark, played by Sean Bean (Boromir in Lord of the Rings). He's middle aged (though not over the hill) and lord of a minor city, Winterfell. 

He has two daughters and four sons, one of which is a bastard. The eldest two sons are just coming of age as fighters. Eddard is a good and honorable man, with a terrific and loyal wife. They are trying to do well by their people and to raise their children to be good leaders, but the examples around them are not wholesome. It is a story of lust and power, as almost everyone is trying to "win" the game of vying for the throne. Only Eddard and his wife seem to understand the costliness of the game and refuse to play—thereby earning the mistrust of all. While the setting is fantasy, the human interactions—showcasing fantastical appetites and perversions—are all too real. Of course, that's what makes it so compelling drama.
• • •
When I wasn't watching television (I can stop any time, really), I was riding around the northwest part of town looking at houses. Jo and partner Peter are trying to take advantage of the free fall in the Vegas housing market, where prices have plummeted more than 50% since 2007, bringing them down into their price range as first-tome homeowners.

Jo & Peter have been doing house tours with a local realtor for the past half year and are somewhat weary after 8-10 such junkets. While they've found houses attractive enough to an offer, someone else has always outbid them so far. 

I was told yesterday was typical: 

o  The original time to get together with the realtor (Suzanne) was 2:30, but we didn't rendezvous at the first house until after 4 pm—apparently there's a lot of slippage in the realty business, as prior appointments run long.

o  In addition to starting late, we had trouble with the first house on our tour. To begin with, it was in a gated community and the gate code didn't work. After waiting for someone else to enter (so that we could follow them in), the owner refused to let us view the home. Suzanne had tried to call ahead, but there had been no answer, and the owner was unwilling to show the house without an appointment. Catch 22. He wasn't happy answering the door, and we weren't happy being turned away. Not an auspicious start.

o  Fortunately, things picked up from there and we wound up viewing four houses, all reasonably close to each other. Two of these were occupied; two were empty.

o  Traveling between houses was not always smooth. Suzanne doesn't own a GPS and would often get lost. If we tried following her she'd occasionally travel through a yellow light and leave us behind, not realizing there was a problem until a few minutes later when she was out of sight. Sigh. (Not everyone is as skilled at leading as Eddard Stark.)

o  It was 7 pm by the time we finished and could turn our attention toward dinner.

For all of that though, this was a good tour. Of the fours places Jo & Peter looked at, two were good enough to make offers on, and one appeared to give them an inside track—that house had come on the market just nine days ago and the owner refused to accept bids from anyone but first-time buyers for the first two weeks. As Jo & Peter have already been approved for FHA backing (as first-time homeowners) and were willing to pay the asking price, this seems like a solid chance.

We all have our fingers crossed that Jo & Peter can win the Game of Homes by September. That's my next scheduled visit to Vegas, and I'd like to help them with home improvement projects when I get here. They just need a house first.

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