We have some good friends that are in the process of trying to close on their first home. They are having a rough time with negotiations causing me to have flashbacks to our own challenging close. While we have only bought one house (and it has almost been two years so my recollection of the specific details have started to fade), I feel quite confident in saying that our situation was not the norm.
To refresh everyone's memory since it has been SO LONG since I wrote this post about our home buying timeline, we saw what would become our home in early July of 2014. From our first showing, we knew we wanted the house. It was in our desired area, was a fixer upper but still inhabitable, had a nice size yard (although you couldn't really tell because of the invasive bamboo), was priced within our budget and most importantly we could just picture ourselves there. I cannot express how important this point was for us. We just intuitively knew that this was suppose to be our house. Sure there were things that made this possible - searching for over a year, missing out on another house, containing our search to one neighborhood, narrowing down our house criteria etc. - but ultimately it just came down to a feeling. A feeling that this house was to be our house. Without this I think our close would have been even that much more daunting and filled with doubt. And when things came up after close (like a flooded basement), it became even that much more significant.
So we saw the house on a Sunday and I think we made an offer on that Tuesday. It was countered by the seller to which we countered back. Our counter was then signed and agreed upon by us and the seller! Unfortunately, that was the easy part as then came the inspections... We opted to do multiple inspections as the house was built in 1869 and was not in great shape. I like to say while "it wasn't a full fixer upper it still needed a lot of fixing" so we did a whole home as well as a sewer, radon, chimney and gas inspections. For anyone who hasn't gone through this process, it can be vey time consuming and costly. I basically remember this period as a lot of waiting around, writing checks and getting bad news.
From what we gathered post-purchase, the former homeowner who had lived in the house for over 35 years, had pretty much just let the house go after she became widowed several years prior. No routine maintenance (like maybe even cleaning) was done which is important to keep up with on any house but especially one that is 150 years old. On top of that whoever did do repairs on the house knew just enough to be dangerous. Meaning "fixes" were made haphazardly to say the least.
Armed with our inspection reports, we started round two of negotiations. We asked for a lot of repairs and, in hindsight, I would have approached the process differently. For one, I think we would have asked more for monetary compensation than for the repairs to be made by the seller. I say this because the repairs we did end up agreeing to were not necessarily up to our standards (and our standards really weren't that high). Also now looking back on it and having more resources, knowledge and referrals, I would have had contractors and appropriate subs in to inspect the house. This would have given us a more accurate picture of what was important to fix immediately, what we could put off and how much these items/lists of items would cost. At the time, I wanted to do this but just hadn't found a trusted crew of people. Finally, I think we would have focused on getting the bigger items taken care of and left off some of the smaller things.
Anyways, round two of negotiations did not go very well to say the least. In large part, I think this was because 1.) the seller was very attached to the home and was having a hard time letting go/seeing all the issues with the property and 2.) the seller's agent was EXTREMELY difficult to work with. It took weeks for use to weed through the list and come to an agreement and more than once I thought the deal would collapse. We also ended up being on vacation during the thick of things which made the whole process that much more frustrating. No one wants to be pulling out their computer at bars and restaurants and reading addendum after addendum.
In the end, I think we probably compromised more than we should have but every time we asked ourselves the question "do we want to lose the house over item x" (structural issue, termite damage, broken windows etc.) the answer was always no. So we finally came to an agreement, waited for the repairs to be made, inspected set repairs compromised AGAIN and made our way to our close at the end of August. It was a very long and arduous effort that I would not like to repeat anytime soon. But now almost two years later, I can confidently say we love our house and are so glad we are here.
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