Househunting - urk! (kind of pathetic)

So, chembug and I are trying to buy a house. This will be our first house. We have been married for 4½ years and we want to start a family, and we would like to have a nice little house to build a family in. Right now we are living in a rental townhouse, and it’s OK, but with us and the three cats and all our assorted stuff, it’s getting a little too cozy.

So, we did the pre-approval thing, and we found out what we could get for a mortgage. It is not as much as we wanted, but we know we will be able to afford the mortgage, which is definitely a good thing. Our mortgage company has a program for first time homebuyers where they hook you up with a realtor to act as the buyer’s agent, and we have been working with him to set up showings, put in offers, etc.

So, long story short, so far we are 0-for-3 on the houses we have put in offers on. On the first house we really liked, we actually had a contract, but the seller was (and I hate to say this but it is the truth) a complete C-word and she tanked the deal less than 24 hours before closing. Fortunately we got all our money back, less the cost for the home inspection, but what we really wanted was the house. The last two houses we liked, we were outbid on.

So, we are feeling a bit down about this whole thing, and I can’t speak for chembug but I am just about ready to stick my head in the oven. I don’t understand our luck. I want to believe that everything happens for a reason, and that when we are meant to have a particular house, things will work out. But that doesn’t make us feel much better. There aren’t a lot of prospects out there in our price range, and we can’t really afford to “bump up” any. Why won’t anyone sell us a house? We have college degrees and good jobs and money!

So, all of this is combined with the fact that we are still trying to start a family after a year of seriously “trying.” And believe me, I am having a hard time explaining that away - I am a total class-A type overachiever, and I am used to being able to do most things on the first try. (Not that trying isn’t fun, but that is not the point.) Meanwhile the rest of the women in my family continue to be prolific breeders, and here we are with our cats. Who are lovely, mind you, but just not the same.

Yeah house-hunting really sucks. I realize that you’re not looking for advice, but let me give you some anyway:

Drive around the town you want to live in and look for “for sale” signs. If you see a house you like, call up the seller’s agent (the name and phone number will probably be on the sign). If you make your bid directly to the seller’s agent and your own broker is not involved, the seller stands to make a double commmission. So he or she will have an incentive to push your bid.

Of course, the seller’s agent doesn’t represent your interests, so you’ll have to be careful. But you should be careful anyway.

Thanks luc. Actually, we are always looking for advice, so don’t think it isn’t appreciated. The problem that we are having is that it is a pretty “hot” market in the areas we are looking at (suburban Philadelphia) and stuff goes so fast. Some houses are selling in literally hours, and definitely days - very few homes are even up for a week any more. We did try dealing directly with listing agents at the beginning and for whatever reason, we did not seem to have much more luck. Most of the time there is already an (alleged) offer on the table when we do the 1st walkthrough. But we will keep trying whatever we can.

Ok, here’s another piece of advice: Even in a hot market, there are a few overpriced houses that just sit on the market. Most of the time, folks selling overpriced houses are not serious sellers. However, some of these sellers are motivated and actually willing to sell for a lot less.

After a house has been on the market for a few months, the amount of interest dies down. People are more interested in the new, hot listings and tend to think there is something wrong with the house.

So if you go around making low-ball (but not too low!) offers on these overpriced houses, there’s a decent chance you will make a deal without competition from other buyers.

Hang in there; you’ll get your house eventually. The real estate market traditionally slows WAY down during the winter holiday period (especially during the time between Christmas and New Year’s), and that’s not all that far off. If you’re prepared to do some serious looking and bidding while everyone else is merry-making, you’ll improve your odds of succeeding.

For some reason I read this ‘horsehunting’. I figured it would probably be about buying a horse, but on the off chance it was about killing horses I clicked anyway.

