Happy weekend, everyone! I don’t know about you, but this week and last have been a doozy! After house-hunting for about a year and a half, a couple weeks ago we put our first offer on a place we really liked only to find out a few days later that we were “substantially outbid,” which, if you’ve been in this position, you know can be sort of crushing. Especially when you bid pretty much the max of what you can afford. That put us in a tailspin of re-evaluating life choices and our future and all The Big Decisions, which is just so emotionally draining. Then, this week, we got some news we’d been waiting on for a few months and it wasn’t what we were hoping for, and that was really disappointing. And to top it off, I was pulled into a friend’s emotional crisis this week in a way that felt very overwhelming and stressful and required fast decision-making on my part that wasn’t… very well-received, let’s say. In short, it’s been an emotionally (and physically) exhausting couple of weeks, and I’m looking forward to unwinding a bit tonight at my friend’s 40th birthday party. In an effort to lose the Trump 13 I’ve gained since November (ugh), I’m cutting back on my alcohol (and chocolate) consumption, so I haven’t had a drink since Saturday and I’m ready for one (or three) tonight.
Also on tap this weekend is Drew’s birthday on Sunday. To celebrate, he gets to (assistant) coach Jackson’s first ever Little League game. Guess who is more excited! (Hint: Drew). I’m also getting my first tattoo this weekend, which I’m pretty nervous about, to be honest, but also very excited, too. It’s not a typical first tattoo at all. It could go horribly wrong! I hope not. If it does, I probably won’t mention it again and will try to pretend it didn’t happen. If it goes well, I’ll likely share the details, and the reason why I decided to do it now.
Anyway, sorry for all the vague-blogging, how annoying. Mostly, I wanted to say hi, and Happy Spring, and Happy almost Passover to those who celebrate (Jackson has spent the last couple of weeks memorizing the four questions in Hebrew. If only my father-in-law were alive to hear — he’d be so thrilled!).
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Aya April 7, 2017, 4:11 pm
Must be something in the air. I briefly flirted with the idea of getting a tattoo, but decided to get my upper ear/cartilage periced. Now I just have to find a reputable place to get it done.
Kate April 8, 2017, 7:33 am
I used to pierce ears in the 90s, at Claire’s and another similar place in the mall. I did cartilage piercing all the time. It’s fine if you use the studs that are actually gold, with the thin post and the sharp point, and you take very good care of it afterward. But girls would come in who got theirs done with the cheap stainless steel thick-post studs, and be like, “can you look at this for me?” And it would be this gross infected crusty mess with 6 yards of hair wrapped around it, and I’d just be like, girl, all I can do here is take this out for you. So I’d put on gloves and take the earring out and throw it away and clean the site and tell them to see a doctor.
PS, people thought I had nursing training or something because I was piercing ears, but I was just a typical teenager.
Kate April 8, 2017, 8:07 am
Omg, and this woman used to come over from one of the clothing stores, she was trying to get both ears to be solidly covered with gold, and she’d want me to pierce in some random spot. The gun we had was designed just to pierce around the edges of the ear, not like all over the place. It couldn’t reach that little bump around the ear cavity, right next to your face, and I’d tell her that, but she didn’t care, she’d be like, just try. So I’d just go for it and she wouldn’t get mad. My friend worked there too for a while and sometimes we’d pierce each other’s ears for the hell of it. Point is, cartilage piercing isn’t a big deal. Tattoos, yes, I got one in a bus behind a restaurant and it was awful. You definitely need a reputable place for that, but for piercing I think you can just go to Claire’s, assuming they still pierce.
em April 10, 2017, 9:37 am
pros use needles, not piercing guns. surely there is a good tattoo/piercing shop in your town?
anonymousse April 7, 2017, 5:14 pm
Ooooh, dying to see the tattoo!
