Buying a House with IBC: Dealing with Disappointment

I found a house! (Don’t get too excited. Based on the title of this post, you can see where this is headed.)

About a week ago, I was feeling a bit frustrated with the house hunting process. Not only is the market slow at the moment, but it seemed as though most of the places I’d seen were (in my opinion) hot-mess houses at crazy prices. For those of you who asked for links, here is an example. This home, listed at $575K, needs a ton of love. It shows okay online, but it has a laundry list of issues, including an oddly shaped kitchen, mismatched styles, cracked walls, grimy interior, and a troubling backyard, The funny part is, this house was under contract in less than two weeks. And I suppose it makes sense. If your budget is $775K, you could certainly make this into a show-stopper.

This is another home I looked at just down the street. I liked the first level, but the second floor was cramped. The house also had a shared driveway, which I had at my St. Marys house and want to avoid. In addition, this home lacked a “proper front door/porch.”

Feeling bummed about the houses I’d been seeing, I decided to look outside the areas I was currently searching. Almost like a beam of light from the heavens, I found “the one.” My awesome realtor quickly scheduled a showing for the following day.

During the first visit, I was a bit disappointed. (As I mentioned in my last post, be prepared for the home to look different in person than it does online.) While the home wasn’t as magical as I had hoped, I still had this gut feeling that there was great potential. My mind went into overdrive.

I took a couple days to think about it. I even went back by myself and walked around the neighborhood to get a feel for the area. Since I hadn’t been looking there initially, I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable in the neighborhood. As I strolled around, I encountered other folks, and in general, they were super friendly. (Full disclosure: I had had dental work done earlier in the day and 90% of the time I wasn’t sure if I was smiling at them or just drooling. I may have looked like a lunatic, but still, they said hello.)

I scheduled a second showing with my realtor and this time around had a much better feeling about some of the home’s issues. I am aware that no home is or will be perfect. So looking at the troublesome areas with new eyes, I realized they were all things that I could fix, and that ultimately, they would help make the house my home.

I decided to put in an offer.

Considering the issues with the home (possible basement water problem, significant leaks in garage roof, terrible paint job on the second and third floor, possible issue with the A/C unit and heating and cooling on the third floor, dented and rusty appliances (though advertised as new), no kitchen ventilation, a crumbling back patio, etc.), I went in with a lower but reasonable offer. (A bit of background: This home was bought about two years ago as an investment property. It was completely remodeled, but in my opinion, attention was not given to the finishing details. However, the home did have all new plumbing, electric, and HVAC.)

The seller was interested in working together, so they counteroffered. I met them halfway with another counteroffer. They came back and asked for a quicker closing date and the contingency of me closing on my other home removed. As you can tell, it was a lot of back and forth between our realtors and my lender. However, at the end of the day, I had a verbal agreement with the seller on all the terms. Wahoo! A contract was drawn up, I signed, and it was sent to the seller to sign.

Of course, at this point, I was feeling pretty excited. While I didn’t put pen to paper and start planning projects, my mind was swirling with designs and other ideas. I know there are many roadblocks that can come with buying a house, so I also had to make sure I was comfortable dealing with some of the details I didn’t like and wanted to change. I didn’t want to get attached, but I had started to think how I could make sure the home would work for me. It’s a major catch-22 I suppose. Although I didn’t want it to happen, I was getting attached.

After the seller had had the contract for over 24 hours, my gut told me that something was up. However, I stayed as hopeful as I could. Early the next morning my realtor texted me, “I know it’s early, but is now a good time for a call?” My heart sank to my toes. I knew this wasn’t going to be good.

Despite the verbal agreement, an “unexpected” offer came to the table, and since it was above the asking price, the seller accepted*.

I was crushed.

I’m kind of a sensitive person, and I cried. I lost hope. I was also angry. My realtor told me this was “a worst-case scenario.” Unfortunately, the listing agent didn’t give me a chance to submit my best offer. To me, the whole process felt very sneaky and shady. I felt like they used my offer to leverage something better. At the end of the day, this seller was all about the money. Luck or fate simply wasn’t on my side.

