My husband and I were searching for that one house - you know, the one that you say "Ah, I'm home". That one. We had waited 23 years to buy this house (yes, 23 years), so we weren't going to settle for anything less.
When the market took its downturn in 2008, my husband and I knew this was our time, our chance to take the plunge and buy. Excited, anxious, we enlisted a real estate agent who was, thankfully, patient with us through this whole ordeal. He understood right off the bat that we weren't going to be "easy". I laugh now, because that man earned his income even though towards the end, I really wanted to tape his mouth shut.
Okay, so maybe 90 houses later, (5 houses each Saturday and/or Sunday for June, July, Aug) we were legitimately frustrated, and so was our real estate agent. He thought we were being too picky. We just didn't want the kind of houses we were seeing. It was awful.
During this peak time of foreclosures, people were furious and putting feces in furnaces (no kidding), removing fixtures like door knobs, cabinets, lights, and even knocking down fences and flooding bedrooms. One house's bedroom looked like a roller coaster ride because the floor was so warped with water.
In one house he was taking us to visit, squatters had posted a sign up that said that the house had been sold (which of course it hadn't) and not to disturb the tenants. If it wasn't so laughable, I would have cried. Here was our big chance and there was no house to be found!
Then, in September, we came upon this little gem of a house. No one had even looked at it - the street name was an ill chosen one. On first glance the curb appeal left much to be desired.
The house looked small, the front yard was dirt and weeds and canyon red rock. There was no curb appeal. But the moment he opened the door, I was speechless. It revealed this beautiful, open concept home. It had a stunning stacked-stone fireplace in the front room, a large kitchen with stainless steel appliances and a very long family room. It was perfect and best of all, we both knew this was the one.
Right then and there we decided to put in an offer. But our real estate agent was not so hopeful. This was a short sale house. What? What's that? Really, until 2008, who had heard much of anything about that? He warned that this was not going to be an easy process, that we would have to be patient and continue looking.
No way! We had found THE ONE. Without a backward glance, we laughed it off and signed the offer. I even wrote a small letter to the current owners in order to sell us as the family for their house and how impressed we were.
Not even 24 hours later we heard that the owners approved our offer and sent it forward. What we didn't know is how much under water they were. They didn't owe to just one bank, but two. Both had to approve the short sale.
One month, two months and finally in November we were approved by the first bank. During this whole time, my real estate agent was questioning our decision, trying to get us to give up and settle for something else. The second bank who had a small, equity loan on the house, was still stalling.
Another month goes by and finally they approved. Now it was our turn. My bank who agreed to carry our loan - a nice, standard, 30 year fixed loan - wanted a new appraisal on the house because of the long delay. Guess what? In that amount of time, the house had depreciated 8K and we had to go and renegotiate the loan. Ah! Just give me the house already!
I wanted to close in 2008 for tax purposes, but alas, with all the delays and such, we finally closed at the end of January. From a September offer, we were finally, finally going to get keys in late January.
I took the keys (kissed them), then immediately went ahead and changed all the locks! I wanted to move in as soon as possible, I was so excited. I moved in my cleaning supplies that day and started painting a little.
The day after taking possession of the house I had the termite guys scheduled to come and start work. I was going to meet them at 1:00 PM during my lunch break. I arrived home a little early to find my brand new home all opened up! The front door was propped open, the garage door was up and the back gate was wide open. What was going on? How did the termite guys get into my house? And why? I told them I was going to be there. Staggered, I approached the guy rifling through my stuff in the garage, sorting.
"What are you doing? Why didn't you wait for me like we scheduled?" I asked the guy. He looked stunned. He responded, "It's standard procedure. This is what we do."
I didn't know what to think. I asked him how he got in the house. "I drilled the locks," he said straight-faced. I was flummoxed. I had just spent $160 dollars to get the locked changed and he DRILLED THEM OUT? "Why? I was on my way, why did you do that?" Now he looked stunned, like he didn't understand why we were having this conversation.
Finally he said, he didn't know I was coming. He then asked the pertinent question of "Who are you?". That should have been my question, frankly. I said, "I'm the new owner of this house you are ransacking, who are you?" That's when he dropped the bombshell, "I'm the one foreclosing on this house."
At this point, I realized that there had been some misunderstanding. Angry, frustrated, I dragged him along into my house where I proceeded to call his boss. A few phone calls later, I found out that the first bank with the large loan who had just signed over the deed to us, had also signed over the deed to be foreclosed.
The right hand was not aware of what the left hand was doing. Great! Meanwhile, my house was open to the wind, lock-less. I called the police who actually took the side of the foreclosure guy saying, "He was only doing his job".
In the fulfillment of this story, I will say that the president of the company representing this foreclosing ransacker (who took a $500 ladder, assorted cleaning and painting supplies and some bug sprays for the garden) asked me to allow them to make compensation for my 'situation'.
They came back (ladder in tow) and put in new locks, replaced what they admitted to taking (I'm still sure that I didn't get everything back) and left. The offending bank also called and apologized profusely. What a way to be introduced to home buying! My real estate agent told me it figures it would happened to us - we seemed to be a magnet for issues.
It's now 2010 and I'm still here, in my little gem of a house. I love it! It is, as they say, THE ONE. We are both delighted with our house, our neighborhood and home ownership overall (especially the tax breaks we got).
Still, my humble advice to anyone seeking to buy a home - perhaps you might want to avoid the short sales. They really are a pain in the lock!