After more than 30 years as a real estate broker, Laura Baliestiero of Carlisle is accustomed to negotiating complicated transactions between buyers and sellers.
Sometimes that means clarifying who will pay for minor infrastructure repairs, which party will take care of replacing an appliance or two, or whether the custom-designed china cabinet will go or stay.
So the transaction she is about to oversee between a past buyer and seller may seem simple by contrast. On Aug. 19, having been granted a one-day marriage officiant license, Baliestiero will unite computer programmer Kevin Smith and the woman who three years ago bought Smith’s house, Cecile Carr, in holy matrimony.
Back in the winter of 2014 when Carr, newly divorced but anxious to stay in Carlisle for her children’s sake, asked for the realtor’s help finding a property she could afford, Baliestiero knew just the house: a 1,900-square-foot cottage on East Street, small by Carlisle standards but cozy and sunlit. The detached studio would be a perfect fit for Carr’s growing massage therapy business.
“It was kind of like déjà vu,” Baliestiero said about showing Carr the house. “I had shown the same house to Kevin eighteen years earlier when he was in almost the same situation, recently divorced and wanting to stay in town while his two daughters grew up.”
Recognizing that the house appealed to Carr, Baliestiero made a standard realtor’s suggestion. “Write the seller a note saying how much you like it,” she advised Carr, a native of France. Then she had an additional impulse. “Kevin speaks many languages. Write to him in French!”
“I wrote him a long letter in French, explaining that I had three children and wanted to stay in town until they were all through high school and that this house was exactly what I was looking for,” Carr recalled.
Baliestiero delivered the letter to the seller and texted Carr an hour later. “Despite the fact that your offer is $10,000 below the list price, he said ‘Oui’!” Baliestiero reported.
The offer having been accepted, Baliestiero then gave a standard realtor’s mandate: No further contact should take place between buyer and seller until after the purchase and sale. “Any other communication between the two of you needs to go through me,” she insisted to Carr.
Baliestiero realized they had ignored this directive when she looked out her office window the morning of the closing and saw the two driving in together. An awkward moment came later the same morning when the attorney asked Smith to hand over his housekey to the home’s new owner and Carr admitted she already had the key.
Carr and Smith had met for the first time at the home inspection, when they chatted in French and discovered both came from families of six children and both had two daughters. Not long after, as they waited for all the paperwork that accompanies real estate transactions to go through, Carr received an email from Smith.
“He said he wanted to tell me a little bit more about the house. I invited him over. We had coffee and chatted and it was pleasant, but I didn’t think much about it. I was newly divorced, trying to focus on my children and rebuilding my life, not looking for a romantic relationship,” she recalled. “Then he invited me over to tell me still more about the house, and I thought ‘Really, how much more do I need to know?’ He claimed he needed to show me something about the heating system.”
Carr was wary of a new relationship. But positive omens kept arising — such as when she confided to Smith that one artifact from her marriage that she did not think her former husband would cede to her was a beloved statue of the Hindu elephant god Ganesha, who Carr says symbolizes good luck and the removal of obstacles.
“Well, that’s no problem,” Smith told her. “You can’t see it under all that snow, but in my garden there’s a statue of Ganesha already. I’ll leave it for you.”
“I was so touched by that,” Carr confessed. “I later found out his late mother had given him that statue. It felt like a blessing. We met soon after that for dinner. And then we realized we were falling in love.”
“We just hit it off right from the beginning,” Smith concurred. “We found that we had a lot in common. We fell in love pretty quickly and it’s been strong ever since then.”
Smith moved to South Carolina as planned, and for the next two years, the couple dated long-distance, visiting each other in Massachusetts or South Carolina every few weeks.
Late last year, they decided it was time to marry and find a home they could live in together, but neither wanted to relocate to the other’s state. They took a trip to Santa Fe last February — “not to buy a house, just to check out the area,” Smith said — and instantly felt at home there. “Cecile and I have learned to go with the flow and follow our instincts,” Smith said about the ensuing decision to move to New Mexico.
When they asked Baliestiero to do the honors for their wedding ceremony — which will take place in the backyard of the Carlisle house that brought them together — she readily agreed.
Now, of course, with the newlyweds moving out of state, there’s a house in Carlisle that needs to be sold once again. Whether magic will strike twice remains to be seen, but Carr is optimistic.
“This house has good juju, good karma,” she said. “The money I paid to Kevin three years ago is the same money we’re now using as a down payment for our Santa Fe home. It’s as if all along, this house has been an investment in our future, in every way.”Nancy Shohet West can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.