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Adventures in House Hunting part...something

Sep. 9th, 2011 | 10:31 am

Good readers, I have not forgotten you!  We took a break from house hunting after our third bid attempt did not result in us actually owning a house.

Just as well, to be honest.  Now we are into September and as usually happens in fall, my entire life is changing.  The Company is undergoing major reorganization.  What this means for me personally is that the office in Baltimore is closing and I will be working from home starting in November.  As a result we are now looking to get out of the city and move west into the mountains.  We'd like to stay on the east side of the Continental Divide in West Virginia.  Go ahead, get all the redneck, hillbilly, marrying-your-cousin, dueling banjo jokes out now.  I can take it.

A new region opens up a lot of options for us.  Property taxes are a lot lower so our monthly payments will be lower than they would be in the city.  Ulfr has job options out there and Mysterious N's family is there.

I was raised in the suburbs and moved to the city as an adult. I am a City Girl.  City clothes (designer jeans and spike heels), city car (convertible), city dog (Pomeranian), city life.  I have absolutely no idea what living in the country will be like.  I have no idea what I will be like after being there a while.  Maybe it's silly to worry about it but it's the Big Unknown, you know?  No Starbucks, no corner store.  I've never lived in a state with no ocean shore. I've never lived more than 30 minutes drive from my parents and sister.

So, we're looking for quiet but not isolated. Community but not neighborhood.  And UPS has to deliver.  I'll learn how to make pizza and chinese food and sushi.  I'll add flats to my shoe closet.  I'll see the stars and feed the squirels and take deep breaths.  This could be the best thing that ever happened to me.

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Adventures in House Hunting part 15: brain is dead

Jun. 7th, 2011 | 01:55 pm

Well I finally found out what "potential for open and creative floor plan" means.  It means the house used to have an open floor plan and then someone put up extraneous walls.  So, take down the wall between the entry way and tiny living room and you would have a decent living room.  Break out the blocked doorway between the living room and dining room and you get a really nice lower floor layout.  Then there is a bedroom, a bathroom, another bedroom-ish-room that opens onto a sunroom / closed porch room.  3 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and a couple of decent sized closets. The basement was nothing to write home about but it was dry.  I think this one might need more work than we can manage though.  It would need siding, all new windows, all appliances (including hot water heater) about $8000 in plumbing and some repairs to the walls and ceilings.  Let's not discuss the floors...someone put vinyl floor tiles over all the hardwood floors in the entire building.  I called the listing agent to let him know that it had been broken into and the "upgraded plumbing" mentioned in the listing was no more.  It was a potential gold mine in a decent location but I don't think Ulfr or N want to bid on it.

We are also in the market for a new agent, I think.  After our 3rd failed bid Mr. Spiffy started pushing us to look on our own and he'd provide access codes for the properties but not join us.  That's actually what we did for Creative Floor Plan up there.  I just don't like that.  I'd rather deal with the listing agents directly than go on my own like that. So I think that's what we'll do for a while.  Mr Spiffy may have noticed my evasive answers Sunday night about our next meeting because Monday he emailed me a list of houses - something he has never done - that we might want to see.  Unfortunately for him, of the 7 he listed one was a 6-unit apartment building and another was Water Water Everywhere! which we've already seen (ulfrslady.livejournal.com/73364.html).  If he can't keep records of what he showed to which clients, I'm no longer interested.

I'm so burnt out on house hunting right now.  We're weeding through the houses in our price range and nothing new is popping up.  It might be time to make a strategic retreat but I really don't want to push this too long.  It's hard enough seeing houses in the evenings now, I can't imagine how difficult it will be once it's getting dark at 6 PM again.  We've got Entry Denied House scheduled for this weekend (if the current resident doesn't flip out again and decide it's not a good day) but if that doesn't pan out we may stop for a while.

