Tuesday, May 08, 2007

adios, homeownership

In a whirlwind weekend of meetings, viewings, meetings, and viewings, Amanda and I put our first ever offer on a house.

It's this great little place in San Mateo with tons of charm, close to a park, close to a Safeway, and close to both freeway and railway access. Downsides to the house include termites, an asbestos ventilation system, and windows that are all painted shut with lead paint. So, it's a fixer-upper.

The asking price was at the edge of what we were comfortable with paying, but it's so damn cute of a house that we decided to just go for it. So, Friday night, after 3 hours of reading and signing paperwork, we walked out of the real estate office feeling really excited and nervous. Cue: sleepless night 1.

All the next day we waited and waited, desperate to hear back from the agency about whether or not our offer had been accepted. Finally, late afternoon, we got a call saying "Hey. The owner rejected your offer. He's decided that he wants to sell the house for $50k more than he originally listed it at."

Now, first of all, while there's nothing that stops him from being able to do that, it's just lame. If you want to sell it for a certain price, shouldn't you just list it at that price? Usually you list something for higher than you want, get offered less than you want, and haggle for some kind of middle ground. Here we had a situation were we offered more than was listed, and then were rejected by being told we hadn't gone even ultra-more over the list price. Again, later that evening we went in, signed a counter offer, and headed home. Cue: sleepless night 2.

The next day, we waited all day long - busily trying to distract ourselves as best as possible so that we wouldn't think about the house. Again, we got a call and - again - there was a counter-counter-counter offer. His new offer amounted to essentially "No, god damn it! Pay me more! MORE!!"

Cue: sleepless night 3.

By this point, we're both just completely nuts with anxiety, stress, and fatigue from not being able to sleep. Throughout Monday, we had to make a decision. Do we go higher? Do we pay a stubborn jerk more money than his house is worth just because he didn't list it high enough initially? The house is cute, yes. But it also has about 4 different ways that it can kill you right now, all of which need money sunken into them before the house is habitable.

So, we decided to call the mortgage broker. Bad move. The mortgage broker recommended to us turned out to be a flaky nutball. After acting grumpy and miserable for a while, he told Amanda that he'd run some numbers and then call her back.

Unfortunately, to him "I'll call you back" apparently means "I'll call your real estate agent and tell them that you decided you're not interested in the house anymore." So, two hours after Amanda was expecting a call back from Mortgage-Man, she actually gets a call from our realtor asking if what the mortgage guy said was true.

For us, this was the last straw in a situation that had been bad all around. We still love the house. We still think we could fix it up and live there very happily for years to come. Unfortunately for us, the whole host of characters involved in its purchase turned out to more of a comedy of errors than a Remax commercial and in the end we're still renters.

It was a good way to get our feet wet in the whole process, but I just wish it'd all gone smoothly. It really was a great little house. Better luck next time, I suppose.


Amanda said...

=( yeah...better luck next time... (I hope!)

EmoRiot said...

You know, I just read a really interesting article and one thing they mentioned was that because the housing market is cooling down and prices are dropping (particularly in the bay area), one thing real estate sellers are doing is deliberately listing a house below it's expected market value so that they can get people to close well above asking. Then, when new prospective sellers come into the office and are worried about the cooling market, they can reference their own sales to say "Look, my houses are still closes above asking so no problem here!"

When I checked your house on Zillow, it was well above the asking price. Maybe zillow is wrong. But maybe, just maybe, they're employing the undervalue tactic. Something to think about. Bummer for you guys, either way.