After much forethought, Lorrie and I decided to move my 97-year-old mom to Florida. And given that we were going to do so, we too would get a place in Florida, the idea being that henceforward we would divide our time between Stowe and Florida.

We found what we thought to be an ideal place for Mom. And a condo with a magnificent ocean view for ourselves.

The plan could not have been less complicated. We were to drive from Stowe to Providence on Friday, June 28, fly to Palm Beach on Saturday, June 29, rent a car, drive to Boca Raton, spend the night at the Marriott Hotel at Boca Center, and thence to Fort Lauderdale the following morning, where, at 2 p.m., we would meet the two real estate professionals with whom we were to do the walk-through of the condo. The money had been transferred from our account; the building association had approved our background check and application. Easy-peasy.

•••

“You must be Sally,” I greeted the real estate agent who greeted me back in the shiny, white, marble lobby of the building at precisely 2 p.m. Up we rode together in the elevator to the third floor, where we encountered Lilly, agent No. 2. It was at this moment that Sally left.

Lilly, who was the listing agent, was a young Albanian woman with a delightful accent. Together the three of us did the walk-through. A few stumbling blocks: no internet access code, no linens, no water.

The resolution of these matters would take several hours, time enough for Lilly to tell us much about life in present-day Kosovo.

Then came time to bid Lilly farewell and get on with our new lives as sometimes-Floridians.

Not so fast.

•••

“They can’t move in today,” said Jim, the security guard, who sat perched authoritatively behind his counter in the lobby. “They haven’t been through orientation. No one moves in until they’ve been through orientation.”

“But,” protested Lilly, “Sheila, your building manager, has said to me that this will be OK, that they will move in today and tomorrow will do the orientation. They have come from Vermont.”

“I’d have to hear that from Sheila.”

Sheila, on a Sunday afternoon, was nowhere to be found. Well, actually, she was eventually found — at Macy’s. Now, Sheila had no recollection whatsoever of ever having told anyone that we could move in before orientation. To do so, said Sheila, would be most irregular.

Oh, well, Lorrie defused what stood to become a highly charged situation between Jim and Lilly. We would just go to a hotel for the night and come back at 10:30 the next morning for orientation.

All’s well that ends well.

Not so fast.

•••

“Hello. I’m Fern. And this is Beverly. We’re the orientation committee.”

“Nice to meet you,” we said.

“Now, have you read the rules and regulations?” This from Beverly.

We had not. No one had given us the rules and regulations, the going price for a copy of which was a hefty $100. Oh well. And they would have to be read before we could move in. Fair enough.

Off went Beverly to secure a copy of the sacred tome, leaving Lorrie, Fern and me to chat.

“Would you happen to know,” I asked, for want of anything else to ask, “what temperature they heat the pool to in winter?”

Fern did not. But what next come out of Fern’s mouth I can only think to call a bombshell. “But that shouldn’t affect you this year.”

“Oh?”

“You do know, of course,” Fern gave voice to words that would dramatically affect our reason for being in town, “that the swimming pool will be closed this year while we do major renovations to the building. Surely, your real estate agent would have told you. It’s going to be quite a mess around here, I’m afraid. No pool. Residents will not be able to use their balconies …”

I cut Fern off. “Would you excuse me for a moment. I have to make a call.”

•••

Here, then, is the short form of what next transpired. Sally, my first call, insisted that she had no knowledge of the distressing tidings shared with us by Fern. But she would take it up with Lilly who, as it turned out, likewise had no knowledge of same.

Next there emerged a sad story. The owner of the condo had passed away some six weeks earlier, taking with him to the grave, and not sharing with anyone else involved — not his wife, not his children, and not the real estate agents — the key pieces of information about the balcony and the pool and the renovations.

Granted, when Lorrie and I had expressed our desire to rent a condo with a swimming pool and a balcony that looked out over the ocean, we had not expressly stated that we wanted to be able to swim in the pool and go out onto the balcony. Still …

In the blame game that followed, I did not intend to emerge as the victim, going so far as to tell both Sally and Lilly that I had been licensed to sell real estate not only in Vermont and North Carolina, but also right here in steamy, sweltering Florida. And that, in all three states, if I remembered my exam prep correctly, it was incumbent on a real estate professional to know such details. This, in fact, is why we had chosen to work with them rather than going it alone — to avoid that oh-so-nasty element of “caveat emptor.”

So yes, ladies, we want our several thousand dollars back for first month, last month, security, application fees, etc. And in addition, we want to be reimbursed for all of the expenses that we’ve incurred in visiting this sauna you call a state.

It was at this juncture that I think I said something involving their licenses and the Florida Board of Realtors. I needn’t have been so mean.

•••

Lilly and Sally could not have been nicer. The very next morning they returned all of the money we had given them, and an additional $2,000 to cover the costs of the trip.

There was yet more good news, as I got an admission from Lorrie that she hadn’t really liked the condo, which had looked nice enough online, but which in person looked like the stage set for a play about the life and times of an Albanian grandmother in Florida — right down to the elaborate tea service.

“I don’t think we should move Mom down here.”

“Me either.”

We shared an order of conch fritters, a mahi-mahi sandwich and a piña colada. And then we flew home.


Alan Handwerger is a Stowe businessman. His collection of stories, “There’s a Plunger in My Tree,” was published by Peppertree Press. Email letters to news@stowereporter.com.

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