A couple of weeks ago, the 8th anniversary of our home-ownership came and went. I realized it later while I was looking for a before picture of the dining room, which led to feelings of regret over not having taken the time to better document those days, in both photographic and written forms. We bought our house during a time when I wasn’t blogging publicly. I’d shut down my old blog, and while I continued posting in my private LiveJournal (oh, LiveJournal), I had no plans to do…well, this. That was the right decision for me at the time, but I’m sad now that I don’t have a good record of that time in our lives. Then, as if on cue, I got an email from the real estate website Trulia asking if I’d be interested in writing a post about some aspect of my home-buying experience for part of a series of postcards they’re compiling. Pretty perfect timing, no? So I said yes.
It’s hard to know where to start with the whole saga without this turning into a third of my eventual memoirs (working title/epitaph: Why Am I Wearing a Cardigan? A Life in Sweaters), but I feel like a little back story is necessary. When Evan and I got married in 2004, we were living in Brooklyn. We’d had to apartment-hop three times in three years, thanks to landlords who decided to sell their buildings. We moved further south in the borough each time, eventually winding up in the beautiful but desolate Red Hook neighborhood (this was before IKEA and Fairway came to town, mind you). Our commutes became hour-plus journeys by bus and subway, grocery shopping felt impossible, the walls of our illegal loft were paper-thin, and it was just time to go.
Based on little more than my love of Pete Seeger and a few day trips to Dia:Beacon, I suggested we look for a place to live in Beacon, New York. There’s a Metro North station there, which would have us to Grand Central in not that much more time than we were spending traveling to work from Red Hook. We rented half of a two-family house in the village, and we started our new life as Beacon-dwellers who took the train to and from Manhattan every day for work.
I’m not sure what prompted our decision to look for a house to buy, but after about six months of renting, we started looking at houses for sale in Beacon. This was in March 2005, nearly the peak inflation point of the real estate bubble. Home-flipping and renovation shows were taking over reality TV, and mortgages were being passed out with wild abandon. In cities like Beacon, where gentrification had been taking place for several years already, house prices were going up, up, up. I don’t think we really even considered whether we wanted to live in Beacon—we just felt like we had to do something. So we tried. And we failed.
We looked at every house for sale in Beacon that was close to being in our price range, which I think totaled about four houses, tops. Others that had been listed in our range immediately went into bidding wars and sold for much higher prices. Only one of the ones we managed to visit seemed like what we were looking for (if we even knew what we were looking for—in hindsight, I’m not sure that we really did). That was the one we called the Mint Box: built in the late 1800s, covered in green vinyl, and wreckovated in just about every way possible—right down to a slapdash side addition that was sinking due to a faulty foundation. I don’t think we were in love with it, but we were blinded by the idea of buying a house. It wasn’t about finding the right place, it was just about finding any place. We’d lost all sense of perspective. I think this happened to a lot of people around that time—that desperate sense of needing to buy a house. Fear of missing out taken to extremes.
We made an offer. We had the house inspected. We hired a lawyer. The seller made a counteroffer. We made a counter-counteroffer. And so on. There were lots of problems, things that needed to be negotiated and repaired and cash that needed to be put in escrow—it was complex and it was messy. The house had been vacant for a long time, and the children of the previous occupant were the sellers. Communication was slow. In the midst of all this, we found out that there had been a leak in an outdoor oil tank, which is a big deal. A very expensive cleanup had (supposedly) already been done, but it was paid for by the the seller’s insurance company…who in turn would have forced the sellers to accept a very low offer on the house in order to recoup their costs. Then the sellers refused to produce documentation from the EPA that the cleanup had actually occurred, and also refused to allow our lawyers to speak to each other. It was a disaster, simply put, not helped by the fact that our real estate agent was not doing her job. She didn’t seem to fully understand the home-buying process, or even really care much about whether or not we bought a house at all. We felt like we had no allies to represent us, and we were in over our heads with something we clearly couldn’t resolve ourselves. As much as we wanted to believe our real estate agent and attorney and mortgage broker and inspector and everyone else involved had our best interests at heart—and legally, they’re supposed to—that wasn’t always the case.
So…we walked. I don’t think this gets talked about much because everyone imagines the home-buying experience being like House Hunters, but knowing which house is “the one” is as much about knowing when to let go and move on as it is being aware of your must-haves and wishlists.
Instead of feeling defeated after losing the Mint Box, we were relieved. Yes, we’d lost the cost of the inspection, but we were given a strong dose of healthy perspective on the whole endeavor, and we finally took the time to do what we should have done from the beginning: We spent time talking about why we wanted to buy a house, what kind of house we wanted to own, and where we wanted the house to be. We set a budget based on what we wanted to spend, not how much we could afford if we stretched our financial limits to the max.
Perhaps the most important thing we figured out was that we didn’t have any particular attachment to Beacon. I grew up in the Hudson Valley and we both felt connected to the Hudson River, and we knew we had to be able to commute to work every day. So what about Newburgh? Why hadn’t we been looking on the other side of the bridge?!
My stepfather, Bernie, has lived in Newburgh for about 70 years, and my mother moved there 20 years ago, so they of course proved to be an invaluable resource when we started looking at houses. Bernie was more than happy to educate us about the City of Newburgh, and to point out significant buildings and their individual histories. We saw block after block after block of majestic Victorian mansions, Arts and Crafts bungalows, and modest, turn-of-the century brick row houses. We saw families hanging out on their front porches, talking to the their neighbors and looking out for each other. We also saw a lot of abandoned properties and all of the classic indicators of urban blight. It was the combination of these things—the architectural beauty, the feeling of a welcoming community, and the desperate need for care-taking—that made us fall in love with Newburgh. We wanted to be a part of the city, and to make a home for ourselves there. It felt right.
The house search in Newburgh was very different than it had been in Beacon. For starters, we wound up with a great real estate agent this time. He was a property owner in the City of Newburgh, and he was relentless when it came to pulling listings for us to check out. He understood what we were looking for, and he wanted to find the right house for us. At that time, many of the house listings in Newburgh showed little more than a tiny, exterior thumbnail image, so we really had to rely on his familiarity with the various properties.
We were not prepared for what we’d see when we started to enter those properties, however. Unlike in Beacon, where the housing stock was primarily being turned over by owner-occupants, the houses we looked at in Newburgh were mostly a combination of abandoned, bank-owned foreclosures and single-family houses that had been converted to multi-unit rentals. Many of those houses were fully occupied, often by large families with children. And there we were, a young couple looking to swoop in and buy the whole place just for ourselves. It was upsetting. We didn’t want to uproot those families, who in many cases were completely unaware that their homes were even for sale until we walked in the front door. Did we want to be a part of that? Or did we want to try to make Newburgh better for everyone, including the people who already lived there? These weren’t things we’d ever had to think about before—certainly not when we were getting priced out of neighborhood after neighborhood in Brooklyn. When it came to abandoned and condemned properties, we not only felt overwhelmed, we also knew it would be a losing battle trying to get a mortgage that would make sense for us.
We refocused our search, and eventually found a very nice Victorian row house that had already been renovated! It was a flip project, a formerly-derelict building that had been bought and totally rehabbed—a rarity in Newburgh. The renovations weren’t our taste, but that was all cosmetic. A lot of the original details had been removed over the years, but it was still full of character. The idea of moving into a place right away was very appealing. Remember, at that point neither one of us knew ANYTHING about renovating houses, so we didn’t know what we were capable of. The house was within walking distance to the new commuter ferry that was about to start running to Beacon, too, which was a huge plus. It was listed higher than all of the rehab projects we’d been looking at, of course, but the price was still within our budget (and still much less than the would-be nightmare we’d run away from in Beacon).
So: Offer made, offer accepted, inspection done and paid for, mortgage broker involved, mortgage secured, attorney hired, deposit made…closing date set! YAY! Except not “yay” at all.
The day before our expected closing, our mortgage broker called to tell us there was a problem. Apparently the bank he’d secured our loan with had waited until the last possible minute to pull comps (prices that other similar houses in the area had sold for recently), and they’d rejected our previously-approved mortgage. See, this house was a rarity. It had already been renovated, but it was being held up against unrenovated houses that had sold for half or even a quarter of the price. The bank appraiser wasn’t interested in seeing the house in person or considering the extent of the renovations. They were not going to approve a mortgage that high for any house in that location. Period.
The mortgage broker assured us that this was no problem, and that he’d hook us up with a new bank right away. And then the same thing happened again.
So there we were, having made a deposit on a house that we were not going to be able to buy. It was awful for the seller—who we had met and liked, and who was not at fault and was probably going to wind up having to sell the house at a loss—and it was devastating for us. We had to fight to get our deposit back (we finally did, months later), all the while feeling very sad and hugely disappointed that we were losing another house. This time we really felt it, too. This was in October, the week of my 30th birthday, and I remember lying on the floor in the living room of our rental and just sobbing. The lost money, the stress, the anticipation, the worry, the disappointment…it was too much. It’s easy now to look back and say, “Oh, it was just a house,” but when we were all caught up in the moment, it was crushing. At some point, the seller called us directly and offered to rent the house to us with an option to buy under the terms of our current contract after one year. He was confident that the real estate market in Newburgh would’ve caught up by then, but we weren’t willing to take that chance.
Thinking we were about to close on a house, we’d obviously already given notice to our landlord in Beacon. So where would we live? Well, fortunately for us, my mother and Bernie very generously invited us—including Bruno, two ferrets, and a gerbil—to live in their basement while we figured out what the hell we were going to do. Were we going to move back to Brooklyn? Were we going to look for another rental? We were still in love with Newburgh and we still wanted to own a home there, so we decided to keep looking. We also got smart and hooked ourselves up with a local credit union, whose policy is to pull comps on houses at the beginning of the mortgage process, instead of the day before closing. Smart, right?
