When we left off, I had decided (after 3 months) that my heart was set on the foreclosure. Another timeline seems to be the best way to capture everything that happened after that.
Monday, June 24: First thing Monday morning, I called my Realtor and told her that the foreclosure was the one, and I wanted to make an offer. She told me that she wasn’t home at the moment, and that she’d call me back once she got home to get things started. By about 4pm, when I still hadn’t heard anything from her, I called her back. She was a little snappy with me, saying “I’m still out with this client! I’ll call you when I get home,” so I went back to work (I was put off by the sass, because she hadn’t mentioned that she was with a client the first time we talked). At this point, I was just afraid someone else would make an offer, since the house had been on the market since April!
Tuesday, June 25: My Realtor started the long and arduous process of actually writing up my offer. She recommended that we go in at $10,000 below the list price, and see how the bank would counter. I had initially thought I’d go for about $5,000 below the list price (knowing that when you’re working with a bank-owned property you don’t have a lot of wiggle room), but I was willing to take her professional advice.
Fannie Mae properties (I’ve now learned) come with their own particular contracts, which are long and complicated, and can only be submitted electronically through an online portal. On Tuesday night, I called to check in with my Realtor on the status of my offer, and she told me that she had just gotten off the phone with a technical support person, because the portal for submitting the contract had crashed her computer three times. She told me that she was going to “make supper, and then get back to working on it.” I was annoyed, but still hopeful and excited.
Thursday, June 27: After lots of technical difficulties, my Realtor finally mastered the online system, and I finally got a copy of my contract to review before we submitted my offer. A Virginia real estate contract is 9 pages long, plus a 2-page home inspection addendum. There’s also a 2-page Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act. On top of that, the Fannie Mae contract was 13 pages of dense legal language, plus 2 more pages of addendum. I reviewed it with my dad, who commented that it was basically a list of 1,000 ways that the bank could wriggle out of the process if they needed to. There were lots of pieces of the contract that I didn’t understand, so I covered it with sticky notes to mark my questions to review with my Realtor the next day.
Friday, June 28: I called my Realtor with my list of questions, and she did a good job of answering most of them. I was excited and felt good about making my offer. My realtor called the listing agent (who happens to be a friend of hers–Charlottesville is a small enough town), who told her that we shouldn’t make our offer quite yet, because she had just heard from the bank, and thought they were likely about to lower their price. Since they had lowered the price by $10,000 after about 30 days on the market and after the first offer had fallen through, she thought it would probably come down by another $10,000 since another 30 days had passed, but she didn’t know quite when it would happen.
[A note: The listing agent told us that it was likely that if I made my $10,000-below-list-price offer before the bank dropped their price, they would counter back at full price, because they don’t want to lose any more money. So by waiting for the price to drop to make my offer, the maximum amount they could counter at would be lower. Make sense?]
I decided to hold off on making my offer until the price had dropped, because more money in my pocket is a good thing! The listing agent assured us that she would call us the second the price went down. (I hope this wasn’t a violation of any sort of Realtor code of ethics or anything, but I think it’s an important enough part of the story that I wanted to include it. I hope no one who matters enough ever reads this and penalizes the listing agent!)
Saturday, June 29: P and I headed to Blacksburg to watch my college roommate get married. Aren’t we cute?
Sunday, June 30: I told my Realtor that I’d decided that I’d wait until the following Monday for the price to drop, and if it hadn’t yet, I’d make an offer at the current price.
Monday, July 1-Thursday, July 4: I called my Realtor a few times a day, anxious to know whether she’d heard anything from the listing agent. No news, but the listing agent assured us that the price was going to be lowered. Fannie Mae is just slow to move, I guess.
