Sunday, July 31, 2011


Dear Diary -
Like, nothing happened this week. Everything's totally boring. The appraisal company hit our credit card for $400 on the 27th, but no report. Maybe tomorrow. On a good note, we got things hammered out with the seller about the items brought to light in the inspection. They're going to take care of the spout (spigot?) and the exposed electrical wire, and are adding another $500 towards our closing costs.

We signed the Addendum to the contract that contained those terms and submitted for the counter-signature. It came back duly signed and stamped -- and that was the curious thing. The seller is the current homeowners' relocation company, and the seller's agent's stamp said "As agent ... subject to Seller becoming owner.” That's odd, I said to myself. Surely the seller is the owner? It turns out that there are actually two sales going on concurrently for the same house: the relocation company buying it from the residents, and us buying it from the relocation company. Seems convoluted, but it's standard operating procedure for relocation companies, according to the seller's agent.

My wife never did have her wisdom tooth pulled, by the way. Her dentist bobbled her appointment, giving her one too late in the day to allow for an extraction. And so in between getting another appointment with them and juggling her ever-changing work schedule, she's not due to have it yanked until 8/15 -- ten days before our expected closing date. Fortunately, she loves the taste of antibiotics.

So that's it until we get the appraisal results and can start getting insurance quotes. Apparently the homeowner's policy isn't going to be too bad -- it's the wind insurance that will hurt.

Pepys said it best: And so to bed. That's not really applicable; once again, we're down at the Wishing Well, talking to Juan. Close enough, though. Good night, Diary.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


We know from our mortgage guy, Joe, that the loan application was received and submitted to the lender and that the Appraisal has been scheduled -- but he's not sure when it was for. Might have already been done, for all I know. We'll get the report 2 days after it's completed, according to Joe.

I asked Lorri about the repairs, whether they would be covered by the seller or not. She reminded me that the house was being sold in "as-is" condition, but she said she'd ask. Seller was amenable to including a "credit" towards the purchase price if we would handle the repairs ourselves.

Too bad, though -- the loan officer (I think that's who she is; right now, this person is just a name on an e-mail thread and at the top of the loan application paperwork) responded that no lender would agree to that provision, and that the sellers would either need to cover more of the closing costs (thus reducing our out-of-pocket expenditures) or just give us cash, away from the table.

And so we wait. Tomorrow Naomi gets a wisdom tooth extracted. Couldn't do it last week; she had a massive infection, hence all the pain. And so it goes: it's all about pulling teeth.

And now we're down at the Wishing Well, drinking. Turns out that one of our favorite bartenders, Juan, used to be in the mortgage business, and he's a veritable mine of information. And beer. Information and beer, beer and information. That's what makes the world go 'round.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Today, for the first time since we viewed the house several weekends ago, I got to re-see it, and I'm still pleased and excited. I was a little scared that I'd go back in and everything would now appear dingy and broken, or just a little less nice than my first impression allowed me to apprehend. Happily, I was wrong - I'm still taken with the place.

I was there for the home inspection. It's an entirely voluntary step, but everyone I've spoken to has stressed the importance of having it done, as any physical defects that might be there, hidden to a layman, will become our problem entirely once the closing takes place; the house is being sold in "as-is" condition. And so I wrote a check for $375 and had a licensed inspector go over the whole house, from top to bottom. He also called in a termite inspector and, thank God, that's an insect menace we are free of.

The inspection took well over an hour. The guy was on the roof, in the attic, flicking switches, flushing toilets, rooting around in the bushes, taking photos ... more like a neighborhood pervert's gig, but this guy has a business card, so I guess it's all right. Long story short, the house is in good shape! There are some cracks in a few of the tiles on the roof, the seams by the gutters need attention, and there are some very minor cracks in the walls and in a few windowsills. The most major repair is where the water comes into the house; the handle (knob? furl? I don't know this stuff, that's why I hired someone) need to be replaced, as there's signs of leakage, and it needs to be addressed. And that's it. The wiring looks old but good. The windows, the foundation, the roof generally -- it's in good shape. So that's a major relief. The stuff on the roof won't even need a roofer, the inspector said. Any competent handyman will be able to do the job. So it's really just the water spigot (spout? faucet?) that's an issue.

Earlier today, I had to head over to our credit union and withdraw many thousands of dollars and have them encapsulated in a cashier's check; this was turned over to Lorri, who, in turn, gave it to the Title agency who have set it up in an escrow account. So that's our down payment taken care of, as well as our savings account. Who needs a nest egg, amiright?

