Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Housing Crisis

So, we hear about the housing market pretty frequently on the news.  And things are looking better, but for those of you that were in the dark for about a year, which was...everyone, after a while, I wanted to catch you up on our very own, personal housing crisis.

Our condo was on the market for one season, from March-November in 2011.  We had lots of "interest".  One potential buyer came through 3 times!  So, our price stayed stagnant that season because we thought that buyer was...buying.  She didn't.  That's ok.  When it came down in November, we had someone call our realtor to say they were interested, and we were about to put it back up for them to make the purchase...then they said they weren't that interested.  Like not right now.

So, it came down, and when it came time to re-list, we did some homework.  We interviewed three realtors and decided upon Helwig Realtors.  Mandy Helwig is AWESOME!  She works her butt off to make things right when they are wrong, to market the house to every possible corner of the earth, and talk it up to all of her various connections, and it pays off.  She generally sells homes quickly.  And that's exactly what we were interested in.  Not exactly what we got, but we'll get there.

We listed.  Mandy took awesome pictures that showcased our home's unique features.  We had open houses scheduled well in advance, lots of showings, lots of interest.  Mandy was proactive with changing the price if interest dropped based on cold, hard numbers.  The internet doesn't lie (well, actually it does...frequently, but that's a different wiki-story), and if no one's looking, something must change.  So, it did.  And then we got THE call.  The call that said someone wanted to buy our house, and they wanted us to not have an open house the following weekend, and they wanted to put in an offer in, and they wanted to BUY our house.  And it was all so real.  We were set to make settlement June 29th.  A date I may never forget.  We packed, and cleaned, and packed, and moved.  Fortunately for the rest of this post, our plan all along was to move into my mother's house with the intent to buy the property from my parents.  Otherwise, it would have all been much more crippling.  I'm incredibly fortunate to have such a supportive and understanding family.  So, we moved on June 27th because..well, we were making settlement on June 29th.  All made sense to me.  Then we got a call on June 28th...that we were...not making settlement on June 29th.

It would take another two week to process more information on the buyer's end.  So, settlement was rescheduled to the middle of July. But, that got bumped another two weeks.  Then I got a call on the day of Cece's birthday party that that wasn't going to happen either.  There are reasons, which I probably shouldn't have known, but I did.  But it wouldn't be right to share those details about our buyer with the world.  So I won't.  But there were reasons.  And, at this point, in hindsight I should have been much smarter.  But I wasn't.  So, here's what happened next.

The buyer was all set to move...because he thought it would go through too.  So, they offered to rent the property until the settlement could happen.  At this point, the belief was that settlement could happen the middle of September, based on...information.  The rent they paid covered our mortgage, association fee, and a little extra.  Since no one else had jumped in to offer to buy the property, this all sounded good.  Worst case scenario, the mortgage was being covered for the time being.

September's settlement came and went.  We had a settlement scheduled every two weeks through the end of November.  I stopped believing they would happen.  I stopped putting in for time off of work.  I got one cancellation of settlement call during a wedding reception in which I was a bridesmaid.  Bummer.  In the meantime, our buyer/renter had signed an agreement not to have pets on the property.  But they did.  Lots.  And his "wife" never moved in, and his daughter was out. of. control.  And I got to hear about all of this from my disgruntled neighbors.  And, it just wasn't happening.  9, that's right NINE settlement dates came and went.  So, we had to do something.  We met with our realtor and drafted a letter that if we could not close by the end of December, we would need the tenants to vacate the property (with three additional months notice, so by the end of March) in order to re-list the property.  The response.  We are getting a divorce, wife moved out, cat died, we'll be out sooner.  Technically, they needed to provide us more notice, but I didn't care.  What did irritate me.  Wife moved out.  Nope.  She never moved in.  My first thought - why lie?  But at this point, very little surprised me.

When I went in to clean, the allergies were too much.  We hired cleaners to come in.  They did ok.  We looked at the carpets.  Some of them needed to be replaced.  We requested the same carpet to match the parts that were fine.  The carpet guy put in a different color, and a different pile.  At this point, I thought I'd have a nervous breakdown.  I envisioned sinking more money into ripping out the carpets, or paying to carpet the rest of the condo to match the new carpet.

Fun anecdote.  Cece was with us when I went over to check the carpets.  I was upset.  I might have cried, I don't remember.  But when we went home, my mom asked how the carpets were and I told her they were fine because I didn't want her to worry or get upset.  She was already pretty annoyed with our tenants and it wasn't helping.  So, I told her they were fine, knowing that somehow we would get it fixed.  She asked Cece the next morning about the carpets and Cece said, "Mommy was NOT happy."

On the day I checked our carpets, we had a showing scheduled for the next day.  I wanted to cancel the showing until the carpets got sorted out.  Painters were on their way too.  Fortunately, I did not.  That showing turned into a second showing, and an offer.  A REAL offer, with 20% down.  Now, the offer was nowhere near our asking price, but the thought of paying the mortgage through a season and hoping for the best was looking grim at best.  So, we took it.  And cut our losses.  Literally.

In retrospect, we bought a house during a peak (2005...could have been worse, right?), and effectively sold our house during a low (2011-12).  And, we lived to tell the tale.

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