On Halloween 2005, we went to look at two houses. One of them was a vacant, grand Victorian that was way out of our budget (it was later condemned and eventually purchased at auction by some of our amazing neighbors, who gave it the love it deserves), and the other was its back-door neighbor—a two-story brick row house virtually identical to the four others attached to it. House number sixteen.
It had been a HUD house for a while, and then it was bought by a guy who thought he’d renovate it and sell it for a bunch of money. Instead of doing that, though, he rented it to some friends of his and let it fall further into disrepair. I guess he got tired of them asking to do things like fix the boiler, and eventually they found another place to live and he put the house on the market.
(With the exception of the kitchen photo, I don’t think I’ve ever shared any of these before! They are terrible quality, I know, and wish I could go back in time for an hour or so and take better ones. Alas, this is the best I can do. Incredibly, these photos make the house look like it was in much better condition than it was…)
We were only about two steps into the house when we saw the white marble fireplace for the first time. I remember Evan and I shooting looks of excitement back and forth to each other. The more we saw of the house, the more we knew it was THE ONE, all-caps. It clearly needed a lot of work, but almost everything original was still intact. All of the rooms were perfectly proportioned. The backyard was a mess, but it was a good size and had so much potential. Cast iron radiators, original windows and doors, a big clawfoot tub, ceiling medallions, 10″ baseboard moldings, pocket doors, fireplaces in every room…yes. YES! And it was below our budget.
We made an opening offer. We waited nervously. And then the next day (THE NEXT DAY!) a huge article about Newburgh appeared in the Sunday edition of the New York Times entitled, “Finally, a Confirmation of a Rebound.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
I don’t really have a word for what we felt when we saw that article, but there was definitely panic involved. And, of course, the seller also saw the article—as did some mysterious “investor” who supposedly wanted to buy and flip the house. Of course. So we upped our offer and continued to wait…and…our offer was accepted! (I mean, obviously, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Spoiler alert!) Yay! Mortgage approved! Comps approved! Yay! Yay!
Nope, still not “yay.” Here’s the part in the story where I resigned myself to living in my mother’s basement forever. I mean, there are worse things (she is a really good cook), but things were feeling pretty bleak. The seller had decided to not sign the contracts because his girlfriend told him he could get more money if he waited longer.
SERIOUSLY, MAN? Yeah, seriously. And then the seller disappeared.
A month or so of teeth-grinding frustration later, the seller materialized and we were allowed back into the house to do our inspection. During the inspection, all kinds of Bad Things were discovered, but none of them were surprising—except, of course, the fact that there was an active carbon monoxide leak and a broken boiler in the basement that was supposed to have been replaced so his friends/tenants didn’t die. Sigh. (He later tried to accuse our inspector of breaking the boiler.)
Yet another month passed. Clearly there had been no other interest in the house, but the seller continued to drag the process out longer and longer. We still don’t know what was going on, exactly, but we continued to hold out hope because we loved the house so much. We didn’t care about it being an investment for us—we cared about taking care of the house and doing our part to improve Newburgh. At this point it was vacant in the middle of winter, and we didn’t want it to suffer burst pipes or a roof collapse and be condemned like so many other houses in Newburgh.
On February 28th, 2006, we got a call from our attorney letting us know that the seller had finally signed all of the necessary documents, and that our final walk-through and closing would be on March 2nd. We celebrated a little bit, but not too much—after all, a lot can happen in two days.
Almost exactly one year from when we started looking for a house, the big day arrived, and, in the middle of a snowstorm, we drove to our credit union for the closing—which was attended by no one other than our agent, who didn’t even need to be there—and signed away our bank account for what we would come to call Door Sixteen. On the way home (home!) our car died—which is exactly what you want to have happen on the day you make the biggest purchase of your life, right? I’m pretty sure we just laughed, because we couldn’t handle any more crying.
Then we ran upstairs and ripped out all of the revolting, moldy carpeting in the back bedroom, because ewwww.
So here we are, eight years later, still in love with our house and with Newburgh—and each other, plus another dog who joined the ranks. Our house has not proven to be a blockbuster investment monetarily. Maybe it will be someday. We didn’t have any reason to think it would be, and since we have no intention of selling our house, that’s A-OK. By 2010, the New York Times had decided that the confirmed rebound of 2005 had become “Newburgh, Where Gang Violence Reigns,” and then in 2013 they said Newburgh “Seeks Renewal Without Gentrification”—which, thankfully, is the most accurate of the three articles (gentrification, of course, is a rather massive subject in and of itself; one that I haven’t even really begun to touch on here). We invested in the City of Newburgh’s future and in the well-being of our community, and we feel very responsible for the care of our own little piece of it all. Our house is in a wonderful neighborhood where we’re surrounded by a mix of multigenerational Newburghers going back a century, families who moved there in the past decade, and everyone in between.
I’m so glad we hung in there and didn’t give up. I think about that every single time I look at the living room fireplace. Door Sixteen is our house, our home—it will outlive us, and we are so lucky to be a part of its history. Everything we do to improve our house is as much about protecting its future as it is enjoying our present.
So, your turn, assuming you made it through this beast of a post: If you’ve bought a house, what was the searching process like? Were lots of tears involved? If you’re searching for a home now, are you pulling your hair out in anguish? I mean, feel free to share even if you had a good old time, but everyone knows drama and anguish is more exciting.
I am blogging on behalf of Trulia, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Trulia’s. To learn more, visit: http://on.trulia.com/postcards.
because of your blog, we’ve driven around newburgh wondering if we could buy something there. we’re in brooklyn right now, wondering how the hell we’ll ever be property owners. this post is so insightful. thank you.
Lindsay, it’s definitely worth hooking up with a good agent and seeing what’s out there if you’re interested. Feel free to contact me via email if you’d like a referral! 🙂
p.s. If you don’t already read Newburgh Restoration, it’s a great resource:
When we bought our house last spring, it was a nightmare. We stumbled into a real estate market that was heating up out of nowhere, and every house we bid on ended up going for way, WAY over asking price. And most of the buyers we were competing against had 100% cash to put down. It was awful. We spent a lot of time crying in frustration too. I mean, it all worked out, and we love the great mid-century place we found, but what a stressful journey to get there!
100% cash down! Oh my goodness. Let’s just say we were at the opposite end of the spectrum financially, haha. So glad you finally found your place!!
We are opening escrow today. After 8 years of (really hard!) work we are selling our flip – which we had expected to keep for 2 years, tops, but then, well, 2008 nipped those plans in the bud. WHAT HOUSING BUBBLE? I asked my realtor when we inquired about selling it. ha! Haha! But now here we are. Finally able to sell the house – and suddenly, after only 3 weeks on the market, doing so – and now looking for a new one.
Hold me closer, Tony Danza. I’m terrified, but your blog will be fun to refer to as we begin our next renovation project.
Ooooh, good luck!!! And congratulations, that’s wonderful.
Aw, I loved reading this. Scott and I are always curious to hear about others’ home buying process, since ours was also a bit of a nightmare (what we thought was The One fell into foreclosure during the “waiting period”, and my little heart was so, so crushed) – but the good news is that everything happens the way it’s supposed to. Because we lost The One (which, mind you, was not even in our desired neighborhood!), we found The Real One IN our favorite Chicago ‘hood the day after the bad news. It was a rocky road to the closing table – but now? We have a little yard for our 2 dogs! And a work-from-home studio for this girl. Everything fell into place.
Funny how the things we didn’t know we wanted from a house can wind up being the parts we appreciate the most, right? I think about that all the time when it comes to renovation projects. What on earth would we be doing with our free time if we hadn’t bought a fixer?! That wasn’t our plan at all, but I’m so glad it worked that way.
We had watched the market in Rhode Island for a few years and then the options in our price range started dwindling so we knew it was time to act in fall of 2012. We had a whole list of “must-haves” and we ended up looking at 13 houses. My husband and I both were expecting to experience some sort of really strong feelings when we’d find “the one” but funny enough, when we both walked through the final house for the first time (a little arts and craft-ish, Cape style) we both just felt very calm, at peace and “at home” in the space. I think our Realtor was getting nervous, thinking we didn’t like yet another house because we weren’t exhibiting the usual “excitedness” of a young couple who had actually just picked out their first home.
So my husband had to settle for a one car garage (he’s rebuilding a vintage car) and I had to settle for laundry in the basement and there are other things we thought we HAD to have but didn’t get, but right now, fourteen months later, dozens of gallons of paint, tile, woodwork, etc. later, we absolutely love our home.
One thing to mention is that our home was an estate sale and all of our neighbors apparently adored the previous owner and were very saddened by his death. It feels as if my husband and I are always having to justify decisions we make to the neighbors because to them we are impostors in their beloved Richard’s house. Last spring, I took off our storm door and repainted the front door black. Our neighbor invited herself into our lawn and commented that , “oh, it’s so strange to see that front door. Rick sure loved maroon, I don’t know how he’d feel about black.” I felt like screaming, “We aren’t Rick! We didn’t even know him! This is OUR house now!”
You can pick the house, but you can’t pick your neighbors!
Oooh, Jaclyn. I hear you. We have super-awesome neighbors for the most part, but it’s been an uphill battle for peace with one of them—only for the opposite reason from you. Apparently at some point a previous occupant of our house had a very big, very aggressive dog (I can testify to the damage it did to the woodwork inside the house), and it wreaked some sort of havoc on a neighbor’s property. That incident has stuck in his mind for many years, and it’s what he associates with our house, even though we of course had absolutely nothing to do with whatever happened. At the same time, we’ve tried to appreciate the fact that he’s a busybody and is forever looking out his windows! I feel safer knowing he’s on guard all the time, even if it’s us that he’s suspicious of. 😉
Awesome post……..my story only took a year to come together but I know your pain! I divorced in 2007 and went through the head and heart ache of selling a home as the real estate market tumbled….I bought right away in the village of Goshen and love my little cape cod with all of its quirks! The joy of home ownership is making it a reflection of yourself and you are doing a great job! Kudos!