Today isn't over, friends. I'm actually typing this at my wife's dentist's office; one of her wisdom teeth is giving her a hard time. Once we're done here, I have to drop her home, I'll go to work for a couple of hours, then I have to pick the missus up and bring her to a chiropractor's appointment, and then - then! - we can get some real work done: we're going to the Wishing Well for a beer, and to sign, date, and initial 45 pages of fun: the formal loan application. Actually, I lied, it's 46 pages; the last page is an authorization form so that our mortgage guy can tap one of our credit cards for the cost of the House Appraisal, the next step in the process.

This appraisal will be looking at the cost of the house, the amount of the loan, the value of the house, the value of similar houses and what they recently sold for, the physical condition of the house, etc ... and then the lender will determine whether or not the house is worth what they're going to be lending us to buy it. I was going to start getting quotes for house insurance today, but apparently you need the appraisal first, so the insurance company knows how much it's insuring for.

Also, if the appraisal comes in too far below the cost of the house, the lender simply will not loan us the money. We either will have to make up the shortfall in cash, or the seller will have to lower the price.

And so, this brings us to the end of another entry in everyone's favorite blog. Tune in next time, when I'll have something important to say about the need to check the ink level in one's pen before one begins signing 45 pages.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Yesterday we learned that the seller accepted the contract and countersigned, thereby executing it. Sounds final, right? Au contraire, mon frère! There's still a little matter of everything else – but at least now the ball is rolling. We need to get a large chunk 0' change over to our agent's title company at the beginning of next week, and there is a house inspection pending for mid-day on Saturday. So we'll see about the presence of mold, rot, mice, lice, rice, stoats, oats, goats, termites, and crud. The roof will be inspected as will the basement, which will be amusing to watch as there's no basement in this house. None of the houses around here have basements, for a very good reason: dig six feet down or so, and the hole starts filling up with water! And a hole that's filled with water will soon attract alligators. Because this is south Florida, and that's what happens.

Assuming the place gets a clean bill of health, we move on to the next step, XXXX. I had to put Xs there because I'm not sure what the next step is going to be. I'm sure someone will tell me, though. And when I learn what it is, you'll learn as well, gentile reader, because we're all in this together, for better or for worse.

ETA: Home inspection has been pushed to Monday. Que sera, sera. Everyone's going to have to wait for the next thrilling installment of ... CONFESSIONS!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


So anyway, nice house, blah blah blah. Two thousand square feet under AC, small screened patio, single-car garage, quarter-acre lot. Nice, stable neighborhood where the houses haven't devalued too too badly in the past few years, close to well-rated schools and a decent shopping center. Also it's only a couple of miles to the beach and a couple of minutes to the I-95 on-ramp. And trust me, once you set foot in either of those locations, you're in a different food chain. Ba-DUM-bum! It looks like everything's been recently remodeled and it has a new AC system. This is important because my wife and I work a lot, and we don't want a Handyman's Special; we just want to move in. also, I'm not that handy. My first project is going to be to install a cat flap in the back door, and that will probably exhaust my knowledge of carpentry.

The asking price is ... well, it's above our budget. I'm sure it's reasonable, it's probably well below where it might have been six or seven years ago, but it's more than we're willing to pay. So Lorri contacts the listing agent and informally throws out a number that's around $35,000 below the asking price. Bold? Yes. Cheeky? Yes. Rejected? Oh yes. But at least that gives us a better idea. So we formally make an offer that's $25K below the price tag.

Oh, here's something else to add to the mix: the current owners are being relocated for employment reasons, but they're not expecting to move until early December. A stroke of luck! Because our lease here at the condo doesn't expire until the end of November, and our landlord has made it clear that we are expected to pay rent up through that time. So in with this formal offer, we include a clause that allows the current owners to rent from us after closing (expected to happen in late August) until mid- to late November. The quoted rent is high, but it's another factor for negotiation.

Did I mention that the current owners aren't the sellers, per se? The whole sale is being handled by a relocation company. So that means we're negotiating with a corporation. They have a listing agent to talk to other real estate agents, but ultimately, all the decisions are being undertaken by a company.

And so our first formal offer is rejected. Their agent tells our agent to bump it up by another $5K or so, and we probably have a deal. Oh, and never mind that whole "renting" malarkey. Ok, fine, so we do another offer: $20K below the asking price, plus they help us with closing costs. This is encapsulated in a fifteen-page document full of dense legalese that we must initial, sign, and date at regular intervals. The seller has two days to countersign if they accept; at that point, the contract will be executed.

