We’re Buying A House (but won’t hand out the cigars just yet…)


 We’ve been talking with the same Real Estate Agent, Rob, for years.  He’s with Intero, like me.

It began when we discovered an area which looked like a great place to live and we would wander there every now and then thinking of the possibilities of retiring there.  Rick was there once without me – I dunno why he would be house hunting without ME!  He went into an open house and Rob was there ‘holding’ it.  They got to talking and Rick really liked how Rob had lived in the area for 30 years and had been a contractor in the past, actually having built some of the homes there.

That knowledge gave Rob a unique perspective into the homes, who built them, how they’ve been remodeled over the years and how they’ve kept their value (or not).

So, when we were pre-approved for a loan, we called him again and asked him to show us some available homes.

We were able to see 5 homes that day.  4 within our budget (or slightly out of it) and 1 way out of our range – it’s good to see what homes are going for even if it isn’t the house you want or in the perfect area, with the amenities.  Education about the market is important, as I’ve said before.  You won’t know a good value otherwise.

What houses did we see:

1.      The Wreck:  Well within our budget but needed a lot of work everywhere before we could move in.  That would end up costing us more than our budget, so no.

2.      The Smoke House:  Lovely location, greatroom floorplan with room for a future addition – which was required since the living area was a little small, and a terrific master suite.  I called it the Smoke House because it reeked of smoke and dog urine, blech.  Still, it’s a possibility… if we scrub every surface with Pine-Sol.


>hack< >cough<


Yappy rat dogs

Yappy rat dogs

dog 2 dog 3 dog 4


T The Pizza Hut House:  Lovely location, greatroom floorplan, more living space but less master suite space.  So-named because of its roofline.  It’s a possibility.

Like this, kinda...

Like this, kinda…


     The Fountain House:  FanTAStic house location, gorgeous fountain at the entry (hence the name), beautifully remodeled with extra windows in the greatroom – oh, this had the same floorplan as the Smoke House.  One weird thing was that the front bedroom had been remodeled with a granite-topped counter and little granite counters at waist-level along the walls plus some high wall cabinets.  What?  What was that about?  Lots of wine tasting parties?  Did I forget to mention the FOUR, yes four, ceiling vents?  Hmmm, we’re thinking it was a cigar club, or pot club?  Interesting because whatever it was, it didn’t smell smoky at all.  This house was just out of our budget. Rob called the Listing Agent who said he expected the house to be bid up from is listing price because of the beautiful remodel and the location.  Out of our reach…

5.      Outside-the-perfect-area House:  Pool!  Big backyard!  Lower price!  But it was a two story without a lower master suite or even a study, so our plan of retiring there wouldn’t work, unless an elevator was installed.  Didn’t push any of our ‘yes’ buttons, probably because it wasn’t a greatroom floorplan.

With the market the way it is, we can’t lolly-gag too long.  Homes are snapped up pretty quickly these days.  So, which house?  #3.  Since we are going to make an offer on The Pizza Hut House we can no longer call it that.  It becomes the Tiki Hut…because its roofline curves.

pic courtesy of GilligansTikiHuts.com

pic courtesy of GilligansTikiHuts.com

Long story short: offer, counter-offer, and a counter-to-the-counter later and we now have a valid Purchase Agreement!

I took our deposit check to the local branch of the Escrow Company (Old Republic) and Escrow is being opened as we speak!

Keep in mind; we’ve seen a lot of homes in that area over the years.  We also have looked in homes in other areas, other cities, and on and on.  We could pay cash for something but it’s not an area with a strong future, an area with lots of police activity, if you know what I mean.  We are comfortable that this is a good house for us for a good price, based on our research and the expertise of our Agent, Rob.

Next steps:

1.      Home inspection: Inspector will check out the property to see if all the systems work – plumbing, heating/ac, dishwasher, etc.  Look for evidence of termites and such.  Certain issues will trigger a Section 1 item that must be dealt with (mitigated) prior to the loan going through.  Things such as a broken window or toilet are considered habitability concerns and must be replaced or fixed as a requirement by the bank.  Smoke detectors are required in every bedroom, you know.  Not only that, we are buying this house ‘As Is’ so any repairs will be done by us OR we can back out of the Purchase.  Say the inspector notices that the roof is caving in, we can cancel the contract.

2.      Appraisal:  Appraiser will determine value.  Higher than our offer?  Yay for us!  We have equity immediately!  Value lower than our offer?  Boo!  Bank may not fund or may require us to have a larger down payment to cover the lesser value.

3.      We inspect the home:  Are there any surprises?  What do we need to repair or replace prior to moving in?  For instance, holes in the wall?  The bank isn’t concerned with those, but we’ll want to fix them.  What condition is the carpet?  Clean or replace it?  Things along those lines.