Oh, hello, neighbor! Goshen is such a pretty town. I’m happy you were able to make yourself a nice life there. 🙂
Oops, didn’t realize there is a Goshen, NY! Embarrassed.
She could’ve meant another Goshen! Maybe it’s me that should be embarrassed for assuming, haha.
The first house we looked at was an amazing old barn-turned-farmhouse. It was a short sale, and we really thought about putting a bid on it but weren’t quite ready financially—a few weeks later we found out someone had put down a cash offer. We soon learned that the woman who placed the offer was Anne Bass. Anne Bass is a NYC socialite, and the divorcee of a cheating oil tycoon—she has used part of her endless amount of money buying property in Kent, CT, starting with one piece, but she is slowly buying up every adjacent property and building a natural fortress. She buys properties, renovates the homes back to historic perfection, locks them up, and lets them sit. And that’s exactly what she did with the barn-turned-farmhouse AND the farm next door.
Its good when Anne wants to buy your property that you own, but sad when she buys something you had your eyes on. Cash is king, as they say. In the end, we ended up with a lincoln log cabin kit house, that we’re slowly turning into something cooler. 🙂
Oh my GOODNESS. I just googled Anne Bass and read about some of the local outrage over her real estate maneuvers. She sounds like a real treat!
I’d forgotten about it until you mentioned it, but there was a brief period of time where we considered buying land and building a log cabin kit house! They can be very cool, I think—it’s all about loving that wood. 🙂
Anguish, indeed. This was a hard post to read. We’re on the brink of starting the offer/counter-offer process ourselves, hoping to be in a condo by this summer. Reading posts like this do bring a dose of reality as a foil to the HGTV/TLC world. I’m so happy you finally found the all caps, THE ONE, and love the way you’ve brought the home to life with your own sense of style.
Good luck with your condo, Staci! And thank goodness it’s not lie House Hunters in real life—can you imagine being so upset about a wall color?
I’ve been through the house buying process 3 times! The first was on my own and really scary. It was straight forward enough but once I had the keys I walked into an empty house and felt rather sick. That was back in 2001 and was relatively cheap compared to today’s inflated prices. My second house buying experience was with my husband shortly after we married in 2004. Again relatively easy and painless, although we purchased it from a friend so there were a few cringey moments but all ok.
Our last purchase was in 2008. My little boy was just 6 months old and we decided to move to a quieter location. Sounds a little like Newburgh, in that it was a village with elderly folk who have lived there since the year dot and new families who have snapped up the houses as they became available usually due to the elderly passing away or going into care. We bought our house from a retired couple who’s 2 boys had flown the nest and started their own families. They had lived in the house for 40 years! Exactly what we plan to do too. They moved to a bungalow in the next village because the shops and amenities are closer and the community was more tight knit.
Buying this house was the trickiest for us because we wanted it desperately. Houses didn’t come up for sale often and when they did they sold within days… even during the crash of the housing market. Also having our home to sell made things more complicated and the owners were getting a little jittery and almost threatening us that if we didn’t move quickly they wouldn’t move at all. It transpires that his mum had just passed away and they wanted to be in the new place for Christmas. Well it didn’t happen but we managed to exchange the first week of January! The bad news was that we still hadn’t sold our other house… the good news was that a week after we had 3 offers!!!! Phew. It meant at least that we could do basic renovations without having to live in it for a couple of months. The first thing we did was rip out most of the carpets, strip the wallpaper and re-plaster and changed the ugly brass and marble fire for a Victorian style gas fire.
Six years later and we have almost finished the renovations on our home, although I don’t think my home will ever truly be finished because I like to change things around a bit.
It’s really fascinating hearing other stories and learning how each country differs. I know in Scotland and some other parts of England the system is different too. Houses go to sealed bids. I’m so glad we haven’t had to go through that. You can clearly see the love you have for home and it is beautiful.
I can’t imagine the stress of trying to tell one house while buying another. How lucky you didn’t wind up having to carry two mortgages for more than a few months!!
My husband & I lived in the same 2 bedroom (750 square feet) apartment
for 18 years. We also managed the building & still do . We would dream of owning a home but
with no family help…we kept saving & then something would come up. Our daughter lived there for. 7 years & our son almost two. All of us in 750 square feet & our Chihuahua Gucci. Finally it just became too small, too loud & we began house hunting!! In the year we looked we looked at over 100 homes.
The Seattle area was out of our price range so we kept looking further North. At one time we had an offer on 3 houses. One offer was rejected, one offer was held up in a short sale nightmare( house was falling apart because it was vacant for the entire time we had the offer…8 months!) The day we rescinded our offer on the short sale they accepted our offer. So frustrating!!!! But thanks to our agent we found the perfect home for us. Not flipped, 2,656 square feet on a 1/2 of an acre!!! So the year long search that had me in tears every week after all the nightmares we looked at (one home in a great neighborhood had been destroyed by pit bulls) we thank our lucky stars everyday!!!! Our payment is affordable because we held our ground & bought it for well under asking price, thank you timing! Now we just have to work on it more :)))?
Thanks for sharing your amazing story!
Oh my!! 100 homes…I don’t think I’d be able to keep them straight after a while.
Friends of ours bought a vacant house in Newburgh with a lot of issues, and whole thing must have taken two years before they actually had keys. It was a nightmare, and the house was vandalized pretty badly while they waited for the entire process to work out. (It eventually did, fortunately—for them and for the house.)
Good luck with your place!!
This is the best post you have ever written. Thoughtful, reflective, and so honest. Well done.
Thank you, Elisabeth. I’m glad you liked reading it! It’s something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time.
We live in the Bay Area where the home prices are astronomical. A gorgeous house in our neighborhood just sold for 230k over asking! I may never be able to buy here. Luckily I love our rental (1920s Spanish style), and the owner doesn’t plan to sell anytime soon. I would like to be a homeowner some day!
We will never be able to afford a house in Brooklyn (or elsewhere in NYC), and sometimes I wonder if we would have had any desire to buy at all if none of our landlords had decided to sell. My first Brooklyn apartment was pretty great, with a garden and everything. I think we could’ve been happy there for a long time!
I’m involved in my first house-buying experience right now! I’m single and trying to do this on my own, which is a whole big thing in itself. A couple of weeks ago I had secured my house, but after some testing revealed a bad radon problem, I had to walk away and begin the hunt again. Your house keeps me hoping that I’ll be able to find my dream place soon!
Hats off to you, Nikki—I hope you have some friends or family that can be there for support when you need it. Good luck finding the right place (without radon!) soon.
We wanted to stay in our neighbourhood, but were running out of space in our half of a duplex that we owned. One day a few doors down, we saw a few men dumping the contents of a house into a dumpster. Turns out that it was a family house that a relative had been squatting in for four years. The other family members were ready to sell. I took a little walk through, feeling guilty to bring my not-yet-one-year-old son into such a dilapidated building. It was a mess and would have to be completely gutted and fitted with new plumbing, heating, and electrical. But it was in our neighborhood so we wanted it. We called for three months, trying to convince the seller to sell to us – but he had a date in the future set for an “auction”. As we watched the summer months and the rest of our parental leave slip away we decided to let go of the idea of the house. About a month later the seller called and asked if we were still interested in the house. He had been disappointed by the low offers of developers, so decided to sell to the couple with the cute kid. We offered a lower price, since we’d already moved on in our mind – but he accepted it. The next four months we took turns crossing the street to gut and rebuild our home. A year and a half later it is still unfinished, but we are slowly building our home. It’s a work of love.
What a story, Cate!! That’s amazing.
This might be long, here’s the last decade+ condensed.
We went through some really similar experiences with our buying. If you can believe this, we started looking for a house in 2001. I had just finished uni, and had landed a decent position at a gallery/education centre in Vancouver, and my then boyfriend (now husband) and I were feeling pretty secure in our relationship and ready for a bigger commitment. Prices of homes were on the rise, and we thought we could find something within our price range that we could fix-up and live in. Wrong. So wrong. Every increase in my payroll equaled a bump in the real estate market. So, the place around the corner that was 199K twelve months prior, was now 500K, it was a crazy time here.
We looked at so many places. They were all horrible, and our standards crept lower and lower. We started referring to potential homes in the sweetest of terms – the rat house, the swamp house, the crooked house, the foundation(less) house…which one would we become the happy owners of? Houses were selling for hundreds of thousands over asking price, and we were barely scraping together asking price, so we lost out on so many homes.
There was one house that we really wanted, and we knew from the moment we walked in that it was different, and that we could actually make it work. Our real estate agent had just gone into labour, and her sister-in-law was handling our account. We asked her to put in an offer right away, as we knew the competition would be tough. She didn’t. She waited until the next day, because there was already an offer in place, so she didn’t think it would be a possibility. We urged her to please do it anyhow, as you never know what will happen. Well, she waited, and someone else put in an offer before us, and of course, the first offer fell through, and we were third on the list, and missed the house. We were crushed. But not deterred. We found another place. It was this amazing old Victorian home, on the busiest street in Vancouver. We put an offer in, and it was accepted. Then we had the inspection, and it found asbestos everywhere within the home 🙁 We didn’t know what the extent of the asbestos removal would be, and had an estimate done. It was just too much for us, and we withdrew our offer. By this point, I think we had viewed so many places, we were just completely out of steam. We couldn’t look at anything objectively anymore, and decided that maybe owning a home wasn’t going to be a part of our lives. We settled into a rented duplex, it was really ugly and rundown, but it was cheap, and we thought it would be a good way to save up for a larger downpayment. Then, our landlord, who we never met, but had kept the place just barely livable, went and stopped living. The family sold the house, and we had thirty days to move out.
