Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Home Buying Chronicles Part 2

Almost Our Dream House

As I said in my last recounting of this process, I spend a lot of time checking listings. It’s easy, it’s online, it’s free and I can do it about 12 times a day without neglecting my children. It’s perfect really. This winter, thanks to my obsessive scouring I came across a house that we had liked but thought was gone. Turns out it wasn't, it was re-listed. There was a reason, or twelve for that, and we should have seen that as a red flag. But when you’re new to this and operating on a conservative budget, you don’t rule out potential. Ever.

This was a cute, cozy little house. You can see from some of the pics below, it had a distinctive New England charm. It had some lovely little details that just made it so appealing. Like touches of Victorian architecture on the porch, eaves and angles and, my favorite, a cookstove!!!

So, on the last Friday of 2010, Tim & I went to look at this house. It was pretty wonderful. It was the first house that we walked into and could really picture ourselves living in. We both agreed on the spot that we wanted to make an offer. We did so on Monday and a week later our offer was accepted! Hurrah! Now, we had to deal with acquiring quotes from a few specialists to fix things like the roof, the boiler, the front steps, and the kitchen floor. At the start, this all seemed totally doable. We would be applying for a rehab loan which would give us a thirty thousand dollars dedicated to fixing areas of the house in disrepair. When we made our offer, we didn't think there were many areas of concern. We were proven wrong.

Home inspections are a wonderful thing. The fact that they are not mandatory in some states blows my mind. Also, if you are local and need the name of a great home inspection company, please let me know. We have used this same company twice now, and will at use them least once more since we still don’t own a home. They have been nothing but professional, thorough and sincere.

Our inspection turned up:

  1. Asbestos on the heating pipes in the basement
  2. Mold in the basement
  3. Bat guano in the attic
  4. Ungrounded electric outlets in the kitchen
  5. Questionable leach field

The issues we were already aware of: Needed New Roof

  1. New Front Porch steps
  2. Kitchen floor
  3. Storm window replacements
  4. New front door
  5. New garage doors

I know what you’re thinking, “You wanted to live there?!” Yes, yes we did. After everything was fixed of course. So, we kept on. We lined up our contractors for different aspects of the work, we started pursuing our financing and set up a time to do the water test. Normally, when you do a home inspection you do the water test at the same time. They just take a sample from the sink and send it to the lab. This house was unoccupied though, so the pipes were winterized and it wasn’t so easy to just turn a faucet and get water. We set up another date, after coordinating with the selling agent/bank and the plan was, so long as the water test came back ok, we’d be buying this house. The next step was financing and our mortgage broker was ready to go. We had all of our paper work prepared, our quotes signed and dated, we were chomping at the bit. Just needed that water test.

The day arrives, the “final” hurdle in this part of the process. Tim heads over to the house with Ben in tow. The poor kid has heard us talking about this house for almost two months now, we’ve driven past it, he deserves to check it out. Tim arrives at the house and as he pulls up the road he sees the home inspector’s car and a local Police cruiser. Turns out, someone broke into the house sometime between Friday, when we had the Mold Remediation folks out to do their quote, and Monday. Why would they break into an empty house you ask? Well, it wasn't just any empty house, it was a 110 year old empty house = aka, a home full of copper piping which can really earn you some cash. The lovely person/people, broke in and stole the copper piping and because there wasn't as much as they had hoped, they cut out a bit of electric wiring as well. Tim was hearing all of this from the selling agent while the cop is taking notes and photos. The cop then leaves only to return with a finger dusting kit. Seriously. This is how we roll in Maine people. It’s one of the benefits of a low crime level, when crime does happen, the authorities are ON it. Keep in mind Ben is tagging along throughout all of this. So, as the home inspector is breaking the news that we can’t get a water test without pipes, the cop is dusting for fingerprints and Ben is sitting on the dining room floor eating his bologna sandwich and watching the goings on. That’s homeschooling for you. Think you’re having a boring day? Just follow Dad around on errand and boom! You’re suddenly getting a lesson in how and why police dust for fingerprints.

Tim came home with the bad news and I admit I did not take it well. But we didn't give up hope. We figured the bank that owned the house had insured it so they would fix the damages, we’d get our water test and move forward. It’d slow things down a bit, but we weren't sunk yet. Well, what you think a bank will do concerning an unoccupied home and what they will do can be radically different. The bank offered to reduce the selling price by $5,000, the cost of the damages. This would have been great IF we didn't already have a laundry list that was maxing out our rehab budget of $30K. We had no way to come up with another $5,000 to fix the damages ourselves and the pipes HAD to be fixed for us to do a water test. Our choices were to leave the mold and bat guano, and spend that $5,000 on repairing pipes. Not exactly a choice. Sadly, this is where we parted ways with this house.

Tim & I still talk about the house fondly. It was a sweet little New Englander from 1890, in a great neighborhood, only 15 minutes from where we currently live and right next to a large wooded park. It really could have been our dream home, but clearly it isn't. We joke now that the universe had to speak sternly to us about this house. It had so many issues when we started trying to buy it that we really should have walked away. But we didn't, and instead the universe had to say, “Dudes! You need to fix twenty things!”

We didn't listen.

“Dudes! You have to remove asbestos!”

We had a plan for that.

“Dudes! You need a new roof!”

We know, we’ve added it to the list of quotes.

“Dudes! Your leach field might be shot.”

It might not.

“DUDES! Someone broke in and now you have no pipes, walk away!”

Maybe we should walk away? Yup, we need to walk away now.

About two weeks after we received our deposit back, I saw the house relisted for $5,000 less what we were going to buy it for. (See, that constant checking again) It sat for a little while but is no longer listed, so my hope is that someone is buying it and will be able to turn it back into the great little home it is. Maybe they’ll just fix it up and relist it before we find something else? Maybe? I might not be patient enough for that.

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