Adventures in House Hunting, Buying a House, Forever House

First Dream House wasn’t meant to be

I’ve been watching the Real Estate market since the fall of 2008 when I first thought about purchasing a home because I noticed prices were dropping. At first I considered buying a two flat using my HELOC as a down payment and then eventually moving into the building and converting it into a SFH when and if the then elusive wife and kids arrived.

Unfortunately while I might have just noticed prices dropping in 2008, the bank that gave me a line of credit noticed a lot sooner. Chase was kind enough to suspend my HELOC before I could use it. Had I been smart, I should have withdrawn the entire line and put it in a different bank. I wouldn’t have made any money but I’d have a low interest $70K loan for many years.

I still watched the market and started looking at homes, skipping the two flat idea and going straight to the SFH. There was one particular house that has just about everything I could want and thus I refer to it as my dream house.

It is only a few blocks from the Jefferson Park Blue Line and Metra stations, so I’d have my transportation requirements taken care of. It has a big backyard with a great deck and a two car garage. A finished basement and a modern kitchen. New windows, roof and water heater means that all we’d have to do is move in and paint the place.Dream House circa 2009

In March of 2009, I called a realtor from Zip Realty who made an appointment so I could see it even though we both knew their asking price of $539,000 was way out of my price range. It looked even better in person, especially after finding out it also has an attic that could be expanded into a kick-ass master suite later in life. On the downside, the basement was a little limited, it would be more of a children’s play area than a ManCave, but I’d have to take a longer look if I ever had a realistic chance of getting this place. Which I didn’t. In fact, no one really did.

The owner, who was expecting another child in July, had told me that if she didn’t get an offer in a month or so, she was going to take it off the market because she didn’t want to deal with a closing and a birth around the same time. I asked my standard “why are you selling such a great house” question and they responded that the husband had just got a job out of state. She also added that he could do the traveling thing if they couldn’t sell the home.

Even as a then single guy without children I knew that when the second child arrived that would get old real fast.

My dream house was quietly taken off the market in Sept 2009. Thanks to the Internet you can learn so much about a house. I learned that the owners had a mortgage and a HELOC which combined put them at about $475K owed on the house, so they didn’t have a lot of wiggle room.

In the summer of 2010, on a whim, I emailed the owner. Feigning ignorance, I politely asked ‘Just curious if this home was still for sale and what is your current asking price.”

It was over a week when I got this response:

“Hi. Thanks for asking. It’s not officially on the market, but we would still consider selling for the right price… Nothing below our original asking price. [Emphasis mine.]


The problem with this house is its asking price. Anyone who can afford the asking price doesn’t want to live there and anyone who wants to live there cannot afford the asking price. They wanted almost $540K for it. And while it might have been worth that price at the height of the market, those days are gone for good.

Update:  apparently the owners updated the website they put together for selling this house.  It is not “listed” at $499,000.   

And I cannot blame them for wanting to come away with something for all their hard work. But there was just something about the sentence. Nothing below our original asking price that irked me. As if anything less was a personal insult. It is no doubt this inflexibility on their part that caused them to take their place off the market. It makes me wonder what they would say if someone offered them, say $525K, would they accept, counter offer or just say no thank you.

I think it’s fair to say that they are dreaming if they think they can get their price even in this now improved market.

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Adventures in House Hunting, Buying a House, Location

FSBO Seller can really shoot themselves in the foot

Our weekends lately involve house hunting. We generally try to go to open houses because they are more casual and if we don’t make it, no one is really put out. This can sometimes backfire though. For instance, we went to see a house in Oak Park that was a For Sale By Owner (FSBO). The seller was exploring selling her home so she put fliers in her neighbors mailbox asking them to refer friends. One of the many friends who want us to buy in their neighborhood passed the info on to me.

For Sale By Owner is one of those things that I think make a lot of sense on paper — like communism and Taylor Swift — but doesn’t work in reality, mostly because the industry resists it at every turn.

This particular FSBO seller was a talker. It wasn’t even so much that she was trying to sell me on the house per se. It was more that she was trying to head off any of my potential objections before I even made them. At the same time she advised me to ask for a new garage if I made an offer!

One of the issues with the house was the small outdated kitchen. It would not only have to be updated but also the size somehow increased. The only feasible way would be to move a wall. I said knowing if it was a load bearing or non-load bearing wall would determine what you could do and how much it would cost. And she would argue with me even when I agreed with her!

“Oh you could move the wall all the way to here and do this and do that,” she rambled on.
“You can do anything if you have the money,” I said. “being on a tight budget, we might not be able to afford to do what someone with deeper pockets might be able to achieve.”

This made her even more determined to convince me it could be done. She was quite the talker and even though I had set the expectation that we had other appointments, she managed to eat up all our cushion time so that we couldn’t check out her neighbor’s open house. It’s not that she didn’t want us to see that house. Quite the opposite in fact. She really wanted us to see that house so that we realized what a price break we were getting on a almost identical house — if by identical you mean 30% smaller and more awkward floor plan.

We missed the window of opportunity to see her neighbor’s house because of her non stop rambling. She missed out on convincing us that her held potential for the same reason.

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