We found another rental, but this time we were paying over twice as much in rent. This spurred us to move forward with a return to the real estate market (and the two children we had in the meantime, kind of gave us renewed interest too). We spied a tiny, little dilapidated farm house on the mls, we had seen it on there for a long time, and wondered what was so wrong with it? Why wasn’t anyone snapping it up? So, we went and had a look.
A developer had bought the property, which included a little row of broken-down storefronts on the main street, and this tiny old farmhouse was located towards the back of the property. He’d gotten a great deal on the property, because the city had deemed the house as a place of historical importance. In order to build on the site, the house had to be saved and restored. He was trying to sell the house to someone who could afford a construction mortgage (this involves having more than a 30% deposit on the home), but no developers were interested, and the folks who had 30% to put down, were better using that money to build a new place. There were ten or so line items that had to be fulfilled on the house, before land could be broken and development of the rest of the property could be started.
Enter from stage left – us. We researched the city council amendments, and found the list of items that needed to be done before heritage status would be granted. We knew that we didn’t have the budget necessary to do the construction phase of the project (which involved moving the house five feet over and building a new foundation). So, we sent a proposal to the developer. Since the house had been sitting on the market for ages, we asked how much it would cost for him to do the work necessary for an occupancy permit. The next day, he asked for a sit down at his realtor’s office. We went. Somehow, and we still don’t fully understand how, but his realtor convinced him to sell us the house for $50K under asking, and to do the necessary upgrades for a total of $10K. My husband and I were shocked. I think we’re still shocked almost three years later. We all agreed on the necessary items, and that he wouldn’t receive full payment and transferral until the city provided the occupancy permit. When we walked out of the meeting, we started doing a little dance and a cry of happiness. We had our house, sure it is probably the smallest home in Vancouver, but damn, it was our home.
After a lot of frustration, and a developer/contractor that realized he sold the house to us for too good of a deal, and was cutting corners wherever he could, we finally gained occupancy thirteen months after the initial contract was signed. The contractor did a pretty cheap-ass job on everything, and we’ve spent the last three years slowly working to get things into shape (slow being the operative word here). It has been a long process, and neither my husband nor I realized how long it would take, or how much money we would need to make things ours.
Four people, a dog, a cat, and nine-hundred and sixty square feet to share – sure, it is bursting at the seams, but sometimes that much love is a good thing. There’s no place like home.
Wow, Jenn, that’s quite a story!! I’m glad it has a happy ending (well, not that it’s the end, but you know what I mean).
We looked at a “swamp house,” too. I really wish I had pictures of that one—a mid-century rancher that was basically a time capsule. It was as thought someone walked out the front door in 1963 and never went back. Unfortunately, it was also build on wetlands and full of mold…
Me and my husband spent months searching for the perfect house. We finally found an adorable 2 story bungalow just outside of Chicago. We went back and forth with the seller and agreed on a price. Woo! I was excited. There were a few minor issues that the seller had fixed and we were inching close to closing. About 2 weeks before closing I got a surprise on my credit from Sallie Mae and it made my credit drop an insane amount. I called them trying to figure out what the issue was, they agreed there should of been nothing negative that went on my credit and suggested I write a letter asking that it be removed from my credit score. I got a letter back basically saying it wasnt their problem and they didnt care. We ended up having to walk away from that house. It was a sad moment in my early adult years!
Ooh boy. I’m sorry, Melissa. I forgot about this until I read your comment, but we actually had to get our mortgage based entirely on Evan’s income alone, as if I didn’t exist. My identity had been stolen a few years prior, and despite having succeeding in closing all of the accounts that were opened in my name, my credit was shot. Really, really bad. And yeah, it’s much harder to change things on your credit reports than people realize.
I hope enough time has passed that your credit has since repaired itself! Mine is excellent now—such a relief.
We’re in the process of looking for a home to buy now and we’re in a market where everything is under contract the day it is listed and for WAY more than list price. It’s so frustrating that yesterday I had decided to just continue renting. After reading this, I have a renewed sense of excitement about looking for a place and being more open to places that need work but have the character that I really want. Thanks for the perfect timing on this post and always being an inspiration.
Good luck, Jennifer!!
I bought my first house in October. I knew I wanted to own a home, but didn’t think I was ready just yet. I was browsing around online, like you do, checking out prices in the area, etc, and came across a listing for my now home. It stood out from the rest of the pack for a number of reasons – big, sunny lot, lots of natural light in the house, charming built-ins everywhere. I knew if I didn’t go see it, I would build it up to be this mythical perfect house. I figured that I would see it, it would look nothing like the pictures, and my bubble would be effectively burst. Well, that didn’t happen and I ended up breezing through the whole process in 6 weeks including seeing a number of other properties just to make sure I wasn’t blinded in my desire for THIS HOUSE. I got incredibly lucky, but the speed of the process sometimes made (makes) me feel like I have whiplash. From “I want a house someday” to homeowner in 6 weeks is quite the mind shift.
Meg, don’t second guess it! 6-week whiplash sounds pretty good to me. 😉
Our first attempt at home ownership also came with an oil leak, and contaminated soil. We too walked away after much heartbreak and had to pay our inspection fee etc. On our second attempt we bought on a major street, steps from the subway in a neighborhood riddled with crime and a bad reputation. We went against our agent’s advice, and bought in a place we knew and loved with its flaws and all. Our house is imperfectly US, and three years in, we couldn’t be happier.
I feel your pain, I really do. When my husband and started our home buying process we had made an arrangement with our landlord to pay month-to-month rent until we closed the deal. Shortly after we put in our offer on what we thought was “the house” our landlord told us we had to move out (we stupidly had never signed any type of contract stating our month-to-month deal) so, with three days to pack up everything and nowhere to go, we ended up moving in with some friends that we didn’t even know very well at the time. Our cats had to live in their basement due to allergies and all of our stuff with the exception of a few suitcases went into storage. At the time it wasn’t a huge deal because we assumed we’d close on the house within a month. Well that month turned into two, three, almost four before it was finally determined that we wouldn’t be able to purchase the house without paying for it in full with cash. There were plumbing issues in the basement that had to be fixed before we could get a loan (we couldn’t fix them because we didn’t own the house and because it was a foreclosure the bank that owned it refused to make the fix.) So we lost several hundred dollars on various inspections and were still living with friends and now had no plan for what to do. I had several breakdowns at that point. Our friends were generous enough to let us continue to stay with them and we started our house search again. This time finding the perfect house (http://cherylandrey.blogspot.com/2011/11/homeowners.html) which had previously been way out of our range when we first started the whole process. So in the end, it was all a blessing in disguise, but those were some rough times.
Oh gosh, that’s awful—you must have been so upset when the rent-to-own thing happened. I know everyone always says to get stuff in writing, but it’s so easy to have confidence in people when you’re in the moment. Sigh. As stressful as I know it was, I’m glad you had someplace to stay. (And even more glad you eventually found the right place, which looks gorgeous!!)
Great read! I’m glad it all worked out in the end… : ) I will be bookmarking the hell out of this article and will refer back once i’m in the home buying process!
We’re exchanging contracts on our first house tomorrow morning! Exciting (and terrifying!).
I think it the process is slightly different over here (I’m a Brit.) but it’s been quite stressful for me, however I’ve been told that our experience has been pretty quick and hassle free. We had our offer accepted on 27th Jan, and we get the keys on Thurs. The only real delays have been the seller’s solicitors being on holiday (just what you want) and not answering queries on time.
I have to admit though all the other house we viewed, and there were a lot of them, I did loads of research into. House prices in the area, schools (despite not having kids), crime rates, planning permissions etc. The house we actually bought we saw on a whim, because it was £10,000 over budget.
The first time we saw it we liked it, but saw what we thought was our ‘perfect’ house straight after. After second viewings of both we realised that our ‘perfect’ house was tilted, and all the floors sloped. The house had actually tipped forward on its foundations! When we walked back into what is now our house, we just knew. We put in an offer the same day, and it was rejected. The we increased and it was accepted.
Oofft, that was nearly as long as your post! I just love hearing stories about peoples houses. I adore your house and how you feel about it, we feel the same about ours. I’ve spent so much time looking at the history of our little house, and I’m getting some pictures of the area framed. It’s home :).
I hope the contract signings went well, Rebecca! Good luck in your new place. 🙂
Last week, I walked past an open house. Two hours later, my partner and I were in there planning the furniture. Never mind that I have practically no money in the bank, I’m in that hysterical, I WANT TO BUY A HOUSE place right now. Your post and Daniel’s really helped me calm down a little bit, but get some perspective on what a hardship and emotional roller coaster it can be.
interesting story, you really went through the ringer
It is interesting to read your story, which is the complete opposite of mine. I had been half heartedly thinking about buying for a while mainly because my landlord kept telling me he wanted to sell the place I was living in. I had visited a few other places just to get an idea of what you could get for your money in Brussels, but I knew I wanted to buy my old apartment, so I wasn’t really serious in my viewing and didn’t see anything I liked. Then one weekend the landlord told me finally had decided not to sell, so on the Monday I had a look at the announcements online and spotted this place. Visits were being organised the next day, and it was being sold in an auction on Friday! Somehow I managed to outbid everyone (most people wanted a complete bargain and then to spend a lot of cash gutting this 1930s place, whereas I was willing to pay closer to list price as I wanted to preserve everything I could). By the end of the week it was mine and my head was spinning!
