Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Moving Experience...
(an ongoing series) — Part 9

Forever the Optimist
Dare I say it? Nay, dare I even think that our house has sold — I mean, for real this time? Or will our new buyer walk away because she doesn’t like the color of the mulch?

Well, alright. Despite my better judgment, I guess I’ll say it: I think we’ve sold our house…AGAIN.

A return visitor at Realtor gal April’s open house, the new buyer — a single mother with two young boys — saw the house on two separate occasions the week before last and tendered an offer early last week. At first we weren’t all that excited about it, considering it was $23,000 below our asking price.

We figured it might have been a ploy by the lady’s agent to see just how panicked we were after our original sale to the Potatoheads fell through. Perhaps she thought we’d feel the need to grab at the next offer that came along no matter what it was, just to get the sale.

Um, no, Tony. We weren’t that desperate quite yet.

We of course countered, coming off of our asking price by only a couple grand. We decided that if this woman really was serious, she’d come back with a more realistic offer. And she did, albeit still less than the Potatohead’s original offer by a good margin.

I really had to think long and hard about this one. Yes it was less than we wanted to make on the house, but was the extra profit that important? Besides, her counter offer was exactly the figure that Michelle and I had previously agreed upon as the minimum amount we would accept. So while I was hesitant to believe we couldn’t do a little better, I had to take a deep breath and ask myself how much that extra profit really mattered.

Is this the lease we can do?
For one thing, time was not in our favor with regard to finding a transitional residence for the period between the sale of our current home and the completion of the new one (which our builder insists will be mid-December, but we’ll see...).

That was the hardest thing to swallow about the demise of our initial sale agreement. The timing of the original offer was absolutely perfect for us; that timeframe would have kept us from wasting money paying for an apartment beyond the time we really needed it. And because we naively assumed that all the pieces would continue to fall into place as they had right off the bat, we also felt free to make binding ancillary plans based upon them.

On July 3rd, after we accepted the Potatohead’s initial offer, we were off to the races. All continuation of upgrade and repair work on our existing house came to an abrupt halt. We figured we’d just wait for the home inspection to be performed to learn what really needed to be done, as opposed to just guessing. I mean, we were on the hook for up to $1500 in repairs anyway, so why take the chance that something we deemed necessary to fix up didn’t carry the same weight with the home inspector?

Besides, we had other things to attend to, like securing that apartment. And considering that we had to be out by July 30th, we just barely had three weeks to do it.

So we rushed out that same afternoon to the place we had targeted immediately as our new home away from home; the place that was our first home in Tennessee: the nearby apartment complex where we lived our first two and a half years here in Franklin.

We decided on a one-bedroom apartment that would be coming available within two weeks’ time and signed a six-month lease a couple of days later, placing $380 down to secure it. We knew that money wasn’t coming back should anything go awry with the sale of our house, but geeze — what could go wrong?

Of course the linchpin to the apartment deal was the lease; again, it was the detail that made the timing of all this so crucial. Standard apartment leases are a minimum of one year, however we knew that our old apartment’s management company would allow tenants a six-month lease for an extra fifty bucks a month. So right off the top it was going to be expensive, but obviously less so than if we went most anywhere else. However it would be even more expensive — as in an extra $200 a month — should we would be forced to extend that six-month lease beyond it’s allotted six-month timeframe.

So it was a pick your poison kind-o-deal. We chose to go for it and assume that the deal would proceed unabated — and that our new house would be finished on time.

But of course, you know what happened: the sale fell through, and suddenly we really found ourselves between a rock and a hard place.

Firstly, although we had already signed the lease, we hadn’t yet officially taken possession of the apartment, as it was still being prepped. Our preliminary agreement would expire on July 27th. We could still cancel anytime before then be off the hook for the lease, but lose our $380 down payment in the process.

That’s the rock.

On the other hand, if we did back out, not only would we lose money now, but later on as well, due to that darned six-month lease term. Any timeframe beyond the end of December would amount to a wasted month’s rent payment. We could be looking at paying at least one, and perhaps two full month’s extra rent, translating to over $2700 (with pet fees, utilities, and garage rental) if we had to return later to rent the apartment in August or (Gawd forbid) September. And that, my friends, would be a heck-of-a-lot more than $380.

And that’s the hard place.

So needless to say, we were under a bit of pressure to accept this second offer, but that wasn’t the only thing we needed to consider.

I was willing to give up a few thousand dollars to make this sale, and in so doing, still take advantage of the window of opportunity to keep the apartment lease we’d signed, avoiding the potential loss of even a couple thousand dollars more. But if I was to do so, I also wanted some kind of assurance that we wouldn’t be left at the altar as we were before. That would depend on the all-too-critical second home inspection, which it just so happens, is scheduled for today.

And while I won’t completely lose my trepidation about what the inspector will turn up until it’s all said and done, I’m much more confident that we have nothing to fear this time around. We were pretty naive to believe that everything would be hunky-dory with the first inspection, but nothing could have led us to believe that it would be the deal-breaker.

I still have my opinions on why Mr. Potatohead actually used his legal out — the original home inspection’s findings — to walk away from the home sale, and they aren’t too complimentary. But one thing I know for certain, according to his summary, the inspector himself didn’t have any significant problems with our house, emphasizing that all the items in his report were routine maintenance issues, not safety or structural red flags.