RedRoverRedRover April 7, 2017, 6:03 pm
Ugh, the first place we ever bid on, we were outbid by $100k. $100k!!!!! And then the next place went over by $165k. It totally sucks doing househunting in a city with crazy real estate. You just have to keep plugging. They won’t all be like that. And if they are, you compromise on your requirements, but at least you’re in the market and the value of your home will rise as the market does. Then in 5 years you upgrade. That’s what we ended up having to do.
ktfran April 7, 2017, 9:16 pm
The fiancé and I know all too well right now the housing market. We had a rough couple of months. The first few places we put an offer down, we were either outbid or there was an all cash offer. What the fuck? Who has that kind of cash lying around? Finally, we found a place that wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but the size of the place made up for that. We went at $15k over the asking, which was still under our highest amount we were willing to pay, and finally, we have a place! Before that, we both felt defeated and worried about where we’d live. Now, I’ve never been more excited. I love where we’ll be living if the closing goes well.
Wendy, I get that right now and I wish you luck. It’s hard. It’s truly hard. Good luck.
ktfran April 7, 2017, 9:25 pm
Actually, this place we ended up buying I didn’t even want to look at. It was missing two of our huge “musts.” I was kind of bitchy about it. After seeing it and the potential, I am truly excited. Fingers crossed the closing goes well.
RedRoverRedRover April 8, 2017, 5:57 am
It was the same thing with me and my current house. The pictures were awful. It was so old-fashioned, the wallpaper, carpets and furnishings just looked horrible, and the pictures were dark. I was going to skip it but we were looking at something around the corner so I said what the hell. Diamond in the rough! It’s a fixer-upper for sure, which sucks. But like yours, it’s big. Massive compared to the other houses in our price range we were looking at. It’s going to be a dream home. We have about two more rounds of reno to do, one of which we’re doing this spring, and it’ll be great.
Wendy, my best advice would be to figure out what everyone else wants, and then don’t get that, lol. Around here, open concept is a huge selling point. Well I hate open concept, so that was an easy one to immediately throw out the window. Also there’s a ton of flipping going on here, everyone wants to buy a house that’s “done”. Ours wasn’t even close, lol. I would’ve liked a done house too, but then the price goes up like 10-20%. Also there will be a lot less competition if you pick houses that don’t have the “must-have” features that everyone else wants, which means it won’t go as high over asking in a bidding war.
RedRoverRedRover April 8, 2017, 6:08 am
Also, the things to compromise on are the things you can get later. Like I assume you want to be near transit. Obviously you can’t get that later. But something like open concept, for example, you could do later.
Kate April 8, 2017, 7:27 am
Yeah, that’s how the market is around here too. In the towns we wanted to buy, we’d find a place that was *ok*, not great, and the price was just affordable, but then there’d be a bidding war. People were willing to go $100K over asking price on a 2-bedroom condo that wasn’t even anything special! And yes, people do have cash, because say they sold the family home that they had for years and are downsizing, they can buy a condo outright.
This may not be an option for you, with school systems, etc., but we went one town over. This town (B) will become “the next Town A.” It’s already going in that direction, and prices are going steadily up, there’s not a lot of condo inventory, etc. Right now, after a year and a half, we could sell for $75k more than we paid.
The condo itself is fabulous, but literally everything else sucks. It was either that or continually lose out in those bidding situations and end up with a place that needed work or didn’t have closets or whatever. We are not the couple that’s going to be able to deal with a fixer-upper, but that’s definitely an option that’s out there.
So either this place is an investment that will make us a ton of money if we can stick it out, or we’ll just dump it, take a small profit, and go back to renting in a luxury building in a great location. Owning does nothing for us.
Kate April 8, 2017, 7:37 am
…and this is the third place I’ve owned. Just not into it.
What my parents have done a few times, is buy a smaller/modest place in an amazing location, and then hold onto it, put work into it, update kitchen and baths, add a new bath, make it really nice. Their primary condo has like quadrupled in value, and their vacation homes at least tripled, and they’re long paid off.