Badtz - um, thanks for checking in, sorry if you were disappointed. FWIW, we’d probably have better luck buying a horse than we are having buying a house, but there isn’t enough room in the den right now to keep a horse.

luc - we have been looking into some of the houses that have been on the market for a “while” (i.e., a month or more), and for the most part they have not sold yet because they need some serious work. Roofs, electrical, masonry, etc. In some of these cases, even if we could get away with a lowball offer, we wouldn’t be able to afford the repairs. So, back to square one we go.

artemis - my title guy (a former insurance company colleague who now works for an abstract firm) said the same thing, and we have already warned our families that it is possible that we will be doing the “Christmas thing” in February. But we started looking seriously in early August, and it is hard to stay positive when it feels like you’ve been through the ringer forever. We’re trying, though. And we’ll keep trying.

I guess our thing is, for everybody else around us, this stuff seems so easy, and then it gets to us and everything is wacked out and FUBAR and nothing like anyone else’s experience. We know people who started looking for houses more than a month after we did, and they have had closing already, whereas we can’t seem to get past the offer stage. I don’t think we’re being unreasonable - on the last house we looked at, we offered $3K more than the asking price and still lost out. It’s just so damn discouraging.

Any seller who tanks a deal 24 prior to closing should be hit with a great big lawsuit. You had a valid contract and she does that? It is not even legal. I’m in real estate, and I’ve seen this happen. You should get something for her illegal actions beyond the return of the deposit.

The best way to get a house is to make a full price offer. The seller has to take it. If someone outbids you on it, then you’re really out of luck. But it rarely happens.

I don’t think I can emphasize enough the merit of doing a bunch of the house-hunting legwork yourself, espically in a hot market. Why? Even if you have a real estate agent who is dedicated solely to you, and has absolutely nothing else to do with their time, by the time they find out about a place, let you know, and get you there to look at it, the house may have been sold or put under contract.

And no, the seller does not have to accept a full price offer. My parents, for example, have refused one because of the list of conditions attached. The person who sold the house to my Sister and BIL refused a full price offer from someone else, again, because of a condition the other person had. As usual, YMMV, local, State, and Federal laws may or may not apply. (The above examples were in two different states.) However, a full offer with no conditions is extremely hard for someone to turn down.

<< Woo. >>

Annie - what happened with the C-word seller was a big damn mess. We had a contract, but she kept trying to change the terms. She wouldn’t make any repairs, she wouldn’t give us anything off the price, and she wouldn’t sign the release until we threatened to sue her. The day before closing she tried to raise the sale price by $7,000! We eventually got our deposit money back, and the title company went after her for a bunch of stuff - and her house is still unsold, so y’ask me, she got what she deserves.

On the last two houses, we did offer full price, and still got outbid. It sucks major ass! I really do think we’re cursed. Looks like all the luck I was going to get got blown on the office football pool last week.

I’m skeptical of this claim.

Are you claiming that virtually every house in your area in decent shape sells promptly, no matter how high the asking price?

I’m skeptical of this claim too.

But good luck in your house hunt.

I feel for you, rockle.

A few months ago, I put in a bid on a house in the Philly suburbs, and at full list price, too! Silly me, being a first time home buyer, thought that buying a house was much like buying a car, the only real issue was the bottom line.

(S.D. Enter reality.)

The seller strongly wanted to sell the house AS IS, and wanted me to waive the home inspection contingency. This, on a house that was built 80ish years ago, that the seller had redone the wiring and plumbing (and who knows what else!) around 1995. I wanted to know what kind of house I was getting, the seller wanted to sell me a pig in a poke. The deal broke down over that.

In fairness, I made a big newbie mistake. My offer was at full price; if I had offered $10 - 15k below their price, with an escalation clause, I would have been in a perfect position to increase my bid in exchange for the home inspection contingency.

In more fairness, me, my agent, and the seller all made a big newbie mistake. In real estate deals, all negotiations must be in writing! Verbal negotations must be documented in a follow up letter or fax. Offers and counteroffers can be done through repeated submission of the latest revision of the contract.

rockle, from my own experience I suggest you keep your agent in the game, especially if e has a lot of experience, and also get a real estate lawyer.

