Saturday, July 13, 2013

Skeletons in the Closet

Have you ever started reading a book and gotten, say, a third of the way through and then went out of town - on business or vacation or whatever - for, like, a week and you forgot to bring your book so you're forced to buy a new one at the airport Newstand or the 7-11 and then you get home and you're halfway through the new book so you don't want to stop reading that one to pick up the first one and so, by the time you get back to the first one, it's a month since you last read any of it and you read half a page and realize you've got no idea where the story started, who the characters are, or who you are rooting for and so you have to start from the very beginning again?

I kinda feel a bit like that about this blog. Even I've lost the thread of the story and it's my own story to tell!

And I know that I can't just jump right back in and start writing about this moment forward because there are chapters I've introduced still missing huge chunks of my story that are pertinent to this point in time - huge chunks under which I'm even now still buried - and yet explaining those chunks feels daunting and somewhat stale because I've been living them for awhile and I'm kinda tired of living them, explaining them, hashing them out in my overly anxious head, examining all possible angles as I search for ticking time bombs of impending doom.

However, in order to move forward, I'm going to have to look back at most of what's been happening and it's going to have to be over the next few posts because it's too much to disseminate in just this one. I think this will be to everyone's benefit...perhaps especially mine as much of this remains undocumented.

Tonight then I bring you a tale of a house...THE HOUSE that turned out not to be THE HOUSE at all.

If you reach back into your memory, you may recall I'm buying a house. You may also recall I was buying a house way back in March too. If you're really into my every last word, you might even remember said house I was buying was a Short Sale which made all the normal house buying hoops considerably more complicated. But I was prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. Because the house I'd found was EXACTLY the house for us.

Ahem.

First of all, I need to give you a little background on the sellers and the seller's agent. Remember, I've never met any of these people personally but, you know, I'm human, therefore I judge.

When a person attempts to sell his home via short sale, it's because, most often, the owner is in financial distress and is on the fast track toward foreclosure. The game then is to sell the property - at a loss - before foreclosure proceedings can conclude. Realistically, a short sale is better for the homeowner's credit somewhat and usually it's better for the seller's lender's bottom line. Occasionally, foreclosure is cheaper for the lender than short sale but rarely. However, it is typical for the property to go into pre-foreclosure proceedings at the same time a short sale is being attempted. The Bank, you know, they hedge their bets always and The Bank will always win...you can take that advice, heh, to The Bank. Knowing that the clock is ticking on one's credit though should behoove the seller to get the short sale approved as quickly as possible. Usually, it does. Usually, the seller is extremely motivated to sell and GTFO so as to call off the hounds baying at their heels.

Ahem.

Note: the number of short sale and foreclosed homes on the market, as I'm sure you can imagine, has been extremely high over the last half dozen years. In fact, for awhile, and even now to an extent, the market contained short sales, foreclosures, and hunks of junk and that was about it. So it's no surprise I ended up under contract to buy a short sale really.


When I made the offer on the property, I remember talking to Lex about the fact that it was a short sale and that I felt really good about making the offer at list price, knowing I was helping the sellers out of a massive financial jam while getting a decent deal on a house we both loved. Enlightened self-interest, to be sure, but still a good deed.


My feelings of good will toward the sellers continued even though their (pompous asshat of an) agent nonchalantly missed the very first deadline of contract acceptance by more than 24 hours. My good will continued even after their agent said he couldn't possibly get the short sale negotiated with the seller's lender in our specified 30 days, needed 45 days, and then sent over the counteroffer specifying 60 days.

I didn't balk once. I simply signed each and every document my agent - my darling Courtney who is full of win - sent over to me within the hour it was sent. And then I waited.

While I was waiting, I, because I am me and am obsessive, full of anxiety, and have access to The Google, began researching both the property and the sellers and the HOA. What I discovered was that the owners had filed for, and been awarded (Yay! An award! You like me! You really like me!) bankruptcy last year. This wasn't a particular shock to my system. I mean, a short sale indicates financial distress so, you know, it made complete sense to discover the distress wasn't isolated to just their home. I must confess, it added to my, and Lex's, feelings of good will.

But there was also this gnawing inside my somewhat altruistic - even though altruism doesn't actually exist - soul. Because this bankruptcy might have been averted. Thinking back on what I saw in their house...the matching leather 7-piece living room set, the gorgeous master bedroom suite mahogany furniture, the 50" flat screen TV down in the man cave complete with wet bar, the high-powered telescope in the guest room, the gorgeous, top of the line, massage table in the office...bankruptcy my ass! They'd kept up with the Joneses all the way to, and through, court!

Still...awesome house. Help people out of a jam. Fight pompous nonchalance with patience and responsiveness.