Louize, it’s my understanding that the home-buying process in the US is quite a bit different than in the rest of the world. It can drag on for months and even years here! I have to admit I would have been completely overwhelmed doing the whole thing inside of a week—maybe some middle ground is best. 😉
Anna-As someone living in Beacon right now who’s hoping to buy a house in the future, I’m extremely curious as to who your real estate agent was! A recommendation on who to avoid is almost as good a recommendation for who to use. (I also sent you a private email with the same question- I don’t feel comfortable asking you to publicly name someone who’s services you don’t recommend).
At any rate, thank you for sharing this saga! It’s certainly eye opening.
E, I didn’t get an email from you. Can you re-send? anna at doorsixteen dot com.
(For whatever it’s worth, the agent we used is no longer listed on the realty office’s site. This was nine years ago, though, so she could be anywhere nowadays…)
First off…this is a wonderful post, Anna. Thanks for giving us a little more insight into how you finally found Door 16 and the history of your town.
So my story is not as fraught with disaster and letdowns and endless streams of money flying out the window (as many of you have shared)…honestly I don’t think I have or had the fortitude to deal with some of the nightmare situations ya’ll have described!!
Anyway; hubby and I moved to Atlanta in fall 2005 from the Raleigh-Durham area. Our house in NC sold in less than 4 days (!) so we had to hustle to find somewhere to live in a city that we’d never been to since he’d already taken a job there. We cold-called a realtor and said-we don’t want a McMansion/tract-home and we aren’t afraid of DIY. He pulled together over 50 listings for us to see over the one weekend that we had to look. Well; that Saturday we looked at (I use the term loosely because about half of them we just kept on driving) about 30 and NOTHING was even remotely in the ballpark. Crack house next door? Check. Falling in foundation? Check. Kicked in door shoddily repaired on an obvious flip? Check.
Disappointed and feeling like we’d likely end up in an apartment; we looked online Saturday night with a window with a map of Atlanta open in another window to eliminate certain (way outlying and nightmare commute) zip codes. When I saw the MLS photo for a house in our (eventual) neighborhood I immediately took notice-the wall of windows overlooking a backyard full of trees; and mid century architecture to boot! Called the realtor immediately and had him pull listings for the whole neighborhood.
So Sunday we looked at six houses in our neighborhood. I knew immediately when we entered that this was going to be our home. I was like a kid in a candy store-a little enclave of ALL MCM right in the heart of Atlanta!! (I’d always admired and longed for the like, three MCM houses in the Texas suburb where I grew up)…I let my hubby pick the house as I liked them all for different reasons. Thankfully- we had no issues and I actually closed the NC house on a Thursday and then the GA house the next morning at 8 AM!
Here’s a link to a website about our wonderful neighborhood for any MCM architecture buffs out there. The house on the first page is on the corner of my street:
What a cool neighborhood, Jennifer!! Wow!!
epic story anna. so glad it worked out.
I close on April 4th on my first house, 1456 Iron St 98225. The house was built in 1906 and it was love at first sight! After seeing it the first time I went home and photoshopped the Nelson bubble light that I’ve had for years, and never had hung, into the living room. Perfect.
I second going through a credit union (full disclaimer, I work in the PR department of our local one!) as a nonprofit credit unions generally have the lowest rates, low/no fees, and are very community involved!
Agreed about nonprofit credit unions! We’re very happy to have our mortgage through a local CR with an interest in the community.
We’d been thinking about looking to buy a place, I’d been keeping an eye on real estate listing for a few months, and then we got notice our rental was to be sold. So we figured we might as well buy a place, as it was 50-50 whether the new owner would continue to rent it, or would want to move in. Our RE market had been going crazy for years, but this was right around the time there was a little dip. A lot of buyers were holding back, in the hope there would be a crash.
There was this one house that was not in the area we were looking in. An adorable 19th century cottage, actually closer to the city, but in a little pocket I didn’t even realise had residential. It was about 20% over budget. And then it dropped in price… I did all the frantic maths. We still couldn’t afford it. Too bad. I kept going back to the online listing and gazing lovingly at it… and then it dropped again. Into our price range. I rang the owner/seller (he didn’t have an agent, he was a kind of two-bit developer) that afternoon, and insisted we go through before the scheduled home open. We wanted it. As it turned out, he probably spotted two suckers with stars in their eyes and figured we would be the perfect buyers (he needed someone who would sign on the line without too many questions…). We went again to the home open, and hogged the owners attention, making it clear to the flippers that there were people who were totally irrational about this property who would therefore out bid them. I loudly pointed out how the kitchen looked onto the carpark of the next-door projects. Through which a guy was walking. Naked.
We paid $5000 below asking price. Only catch? Our house was on the same title as the one next door, and a big hunk of land that was to be amalgamated into the development block behind us. So we’d have to wait for the subdivision to go through. Should take a couple of months, he said. He deliberately hid the full extent of the conditions he had to fulfill to get the subdivision. Some of those included that things be done on the development block. That he didn’t own. And then the GFC happened, and the guy that did own that block had noooooo interest in spending money on his block so he could buy some extra land to be joined to the back. There was litigation between him and our seller. We would have walked, but we couldn’t afford anything comparable, because the market had shot up again. So we just held on…
Our two month settlement became an 18 month settlement. We planned to have a combined engagement-housewarming… we moved in three months before the wedding. And the RE market changed in that time. We’re no longer a weird little pocket of light industrial/projects/really old little houses. We’re gentrifying. We’re Hot Stuff. Only three years on, our place would sell today for 60% more than we paid. But we ain’t selling.
Good grief, what an ordeal! (Woo-hoo, let’s hear it for the naked guy!!)
I love your house and even more your positive attitude about the experience, about the community, about the bones of your house. It’s all so good.
I bought a co-op in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in 2006. I think I paid a decent price but I probably could’ve paid a little bit less! The apartment was a “grand studio with a sleeping alcove,” which translated to a 450 sq ft studio with a 10×10 dining room, attached to the kitchen, being used as a bedroom. The big drama, though small in comparison to the stuff you went through, was that the seller went on vacation right before we were about to close and I lost my locked-in rate. I didn’t really know any better than to say, hey, we need to close by such and such date so I can keep my rate or I’m walking. The seller had the nerve to bring me back a keychain from wherever he want. I threw that in the garbage (instead of at his face…).
Selling the place was a whole ‘nother story that includes such gems as driving down to Riverdale from Connecticut the evening before the Board’s deadline to approve my sale and banging on the co-op president’s door and giving him what for because they wanted to turn down my buyer!! I was taking a loss on the apartment but another apartment (nearly identical to mine) had sold for less, the year before. I basically threatened foreclosure and told him to stop dicking around. We were supposed to close in August; it was November already at this point so we were paying rent AND mortgage/maintenance from July to November; we were so broke… I got a call from lawyer the next day that the Board approved the sale. The kicker was that my lawyer was super impressed that I’d turned the Board around–apparently, it never happens!
Word to the wise: STAY AWAY FROM CO-OPS. Co-op boards are full of real shitheads sometimes that will make your life miserable, and I say this as someone who served on the board!
I’ve heard a lot of co-op horror stories, Nancy, especially when it comes to the point of sale. Even as a buyer I don’t think I’d want to get involved in that kind of process, where your character is being evaluated along with your bank account. What a nightmare!
Great piece Anna, I really enjoyed reading it. Our house hunting was taking place at about the same time as yours in a new city we had just moved to. My husband would have bought the first house we looked at, but I thought we needed to see more. So we did. We saw house after house for about six months, moving from more expenseive neighbourhoods where we would have to buy a house that needed a lot of work to less expsenvie neighbourhoods where we could buy a newly renovated house. Before we found our house, we put an offer in on a house but pulled out due to rising damp. Then, on the way to see a property after work one day, I drove down a street I had never driven down and there was a house for sale by the same real estate agent. I asked to see it, just for comparison purposes, as I know nothing about the neighbourhood. As soon as I walked in, I knew it was THE ONE. It just had that feeling about it (and all the sash windows were original and worked!). Luckily my husband agreed and after an anxious wait, our offer was accepted. The neighbourhood turned out to be perfect for us too, very accessible to the city, the beach, the airport and friends houses. Actually, several friends moved in to the neighbourhood a few years later. We love our home as much as the first day I walked in. We feel so happy there and love coming home, so it was worth looking over a longer period of time to find the house that was just right for us.
Loved this post Anna. Thank you. I think everyone from Antarctica to the North Pole will be able to relate.
What an honest perspective. I think there are more and more people struggling to buy a home. I love your honesty and perspective. As a person who is far from owning her own home, I envy all those house hunters complaining about not enough closet space or the wrong color granite. They don’t know how lucky they are. But thanks for your honesty.
I know I’m being selfish here, but I miss those days Evan, yourself and I would wait at the corner of Union and Columbia and play bus roulette.( the B71 doesn’t even exist anymore) It was even better when it rained. Or, the days when you moved just a bit south and we’d run into each other on the already packed B61… made the internet seem real.
But you have done, such an amazing job with #16. Anna and Evan sweat over every square inch…. You both should be mighty proud. And have loved watching the progress.
Aww, PD! The internet is real. We miss you and we’d love to see you—come visit anytime, in Newburgh or in Brooklyn. (Alfie, too.) xx
(I don’t miss the B61, though!!)
Loved this story, glad you found Door Sixteen, wish you the best, cheers.
