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Long Time No See

OK, so apparently I suck at this whole blogging thing. I promise to be better from now on!

On February 19, 2010, I finally purchased a home! It’s further out than I wanted, but it’s on 2 gorgeous acres of land! It has all hardwood floors upstairs (original to the house!) and a fullsize basement. However, it needs lots of work, so that is why I have been noticeably absent (that and I’m procrastinating on getting internet installed).

Let me tell you, buying a foreclosure is an interesting process. And when it’s all over, you are left with a house that has oftentimes seen better days. Mine wasn’t too bad, but I’ll tell you the previous owners apparenly refused to clean anything. Every room has crazy weird stains on the walls! My favorite part though, was finding blue crayon in weird places. Like over the closet doors in the master bedroom, 7 feet high. Maybe they had a very tall child?

I promise to post pictures next time of the things I have done, but one thing first: Whoever said painting was a quick change has never painted my house. I need 2 coats of primer and 2 of paint on EVERY, SINGLE wall. Do you know how long that takes? A very long time. I have managed to paint my bedroom, the guest bathroom (oh, the joys of old wallpaper!) and one of the secondary bedrooms so far.

I know this was boring and lacking in pictures, but I promise pictures are forthcoming. Not a single room in what I’d call done yet, but at least most of them are looking better!

Tips for Your First Time

Before I got into this whole mess, I never knew purchasing a house was so hard. I thought you just looked around, found something you liked and bought it. Much like finding the right dress for a party. Shop around at a few stores, find something that makes you look good and buy it for a good price (I’m always on the lookout for a deal!). Unfortunately, this is not the case. It’s a long, hard process and can be very emotionally and financially taxing. So here are a few tips to help ease your house hunting pain:

1. Pick the area you want to live in and stick to it

My first problem was not clearly defining my target area. I knew what county I wanted to live in, but didn’t have anything more specific than that. My county stretches quite a distance and includes many distinct and different areas. If I had more clearly defined my target area, I would have avoided getting my mother and I lost in some very scary areas! I was worried that, if I excluded a location, I might lose out on a great house. While this might be true, does it really matter if you live in the most perfect house, but you are scared to walk out your door? Or if you have a great place, but it’s so far from your friends and the places you like to go that your whole lifestyles changes? I almost put an offer on a house that ticked all my boxes, until I drove past there late at night and realized that I might be living next to a drug dealer.

2. Make a list of must-haves, but allow them to change

Before I looked at my first house, I knew I HAD to have a big, fenced yard. My large dog demanded it and it’s what I cared about most. After looking at lots of houses with big, fenced yards and finding none that really struck my fancy, I realized something. I was buying a house for me, not for my dog who is too lazy to do much besides stare out the window from the comfort of his lounge chair. I realized that what all those houses with the big, fenced yards were lacking was a master suite. I had said several times that this didn’t bother me, that I could certainly use a bathroom down the hall. But, when it came down to it, what I really wanted was my own bathroom inside my bedroom with a separate shower and tub. The house I’m buying has a decent sized yard, but it is very much not fenced. Sure, I can’t be lazy and just let the dog out the back door for now, but I got the house I want and a fence isn’t all that hard to put up at any point!

3. Expect to spend a lot of time and energy looking for houses

Granted, some people let their realtor do a lot of this for them, but they’ve got lots of other clients and you know better what you want than they do. To avoid wasting precious time with my realtor, I dragged my mom along to scout out every house before I put it on the list for my realtor to show me. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, plus most of Saturdays and Sundays for a month or more we drove to houses. We could do about 15-20 in a day, depending on how long we looked around each one. We’d look at the area as we drove in, determining if it was convenient to shopping and a safe neighborhood. We looked to see how the neighbors kept their yards. Then, we’d get to our target house, look around the outside, look in any windows we could see and come to a conclusion. Many of the houses had no yard or visible termite damage or weird, unusable layouts. These were immediately crossed off my list, no need to look inside! I would say, all told, we probably looked at 500 houses and crossed a good 90% off the list that way.