Let no good deed go unpunished.

So I waited.

And waited. And waited. I waited 3 months actually. And even when the seller's lender came back and said they needed to net $11,000 more in the sale to move the file forward, I didn't hesitate. I signed on the bottom line, e-mailed said signature back to Courtney, and continued to wait. Even after I found out the property was no longer FHA eligible and knew I'd have to find alternative financing - I secured that financing, starting basically from the beginning of the financing game - and continued to wait.

But then...

THEN!

When we were thisclose to short sale approval...within just a few days...the bomb went off. That pesky little ticking time bomb I hadn't anticipated.

The morning of the bomb, I'd received an e-mail from Courtney saying she'd heard from the seller's agent stating everything looked great and the file was moving forward with approval imminent.

I was on Cloud 9. House! I'm buying a house! THE HOUSE!

That afternoon then, when another e-mail from Courtney came in, the one in which she said "Read this and then tell me your thoughts" I expected to open the attached pdf and read about how the short sale had been approved and we were clear to proceed.

Ahem.

Expectations are pre-determined resentments.

The pdf contained 2 things...

1) A letter of compromise to resolve the lawsuit brought against the seller by the HOA offering, in light of their bankruptcy, to waive the almost $24,000 debt owed to the HOA - for which they held not one, not two, not three, but FOUR liens against the property. But only if the sellers signed...

2) The restricted covenant absolving the HOA of any liability of expenses incurred for repairs to the portion of the roof in which unapproved skylights had been installed...pretty much half the roof.

The seller's agent had sent along these documents to Courtney with a note that said the lender was giving them cash to negotiate the lien but he just wanted to make sure I wouldn't have any trouble with the rest of it.

I immediately called Courtney. And I said, "Courtney? You really REALLY don't want to know my thoughts."

Because really. REALLY?!


Here's the timeline:


December 20, 2012: HOA sends letter of compromise and restricted covenant agreement.

December 28, 2012: Homeowner signs all the paperwork and disclosures - including the property disclosure (which asks the seller if there are any liens against or issues with the property - specifically skylights and roof - in which they've definitively answered a resounding NO!) - with their agent to list said property.


January 3, 2013: Property listed for sale.


March 14, 2013: Offer to purchase extended by me.


March 16, 2013: Offer accepted.


June 4, 2013: Bomb dropped.

Bottom line: they lied.

They lied!

THEY LIED!

Liar liar pants on mutherfucking fire!

By the way? I don't have a whole lot of compassion or respect for liars. Especially liars who are depending on the good will of someone else - namely me - to wriggle out from beneath the increasingly tight spot under which they are pinned...while lounging upon a leather chaise and watching reality TV on a 50" screen while scooping Nutella onto their tongues.

Evidence of Nutella in the Mormon pantry - 2nd shelf from top, far left
Still...THE HOUSE! Right?!

Wrong.

I told Courtney that afternoon, "They've got 48 hours to figure this shit out. They've got 48 hours to come up with a specific plan of action to resolve both the lien and the lack of insurance coverage on the roof. Otherwise, this deal is off. I'm not buying a house that is partially uninsured due to no fault of my own. And I don't want any vague 'working on it' answers at the end of the 48 hours. CLEAR plan of action. Period. I'm not waiting longer than that. If they can't give us the kind of answer I deserve then the deal is off."

At that point, I was just done. I'd been patient, responsive, ridiculously accommodating, and generous during a time when they - the seller and their agent - had taken their own sweet time to have it the Burger King way...and we still had to get through the inspection and appraisal during which I could expect no compromise from the seller's lender.



We heard nothing...nothing at all...for the better part of those 48 hours.

At 36 hours, I knew instinctively that it was over. I couldn't possibly expect a timely response from people who had so nonchalantly ignored my initial offer, could I? No. I could not.

So...I logged onto Realtor.com that morning and halfheartedly looked to see what was available for sale fully expecting nothing much as had been the case for months. Courtney had warned me to keep my expectations low about the inventory a couple of weeks before when we were debating about whether or not to accept the $11,000 net increase on THE HOUSE. She said, "We can let this one go if you don't want to go that high. Can I find you a house? Absolutely! Can I find you a house tomorrow? No. It's going to take some time. The market is ridiculous right now. It'll be awhile. Are you OK with that?"

At that point, no, I wasn't OK with that. It was THE HOUSE we were talking about after all and I readily agreed to the increase.

After 36 hours of additional waiting with no response though, feeling jerked around once again, I suddenly became completely OK with the fact that it would take possibly much longer than I'd wanted to find the right house. I was done with the house that was clearly not to be. I was done with that asshole agent. I was done with those clearly irresponsible, lying sack of shit sellers. I was ready to look. Again.

