Monday, November 2, 2009

Buying the house - Part I

So you’re thinking of buying a house, huh? Got the wanna-spend-crazy-amounts-of-cash bug? Well, I’m sure that in most parts of the country, right now is a pretty great time to do it. Interest rates are low and prices are down. Of course, we live in one of the most bloated real estate areas of the U.S. (the San Francisco Bay Area), so our prices haven’t been reduced all that dramatically. Anyway. Based on our experience, I’ll try to impart some world weary wisdom on the process, but I am no expert on this stuff. We lived, we learned, and we made some mistakes. Here’s our story.

Husband spends a lot of time looking at real estate online. Always has. His job is somewhat related to doing just that, so nerd herder that he is, he does it in his free time as well. He pores over Redfin. Zillow is his homeboy. I’d gotten very used to our Sunday ritual of reading comics and slurping fruity pebbles while the husband further ruins his eyesight by scanning hundreds of open house listings online. This is every week. For years. Except one magical Sunday was different. He had found the holy grail of houses. Charming bungalow, good neighborhood, and best of all dirt CHEAP. So we decided to go take a looksy, and it was all kinds of wonderful. Know what else? There were about 12 other couples there, all agreeing how wonderful it was.

But noooo… this was OUR house! How dare they even cross the threshold! Get your dirty paws off that antique doorknob! Basically, we went from zero to sixty on the house hunt in a few hours, because we were so convinced that this should be our house and we just HAD to WIN!

To that I now say, “brilliant marketing, realtor person.” Because obviously, we were playing right into their hands. Our realtor (who we hastily secured that same day over the phone) pressured us to put in an offer way above asking price. We didn’t. We put in an offer just at asking, and were outbid by 8 other people. Obviously, we lost the house.

We were dumbfounded. I watch the Today show, for crying out loud! There’s a recession! Since when are people fighting over houses? This is not 2006!

Valuable lesson learned – in the Bay Area, it really doesn’t matter. We learned about “teaser prices”. That listing was designed to create a bidding war. After that we had quite a feeling of bah-humbug. We didn’t really want you anyway (even though we really did, and our little hearts were broken). But dear friends, the story doesn’t end there. There’s light at the end of this here tunnel (if you want to spoil the ending, see the post right under this one..)

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