Many moons ago, my wife started complaining about our house. She wanted more room & a pool. She would grouse about this or that and often say things like “I don’t want to retire in this place”. We always would scour Zillow for fun & entertainment and at some point we found a house or two that really piqued our interest.
The first one was maybe .5 miles away. It had been abandoned and we drove by it a million times. Kari would often say “We should see what’s up with that house” because outside it was nice enough and the yard was HUGE. Plus, we could see a pool screen in the back.
One day, a for sale sign popped up, so we bugged our neighbor who’s a Realtor. He got us in and the inside was a complete disaster. It required a total gut & go, but the bones of the house were good. The guy who bought it was flipping it, so we tried to get him to stop the flip & sell it to us as is. He’d have made ~$25,000 on the house and we’d have had enough cash to gut it.
Instead, he put a new roof on it, mowed the yard, and then wanted $100,000 for his “work”.
So we chuckled and went back to our lives.
The Zillow habit was hard to break. We didn’t want to leave our area, so the pickings were slim and it was sometimes fun to see the complete shitholes that people lived in and thought were worth $300,000+. But one day, a house showed up that really caught our attention. Every picture showed a good house that needed just a little paint & décor update but was huge (>1100sf more than our house) with a nice pool and a beautiful view of a lake. The only glitch was it was out of our price range and the kitchen looked like something the Brady’s would have considered dated.
Our neighbor was talking to us one day, we mentioned the place, and he had said they had dropped the price. Considerably. We looked, and they had come down over $40,000 although it was still a bit high. He got us in, and we loved it – minus the kitchen. After doing some serious number crunching, we realized if we could talk them down a bit more & sell our house, we’d have enough cash left over to upgrade the kitchen and the house would be awesome. It would be tight for a while, but it’d be awesome.
We got them to lower the price to where we could get it, but they wanted us to close fast. In order to do so, we had to sell our house in parallel, meaning we had to get a temporary ‘bridge loan’ on our home’s equity to cover the 25% down payment we wanted to make. This had a huge risk – if our house didn’t sell in 2 or 3 months, we’d be making 3 mortgage payments. But our house was well priced, completely updated, and in a good area.
There was hell trying to get 2 loans going at a time. We have damn near perfect credit and our debt-to-income ratio was ridiculously low since we were debt free but juggling them was tricky. Everything was progressing smoothly when the bank hit us with “By the way, that house is in a flood zone. You need flood insurance and we estimate that at $3000 annually”.
Everything got put on hold while we paid to have an elevation done. At this point, we had already put down the escrow, paid for an appraisal of our house (which, after we got, we raised the asking price on our house!) to cover the bridge loan, inspections on the new place, and an appraisal. That was several thousand dollars of expenses and now was in jeopardy as we couldn’t afford several thousand extra of flood insurance.
Turns out, the house is “in” a flood zone, but not “in” a flood zone. It was fine. The insurance was piddly and not a factor. So we started everything back up.
Then the wife’s car blew up.
All the $ we had been saving up for her new car had been used to finagle the things we needed for this house. We used what was left over to get her car, and called off the house. There was no way we could risk 3 mortgages AND a car payment (and the eldest is now in braces).
However the sellers said they’d do a contingency sale. We got to keep our contract as a ‘pocket deal’ and if we sold our house before they got an offer, we could buy the house. This was always an option, there was some miscommunication on the whole ‘quick close’ thing. Oh well, we were in a better position nonetheless. We were out a bit of money if they got a buyer first, but if not, we were where we wanted to be without any more risk.
At this point, we hadn’t had a single bite on the house. Oh, we had LOTS of people exclaiming they absolutely had to have the house only to disappear, never to be heard from again.
The wife, of course, had to have the house one day and wanted to burn the for sale sign the next and never leave. There were many times she was trying to just call it off, but we had to stay “on the market” until someone else bought the new house from under us so that we’d have a chance to get some of our money back.
And that happened. We had had a few positive showings with 3 ‘repeat’ showings. But one day I opened up Zillow, noticed my saved search was different, and saw the house was off the market.
Someone bought it.
