Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are we there yet?

Well, we did it. With heaps of help from our families, we survived three consecutive weeks of The Barbarian being gone during the workweek. I'm pretty sure the last time he had three weeks of travel in a row, I said we'd never do that again, but alas. Shit happens. 

The kids were sick the second week, OF COURSE, because it is apparently our lot to deal with illness while he's away. And not just the sniffles, mind you, but an up all night with hacking coughing fits and difficulty breathing, sitting up in bed or rocking, rocking, rocking kind of illness. The only saving grace there was that The Barbarian and I managed to avoid the plague this time, so, you know, that was nice. 

Oh, and we sold our house. During that three-week period. Meaning on top of all the normal stress of being sans partner, I was busting my ass getting the house ready to show, fielding calls and texts from interested parties and scheduling said showings, cleaning the house top to bottom every day, and vacating the house as much as possible. Yeah. 



But we did it. 10 days on the market and we accepted an offer from a lovely young couple who are first-time homebuyers and really, really love the house and want to make it a home in which to raise a family. Being that our house needs some work and was priced to reflect that, we could have easily ended up with only offers from investors looking to flip it or people looking to do the minimal required work and rent it out. And we didn't want that. Well, I didn't want that. I think The Barbarian probably would have been happy to get more money for it, especially a cash offer, which is totally understandable. But passing it on to another young family who will cherish it and raise babies in it and be good neighbours and generally keep the love train moving forward was really important to me. I'm sappy like that.

And we got pretty damn lucky in the fact that the couple has agreed to allow us to rent back for up to two months once we close escrow because the somewhat majorly unsettling truth is that we have nowhere to go. 



I'm telling you, the whole contingency dance of selling one house and buying another at the same time is kind of the dickens. There's just no easy way to do it. If you find a house to buy first, you're stuck needing to secure alternate financing, and while they offer things like bridge loans so you can finance something new before selling your current house, ummmmmmmmm, yeah, no. Fuck that. It essentially means carrying two loans on two houses for however long, and you end up paying closing costs twice in some instances, and it's basically just a gigantic nightmare. Yet until you officially close escrow on your current house, you must make contingent offers on anything you want to buy, and most people don't want to deal with that. And while I get why that is and all... COME ON, PEOPLE. What the hell are we supposed to do? Even with a buyer in place for ours already, who the fuck knows what could happen between now and the close of escrow, so it's not like it's a done deal in any sense of the phrase, and that uncertainty is seriously hampering our efforts. 

The other issue we're facing is that the market is fucking crazy right now. Again. Because apparently it's also our lot to buy in a seller's market. Which was great for this end of the equation, of course, but the competition in our price-range is fierce right now. The job market has recovered enough to allow more people to afford to buy, yet there just isn't enough inventory to support the demand. So we're back in a situation of multiple offers, cash offers, bidding wars, people offering tens of thousands above asking, writing intro letters and sending family pictures in an attempt to pull on some heartstrings and sell ourselves to sellers. The whole process is unbelievably obnoxious. 

And while we could primarily focus on the upper end of our price-range and maybe avoid some of that competition, I just can't bring myself to do that if we can reasonably avoid it. Because playing the real estate game for people like us (i.e. those who do not come from money) is a bit like playing poker, in my opinion, wherein you must have the capital to buy in in the first place. If you can find that capital upfront and then play your cards right, you will be able to just roll everything you make into a new game (also known as a house in this example). And that's exactly what we got lucky enough to do. We scrounged up a down payment, bought at a really good time, waited for the market to pick back up, and we'll end up with a healthy stack of cash once we close escrow. Ideally we'd love to find something that's been upgraded and remodeled and is all shiny and pretty, but the reality is that having that cash upfront means we can buy something much cheaper and fix it up ourselves, lowering the amount we need to finance and, therefore, lowering our mortgage payments going forward. Sound financial planning, right? But that means we're once again in heavy competition for more "affordable" houses, which I put in quotes, of course, because this is California and what's considered "affordable" here is a hugely distasteful and unfunny joke.

So that's where this post finds us. One rejected offer down and who knows how many to go. The last time we did this, we wrote a dozen or more offers before getting this house, and while we're in a better position overall this time, I'm already discouraged and ridiculously stressed and completely fucking over it. 

Yay playing grownups.

So stay tuned for upcoming installments of Where in the World Will We Fucking Live Next, as it's sure to be a gas. 

Because there's nothing more entertaining than watching someone lose their last few shreds of sanity obsessively checking MLS every hour, right? 