This being the Pit, I have a few choice things to say about your seller, who (it sounds) tried changing contract terms after the contract was agreed upon: E’s a fucking hardass who deserves eir next offer to be shoved so hard up eir butt e can brush eir teeth with it!

Also – if you got outbid on two houses, that’s just the way the game’s played. I’m sympathetic, of course. Better luck next time, and remember the escalation clause.

Oh, almost forgot some advice: Check with your lender on your maximum possible mortgage amount. What I had done was I got preapproval for my target purchase amount. My real estate lawyer advised me to get my top figure, and make sure that that was comfortably above my target amount. Figure on $10 - 20k of closing expenses and improvements, above the mortgage amount. The difference between that total and your top figure is how much you have to live with; if it’s not enough money, you can afford the house, but you won’t be able to afford your lifestyle in that house.

As my experience shows, the seller doesn’t HAVE to take an offer, even at full price. There are other terms in the offer… and the seller still doesn’t HAVE to sign the contract if e doesn’t want to.

AOP: Ah, I see Nightsong said the same thing.

Dread Pirate Jimbo and I lucked into a house when we weren’t even looking - it can happen to you, too!

This house had sat on the market for over two months (Calgary has one of the hottest real estate markets in North America), mostly because it was overpriced, dirty, and in need of some repairs. I kept looking at the ad on the online mls service, and decided one day to just get my brother-in-law (who is a real estate agent) to take us over there and take a look at it. It turned out that the place was in good shape except for minor cosmetic repairs (doors off hinges, etc), and met our criteria in nearly every way.

The asking price was $169 900 (very cheap for a single family dwelling in Calgary), we offered $155 500, and we got it for $158 500. I fully expected to have an experience just like yours, Rockle, being outbid and stuff. Keep your chin up - your house will find you, just like ours found us.

I would be skeptical myself, if it weren’t the truth (at least IME). Of course, that also depends on how you define “decent.” And of course I can only vouch for those houses in our price range, which is admittedly not as much as we would like. We would have looked at even more houses than we already have, except that some of them go under contract the same day they get listed. Any houses that haven’t sold are not in decent (i.e. liveable) shape. Suburban Philly is a really tough market for buyers right now, especially those of us on a limited budget.

S_B - that is very similar to what happened to us. Our seller seriously believes that her house is worth XXX, in its current condition (which is craptacular, as it turns out). She didn’t flinch at us wanting a home inspection - I just don’t think she expected us to find what we did. When we told her that we would like help making the repairs to, say, the leaky roof, her response was, “It was good enough for me when I lived there.”

Our agent is pretty good and we do have a lawyer just in case we need one. Mostly what I think we need though is either a magician or an “enforcer” to keep other buyers away.

On preview: featherlou, we are doing our best. But it seems like people like you who “aren’t really looking” keep taking all the good stuff away from those of us who are. :stuck_out_tongue:

Aries28 and I had a contingency contract on a house we really wanted more than two years ago. (A contingency contract basically means that we’ll buy the house in question once we get the downpayment – in other words, when our old house was sold.) Unfortunately, ours was not the first contingency contract on that same house – it was the third.

We signed a contract on our old house, and told the realtor we were exercising our contingency contract on the new house. The first contingency contract holder immediately folded and withdrew. The second, though, apparently had the cash for the downpayment, so they bought the house. Leaving us with two weeks to find a house.

Fortunately, we found an even BETTER house, and have lived there happily ever since.

My advice? Don’t give up, no matter what. And don’t rule out that first house you got screwed on. That dingbat owner sounds like she’s gonna scare off several offers. It might be worth revisiting in a couple of weeks, if you can stand to deal with her.

I will add a word of caution here – if you haven’t signed a contract with your “buyer’s agent” yet, find another agent. Hell, find another agent anyway – you won’t regret it. I have heard a few horror stories from people who used an agent recommended by the bank you got your mortgage from, and horror stories of people who went with the bank that the agent recommended.