That was a great post Anna. We didn’t go through the same thing as we bought off my parents in my home country but I lived in London for a long time and even just finding an affordable rental in that town is so stressful. Then you have to live in a tiny little box with thousands of people just steps away. When we bought back home in Australia I was so keen to just enjoy some greenery, stretch out and enjoy seeing some wildlife again. Buying their house, which was relatively new to them anyway, not a childhood home, was one of the most exciting times of my life. We finally didn’t have to squabble with the landlord over EVERY. SMALL. REPAIR. And when things go wrong… I can just call my dad…even though I’m well into my 30’s! 🙂
That sounds like a dream scenario, Penley… 🙂
I think buying a house is one of those things akin to having your wisdom teeth pulled. Everyone has a horror story. Ours included the previous owner throwing away all the paperwork needed to confirm that the house was indeed his (and paid for) – after all, why would one burden themselves with such paperwork? Our RE lawyer moved mountains to get us to close on time. The search process was stressful and sad. We actually walked away from our house, only to come back to it 3 months later. The owner thought he could get more, but in the end, got less. Funny how things work out, but it’s so hard not to get attached and not to fall in love with a house before all the papers are signed.
Funnily enough, I am due to have all four of my wisdom teeth removed! I hope that winds up being less eventful, haha.
I’m so excited to read this story. When we were house hunting (in Brooklyn) it was the height of the bust, and almost everything we saw was a short sale. Like you, we saw lots of places overcrowded with renters we didn’t want to displace. At least one place had gone through mortgage fraud, foreclosure, and squatters — all the plumbing and electric had been ripped out of the walls and dug up from the basement floor. We viewed it by flashlight and stepped around piles of human excrement dotted all around the basement — and there was a huge pile towering over the sides of the bathtub. It seemed like we were the only people looking. We eventually bought a place, and for a low price, but it turned out to have hidden problems and we bungled the renovation so it’s been a real money pit. But the mortgage is low as prices in Brooklyn go nuts.
Hoo boy, Cate, that all sounds…bad. I’m glad you have a low mortgage while you deal with the botched reno, though, and I’m sure it’s a comfort to know that not matter what, you’re likely to come out the other side with a property value that’s significantly higher in the end (even if you don’t plan to sell). The thought of buying in NYC terrifies me!
Thanks, Anna. Everything you guys have done is so inspiring.
Anna, what a crazy story… and so well written. I have read your blog for years and have really enjoyed watching your house come to life. Our house story is way less dramatic, but it’s interesting how everyone has a story of how they came to be where they are at now. It’s been fun reading everyone else’s stories too!
We were married in 2003, right before the house market went crazy. We both lived at home with our parents before then (we were young and had just finished school) and hadn’t really considered buying a house. My dad really encouraged buying something, I think he had a bit of a clue that something was going to happen to the market, although no one knew that it was going to be as crazy as it was. Someone we knew knew an old lady who was thinking about selling her tiny little house in St. Albert, a suburb of Edmonton, Canada. We knocked on her door in the fall of 2002 and expressed interest in buying her house – she was downsizing into a townhouse, although she wasn’t downsizing much, the house was only 800 sq ft with 2 bedrooms! It was tiny, with original hardwood, and a new white kitchen and a big backyard, and a huge double garage… perfect. The lady agreed to sell it to us in the spring, so we were excited that we were going to become homeowners! My husband shovelled her walk all winter (6 months of snow up here in Canada!) and by spring the papers were signed, no real estate agent needed.
The house was perfect for us, we welcomed our daughter the next year, our puppy the year after that, and our son the year after that! With two tiny bedrooms, we were starting to feel cramped. The housing market had gone crazy (it was 2007 now) and by looking at comparable houses that had sold, our house was worth almost double what we had paid for it! We decided to go out on a limb and list it by owner, just by putting a little ad in the local paper. We had an open house with 30 couples coming by in one day, and three offers, one quite a bit over our asking price, yay! So, our first little house was sold, and we were moving on to house number two.
The problem with selling and buying in a crazy inflated market, is that when you are the seller, life is great. When you become the buyer, suddenly panic sets in that you will have to go in a crazy bidding war, and pay way over what a house is really worth, and possibly buy the wrong house, just because you feel if you don’t buy it, you will never get a house!
We really wanted to move out of the city, on an acreage (there are lots around here!), but every acreage was still way out of our price range, even with the money we had made on our last house. We looked and looked, but couldn’t find anything that would work for us. We decided to look in a few different areas, and ended up on the other side of the city. I had found a house listed there that was in our price range (barely), but had been on the market for almost a year (!) which was unheard of in the market. We didn’t get our hopes up, we though there must be something structurally wrong, or some other bad thing about the house that was scaring off buyers. I think the combination of it being way over priced a year before (it had been reduced twice over the year to the current price) and crappy renovations are what made the magic for us. The first moment we saw the house it was love at first sight… an old story and a half farmhouse that was badly renovated… but like you, we could see the potential. Apparently no one else had seen the potential, the previous buyers had moved out due to a job transfer, and what they had done was hideous (picture floral borders in the living room, and weird coloured tiles they had slapped up over the fireplace). Cold beige covered the walls, and half done trim everywhere, shingles put on wrong, would certainly scare off the move-in-ready crowd. But we were young, determined to make a home for us and our kids. So we put an offer on it. We lowballed; after all, it had been on the market for a year, certainly they would be eager to sell. But they came back at asking price. We countered again, but they held firm. Suddenly our agent told us that two more offer had come in. We panicked… we thought we had it in the bag. still to this day I think there may have been some lying on their part about that, but we’ll never know. We ended up paying full asking, which was still in our budget, so yay!
For 7 years we have been renovating like crazy, and it’s definitely our forever home. We’ve added to our family with one more son two years ago, and made three bedrooms, one for each of our kids by converting the attic, after ripping off the entire roof and adding dormers. We’re only 2/3 there (will my kitchen ever get finished??) but it’s pretty awesome what blood, sweat, and tears can accomplish. It helps to read blogs like yours to get inspiration, your taste is impeccable!
Love reading about your journey, so glad you’ve decided to share your story with all of us. xoxo
PS. Please pardon any grammatical/spelling errors, my two year old has been climbing all over me, “helping” me write this comment 🙂
Heather, your story is great! I’ve dreamed about scenarios like with your first house, buying from a seller you know and trust and under happy circumstances. You timed everything perfectly with selling, too! Enjoy the renovation dream/nightmare. It never ends, I know, but at least you know your house is truly YOURS.
if that post isn’t xanex worthy I’m not sure what is.
we’re still renters. one day we won’t be with any luck. Living in the outskirts of LA where a 1000 sq ft house is going for 750k it will be a long while though. I know we’ll end up in a fixer as well and happy to read stories to prepare us for the inevitable that will come with it!
your place is lovely!
Ah, congrats! I feel your happiness with the house. It’s so gorgeous! We managed to snag a house in a supposedly up and coming neighbourhood in London, Leytonstone. Also an area where ‘gang violence reigns’. Lots of Victorian terraced houses. Ours has some features left, some have been developerised out, but a lovely fireplace, that I also look at and think, ahhh. I’m nowhere near as good at DIY as you and the place is more than liveable, but it could do with more care and attention. Only been in here a year, maybe it will still happen! Buying a home is just hideously stressful with constant paranoia that you’ll be outbid – just so glad to have a roof over our heads, even if it is slightly shonky and in need of some loving care!
Great post. I am renting a great Craftsman apartment with my fiancé and dog here in Seattle. We’re really happy but I dream of having a single family home with a small backyard and a larger kitchen and bathroom. We plan on buying in the next 2 years and are facing the reality of the housing market. Stock is low for homes in our budget and prices are rising. I have considered townhouses but the ones I see for sale are about 5-10 years old and the finishes already look dated yet you’re still paying a premium for New. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me. A walkable neighborhood is high on our must have list so we don’t see ourselves leaving . We’re probably going to have to find a fixer upper, which I’m totally down for since I work in the architecture/construction industry. When that happens I’ll be looking back on your older posts for inspiration!
So good to know it’s not just the London property market that is all kinds of crazy. Many, many tears (and a few tantrums) later we have just finished major renovations on our property that we bought in about 5 seconds BEFORE it was on the market but already had 3 offers over asking price. I’m never moving again 🙂
Red Hook, Bklyn…Newburgh 2005…One day we have to talk, Anna. We have been living parallel lives.
i love this post! you knew it was meant to be and you worked damn hard for it. just beautiful.
i live in toronto. a town that was a speck before the car came in the 50’s, and is still full of really crappy moldy falling over single story homes in the middle of its downtown, that routinely sell for $900,000 to 30-something yuppies with 5% down mortgages and down payment from bank-of-mommy-n-daddy. i’m 30 and i will literally Never Own A House.
so yeah, i guess i feel yer pain. but unfortunately there are no quaint towns within commuting distance to buy a place for a song. (unless “commuting distance” is barrie 110km away and “a song” is $450,000)
sorry – i know i’m bitter but our market is bat-shit crazy like yours was 8 years ago.
on that note, i freaking love the blog and am so jealous of the house. it’s FAB.
I’ve been a reader of your blog since 07 or 08 or something really crazy like that, and I remember all the great posts you’ve done about the treasure trove real estate market of fixers that is Newburgh (I looked at the listing for that white castle with the wrap porch maybe 50 times and wished), but I really, really enjoyed finally reading your whole home buying story. I can’t imagine you and current house if you didn’t end up together. It was like a wonderful love story.
Thanks, Anna, that’s nice to hear—I’m glad you’ve stuck around for so long. 🙂 The white house in the post is really incredible, and may in fact still be on the market. It’s huge and it needs a MASSIVE amount of work (the interior has been carved up into a lot of apartments), but someday I hope if falls into the hands of someone who can give it the love it deserves. It’s a beauty.
After following your blog for so many years, it’s great to read about the starting point!
