Friday, June 19, 2009

For Real?


As you can see, we're not the only ones trying to take advantage of the dip in the price of real estate. Prices are down, and sales are up.

You should see some of the sorry houses on the market (at least in our modest price range).

The sweet older two story house, where you could stand on the ground floor and look through the gigantic hole in the second floor up and see the sky through the hole in the roof. The house that smelled so badly of animal waste and vomit that both the realtor and I almost threw up. The houses whose back yards abut the freeway. The beautiful baby Victorian, located directly under the BART tracks. The houses in neighborhoods you wouldn't want to drive through. The house whose bottom floor was ankle-deep in standing water. The moldy houses. The sloping houses. All of the "what the hell where they thinking?" houses.

Pretty much every house we're looking at is a foreclosure (where the bank has seized the property) or a short sale, (where the buying is trying to sell the house for less money than they owe on the mortgage, and avoid foreclosure). One can't help but "reading" the narratives as you walk through these houses. We see a lot of houses where people started ambitious renovations, got part of the way through, and then went broke.

It's pretty daunting, because the only houses we could hope to afford are in such rough shape that we would be eating Ramen noodles every night for the next few years in order to pay for all the necessary repairs. You think I'm kidding, right? Just about every house we've looked at needs a new foundation, and since they're all bank owned, and sold "as is" we'd be the ones paying for the repairs. We've looked at houses that had $75,000 in termite damage. Or houses that had no heat. Houses that were sliding downhill, and cracking into pieces.

Still, we're irrationally hoping that somehow we'll find a gem of a house, and that nobody else will love it the way we do.

And when that happens, you'll all be invited over for a "Before" party.

My collection of vintage etiquette books tell me that a jackhammer makes a perfect hostess gift.


Kristen said...

I'm sorry Lisa, but I don't think you have the requisite belly for jackhammer use. The extra layer is vital for shock absorption and counterweight.

How about a framing nailer and a compressor instead?

Pica said...

Not to mention jeans that fall down below the elastic of boxers, revealing a jiggling unattractiveness that can only be called an air-quote cleavage.

greg said...

We just went through this in northern CA where the market is depressed as well though the prices may not be as high. We did go after a few short sales against our realtor's recommendation and we had a really hard time getting the bank to respond. Give me a call if you want to talk about our recent experiences. We ended up finding the perfect place after about 4-5 months of searching and 5 offers.

Anonymous said...

We were looking at foreclosures and short sales as well, 4-5 months later, we got what must have been the only house on the market being sold by the owner! Got a new roof as part of the deal, the house was in livable condition and for a very reasonable price. It turned out that the owner was a little old lady who moved into a retirement community.

My Realtor's company has a web site that gets updated with each new house as it's listed, then I also cross referenced using "zillow" - which btw, is horribly inaccurate at times re: size of house and lot, etc., but still a resource in watching what and where something is going to come up if not sold at auction and reverts to bank owned therefore dropping in price. I looked every day, first at new listings, then at all of the rest, sorting out the trash from the possible treasures, EVERYDAY, so that I could be the first to look at the newly listed houses, because the good ones go fast on this market. It was daunting and exhausting and we had a baby 3mo old at the beginning of this process.


Kellyann Brown said...

we're house shopping as well... down in the South Bay. Twelve years ago, when we bought our current Pinole house, I thought we would be forced to eat Ramen forever, but that didn't happen. Dr. R. got through grad school and there were tiny raises in salary... now the 1k a month mortgage that looked so big back then is very, very reasonable for this 4 bedroom 2 bathroom (ok, we're rennovating, so it's about 1 1/2 baths right now) rancher.

Anonymous said...

Wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a hug from me. You are about upon a wonderful, stressful life-altering part of your lives.

Find a good bank and work with them, even if you have enough money to buy outright. They will guide you through the process. There is probably an organization that exists to help the "disabled" get a home, with funding, I bet.

The market is cheaper now, but dont rush to buy something you will regret later. Get a good bit of info about buying in California. Every state is different. Find a friend who has bought a place of their own locally and pick their brain endlessly.

Are these houses you are looking at required to be inspected because of the condition they are in? What about former earthquake damage? This may be something you can insist upon in any full disclosure laws that exist in your state.

The best advice I can give you is this- Insist upon and get an inspection for EVERY HOUSE you want, or WALK AWAY. Save yourself a financial and emotional nightmare. At the end of the day you want to come home to your house, not an advertisement for bad judgement. A place with asbestos is going to kill you- so will lead paint- so will a shitty foundation. Think long term here.

As much as you want to buy, don't be desperate- it is a buyers market, and buyers want to sell to you far more than you want to buy. When prompted, always say "I'm looking at several places". See how far some agent will go to give you want you want. In this market, I would insist on the agent installing a new roof on the house you want(for roof hole place) as part of the purchase agreement,and have it pass inspection, or they get nada.

You WANT an house, but are ok since you have a place to live. The agents NEED NEED NEED to sell. Their needs and desperation are greater than yours. They will pay laborers to fix up a place with a provision that it is part of the deal. Do not hire these guys yourself- let the real estate agent do it. I managed general laborors in Wyoming to work on my sisters estate and it was like managing a prison population. Make the agent work for their money- and you are not being a bitch to do so- people WANT to be working, and your desire to purchase a house gives them a job and a purpose.

Sit with Robb and make a dream wish list about what you want in a house, and then cut it down substantially- there are things you want, and things you need. I would definately ask for a yard, in your case, and mostly a single story layout, for Robb. Find a reasonable real estate agent (preferably one recommended that works with the disabled), and you will find many doors open to you, as well as access to funding.

Access Robb's "condition" as much as you can, and it will pay off for you guys in the long run when it comes to a comfortable place to live. Even look up a place that used to be outfitted for an elderly person will help Robb live there.

Keep a file. Have Robb do research during the day online when you are at work- get a good lawyer (pro-bono since Robb's condition is what it is) and they will help you with navigating paperwork and fees. With the conditions that have led to the housing market today, I tell you to INSIST upon getting documentation of everything when it comes to the house you want. Keep documents since others can't be depended upon to be as invested as you are.

Dont you and Robb qualify for assistance from an organization that specializes in helping those with disabilities? Habitat for Humanity sometimes builds houses like that- What about looking for a place to live through the BORP group? You may be suprised what you get just by asking and looking up places in unconventional ways.

Looking up foreclosure properties is the best way at first, but dont buy a shithole thinking it will be a great fixer-upper, if you guys cant make the commitment physically or money-wise. Lucky for you guys- you know people who can build stuff, so a heap of bricks should not be too much of a challenge!

Good luck!


minnie said...

crap. I thought we were the only ones around here looking... :P
I have seen some WEIRDASS houses recently!


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