June 18th, 2010

home improvement


I think it's over now, so I can write about it. There's a tiny, infentesmal sliver that it might resurrect, but I doubt it.

So the stress.

For a few months now, Graham and I have been going to open houses to see what other people have done to their houses for ideas. A few months back, we saw one that had originally been very similar to ours and we really, really liked what they did with their expansion to get extra space. We sort of modelled our idea of what to do with our house off of that one.

In mid-May, we saw two houses that were quite larger than ours. One was a converted duplex from the 30s, and the other was just a nice older house with a lot of room. Both were way outside of our budget, though. When I got back home, I looked one of the houses up on the MLS system, and then did a general search for houses in the neighborhood we like.

I stumbled upon The House.

It'd been on the market for as long as I've been fooling around with the MLS, but it was always way outside my price range, and the photos were terrible. But this time, the price had fallen considerably, almost within our price range if we actually had one, and I took another look. The next time I was in that part of the neighborhood, I drove by. And I fell in love.

A day or so later, I took Graham by the house, and he agreed that it was spectacular from the outside. Four square prarie style, built in 1910, with a massive wrap around front porch. It was stucco on the outside, with massive trees in the front yard and a guest house in the back. Two stories, and listed as four bedrooms and four and a half baths, with 3200 square feet on an over 9,000 sqft lot with another 1200 sqft guest quarters. It was a mini mansion.

We decided to call a friend of ours who is a realtor to show us the house.

The day we called her, May 21, it went off the market--sale pending. We went to see it anyways.

It was as wonderful inside as it was outside. Everything I've ever wanted in a house. Recently remodelled kitchen and bathrooms. Beautiful hardwood floors. Massive, airy windows throughout. A lovely sunroom. A big living room, den and dining room. Fantastic layout upstairs and down. Big closets in all of the bedrooms, and two of the four had their own baths, with a third master bath upstairs. But there were things wrong with it. Like none of the electrical fixtures were left. Like the damage to the ceilings in the upstairs. Like the obvious attempts at break-in. Like the blue tarp on the roof left over from the damage caused by Hurricane Ike. Like the moldy smell and obviously wet carpets in the guest quarters. The house is in a lovely historic neighborhood, but it's surrounded by two story apartments.

It was obvious that this thing would need work to make it habitable. And it wasn't like I had cash to buy a house. I would need to quickly get my house up to snuff, put it on the market, and hope for a quick sale that would generate enough cash for a down payment. But Graham and I fell deeply and passionately in love with the house.

At any rate, since there was a contract pending, there wasn't anything to do but hope something happened with that sale.

I moved on.

On June 3, it went back on the market again. I called the realtor, and she said that the deal fell through because of inspections. We organized another walk through, for the following Saturday this time, with my parents, who I was hoping would say something like, "Are you crazy!?!" They were unhelpful, because they, too, fell in love with the house. I decided to call my banker to move forward.

On June 7, I had a panic attack about the whole thing. I stuttered and shook and felt ill.

On June 8, I called my banker, who said that I could afford listing price-x (assuming, of course, that I sold my house), which is sort of in the ballpark of where I thought I'd make an offer. But he said the bank wouldn't close on a house until the repairs were made. I knew that there was no way, given how cheap this house was compared to what it was probably worth, that they'd spend a penny on repairs. I left that conversation dejected and sad.

On June 9, I found a FHA program that finances loans for fixer-uppers, and I contacted my banker to see if his bank participated in that program. They do, and he put me in touch with the guy who administers that program.

Also on June 9, Houston city council approved a measure that would prevent people from tearing down houses in historical districts. This means that developers couldn't really touch those oh, so profitable 9000 square feet, and the universe of potential buyers was cut considerably.

I decided to take the weekend off from worrying about the House.

The price dropped another $20K on Monday.

This week, I've been trying to schedule a contractor to see the House, so we can figure out how much the repairs would cost, ballpark. We were scheduled at one o'clock today. I probably would have put a bid in on Monday. Yesterday, I started to feel like it may very well be in our grasp. Graham and I started the list of things to do to our house to put it on the market last night. We were planning to start cosmetic repairs this weekend.

My realtor e-mailed this morning to say that the house is again off the market, this time not allowing anyone else to see it. It sounds like a done deal, but she guesses financing could fall through.

I think that it's probably gone now. And I'm kicking myself over freaking out last week, when I should have been moving more quickly to get all my ducks in a row.

I really, really wanted this house, and it was such a unique opportunity, that I don't really see something like this coming up again. There's a very slight possibility that maybe the current deal will fall through, but I don't think so.