4. Have a budget and know what you can REALLY afford

Before you get into this process, you need to get an idea of how much mortgage you can really afford. And, no, I don’t mean how much you can get a bank to approve you for. Even in these much tougher times, banks still approve you for more than you should really spend. Though I was approved for a good $40,000 more, I knew I didn’t want to go over a certain amount. Sure, I was tempted to go over that on several occasions, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Make sure you tell your realtor your budget. Sure, you can look at houses that are more expensive, but know that, if you can’t get the seller down to your top price, you need to walk away. Houses are expensive. You’ve got the mortgage for one, plus your insurance, utilities and all the improvement and decorating we all know you’ll want to do. Then you’ve also got to be prepared if something goes wrong. So sit down and figure out what mortgage payment, per month (you want to PITI figure- principle, interest, taxes, insurance) you can easily and comfortably afford, with plenty of room to spare for those unforeseen things that are bound to happen. Yes, you might not get your dream house right now, but you also won’t go losing your dream house to foreclosure!

5. Find out how much any repairs needed will actually cost

After a thorough inspection by an independent home inspector, a 3 page list of repairs was handed to me. Yes, 3 pages! Most of these repairs were very minor- a small hole needing patching, a missing doorknob, a broken window lock, etc. But, there were several larger issues that I knew would cost me a great deal. For one, the roof needed replacing quite soon.  So, after getting this news, I went back to the seller and asked for them to pay for the roof. There were several other repairs I thought would be quite costly, but after scouting out the home improvement stores, I discovered some things were cheaper than I though. A hot water heater, for instance, costs between $250 and $500.  I had thought they ran into the thousands. So take your list of repairs, check off the ones you can do yourself and then go to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot to find out how much your materials will cost. It may be less than you originally thought.

New Plan

New day, new plan…

The county I live in has their foreclosure sales the first Tuesday of every month. While I can’t pay cash and bid there, I CAN look through all the listings and find houses in my target price range and area. I can be ready to bid on them as soon as they come on the market.

I THOUGHT this was a good idea. 1,950 pages later, I’m not so sure. But at least it fuels my obsession with Excel. I’ve got every house in my target range entered into a spreadsheet, complete with bank and attorney information. Now, I just need to look them all up on Google Maps and go drive past the good ones. I think I deserve a good house just because of all the hassle I’m going through!

It’s Over…

That’s it, the end. My house drama is over, for now at least.

And no, it’s not because I finally closed on my house. Oh, I wish. It’s because Bank of America didn’t accept my final and highest negotiation, instead choosing to continue to ask for more and more money (don’t they understand negotiations require each party to give some rather than take more?) They were asking for more than I was willing to pay for a house that needs so much work, so it only made financial sense for me to move on and find something that didn’t require me to pay more for it than it is currently worth in this crazy market.

So I’m walking, leaving that house behind. It’s sad, because it did have a lot of things I wanted, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I’m hoping there is something even more perfect out there, just waiting for me to snatch it up and make it my own!

I’m crossing my fingers this first time homebuyer tax credit extension passes, so I can still buy myself a house. All signs indicate a yes. So, we are off to look for more houses on Sunday. At least I’ve gotten really quick at determining if a particular house will work for me or not.

I’ll try to post some pictures of some of the more interesting things I come across in my new home search. Owners do wild and weird things to their homes, people.  Things you can only dream about (and in this case, I mean nightmares!)

I’ve been absent the past week or so, mainly because I have been dealing with getting this house thing done so I can move in and start working on the fun things- Decorating and DIY projects!

I’m going to say this and I’m only going to say it once but- WHY did we not let Bank of America fail?

BOASucks2

The house I am attempting to purchase, as all of you know, is owned by Bank of America. Now, I realize they have thousands and thousands of foreclosure properties they are trying to sell. But, you’d think their plan would be to get said properties off their books as quickly as possible, to avoid having to pay taxes and upkeep expenses. This, however, is not Bank of America’s plan. Instead, they choose to stall and hold out and make crappy deals.

Here, as an example, is the scenario with the house I am trying to buy:

Originally listed for: $58,900

Aug. 15, 2009: My offer for $61,300 accepted (this is a full price offer plus 4% closing costs)

Aug. 18, 2009: Inspection yields multiple small issues, plus large issues of needing a new roof and all new siding

Aug. 20, 2009: Amendment to contract asking for $4,500 allowance towards the cost of needed repairs (totaling approx.$15,000)

Waiting, waiting…

Oct. 18, 2009: Response from seller: We will do any repairs you want, if you add the cost to the purchase price!”

