Wednesday, December 14, 2011

House Hunting Ruminations

The first house my husband and I bought was a mistake.  We were moving from Texas to Boston, and after years of being poor undergrads, and then poor law students, we were finally making good money.  We were sick of renting, and wanted to buy.  The market had finally started going down, and we thought it would be a good time to buy low.  This was 2007. Oops.  We made a lot of mistakes buying that house, from not researching the schools, not knowing which parts of the neighborhood were best, and not understanding exactly how much repairs were going to cost. Three years later, when we decided to move back to Texas, we had a hard time selling.  We ended up selling for around $70,000 less than we bought, and that doesn't count the money we spent deleading the house, replacing the roof, the furnace, etc.

We rented in Texas while waiting for the house in Boston to sell.  When it finally did, we felt comfortable with the area where we were renting, and wanted to buy again.  For one, we could afford to spend more, and since the area we moved to has a much lower cost of living, the money we can spend goes a lot farther.  Instead of looking at 100 year old capes, with 1 bathroom, and tiny kitchens, we were looking at homes built in the last 30 years, with huge kitchens, multiple baths, plenty of space for the kids.  Most importantly to us, no lead paint!

As we toured the houses on our shortlist, having been so recently in the seller's position, I kept imagining myself back there.  It didn't help that many of the homes were still occupied, and at a few the owners were leaving as we were getting there.  I remembered when we first put our home on the market, being excited at the number of showings that were scheduled.  When someone scheduled a second showing, I allowed myself to hope that we'd have an offer soon.  Did these owners get their hopes up too?  I can't imagine the stress of keeping your house in showing condition -- we didn't put ours on the market until after we'd moved out.

We really liked one house - it was almost perfect.  But the one thing it was missing - a room we could use as a playroom for our three kids, was not something we were willing to compromise on.  I wanted to tell the owners how much I liked their house.  But I know they don't really care that I loved their yard, and the wood they choose for the flooring.  They want me to love it, yes, but they really want me to make an offer.

We asked our agent to pull the seller's disclosures for 2 houses, and ask what information was available about a third, a bank owned foreclosure.  A few days later, the bank dropped the price on the foreclosure - to below what we had been considering offering.  So we put in an offer.  While waiting to hear back, we looked at more houses.  One I loved.  Another both my husband and I liked an awful lot.  They both went under contract while we were waiting to hear back on our offer on the foreclosed house.

Our offer was accepted, and we scheduled an inspection.  Then we had to ask the bank to do some repairs.  While the bank was considering our repair request, we went to look at one more house.  Just to check.  Just to make sure we wanted to go through with the foreclosure.  I wanted to either love or hate the house.  Loving it would make our decision easy - we'd offer on it, and walk away from the more expensive, but bigger, foreclosed house.  If we hated it, we'd stick with the foreclosure.  We liked it.  A lot.  We didn't love it, but it was a very nice house, and would work very well for us.  And it was less expensive.  We went home to agonize.  We asked our agent to get the seller's disclosures.  We had her ask the seller's agent if there were any pending offers.  We decided we'd probably make an offer on it.  Our agent drew up a new offer.

And then we woke up the next morning and changed our minds.  We felt we were settling.  This is supposed to be our forever home, and we didn't want to settle.  There were more things we loved about the foreclosure.  And so we didn't make an offer on the other house.  And I felt awful for the owners.  Their house had been on the market for 6 months.  They'd done some major improvements to it.  I imagine their agent told them someone was very interested.  And then an offer never came.  I was there a few months ago. I remember waiting for an offer to come it, hoping that was the reason my phone was ringing.

We're closing on the foreclosure next week.  I've still got all of the other houses we looked at, and liked, saved on our agent's website.  I'm rooting for my favorites to sell soon.  I've been there.

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