Lo and behold, that morning, there was a brand new listing...less than 12 hours old. A listing that was in my price range, with beautiful pictures, in the precise area I wanted to live in (The House was not in my original desired location area), and contained all the must haves Lex and I had identified for ourselves several months ago. Even though my heart was downtrodden, Hark! A small beacon of hope!

I e-mailed Courtney the link and said, "While I will certainly honor the full 48 hours I gave the sellers, it's time to start looking again and we need to start with this house. Send me the MLS information."

She did.

I looked at what she provided which only confirmed my belief that it was a property worth a closer look. She arranged for me to see it that afternoon at 4 p.m. - 2 hours before the 48 hours were set to expire on THE HOUSE.


Just before I arrived at the prospective property, Courtney called THE HOUSE's agent and told him he was out of time and he'd better have something "meaty" to convey. He said, "I just got off the phone with the HOA. The lien has been negotiated down to zero. They will keep the restricted covenant in place but that's no big deal, right? I mean, what a shame for your buyer to back out now when we're so close."


Courtney didn't tell me about this conversation until after we'd crawled all over the new property, falling more in love with it with each step we took.

It wasn't quite perfect. But no house ever is...not even THE HOUSE. It didn't have the Mormon pantry. It didn't have the attached garage. It was smaller by several hundred square feet.

But it had personality. And it had obviously been well-loved and well-maintained. It still had a 2-car garage (albeit unattached) and it still had space for me to have an office on the main floor which, in hindsight, is a much better, less isolated place for me to spend the bulk of my time.

And, after I was thoroughly, hopelessly in love with it, Courtney told me about her conversation with the other house's agent. What I felt like saying at that point, and probably did say to Courtney privately, was, "It's not a shame that I'm backing out of the contract thisclose to short sale approval. What's a crying shame is that, because they are all LIARS, they wasted my time. If they'd disclosed the lawsuit and the restricted covenant at the get go, I would have been much much more likely to work with them. Instead, they lied. Fuck them."

I instructed her to terminate the contract.

I then instructed her to make an offer - list price - on this standard sale property.

She did and she did.

By 10:55 a.m. the following day - just over an hour before the deadline we'd imposed - my offer was accepted without counter.

I have a contract. I've had an inspection that passed with flying colors, I've had an appraisal that came in $6,000 over contract price, I have a closing date. Both the seller and her agent have been incredibly responsive and cooperative. I love them nearly as much as I love THIS HOUSE.

So...I'm buying a house. THE HOUSE. But not the one I started out buying. And that's OK with me. It's better than OK. It's perfect...for me. 

We move a week from today. 

OMG! I'm buying a house!!!

Epilogue


The original house I was under contract to buy is back up as an active listing...at the same asking price I first offered. I don't know if the whole "we need to net $11,000 more" was a ploy to get more money out of me after they saw my credit or if they - the sellers and their agent - are attempting, once again, to sucker someone new into biting before knowing what they will ultimately be given to chew. It did make me take pause though and understand that, either way, these people are parasites...all of them.


Courtney is still in awe at the fact that I found something even more perfect for me immediately upon making the decision to terminate. So am I frankly. But I'm not questioning it. I'm just going with it.

Being willing to compromise, to be accommodating, to be helpful, gracious, and responsive, doesn't mean a person can't have firm boundaries and be willing to pull the plug on something that should have been right but ultimately wasn't. There are, as the saying goes, lots of perfect fish in the sea.

You should only push me so far.

4 comments:

Graciewilde said...

First, I am glad to see you back. I've missed you.
And, I think it is possible to just jump right back in again - no backstory needed but I like learniing the backstory :)
I just stopped writing there for two months this spring. Life had gotten close to unbearable and the last thing I could do was expose it . and then I was able to write again .... for awhile.
I'm just glad to see you back.
As to the house story..... I have become so cynical (read: angry) about anything related to business and consumerism. I look at any business deal with skepticism and suspicion. Those people are liars and played on you. Sucks big time. But, in the end, you have something even more perfect than you thought - isn't it amazing how things sometimes work out?

NGS said...

Yay! So much excitement over moving!

I never give any explanation for why I don't write when I don't write on my blog for a long time. I figure if anyone is super curious, they'll email me to figure out what happened!

Tara Adams said...

I'm so glad this ends with a happily ever after and I am annoyed as Hell that these people tried to screw you. AND I am super-thrilled to see a blog post up! No explanation necessary, but I enjoyed it tremendously, just because I love your "voice."

Randy G said...

Congrats! :D I'm glad it all worked out.