Our house-hunt (in Sydney, Australia), back in 2008, took almost twelve months. We reckon we saw over 100 houses during that time! Our home was the third that we jumped through all the hoops for. The first we missed out on because my husband dug his heels in too much about the price and we were outbid (the asking price was within our budget, I was pretty cranky about this at the time)! The second we were outbid at auction (jeez, what an adrenalin rush – we were consoled by the fact that the buyers really paid too much for it). The Wednesday after we were outbid on the second house, we went to re-inspect a house we’d already seen and thought of as promising. As we were looking around the real estate agent told us that an offer had been made and accepted in principle, so if we were really keen, we had to do all our inspections, etc., and submit and offer by that Friday afternoon. Yikes! We decided that we wanted the house, and so a very intense 48 hours ensued. In the meantime, a third party expressed interest. So we had to rock up at the real estate office on Friday afternoon with a check for 10% of our proposed offer. The two other parties would do the same, and the party with the highest bid would be the winner, so to speak! We dropped off the check and were told we’d receive a call by 6pm. We went to the bar down the street, sculled a beverage, and waited in silence, staring at the phone on the table. Meanwhile, a storm hit during the wait. When we got the call that our bid was successful, there was much joyous dancing in the rain outside!
So that’s my story 😉
I loved this, and I don’t own a home, nor am I ready to. I had no idea it was so difficult. My boyfriend and I have been travelling for 5 months and I miss my own kitchen and bathroom and sofa. Your blog is lovely because it makes me so excited to even rent my own place sometime soon.
And this must have taken ages to write, but it reads very well. So you’re either a very natural writer or a good editor! Keep sharing, and more pictures too!
Thanks, Kimberley! I think being a good editor is the key to being a decent writer, so I appreciate the sentiment either way. 😉
The home-buying process is definitely not always this difficult, so don’t like my post scare you too much! I also don’t think it’s the case that everyone needs to own a home. If it’s right, that’s one thing, but I think it’s much more important that people have a place to live that makes them feel secure and protected, even if it’s not their own property.
We had a terrible time buying our home, too! A mess. I am so happy to read this post.
The 2nd time around we were more lucky. Actually, the 2nd being the first as we purchased and bought our summer house in Greece before our scandinavian home.
We found our traditional log house only at a 3rd try, after the seller refused to sell the 1st option 3 days bf. the deal, and after we had lost another one that was marketed by a sales person that later the police called us about. Luckily we didn’t buy from that one as he was then procecuted for a series of appartment sales frauds 😀 But we did help the cops to get the creep. The markets can be a wild place.
Now we are liking both our homes, though. The process of renovation in both is still under way. Slowly but steadily.
Great story Anna. It almost sounds exactly like our story on the way to Newburgh. As it turns out we bought that “Flipper House #2”.
Unfortunately, we had a massive fire in that house 4 years later, mainly due to some faulty wiring that had been done prior to purchase. While our family go out ok, our cat “mouse” did not.
So in essence, somehow, in some mysterious way, it was a blessing in disguise for you not to have ended up in that house. All that being said, I wouldn’t change my experience having lived in Newburgh for five years. Thank you for sharing your memories and pictures.
Hi Luis, I knew about what ultimately happened with the house, but I left it out of the post because I didn’t feel like it was my place to tell the anyone else’s story after our involvement with the house ended. I’m so terribly sorry—both for the loss of Mouse and for what your family had to go through. Fire is a huge fear of mine, and I can’t imagine how scary it must have been in the moment. I’m so glad you’re all safe. My best to you and yours.
Great post, Anna, and I’ve enjoyed everyone’s stories. I’ve had a lot of good and bad experiences buying and selling homes; actually our current home (lived here 26 years and not likely going anywhere) was the one of the only good experiences!
My ex and I bought our first home in 1978. This was in northern NJ (when it was still affordable). We’d seen a lovely but run-down big old house in the neighborhood where we were renting and called the agent on the sign. She was great, and upon establishing that we couldn’t afford that listing she showed us a few smaller old houses. It didn’t take long to find “the one” — a modest mid-19th century farmhouse. There were all kind of ownership transfer and easement problems to overcome but all told, it went pretty well.
About 1.5 years later he was offered a promotion in Virginia and I got a job too so the move was on. My ex went on a solo house hunting trip and came back with lots of torn-out MLS listings and pictures (pre-internet, obviously). There was one old house that really stood out to both of us and we asked our agent about it when we went back the next month to house-hunt in earnest. Well, that house was off the market but we looked at plenty of others (mostly old and some new) and it ended up that an almost-new contemporary house met our various needs best. (Oh, some good news is that our NJ house sold quickly for the asking price; we had done a lot of work on it and made a tidy profit.)
Several years later we broke up and my now-husband and I bought a small, run-down and funky 1950s house as it was cheap and we loved living in a secluded area but in the city. We made a ton of improvements to the house but both of us longed to own a 1920s era house. We spend three years looking at local homes off and on, getting married in the meantime. One day in early 1987 my husband came home and said he’d driven by a nice house nearby with a for sale sign in front. So we went over to look and it was the house that I’d lusted after from the MLS picture from 1980! It had been on and off the market over the succeeding years but mostly just for sale via the sign (owner’s brother was a realtor) but not listed in MLS. Anyway, we bought the house without undue complications and are still working on it today — which will never end.
During our 30 years together we’ve bought and sold several rental houses and fixed up and sold 4 houses in our neighborhood (I hesitate to say “flipped” because several of these projects fully consumed several years to complete to our satisfaction). The last one unfortunately coincided with the RE crash and it took 5 or 6 contracts failing to get to the ultimate buyer. We lost a lot of money having to hold onto the house for extra time so no more project houses for us except the one we live in!
Thanks for sharing all of these experiences, Bfish! How cool that you wound up in a place you’d had your eye on for so long…even if it has wound up being an endless project.
I finally got around to reading this post. So much drama! I don’t know if I could have dealt with all of that. I probably would have walked away. Our home buying process went relatively smoothly both times, even with my husband deployed the first time (closing was delayed a week, due to the bank waiting the day before closing to mention they were missing a document my husband had to sign himself and fax FROM IRAQ, even with the special power of attorney we got specifically for this).
Looking back, I wish I had negotiated a bit more with our current house (you would assume a landlord would keep his rental in decent shape to avoid being sued, right? Wrong.) but with the Austin market the way it is, I still think we did okay. The paint peels off the walls and the electrical is ungrounded and it’s uninsulated, but I love it anyways. In a lot of ways, I’m glad they didn’t do too much to the house, because the stuff that was “renovated” is all the stuff that’s messed up (laminate floors installed badly, peeling paint on the walls and kitchen cabinets, leaking moldy vanity in the bathroom, rotting door frame on the patio doors, gummy spraypainted light switches and outlets, etc).
I just bought my first house in December. I’ve always wanted to be a home owner but the job market had other plans for me. This ended up being a blessing in disguise because I didn’t buy at the peak of the housing bubble. Another cross country relocation, this time to Baltimore and I was finally in a position where I felt I was able to buy. I downsized to a small apartment to save for a down payment. Saw the most adorable row home for sell and developed a crush on it and the surrounding neighborhood. That first crush sold but I continued to look for a home in the same neighborhood. Baltimore has tons of grants for home buyers but you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get the money. I jumped through all of them, it was exhausting but I told myself to just keep running.
Put an offer on a short sale, 6 months later I walked away from it, got lucky because 2 years later that poor house is still on the market. House flippers are very active in the neighborhood so any estate sale priced to reflect the amount of work it truly needed received a cash offer from flippers. Lost 2 houses because of that. Other houses were over priced, sellers were either underwater on their mortgage or expecting bubble era prices. There are non profits in Baltimore that renovate homes with government money and sell at the appraised value. These homes in my target neighborhood sold very quickly because they are much higher quality than your typical flipped houses (energy efficient, new kitchen/baths, new roofs).
I was using real estate sites to monitor the entire neighborhood. Visited a short sale November 2012 that was over priced for the condition of the home. It sold for 40% less than the bank was asking. I looked it up on the state real property site and saw that it was owned by a nonprofit. Contacted them and learned they would be renovating and reselling. Went for a walk through and they told me about all the improvements they would make. I wanted it and had a verbal agreement to buy back in April 2013. I was allowed to visit the house to see construction progress. It was a very exciting time.
Finally had the house under contract in August. I had to give 2 months notice on my apartment. I was told the house would be done in September so I told my landlord I’d move out October 31st. The house was barely done on time but the real problem was my mortgage company which took forever and then I needed another 3 weeks to get the documentation for the city grants. I had to put my stuff in storage and lived in a friends basement for what I thought would be 2 weeks but ended up being 5 weeks, with cats! My real estate agent was unhelpful and I was a single first time home buyer so that added to the stress. I finally closed and got the keys the first week of December 2013.
I love my home, a beautiful renovated 1930s row home within a 30 minute (1 mile) walk to my job. I had ridiculously high standards, my mother said she didn’t think I would get everything I wanted but I did. I bought at the top of my price range but also received 20k in grants from my employer and the city of Baltimore. The grants plus the low interest rates made the house affordable.
