Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Before we even begin

We talk as if the purchase of the new house is a foregone conclusion but, as in all real estate transactions, we do need to be prepared for things to go south and fall apart. The fat lady has not sung until we have left the closing with keys in hand. I think that's what leads to the most frustration during the home buying process, knowing that there's always a chance you could lose all of the things you've been dreaming about. But let's move on like that isn't in the back of our minds shall we?

I have lists. Oh boy do I have lists! I also have Pinterest boards and flooring samples and pictures on my phone. But the first list is of all the things that need to be addressed before we make the big move. We'll have to slowly start taking things over to entertain the kiddos while I work on the house but that is just a drop in the bucket. If the bucket were the size of a double garage packed full of our stuff that we packed for staging. No joke. Our garage has become my Monica's closet.

So here's the list in no particular order:
  • pull carpet
  • paint baseboards
  • replace outlets with gcfi inside & out
  • epoxy garage floor
  • remove insulation above water heater to dry and replace
  • get bids for electrical work
  • get exterminator estimates for quarterly service
  • place stick down linoleum tiles under sinks
  • cover one junction box and add another in the attic
  • replace kitchen light fixture (M would hit his head on the current one)
  • get plumber to repair tub assembly
  • replace exterior knobs and locks
  • price, select, and schedule new carpet
  • buy microwave
  • install baby gates at top and bottom of stairs
Anyone else feeling like this is going to take me a little longer than the two weeks I'm shooting for? Ugh!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Our home inspection rundown

Home inspections. I absolutely recommend getting a professional inspection done at any property that you are thinking of purchasing. If you are a general contractor or home builder then I can see how you might be qualified to do your own home inspection and I'll let you off the hook. Anyone else would be foolish not to get another experienced pair of eyes looking at every detail. You might be the best DIY handyman or handywoman out there but you are emotionally invested in this purchase. You are picturing the end result of paint and finishes and, if this is the home you plan to live in, your stuff in certain places. You're going to miss things. I've gone through this process 5 times and I always miss things.

During our home inspection there weren't many things that came up that we were unaware of but the few things our inspector found were totally worth spending the money to know about. The thing that concerned me most was a water leak that has obviously been an issue for awhile. We knew something was going on due to the hole in the ceiling below the second floor bathroom but the inspector was able to confirm that it wasn't going to be too major to get the tub assembly fixed. There is also a lot of questionable electrical work happening but only one actual super dangerous spot that needs to be addressed asap. He did point out that there is some shifting happening with the chimney that needs to be watched and is something we may not have seen until it was a much bigger problem. He also checked the air flow and heat in each room and suggested that we have an HVAC specialist come out to look at the master bedroom vents. The problem with these vents is that they run through the concrete slab and truly could become a big ole mess if we have to do too much to them. Thankfully it is just the two vents in the master and we aren't too scared of the implications.

Beyond those items there are lots of little cosmetic things like holes in drywall and missing trim and a leaky sink sprayer. We learned from the neighbor that the pool definitely needs a new liner which is not a small expense but is something we can do after we have sold our current house because obviously the pool is a luxury that we can live without for however long we need to.

We haven't gotten a hard closing date from our closing company yet, which is an endless source of annoyance, but we do have deadline to meet in order to close within 45 days of HUD signing our contract. If we cannot close on time, we will need to apply for an extension and pay $375 for the honor of waiting longer to get our new house. Can you tell I'm not thrilled by that idea? It makes me so angry. That money doesn't pay for anything. It doesn't go towards closing costs or the purchase price. Just light it on fire and kick it around. I will be one irate lady if it comes down to that because we have done everything we need to do within hours of it being requested and we are just sitting around waiting on the closing company to do their work. We know that market in our area is rreeeaalllyy slow right now so it's not like they are swamped with closings so it feels like someone is sitting with it on their desk with a post it note to work on it at the last possible second. I'm sure that's not true and I'm just a bitter wench.

Okay, next time for real is the big listy loo of things that need to happen before we move into the house. Do you work for a closing company? Can you explain to me why it takes so long and why they can't tell us when it's going to happen? Our deadline is less than two weeks away and we're getting very antsy. I keep hoping they'll call and tell us we can close tomorrow. That would be lovely my friends.