Friday, July 5: The price came down by $9,100, and I met my Realtor at her office at lunchtime to sign all the papers, give her an earnest money check for 1% of the total purchase price, and let the waiting begin. I was annoyed when I noticed that she hadn’t actually changed any of the paperwork from when we had initially written up the offer–it still had our original offer price! She fed a version of the same logic back to me that the listing agent had offered: since the price had been dropped, the bank was likely to counter at their full list price no matter what. I silently complied, although I really thought that this was just a sign of laziness on her part. Since we didn’t get the offer in until Friday afternoon, I knew I’d be waiting until at least Monday to hear anything back from the bank, and I headed into the weekend excited.
Saturday, July 6: My dad, my sister, P, and I went tubing on the Pamunkey River–an annual tradition hosted by one of my dad’s friends on his family farm. We had a good time on a beautiful day, although I got a serious sunburn that still hasn’t healed (8 days later).
Monday, July 8: I didn’t hear anything all day Monday, so Monday night I called my Realtor. She said that she had just gotten off the phone with the listing agent, and that the bank had countered to our offer. They countered with a price $500 higher, and agreed to the closing costs we had asked for. I delightfully said yes! (At this point during a normal home-buying process, I would have been “under contract.” But I learned that with Fannie Mae, there’s another step: they have to approve my acceptance of their counter-offer, and they can take as much time as they want, in hopes that another offer will come along, and they can pit the buyers against each other in a bidding war. I hoped very much that this wouldn’t happen. I just wanted it to be over with!)
Tuesday, July 9: I didn’t hear anything from my Realtor all day, but I had several phone calls with my mortgage originator about the details of my financing. She told me at one point that she had read over the contract, and thought there were things in it that weren’t “in my best interest,” and that I should ask my Realtor about. (In her opinion, these were things that my Realtor should have noticed and asked about, or tried to change.)
Every hour of every day during the week of July 8-12, I vacillated between feeling ecstatic and horribly frustrated. Every time I called my Realtor with questions, she made me feel belittled and like a nusiance. Talking to my lender–the person who would be helping me give away my precious life’s savings–was ironically more calming to me, because she always took the time to answer my questions, no matter how stupid, and to walk me through all the scenarios and loan options.
Wednesday, July 10: My Realtor called at 9:30pm to say that we had a ratified contract, and she emailed me a copy. I was out at dinner for Restaurant Week (with 3 ladies from the Virginia Bloggers!), and I missed the call. I got the email when I got home. I was under contract!
Earlier that afternoon, my Realtor had gotten a copy of the inspection report from the first offer on the house, and sent it to me, so I could decide whether to use it or to pay to have my own done. I didn’t have time to look at it that day.
Thursday, July 11: I woke up, got ready for work, and sat down to scan the inspection report. I opened the email attachment, and it was 75 pages long. As I started reading, my heart sank. We had been told all along that the house “needs a new roof,” which is why the first potential buyer had walked away. I had estimated that a new roof would run me about $5-8,000, which, with a $19,100 price cut on the house (which put it almost $20,000 below assessment), I could easily afford.
But each page of the inspection report brought something new to be fixed. Three bad windows that were likely rotten through the walls. A new sliding door and all the trim. Two new skylights. Replacing some siding and trim work. A new front door. Settled and unsafe cracked concrete on the front walk. Two destructive trees on the property that were rubbing against the roof. Mold under the basement stairs. Leaky kitchen and master bathroom sinks. A toilet tank that wouldn’t fill. A 13-year old air conditioning unit. And the real cherry on top: photos of the roof from inside the attic where the inspector had highlighted the sunlight coming through the cracks. Contrary to what we’d assumed all along, it wasn’t just that this house needed the shingles replaced: even the plywood underlayment and the joists in the attic would need to be replaced. I should also mention that the first inspection was done on April 30, and it has rained nearly every day for the past month. It’s rained something like 12 inches in the last month. And every time it rains, water pours into the attic of my house. I wanted to cry. But instead, I headed to work.
That night, again, I went over it all with my dad. He told me that the biggest issues were the roof work and the mold under the stairs. Everything else could be dealt with. He calmed me down and helped me figure out how to go about starting to get some estimates and setting up inspections.
