If you haven't heard the story about the time Alex and I bought our first home at the height of the real estate boom and then tried to sell it--unsuccessfully, for two years--following the crash of 2008, there is an HGTV episode of "My First Sale" in which we chronicle our adventures. Although, being a "reality" TV show, it didn't exactly chronicle our real life adventure. Our takeaway from this experience was discovering that we are not lucky in real estate. At least that was our first clue.
Our second clue that real estate is not our bag came when we moved to Austin, a city in the midst of an enormous growth spurt, and learned that that the so-called "economic downturn" (the one where we finally ended up selling our house in North Carolina and owing money on the deal) didn't seem to have an effect on Austin. At least not when we moved here in 2011. Or 2012. Or 2013...or '14...or '15. Huge pro that the city is thriving; con that we wanted to get back into the home-owning saddle.
Last spring we were finally feeling settled. After living in our neighborhood for four years we were sure it was the right one for us. So sure, in fact, that we closed ourselves off to even thinking about houses in a different school district. We love the neighborhood and the school, so in a rare moment of confidence, we vowed to begin the Austin house hunt in earnest. Once again, however, Alex and I were clued into the fact that real estate and we do not see eye to eye. We found ourselves in a perhaps even bigger real estate boom--at least locally and, specifically, the neighborhood in which we want to plant our roots--than we were ten years ago.
If you haven't had the pleasure of searching for a home when there is great demand yet little inventory, let me give you a hint: have your sh** together; be ready to put an offer on a house after looking at the morning it goes on the market (even if your partner hasn't set foot in the house); and be prepared for a bidding war. That is what happened to us in June. The long and short of it is we did not get the house we wanted (we came in second) and I was sure we would never own a home again. At least not without moving 30 minutes out of town into the great wide suburbs. But then the summer flew by and kept us busy and school started, for both me and the children, and we had soccer and soccer and piano to keep us busy. The next thing I knew we were spending Thanksgiving in Disney World and getting ready for Christmas. We looked at a couple of houses here and there, but one reeked of cigarette smoke and another had walls so thin Alex almost shook them down with his bare hands. Besides, like I said, Christmas was coming and life was whizzing by us.
About two weeks before Christmas my realtor texted me with the address and a picture of a place that was going on the market shortly. After several drive-by stalkings on my part, I convinced myself this was it. This was the house we had been waiting for all this time! The reason things didn't work out in June was because this house was waiting for us to climb up its front porch stairs that need reinforcing. The only problem was, and it was a pretty significant one, we couldn't get inside. The owner had apparently fled town and left the house in disarray. The listing agent wouldn't let us in because she feared the mess would scare us off (obviously she was not aware of my ability to have houses "speak" to me as I see past the dirt and clutter).
Finally my agent convinced the seller's agent to at least send us pictures of the interior. It was dirty and it was cluttered, but we climbed up that platform and dove back into the real estate pool: we made an offer on the house without ever walking inside. Alex was out of town at the time. I sent him a text saying, more or less, "Our agent is sending you a contract to sign. Just sign it. We haven't been in the house yet. NBD. I'll explain later."
And then we waited. But not for long. The agent got back to us immediately saying the seller didn't want to look at the contract without us having been inside the home first. So he had called our bluff. But then we called his right back. Alex was still away, so our agent and I checked out the dwelling on a sunny Sunday morning and let the listing agent know our offer stood. We even bumped up the option fee for a little extra incentive. I should also mention that we offered above the would-be asking price because that's the market in which we find ourselves.
And then we waited; almost a week went by. And Christmas was three days away, and there was no word from the seller. And then we waited. And I was at Target on the 23rd getting stocking stuffers for the kids when my agent texted me that the seller had decided to wait until after the holidays to get the place cleaned up and "fully market it," which everyone knows is code for "Thanks but no thanks. I'm expecting multiple offers." Just like that, we were out of the game. Did I mention real estate isn't really our thing?
So we celebrated Christmas and our early New Year's Eve, and in the spirit of the season I forgave the guy who wouldn't sell us his house and resolved to move on in the spirit of a new year (but I really wanted that house).
Any guesses on what happened next? On January 2nd my agent texted me once again to say the seller had had a change of heart and wanted to go with our offer. True story. My theory is he watched some sappy made-for-TV cheesy Christmas program and his heart grew three times its size.
So that is what has been occupying my time the greater part of January 2016. Alex and I were extremely hesitant to even mention the we're-buying-a-house thing to anyone because we were (and still are) nervous that something would fall through and we'd be back in our rental house for the unforeseeable future. We're less than two weeks out from closing, however, and things have gone relatively smoothly--if you don't count the number of times the "underwriter" came back to us to verify employment and documents and funds and signatures and whatever else they could cook up to drive us crazy until we got the final "clear to close" last week.
After all this time (speaking specifically of the five-ish years I've been blogging), it looks like things have come full circle. When I started this blog, Alex and I were trying to sell our house in Charlotte, NC and hoping to stumble upon a fixer-upper where I could chronicle the ins and outs of making a dinky little house our home (or Sassy Shack, if you will). Obviously I am not a great soothsayer, but it turns out that we did find that sassy shack. It took us five years and the house is about 1700 miles away from Charlotte, but it's in an amazing town called Austin, TX that we love and has truly become our home. Stay tuned.