We’re done then. That was they house we wanted, and now it was gone and we didn’t have any offers anyway. Did I say we didn’t have any offers? Oh, I meant the day they sold their house, we had 2 offers come in.
The first was a lowball “no way in hell” offer, but the second was serious. But the 2nd couple had to be in by the end of September. But we didn’t have a house to move to. So our Realtor tried to find us a house.
That… didn’t go well.
You see, our house is actually quite nice. The bathrooms & kitchen all have custom cabinetry (& I do mean custom) and granite. The master bath has a massive travertine shower with a glass door, dual sink / cabinets on opposite sides, a water closet (Poop in private!) and a custom built window seat that can also be where a tub can sit if you desire.
For us to find a house that was comparable in size with a pool, well, let’s just say those kinds of upgrades were sparse. So everything was outdated, smaller, in a bad area, or just overpriced. We found this one older home that had tons of character, but was easily $40k over what it should have been.
So, we told our Realtor, thanks but tell the other couple we’re done.
Then he shows up on my wife’s birthday to say “Let’s go look at new construction”. She said OK (and she was the one in near tears that she wanted to stop this whole thing).
So we looked. The houses were nice, but no pool and at the very tip top of our budget. However, new homes have no closing costs and are so energy efficient that their utility costs actually make a massive difference in your monthly expenses. But no pool. And carpet. But large, and nice, totally move in ready and they were willing to knock $10k off the price and new homes come with 1% lower realtor’s fees which is a few $k in savings and the numbers almost matched up.
Wife decided she didn’t want to do a 30 year on that house. No pool. And carpet.
So we were out.
‘Cept the realtor said he thought he could get the older house down to our price range.
I discussed with the wife. I said “For $X, we would have enough cash left over and could fix the pool, remodel the master bathroom (it was more like a coat closet with a commode & a shower) and do the lawn.” And do a 20 year which we could ostensibly finish in 15.
She said “OK. Now we’re back on for the umpteenth time.
Realtor is haggling with the owner who a) was just a flipper and had never lived there and b) was in Jamaica. Finally he gets him to $X. Wife looks at the contract and says “Where’s the pool fix & the yard repair?”
See, when I lay out a plan and the wife says “Ok”, what she’s saying is “Ok, you’ve laid out a plan” not “Ok, let’s do that”. You’d have thought I’d have learned this by now.
Now it’s a penny pinching extravaganza to see if it’s possible. At the 20 year monthly rate, it was going to be tight, and we were going to use the proceeds from our house to pay off the eldest’s braces then do the fix up, but well there wasn’t as much as she wanted to do that plus we’d have to pay for appraisals & inspections again plus escrow and where was that money coming from and why did I say we’d do this and…
At this point, I’ve now handed the wife off to the Realtor with explicit instructions that they not get blood on the carpet. I hadn’t gotten a thing right this whole time, she can take over.
She’s semi-ok with the numbers. Not happy and she’s not “In love” with the place like we were with the house we lost, but it would work. There was a lot of risk with an old house, but at least the insurance wasn’t $4000 a year.
The insurance was $4000 a year.
So, we quit.
Finally, finally quit.
There is no For Sale sign in our yard. Our house is no longer on the market. We are not buying another house.
This sucked. Big time. For the foreseeable future, we will remain in this house as I’m not sure I ever want to do that again. Hell, writing this out doesn’t even scratch the surface of the pulsating ball of suck this whole thing was. I’m pretty sure my neighbor is pissed off at us and we’re probably blacklisted & will never have another Realtor that will talk to us again.
But I like my home. My kids were born here. The best memories of my life exist between these walls. We now need to paint and redo the flooring. New carpet in the bedrooms & office, nice laminate everywhere else. I need to replace the inside doors & fix the millions of things that houses need fixing from time to time as well as rebuild my garage since I tore it apart assuming we were moving.
There’s relief that there’s no ticking time bomb of WE GOTTA MOVE NOW over our heads any more, but I can’t help but feel a bit melancholy. We did get a little of our money back from the first house (we sold them the appraisals & inspections), but we didn’t get a pool. Or a view of the lake. Or the music room I wanted.
Still, my house has my family in it. And that’s the best place to be.