TAMPA — Real estate investors want to buy my house. They tuck business cards in my door and leave "Final Notice" warnings, as if they are the electric company. They won't go away.
I predict that one day I will be in the shower and a buyer magically will appear with a towel.
Can't they wait until my body is cold? Instead, a nasal-voiced stranger calls my cell phone at 8:30 a.m. and scolds me about the opportunity I'm passing up.
"This is where I live," I tell her. "I don't want to sell."
"But we pay cash," she protests.
When did owning a home become such a contact sport?
The inquiries land in my mailbox — yours, too, I presume — with the frequency of cable TV offers, declaring that my 1,000-square-foot South Tampa bungalow fits somebody's business model, meaning there is dirt below it and a clear path for a bulldozer.
Never mind that the front room was once a couple's first nursery, or that six decades ago, a social worker and her daughter planted the laurel oak after digging it up in the woods. Or that someone's initials were painted inside a closet door.
There are four new homes on my short city block, with space cleared for a fifth. My termites and I get nervous about such progress. It doesn't help when a postcard arrives showing an old house morphing into a lovely new one. In the picture, three kids pull a mother in a wagon.
"Let us purchase your property to build a beautiful, brand new home!" the card says in all capital letters. It sounds like a civic obligation. I should do it for the greater good.
I look more closely and notice I'm nowhere in that photo. I could never afford the homes going up in my neighborhood. I am not part of this plan.
"Guess we should consider ourselves lucky," my friend Susan Hemmingway responded when I brought up the topic on Facebook a while back, "but I'm missing when South Tampa was more affordable and a small older house was enough."
One day I may have to sell. But I recall what happened when the woman on the corner left our red brick street in the hands of a speculator. First, the old oak became a stump. Then, two boxy houses popped up side by side, looking more like the suburbs than Palma Ceia.
Some builders are good at capturing a neighborhood's character. Others seem tone deaf.
So, the "Final Notice" guy is going to be disappointed.
His message told me to call him 24/7 and I didn't.
"I've done all I can to get ahold of you and this is my last resort," he wrote last time, and the time before that.
One of his competitors sends me a picture of a house constructed of $100 bills.
"Thinking of selling your home in this dynamic market?" it asks.
I may breathe my last breath in my house. And it will be noticed and reported to authorities by a real estate investor.
Contact Patty Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3382.