I would seriously recommend keeping your agent in the dark about what you can really afford, too. I am 99% sure that my last “buyer’s agent” was in collusion with the bank AND the realtor for the seller. There is no way she could have known the things she did if there wasn’t some inside talk there.

In fact, if you can do it, buy it yourself without a realtor! It’s really not that difficult if you have a modicum of intelligence. Because my realtor was so crappy I ended up handling all the financial stuff myself. All she did was drive us to see homes – because of her bad knees she couldn’t even walk around them.

I know every realtor on the board is going to yell at me now :stuck_out_tongue: All I have to say is that you are probably not as bad as mine was.

Come out to Missouri, rockle, 'cause auntie em and I keep getting offered these houses (even though we’re not looking) when we’re not really ready to buy yet.

Which isn’t entirely true, I suppose, because the first house we were offered, we wanted; however, auntie em hadn’t found a job in the area yet, nor had we sold her house, so the payments for two houses was going to stretch us too thin. And, just this week we were asked if we wanted to buy yet another house (a cute place about 118 years old), but we decided not to because it’s not as big as we’d like it to be.

Now, stay tuned to watch the magic of irony take place in the future, and see as our choices for houses dry up completely when we’re finally ready to buy.

So, I wish you the best of luck. I bet you’ll find a good place eventually. Just make sure to have enough extra room so that auntie em and I can come out to visit you and chembug when we embark on our National Low/High Rent Ice Cream Tour. :wink:

Hi, Rockle

You diffentately want to stay in suburban Philly?, how about looking in Delaware/PA line area or New Jersey?, you may get more house for your money and the schools are pretty good (I know you & SO don’t have kids yet, but you gotta keep that in mind when looking for a house). Not trying to tell you what is best for you and your SO.

Tranquilis and I (1st time home buyers also) are closing on a house 4 BR, 2 FB, Big Kitchen, LR, FR, Garage, Basement, nice backyard, in the Newark, DE area - a little far for you, we looked at alot of houses and we put a bid on one we really liked, but was outbid, but we are glad for that, because this house we are getting is better, and we can do more with it, we are even planning on eventual upgrades/modifications/renovations, etc.

I tell you what though, you want to get your house and move in before the Winter hits hard, Jan - March. We wanted to move by Nov, and we will be living in it by the 2nd week. If you don’t get a house you might have to wait until the late winter/early spring, when the winter is over.

But, also look at the interest rates, they aren’t going to stay low forever and they will go back up. And look at your lease, you may be obligated to stay for a required amount of time and breaking a lease can be difficult, and you don’t want to have a mortgage and having to pay on a rental house at the same time, cause you can’t get out of your lease.

Good Luck, I hope you get your house.

You know, I have been thinking about looking for another realtor. Our realtor is OK, I guess, but I don’t think he likes me very much (although I will concede that I have a terrible persecution complex). I feel like he is condescending to me, which irks the shit out of me. He gets along well with my husband, though, but my husband is a nice guy (read: occasional milquetoast) and won’t do anything to upset anyone.

I think we are going to stick it out with this realtor for one more month, and then maybe try to find another. Our lender has a great program where we get some money back if we deal with one of their “approved” realtors or whatever the term they used was. The problem is, the lender will always provide the buyer’s agent with some preapproval info, under the auspices of “making everything easier for everyone.”

Skip, I don’t know if we could handle Missouri, although we wouldn’t mind visiting. We went to Kentucky for the Meatball Wedding and I just about went berserk. I do find it interesting how property values differ so widely by location, though - my cousin in Kentucky just built a brand new house on a little over an acre for less than we will be spending on a “gently used” house with maybe a postage stamp yard.

And Intaglio, we are trying to stick to the Montgomery and Chester County areas. We both work in King of Prussia and since we want to have kids soon, we want to try to stay close. Right now I think Delaware County PA is retarded expensive - property there is in really high demand, so in some cases it is more than in the areas off 422. Whatever happens, we need to close and move by April, when our lease is up, or else we will need to renegotiate our lease to be month-to-month, and pay even MORE for rent.