Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Our Home Buying Misadventures - Part Four

So I was hoping to wait on this installment until tomorrow, but due to some other circumstances....it comes today.

Out of the hundreds of houses that we have seen, we did see a few that we thought could actually be our home.

Updated House. This house was a four bedroom, two bath home.  The garage had been converted in to the master bedroom.  It had a small living room but updated kitchen, fenced in back yard and other updates throughout the house.  The two things we disliked about this home were the lack of garage and it  was on a very major street.  It was reasonably priced and we had considered putting an offer in but we didn't act fast enough.  The home was on the marker for less than a week before it was purchased. 

Great curb appeal and I loved the little picket fence in the front yard!

Older Home in a Great Neighborhood.  We saw this house and quickly grew fond of it.  It had extremely tall ceilings, a large living room, separate dining room, and spacious bedrooms.  The home was about 20 years old.  There were a few updates that needed to be done (stretching or replacement of the carpets) and a few things that should be done to help the overall appeal (new appliances and tile flooring).  The home was priced above our comfort level, but we thought we would go ahead and make an offer.  Our first one!  There were many factors that we considered when it came to making our offer.  We weren't just giving a low number to see if we could get it for a steal.  We considered the age of the home, the things that needed to be done to update the home, the number of days on the market, and specifically the fact that you could buy a brand new home that was move in ready for slightly lower than what they were asking.  We were told these sellers were "very motivated" and we thought we would get the ball rolling with a price.  Our agent listened to our offer, kind of laughed at us, and quickly called us back and told us that when we had a "real offer to give" to call back.  That was our real offer.  We used comps in the area and gave a legitimate asking price.  (By the way, I would think that it is the agent's job to find the comps, not us, AND be our advocate.)
Needless to say, we are not proud owners of the home.  This is probably a good thing because even though we really liked it, even putting in the offer we did, made us a bit hesitant with the actual cost of the house.


For Sale by Owner.  So here we have the last house.  This house we looked at three or four times.  I loved the location of this home, the size of the rooms, the backyard, and the fact that it was move in ready.  It had three bedrooms and two bathrooms.  We thought about this house for weeks.  As our first home we were a bit concerned about FSBO but after looking at so many houses, I felt like this was the one.  We had a contractor even come out and look at the house with us to give us estimates on what it would cost to make a laundry room, rearrange the bathroom, and even add on a sun room.  Not that we would do all of it right away, but to make sure it was a good investment.  After looking at all of the homes, this was the one that always came back to the front.  So...we called the owners today and told them we were planning on dropping off the contract with our offer tonight.  Then we hear that they already received an offer this morning right at their asking price.  Nooooooooooo! 

The one that got away.

What I thought would be the end of our misadventures in home buying has now brought us back to the beginning.  I know this happens in the world of home buying, but our deadline of moving out is in just two short months.  Maybe we should take a step back from buying a house, but on the other hand, the rental market in this town is even worse than the buying market. 

Our Home Buying Misadventures - Part Three

So we are at the halfway point through our adventures.  Just remember, while there will only be five entries (give or take) about this journey, it really has taken us two years to get here.  Actually longer if you count the house search we had going on in Kansas.  Thankfully, we see the light at the end of the tunnel...until we move and start the process all over again.  This is our first house though.  I feel that there is some sort of significance to it and maybe that is why we have prolonged our search as much as possible.

There are two main reasons we have had a difficult time with this process.  The prices of the homes in our community AND the real estate agents/Realtors.

Let's start with the real estate agents/Realtors...oh yes, there is a difference between the two.  Well, there is if you ask them, but I really don't see much of a difference face to face.  Let me start by saying that we never signed an exclusive contract, or anything like that, where we said we would only buy a house from "Agent X."  We worked with each agent for approximately six-nine months before the relationship sort of dissolved.  We were also very clear with each agent, up until this last one, that we were looking at homes to get an idea of the market but would not buy unless we found a great house at a great price.  (Wow, I make it sound like we worked with six or seven people, but it has really only been 3.67 people.) 

