Back on February 4, 2013 I put in an offer on a house. It's a nice place, three bedroom, two bath ranch home with a two car garage and in very nice shape. About the only thing wrong is the kitchen could use redecoration, which really doesn't fall into the category as wrong. Seventies cabinets and yellow linoleum do not for feng shui make. But it has a great basement, and needs absolutely nothing but for me to move in. The owners took my offer and the price is pretty darned affordable. And they took my offer, right away. Only thing is, it's a short sale.
The current owners probably bought the house right at the end of the housing boom. The house has dropped in value about $50K, which is why I can now afford it. But in order for this to work their bank must sign off on the loans. The bank in turn subcontracted this to a firm known as "Short Sale Solutions" to which I have come to consider means "Long Term Delay". Amazing how many businesses put the word solutions in their name these days and it's amazing how many seem to solve nothing.
But that was almost four months ago. I was told the process might take up to six months at the beginning, but I'm getting a bit antsy. They got another appraisal on the home so I know something is happening, but its hard to just wait and wait. Particularly when they might just say no at the end of all this putting me back to square one. So today my agent, my friend Chris and I went out to look at homes again.
Two homes stuck out. One was a bungalow built in 1932. It has beautiful windows with great views, a nice deck, killer front porch yet is in an affordable but beautifully kept neighborhood. There's a lovely Catholic Church across the street, the nearby homes are all interesting, and you literally have to drive around the church to get to my house. The only really strange thing is there's a toilet right below the electric panel. As an electrician, I can fix that. Someone also came in and removed all the copper plumbing and the air conditioner, a sadly common thing for empty homes for these days. But the price is getting to the point where I might be able to buy it for enough to get that all fixed right and stay within budget.
Thing is, that house is in good shape. Someone broke in and stole stuff, but nothing was wrecked. The next house I went to showed the consequences of a terrible anger. This was a modern split-level in a beautifully kept east side neighborhood. The back yard was lovely. But I knew there would be trouble the moment I saw the front porch. Rotted railings, steps sunk off level. Way off level. There was water damage everywhere. A bathroom wall had been ripped out, a sink pulled from its mooring and bent over. The master bath was no better. Someone even stole the electric meter can! And yes, all the plumbing and air conditioning was gone. Some of the wiring too. The kitchen cabinets and counter tops had been deliberately ruined, and all the appliances ripped out. The back patio door had been kicked in and was boarded over.
This wasn't just greed, it was hate. It was the anger of a person who put themselves out for a home during the boom and lost it, and maybe everything once the economy went bust. I don't know whether the bank treated them right or wrong, there are too many stories of corrupt foreclosures to assume the owners had no reason for grievance, but it was clear this once source of pride had become a sore thumb. And in their rage, they wrongly destroyed their beloved home.
Nice real estate in my price range isn't easy to come by. Often you go for something really cramped, or in a bad neighborhood, or you have to look more deeply in the hopes that you can find what you really want. That's taken me into homes that were 30% under so-called 'market value' and still overpriced. It might take $50k to put that house right. I've looked at others whose foundations bent in as if the basement walls were praying. I've been in homes where the basement paneling was all totally rotted out, seen doors that had been kicked in. But this house on a quiet cul-de-sac surrounded by beautiful, loved homes was the saddest.