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Adventures in House Hunting part 14: A Failed Experiment in Superstition

Jun. 2nd, 2011 | 07:19 am

Our last house hunting trip found us the most amazing house.  6 bedrooms, insanely gorgeous master bathroom, fabulous deck, minimal work needed to make it livable and the Ravens Fan Club Room.  This room was a complete surprise.  The listing  say the main floor contains living room, dining room and kitchen. There were pictures of the same.  The listing completely ignored what used to be the parlor, which has now been painted dark purple with a 4-foot Ravens (football) logo on one wall.  For all this, I'll paint over it!

We put in a bid on May 23.  I deliberately didn't post in an effort to not get my hopes up.  Didn't work. Yesterday at 4 PM the bank finally notified our agent that the bid was not accepted.  This is about 10 hours after Redfin updated the listing status.  It's kind of like being dumped on Facebook, to find out your bid was not accepted via a real estate listing site.

I'm really starting to get frustrated with all this.  I understand that bank-owned sales take longer but in the time they took to make a decision 4 other houses on our list went under contract.  Mr. Spiffy tells me it's not personal, it's just business but would it kill those bank people to remember that there are people on the other end of that bid, who are just looking for a home?

As I type this, the news tells me that we are at 9-year lows in house prices.  Too many houses for sale, not enough buyers and home prices down 30% below where they were in 2006 at the height of the bubble.  So why are we having such a hard time?  Why is it that every house we like has 3 other potential buyers?

*sigh* Back to start again.  I sent Mr. Spiffy a list of 15 houses in 2 zip codes and let him know we want to see them as quickly as possible.  Worst case, we knock out 2 zip codes.  Best case, we finally find our home.

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Adventures in House Hunting part 13: Third time's the charm?

May. 19th, 2011 | 10:02 am

Another day, another house bid.  Not saying any more until we hear back.

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No update today

May. 17th, 2011 | 08:18 am

No new houses yesterday.  Mr Spiffy called about the one that is at the top of our list and was told it's "not a good day" for a viewing.  What the heck?  It's a short sale.  The owners cannot pay their mortgage and are trying to avoid foreclosure.  How can it not be a good day for that?

Oh well.  He's going to try to get us set up for Wednesday or Sunday.  What a week!

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Adventures in House Hunting part 12: wherein I cannot think of a witty title...

May. 15th, 2011 | 06:54 pm

It was a dark and stormy night in Baltimore, when Mysterious N blew into town like a whirlwind of black leather.  She was here for the houses and the houses were running scared...

We tried a slightly new part of the city this weekend - more west, less north.  Turns out, not so much.

House 1 - Arsonists Dream:  1915 Colonial, 5 bedrooms, 2 baths.  The listing said 10 fireplaces.  The listing was wrong.  There was one, and it had been converted to electric.  Ick.  A quick tour of the main floor showed most of the pipes missing and evidence of a fire on the back porch.  Not happening.  That was probably the quickest house tour to date.

House 2 - Antique House: An 1800 Colonial with 5 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms.  Hardwood floors, pocket doors, fireplace converted to electric (what is with people who do this, anyway?).  The kitchen was completely bare, no cabinets, no appliances but the house was actually in remarkable shape.  The yard was small but didn't feel confined.  It needed a lot of work and we couldn't for the life of us find the water meter or intake pipe but the price was such that we could get the funding.  It's a definite possibility.

House 3 - Water, Water Everywhere!: So, remember how Arsonists Dream was our quickest tour to date?  Yeah, it didn't hold that distinction long.  We've changed our tactics somewhat and start in the basement.  If that looks good we go to the rest of the house.  So, we entered the 1920 Colonial through the front door (no key box, just the door screwed shut) and walked through until we found the basement door. N went down about 3 steps then came right back up.  There was 4 feet of water in the basement, from a recent pipe rip-out that also took out the shut-off valve. 

Overall, not one of our finest days hunting but Antique House had potential.  We went home and I looked up the sellers listing online.  Turns out it was auctioned off last week and the listings have not been updated.

More tomorrow?

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Adventures in House Hunting part 11: A Tribute to Kenny Rogers

May. 13th, 2011 | 08:59 am

"You gotta know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run..."