What I Want/Expect from an Agent
1.  Someone who is actually interested in me and my family.
2.  Someone that will show me a home that I have found online, even if they don't think it is "the right fit."
3.  Someone who doesn't constantly say, "oh, I know you will love this" or "it will grow on you."  No I don't and no it won't.  Oh, and don't say, "welcome to your new home" every time I see a property.  Do you really think I want blue shag carpet in my new home?  Be honest!
4.  Someone who is on top of the market and will send me information about homes that fit my profile the day they come on the market.  (With as quickly as some of the homes in the reasonable price sell...if you don't show up that first day you are out of luck.)
5.  Someone who doesn't ask me what the amount of loan we have been approved for and then ONLY show me homes that are up there.  We don't want to spend that much!  Just because we have been approved for it doesn't mean we can actually pay for it.
6.  Someone that will actually be an advocate for me.  If I make an offer on a home, don't laugh at it.  We have done our research and it is a legitimate offer. 

The Agents

Special Agent One we met at an open house.  We were brand new to the community and didn't know where we wanted to start our search.  She took charge and showed us a few homes that were in our price range that also happened to be in pretty good neighborhoods.  We looked at a dozen or so homes over the course of a few months, but after we started looking a bit closer to the homes we noticed that many of the homes she showed us were her listings (commission!) or her daughter's listings (keep it in the family!).  We would ask to see other homes that were listed online and we usually got the run around.  Finally, after she showed us the same house three times (and we never asked to see this particular house, it was always a last minute thing) we decided that the relationship wasn't going to work out.  We cut the strings and waited a good amount of time before looking for a new agent.

Special Agent Two was also someone we had met at an open house, but then our paths seemed to cross more and more through activities.  We decided to continue our house search with him.  He knew the community well and was willing to show us all of the houses we had requested.  We were constantly updated on new homes that were being listed on the market and were happy with how things were going.  While we never found the home that was "the one" we thought we had found the agent that was "the one."  Alas, he decided to take on a new job and thus we were back to looking for a new agent.  "Nooooooooooo!" 

Special Agent .6 was a person that showed us two homes.  One home we loved and seriously considered putting an offer on it (check out Part Four) and the other home was terrible.  After we saw the second home we thought, maybe we should go ahead and put an offer in on the other home.  Only to find out that someone else was putting their offer in later that afternoon. 

Special Agent Three is currently our agent.  She has showed us quite a few homes in the community.  We have seen all sorts of homes in differing price ranges, however, when we finally did put an offer in on a home (again, check out Part Four later) we were basically laughed at.  Hmmmm....not sure what the future has in store for this one.

Special Agent .07.  This agent we have only worked with once.  While Agent Three is out of town Agent .07 is showing us a house on her behalf.  Man, oh man, why didn't we work with this lady before!  In the one home that we looked at (which was a dud) we gained so much information!  She was honest and open about the house prices and price per square foot.  Told us some good neighborhoods that would always maintain their prices due to their proximity to the university.  She also told us some information about a for sale by owner home that we had been considering.

Whew...this is longer than I had wanted so I will keep this next part short.

House Prices in My Community
I could really complain about the prices in my town for quite some time, but I am going to keep it short.  This information came from Trulia and the data is less than five years old.  The average household income here is approximately $38,000.  A good rule of thumb that I have heard is to keep your  house around 3x on what your gross income salary is.  So, that would mean the average person is here should only spend about $115,000.  Yet, the average listed house is $141,000.  Now that might seem like a reasonable price to you, but many of the homes that we have looked at in this price range, and slightly higher, have such a small amount of square footage that for many of them you are paying over $95.00/sq foot.  The average square foot price in town is supposed to be $58.

It seems like the housing crunch has hit everywhere but here.  There are 350 homes for sale in town.  Some streets have three or four homes for sale in just one block.  Why are the houses SO over priced?  


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Our Home Buying Misadventures - Part Two

I've had some great responses from my first post about my family's home buying adventures.  If you haven't read the first post, check it out.  You can comment via Facebook or through the page.  Let me know what you think.

I had a friend come up to me and say how much she enjoyed reading about the "bad homes" and asked me what some of the good homes were.  Hmmm...we had a hard time coming up with that kind of list.  I know that everyone has different tastes and budgets. Unfortunately, our budget limits the amount of taste we can afford :) While you don't need to know all of our financial information...all of the houses in the "positive" list are anywhere from $30,000 up to $130,000 OVER our mortgage approved budget (which was still higher than what we wanted to pay, but I'll get to that later.)

The Top Five Four "Wow, these houses are really nice
but there is no way that we could actually afford it" List

4. The one that was $56,000 OVER. This house was nice. A great new neighborhood in a popular school district. The home was less than three years old. It did, however, have HOA fees. This house also recently sold for just $10,000 less than the original asking price. 

