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.


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