The listing for Mini-Winchester is still showing Active.  Not Pending Sale, not Under Contract.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the "other bid" was a bluff to try to get us to back down from our request for closing assistance.  Too bad for them.

I don't mind negotiation, it's an expected part of the real estate buying process.  But I will tell you now, trying to bluff is a Bad Idea on either side of the table.  Ulfr does not have the kind of patience required for calling bluffs.  He'll walk away first, which is exactly what he did in this case.  The bank wanted us to pay all closing and for closing to be 90 days from the date of offer.  We wanted them to pay roughly one-third of the closing and settle in 60 days.  We "might could do the 90 days" (to quote Mr. Spiffy) but that closing help was non-negotiable.  If the bank had come back and said "we're sorry but we just can't do it" then we would have gone about our business and that would have been the end.  But no. They had to go and make up a fake bidder willing to pay all the closing*.  So we walked. 

Part of me wants to go back next week and offer them 5% less on purchase price with the same closing requirements and see what happens.  Part of me just wants to move on.  It's not fair to the current owners, really. They will be responsible for the balance of their mortgage and bidding low on our end increases the payout on theirs and it's not their fault the bank decided to play games with the one man in the universe that you should just not do that with.  We'll see how Sunday goes.

*that is, they allegedly made up a fake bidder...

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Seen on the road

May. 12th, 2011 | 08:23 am

A license plate that reads "UMD LAW".  My initial reaction was "huh, law grad.  Well I guess zi can brag if they like..."  But upon reflection I realized it's like one of those "Baby on Board" signs, only this one says "Lawyer on Board - do not even think of tapping this bumper!"  This led me to think of other signs I'd like to see on the road, like "Menopausal Woman on Board" or "Gun-toting Lunatic On Board".  I'm a big fan of full disclosure, especially since we started house-hunting.

So tell me, internet-land...what would your warning label say?

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I've got Good News and Bad News

May. 10th, 2011 | 09:53 pm

Bad news - the bank accepted another offer on Mini Winchester.  They wanted us to let them keep our $3000 good-faith deposit for 3 or 4 months just in case this offer doesn't work out.  We declined.

Good news - More crazy houses to post about!

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Adventures in House Hunting part 10: Real Estate Codes

May. 10th, 2011 | 09:20 am

The real estate market can be a confusing place.  So for the benefit of the 20-somethings and 30-somethings that are contemplating their first home-buying, here are some things I've learned:

1) Read the whole listing: I've been using www.redfin.com/ which is a great site with lots of information, including several years worth of sales and marketing history.  Just because the top of the listing says it's been on Redfin 42 days doesn't mean it hasn't been on the market for 2 years so always scroll down and check.  Also, look at the copyright dates on the pictures.  Just because the house looked good in 2007 doesn't mean it still looks like that now.

2) Pictures will always make the rooms look larger than they are

3) Bring a flashlight, even if the house has power

4) Google Earth is your friend.  Check out the neighborhood, the parking, zoom out to see the 5 miles or so around the house.  Look for pawn shops, bail bondsmen and churches set up in strip malls.  These are things to avoid.

5) Code words.  The listings will use a lot of codes in an attempt to draw you in.  Here is a sampling, translated:

Cozy = small

Cute = really small

Charming = weird

Has a lot of character = really weird

Handyman special = previous owner watched way too much of Tim Allen's "Home Improvement" and not nearly enough Bob Villa.

Short sale = takes three times as long to process as a normal sale

Quiet neighborhood = you'll be the only residents under 65

Tremendous potential = trashed

Vintage details = hasn't been redecorated since 1973

Plenty of space for creative and imaginative floor plan = I actually have no idea what this means but if the current bid falls through, this house is next on my list of Houses I Want To See.

Spa tub in Master bathroom = better have a plumber on retainer

Priced to sell = seller is desparate

Don't let this one slip away = seller is really desparate

Make us an offer = seller may throw in their car to seal the deal

This is just a sampling.  Happy hunting!

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