3.  The one that was only $44,000 OVER.  This house was great.  It had plenty of space (four bedrooms), three bathrooms, a large living room, and a nice fireplace.  After checking out Zillow, I found out that it sold for $30,000 less than the original asking price.  That is a very motivated seller!

2.  The gobs of newly constructed homes.  There is a development just a few miles down the street from where we currently live.  We LOVE most of the homes that they have built.  Great layouts, beautiful cabinets and counter tops.  I really like the mudrooms!  Besides the cost, the biggest problems with these homes are: lack of square footage, kitchen layout, and tiny backyards.  Most of the new homes being built have such small square footage.  I think they use the space well but we don't have a ton of stuff and I wonder where it will all fit.  The kitchen layouts are a bit odd too.  I know that the open concept is really "in" right now but some of the dining areas are so small that I don't think we could fit our table in the space.  That is the only nice piece of furniture we have...it stays with us.  The last thing we wish these homes had were larger backyards.  The plus side would be you could mow your lawn in about ten minutes, but we really do want room for a swing set for the boy.

1.  The dream house.  The house that topped the list was amazing.  At only $130,000 OVER our price.  We of course did not go in to this house thinking that we could actually buy it.  This was open one weekend and we jumped at the chance to see how the other half lives.  This house had four bedrooms, four baths, two living spaces, and topped over 3,000 square feet.  It had great landing on the second floor that could have been used as a fun reading nook.  The most interesting feature of this home, however, was the indoor exercise pool.  Yeah, indoors.  "Umm, Julie, I thought you didn't know how to swim."  That is true, BUT it's an exercise pool.  I saw it as a very expensive wading pool for Ezra :)  It really was a dream home.  This listing was up for quite awhile and they eventually dropped it in price by $30,000.  Still after no one bought it they pulled it off the market.  Not quite sure how houses that expensive can sell in our community.  (Again, more on that later).

So these are the nicest houses that we have seen.  As I mentioned earlier, we went in to these homes via open houses on the weekend.  We didn't ask our realtor to show us any homes that were that far above our comfort price. 

Stay tuned for future installments about our misadventures.  Still to come:  the rant on house prices for our community, Realtors, making our first offer, and hopefully...finding (and purchasing) "the one."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Our Home Buying Misadventures - Part One

As of this very moment, my family has looked at over 200 houses in the town that we currently live in.  This, thankfully, has been over the course of two years.  I know most of these houses so well that if I saw a picture of the house I could tell you what I liked or disliked about each it with a 90% accuracy rate. 

We have looked at newly constructed houses and ones that have been around for almost a hundred years.  Dream homes and reality homes (meaning those that we might actually be able to afford).  I won't bore you with a list of ALL of the houses we have seen, but we have come up with a "Top 10 List" to share with you. 

Top 10 Memorable Houses

10.  The two story house with converted garage.  This house had a lot of space.  The problem was they decided to convert part of their garage in to a laundry room.  Not a bad idea, but they ruined a two car garage.  They now have a huge laundry room and a garage that could fit a couple of motorcycles.

9.  The smoker house.  Smell is important to me.  There are just some smells that no amount of Killz paint or air freshener can cover up.  One day we found ourselves on a street that had four open houses.  We decided to just walk from one to the next and came across the smoker house.  A really beautiful home with a lot of space.  The problem...it SMELLED.  In fact, that was the first thing the realtor told us.  The owner, a smoker of 40+ years, was already selling the house thousands of dollars less than the other homes on the street and was willing to pay for new carpets.  Ummm, that's great, but as soon as you turn the air conditioner on, her nasty habit will come out of the vents and ruin your new carpets.  No thank you.

P.S. The faux brick is not cool.

8.  Owners with multiple dogs.  This really encompasses several houses that we have seen.  If you are trying to sell your house, please understand that seeing your home literally torn/chewed apart by your multiple dogs is NOT a selling point.

7.  House on 10 lots.  This house we had hoped would have a lot of potential.  It didn't look too bad from the front, had a lot of square footage, and was on a massive lot that actually encompassed 10 city lots.  Once you opened the door though, you were in for a treat.  The memorable features of this home included about seven types of flooring used throughout the house (laminate, wood, brick, tile, and multiple colors of carpeting), a random bedroom that was only accessible by going through the garage, and a pool that was filled with green slime.

Here you can see the stone floor with carpet inlaid (it is not a rug).

