Playing Catchup

Before I begin my self-absorbed tale, I want to send my best thoughts / wishes / prayers to those of affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I hope you all are starting to get things back together there, an that you and yours made it safely through the storms. Looking at the devestation on TV is one thing, but I can’t even begin to imagine having to witness it first hand – especially if the rubble and debris is your own neighborhood. Be safe and be well.

When we last left our heroine (modestly known as me), she had set a date for her wedding and was contemplating a move 200 miles away from her current home. That was more than two months ago. I am now writing this from the comfort of our new home in our new city, 200 miles away from the last entry.

Here’s the unnecessarily long version of this story, with my apologies for it’s ramblings and extreme boredom:

At the end of July, Beau Hunk and I took a trip to the area to which we were moving. Neither one of us had been up there for decades, so it seemed appropriate that we go check it out. We had been doing a lot of research on the web, checking out houses for sale, crime reports, biking info etc. We had also talked to several real estate agents, but had yet to commit to one. We finally found an agent we really liked. She wasn’t pushy, she wasn’t hard core, she had experience with special needs kids (and had some of her own), and knew her business. We made plans to go north and have her squire us around.

The plan was for us to arrive on Friday and check out some things on our own, then meet with her on Saturday and Sunday (if needed). Since our hotel was not so fabulous, we decided to head out and explore neighborhoods. We ended up calling our agent to get us info on houses we had drove by but for which we had no info. It turned out she was available and could come squire us around right then. Cool! It turned out to be a frustrating, disappointing and very long day. One thing we found out was that owning land didn’t mean you could use the land. Many lots had either large easements for greenspace, or just dived off a hill. So houses that had 2 acres on paper would really only have 20 feet of usable backyard before it dropped off into a canyon. We don’t have much of a desire to pay for land we can’t use.

We weren’t scheduled to meet with our agent until noon Saturday, so we headed out to check out some different neighborhoods on our own. We stumbled upon one neighboorhood we really, really liked that had houses for sale. We ended up driving around and calling our agent with messages like “We found another one – the address is blah blah blah. Add that one to the list.”

We met with the agent and spent most of the day running around this neighborhood looking at places. We found one that we considered making an offer on, but we thought the price was out of line. Especially since the place was a total estrogen-fest. There was floral wallpaper everywhere. Especially the bathroom. Beau Hunk and I walked in there, and I swear, I could feel his balls shrinking from across the room. There was no way in hell that bathroom stayed that way, so there was work to be done.

The decision was made to go back to the agent’s office and comp the house, just to see what a reasonable offer would be. In doing that, we found a house across the street that was up for significantly less. We recalled the house – it was what Beau Hunk referred to as “the booger of the block” – it was by far the least kept house on the block, but the price was right, so we decided to give it a look. We were told by the selling agent that we should “look past the piles of stuff”.

That was not an understatement. When we pulled up, the garage door was open, revealing piles and piles and piles of boxes. I spotted a stack of canned goods in cases, including two cases of red beans, and two cases of cream of mushroom soup. I knew instantly this was not a healthy person we were about to meet. The inside of the house was also crammed full of stuff. The living room held two TVs, a very large mechanic’s toolbox and dozens of cardboard boxes. One bedroom was so full of stuff we couldn’t even get in. The carpets (that we could see and weren’t covered by stuff) were dingy gray and really stained.

The lot was huge, but the owner had never done anything with it. The back yard consisted of weeds and a rickety fence. The property extended beyond the fence, where the weeds were just as thick, only they were eyeball-high instead of knee-high. But the property backed up to green space and there were no houses behind. That was something that really appealed to us.

This house was a really nice neighborhood, and the price was at least $100K below the other houses around, so we decided to go for it. We made an offer and drove home, hoping for the best.

Of course, nothing could be quite that simple in my life, could it? Of course not! You see, we asked for a 45 day escrow, not contingent on selling the Bay Area house. Afterall, the Bay Area market is hotter than hell, so selling wouldn’t be a problem. Except that the house wasn’t ready to be put on the market yet. We still had work to do. That my friends, is what programmers and other geeky types call a “sequence error”.

So we hauled ass home and started doing the bare minimum things that had to be done to sell the house: scrub up the kitchen cabinets, paint the exterior, finish touch-up painting, etc. Time was running out, we had work to do!

In the meantime, we started arranging financing, which was somewhat complicated by the fact that I was about to be unemployed. We were up front about this to all the lenders, and they all seemed to accept it since we were making a pretty good down payment. The best rates were through The Company Whose Name Starts With E and Ends With Loan. Everything was cool for four days – until we got past the person who took our app and started talking to our loan consultant, a person we named Attitudinal Asshole. Suddenly there was “no way, no how” this loan would go through, because I was going to be unemployed. We explained that we had that all worked out with the previous person, and the response back was “He works for me, he’s made a serious error in judgement and will be counselled. I am the be-all end-all of this loan, and no how, no way does it fund.” You’re fucking kidding me. Even if that’s the case, what kind of customer representative says those words??