In the aftermath of that first-buyer experience, I knew that two steps needed to be taken to insure things would turn out positively the next time.

Step One — Bulletproofing the product: McGriffs to the rescue.
There was at least one silver lining to this rain cloud; we had the ability to get it right the next time.

Using that first home inspection report — paid for by the Potatoheads — we needed to go in deal with the most significant issues listed; to make the house bulletproof to the next inspection. But to do so, I obviously need some help, so I called upon a friend.

I had actually spoken to the original home inspector the day he issued his report. Having already received the bad news about the Potatohead’s decision, I asked a few questions and gained some valuable insight into Mister P’s mindset regarding the issues that the inspector listed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself again…that’s for the next post.

The main reason I called was to inquire about any recommendations he might have for contractors in the area he considered qualified to address the needed fixes to our house.

Unfortunately though, as forthcoming as he was in discussing the repairs and Mister P, he fell a bit short in the follow-up of supplying me the requested contractor info. The e-mail he promised to send listing the handymen he’d used and trusted never arrived, and I really didn’t want to keep bugging him about it. I instead decided to go with a different source, one that I probably should have chosen in the first place: my good friend and former Papa John’s compadre, McGriff.

My former pizza-drivin’-concert-goin’-pool-shootin’ pal has recently chosen the construction services industry as his life’s work, partnering with his Dad, a former diesel mechanic and all-around do-it-yourself maven.

McGriff is still learning the ropes in some areas, but his Pop can do it all. So when I met with them last Wednesday evening, they were already divvying up the individual tasks. McGriff is one of my best local, real-time friends and I trust him implicitly. If he didn’t think they could do the work and do it well, he’d have begged off from the get-go.

But Father & Son McGriff did not disappoint.

They dealt with a few issues in the crawl space beneath the house, strengthened a few joints on the covered back deck, made some chimney and drain spout repairs on the roof, and, most impressively, did some bang-up trim and doorframe work around the garage and the front porch.

I knew that all this work would not come cheap. I was hoping for the ‘friend’ discount, but not counting on it. But once again, the McGriffs came through. They did a full day’s worth of home repair work for $459, including materials.

I was bracing for $600, and my friend admitted, that’s about what it should have been, or more. I told him that come December, when the new house is done and I have my new pool table in place in the man-cave, he won’t need an invitation to come over and play anytime he wants to.

Step Two — Bulletproofing the contract: No more excuses.
The first part was a no-brainer that I knew we’d have to do whether we sold the house now or in November. The fact that some of these issues existed was due to my ignorance alone. With this being the first house we’d ever owned, I just never considered all the upkeep involved with all the exterior and structural issues. Fortunately for my ego, the original home inspector told me that very few people actually do possess the wherewithal from a knowledge standpoint to keep up with the type of stuff he listed. He said that I shouldn’t beat myself up over it — not everyone does what he does for a living.

However, there was now another inspection to be conducted on the dime of the new buyer. A new inspection, with a different inspector most likely being involved, leading to the ever-so-slight possibility of different repair issues being discovered.

So this time our requirements needed to be different as well.

As I mentioned earlier, the new buyer’s price came up considerably in response to our counter of their original offer. However that number was well short of the Potatoheads’ original bid, only $3000 less than our asking price; the new buyer’s best offer was another $5000 below that.

So now the $1500 that we accepted as a high, but manageable cost for repairs in the first sale offer was not acceptable in the second. I had just spent nearly $500 to address the most pressing repair issues. There was no way in hell I was gonna be on the hook for an additional grand — or another dime if I could help it — short of something obviously catastrophic in the second inspection that was missed the first time.

So I asked the Realty gals if we could establish some kind of certainty in the counter offer acceptance that would preclude the new home inspection from being used again as a convenient excuse to back out of the deal. I wanted our new buyer to agree that only serious structural issues would be addressed as additional repairs.

Considering the incredibly anal level of scrutiny that Inspector #1 used in going over our house, there would likely be no such major issues to be discovered. Hence, adding such a provision to our counter-offer acceptance, we shouldn’t be forced to fork over any more money than we have already.

So with their mad contract-writing skillz, the Realty gals crafted language in the contract specifying that only structurally pertinent, non-cosmetic repairs costing $1000 or more could be drawn as a requirement of the home inspector’s findings.

The buyer accepted; we’re satisfied. Let’s get the show on the road.

And now, the wait-see.
With the chief repairs completed, the home inspection being conducted as I type, we can only now wait for the report, which should be available by tomorrow. Hopefully the buyer will make her decision by the end of the day or by early Friday morning, which is when she’ll also know if her loan is approved. It’ll all be done but for the shoutin’ by the end of the week.

Oh, and by the way, remember the rock and the hard place I mentioned earlier? We had until July 27th to decide on whether or not we'd keep the original six-month lease we’d signed. We chose the hard place. So regardless of whether or not the home sale goes through, we’re on the hook for the apartment from now through January.

Think we might be a tad nervous right now?

We’ll either be popin’ a bottle of Dom Perignon or cryin’ in our Coor’s.

At least we’ll only have to wait a few days to find out.

Next: Once bitten, Twice Shy: Dancing With Potatoheads
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