6.  The caterpillar house.  That pretty much explains it.  This house was COVERED with thousands of caterpillars.

5.  The 1960's retro house.  This house was stuck in the 1960's...literally...with acoustic tiles on the ceiling, a pull out divider that you would find in a church fellowship hall, colors on the wall that scream "outdated," and light fixtures that you never knew existed and you wonder how you would replace the light bulb when it goes out because they haven't been made since 1959.

Note the wood paneling...everywhere!  Acoustic tiles for the ceiling.

4.  The hoarder house.  We should have known ahead of time that this house was going to be a treat.  Our realtor at the time was very hesitant about showing us this house, but it had four bedrooms and was in a desirable location.  When we walked in to the house we were surrounded by clothes, toys, and trash that reached up to my waist (at least in most of the rooms).  We were barely able to see the path that was cleared for us.  After a very quick tour of the house we jetted out to our car to find probably a dozen cats creeping out of the woodwork.  We had several surrounding our car and it almost felt like the cats were a gang creeping up on us and ready to steal our wallets.

3.  The castle house with a turret.  This house we saw during the National Open Houses weekend last year.  There is no way that we would have driven past it and said, "yes, that is exactly what I want!"  This has a random turret that is only accessible by a small spiral staircase in the middle of the living room.

2.  Creepy doll house.  When you try to sell your house you want to declutter as much as possible and take away items that might be too personal to you.  For example, you want to take out the family photos and Star Wars collection...OR...you could just leave your wonderful collection of porcelain dolls out for all to see.  This house had, easily, over a hundred dolls scattered about.  Tiny dolls and dolls the size of small child.  The creepiest ones, however, were the ones sitting on the back of the toilet.  Now, I know the dolls don't come with the house, but just seeing it on the toilet knowing that it stares at the owner of the house every time they use the bathroom...that is just creepy!

There are at least five dolls hidden in this picture...can you find them all?

And now we come to the most memorable house...

1.  The serial killer house with a squatter.  We originally wanted to look at this home because of the size and price.  What we soon found out was it would make the perfect house for a serial killer.

The listing that I would create for this home, to appeal to the everyday serial killer...
"Need privacy?  This is the perfect place for you!  Miles outside of town, this home gives you the peace and quiet you have been looking for.  With over five acres of wooded land you have all the space you need.  Perfectly secluded with no neighbors to worry about.  The tile in the home makes clean up a breeze."

This house was rather creepy.  We tried to get in and out as quickly as possible.  What made this house even creepier though was the fact there was a squatter living in the house.  The realtor was told this house was completely empty and yet in the converted garage there was definitely someone living there.  Luckily they weren't there when we arrived, but I can only imagine what they were doing there.  I don't think there were any missing persons reports.

**Please note that I did not take any of these photos.  These were all taken from Zillow.com.

Monday, May 7, 2012

...And We're Back

I would like to think that my little hiatus was full of vacations and living the high life, but alas, it was full of trying to sub in my local school districts, being sick, and taking care of family.  But I am back for now...at least until life gets a little bit tougher and I decide to sleep through it instead of come to terms with it.

So, I was trying to think about what I have accomplished in my little break.  After reading through some of my 2012 Goals I realized, I really did get a few things checked off my list. 

One goal checked off the list was to pay off the credit card.  Well, we did it...that is of course, until some other emergency comes up, BUT I can say that it was done at least once this year :)

Another goal that was partially checked off was to find a job.  I tried to substitute teach in the local districts (there are several in the immediate area) and it was tough.  Substitute teachers get paid so little for the work that they do and the children that they have to put up with on a daily basis.  You never know what kind of classroom you will have and there were many days that I came home in tears.  I made it through about two months and then I realized that I was barely breaking even with the cost of putting my son in daycare.  So, I decided to stay home.  That is my job right now.

My last goal that I can check off the list is getting rid of 300 pounds of clutter.  By February I was already so close to the 300 pound mark.  (Yes, at that point in time I weighed everything that was going out the front door.)  Now, after a few months and two garage sales, I can say that I have met my goal and exceeded it.  Over 500 pounds of stuff!  That includes: clothes, books, toys, broken items, craft items that were NEVER being used, borrowed items that finally were returned, and tons of random items.  Yay!  I'm sure that I could actually hit that 1,000 pound mark by the end of the year (especially with a house move in the next two months) but I'm done keeping tabs on every pound. 

P.S.  I would like to say that my house looks noticeably cleaner, but honestly it doesn't. 

Anyway, that's what I've been up to for the past few months.