Mmmhmm. That's what I thought.       

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Onwards and upwards

Well, that's it. Our house is officially on the market. And I am celebrating by enjoying a pint (or several) of IPA and some Irish nachos (did you know this is a thing??) by my lonesome at our favourite brewery downtown. And after the week I've had, let me tell you--this is perfection.

So, in case you are unaware, selling a house is kind of the dickens. And by "kind of," I mean T-O-T-A-L-L-Y. And I'm not sure what mechanism allows the hyphens to give extra emphasis to an already-all caps word, but apparently they do, and really, extra emphasis is exactly what we're going for here.

We bought this house, our first, in 2009, when the market was crazy, crazy, crazy in the throes of the Great Recession. That whole process was a nine-month-long nightmare in itself, but we bought our sweet 1940's bungalow as the classic "starter home," and expected to be there five or so years. It's turned out to be a fantastic investment for us, and here we are, a little more than five years later, and we're ready to move on. But that's apparently not just a decision you make and then get on with in our situation, mostly because our house falls into the "needs TLC" category. And it does. We have put a lot of work into the house, but it had little to no updating when we purchased it (it was a trust sale--the family had bought it two years after it was built and lived, raised a family, and died in the house), and needs some bigger work done that we're just not willing to take on at this point. We love, love, love our little house, but it's on a busy road (to which we lost a kitty last summer and had a dog miraculously survive mostly unscathed after getting hit by a car shortly after moving in), and only has one bathroom, which is kind of (REALLY) a bummer after a while. So, per our agent's recommendation, we busted our asses the past couple of weeks to add some nice touches to make it even more attractive than it already is (seriously, it's adorable and charming--original hardwood floors, crown moulding, gorgeous light, large rooms for the size of the house, beautiful fireplace and mantel, etc.) to offset a bit the fact that it does need some work (it's structurally sound, but needs a new roof and major drainage on the property, etc.).

SO. Why am I so happy to be completely alone, being served by others as I celebrate? Because this past week was the really critical week of work...and just happened to be week one of THREE IN A ROW that The Barbarian is gone ALL FUCKING WEEK. So, yeah. I cleaned and sanded and painted and performed other random nonsense ALL damn week--with the tremendous help of both families, of course, because they are AWESOME where families are concerned--and came scary close to losing my mind, if we're supporting honesty here. In case I haven't mentioned this before, I rely on The Barbarian A LOT for emotional and mental balance and serenity, so taking this all on with him thousands of miles away, even WITH the help of our families, was extraordinarily challenging for me.

And our poor tiny humans just got the brunt of it. Seriously. It's been bad. It's been so bad that they, in their very honest toddler way, announced shortly before The Barbarian arrived home yesterday that they wanted to just hang out with Daddy, and that I specifically was NOT invited. OUCH. And this morning they were chatting to each other saying they "have so much to do," something I've been, not always patiently or respectfully, telling them all week. Ugh. I escaped into the spare room last night to decompress after dinner while The Barbarian did bedtime, and was informed later, upon inquiring, that the wee folk didn't ask about me at all. They were perfectly content to just be with Daddy and forget I was even there. And I don't blame them. Sigh.

But we did it. We busted our asses and got the house listed. And now for the really fun part. Now we essentially have to make the entire family, including dogs, scarce for the bulk of the day on weekends and basically at a moment's notice during the week. Oh, fucking joy. This will go on for about a week and a half before we review offers, assuming we have offers to review. But the nice thing is that inventory is low in our area right now and the number of buyers is continuing to increase as the job market does. Many of the houses I'm seeing in our range are going within a week, and that would just be fucking phenomenal. Except...

Except for the fact that we are doing that most ridiculous of dances that is the contingency dash, where we attempt to sell and buy a house simultaneously. Try to secure a new house first and you end up needing alternate financing and essentially an entire second loan and mortgage for the crossover period. But secure a buyer for your current house first and you run the risk of having nowhere to go. And I refuse to rent during the interim with wee folk in the mix. This will be an tremendous change for them as it is. I refuse to move them and then move them again a few months later. So while we hope ours goes quickly, we're also scrambling to find a new home. And being that inventory is low and buyers are aplenty, that bodes well for the first part, but not at all for the second.

But they tell me this sort of thing works out all the time. I think they're all full of shit, but we'll see.

So fingers crossed. Both sets. One for an awesome buyer for our house, and one for an awesome new home for us.

All at the same time.

Like magic.