Hmmm, roof installation methods are seriously substandard!

Hmmm, roof installation methods are seriously substandard!

I'm sorry, but this doesn't qualify as a smoke detector.

I’m sorry, but this doesn’t qualify as a smoke detector.

This house-hunting expedition has been kinda weird since we’ve always purchased properties with the idea of living there awhile, fixing the place up and then moving on.  This house we want to stay in forever (I was going to say ‘we want to die in’ but that seems morbid, not to mention poor grammar).  So it has to meet a different level of needs.  Single story or a space on the ground floor that could be turned into a master suite, good area in which to retire and especially a place that has enough attractions for grand-kids, -nieces and –nephews, so they want to visit.

If all the inspections and appraisals and loan funding fall into place (I don’t assume anything), then we’ll talk more about the house itself.  But for now, it’s all about the process 😉


Is it now or never?

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In the economic downturn, nay, the Great Recession, we almost lost our shirts. We were lucky to have sold our house just as the market was starting its crash but unlucky enough to be in the frickin’ middle of flipping a house (which makes it sound so frivolous, which it wasn’t – the house was fantastic!) when everything came to a screeching halt.

The brick wall we hit.

The brick wall we hit.

That fantastic house we were trying to flip sat on the market for about 6 months before a cash buyer walked in and stole it (aw, that’s not a fair way to describe it but she did get a superb house for the price!). Anyway, we didn’t get much for the house, certainly not the nest egg we were hoping for.

Pic of the house we flipped but didn't make a fortune on.

Pic of the house we flipped but on which no fortune was made.

Back to the crash… It was October and suddenly our clients were pulling their heads into their shells and contractors planning to build houses on spec disappeared. Business fell to about 25% of what it was. We held on as long as possible, tearfully laid off our two wonderful employees, Kim and Bre, and moved into the space above our office. It had a full (yet tiny) kitchen and bathroom, and 3 rooms, which we took as bedrooms and living room.

I’m glossing over the hell we went through during that time and I gained 20 lbs…



Oh, I forgot to mention that in the high point of our economic existence, we also bought a piece of property in the foothills with a marvelous view and were working to develop it. That process took so long – even with our expertise – that we no longer needed nor wanted a 4000sf house on 4 acres of land.   So we put it on the market and sold it.

OK, now we have a little money in the bank and we have been able to stay afloat in the sucky economy by selling everything we could: Goodbye Maserati, goodbye Indian and Harley motorcycles, goodbye 12′ trailer, goodbye Chickering piano, goodbye Victorian-era mantle that we hoped to one day install in our fancy custom home!

I really loved our road trips!

I really loved our road trips!

We stick our heads out of our cave, beginning to wonder if we can buy a house now that the economy is turning (BANG! January was busy!) and hit a wall.  Banks tell us we must have our 2012 taxes in hand before a bank can consider us for a home loan.

We wait until our taxes are done by our superb accountants at Abbott, Stringham and Lynch (great name, eh?)…watching as home prices climb up and up and up. Will we be priced out of the market by all-cash buyers? Flippers are backing away now that the easier pickings are gone (2012 was really their year). They’ve helped to bring the economy back up, so I can’t complain too much. Other cash buyers are people who want to own a home for themselves but have to ‘bid up’ the price in order to get one of the few homes that are for sale. They don’t care about appraisals, either.

I’m looking at homes listed for sale at around $400k and they are actually sold for $80,000 more than that!  Damn, I’m getting depressed.  Our max is around $520k.  Oh, yeah, we could buy in other neighborhoods where the prices are cheaper but then the commute is longer and/or the potential for rise in value is smaller.

And, here’s the thing:  The Great Recession lasted, what, 6 years?

We are looking ahead toward retirement.  Do we have time to flip another house before we retire?  Do we chance flipping now and buying our retirement house later?  Will we have energy for our retirement house later?  Will we even qualify for a loan on a retirement house later?  Why am I talking about a retirement house anyway?

We don’t have a primary residence, we live in an apartment above our office.  We can’t retire here.  Its a beautiful house, but its not senior citizen friendly.  Its a great investment property, for sure, but not a place to spend one’s twilight years.

We want a ‘go-to house’.  You know what I mean?  Our kids are going to be having kids and we want to have a place they want to go to.  Spending time with the grandparents won’t be fun in an apartment above an office with a 5000sf parking lot as a back yard.  So, looking toward the future, what are the best options?

Let's go to Grandma's house!

Let’s go to Grandma’s house!

Its a puzzle we are working on…and I’ll be keeping you in that loop 😉

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