Friday, February 5, 2016

...And Then There Was a New House, Part 1

Once upon a time, probably nine-ish months ago, a co-worker who was preparing to retire approached me and asked me if we were interested in buying her house. At the time, we had been in our "temporary" apartment for well over a year - longer than we'd hoped - and we were planning to wait another few months before we got pre-qualified and began house hunting, since we were in a lease.

When she first asked me, I laughed. She lived in a very nice, quiet neighborhood that was in our top three choices of areas (not including the spendy houses on the hill, that is!). I told her I would love to look at buying her house, but that I was pretty sure it was outside our budget, based on neighborhood alone.

And then she uttered some words that would live in infamy.

"Actually, I was thinking of selling it for the amount you said was at the top of your price range, if we can do so without realtors, since that would save me a ton of money."

Or something to that effect.

Of course, red flags went off all over the place when she said that. But, we'd known her long enough to not be concerned about any deception or anything. The concern was more about trying to broker the sale of a house by ourselves. It seemed daunting. We had already purchased two houses before, so we basically knew the drill, but still - who would swoop in and save the day if any complications arose?

If only I knew then what I know now.

Over the next few months, we visited the house probably ten times. At first we were just wandering through, and then as time progressed and we got more serious, we wanted to check out specific things about the house. We were trying to make sure we caught every possible thing that could be a problem, since we wouldn't have a realtor to do it for us. It was (is) a very nice house, only a dozen years old so no major repairs should be needed for a while, and the layout is exactly what the kid requested: living space on the ground floor, all bedrooms upstairs. That's kind of a funny story all in itself - I'm pretty sure he was asking for that because our house back in our hometown was laid out like that and I think maybe he misses it a bit, like his Mommy does...

A few weeks before the 'for-sure' date she gave us for a decision, we told her we were ready to move forward. Our pre-approval was ready and we both sat down at the kitchen table with the seller and filled in a blank "for sale by owner" sales contract. And so began a two-month-long process of fumbling through all the necessary steps.

The inspection went very well, though I admit we weren't thrilled when we arrived for the inspection and found the inspector (whom we had chosen) was apparently an old friend of hers. He turned out to be great, though. "This is a very clean property," the inspector said to us. The grout needed to be re-done in the master shower; Dave quickly volunteered to do that himself. There were a handful of other things, nothing major, and we all quickly agreed on who was going to take care of what.

The appraisal went well, too. It came in a few thousand over the sell price, which is ideal for a buyer. We were very excited. It seemed to be the final procedural hurdle. I was kind of having to micro-manage our lender's representative, as she just did not have a sense of urgency about anything, and also was missing a pretty important eye for detail. If not for my intervention, we would have been asked for a much higher amount up front at closing than we should have. I was annoyed for having to babysit the whole thing, but it was worth it. Despite some bumps in the road and some frantic phone calls, everything finally worked out and we went to closing. The seller was not leaving the state until the day after closing, so she had asked us if she could stay in the house that last night. Without hesitation we said yes.

That next day, around noon, she let me know that she was headed down the highway. We were busy with the movers packing up our apartment. When they got finished, somewhere around 3pm, we finally had an opportunity to go see the house empty for the first time. I was so excited when we pulled up, I was fidgeting in my seat!

Oddly, the first two things we noticed when we pulled into the driveway were a trash can next to the garage that was positively overflowing, and that the two flower baskets on the front of the garage contained dead flowers. Huh. Weird. But obviously those were little, tiny, not-worth-mentioning things. Just not the most charming welcome to our new house!

We opened the garage door to find some surprises. She left us the lawnmower as promised, which was wonderful. She also left various yard type things, like potting soil and pots and a seed spreader and just a bunch of random stuff. That was all fine, just unexpected. Then, with great anticipation, we approached the door to the house. I remember looking at Dave with excitement, taking a deep breath, flinging the door open, and...


Something slapped us in the face. Hard...

(Next part of the story is HERE.)