House Hunter: Things Left Behind

When you buy a house, you’re not just buying a house. There are things that tag along — the shovel lurking in the garage; the hose loyally hanging on the spigot; the resident birds, squirrels, bugs, skunks, raccoons, and whatever in the yard.

You also get neighbors. You don’t choose them, but they’re part of the package, and hopefully a good part.

Then there are the echoes of past owners. In the basement of my last house, behind a secret panel, I found hundreds of books of the Naughty Nurse Nancy variety. Hmm.

I know of one couple who bought a house, moved in, and lived happily until one February afternoon. They sat down, turned on the pregame, and then the doorbell rang. Outside were throngs of people bearing platters of wings and bowls of chips and dips.

It turned out they had inherited a Super Bowl party. To their everlasting credit, they simply went with it, becoming accidental hosts of a big annual bash.

We’re now in the process of buying our house here in Santa Barbara and are discovering new aspects of this phenomenon. The owner of this house was a serious gardener, and he bequeathed to us the bounty of his many years of toil in the soil. He swears he didn’t know what he was doing at first but learned as he went along. I sincerely hope that’s the case for me, too. I feel unworthy at present, amid the night-blooming cereus, the golden barrel cactus, and all the rest.

We also came into some big, beautiful wind chimes dangling high in a redwood. They had become a part of the neighborhood’s musical character. Neighbors were saddened to think of them leaving. Happily, they will stay on duty.

And then, of course, there are the bees, who took up residence in a big birdhouse after apparently evicting the sparrows. Bees by the thousands are forever zipping in and out, pollinating flowers throughout our section of town. Would they have to pack up their bee-longings and move on? Thankfully, they will not.

Lots of times, the stuff left behind after the house is sold isn’t so great: biodegrading rugs, ancient paint cans, etc. But sometimes it’s the opposite. Allie Baxter at Marsha Kotlyar Properties in Montecito says it’s usually people moving across the country that leave large items behind. And that was the case in one house in which the new owner found a nice pool table sitting there forlornly.

Was the new owner happy? “Yeah!” said Baxter. “He was buying the house as an investment, planning to rent it out, so he was very excited.” The buyer had thought the table was part of the staging and expected it to be removed. Instead, he got a nice jump-start on his rental-house game room. “Guess I lucked out,” he reportedly said.

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