I was and still am feeling frustrated about the market. I don’t understand how a home, especially one with “issues,” could sell above asking price. Maybe I’m naïve. Maybe I don’t understand the market. Maybe this was just a “lesson learned.”

Tips and Tricks for Buying a House: In this post, learn ideas for Dealing with Disappointment.

Flash forward 48 hours. The dust has settled a bit. While I’m still perplexed by the experience, I realize that that house just wasn’t meant to be. I’m not sharing all of this with you for your sympathy. (Though your kind words, thoughts, and prayers are ALWAYS greatly appreciated.) I truly understand what’s happened is all part of the process. I’m sharing it because it’s somewhat cathartic for me. Plus, the goal of this series is to take you along on this journey, good or bad. It’s my hope that reading about my experience will help you. If this (or a similar situation) happens to you, you’ll be better prepared than I was. So, here’s what I learned.

Buying a House with IBC: Dealing with Disappointment

Keep Your Hopes in Check

Honestly, I have no idea how to do this. The advice has been to trust your gut, and you’ll know when you find “the one.” It’s a challenge to do that and not become attached to a house. One solution is to have a lot of distractions during the process. Plan fun things to do and look forward to. Don’t pause your life or change your routine. Even if you’ve found a house that you think is going to work, continue searching, continue to be open to other listings. Also, continue to plan your life as it is. Don’t schedule things based on buying this particular house or cancel scheduled plans because “this could work out.”

Be Patient

Of all the virtues, this is one I’m probably most lacking. I’m not sure how to build your patience muscle, but you’ll need a strong one. I want immediate answers and results, and that just doesn’t happen. Chances are the buyer and seller are both working with a realtor, so it takes a lot of time and back-and-forth to communicate.

My suggestion for this is the same one I recommend for avoiding attachment. Keep yourself distracted. Keep living your life. Go to the movies, go out to dinner, watch your favorite show. It’s rather pointless to keep checking your email every five minutes for updates. As they say, a watched pot never boils. Constantly focusing on house hunting or the offer you’ve made will do you no good. In fact, it’s probably counterproductive because if it all falls apart, you don’t want everything falling down with it. Let hunting for a home only be a tiny part of your life; avoid making it your whole existence.

Find Someone to Talk To

This is super important. Chances are you have a few people in your life who you can chat with about your house hunting. Be open. If you’re excited about a particular house, let them know. That way if it works out they will be the ones there with a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Or if it doesn’t work out, they’ll be there to support you because they knew how excited you were. Also, when you are bummed or disappointed, talk it out. It truly helps.

There’s another important point I want to make here. While you may have great friends or family, some of them may not be the people you want to chat with about this process. Find the person who can keep YOUR best interests in mind. Find the person who isn’t going to let jealousy cloud their opinions of what YOU should do. Find the person who is positive and excited for you, but is also realistic and honest. It’s easy to want to share exciting news, but think about what will happen if that exciting news falls apart. Who are you going to be glad you told and who are you going to regret telling?

Avoid Planning

While you certainly want to be able to see yourself in your new home, avoid any planning on a particular home. Until you know with 100% certainty that a home will be yours, avoid starting a Pinterest board for decorating and design ideas. Do not search out landscapers or someone to fix the crumbling patio. Do not start selling your furniture that won’t match the new space. Don’t drive by the house every day on your way to work. Don’t plan where the garden will be. Don’t make a list of projects. I could go one, but you get the idea.

Yes, you should totally think about what you want in your dream home (as I talked about in the first post of this series), but avoid specifics when you think you’ve found “the one.” Keep your ideas general and be open to any home.

Fasten Your Seatbelt

Maybe your home buying process will be effortless. However, be prepared for a rollercoaster ride. First, buckle your seatbelt and expect lots of highs and lows. Chances are you’re going to want to throw up a few times. Be prepared.
Secondly, try to enjoy the ride. While tedious and stressful, house hunting can be lots of fun. This process has reminded me how much I love design and dreaming up spaces. I’ve basically redesigned and redecorated every home I went into, and it’s been a joy. It’s also made me realize how much I’m looking forward to getting back into a house and doing more of the things I love.