Dear Wendy April 9, 2017, 6:45 am
We’re starting to think that maybe NOT buying right now is the way to go. We’ll see. The market here, especially in our neighborhood where we’d love to stay, is really insane. Prices have more than doubled in the 7 years since we moved here. Our friends bought a modest small 2-bedroom for $375K in 2009 and sold it in 2015 for $800k! Other friends, who had more money to begin with, bought a whole brownstone (with their parents) for a little over $1.5 in 2009, put a couple hundred thousand dollars of work into it, and then sold it last year for over $3.5m! At these prices (the highest of which, we’re nowhere near being able to afford), I’m not convinced people can still count on making money of their investments, even if they stay for 15-20 years, as we would plan to. We sold Drew’s father’s place which we inherited half of when he passed away, so we do have a little $ to spend, but we want to be smart about it. Unless we buy a modest place in our neighborhood, go to a cheaper (but less desirable) neighborhood, I don’t think that buying is smarter than renting. We could upgrade rentals a little bit, stay in our neighborhood or nearby, and keep our money invested where its earning potential is higher, which makes sense even if it doesn’t totally serve my desire to feel rooted and settled. But we’re also unsure about J’s current school situation and are pursuing various options, so that makes buying a place and committing to this neighborhood, as much as we love it, less wise, too.
Lots of things to think about, and it’s been pretty emotionally draining. But I know there are much bigger problems to have. We are lucky to have options!
Kate April 9, 2017, 6:55 am
I’m with you. Looking back, we both feel we’d be much happier if we’d stayed in our well-located rental. At the time, we were like, why are we even buying this condo? But like I think I’ve mentioned, we found out that a few months after we moved, our former apartment was flooded and destroyed by someone hanging a picture and drilling into the water main above us. So there was a reason! But we’d move back into that building or one of many similar ones, in a heartbeat. If anything went wrong, maintenance came right over and fixed it. Underground parking. Walk or T everywhere. Loved it.
Daisy April 8, 2017, 9:11 am
As a Dear Wendy reader in Israel, I just want to say ‘go, Jackson!’ on the Hebrew 🙂 Awesome he’s learning so young and even better for him that he has a little sister to take over the 4 questions before too long. I’m the youngest in my family and was stuck with them for literally about 15 years!
Also, the real estate market in Israel is impossible (salaries are low and prices are exorbitant, plus you need 30-40% as a down payment) and so there’s literally no way for most young people to buy an apartment. I’ve more or less accepted that my husband and I will never own our own place, but it’s still depressing (especially since I grew up in the US, where it’s pretty standard).
Portia April 8, 2017, 1:09 pm
Haha, I was stuck with four questions duty for a long time, too! I wasn’t really the youngest, but when you’re the only one in the family who took Hebrew… At least I got pretty good at it? Lol.
Dear Wendy April 9, 2017, 6:48 am
Oh man, Jackson’s gone be bummed when he’s no longer in charge of the four questions. He’s been practicing his Hebrew for weeks and he’s got it down really well. He’s so proud.
SpaceySteph April 9, 2017, 3:20 pm
I’ve been in the weird position of both hosting passover (for my parents and some friends) and also being the youngest and having to do my own 4 questions. Will be the same again this year if I don’t get away with the “how about we have the oldest person say them this year” trick!
Mylaray April 8, 2017, 9:45 am
House buying is the worst. We put offers on over 30 homes before one that finally stuck. We had to pay above asking for a tear down that we built a new house on. The market here makes me never want to move again.
Dear Wendy April 9, 2017, 6:50 am
30 offers! Wow — that’s intense! We’ve looked at probably 150 places, give or take a few dozen, but we’ve only made one offer (I’m a commitment-phobe, so even that one offer felt pretty scary). I don’t know that I have nerves to go through the offer-making process too many times!
anonymousse April 8, 2017, 10:08 am
It’s the same or worse here in Seattle. Since Vancouver has changed its laws about foreign investments in real estate, Seattle is getting hit even harder than it was with housing costs. Around where I am, they tear down a house on a lot and build four. One lot behind our rental, the new houses have gone up in a month (totally unfinished, but built so fast!) and they will be $1,000,000 homes. It’s crazy.
A lot of real estate is listed at pretty reasonable prices, just to attract larger crowds at open houses to start bidding wars. And it’s the same deal- a fixer upper will sit on the market, where one ready to go will sell for far over asking. I have never wanted a house with work needed…but I guess that’s where we are going to be.
RedRoverRedRover April 8, 2017, 10:37 am
It’s a pain doing a fixer-upper, but it’s also worth it. Basically you’re delaying your cost. My SIL bought a place at the same time as we did, in a similarly-priced area. They got a house that had been reno’d, we didn’t. Their house is beautiful, and I’d love to live somewhere that was finished to that degree. But! It’s tiny. Everything in there is tight. And it’s already got an addition, so that’s it, it’s not getting any bigger. Whereas ours has tons of space, tons of storage, etc. In the end when it’s done, it will have cost more because of the renos. But we’ll end up with a house we couldn’t have afforded otherwise. So to me, that’s worth the pain of the renos.
