I am exhausted, completely drained. The past five days have been a frenzy of frustration. Now I understand why buying a home is such an ordeal.
Sunday- I arrive late, and am fortunately able to stay with one of the residents and her fiancé for the week. I didn’t sleep much the night before because I was up late preparing a portfolio of all my accounts for my lender. Over at least the past six weeks I have been looking at area properties and reading and re-reading a question and answer book on home buying. I had thought that I was a well-prepared woman, ready to waltz into a buyer’s market and take my pick of many cute, available older homes.
Monday- I met with my realtor at 10 am, and was horrified to discover that most of the 20 properties that I had previewed online and compared against one another already had contracts! Apparently, www.realtor.com is not updated regularly! After over an hour of scheduling appointments, we hit the road. Eight hours later, with only a short break for lunch, we called it a day. Only two homes had any promise—most I was able to immediately eliminate after simply driving by and seeing obvious structural problems. Many more failed after mold, natural gas leaks, and shoddy repairs surfaced. The highlight of the day was jogging at a nearby lake in a cool breeze at sunset with the resident I was staying with.
Tuesday- My realtor was busy with an art class in the morning, so I met with the bank and got my paperwork in order. That afternoon’s appointments were even worse, as we were subjected to crazy paint jobs and landscaping, suspiciously smelly carpets, and railroad tracks that were practically in the side yard. The jet lag starts to kick in, and I realize that my parallel parking skills are subpar as I try to interpret the 3rd type of automated parking payment system that I have seen in this city. That night, I search frantically online for more housing options, and come up with very little.
Wednesday- Another half-day with the realtor. The condos and townhomes in my price range are slummy at best. We find an adorable house near a pond with ducks, but my realtor suspects that it is over-priced for the area. We call to reschedule appointments at the two houses from Monday to find out that one now has a contract. Apparently, her agent acted in his own best interest by telling her to accept an offer from one of his other clients so that he can get both commissions. She said that she told him that I seemed very interested in her house, but he insisted that she had to take the offer right there and then.
I drive back and forth between the two remaining properties and time the distance from the hospital. I am left with a cute two-bedroom Tudor/colonial that’s overpriced, but half the distance from work, or a three-bedroom bungalow that I love, but involves driving in a large U-shape to avoid the bad part of town. After stewing on it for a few hours, I decide to make an offer on the Tudor/colonial. I tag along with my friend on a few errands to check out the largest mall in town.
Thursday- I meet up with the realtor and we check out a few more places that I either hate or are in disrepair. We visit the Tudor again and scope out the owner by talking with his inexperienced agent who reveals more than he should. Back at my realtor’s office, we research the property to find that it is $50,000 over the price of three-bedroom homes in that particular neighborhood. Also, it was originally a HUD home that he bought for an extremely low price two years ago. We find two more properties in the computer and schedule early-morning appointments as I’m leaving town tomorrow afternoon. I resign myself to making an offer on the bungalow in a sketchy part of town, but it now has another interested buyer. At this point, I’m still not sleeping more than 4-5 hours/night and have no appetite.
That evening, I meet up with several of the residents in my program and am recruited to play in a softball game. It has been 15 years since I have touched a softball. I remember that the last game I played, as the only thing I proceeded to catch in left field that night was a grasshopper in my mouth during a very poorly-timed yawn!
The game was fun, although we lost 2-10. The other team showed up with matching shirts, knee socks, and metal cleats—yikes! I only had two opportunities to hit over the course of seven innings and both times I actually hit the ball on the first swing—even making it on base once!
After the game, we went to Hooters for beer and wings, which was a first for me. Yes, the wings were good, but the waitresses weren’t particularly anything special. Frankly, I think they were all only A/B cups. One of them was also at least five-months pregnant—not a good combo with a push-up bra and hot pants! I guess maybe they have a policy about you can only work there as long as you can fit into your uniform? Anyway, everyone in the program that I have met so far seems pretty cool and laidback.
Friday- I meet up with my realtor, an am totally down-spirited. However, the first property we see that morning is a reasonably-priced colonial in a neighborhood that I like that is still close to the hospital! The second place turns out to be a dump, so feeling elated, we go back to the office to make an offer. As we are finishing up the paperwork, the seller’s agent finally returns our phone call and says that two other offers were submitted the night before, and that he’s meeting with the sellers at lunch to review them.
My agent insists on submitting our offer in person and we go to the same restaurant for lunch. I end up raising my offer $10,000 to the high-end of my budget. A half-hour ticks by, and we hear nothing. In the meantime, I nibble at the freshest fried fish that I have ever had and awesome macaroni and cheese. An hour passes, and my stomach is in knots. My agent’s phone has rung at least a dozen times, but they have yet to call. Finally, they call and ask to split the difference between my offer and their listing price, saying that “She’s having a hard time letting the clothes dryer go as it was a wedding present.” Seriously, what the hell is that about? I decide it is not worth it to lose the deal over another $1800, and go for it.
We walk over to their table, and a massive flurry of paper signing ensues. The wife is in tears, and the couple is noticeably stiff around each other, so we’re thinking it was a divorce and selling the house is kind of the final step. My agent asks what took so long, and theirs says, “Oh, we were just eating lunch first.” What an ass! He knew we were sitting there waiting on them!
I am relieved that the search is over. After spending a week looking, it would have been such a bummer to go home with nothing. The house is a bit bigger than I need, but much nicer than anything else that I had looked at. And, while my realtor has been telling me that decorating has little to do with value, I have other issues with having no time and no stash of cash, so for me move-in condition was a huge factor.
So after a week of searching, I find out that I have a house only three hours before my plane leaves town!
I have a new respect for realtors out of this whole ordeal—at least for mine. Everything is so volatile and between all the driving and lunches, she would have been out quite a bit of money had we not found anything. Overall, I feel really good about my purchase, and if even if the market slows down some, I think that I will be ok.
On the way home I got re-routed since Continental airlines couldn’t get me to my connecting flight on time. I should have known, since on my flight reservation lists them as being 10% on time. Whatever. I have one more flight this month—but for a real vacation, and then I should be back to one or two flights per year. I like seeing new places, but for me getting there is not half the fun—particularly via giant germ tube.