Again, although this past week was a downer and a big lesson for me, I’m doing okay now. I am also confident that eventually, I will find the perfect place for me.

*I’ve opted to not share the link to this particular house. I don’t want you to fall in love with it like I did. Maybe when more time has passed, I’ll be inclined to share. Thanks for understanding!

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  • Theda at

    My thoughts are, be thankful the deal fell through! It wasn’t the house for you and maybe you’ve been spared an enormous heartache. The right place is being lined up and will come to you at the right time. When you do find ‘your home’ I know you will make it fabulous!!

  • Ivory at

    I agree with Susan, follow your own advice, take your time, be patience, and don’t give up. You will find your true dream home. It will take a little longer time than expected, that’s all. When you do find it, I know you will make it smoking hot!!!

  • Anne at

    Aww it is a crushing feeling losing what you thought was ‘the house’. But remember, the right one (hopefully with less issues and problems) will come along and then you’ll look back on this experience and think “gosh, imagine how I’d be struggling if I purchased that one?” Never a nice lesson to learn, but I am sure the most amazing – much cheaper – house will come along. Good luck! One of the best times is when you’re searching and seeing all the different options out there. 😉

  • meryl the chaletmomma at

    In 2003 the house we were trying to buy- didn’t work out. We put in a crazy offer… gave them $60K cash as a down-payment – agreed to let the owners rent it from us until the new house they were redoing up the street was finished. We left our realtors thinking we bought that house! yay! Until the next morning when we were told they got a better offer. I mean honestly my friend it was a WTF moment – I too think our offer was used as leverage but, I understand now It just wasn’t meant to be – I mean come on – Center Hall Colonial Momma just doesn’t have the same ring to it! Lol!
    your home is out there – which I know – you know… but, it’s nice to hear all the same.

  • Kimberly Hieber at

    Ugh, that STINKS. I don’t know if it works this way in Pittsburg but in Austin many people wait to put their homes on the market until Spring time. That way buyers will likely move in right after school lets out. If that’s the case up there, you may see more listings in a few weeks. fingers crossed that the right one comes along soon. You have a great attitude about it.

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Yes! I’ve been told the market complete changes come spring, so I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best. April can’t come soon enough! Thanks.

      xo Michael

  • Anne Weber-Falk at

    I’m sorry for you “loss” and I understand. We were buying our first and hopefully last home and found what we thought was perfect. It was a short sale so we were prepared to be patient. We offered full asking price and patiently waited and waited and waited. Nine months passed and the bank still hadn’t made up it’s mind. At our final inquiry we found that the bank had “accidently” closed the account on the home and everything had to start all over again. Oh!
    The house was also scheduled to go into foreclosure in the following month and if it did our offer would be voided. We were assured the bank was going to expidite the reopening of the account and we would hear from them in two weeks. We waited a month and still no answer. We withdrew. We were crushed. Then we found that an offer was put in for $15,000.00 less than our offer and was accepted. UGH!!! Happy ending though. We found our perfect home a week later and also heard that an asphalt trucking company had moved in a little down and across the street from the former home. The neighbors are very unhappy about the whole thing. We truly love our new home. It’s just down the street from the lake and it is blessedly quiet, except for all the sounds from the wildlife here. Things really do happen for a reason.

  • Vanessa at

    The right house at the right price will come along for you. I totally understand how you feel about these home which needs so much work and the owners are asking way too much money. It’s insane! Don’t fret and keep your peace. You’ll see your forever home will come. I am still looking and it’s been a few years, I hate these FL cookie cutter homes. I want charm and originality but nothing. I just keep looking and praying for the right house at the right price. I know it’s coming.

