Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We Bought a House!

FINE-UH-LEE....

We bought a house!  Or, we are in the process of buying a house, rather.  It only took, three months, 4 offers, and a whole of lot crazy to get to this point - but we're here!  We are currently in escrow on a beautiful 1925 brick bungalow in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago.   It has 4 bedrooms and three bathrooms (one on each level).  There is 1,840 sq. ft. above grade, with another 1,230 sq. ft. in the basement, for a total of just over 3,000 sq. ft. of livable space.  It has new copper plumbing and a new roof (score!).  Truth be told, what really sold me is that it has all hardwood floors (not a stitch of carpet to be found in the whole house), all the original molding, casings, doors, windows and door hardware, and 4 (yes -1, 2, 3, FOUR) stained glass windows PLUS 6 leaded glass windows in the living room.

We looked at probably 25-30 houses during our search and I must say, we kissed a lot of frogs before we found our prince charming...  Our first day out, we came across a beautiful home that was in good shape with tons of original details.  We fell in love and put in an offer at full asking price.  Instead of accepting (which we were sure they would, there were no other offers!) they countered that they would take full asking price ONLY if we accepted the house "as-is".  Really?  Who does that!?  There was no mention of the home being sold "as-is" in the listing details or the property disclosures, and the seller's agent never mentioned it to us when looking at the house.  At that point, we figured that they knew that there was something wrong with the house that they didn't want to disclose...  So we countered again stating that we would take the house "as-is" but wanted $5,000.00 back in closing costs.  We figured having a little extra cash on hand would give us a bit more confidence going into the deal as we were now pretty sure there would be some "surprises" on the inspection.  Well folks, they declined our offer.  Funny thing is, the property is still on the market almost three months later!  Karma?

And then there was the 2nd house and all the drama with that...  So we went to an open house and really liked the home.  While it was a modest home, it felt very cozy and like something we could see ourselves living in.  It was priced a little high, but we decided to put in an offer that we thought was fair, and after a bit of back and forth, we came to an agreement with the seller.  Success!  Or so we thought... Next came the home inspection - oh what fun did that hold for us!  Although there were no major defects found, there were little things here and there, most of which we felt we could tackle ourselves.  The exception to that was that there was 20' of pipe in the basement that was wrapped in asbestos tape.  YIKES!  There are three substances that I don't want to mess around with - mold, asbestos, and lead paint.  Thankfully, we only had one of them happening here, but none the less, we wanted to make sure it was dealt with properly. So we did what reasonable people would do, and we reached out to three asbestos abatement companies and got quotes.  The costs ranged from $2,900.00 - $3,500.00, so not to crazily expensive.  We provided those quotes to the seller and requested a credit for the least expensive of the three, or for the seller to hire her own licensed, qualified asbestos abatement contractor to correct the issue and provide us with documentation of the work.  And that my friends is when things got shady...  The seller started offering to fix other issues noted on the inspection which we didn't ask for, like cleaning out the gutters, installing a GFCI outlet in the kitchen and garage, and taking care of a minor tuck pointing issue.  No response on the asbestos removal....  We thanked her, and said that she could take care of those things if she wanted to, but we don't mind tackling those items ourselves - the only thing that we are asking to be addressed is the asbestos.  Then there was a few days of radio silence.  Finally, the sellers Realtor call our Realtor to let us know that the asbestos issue had been "resolved" so everything is good now!  Fantastic, we thought, and requested written confirmation that the work was done.  And that is when things started to unravel.  It took us several days to get the complete truth, but basically, the seller had her fiance's cousin rip the tape off the pipes and throw it away.

Anyone who knows anything about asbestos knows that is literally THE WORST thing that could have been done.  Since we were really uncomfortable with the thought of asbestos fibers floating around in the basement and possibly other parts of the house, we reached back out to the asbestos abatement vendors to see what could be done to fix the issue.  Basically, the process involved setting up air scrubbers to fun for several days to filter out the asbestos fibers and taking before and after test samples to ensure that all of the fibers had been removed from the air.  The cost - $7,000.00+ depending on how far the asbestos fibers had spread.  That was more than twice the cost to just remove it properly.  We forwarded this information on to the seller, who responded by stating that they feel that the asbestos is no longer an issue.  They also tried to play the card of "it was never tested so no one can prove that it was for sure asbestos".  The real kicker in all of this is that there was a sale before ours that fell through and the seller's agent said it was because the buyers were "really picky".  He had also mentioned that they were purchasing the home using a VA loan.  Putting those two pieces of information together, I am quite confident that the asbestos was noted during that inspection and that the seller know about it going into our sale, but failed to disclose it.  Now that there is no more visible asbestos, some poor sucker is going to buy that house completely unaware of what happened.  Also, I should mention that the seller had already moved out, so I wonder if things would have been handled differently if she was still residing at the property?

After this sale fell through, we were really discouraged, but we kept looking.  Man, did we look at some junk.  Just dirty, nasty, overpriced junk.  Then, we found house #3.  It...was....perfect.  Located on a beautiful block, close to the park, with a nice big back yard, brand new roof, garage, and updated electrical and plumbing, but still a lot of the original details left.  And it was priced AWESOME.  So we put in an offer at full asking price.  The seller's agent responded to our offer and told us that there were multiple offers pending on the property and the seller would be making a decision in a few days time, but if we wanted to get the property, we should up our offer.  So we got bold and provided an offer stating that we would beat the highest offer by $1,000.00 and we were totally thinking that we had this on lock.  Until the seller's agent calls us back to add that the only way that the seller is willing to accept an offer is if the buyer agrees to rent the property back to her.  As we were only half way through our lease at our apartment, we told him that we were open to that idea.  The seller's agent must have thought we were nice people and took pity on us because that is when the flood gates of information opened.

The issue?  The seller was an emotionally unstable hoarder...  When we were looking at the house, I was under the impression that a large family lived there (you know, mom, dad, and 4 or 5 kids) and that they were already packing to move.  Nope - just the one lady and her cat.  All the boxes and stuff?  We were walking into a hoarding issue in progress.  Turns out this house belonged to her dad and he passed away about a year ago and she inherited the house.  She couldn't afford the taxes and upkeep on the house, so she had to sell it.  The agent informed us that she was very attached to the house and wanted to stay there for at least 6-9 months after closing, but could only afford to pay $700.00 per month.  Then he added that he wasn't sure that she would leave the house after the lease expired...  He really probably should not have told us this information, but we are seriously grateful that he did.  Financially, we couldn't agree to those conditions and frankly, I am not sure that anyone would!  The mortgage payment for us was going to be about $1,800.00 per month, so we would have lost nearly $10,000.00 over the initial lease period.  Not to mention possibly thousands more if we had to hire a lawyer to evict her if she refused to leave the house! Needless to say, that killed deal #3...

At this point, we were REALLY discouraged and just drained.  Honestly, I wanted to stop looking for a few months just to recharge!  But we kept on trucking...  I'll follow up tomorrow with the story of how we got our house.

J + M 

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