Our house buying story started in 2006, when I emigrated from Germany to Switzerland for job reasons. While looking for a small rental place for myself, we saw ads for apartments for sale that were in the building process two streets away and thought how crazy the prices were and if anybody would buy such expensive places. Less than three months later we realized it was very good value for money in Zurich ;-)) and were offered the best apartment on site to buy due to one of the building managers no longer being interested. Some people had made downpayments already five years earlier (!!!!). We started negotiations about changes to the layout etc. with the seller. By pure chance, a few days before closing on this place, we got hold of some of the builders on site and the city office, who informed us that all these promised changes were not feasible and would not get permission by the city. We pulled out and were saved from a catastrophe. As time was pressing until our definite move from Germany to Zurich (by then my husband also had signed a working contract in Zurich) and thus limited time to find a place to buy or to go into rental, my husband searched endless real estate pages during a full night. We found a small add for a house out of our price range and only a fax number to contact. No one answered our faxes, and it took us quite some searching to find the person behind the number, a flower shop where nobody knew about the ad. Finally, the owner of the shop was contacted and confirmed that it was the house of her parents, we should simply pass by and knock on the door. When we approached the small house from 1873, we could not believe our eyes, realised in ten minutes, how it needed to be changed for better use, and called on the owners who were working in the garden. There first sentence was: “It’s a small house, but it is expensive” LOL We inquired about the price and he spontaneously shot a number 20% under the asking price in the ad (his daughter must have killed him for it). He wanted our decision in less than 24 hours, but then it took us 8 months to actually close the deal. Why, because his wife didn’t want to move out and because they had to find a rental first. So, I became a real estate agent and searched every single day houses for them and looked for interim places for ourselves to stay. We finally moved in mid 2007. And the renovations and dealings with the city office of Zurich are yet another endless story, 3,5 years in negotiations for doing changes and no end in sight, but we love our little house nevertheless. Prices in the neighbourhood have gone up 70% in the past 5 years. Today, we wouldn’t be able AT ALL to buy this house.
Oh wow, what a trial to get to your home! From so many stories read, buying a house in the US seems considerably more stressful than in Canada. Although a good experience wouldn’t make for much of a story…
We recently bought our second home. Our first was a mistake. Wrong street in the wrong town. We’re now living in a 1930 red-brick beauty that we hope will be our forever home, in a new city that we’re coming to love. We had to make two offers on this house – the first time around the seller didn’t want to wait for us to sell our current house; but we didn’t see anything else we liked in the meantime and just knew this was the house for us. Fortunately our previous house sold while this one was still available (apparently we were not the only offer turned down because of the condition to sell) and a whirlwind few days of sorting dates and inspections we got it! Not nearly as nail-biting or as long as process as you went through, but it was more than enough for us!
We are in month 10 of our home-buying ordeal. We started looking for homes last April. We live in Minneapolis and originally wanted to stay within the city limits. After 2 months of looking at homes that were within our price-range, but were 80-100 years old and could require massive amounts of money at any moment- I finally caved and expanded our search. There was a house that we had viewed online at the beginning of the process but quickly discarded due to the location. With our location radius expanded we checked out the house and fell in love. It is a newer-old home (built in the 60’s). The home is ready to move in and it had everything on our wish list. (lots of bedrooms, two bathrooms, a great basement, and a great backyard.) It was a short-sale.
After nearly 8 months of Zero Movement in the bank-approval process we finally received the word that our offer had been accepted (well, with some slight negotiation) and we could set up an Inspection. It was so exciting, we were so close and soon would be out of our one-bedroom apartment.
The day of the inspection we received word that the house had No Heat, No Electricity, and No Water. This in the toughest winter Minnesota has seen in over 20 years. The previous owners had given up and left. Out best hopes are that they at least flushed the pipes on their own- otherwise the pipes are surely burst. Then the furnace wouldn’t turn back on. And the bank refused to fix it.
The furnace is now fixed, and the water is going to be turned on this week. (Hopefully very carefully, that we may assess any burst pipes before they leak water everywhere.) But for some reason the bank needs to reassess the situation- which is going to take about a month.
At this point, I haven’t given up hopes. I believe the pipes will be fine. And optimistically, at least we won’t have to move in through 3 feet of snow! But a year? Yikes.
I loved this post and the comments! 16 has always been a good number to me, too 🙂 Our first house was easy, since we were renting. But shortly after we bought it in 2001 everything was a mess, we were both out of a job and the house wasn’t worth anywhere near what we paid for it. But stupidly we persevered… every so often we’d say “should we sell the house?” and we’d decide we didn’t want to move. Eventually push came to shove and it took us so long to sell it.. it was less than 10 years old at that point. It took so long to sell it our realtor came to see it and met us and our baby sitting in a bouncer… who was walking, talking and about to start his first year of school by the time it was all over. We had one sale fall through. I still remember that day. We’d had an offer approved on what would have been the fastest moving short sale ever in a cute little house I still think about, so we lost that. It was a little more than a year before we got our next offer. We agreed to a short closing (one less mortgage payment to make!) and quickly moved out, into the world’s crappiest rental house ever (that we had signed into sight-unseen based on it meeting some key requirements such as “month to month lease” and “available like, NOW.” I believe my exact thought was “how bad could it possibly be?” haaa.) A month and a half seemed like forever, and there were so many annoying little problems that we literally woke up each day and wondered what stupid thing was going to happen TODAY. Eventually the person working for us at the mortgage company got fired/left, and our mortgage just “disappeared” so with 3 weeks to closing we had to start all over again, pull up documents, get yelled at for stuff they needed that they didn’t tell us they needed. By now we had started new jobs, so they didn’t trust us, since we hadn’t been at them very long. We lost our great rate. We had to come up with a lot up front (not to mention what we had to bring to the table to close on the other house.) and EVENTUALLY it all worked out – but our realtor, who in retrospect was a clueless witch, had blabbed to the seller’s realtor, who had told the seller, who didn’t bother packing and moving out. So we had to close so as not to lose our new (actually a lot better) rate, and they paid us back per diem.. which was risky in my mind but I did it anyway. I had planned on those 2 weeks to get my kids’ rooms ready before school started, and as it was we did our final walkthrough at 9pm on a friday night (I wanted the key NOW… our realtor couldn’t be bothered to show up, so it was with the seller’s realtor, ugh.) and we moved in over the weekend and school started Monday. There was a lot of other stuff that happened in the middle that I won’t bore you with but by the end of it all I wanted to shutter up my windows and doors and not speak to anyone for a year. I think sometimes there are still things that trigger both husband and I, and everyone thinks we’re an insane bunch of complainers. I think house/buying horror is just an exclusive club of quiet appreciation… and that in the end we can mostly appreciate that whatever happened WAS for the best, no matter how we got there!
Thank you for posting this. We have been actively seeking to buy a home for the last 4 months with little success as we realize it is becoming increasingly impossible to find a place in Brooklyn that doesn’t require a car, or is not a co-op, that we have been contemplating looking outside Brooklyn. We have considered Newburgh and Hudson, but our biggest care is finding something outside the city that still has access to transit to get into the city as we both work, but again, we are worried we won’t find a good agent, or end up in a money pit. I appreciate you sharing the truth in house buying, as we have already have watch places slip through our fingers, and been set up with terrible agents. We were ready to throw in the towel.
I have been reading your blog with great interest. I too have fallen madly in love with Newburgh’s rich historic buildings and breathtaking views. About 10 years we bought a delapidated farm house and then restored it-it was a money pit. Everyone thought we were nuts but we have never had so much fun. Now we want to do more of it–in Newburgh!
My husband was very resistant about Newburgh until he read your blog. As an art director he appreciates your sensibility and esthetic.
My husband and I have a group of friends interested in creating affordable, green (potential “passive homes”) and we are exploring Newburgh as one destination. They idea is to bring together roughly 50 to 100 New York City transplants who have been outplaced by high residential and studio space. We are exploriing retrofiting and rehabilitating some of the abandoned buildings. Our clan include mostly artists, writers, retired professors and the like. We are looking for a community like Newburgh that seeks renewal without “gentrification.”
My husband and I have done extensive research and we put together a concept paper and a presentation on what we are trying to accomplish. We have been sharing this concept with a number of key stakeholders including architects at the forefront of green development, non-profit housing developers, and policy-makers and so far we have received excellent feedback. Before we take our dog and pony show to Newburgh leadership, we want to get feedback from community residents like you.
We would love to meet you for a cup of coffee to discuss further in Newburgh. Please email me or call me at […] with any questions or to let me know if you are amenable. BTW-your blog is truly excellent.
Thanks very much,
Hi Elizabeth, somehow this wound up in the spam moderation queue—I’ll email you! 🙂
After buying my place, giving my landlord notice, and going to the final walk through, the lawyer told us ‘something is wrong’ and we couldn’t go through with the sale. It turned out the previous owner had a lien on the house and she never went to the bank / courts whatever to get permission to sell! Of course the lawyers pulled the court documents at the last minute so no one knew. It took another month to get everything sorted out. At the time the lawyer said it might never get worked out. Luckily it did, and my landlord let us stay a month longer because he was going to renovate. What a pain!
I think that marble fireplace would have done it for me too. It’s lovely.
I am so, so glad you wrote this post. Seriously. Home buying is such a pain, and I feel like we were some of the lucky ones. We only seriously searched for a few weeks, and all of the houses we saw were terrible. But there was one that was right at the super top of our price range that I’d fallen in love with, but was super hesitant to see. Because, obviously, what if we loved it??
Against my better judgment, I went alone, sans huzband, with our realtor, to view the house. And that was it. I was done. No other house would do. Built in 1957, it had seriously great bones covered in seriously awful paint (as in, 90s forest green cabinetry), and a 13×30′ sun room. Mint green tile bathroom with original chrome fixtures, wood floors…. Like I said, DONE. That was it. I called Boyfriend as we were touring it (he was conveniently at work), and told him to get his ass to the house. And then he was done. As we were leaving the house, we even talked of selling the dogs to try and make it happen.
After ALL the inspections – general, structural engineer, plumber, electrician… the WORKS – the house was deemed in pretty much super awesome condition, and we put in an offer. Luckily, the sale was part of an estate, and they needed to sell ASAP in order to break even after all post-mortem costs. We’ve never looked back. We officially move in on Saturday, which is SO WEIRD. WE OWN A HOUSE. WE ARE GROWN-ASS ADULTS. WHAT THE HELL.
And after all that y’all went through, I can’t imagine a better space for you and Evan. It’s so, so incredible, and I’m constantly referencing it in our own design decisions. (For reference, I just pinned some stuff from Pedersen + Lennard, because, AWESOME.) Keep up the amazing work, lady. You inspire us all!