Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s story time!
Buying your first home should be an exciting, thrilling, and possibly a little nerve racking experience, right? Well Chris and I experienced all those emotions plus more while buying our first home. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride and although we can look back and say it was all worth it, I can’t say I ever want to experience that drama again.
We had just moved into a crappy 1 bedroom apartment which also happened to be in a basement. It had dingy walls, a musty smell, and paper thin walls. The apartment complex was a combination of low income as well as regular income and we happened to make just enough money to be required to pay full price! Awesome…
We hated it! Our neighbors smoked weed constantly and the smell seeped through our walls making me nauseous! Everyone seemed to think it was ok to blast their stereo system as loud as they could until our walls shook and the kids upstairs played indoor basketball until 2am on a weekly basis!
I worked from home so I had no escape from the annoyance but we had so little money that we had to make it work.
I remember one evening I had had enough and I started balling! I asked Chris if there was any chance we could afford to buy a house soon. He told to me that we just didn’t have the finances to purchase a house or put down a down payment – which as you can imagine brought on more tears!
4 months passed and I remember waking up to Chris walking in the bedroom. It was a late Saturday morning (I like to sleep in) and Chris snuggled up in the bed, looked at me and said, “So I want to show you a house, but it’s red.” I don’t know why he felt the need to throw the disclaimer out there…in theory I should have been thrilled by the idea that Chris was showing me a house.
He showed me the listing online and shared all the perks of the house. (Chris informed me later that he had rehearsed a speech beforehand because he knew this house would be a hard sell.) It was outside of the city (something I was not thrilled about), it was red (not a deal breaker but it certainly wasn’t love at first site), and the house appeared to be super run down.
I had dreamed of tackling a fixer upper and this house was certainly that! But I hated the idea that it was outside of Lincoln – and thus, I cried. I honestly don’t know why I cried. It’s not like Chris was forcing me to purchase this house. But part of me thinks that I cried because deep down inside I knew that this house was destined for us and I wasn’t thrilled about that just yet.
We schedule a walkthrough with the owner of the home (he wasn’t working with a realtor) and Chris did his due diligence in making sure that I enjoyed every step of the process all the way from leaving our apartment to walking into the prospective house. Chris planned a route that kept us in the city the longest, attempting to make it seem like the house wasn’t that far outside of town. He really wanted me to get on board with this house I suppose!
We walked into the house and to our surprise it wasn’t nearly as run down inside as we suspected. It was actually very livable. Of course it wasn’t our style but it was better than our apartment! Plus there was a large shop on the side of the property that could be used as storage and a spacious workshop. That was a major bonus!
We were so intimidated by the process of touring the home! It was our first time doing this and we had no idea what questions to ask! I think the tour itself probably only lasted for 15 minutes before we walked out the door.
We got in the car, looked at each other, and we had this sense that maybe we could do this! Maybe…just maybe we could buy a house!
After the initial walkthrough, we wanted to move forward with the house but being that we knew very little about fixer uppers and home buying in general, we brought in the troops! We invited Chris’ parents, my brother and sister-on-law and their two kids to do another walkthrough. Yes, there were 8 of us making our way through this tiny little house!
My brother and sister-in-law have tackled their own fixer upper and they have a lot of experience in that department. THANK GOODNESS we invited my brother to inspect the house because he did just that – he inspected literally every inch of the house! He climbed on the roof, inspected the electrical, crawled in the attic, and tested the dishwasher. I mean this when I say this – he was the best home inspector we could’ve asked for!
After a couple hours of inspecting the house, we finally drove away, but this time Chris had a very different feeling. He was intimidated by the laundry list of “issues” that seemed to grow by the minute. Of course we knew this house needed a lot of work, but hearing issue after issue for 2 hours gave him a bit of a reality check. I, on the other hand, still felt good about the home.
So we needed a couple days to think about it.
