Wednesday, July 28, 2010

how to buy a home - part ii

Today, I drove around with our Realtor and looked at all of the homes that I had selected and all I can say about that is YOWZER.

Has any one ever seen the television show Hoarders?

I need to write a post about how to SELL a home and distribute it to 18 of the 22 homes that we saw today. While I'm fairly good at "seeing past" some one else's belongings, it's hard to do when you can hardly walk through a house because there is so much stuff on the floor.

Stuff like ... say ... a half eaten cheeseburger from McDonald's, still in the wrapper.

Are the homes really in such high demand in this part of the country that people can STOP cutting their grass once their house goes on the market? Because seriously, I felt like I needed a weed whacker to get to the front door on several properties. And once inside one of the homes, I quickly had to block not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE cats from darting out past me. At another house, the owner greeted us at the front door smoking a cigarette.

A large part of the reason it took Charlie and I several days longer to leave California than we had expected, is because when we pulled out of the driveway for the last time, our house was absolutely spotless. So to see homes in such terrible condition to me is downright baffling and disgusting. But it also helps me to better understand how we've now received five offers on our home in two weeks time.

Suffice it to say, the strategy I employed today for finding THE PERFECT home was met with zero success. But that's alright because as far as Charlie and I are concerned, we found the perfect home this past weekend. Thus far, nothing even comes close to comparing and we're ready to feel settled and slightly afraid that if we don't jump on it, it will be sold out from beneath us. Even though the bathrooms are a little small and Charlie and I will be sharing a closet ... I don't wear half the clothes I own, anyway.

So we're putting in our very first offer, tomorrow.

Now here's the thing.

We've never put in an offer on a home before. Because the first (and only) home that we've ever purchased - was bought directly from a builder, so there wasn't much (any) negotiation.

We were feeling a little intimidated as to how to even determine an appropriate offer and so we have opted to apply the same approach of how we established the sale price for our California home. While we trust our Realtor, we really wanted to come up with a value in our own minds that we believe is acceptable, before we sit down and talk with her about drawing it up.

First, we asked that our Realtor send us all of the comparatives for similar sized homes that have sold within the neighborhood within the past six months.

Second, we reviewed all of the comps. And we crafted yet another spreadsheet, that captured the listing price, sales price, square footage of the home, square footage of the lot, other features such as garage, attic, basement, fireplace(s), and any improvements.

Third, we calculated what the average sale price per square foot was in the neighborhood and then we compared that to the listing price of the home we're interested in. And what we discovered is that "our" home is listed at approximately 50% over the average square footage sale price for the neighborhood, despite not having a single update since the 1960's. While we suspected that the home was overpriced before, we now have concrete evidence to support our lower bid.

Fourth, we came up with what we consider to be a reasonable offer and compared that value to the estimate on Zillow (

Fifth, thanks to the advice received from so many of you, I wrote a short letter to the family, expressing our gratitude at having an opportunity to present an offer on such a beautiful property - and excitement at the prospect of living in such a wonderful home. It wasn't my intention to write anything sappy, but rather, to let them know a little about the young family that would thoroughly enjoy living in this space. I'll ask our Realtor take a look at the letter and if she thinks it's acceptable, we'll include it with our offer that we'll be submitting tomorrow night.

Sixth, we'll be keeping our fingers and toes crossed that this all works out. We took the children to the house today and they spent the better part of an hour playing in and around the creek. That house, while it definitely needs some work, is without a doubt, a child's paradise.

Seventh, we'll definitely be hiring a private inspector. But I have no idea when that will happen. We're totally figuring this thing out as we go. Also, there are A LOT of homes out there and the deal's not done until the check has cleared the bank. So whatever you do, don't allow yourself to get too emotionally attached.

Oops. Too late.

I love it there, oh my good heavens, I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Today, while I was standing in a sunbeam on the bank of the creek - and Henry was tossing in rocks, and the triplets were trying to catch an alligator, a bright yellow monarch butterfly was circling my head.

It was a magical moment.

I really hope we can have a hundred million more just like it.


