Saturday, February 26, 2011

House Hunting: A Final Officer Next Door Bid and Contract #4

I keep looking at the blog with it's lack of pictures on the last couple of posts and it looks so boring! So, sorry for the lack of pictures (I stuck one in here just for fun) and all the little details but it's a part of our story and the only way I'll ever remember all these little things to share with the kids someday when they go to buy their first houses!

Well, we picked up and moved on quickly after seeing that the contract on the new home wasn't going to work out. While we knew we could have probably worked it all out and made it to closing, we just didn't have the sense of peace that we really needed to have on our first house.

Our realtor came into town and when he did, boy did I ever have a list for him! It was a little crazy since we knew we would have the kids with us and we really wanted to give each house a good look. I had done all the homework to make sure our list was narrowed, even calling realtors to make sure homes were still available before I put them on our list so we wouldn't waste anyone's time.

I'm not 100% but I'm pretty sure that first day we looked at 17. If the house was occupied, Mike would sit in the car with the kids while I ran in with our realtor. If I gave it the thumbs up, we switched and then we would compare notes. We knew what we wanted so we were in and out pretty quickly!

We looked at a few sets of houses and I wanted to love them all (I really wanted to find something!) but we would scratch things off our list for one reason or another. I thought it was so funny how Mike and I have lived together for years but what we love in a house and decorating is so different! He hated houses with red dining rooms (I like it), I like houses with lots of hallways and closets and unique features (he couldn't care less), I thought renovating would be fun (he thought it would be work) and the list goes on and on. It's amazing we ever agreed on a house (and yet we did several times!).

As we were looking at houses, we still kept trying at Officer Next Door. It was a little complicated because our focus was all over the place. After we spent several trips out looking at houses, a really good house popped up on Officer Next Door. It was exactly what we were looking for in our search but normally it would have been way out of our price range (without the 50% off). The price was right and it was on a golf course. Mike loved it! Awesome houses are pretty rare on Officer Next Door so we checked it out.

Each time we would consider an OND house, it was such an emotional process. We spent a lot of time praying about each house and we were always torn about whether it was God's plan for us or not. Clearly, none of them were but with this house I think we felt like we had been led there more than any others. It had so much of what we were looking for that had it been closer to Mike's work, we probably would have bid on it if it was on the market.

It was quite a distance away but we drove the area several times and thought it would be a great opportunity. When the bids came back, we hadn't won again. After so many no's on OND and the 3rd contract not working out, we were a little gun shy about getting excited with any more houses.

We did keep looking, though, and we found another home that we loved. It was in the same city where Mike worked, built in 1998, was a great price and the whole kitchen had been recently remodeled. I loved the exterior and the layout and I could immediately picture us having Christmas mornings in that house (and I hadn't felt that with any of the others).

On our first tour of the house, I told our realtor I was sold. I loved so much about it. There were some issues, though. When we arrived during our appointment window to see the house our realtor couldn't get his key to work. When we came back to see it, the owner was home.

I was able to talk with him in the yard while Mike toured the house and he told me all about their situation. He was self-employed and his income had dropped significantly in the last year. They couldn't afford their house anymore and had to do a short-sale (where the bank agrees to take less than is owed on the house).

When Mike came back, we both agreed that we wanted to make an offer. The price was way below the comparables for the neighborhood and had just recently dropped (it wasn't in our price range before). We wanted to get the house before someone else did!

Our realtor told us all about the short sale (he was buying a short sale at time, too!). We had done some research on our own and based on that and our realtor's experience with buying a short sale, we were prepared to put it in our bid and wait months for a response. Our response was back within a week and our bid was accepted!

We were thrilled but also really nervous. We thought we would have time to let it all sink in and months before anything would happen but it moved so quickly. We started doing all of our documents but there was a wrinkle in the seller's financing. They had taken out a 2nd lien on the house to pay for all of the kitchen remodeling and the 2nd lien holder wasn't willing to settle.

Our closing date kept moving back again and again but Mike and I were fine with it. We were grateful to have more time and we were excited that our bid had been accepted. We had an inspection done and everything was fine. The homeowner was home for the inspection (kind of weird!) and he took Mike and I through the house and told us about all of the things that he had done for upkeep. You could tell from talking to him that he was super compulsive about the house and had records for every little thing that had been done.

