Friday, February 25, 2011

House Hunting: Contract #3

When we decided to move on from Officer Next Door, I went full steam ahead with searching for homes in our area. We weren't in a big rush but when I start researching something, I go all in!

I knew our wish list: 4 bedrooms, 2200+ square feet and a play room. I was willing to look at older homes (especially if they were ranch-style or had a lot of character) but I mainly wanted to focus on homes built in the late 90's and newer since we're not super handy people and we didn't want have to worry about fixing anything out of warranty. I also wanted granite countertops and stainless steel appliances but I knew we could always add them later, too.

I had saved every home builder flyer with prices and specs of things in our area for all the years we had been in the apartment so I had a general idea of what was available but I was still nervous that I wouldn't be able to find what I wanted in our price range or that my expectations were too high for our first house (but God is good and faithful!).

So I set out looking on all the home search websites and put my terms in their search boxes. Lots of lots of houses popped up and I immediately found some I wanted to see. We would drive around several nights each week and look at houses for sale and Mike would bring home flyers that he had picked up driving his area at work.

When we finally decided to dive in and start actually going to houses Mike called our realtor to let him know what we wanted to see. As it turns out, our realtor was out of town for the two-and-a-half weeks. This was not good news for an impatient girl like me!

I would spend nap times and bedtimes searching high and low for houses that fit what we were looking for. We would pack the kids in the car and drive all over the city and the suburbs evaluating neighborhoods and prices and all the same things that we had talked about with Officer Next Door (except now we had to pay full price :().

We spent a lot of time driving in the areas close to Mike's work since those are the areas we're most familiar with, we really wanted a short commute for him and there's a lot of new construction in those areas right now.

As we would drive through neighborhoods that still had model homes, I would jump out, talk to the sales rep and bring back the folder with info for Mike to look over. Mike and the kids were so patient to sit in the car while I would ask a million questions to the sales reps about the neighborhood and pricing and of course (my favorite question), "What kind of sales are you running right now?".

On one of the model houses I went in they didn't have what I was looking for in our price range. She told me she could show me one of their homes in the neighborhood that was slightly smaller than what what I was looking for and that would give me an idea of their quality, etc.

I talked Mike into driving over to the house that had the same floor plan (it was in the neighborhood) and while we liked it, we knew it wouldn't be big enough for us to stay very long. The sales girl suggests that they do have a bigger floor plan that would work for us but she'd have to check with her people (we all know how that goes!) to see if they could get the pricing right.

We went to check out the bigger floor plan and loved it! She checked with her "people" and managed to work it out to where it fit our price range and the house would be ready in 5 months (late-December). It was in a great neighborhood with a community pool and park, close to Mike's work, had 4 big rooms and big closets, a play room, whatever finishes we wanted (since we would custom build) and it came with all the appliances plus a new tv, washer/dryer and refrigerator. We were so excited!

We prayed about it but the promotional sale we would be buying on closed in the next few days so we needed to act quickly. And we had no realtor in town to give us advice! But since we had been under contract with houses before (even if we didn't buy them :)), we were pretty familiar with all of the terms and we had spent some time researching lots of other houses, areas and prices, as well.

We talked about it, went over finances again, drove the neighborhood again and again, looked up more houses and then agreed that this would be a great first house. We called the rep up to tell her that we were coming over to sign paperwork and bringing her a check!

I asked her on the way over about how long she thought it would take and she said maybe 1-2 hours, nothing more. Famous last words. As we drove over we realized that I didn't have my license and they would need a copy of it. Mike was fine with it saying that I could run in and sign a bunch of the paperwork and ask questions while he ran home to get my license and blew some time. That way when he came back, we could switch spots signing paperwork and then head home. But it didn't really go like that...

The sales rep and I went upstairs to pick out finishes for the house (everything from brick color to tile) and it took longer than I expected. Then when we went downstairs, the sales girl was having trouble getting all the paperwork to go into the computer the right way. She was going back and forth asking me which lot we wanted (which took a drive around the block to figure out) and then calling her manager to ask for this concession or that.

Mike would come in to check on me and I would give him "the look" (the "she's not competent to sell me Girl Scout cookies much less a house" look). He took the kids to get dinner, to the park and entertained them with the very little amount of things we had in the back of the car. Poor Mike.

At one point we switched and he came in and signed papers and finally, FINALLY we left. It had been 6 hours. Mike was done (livid, frustrated, tired, whatever you want to call it). It was 11:00 pm and he had to be at work the next morning at 6 am.

So the next morning I get a voicemail from the sales girl. Her manager has some questions about the contract and "everything's fine" but they need more money to secure the deal. Ooh. So not what I needed to hear after the night before and certainly not what Mike needed to hear. I pretty much told her in the first phone call that it probably wasn't going to work (I already heard Mike's skeptical voice in my head).

The amount of money that they wanted was very minimal. She said with all of the upgrades that we wanted and the oversized lot that we wanted that her manager just wanted more money down to make the deal more "solid". It was a reasonable amount to ask but that wasn't the point at all. After sitting for 6 hours signing paperwork and being told how serious everything was over and over by this sales girl, we were not about to start handing over more money on day one.

When I told her it probably wouldn't work she told me that maybe if we moved up the closing date, it would be better. Everything we signed the first night was supposedly set in stone...until the next day. We didn't want to risk them trying to make changes in order to make the deal more solid down the line or to pressure us into paying more for the house than we could afford just because we were caught up in the excitement of our first house.

This was one of the houses that I talked Mike into (he talked me into several, too) but it wasn't hard to walk away from the deal at all. We had felt strong going into it but it was peaceful to walk away, too. We knew that when we found the perfect house that we would know it. So that's the story of contract #3.

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