Ironically, the…

Ironically, the homeowners at house #3 (who backed out of our contract this week for reasons unknown), have just today relisted their house for $20K less than their previous list price. I really wish I understood what they (or their realtor) was thinking. It's a mystery.

Okay, I have a little more energy, and I think I need to process this a bit. Summary of why we lost three houses:

  • House #1: Homeowners weren't happy at our inspector's critique of their house maintenance and estimate of cost to repair (the husband is a contractor and had done the work himself) -- refused to give much of a credit for repairs, which we weren't thrilled about, but were willing to go along with if we could close on schedule (the same day we were closing the sale on our condo). But more of an issue: they were trying to buy a house themselves (a short sale), and didn't get it as quickly as they expected. So they insisted on delaying closing, kind of indefinitely, rather than have to deal with moving into a rental, etc. Understandable, I suppose, given that they have three kids, but a risky move for them, I think. We gave up.

  • House #2: Divorce situation -- it turned out that all of our negotiations were actually with the wife, who doesn't live there anymore. The husband hadn't agreed to any of the price stuff. She took him to court, and the court said that he had to sell the house at list price -- which was $30K more than what we'd agreed to with the wife. Plus, it seemed certain that he'd refuse to any price concessions on inspection, and there was a scary chance that he'd rip up the house if forced to move out. Again, he'd been living there for over a year since the divorce, with their two kids, so understandable -- he had no incentive to move. If we'd realized the situation, we probably would've never even tried for it. Although still wondering a little what he's thinking -- does he think he can just stall forever and never sell the house? Maybe he can.

  • House #3: We really don't know. We agreed to a contract, we thought fairly amicably. Price was about 90% of list price. Their realtor found this blog, and apparently got pretty upset, but seemed to calm down within a day or so. We inspected, and were close to an agreement on price concessions from them on repairs. And then, they cancelled the contract last Friday, saying that they wanted to show the house over Labor Day weekend (when their realtor was out of town). What? And then they just fell silent for much of a week, despite our trying to get in touch and ask if they wanted to renew the contract, etc. and so on. We think maybe they were in negotiations with someone else? But if so, apparently it fell through, since they've relisted now at a lower price.

Learn from our mistakes, if you can. This process has cost us two inspections, at least one extra attorney closing, one extra move, two months of storage so far, mortgage application fees, money we're paying Jarmila to take care of Ellie. At least $4000 so far, to no result. I'm not counting the rent we're paying Daniel and Anne, since if we hadn't moved we'd have been paying mortgage, etc. There are other less tangible things, in addition to all the stress for two months of our lives. It's killed this summer.

We're still not sure what we did wrong. I don't think it was because of using Redfin, although it's possible a regular agent would have been more aggressive or more in contact with the sellers or something? I just don't know.

12 thoughts on “Ironically, the…”

  1. It really doesn’t sound like you guys did anything wrong except for ferret out the craziest situations I’ve ever heard of. You’d think in this market, people would tone down the crazy.
    I sincerely hope this last house is both the one you want and the one that the people actually want to sell.

  2. It is possible a regular realtor would have helped. A regular realtor often really wants to get a deal done and may have put pressure on the seller’s realtor to at least give answers in a prompt timeframe. It is hard to say but I have heard of many situations where realtor concessions or pressure have made the deal happen. But clearly, something else is going on.

  3. I think part of the issue is the market; I think homeowners are having a hard time adjusting to the actual current market value of their homes, since they’re used to thinking of them as worth much more. It’s just a very difficult mental jump to make. So that even when we get agreements on contract prices, the homeowners feel that they’re drastically underpricing their homes, and are then very unhappy about additional inspection-related costs.

    I know we felt that way when we were selling our condo, and if we hadn’t had the whole imminent-baby thing, we might well have held out several more months, hoping for an offer more in line with what we thought the condo was worth.

    That doesn’t explain everything, but it may be a factor.

    A regular realtor may have helped too — we just didn’t expect to need much from our realtor, since we’d done all the comp. research, etc. already, and we had thought that in this market, people would be relatively eager to sell. I’m not experienced with home-buying, but Kevin has bought three condos in the past, and never had this kind of difficulty before in purchase.

  4. I cannot figure out what there is to be upset about on your journal. What is with the realtor?? I cannot help but wonder whether the owners just did not want to sell to an interracial couple, which is a scary thought, especially if there is secret pressure to that effect in that neighborhood.

  5. I doubt that’s it, David — Oak Park is actually a very integrated sort of neighborhood.

    I’m not sure what the realtor wasn’t happy about — we certainly didn’t intend to upset anyone. Some folks just aren’t used to having any part of their lives online, and find it upsetting when they stumble across some mention.

  6. I can understand why someone would be upset about seeing negotiation issues on their prospective buyer’s blog. You don’t know who’s reading this.