We went back to the original person to whom we had been dealing for the last four days. He verbally rolled his eyes and went to his supervisor, who immediately had the loan re-run with $1/year for income. No problem, the rate even stayed the same. So back to the Attitudinal Asshole, who had to eat his words. I, being an asshole myself, had to rub it in a bit. “So I need some assurance that this process won’t hit anymore roadblocks along the way, because yesterday it was ‘No how, no way’ and today it’s ok.” He copped more attitude and said he couldn’t assure me of anything. Then he wanted a ton of documentation for the loan – we’re talking everything short of a picture of my mother with a fish up her nose. We had had enough.

We once again contacted the original person with whom we had dealt, who once again went to his supervisor. But this time, the supervisor called Beau Hunk directly. They were not amused with the language that Attitudinal Asshole had used, and immediately removed him from the case. They assigned us a new loan coordinator who was totally awesome to work with. Good thing too, because they were about to lose our business. Low rates are one thing, but if you have to get your balls busted to get it, it’s not worth it.

Somehow we managed to get the work done to the house and get the bloody thing on the market, but it took a few weeks. We went into MLS on Thursday, had an open house on Saturday, and had two offers on the table by Monday. Both were for 100% financing with cash back for closing costs. That meant we needed a full 30 day escrow, which would put us past our close date for the new house. Which was a problem, because we needed the payoff from the Bay Area house to put the down on the new house. Yep, another Sequence Error was looming.

Then the real fun began. We made a counter to the terms on the first offer (not money, just closing dates and such) on Monday night. On Tuesday night we got a call from the buying agent saying she didn’t have an answer to the counter yet, but could her clients come by and look again? You see, it turns out that the husband made an offer without the wife’s knowledge and she hadn’t seen the house yet. WTF? But ok, whatever.

When the couple showed up, Beau Hunk recognized the wife as a person who had come up to the door Sunday afternoon and made up some story about how she was supposed to meet her agent there in a few minutes, so golly, could she just come in now? Rule number one of selling a house: never let anyone in your house without an agent. And we knew she was making up the story, because the listing said agents must call ahead before showing up. We have a small child afterall, and some times are not optimal for people to drop by. No call from an agent means she wasn’t meeting her agent there in a few minuts. She was lying. We turned her away, saying when her agent got here, the agent could call ahead for an appointment. She got in her car and left. Amazingly enough, an agent never showed up.

So imagine our surprise when she showed up at the door on Monday. Had she just told the truth on Sunday, we probably would have let her in. We still haven’t figured out why she felt like she needed to lie. It turned out to be a moot point, because they declined our counter offer on Tuesday. We were actually relieved. We didn’t like the idea of doing business with a husband who made offers on houses without his wife’s knowledge and a wife who lies when the truth would have served her much better.

We moved on to the second offer and made the same counters to its terms. The buyer accepted the offer and we entered into escrow. With an accepted offer on the table, we made arrangements to delay the close of the house we were buying by a week so the Bay Area house would close in time for us to use the proceeds for the down payment.

But remember what I said about it not being that easy? No sooner did we get the seller of the house we were buying to agree to the later close date, than the buyers of our house backed out of the contract. Apparently “earnest money” and a signed contract don’t mean shit, and they backed out without consequence. I’m still amazed as to how that works, but whatever.

We now had to start over and find a new buyer. Which in all likelihood meant that we wouldn’t be able to close the Bay Area house before we had to come up with the down for the house we were buying. Panic ensued at the House O’Hag and Hunk, and we started scrambling to find other ways to make the down. We ended up being able to unlock some of the Bay Area house’s equity, but with loan processing times, it was going to be close. In the meantime, we dropped the price of the Bay Area house to get into a lower search bracket in MLS and relisted that sucker on Thursday.

By Monday morning we had three more offers on the table, with two more waffling. Two offers were for the new asking price at 100% financing and cash back for closing costs. But the third offer was for more than our original asking price and with 10% cash down! That meant that the escrow could close in less than 30 days. We could make our closing date! Not being idiots, we accepted this offer.

The only snag to this process was the equity we got out of the house to make the down. As expected, the loan took a while to come through, which meant that the payoff order couldn’t be put through right away. That delayed the sale of the Bay Area house, but we were able to close the house we were buying on time. Luckily, the delay in the Bay Area house wasn’t a problem, although we did come (literally) within minutes of the buyer losing his lock on his loan rate, which would have meant we would have had to pay a penalty for him to keep the rate. But no worry, it happened.

Now, since this entry is approximately four billion pages long, I will quit now. Coming soon – the fascinating tale of moving in to the new house. I know, bated breath and all that… but thanks for reading.

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