The answer comes back: Yeah, no. No help with closing costs. "But," we whine, "On House Hunters, the seller ALWAYS helps with closing costs!" Not this time, apparently. The anticipated costs are going to be around $7K. We could probably come up with that kind of cash, but remember, kids -- we will also have to put up a cash deposit. We've been saving for a while so the deposit is painful but do-able, but covering all of the closing fees on top of that is going to hurt. And so we make another offer: $20K below the list price PLUS $7K, if the seller will pay the closing costs up front. This is called "rolling," and it means that we have saved cash in the short term, but we've increased the size of our mortgage slightly. We're going for a 30-year fixed rate, so it shouldn't hurt that much. And so we sign and initial another couple of pages and wait.

The relocation company/seller must not hate the sound of that too awfully because they ...

No, they don't execute the offer. They give us another 20 pages to sign, date, and initial, detailing the state of the house, the possible presence of lead-based paint, and the fact that it has stucco siding. Apparently, the only known defect is that the water dispenser/automatic ice cube maker in the fridge doesn't work (I suspect it isn't plumbed). We do what we need to, get it back to them, and ...

To be continued.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Here's my confession: I've never bought a house. I've lived in one, sure. Well, most of the time. Occasionally I was allowed to come in from my regular quarters in the barn, but that's not the same as owning one, right?

Well, I'm about to. Maybe. And it's here on my widely-read and well-respected blog that I'm going to describe the steps that I have taken/will have taken/might have took in excruciating detail.

Some day, gentle reader, you may wish to purchase your own house, and I am here to tell you: sounds like a good idea to me!

And it's EXACTLY that kind of mushy thinking that has led me to this point. Earlier this year, my wife Naomi and I started talking about buying a place. Since we moved down to Florida we've been living in multi-level dwellings - first an apartment building and now a nice condo - and the experience has had its ups and downs. I'm getting tired of hearing the people upstairs and knowing that I am heard by the people downstairs (they came upstairs to tell us so one night, much in the same way I had to go to the people upstairs and let them know that they were being heard by us, the people downstairs [but not as downstairs as the people downstairs from us]). Our rent is not cheap and has gone up each year since we moved in a few years ago. And so our logic went: What if - if, mind you - we stopped paying rent to someone and got a mortgage? And to go with that fancy new mortgage, we got a shiny new house?

Ok, we didn't use adjectives like "fancy" and "shiny" and "new." But we did use professional-grade words like "mortgage," "house" and "got."

And so we devised a cunning scheme: to start thinking about neighborhoods we liked, and started looking online to get an idea of what the market was like. House prices have been falling, and we figured they could fall still further. Someone (I forget who) gave us some advice, though: Don't wait for the market to bottom out completely, as that's when the 'sharks' come out and start snapping up the really cheap places that are halfway decent, leaving behind only the cheapest fixer-uppers. And so we started looking in earnest, even going so far as to contacting a real estate agent.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am compelled to say that Naomi did most of the legwork, in terms of researching neighborhoods, initiating contact with the Realtor, picking out houses for us to view, and so on. My part was to nod sagely when anyone spoke to me in public and to avoid drooling on the carpeting of any house we went to look at. And we did look at a couple of houses. Our agent humored us and took us out to see three or four prospective abodes and then encouraged us most emphatically to get pre-approved for a mortgage. None of the houses we saw really tickled out fancy nor floated our respective boats, by the way, but it was a tantalizing start, and anyway, we're generally nosy and house-hunting is a GREAT way of indulging that.

Now, paperwork -- that I can do. And so I assembled tax statements, records of earnings, histories of employment, declarations of savings, assertions of liabilities, and proclamations of past housing and submitted them for scrutiny. A day later, we received notice that we had been pre-approved for a great deal more than we are worth (both in a moral and financial sense) and we instantly agreed that we were not going to seek a house in that range ($400K, if you must know. Now who's being nosy?)

Needless to say, our Realtor was delighted. And so she sent us leads and researched properties that we (i.e. my wife) had sent her. We decided that we wanted to stay here in mid- to mideast southern Boca, so that narrowed our search. And we didn't want an HOA fee, as those can rise unexpectedly. And so our choices were further limited. We needed a three bedroom, or at least a two and a den -- just someplace to put the computers and our musical gear.

And then Naomi noticed a house online. She showed it to me, and I didn't care for it much. Something about the floors, they just didn't look right. Right neighborhood, sure. The price was in alignment with what we felt we could handle, mortgage-wise. But the floors, the floors ... I was unimpressed, and told my wife so. She didn't pay me any mind OF COURSE, and let Lorri (our agent) know that "we" were interested in viewing it.

And so two Saturdays ago we went out and looked at a few houses, including the one mentioned above. I refrained from rolling my eyes too much as we pulled up to it although even I had to admit that, from the outside, it looked a lot nicer than the photos would have led me to believe.

To be continued ...