Oct. 19, 2009: I send my own contractor out to get a bid for the roof, 2 small siding issues and mold issue. Bid is for $5,775 for all repairs.

Oct. 20, 2009: Amendment to contract stating I will pay for 2 siding issues and mold repair plus upgraded shingles and seller will pay for new roof.

Oct. 22, 2009: Seller responds by putting house back on market and raising the price $9,000 to $67,900, but includes $900 siding repair in new price (yes, I am pretty sure this is illegal!!)

Oct. 23, 2009: I make a list of new properties to see and we give Bank of America until Monday to come back with another offer.

Late that night, Bank of America responds with new offer: House price will be $67,000 and will include $900 siding repair. All other repairs to be added to sales price. Closing costs paid by seller decreased from original $2,400 to $2,010.

Oct. 25, 2009: I see 10 new properties and find 2 I really like. Seller’s agent calls while we are out to tell us the new purchase price will be $68,000 and will include $900 siding repair. Seems surprised we are irritated.

Oct. 26, 2009: Amendment raises to price of house to $64,500 (original contract price plus $3,200 in repairs), change seller paid closing costs back to original $2,400 and we ask Bank of America to cover additional repairs of $2,500.

 They have until tonight to respond and I’m walking away and pursuing the 2 other properties I almost like better than this one. And this is why you should not attempt to buy a foreclosure, especially if it’s owned by Bank of America! That is, unless you want a migraine headache for 2 months!!

WTF?!?

After 2 months of being under contract and waiting for a response from the seller on the roof repair, I FINALLY have an answer. Exactly 2 months later.  The answer??

“Sure, we’ll pay to fix the roof, if you add the cost to the purchase price of the home!”

Umm, ok-ay. It took Bank of America 2 whole months to come up with that? I could have come up with that in 5 minutes, if that’s what I wanted to do. They already agreed to the purchase price, so of course they’d agree to do repairs if I paid for them in the purchase price.

Obviously, I will not accept this offer. Maybe if they’d gotten back to me in a few days, but not after making me wait this long. So, back to the drawing board on an offer. But, THIS time, there will be a strict respond-or-I-walk deadline. There are tons of properties out there, possibly even something better. Just because a big bank owns the house does not give them the right to screw me over like this. Such is life when buying a foreclosure, I suppose!

About A Dog

Beurre

I’d like to introduce you to my spoiled puppy, Beurre. I tried to take a more recent picture, but he’s extremely camera-shy and didn’t want any part of it. Maybe if he gets some fans, he’ll come around (hint, hint!)

He’s a smooth-coated Chow Chow and spoiled rotten! I adopted him in May of 2004 because a) I wanted an animal after losing my cat several years before and b) I thought he’d help me get more exercise. As I was leaving that fall for a year in Monaco, I taught him French and gave him a French name. I intended to take him with me, but some mix-up with Lufthansa meant I had to leave him behind.  Luckily, my fabulous mother took care of him for a whole year (!) and then some for me!  The above picture was taken just before I drove off to the airport for my year in the land of the uber-wealthy (please ignore the date on the photo- I never set the date on my camera after I bought it!).

My original intention was to get a small lap dog, preferably the Welsh Corgi. Somehow, while at the pound, I convinced myself this cowering, growling, big dog was meant for me! I was told he was 4 years old and so stubborn they had to drag him outside. Turns out, he was barely a year old and simply terrified to be around so many barking dogs. A few months of pampering (and sleeping in my bed!) cured all that. Now he’s so spoiled that he has his own armchair and footstool for his favorite pastime of spying on the neighbors.

He’s scared of cameras and bathtubs and the word NO. He hates cats with a passion and is convinced his goal in life is to rid the world of cats (though his best friend is my mom’s cat, Lily). He loves yogurt and will do anything and everything (all at once!) for a tiny bit of cheese. Despite everything, he really IS the perfect dog for me!