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.”
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.
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.”
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?
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!