With some time, Chris once again got on board with the house and we decided to put an offer on the house. We did research to see what the lowest down payment could be for first time home buyers and I looked at our budget meticulously to generate a number that we could afford. We were still broke but we knew that if we could get the price to drop we could get the monthly mortgage payments to match our current rent.
We offered a number and I’m pretty sure we offended the homeowner because it was shockingly low. He came back with a different number, and the negotiations went back and forth for a while. We didn’t have a lot of room to budge and the homeowner wanted to make a little money on the house, rightfully so.
Several days passed and we were in a trade show on a cold April morning. We were sitting behind our booth bundled up in blankets when Chris got a phone call from the owner saying that he was declining our offer. I was heartbroken. So no house?? We have to stay in our horrible apartment?
We were so close to making a deal! Only a $500 difference in fact and I couldn’t let a few hundred dollars keep us from buying the home. So I made Chris call the owner back and ask if there was any way we could meet in the middle. The owner agreed and we officially had a deal!
Several weeks had passed and it was now only a week before the closing day. We
had given our apartment complex a short 30 day notice which meant that we could move out early if they found someone else to move in immediately. They did and we were in the clear!
Then Chris got another phone call from the owner, but this time it didn’t sound good at all. The owner informed us that half of the property wasn’t actually his to sell and that the title company had made a mistake. Basically, several years earlier he purchased the property but when the title company did the paperwork, they made a mistake and neglected to include the shop on the side of the house and the land that it sat on. So technically he bought the full property, but on paper he only owned the house. The shed and land still belonged to the previous owners.
Of course, no one knew this mistake was made at the time and when we were just a week from closing, this mess was discovered.
Now that half the property wasn’t technically for sale, we didn’t know how to move forward. Would we even want the house without half the property? Truthfully, no we didn’t want to buy it without the shop. That was a major bonus to us! Could the homeowner get the paperwork fixed to obtain the property he paid for? It was unclear. If he could, how long would that take? It was looking like it could easily be several months. Was it worth it to wait several months for that house?
We decided to wait. We had to move out of our apartment so we packed up all our stuff into a trailer and moved into Chris’ parents’ basement for the time being. Honestly, it wasn’t what we were hoping for but we were thankful to have family who were willing to help us out while we were “homeless.”
The owner of the house had to track down the previous owners before him and request that they sign over the deed and give the property back to him. They could have easily (and legally) said that they would sell it again to receive another paycheck for it, but they were gracious enough to sign over the property! This meant that we could move forward with the house!
Several weeks passed and we were still living in Chris’ parents’ basement. But it was looking hopeful that we would be able to buy the house within a week or two. Given the mess, they never really gave us an exact closing day…we just waited for the phone call. And then finally we got the call that we could close on the house!
After signing the papers, Chris went back to work and I met my mom at the house. We laugh thinking back on it now that Chris went back to work on our moving day; but I think we were just so over the process that it didn’t feel as special of a day as it should’ve. Either way, my mom and I cleaned every inch of the house before we moved our stuff in. She found mouse turds all over the kitchen and that evening I saw a mouse running in the cabinets. It was the “perfect” end the the “perfect” story….but we were happy because it was home and it was finally ours.
When touring the home, it’s always a good idea to bring someone who has experience in home buying (and old homes/renovations if it’s a fixer upper). I can’t imagine the number of surprises we would’ve encountered had my brother not inspected every inch of the home first. Don’t be afraid to inspect and ask all the questions. You’re making a large purchase and you deserve to know all that you can about the home.
Also, I can’t help but think that this mess would’ve been a whole lot easier had we worked with a realtor. Neither us nor the seller worked with a realtor and that alone meant that we had to figure out a lot of paperwork, negotiations, financing, and legal forms on our own. For first time home buyers, this is an incredibly confusing and intimidating process, and I wonder how much stress would’ve been relieved had we worked with a realtor. Something to think about for the next time we buy/sell a house…if we ever have the guts to do that again!
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