This Old House
A long day at work, a new Prison Break, and the Sarah Connor Chronicles mean I'm going to stay in tonight. While I sit with my wine, I thought I'd finally share the drama of buying what I hope will be my house. Sadly, I still don't have the keys. I think we'll do this by timeline.
Early November 2007 I've found that the best way to apartment hunt is to walk around the neighborhoods you like. You'll see everything in the paper and on Craigslist and then some. So I was out trolling University Heights -- still a gayborhood, but not Hillcrest (the Castro of San diego) -- when I saw a cute little house on the corner with a "For Sale" sign. It also said "SPA". I wrote down the address, but assumed it was well out of my price range.
When I started working with my agent, he showed me houses I wanted to see, as well as places he thought might help my perspective. Which I think is code for "get me to spend more money". He told me his brokerage was selling a house in the area, and took me to the very one I had seen. I was right on two counts -- it was cute, even on the inside. And it was out of my price range. I pretty much dismissed it.
Late November 2007 I saw my house advertised on Craigslist for my loan pre-approval limit. It was more than I wanted to spend, but it was getting in range, and I had given up on the one other house that I liked. So we worked out a bid that was below the asking price, but not outside the realm of reason (usually 90% of the asking price).
Oddly, they "countered" at an even HIGHER price. Apparently Craigslist means nothing official, and they had listed it with a "value price range" of about $40,000 -- the Craigslist offer being the low end. I was ready to bag, but he found out they were just using their offer to make their real price they wanted right in the middle. I countered a little below that, and they accepted. It was more than I had planned to spend, but I was suddenly in Escrow on a house I really liked.
It turned out the owner of the house worked for Countrywide, and wanted him to take a job in a new city. So the house was being sold through a relocation company. We worked with them, but were getting info from the original owner. More later.
Early December 2007 When we agreed on a price, the "seller" requested I only take 7 days to complete my inspections, instead of the usual 14. My agent thought this was odd, but we just guessed they wanted to close before the end of the year for tax purposes. There was an odd line on the listing...garage conversion done by prior owner. No known permits, buyer to verify. Seemed simple enough, but after bouncing between the City permit office and the County Tax Assessors office for 2 days, I found out that the garage and a good chunk of the driveway had been turned into the master bedroom and two baths. With NO permits.
Armed with this infomation, I countered that they could: (1) get the permits; (2) give me more time to research the possibility of permits; or (3) drop the price significantly. They said no, and I started signing papers to close escrow.
December 21, 2007 This was the day I would have closed on the house, had the permit thing not come up. I thought I was done when my agent called to say there was one more form. "But before you sign it, let me ask you something." He told me that he and the other agent were willing to drop their commissions, and the sellers were willing to move a little. Would I take the house for $25K less -- not as low as I had asked, but not bad. I took a night, called Dad and some friends, and said "Yes!"
Unfortunately, they couldn't get the wording for the money right, and everyone went on vacation.
January 3, 2007 Everyone was back, but I still didn't have an official offer at the agreed price. Then my banker called to say that my loan rate lock was going to expire. It turns out the the person originally running the show at the relocation company didn't have her shit together, and had never gotten the offer approved by Countrywide, who had assumed the deed to the property when they moved their employee. It also turned out that there was a second mortgage on the property, so Coutrywide was going to take a bath on my property. Fortunately, my banker got me a 7 day lock extension.
January 9, 2007 Countrywide approved the sale at the agreed price, presumably figuring that taking a bath now would be better than drowning later, given the state of the housing market. They finally got the wording (though not the numbering) of the counter offer correct, and we were back on. They required that closing occur "on or before January 24." We picked before, like ASAP, since the rate lock on my loan was running out. Again. The escrow company sent a notary to my house to sign away my life on the loan papers, and I thought we were done. I even did a final walk through with my agent, and the previous owner had cleaned out the place and left a nice note. Hence the last blog.
January 10, 2007 I get a frantic call from my bank. Apparently, the sellers hadn't signed the papers. Turned out that they hadn't paid off the debt on the property, so I couldn't get the deed. Fortunately, my agent and banker worked out that my lock was good until at least...
January 11, 2007 Happy Birthday, Mom! In an oddly related event, Bank of America (my bank) is buying Countrywide (who owns my house). Which means that if we wait long enough, B of A can just sell itself the house through me. In the mean time, Countrywide has decided they're not going to get their shit done until the 18th. I was LIVID. I was ready to close out, go home, and start over. Until I talked to my banker. He thinks they're wishing they hadn't chosen the bath, and they're HOPING I will back out (they can't break the escrow). He told me to hang in if I like the house, because he thinks I'm getting a sweet deal.
January 14, 2007 I'm here waiting, hoping to get my keys Friday, but knowing they may drag this out until the 24th, when Dad and I are supposed to be in wine country. As we know, patience is not one of the angels of my personality -- it hardly qualifies as a "better demon". But I'll make it -- especially since my agent got me a 30 day rate lock extension, so I really have nothing more to worry about. I'm just Villanova, running out the clock (trivia buffs, name the year and the opponent for blog bonus points). I hope some of you will come down and see the trophy if I make it.
More pictures still to follow, God-willing. I would give the address to google, but sadly I have an A4A stalker, so I'm a little careful these days. I'll probably take the outside pic down shortly, but I'm all giddy right now.