Last week we took a drive down to Ann Arbor so I could be surprised by a birthday party. Driving through the city where I have not driven for about six years was rather strange. I could not remember the names of the streets, and I was not at all sure where they went. Our “new” used car does not have GPS, so we were on our own. Traffic was heavy and there were a number of detours, making the adventure all the more fun. The fact that my birthday had the number 80 attached to it made navigation even better. I felt like I’d awakened at night in a totally dark room, and I was trying to find the bathroom – not that this has ever happened to me.
While all of this was going on, we were continuing our online search for housing. We found a house that was totally charming. It was in Gainesville, in an old neighborhood called the Duckpond, and it was made of chert – a kind of quartz made up of shells and skeletons that had spent a long time on the ocean floor. We studied the photos in the listing, figured out renovations that would be required, had a realtor do a video walkthrough, and asked an architect friend to take a good look at how he could make the kitchen workable and the bedroom large enough to fit a bed. It all looked pretty good, so we made an offer.
The offer included a stipulation that the Seller had one day to respond, or our offer would be withdrawn, a few hours later we got a request to extend the deadline, as the Seller had other people who were going to look at the home. Foolishly, perhaps, I said yes. A little bit later our realtor passed along a request that we participate in “escalation,” where we offered to overbid offers higher than ours, with a maximum high dollar amount that we were willing to pay. Competing bidders were doing the same thing. Again, foolishly, I agreed, giving our cap about $40,000 above our initial offer, though still under the asking price. This was all done on the phone, some of it during my birthday party. I felt like I was pretty much on my own here, driving in heavy traffic with no GPS and a few detours thrown in. Somewhere in all the phone calls our architect told us that the house needed a new roof, and that there was no way to access the back yard without going through the house, which would make roofing difficult.
We did not get a call back at night after the 6 p.m. deadline, so the next day I called our realtor – or rather, his assistant, as he was busy for a few days. He told us we did not get the house. We expressed our unhappiness with the process, and he said he understood.
On the following day our original realtor called, and I explained my displeasure to him. When I mentioned the roof problems, he noted that because of changes in Florida’s insurance laws, the age of the roof meant that the house could not be insured. In terms of my driving analogy, this would have been a major pothole had we “won” the house. So it goes.
As we reflect on the entire process, we see how the current “Seller’s Market” is making it tough on a lot of people, driving up the price of houses, and in so doing, raising the “comps” that realtors and mortgage companies use to determine the right value/price of a house, which is going up fast. Yes, the Seller’s realtor does what he or she can to get the most money for the client, but a consequence is that lots of people simply cannot afford a place to live. That sucks (to use a term I learned years ago in Economics 21).
I mentioned before that we are flakey clients, difficult for realtors as we jump from commitment to commitment. For example, just three days ago we called a realtor in Gainesville to make an offer on a condo, then called her back a couple of hours later, changing our mind. She seemed happy to have us as potential clients.
Meanwhile, Kim came up with a solution: We are signing a lease to rent an apartment in Gainesville, where we will spend our winters. This will cost a lot less than purchasing a house, with all the taxes, closing costs, insurance, etc. And we will be near Genne’ and her big heart. What’s more, if we change our mind, or if we find a really cool house, we are only renting for a year. This way we are avoiding the That Sucks bidding war, and we can continue to be flakey. Kim has started to organize and decorate our future, based on the floor plan we found online.
Yes, when we get around to selling our Bark House, we will want to get as much for it as we can. Perhaps. But we might want to sell to someone who will respect what we’ve done here, loves what we love. We are fortunate that we do not need to be greedy. Who does? The apartment, which we have not seen, is not our “dream home,” but we already have one.