Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Making Diamonds

It's been a real pressure-cooker of a week, let me tell you. Two weeks back Christine and I headed out to Napa and San Francisco for a long-overdue vacation, just the two of us. Work has been crazy, and we've had lots of generalized stress what with our house being on the market for over three months, but generating little to no interest. The kids are out of school, which of course upends every last bit of structure and scheduling we strive so hard to put in place during the school year. Plus. we haven't gone away for a vacation just the two of us in, ages -- not for more than a day or two tops in at least 5 years, not for a week since before the kids were born.

So, while we were in San Francisco (following three nights in Napa -- nice, but it is in my opinion very overrated -- next time around we'd just stay in SF and do a day trip to the wineries or Calistoga) we were discussing our house, and how it's really looking like we'll be staying put. Not really a big deal, to us -- we really like our house. We were just hoping we could flip it for a decent price, and get into a newer community where we would have access to a pool and/or clubhouse for the kids. But since it looked like that wouldn't be happening, we started planning a re-finance, followed by a nice low-interest home improvement loan to redo the kitchen, maybe put down some nice hardwood floors in the bedrooms, replace the carpet on the stairs and in the game room, and maybe put in a deck and spa in the yard. Then, just stay put for a few more years.

Honestly, we were totally fine with this. After showing the house for three months, we were pretty fed up with not having any of our pictures on the walls, of having to have the place ready to be shown at the drop of a hat every single day, of just not feeling like we were in our house anymore. We started counting down the days until the contract expired.

And then, of course, people started viewing the place. In droves. In 5 days, 11 different people came in. That all happened while we were in San Francisco. We arrived home last Monday, and then on Tuesday found out that we had an offer pending. A perfectly reasonable offer, within a few thousand of our low-end target price. A good deal for the buyer, but one that would make us a healthy chunk of change to move over into a new house.

The problem, of course, being that we didn't have a new house in mind. And the buyers wanted to close by the end of July. So, panic. We tell our agent that we don't kno what to do, that none of the houses she's been showing us are within our price range, and that we don't know what we can really expect as far as bargaining power to drive down prices to what we can afford int his market. The market here is in a certain amount of turmoil, and a lot of people can't really afford to drop prices significantly because they are trapped in an adjustable rate mortgage and they don't have enough equity.

So, we kind of flip out, but then realize that some of our requirements for the specific location of the new house have changed (we're keeping our kids in their current elementary school, regardless of where we move, rather than trying to get them into the new elementary school that is opening nearby) and that enables us to cast a slightly larger net. Our agent, who has, I must say, been mostly useless in this process, finally comes through. It just so happens she has a couple of new listings we might be interested in. We hop in the car, still trying to decide what to do about the offer on our place, and go see ...

... pretty much the perfect house. Priced to sell, and right in the near-top end of our budget. Less than a year old. Fully warranted. Gorgeous. Walking distance to a pool. Plenty of trees. It's even partially painted inside in colors we love. We realize that this might be it, and -- after fretting and hemming and hawing and just generally freaking out for about 45 minutes -- decide to accept the offer on our place (with a slight counter offer, but nothing drastic) and make a good offer on the new place (slightly below asking, but not much).

Keep in mind, this all happened, beginning to end, in about 3 hours. We've been home from San Francisco for all of 22 hours total, and everything is turned completely upside-down. In good ways, mind you, but still. Clearly, whatever relaxation and serenity was gained on our fabulous trip has flown.

Since then, offers have been accepted all around, inspections on both properties have been done, contracts signed, paper exchanged, and money spent. The inspection on the place we're buying was nearly flawless -- the place is a gem, well built, in great shape, with solid quality throughout. In fact, he seemed almost worried we'd think we wasn't doing a good job -- that we'd figure if he didn't give us a laundry list of problems we'd feel like he hadn't been thorough enough. After walking me through the list of things he'd checked and showing me what he found, though, I felt fine. Looks like our house was built by a solid and professional general contractor who actually wanted to build a quality home. And we're getting it for a freakin' STEAL -- built less than a year ago, but selling for a solid 20% or so lower than the price of exactly the same house, currently under construction on spec 2 blocks away. I'm becoming convinced that it is built on an Indian Burial Ground or Pet Sematary. But on the up side I like spooky stuff and this way I'll never have to pay for a new puppy ....

We've hit a snag on selling our place, though -- probably a non-issue, but still a worry point. The previous owners of our house has some foundation repairs done -- which are warranted for the lifetime of the house and the warranty would of course pass to the new owners at sale. However, a corner of our patio (poured concrete -- nothing fancy) cracked near the foundation and has dropped a bit (3-4 inches or so, maybe a bit more). This happened during last winter, and we were worried that the foundation might have settled so we had a foundation inspector from the repair company come out and check it before putting the house on the market.

The inspector said that actually the foundation was solid as a rock -- no sign of any settling at all. instead, it looked like some of the heavy rains we'd had in the past year got under the patio corner and caused some subsidence, allowing that corner of the patio concrete to settle a bit. Not terribly attractive, but in no way an indication of problems with the home. So, whew. Well, anyway, the guy who inspected our house for the buyers saw the patio problem and told them "look, I'm not a foundation inspector -- you need to have the foundation repair folks come out and check that and get a report from them." And of course they want that -- perfectly reasonable. they'd be crazy not to get assurances on the state of the foundation before proceeding. Their agent, of course, is talking tough and being a bit reactionary, but, well, that's his job.

I'm not worried, really -- after all, we just had the inspector out 3 months ago, things are fine, and we're not seeing ANY problems inside the house that would indicate settling (splits in the walls, for example). But still, it adds a bit of new stress to the pot. And we don't really know what else their inspector found -- this is obviously their Number 1 issue and they won't bother discussing any minor stuff until after they clear this hurdle. When the inspector comes out, I'm sure he'll tell them what he told us -- no sign of any settling of the foundation whatsoever, the warranty is in place for the life of the house should any settling ever occur in the future, and the support system they put in place to fix the problem in the first place is in fact stronger than the rest of the unaffected foundation and could probably survive and hurricane, tornado, plague of locusts, thermonuclear device, and so forth. Hopefully we'll be able to get an inspector out today -- if not, it might have to wait until Thursday, which would suck. We're targeting a closing on both the sale and the new house buy for less than 3 weeks from now, so any time lost is a big deal.

So, yeah, these days I'm feeling quite a bit like Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Quoting Ferris, "Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you'd have a diamond." In our case, I'm hoping the diamond will come in about 3 weeks or so, but you get the idea.

Anyhow, good thoughts please -- I could use the soothing energies, folks.

Mood: Anxious
Now Playing: Thomas, Newman, "Wall-E: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"


Walt said...

Gregg, I'm exhausted just reading your latest entry. I can't imagine living it. LOL. I hope all goes smoothly with the move. I'd say that moving is so fucking stressful, but you already know that. Plus, if you can't be surrounded by stress, it just isn't your life. :-) Seriously, though, good luck with all of it.

Gregg P. said...

Thanks Walt! Yeah, I tend to keep my life fiarly hectic and stressful even at the best of times, but this last week or so has been extraordinary, even for me! It looks like everything is moving in the right direction now, which is great. Hopefully by the end of the month things will settle into a more comfortable level of insanity again (after which I get to test for 1st gup/red belt two stripes -- yay!).