Oh and they’re doing the same thing here, where they buy a wide lot and build 2-4 houses, each worth over a million. It’s crazy. The average price for a detached home within the city limits is now over $1.5M. Last year it was $1.1M. Insane growth. The government is trying to figure out what to do. They’be got to do something, this is obviously not sustainable. And I think that big jump is due to the US being seen as a less stable place to invest because of Trump, so foreign investors come here. But the govt is going to have to make it less attractive, or it’ll destabilize the whole country when the bubbles pop.
Kate April 8, 2017, 10:49 am
The house my parent bought when I was 2 was built in 1911 and had, like, a claw foot tub and aquarium fish wallpaper in the bathroom, one room had black wallpaper with psychedelic butterflies, the kitchen was from the 50s with the white metal cabinets, and the powder room was pink. They turned the attic into an in-law suite, redid the kitchen and bathrooms, turned their bedroom into a suite with a huge bath and the laundry in there instead of the basement, etc etc etc. They did most of it themselves, and when they sold 10 years later for 4x what they paid, it was a totally legit 4-bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house fit for any family. Plus, I LOVED that house as a kid.
Kate April 8, 2017, 10:51 am
3.5 bathrooms! Their trick is sticking a million bathrooms in a place.
RedRoverRedRover April 8, 2017, 10:52 am
That’s the thing about a reno. You can do what you want. We have 2.5 bathrooms that need redoing, and I can’t wait to have my ideal bathroom. We’ll probably have to wait a year or two till we get to that, but it’ll be awesome once we do.
Kate April 8, 2017, 1:24 pm
A few years ago, they tore down two old houses and put up some townhouse condos around the corner from our apartment building – not freestanding houses, condos, all jammed together, two rows facing each other, no outdoor space, no view, $900,000 asking price. But right on the public bike path that leads to the T (subway) so I guess they could get it.
anonymousse April 8, 2017, 10:55 am
We are actually thinking about buying a lot further away from the city and building ourselves. Regardless, we have a while to think about it. We could buy right now, but I’d rather wait until we are both working again. I’d love to buy our rental home, (which basically needs everything updated) but our landlord has no interest in selling.
Portia April 8, 2017, 1:17 pm
Sorry about the house, Wendy. We put in an offer on a place last year, and actually tied on price, but the people who bought it waived inspection. On a 100+ year old house that had been rented out for the last 5 years. We wanted it, sure, but we’re not taking on that big of a risk…
Happy Passover to all that are celebrating! I made a ceramic “seder plate” this year (it’s a series of bowls that are labeled in Hebrew). But with so many things going on, I only got to glaze the last two pieces of it this past week. Unless I get incredibly lucky, it means I probably won’t have it done in time for Monday night… Oh well, I guess I’ll have it for next year?
Kate April 8, 2017, 1:26 pm
I heard about people doing that too, or waiving the finance contingency. That’s when you’re just emotionally desperate and out of control.
RedRoverRedRover April 8, 2017, 1:32 pm
Everyone here waives the inspection. If you don’t waive it, you don’t get a house. The end.
Portia April 8, 2017, 1:37 pm
Goodness! Maybe if the house was built in the last 20 years and the owner lives in it, but that is a big risk. I’ve heard horror stories about flipped houses in DC, and it ends up being half the price of the house just to fix it. If that’s the case, I’m happy to stay put…
RedRoverRedRover April 8, 2017, 1:45 pm
Our current house is about 60 years old I’d say. Right after we got it, the roof started leaking. We had to replace it, and it’s an expensive one because it has a big flat part and apparently that costs more than if it were peaked? Then we were going to refinish the floors and staircase, but they were in such bad condition that we had to rip them up, even the subfloor, and we had to replace the entire staircase. Also the windows are original and don’t open anymore and we have to replace them all. We haven’t gotten that done yet. Oh and the gas fireplaces don’t work.
