Our Homebuying Story…
…or, what happens when two real estate agents buy a house? Chris and I have been a real estate couple for over 26 years and have had a lot of experience in a consultant role. We have also bought and sold homes several times ourselves. But, it has been a while.
I’ve often joked with the Mister that Realtors should buy and sell every few years, just so we understand what we put people through. And then we laugh.
Buying this home turned out to be an adventure the likes of which we hadn’t yet experienced. Sure, we’re laughing now. But there tense moments. It turns out that making decisions personally is a little bit different than advising other people about making those same decisions!
The reason for the stress was primarily because we bought an old home. 64 years old. Even with all our experience, we had never owned a home that was more than 10 years old when we bought it. We had also never owned a home on well and septic. There were several other “firsts” that we experienced.
Here’s the sequence of events:
Finding our Dream Home!
We had been casually looking for a while. As real estate agents, we see what comes on the market every day, almost the minute it hits the market. We knew we wanted single floor living (to give my old knees a break). But finding the right ranch home was not that easy.
Sometimes you have something in your mind, but when you go out to find it…it is rare, or even non-existent. Sometimes it has to do with the zoning, or the waves of home-building throughout the years in your area. I can’t count how many times a buyer wants to buy a new home on an acre…that’s just not possible these days, unless you custom build.
Once we started looking in earnest, going to tour homes, we found that most of the ranch homes were in the southern part of our county, where prices were higher. Most ranch homes in our area were built in the 70’s and 80’s and we really didn’t like them. We figured we’d have to spend another $50K to $100K opening up floor plans and doing renovations to get the open concept that we liked. If we saw a renovation already done, we didn’t want to spend that much. It was proving to be like finding a needle in a haystack.
Then it came up on our radar. We’d been seeing a particular ranch home online, but it hadn’t impressed us. Sometimes pictures don’t really do a home justice…you have to see it yourself. After the second price reduction we went to see it. It was a 64-year-old, all brick rancher on 9/10 an acre in a small neighborhood on the northwest side of town. Not exactly what we had imagined, but that’s often the case.
We entered the great room, walked through the kitchen and dining room, then out to the enclosed porch. We looked at each other and knew we’d found THE ONE. It was love at first sight!
Emotions, Enter Stage Right!
We inquired if there was any interest. There was none. I think it’s just not what people are looking for today. But we were! It fits in completely with our love of Mid-Century Modern!
So we wrote an offer for $10,000 over list price and asked for closing cost help. We felt pretty confident that it would appraise. Our offer was accepted and we were in business!
The Journey From Contract to Close
But First – the Home Inspection
We always advise home buyers to get a home inspection, even if they are buying a new construction home. Not only do you find anything that may be wrong with the home, you also get a guided tour of your home by a professional. This education is priceless.
Our home was 64 years old. Even more important to get a home inspection. We knew that the roof was new and the house was in overall great shape. The entire exterior was brick, a big plus. The landscaping was new. The wood floors were in amazing condition for being so old. The kitchen and bathrooms had been renovated some time in the early 2000’s, as far as we could see. The plumbing system was relatively new (no polybutylene or old copper pipes). We were pretty confident we could handle anything we found.
We still had several things to consider and weigh the future and present costs. Even though we have experience as real estate agents, owning it yourself is very different than helping someone else decide if they want to own it!
Home Inspection Reveals…
We hired our friend and favorite home inspector, Dave Goldberg of Reliable Home Services. We’ve been recommending Dave for 26 years and think he’s absolutely the best. Here’s what we uncovered:
The major systems in the home were in good condition: new roof, newer bathrooms and kitchen. Newer air conditioner. All the appliances worked and the electrical system was fine. No radon, which tends to be a problem in our part of the country. No asbestos. All good news. However…
There were three major things that gave us pause:
The chimney lining was in sad shape. ($2,500 to $3,000 fix) The oil furnace was pretty old and there was the beginning of a crack inside the box. ($6,000 replacement, or possible new part for less) Thirdly, the foundation showed movement at some previous time. ($xxx,xxx??)
More Inspections Ensued
- We brought in a chimney inspector. He seemed to think that we could get some more life out of the chimney liner and wasn’t concerned. Remember, a general home inspector is not an expert in all things. Many times if the home inspector suspects a system or appliance is damaged or has outlived it’s lifespan you will still want to defer to an expert. So, we’re banking $3,000 for a future re-lining.
- We called the company who serviced the furnace and learned that the previous owners had purchased a service plan that lasted until July. They assured us they came out to inspect the furnace and wouldn’t have sold the homeowners that plan if they had detected anything wrong with it. We decided we would risk it and if anything happened, the plan would cover it. Otherwise, we will bank $6,000 for a future replacement.