    And some of what you’re writing about is pretty personal. For example, the deal that fell through due to the divorce – if you’ve shown pics, given the address of the house, it would be easy to ID the couple. You may be inadvertently telling someone – a neighbor or family member of theirs, for example – more than the parties involved would wish them to know.

  7. Melanie, I can see that. But it’s pretty unlikely, I think, that anyone who knew them would find my post — unless they also already knew me. If you just search for the house addresses, for example, you get many many pages of MLS listings on your search results before you ever find my site — you’d have to search for both the house address *and* my name. Which of course, I can now imagine the realtor or homeowner doing themselves, but I don’t think it’s so likely that someone else who knows them or who might want to buy their house would find my site.

    But all that said — I still don’t think there’s anything offensive in mentioning publicly that someone got divorced a year ago, or that they’re in disagreement about selling their house. It’s a sad situation, but hardly a secret at this point, I’d think. I’d be very surprised if the neighbors and family members didn’t know far more about the situation than that at this stage. Especially given how much all the realtors we’ve talked to seem to want to gossip about the homeowners of the houses we’ve looked at. We’ve learned a lot more than we want to know about most of them; that seems to just be part of the home-buying process.

    The internet is public in a different way, I’ll grant, and it’s a way some people aren’t used to yet. It makes it obvious, perhaps, how few secrets you really have.

    There’s this question too — if our inspector finds mold in a basement, and I mention it here, the homeowner may well be upset and feel that that info being public may hurt them. But it’s not info that should be a secret — it’s potentially tremendously helpful to many people who are considering purchasing the house. Where do your obligations lie in mentioning or not mentioning the mold issue in public?

    I think I end up thinking you have no obligation one way or another. But people do draw their privacy lines very differently…

  8. I don’t see that you made any mistakes. I think you’ve just had bad luck. We used a buyer’s agent for both of our home purchases, and we were very happy. The agents helped us get good deals on the two houses we have bought in a pretty hot, competitive real estate market. Buyer’s agents can help a lot with the niggly details of drafting a purchase contract. They know how to make a contract attractive to sellers, and also what sort of concessions you are just never going to get.

    The Buyer’s agent is not as helpful on price. They can get you the comps, but what we’ve found and what our realtors have told us is that once you’ve been in the market for a house for a month or two, you will have an even better feel for the market value of a house than a realtor. I know our agent was worried we wouldn’t get the house we currently own for the price we were offering, but we were firm and we did get it.

    Good luck, and I’m so sorry you’re having this much trouble in a buyer’s market. I truly think it’s just bad luck. With the baby due very soon, it might be much much easier for you to rent a place for the next year and then try again later. One other thought, I’ll plop into another comment.

  9. I live in a relatively affluent community. Although we’ve been feeling the hurt here in Ann Arbor, the real estate market is not doing as horribly as elsewhere in the state. We were talking today about how most of the homes for sale right now are distress situations, where the homeowners feel they have to move and are consequently selling for less than they think the house is worth. A lot of people who are ready to move for lifestyle reasons, etc, don’t want to put houses on the market. What this means is that a lot of the sellers you’re dealing with are under a great deal of stress–for whatever reason–and just may be more difficult, more emotional, to deal with than a “normal” seller who is just moving on in life and happy about it. I would defintely check back in with that house #3. Who knows what is up with that, but if it’s back on the market they may be happy to hear from you after all.

  10. I vote for Catherine Shaffer’s explanation — people selling under duress and with some reluctance. Though I used a regular realtor (as they existed 30 years ago) when both buying and selling. No question he had to herd cats and did it very well. (I by myself was most of the cat herd in both cases. I find buying and selling real estate really stressful.)

  11. From a middle aged, middle class muggle point of view, I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of a house sale transaction with you, purely and simply because I have very different views of privacy.
    You went into a house that you didn’t own, took 100 photos (including shots of the contents of their closet) and then posted them on the internet. You posted that the house had mold issues and *your* determination of how it affected the value of the house. You discussed details of people’s personal situations (the whole divorce/husband vs wife thing). I think that none of that was yours to share.
    Many of us chose to keep our virtual, professional, and home lives very separate. You’ve made a different choice, which is fine, but I think that you do need to consider that it’s not shared by everyone, and that posting without permission crosses a line.
    One opinion from suburbia, for what it’s worth.

  12. Yes, as I said above, people clearly draw their privacy lines in different places. What’s interesting, I think, is that it didn’t even occur to me or Kevin that any of the homeowners would find anything objectionable in anything we’d posted. We were really startled by their response.

    I think these boundary lines are shifting tremendously quickly; as someone who’s almost 40 now, and thinks of herself as middle-aged, it’ll be interesting to see whether a point will come when I think the ‘younger folks’ are crossing my own privacy boundaries. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m pretty sure it’ll happen soon — as soon as Kavi’s old enough to get online, I imagine.

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