Yeah. It sucks ass. But this is just what you deal with. You just make sure you have a maintenance fund, and budget extra for emergency repairs. Otherwise, you can’t get a house at all. Or, you pay the extra money for one that’s been flipped, although you don’t necessarily know if the flippers were any good or not. In this kind of market, the buyer gets screwed. But it’s either do that, or rent, and the rents are starting to get crazy here too. At least we know what our mortgage is, rent can increase every year.
Kate April 8, 2017, 1:54 pm
I guess it’s just, how bad do you want a house?
RedRoverRedRover April 8, 2017, 2:06 pm
Yeah, I mean your choices are to take the risk on the inspection and buy a house, or don’t take the risk and don’t buy one. Or I guess if you went to a low-demand area, you could probably get a place and do an inspection. But there’s usually a reason why those places are low-demand. Anyway, I’ve bought 5 properties over the years and have never won a bid with an inspection condition. You just have to plan for repairs and budget for it.
Portia April 8, 2017, 3:08 pm
From talking to my realtor (she’s a friend), it seems like waiving inspections is relatively rare around here. But that probably changes if demand increases.
Kate April 8, 2017, 3:30 pm
My agent said people are doing it in the Boston area, but she used the term “emotionally desperate,” so I didn’t get the sense it was that common. Americans generally don’t trust each other, also, so there could be a cultural difference from Canada.
RedRoverRedRover April 8, 2017, 4:41 pm
I’m sure that emotionally desperate people started the trend. The problem becomes that once enough people start waiving the inspection, everyone has to. Because otherwise the people who refuse to waive it will never win a bid unless they’re able to go way over on the price.
And I know real estate everywhere is getting crazy, but in Toronto the average home price has more than doubled since 2010 (and it was already high back then). That’s adjusted for inflation, too. I would imagine there are a LOT of people out there feeling desperate. And if the rest of us want to participate in the market, that’s who we’re competing against.
ginger April 9, 2017, 11:59 am
There was an article in the Toronto Star this week about how abandoning the inspection is becoming more common, but is a bad idea… They suggested that if there’s a wait between when you see it and when the owner is taking bids, schedule an inspection in that window, so its done prior to making the offer.
Phoebe April 10, 2017, 8:54 am
I’m in a suburb of Boston and couldn’t afford to buy a house in the community where I grew up (1mm+ for tiny 2BR bungalows, and we have a family), but fortunately I’m in a nice town 10 min away and my husband and I plan on living here until we die.
And it would not have OCCURRED to me to have waived the inspection. OMG. I’d have lived in fear every night.
RedRoverRedRover April 10, 2017, 9:44 am
It’s usually only 4-5 days between listing and taking offers, so it’s tough to get an inspection lined up. Listings usually go up on Thursday, and by the time you see the place on Saturday or Sunday, and they’re taking offers on Monday or Tuesday, you’re probably not going to be able to do it, unless you can maybe take time off work.
Now what a lot of sellers are doing is getting an inspection done themselves, and making the inspection results available to prospective buyers. It’s not ideal, but it does give you an idea. Plus inspectors can only see so much anyway. Our own inspector wouldn’t have caught our roof – if you buy in winter, everything’s covered in snow and they can’t see it. We did know the age of the roof and the inspector said it would need replacing within 2-5 years. We didn’t know it was currently leaking, but neither did the inspector. With the floors and stairs, same thing. The inspector said they’re going to need replacing fairly soon. We could have actually waited, our contractor told us they could take one more sanding. But at that point we weren’t moved in yet, we were doing a reno anyway, we figured we might as well rip the floors out now than do it in 5-10 years when all our stuff is in the house and we’d have to move it all out and find somewhere to put it, and somewhere for us and our kids to live for a week or however long it took.
So the things that were problems for us, the inspector couldn’t have helped with anyway. We went in with an idea of what needed to be repaired. There will always be surprises, and we budgeted extra for that as well. That’s really all you can do.
And there’s no option of moving 10 minutes away, I wish there was. 10 minutes away is still in the city. It would be more like 45 minutes to an hour. Basically that would have been a last resort for us, but we weren’t willing to do that just to get a place we can do an inspection on. We’d rather take the risk and do the repairs than live way out there. Our foundation is solid, everything else can be fixed.
ktfran April 10, 2017, 10:40 am
Condos in Chicago are on the market three, maybe four days now. Two of the places we looked at and made an offer on, they canceled the showing because there were enough offers to decide. We have a really good realtor, so we’ve always been able to get in and see the place immediately, thank goodness.
