Wednesday, April 25, 2012

BUYING A HOUSE IS HARD WORK

I wasn't going to write about this until it was a done deal, but it's hard to stay silent when so much of your mental capacity is being taken up by something as big as this. We were set to sign today but due to an error by the bank or the seller - neither is accepting responsibility - we have to delay closing, re-do the loan, and basically wait another few weeks. This is after having waited since January for the sellers to get their act together and more contract extensions than I can remember.

Now, before you go and get all excited for us and think we're moving to Tofino, hold your horses. We're not moving -  yet. (I am still looking into that whole "immigrate to Canada" thing)

What we're actually doing is buying a house in Ohio for my sister and her family to live in. You see, there current house - my brother-in-law's bachelor pad - is on a very busy street, across the street from a Domino's and convenience store that are frequently robbed. That in and of itself is bad enough, but also when weather is nice outside, the kids can't just go out to play because one is a runner and there is no fence whatsoever on their huge lot to prevent them from either running out into the street or falling into the toxic creek that runs alongside the back of their property. There are various other issues with the house, but these are the biggies.

Last year, realizing how cheap property is in their town, we broached the subject of buying a place for them to rent from us. Jenny and I would comb the MLS looking for places to get a feel for how much things cost and then in December or January, we contacted a local bank to get pre-approved for a loan. At first we were hoping to pick up one of the places that was laughably cheap, but all of those turned out to be either sinking or complete hazards. We put in a bid on a place that was somewhat close to their current house but in a better part of town (on the other side of the tracks, if you will) that had a guest house in the back, AMAZING woodwork, and a three car garage for Sean. Unfortunately we were outbid so the search continued.

There's one particular neighborhood - Eastern Heights - in the town that is just absolutely adorable. Think vintage houses (1900s to 1940s); flat, tree-lined streets; sidewalks for riding bikes or trick-or-treating; good neighbors; and decent-sized houses. Oh, and extremely close to the hospital where Jenny wants to work when she gets her nursing degree next year. There's much less land per house, which was a negative for Sean, but both Jenny and I really felt this would be the best neighborhood for (1) our investment and (2) for them to raise the kids. Unfortunately, nearly all of the houses were about $20k outside our hoped-for max budget.

And then we saw one come on the market at auction and it was so perfect in so many ways. A definite fixer-upper so it didn't show all that well, but with a history of buying, rehabbing & renting out properties, Sean is very adept at the repairs the house would need. We waited for the auction to go live and we bid. Right away another bidder would counter $1k above us. For a couple of days we thought we were going to get the house at a steal, but then someone came and bumped the price up a few thousand dollars. In the end, we won the auction at $51,000. Yes, you read correctly.


Immediately we received paperwork that said the company handling the sale wanted to close in two weeks on February 9. I was shocked because out here things usually take 30 days, but we were prepared to close as soon as needed. February 9 came and went and that's when the waiting game started. You see, it turns out the house was being auctioned by a company named Altisource that is a huge clearing house for these types of properties. They handle the auction and then outsource the closing to India. We'd go days without hearing anything on the status of the deal. And rather than them extending the contract we'd have to do it, even though it had nothing to do with our delays. Like I said earlier, I can't remember how many extensions we did, but our bid was accepted at the end of January and here we are at the end of April so you can probably do the math.

A couple of days ago we heard that everything was finally on the up-and-up and that we'd be closing on Wednesday - today. On Friday the notary called and confirmed today at 2 p.m. with me. Then yesterday Alan got word that there was something wrong with the deal and that there were extra fees that someone needed to pay. This morning Alan hadn't gotten any final confirmation on anything so he called the lender who said he'd just gotten the contract and saw the issues that were holding us up - these stupid fees. The thing is, the fees are minuscule - $260. We'd gladly pay them except, apparently, there's a federal law that prohibits us from doing so. The bank won't pay them because they've already taken a loss by extending the closing multiple times. Altisource won't pay it because they claim that they sent the documents to the lender on Monday. Regardless of when they sent them, as far as I can tell from the explanations, since no one involved will pay the fees and we're not allowed to, regardless of whether or not he sent the paperwork 48 hours before close, we would have needed to redo our loan anyhow, and that takes at least five days. So there's no way we were ever going to be able to close today - but no one has ever said anything to us. If the lender wasn't out a few hundred dollars by absorbing the costs associated with having to keep extending our loan, they likely would have covered these costs, but when your'e losing money because the other party delayed more times than is reasonable, why would you want to lose even more money? From a business standpoint, that makes sense to me. However, from a customer service standpoint the fact that they had the paperwork Monday, didn't notice the problem, and now won't pay the extra fees which is causing us to have to apply for another mortgage and extend the closing again ... well, that's bad business. They messed the deal up and it's their fault we can't close today.

So now it looks like we're getting a new loan, with a higher interest rate, which will somehow reduce these surprise fees, and we'll likely close in two weeks. Let's hope it's within the next two weeks because if it's not, I'm going to write a strongly worded letter to Altisource, the bank, the bank's local newspaper (which, incidentally, my sister has been quoted in for promoting area "shop local" activities), and anyone else will listen. I wanted to insert some incredibly strong-worded language in today's letter but level heads (that'd be Alan) prevailed.




As you can see, the floors need to be refinished but that bannister is LOVELY.

The basement

Nora loves the thought of having a house with an upstairs area.




When Jenny & Sean first looked at the house there was carpet laid so it was hard to see what shape the floors were in. Thank goodness they've refinished many a hard wood before!

So that's what we've been up to around these parts and what I've been cryptically alluding to in posts and tweets. Hopefully we can get everything wrapped up in the next couple of weeks so that when we visit for the 4th of July they're well and moved in. I can't wait to see it in person!