  • Cindy B at

    Hi, Michael, this sounds like such a painful experience for you – I’m so sorry. Perhaps this is the Univerese’s way of saying this wasn’t the right house for you. Have you checked out Edgewood? There is an interesting house at 148 Lloyd on the market. I haven’t seen the inside yet, but it has a great front porch and we are a friendly and welcoming neighborhood!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      Thank you Cindy! That looks like it could be a really cute property. Right now, I’m not looking in the area, but may need to even further expand my search if I can’t find what I’m after. Feel free to keep shooting listings my way. You just never know. I appreciate it!

      xo Michael

  • Sue at

    So sorry to hear you were not able to buy the house you felt was the right one for you. Stay confident that there will be more available and that one with your “name on it” is in your future house hunting.

  • Kathy K at

    Honestly! This is just another example of the general unkindness that exists in our society. The sellers realtor only did his/her job to sell quick and for the best price. Your realtor needs to protect you and your interests. If a buyer comes in
    above asking price, all bets are off. As you can see, this is a realtors game. Beware! My husband and I just went through this process and went through our fair share of disappointments but in the end we ended up with a wonderful home. Looking back, I felt heartbroken for the lost home I thought was “the one”. Turns out that beautiful home had a $20,000 secret repair (foundation) after the buyers bought it.
    Please don’t lose hope and keep your chin up! The most important thing is to live in a community that has like minded people and where you feel safe. You can make any house beautiful, that is your superpower!

  • Carol at

    It is the same all over the country. Bad homes, high asking and selling for more than asking. In Buffalo you traditionally offered as low as you could to not offend the seller, and negotiated from there. Homes that have sat in disrepair for decades are selling like they are model homes.

  • jae at

    house hunting is stressful, people misrepresent and play games, things break at the worst moments, but in the end you find just the one, or you find one that is not perfect but you love it up and make it yours and there is a happy ending….! 🙂 One question, if not being too personal, is houses make situations much more permanent. Are you that positive you want to stay in Pittsburgh? And wishing you the best of luck as you continue your search. A good realtor is priceless!

    • Michael Wurm, Jr. at

      That’s such a great question and one I’ve asked myself a dozen times. At this moment in life, all signs seems to say this is where I should be, so I’m going with it. Maybe I’m wrong … Maybe 5-10 years down the road life will point me in a different direction, but I’m trusting the feeling at the moment. Thanks for asking!

      xo Michael

  • Lurlie at

    I’m so sorry! i hope you find your perfect “imperfect” house soon. I enjoy your blog and your upbeat attitude and your sharing your experiences with us. Can’t wait to see your house when you find it.

  • Sue at

    Michael,I’m sorry you are not having luck in the house hunt saga. I would have loved to see what you would do with the Sheridan house. Oh the possibilities are endless ( cost too ). Good luck.

  • sydney85 at

    Definitely wishing for a better outcome next time. There will be a next time! Eventually like most things the bad ones are forgotten and the happier times are much more memorable. All the best. Lots of people are in your corner cheering you on!

  • Kendal at

    Great post!! So many truths and you have joined a club that many of us are members of! So sorry for your disappointment but I believe with all my heart that the ONE is out there and you just haven’t found it yet…when you do, you’ll be so relieved and happy that this one didn’t work out!! Keep your chin up! You have many fans rooting for your success and looking forward to the posts your new home will inspire! 🙂

  • Eve Hyde at

    Oh Michael, I feel for you! This exact same thing happened to us. We FINALLY found a house we liked. The woman was a fellow artist, so I felt a kinship. She had broken her leg, so my husband helped her out with a few things. We agreed on a price and my husband and I signed the papers. We knew the house had some issues, but we really thought we could make it our own. She had gotten a higher offer and signed with them. She didn’t even give us a chance to counter. We were crushed! And we felt she had taken advantage of us. We even sent a letter to the Board of Realtors because we thought having a verbal agreement meant something… it does not. I did feel a bit better when their inspection showed more problems than they thought and they ended up paying significantly less than our offer had been. Karma! We did end up finding a great house. It has been eight years. We love our neighbors! Hang in there. I know how frustrating it can all be.
    All my best,

  • laura at

    With all the potential plumbing, water, roof issues I think you are the winner in this deal. Sounds like you have a great realtor! Remember, more inventory will pop up in the next four to six weeks.

    On a side note I made your frosted sugar cookie bars and my family loved the “base cookie.” Post and shout out to follow! laura

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