There was one place that we looked at and liked, but it was way over price. IDK, around $50k. So we put in a low offer, like a little over what it was probably worth. We obviously didn’t get it, but I take some small satisfaction that it was on the market for over 90 days and every other place we looked at/put on offer on was sold within four days. The place we’re buying is a block down the street from this place, we got it for a good price in that neighborhood, and it’s 600 sq. ft. bigger. The downside is that the other had sole roof rights, but we still have private roof space and a great view of the city skyline.
So that was basically one of two our biggest compromises. We don’t have the roof to ourselves. And we’re on the middle floor as opposed to the top. Not ideal, but it’s a newer building, high ceilings and lots of concrete, so hopefully it’s not too bad. The bedrooms are carpeted on all levels, so I hope that helps where it counts.
I’m more excited than nervous.
Lianne April 10, 2017, 10:49 am
Here the inspections happen after the offer is accepted and before the P&S is signed – it’s not something that happens before you make an offer. Is that how it would work in your city, RR, IF people were actually getting inspections?
We had the inspection on our place, but didn’t take any action as a result of it. There are several things that came up during it that, in hindsight, we wished we had held out for the previous owner’s to fix or take more money off…so in that regard the inspection was a valuable lesson in things we will do differently next time.
RedRoverRedRover April 10, 2017, 1:54 pm
Yeah, Lianne, that’s how it would work here too if you got an inspection. You put the inspection condition in your bid, then after you win you get to go in with your inspector and then if you don’t like the results you can back out of the deal with no penalty. You usually have 15 days to do it. You can also try to renegotiate the price if you want.
What ginger was suggesting, which I have seen done, is to ask the owners if you can do an inspection before the bid date. They don’t have to allow it though. I wouldn’t, personally, as a seller. What’s the advantage to me? But people try to do it, and sometimes the seller will allow it, because then it makes it more likely that you’ll get an offer with only the financial condition.
Our realtor is really good too, which is another reason we feel a bit more secure waiving the inspection. He’s a friend of ours, so we trust him, but more importantly he owns a bunch of real estate that he rents out, and he’s really knowledgeable about what to look out for in terms of trouble areas. He knew our floors were no good as soon as he saw them, and told us about how much they’d cost to replace, for example. So we have that advantage when we’re buying as well.
Anyway, we’re out of the market for the next 20 years at least, thank goodness, so I don’t have to worry about all this craziness ever again. Next time we’ll be downsizing, I assume, so we’ll be one of those people who can pay cash, lol.
ktfran April 10, 2017, 2:15 pm
RR – our realtor is the same! He looks at everything and tells us potential problem areas, things we’d need redone right away, etc.
Like one place, he noticed a musty smell in the laundry room and looked at the washer and there was some slimy mold stuff from improper care. So, that’s something we would have to replace immediately. There was another place with floors that were effed up and would have needed to be redone. Another place, the island kitchen counter had started tilting one way. I like that he tells it to us straight and we hopefully know what we’re getting into.
We had a few minor repairs after the inspection that the current owner agreed to fix.
RedRoverRedRover April 10, 2017, 7:14 pm
Yep, it’s great having a realtor with that kind of knowledge. Because we went in with an idea of how much we’d have to spend in the near-term, and how much longer-term, to get the place up to where we wanted it. Then we factored that into the price we were willing to offer. It was great. 🙂
Kate April 10, 2017, 8:59 am
Yeah, I’m in the Boston area too, and we moved one town over to a community that’s not “hot” quite yet but will be. Also 10 minutes out of the city. My dad would disown me if I waived an inspection. I ignored his advice to make sure there’s a condo association with a large number of units, and management company, and I’m paying the price in sanity now.
This place had a builder’s warranty so technically there was no inspection contingency, but we still got one and they fixed the small things we asked them to fix (like a hole in the closet ceiling where they forgot to put the light fixture in).
em April 10, 2017, 9:38 am
just here to brag but this weekend I hosted a lunch benefit for my local abortion fund and raised over $700.