- We hired a local engineer whom we have recommended before. The basement is unfinished so he was able to inspect the foundation. We discovered that yes, at a previous time the foundation had shifted. The good news was that the owners had done remediation. There were steel reinforcement rods in all four walls. The engineer assured us that most foundations shift over time. This house would be standing just fine in 75 years. Again, it’s great to have an expert opinion.
- At one time the basement had a water problem. This was disclosed in the listing. They had sealed the walls with dry-lock and installed a french drain all along the basement. They had installed two sump pumps, one to take over if one fails. We’re satisfied with that.
Another Round of Negotiations
Given that we were looking at about $10,000 worth of work that we would most likely have to tackle in the near future, we asked for another $10,000 off of our price. The sellers agreed.
Since the inspections revealed several problems, these were now “material facts” that must be disclosed to any future buyers. So, if the sellers didn’t want to lower the price, and we walked away from the purchase, they would have to disclose all of these problems to future buyers.
Plus, they have to decide if they want to put the house back on the market and do this all over again.
This is the part of the deal where we play poker. (And the stress levels increase.)
You have to ask yourself, “Will they call our bluff? How will we feel if they do? Will we back down or back out?”
Luckily for us, the sellers were reasonable and understanding. “Whew”!
Another Bump in the Road
Even though the last three inspections created a bit of a roller-coaster ride, as far as our expectations, (and caused me some nerve-wracking moments!) we were satisfied with the explanations and had expectations that we could live with. We were quite relieved that the sellers agreed to lower the price $10,000. That gave us some peace of mind that we were not overpaying.
Then came the well and septic inspections…
The septic had a broken clay outlet baffle. Not a difficult fix.
The well water failed the test. It had an abundance of nitrates and bacteria. Yikes!
The Last Negotiation
The well water condition is a serious problem. High levels of nitrates can do damage to your health, especially in the elderly and in children. No one wants that. Our contract called for the seller to pay up to $750 in repairs for the water quality, and up to $1,500 for septic repairs. The repair for the septic was covered…but the water solution was complicated.
There were three possible solutions for the water problem. We negotiated with the seller to get the best long-term solution, rather than do the minimum and have to come back and redo it in the future. The sellers paid the above figures, as spelled out in the contract and we reduced our closing cost help by $1,770 to cover the remainder. We have a whole house water treatment system and will never have to worry about babies or elderly folks (like ourselves!)
A Lengthy Process
We contracted on this home right before Thanksgiving. We anticipated a longer-than-usual process because we had three major holidays coming up…holidays when people often take lots of time off. Thanksgiving is often a four-day holiday. Christmas and/or New Year’s is often a full week off for a lot of people.
So we built in a 60-day settlement. The seller’s pushed it back to 45 days, and we ended up extending it later and it took the full 60 days after all. That was a long two months for us!
When there are a lot of moving parts, i.e. inspections, you need to build time into the process, regardless of the time of year.
I hope that this is informative, not frightening, lol. There are many steps in the home buying process. Sometimes a home purchase has more steps than others, as in our case. That’s why you want to make sure that you’re prepared with proper expectations, as much as possible. Having an experienced Realtor® by your side is so important.
If You’re a Rookie, Buy a Newer House!
I think it is worth saying, if you are new to home ownership you might not want to buy an old home…unless you have experience having lived in an older home. You might not be so keen on well and septic either. It can be daunting to grapple with so many possible issues at once. At least, before you commit to an older home, take all these things into consideration. When you buy a new or newer home, you generally don’t have to be concerned about as many issues.
And, in my opinion, you want to be in love! Even though emotions are scary, don’t buy a house that you don’t absolutely love. You want to love it when you write that mortgage check every month!
After settling on Wednesday, we moved in the last two days. We are truly in love with this house. It has it’s quirks, like the gurgling sound of the oil heated radiator…but we enjoy oil heat so much, we like the gurgling.
We love the oversized bedrooms, because that’s what they built in 1956. The vaulted ceilings with wood beams in the great room are beautiful, and the wood fireplace is getting a lot of use.
We love the single-floor living with the laundry room right off the hallway, something unusual for this vintage home.
We love the three-season enclosed porch on the back of the home. The breezeway is the perfect place for our family crab feasts!
Most of all, we’re super fans of everything Mid-Century Modern. All of our furniture and decor is right at home, just like we are. Welcome to my new blog, My Mid-Century Modern Home! Join me as I bring some modern into this old beauty.
This article originally appeared on Frederick Real Estate Online : Two Real Estate Agents Buy a House…True Tales From the Trenches