Monday, April 14, 2014

House Hunters Dysfunctional: Why HGTV Didn't Answer My Casting E-mails

Looking for a house isn't like the other kinds of shopping one does in normal life. If I want paper towels, I go to Safeway. If I want a million paper towels for the low price normally associated with buying a thousand paper towels, I go to Costco. If I want a million paper towels for that said low price but want them delivered to an address I haven't lived at for six months - but on the very same day I ordered them! - I use Google Shopping Express.

This is stuff you know. But if you want to buy a house, there's no house store to go to. You have to run around all over the place and look at them, and you don't even get to know where they are. That's the province of the realtor, who is the keeper of all of the secrets of where the good houses are and the not-so-secret secret that you can't afford them.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, you probably want to know why I, who wouldn’t know General Responsibility if she saw him in a parade on TV, would think it was a good idea to own a piece of land.

For one thing, I wanted to be able to vote at last.* But mostly it was the mold. Most people, upon discovering their rental home has mold, would confront their landlord, or move out, or something. But the thing is…. our rent was really, really cheap. Like really cheap. Cheap like our three-bedroom rental house with a two-car garage was cheaper than a one-bedroom apartment in the dorms that the other law students lived in. And between my money-expensive habit (law school) and Husband’s space-expensive habit (systematically disassembling a 50s car with a retro space station’s worth of chrome on it), it made sense to stay. I may regret this when I die of a pulmonary disease in my 50s, but hopefully my estate’s lawyer finds this post and sues my landlord.

In any case, since at least one of us had finally quit our respective expensive habit, it seemed like it was time to move.

So begin to look for a house we did. I tried to go into the house hunting experience with the low expectations suitable to buying real estate. I've seen Property Brothers - I wouldn't be fooled into thinking I could afford my Dream Home (tm Mattel). We got ourselves a realtor - an excellent one who I think was helping me largely as a favor to my boss’s boss (who has a fondness for buying and selling houses that I imagine she appreciates).

Yet somehow I still managed to be shocked by the houses we ended up looking at. One was painted entirely pea green and, when you walked in the front door, practically dropped you right into the master bedroom. Another had an outdoor shower in the backyard right off the master bedroom, despite having a total absence of a pool, beach, Tough Mudder course, built-in slip-n-slide, or anything else that would justify a porch shower. One had a newly renovated kitchen but a bathroom so small that the sink was no wider than my index finger is long. Yet another had a frillion closets but only one bathroom.

So by the time we got to a house that was pretty good, it looked amazing. It was nice and clean on the inside; the kitchen was decent; it had two bathrooms. Sure, the backyard was a little small. Sure, there were no sidewalks on the streets. And sure, for being in such a dope school district, the house next door did look a lot like a crack house.

But we decided to put in an offer nonetheless.

Unfortunately, in the Very Special Real Estate Market we live in, you can't just offer the asking price. And apparently you really can't do what I wanted to do, which is a negotiation tactic I learned from watching Pawn Stars: whatever price they want, offer them a quarter of it. No, in this VSREM, you apparently** have to offer ABOVE the listed price to even have a chance of getting the property. And heaven help you guess just how much over you should go.

After a bunch of agonizing over the phone with Husband, because I was away for work and thus managing to leave all the annoying paperwork to the better half of our collective partnership, we decided on 25% over the asking price, which was already an ENTIRELY ridiculous amount of money.

Husband: There are a ton of forms I need you to sign tomorrow, though.
Liz: I will be trapped in a room I cannot leave all day.
Husband: Great.

As it turns out, our offer was but one of eight other offers on the property, which sold for around 150% of the listed price. I was grossed out. But we were both over it a few days later when we were hunting around on Zillow some more. And I pointed my laptop screen at Husband after I saw this house:

Liz: “We can afford this one!”
Husband: “It looks like a barn!”

We knew we were going to that open house.

* Come for the typical Millennial immaturity, stay for the American-politics-circa-1791 jokes!

**I'm sorry, but I just can't quit using sarcastic "apparently"s when discussing real estate; my disdain was palpable and has yet to wear off fully.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so happy you're blogging again!! (Except what is your photo at the top all about? I can't figure it out ...) More! More! More!

    Also, sneaky image flip-flopping! ;)