The homeowner also went through all of the things that he was going to leave for us since they had moved to an apartment. He would leave ALL of the lawn equipment, all the paint for the interior and exterior, all the shelving in the garage plus a tall storage cabinet, a refrigerator in the garage and a desk in the office. There was a fancy gazebo spa in the backyard and he even offered to come over and do the first cleaning with Mike and leave all the chemicals. He made a list and signed it in front of Mike and told him that he would fax it to his bank to show that he would be leaving those items with the sale of the house. We were thrilled!

Things were looking good and we even took the kids over to take a picture in front of their new house. Through the whole process, Mike and I had kept our home search to ourselves and didn't mention anything (except an Officer Next Door house or two) to our families and friends. We were excited to finally share our good news!

But as time went on, the 2nd lien just wasn't going anywhere. Mike and I were both getting antsy and as adding an addendum to change our closing date approached again (for the 3rd time), I started thinking about looking at other homes. If the 2nd lien wasn't settled in time for our lender to complete the paperwork, we wouldn't be penalized for not closing and could be released from our contract with no further obligation.

I had really taken a break from looking at houses since we were under contract and it had been months so there was a new crop of houses this time around. I would look at them and then get overwhelmed at starting over. It's such a big process evaluating it all!

Each time we would look, we would reevaluate and go between wanting to look at houses on land to wondering if we should spend less to make our budget more comfortable to how far were we really willing to drive to get more bang for our buck and on and on...

I put together another group of houses for us to look through (some we were seeing for the 2nd time). We set out with our realtor and made another day of it. We trudged through houses but ultimately decided that we liked the one we were under contract with as we toured each one. We were a little discouraged throughout the day but then at the end of the day was a house that had never been on our printouts before. It had recently been reduced and it was being sold by the builder.

Our realtor talked to the selling agent and he said several offers had already been put in on the house but we could still see it since it wasn't under contract yet. We'd all heard this line before so we were pretty cynical but we went to tour it anyway. When we got there, we had to sit in the car because there was already another family touring the house. It was then that we realized that they did have other offers.

The neighborhood was brand-new and this house was the last house left to be sold. The price was great and it seemed too good to be true. The house had granite, stainless steel, 5 bedrooms (bigger than most any house we'd seen) and it was a great layout. I was a little disappointed because it was a more open floor plan than I prefer but it did have a lot of great stuff that I loved.

We toured the house several times and always saw other people there. We were pretty beat down from all of the negotiations with our current contract and we didn't want a big hassle of going back and forth on yet another contract (and we didn't want it messing with our budget). Our spirits were pretty low and we were seriously considering just not extending our contract for another closing date and waiting until after the holidays to pick up the home search again.

The brand-new house didn't go under contract in the next week and Mike's parents were coming in so we decided to take them along and show them both houses. As we toured them both, I made it really clear that I loved the one we were under contract with. I felt like it had so much character and I loved that it was in the same city where Mike works. Mike, on the other hand, loved the new house we had seen. I agreed that it was really great but I was also really nervous knowing that so many other people were interested in it. I was definitely interested in getting opinions from fresh eyes (Mike's parents).

So as we toured both houses with Mike's parents, I was just sure that they would see it my way. They didn't- they were all in favor of the new house.

I really wanted to like the new house but I was just really nervous about all the contract details again and some of the things about the house. The floor plan was a little more open on the downstairs than I would have preferred and I didn't love the color choices of the kitchen (cabinets, granite, floors) like I did with the other house. The master closet was a little small and the master bedroom was a lot smaller than the other house, too. They weren't major things but I knew we would be in the house for quite a while and I didn't want buyer's regret.

While we were touring the contract house, though, we noticed that several things had changed. All of the furniture had been cleared out and it was clear that furniture had been strategically placed for the showings to cover large patches in the carpet. My favorite was the office. The office was a forest green color...until they moved all the furniture and paintings out and we realized that they hadn't moved anything when they painted over the original red paint. It was forest green and red patchwork walls!

Many of the items that the seller had told us he would leave (and would be faxing over addendums to the contract to reflect it) weren't there. The fridge, desk and large storage cabinet were all gone. He said his wife had sold them all in a garage sale and he couldn't control it. We were disappointed about the condition of the house (and the additional costs the carpeting and paint would mean for us) and that the seller hadn't kept his word about leaving the extra things in the house or adding them into the contract.

We were really torn about what to do. I was leaning more and more toward the new house and Mike was totally leaning that way. We knew there were a lot of people in and out of the new house so we had to act fast if we wanted it. And after a lot of thought, prayer and consideration, we decided to go with the new house.

So...we canceled contract #4 and started on contract #5!

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