But then he asked me how much the house was assessed for. When we started to do the math, we realized that the costs of the repairs required just to make the house liveable (as in, nothing cosmetic) would be closer to $20,000 than the $5-8,000 we had originally estimated. And I don’t have an extra $20,000 just laying around. I was already feeling uneasy about my monthly mortgage payments because interest rates have gone from the 3% range to the 5% range in the past 4 weeks, but on top of everything else, my dream of buying my first house had actually taken a turn toward a nightmare. The fuzzy feelings I associated with the house were fading fast.
Friday, July 12: I tried to maintain a positive outlook. I headed to work prepared to make some phone calls to get some actual estimates on getting the required structural work done, knowing that I’d have to live in the house for a while and save up the money I’d need to do any cosmetic work. But I couldn’t bring myself to make a single call. I knew that I’d crossed a threshold, and the house wasn’t my dream anymore. It had turned into a money pit, and I wanted to get out.
Saturday, July 13 (yesterday): I was nervous about how my Realtor would react, so I met with my dad and my grandma (remember, I’ve only been using this Realtor because she’s a friend of my grandma’s) to talk everything through one last time. My grandma, a former Realtor herself, was outraged when she heard about the extent of the damage reported in the inspection. According to her, all of that should have been disclosed in the listing, according to Virginia law. She told me that I needed to call my Realtor and tell her I wanted out of the contract right away. I was afraid that my Realtor would be mad, because she tends to get moody, and there have been tiffs between her and my grandma over my family’s real estate dealings in the past. But my grandma assured me that in this case, if her friend were to get upset with me, it wasn’t a friendship worth having. (I realize how silly all this sounds as I write it, but it’s just another of the many dramas that have been involved in this process. For example: my dad sold his house in early 2012, and my Realtor didn’t speak to my grandma for months because my dad ended up using a different agent to list his house. My dad recently bought a new house that was for sale by owner, after having my Realtor show him a few houses, and my Realtor was mad about that, too.)
I had been dreading making this phone call for over 24 hours, and when I did, she didn’t even answer. I had to leave a voice mail and in 60 seconds, try to explain that I just couldn’t afford the extent of work that has to be done to the house, thank her for all her time, and tell her that I’m still optimistic about continuing my search. She called me back several hours later and all she said was “I’m out of town today. I’ll send you a release of contract form tomorrow.” She didn’t ask me any questions or tell me that it was okay.
July 14 (that’s today): My Realtor sent me a Release of Contract form to sign electronically. I filled it out and sent it back to her (I hope–I have no idea how to use the system I had to log in to), and I haven’t heard anything since.
Right this moment: I’m hoping that my Realtor will get my form to the bank tomorrow, if she hasn’t already. I’m dreading having to call her to follow up about it, because I’m afraid of more belittling and complaining. I’m also dreading having to call my mortgage lender to tell her that I backed out. I just feel like a failure, although I know that contracts fall through quite often, and that the math all says that this wasn’t meant to be.
After all this, I’m feeling defeated. I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster for about three weeks now, and I know I’ll have to board it again when another house comes along. At the same time, there hasn’t been a single house that’s given me “that feeling” since this one did, all the way back in April. I’m still checking the MLS every day, and there just isn’t anything wonderful in my price range. Plus, mortgage rates have hit a new high.
I’m a little worried about what will happen next. I’m afraid to call my Realtor and tell her that I want to see another house, as I’m afraid she’ll say something snarky about having to take me. I’m afraid I won’t find another house I liked as much as this one. I’m afraid my life’s savings aren’t enough money in this market! I’m just weary of the whole process now, I guess.
I don’t know what the next installment of this series will be, or when I’ll be writing it. I have some photos of the house, but I don’t know if it’s even right to post them now. Does anyone have any opinions or advice? I’d love to hear it!