In part one, you read about our youthful ambition to buy a house before we were really ready. After casually searching for several months, we were told we did not qualify for a conventional mortgage and we determined that we weren’t really ready to be homeowners. Jump ahead two years and one job change later, and we needed to move out of the onsite housing from my husband’s previous employment.
We began searching our local housing market again. This time we had a much clearer idea of what we wanted in a home. Since we now had a child who wasn’t quite a year old, I really felt that I wanted a single family home. Though renting out half of a duplex may have helped cover some expenses, it also would’ve taken away the possibility of having our own space and privacy. This was important to me.
We were also convinced that we wanted a bit of land, 1) so that our son and future children could have space to play, and 2) so that we could grow a good sized garden. This pretty much ruled out most city homes. Suburban neighborhoods were too pricey in our area, so we began searching in more rural areas.
Even though we had more money saved for a down payment, our budget was still relatively low. There was a fine line between a very outdated home and a complete fixer upper in our range. And many fixer uppers did we see! Though my husband has a lot of experience doing various sorts of handiwork in homes, we really didn’t want to get in over our heads. Walls, floors, basic plumbing, and roofs- yes, we could manage those things. Structural problems, old wiring, pervasive mold, and bad septic systems? Nope, we didn’t want open those cans of worms!
The first home we put an offer on was a small country foreclosure that was originally an 1896 school house. It was low on square footage but rich in character and possibilities. It came with a half-acre of land and a low price tag since the upstairs pretty much needed to be leveled and re-worked.
We were so excited (and a little nervous) the first time we sat down to submit an offer. We signed and initialed what seemed like a big pile of paperwork. We handed over $1000 in escrow. We put in a low offer, but hopefully not so low that we “insult” the bank. And then we waited.
The contracted three day time period went by. No answer. A week went by. No answer. A few more weeks passed- and just when I was beginning to think the bank forgot about us, our realtor called! I answered the phone and held my breath.
“The bank submitted a counter offer with the original asking price. It looks like they’re not willing to move,” said our realtor apologetically.
I was so disappointed. We just weren’t willing to pay the asking price because of the work that the house required. We had felt ready, saved our money, dutifully did our research, and got pre-approved for a mortgage with no problem this time. I knew it wasn’t uncommon to be rejected a few times… but still, I hoped that it wouldn’t happen to us.
We did manage to recover from our first major housing let-down and got right back to searching. Another home in a quaint nearby town -listed as a one bedroom- had been sitting on the market for almost a year. It had enough square footage that we thought we might be able to rework the space and turn it into a two or three bedroom. We decided to check it out.
It turned out to be just as lovely as a home as we thought, but only two days before we were going to put in an offer, I was shocked to find the online listing declaring, “sale pending!” Funny how it could sit untouched for months and months- until we wanted to try buying it!
Okay, so that one obviously wasn’t meant to be, either.
We began broadening our search area. We found one city house- another foreclosure- with a decent fenced in yard that we thought wouldn’t be so bad. This one seemed to be in super shape and a great deal (all things considered), so we decided to offer the asking price immediately. We didn’t want someone to beat us to it again.
Our realtor called back the same night- the bank accepted our offer that very day! We were thrilled! It wasn’t the country home I had hoped for, but I comforted myself with the reality that most first-time home buyers have to compromise somewhere to get into a place. We were under contract, and it felt great to be on track to move.
What we didn’t realize was that we had missed something that was majorly wrong. When Tim went back to see the house with his family, he discovered there was a part of the basement that we completely bypassed the first time- and the foundation was sinking. It would probably cost $20,000 to fix it.
Really? Is this home going to fall through too? I fought back the tears as it sunk in that this house was just not going to work. We had to go through the process of obtaining an inspection to verify our findings and get out of the contract. We ended up losing $500 on the deal when it was all said and done.
The next home we looked at was a semi-fixer upper in suburbia. It had a nice yard and a do-able project list at a great price. You know the story by now- We made an offer. But another buyer snuck in that same night and put in a slightly higher offer- and got the house before us. The listing agent denied us the chance of each buyer putting in his best offer for a “bid war.” So we watched this one slip through our fingers as well.
To say that we were extremely frustrated at this point would be an understatement.
We had already seen probably around 15-20 houses over the course of several months. It was approaching winter time quickly, when no new listings were coming on the market. We had exhausted most of our possibilities if we wanted to stay true to our shopping list. To top it off, we were still living on the property of my husband’s old job, and we knew that we really had to move soon. Tim’s former boss continued to be gracious and patient, but we didn’t want to take advantage of him by continuing to stay there. I began to wonder if we were ever going to find a home.
Did the perfect house finally come along and rescue us from our plight? Well, no, not yet. We would end up needing to rent again, and it would still be many months until we finally got into our own home. Come back soon to read the next installment in Part Three!