  1. An offer on a house already? How exciting!

  2. Yes, yes the letter works wonders. When we bought this house, we were having trouble selling ours. I wrote the letter explaining about our infant triplets, that the house was on the same block as my sister, etc. They took the house off the market until our house sold. And it was months. They wanted our family who really needed and would appreciate this big house in their home.

  3. It truly is amazing how some people live... and, that they would feel comfortable letting others see how they live.
    Sounds like you guys have done your homework and have a solid case for your offer. The whole realestate 'game' is kind of silly. My sister was recently placing an offer on a summer lake house and asked for my opinion on her offer. My suggestion was quite low, but I reminded her that the owners always counter. Well, the owners accepted the offer! She had $30,000 more in her pocket than she was expecting!
    Keeping my fingers crossed that you get this one. It sounds perfect!

  4. Praying it works out perfectly for you!

  5. Ohmygosh. I hope you get it!!!!

  6. Oh dear. I am nervous for you! I hope that it all goes through!

    And umm.... I hope that it was a very small alligator ;)

  7. Jen, I am SO glad you are putting an offer in on that house. I believe in signs and think they are all flashing for you!

    One bit of insight, we hired a home inspector for a house we, well more me than DH, fell in love with. He was fabulous and because his report was so accurate we walked away. The right thing to do in that case though I can still picture most of that house 100% despite a 12+ year gap. For the house we live in now, we used a different inspector one suggested at the "advice" of our realtor. He turned out to be a quack. This was a valuable lesson for me, to always listen to my little voice. If I had I would have used the first home inspector for the house we live in now. I bet money he would have caught the huge safety violation of an outlet in the shower!

    My point is, it is not easy to find a reputable inspector and a reputable one can make or break the case. Check out my all time favorite website for home info. will be an invaluable resource for you and Charlie in the upcoming renos you'll have. I would bet dollars to doughnuts or Dove chocolates that at least one of the many forums there will be able to provide some help in finding a good, reputable and non-quack of an inspector.

    Hope everyone enjoyed the museums -we were on a family vacation there last week and loved it!

  8. it sounds amazing...i'll keep my fingers crossed for you too

  9. The house sounds great -- I hope they accept your offer. Just a thought -- make sure that idyllic creek on your property isn't prone to flooding.....that could make things a bit more complicated in the future. Hopefully you can post pictures soon!

  10. Y E A H!!!!! So excited for you, I hope you get it! :)

  11. BlackOrchid7/29/10, 4:17 PM

    Hee I looked for my first house in 1994 - the tail end of another housing bust, at least out here. I saw things that would curl your hair for sure. Then again, I was looking at distressed properties (all I could afford).

    I think your plan is very sound! I hope things work out. It might take some time.

    Not to be a noodge again, but with a creek you will want to check and see if you have to get flood insurance. It may seem ridiculous, I almost bought an older home from the original owner that was HIGH UP with a tiny creek in one corner of the (large) property. They had never paid flood insurance, BUT if I wanted a mortgage, the Army Corps of Engineers had just decided pretty much anywhere with a body of water anywhere on it in PA was "flood plain." We argued back and forth for a while with the owners (they couldn't believe we would need it) until we bought something else. They ended up coming back to us months later but it was too late. For both of us; I'd loved the home.

    So, check on that, find a good home inspector, try and be patient, and I hope things go well! Good luck, Jen.

  12. Good luck with your offer!
    You seem to totally know what you are doing. That said, one thing you might want to keep in mind is not just how good the local school is, but also whether they will have space at this point for 3 more kindergarteners... I know in our district you are not guaranteed a spot at the closest school, only a spot somewhere within the district.

  13. I LOVE scientists! As an accountant they make my life so much easier. I love the full on analytical approach you've taken to coming up with an be sure to have your realtor mention all those statistics when she talks to the other realtor during the negotiations.

    Additionally, I think having the thank you letter is a plus. We were definitely chosen to live in our last home because we had all the kids in tow and the owner loved us as a family.

  14. Really hoping things work out for you with the house. It sounds like a magical place to grow up.