P.S. I'm posting this without proof reading because my eyeballs are getting blurry and I'm going to bed now. Please grant me grace on any typos and/or poor structure. I do my best.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

After you win the bid - Buying a foreclosure

Congratulations! You won the bid. Now panic. There are a lot of rules and regulations and all the paperwork must be completed in a timely fashion and completely correctly. This is truly where having a knowledgable real estate agent is going to help you. Find someone who has been through the process more than once or, if you have an agent that you really love, make sure they have someone in their office who can walk them through the process.

After winning the bid you will be required to fill out the purchase contract in full and have it sent back within 48 hours. HUD will then review the contract to ensure you haven't made any mistakes. Make sure that you sign the forms with your full legal name including your middle initial each time you sign. That and remembering the actual date was much more difficult for me than it should have been. In my defense, I have an extra last name that I never use and haven't signed anything other than a receipt in a long time. They get to take as long as they want. This is the hurry up and wait thing I was talking about.

I'm still a little unsure about the accuracy of some of the information I've gotten through our realtor so please make sure that you check with a professional but this is what I've been told. The contract says that you have 45 days from the initial acceptance of your bid but we have been told that we have 45 days from the day we received the signed contract back from them to close on the purchase. Our goal is to close as soon as possible but I'm a little concerned that this question of the date is going to come back to bite us. You are given 15 of those days to do a home inspection and if something comes up on the inspection that you cannot live with you can get your earnest money returned as long as you back out within that 15 days. If you wait too long you will lose your earnest money.

The inspection process for a HUD home is a little more challenging than it is for buying a normal home. HUD homes always have the utilities turned off and they are winterized from October to May. You absolutely must get authorization from them to have the utilities turned on before you schedule the utilities. Then you may schedule the utilities and your inspection. This means you are paying deposits and fees for all utility companies plus the amount you pay for your inspection. Some buyers will choose not to get an inspection but as an owner occupant, I want to know what I'm getting into and am not yet confident enough in my abilities as a do-it-yourselfer to forego a professional inspection. You are buying this home AS IS so don't get in over your head.

We had a small snafu which turned out okay but led to a lot of frustration on my part. We were told by our agent to go ahead and schedule everything. Then we were told at 10 o'clock that night to cancel everything that had been set up for the next day because we didn't have authorization. When I read the authorization form I learned that we could have lost our earnest money by jumping the gun. It was annoying but not the biggest thing in the world. So one day I called and set everything up, the next day I cancelled and we got the authorization, the next day I set everything up again, and today we finally had our inspection.

Thankfully, there were no big things that came up in the inspection that were enough to scare us away. There are so many little things that I can't even remember them all but most of it was stuff we had already seen and we shouldn't need to call in professionals for most of it. I'm so excited to share pictures and plans with you but I don't want to share any photos until we've closed. Stick with me through the rest of the process. We will be contacting our lender tomorrow to get the appraisal scheduled and hopefully they'll help us get closed quickly. We didn't want to pay for the appraisal until we knew for sure that there was nothing on the inspection report that would prevent us from completing the purchase. Ultimately $450 is a drop in the bucket but it's still a lot to shell out if you don't need to.

Okay, next time I'm going to do a quick run through of the inspection and problems we found. Then there shall be a gigantic list of things we want to do with the house. There are so many decor choices that we just don't agree with and I will be so happy when they all get the heave-ho.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bidding on a HUD owned property

Last month we placed a bid on a HUD owned property. I did a LOT of googling and reading to try to make myself as familiar as possible with the process and ultimately, I wish I had trusted my own knowledge a little more along the way. I cannot repeat this enough, BE AN EDUCATED HOME BUYER! Do your homework and make this a priority for however long the process takes. It is obviously important to work with knowledgeable professionals and people you trust but the only person you can really count on to be working 100% for you is you.

The HUD listing process, at least where I live, has a few parts to it. The first bidding cycle is open to Owner Occupant buyers. This must be someone who intends to buy the home and live in it as their primary residence for at least two years. After you close on the purchase you must move in within 6 months. You can only purchase a HUD home as an owner occupant once every two years. If there are no bids accepted during the owner occupant cycle, they open the bidding up to anyone who wants to purchase the home. This is where flippers and those who want to buy rental properties will come in. An owner occupant is usually going to end up spending more on the home than someone buying it during the second cycle would.

When we were looking at the Manor (I've decided my home needs a fancy name but can't come up with anything more clever so for now, The Manor it is) it was obviously in the owner occupant stage. The home was listed and managed by a somewhat local company and they had placed it on the MLS so it showed up on all the house listing sites and apps that we follow. M and I both looked at it several times and talked about it and how it might work for us. We were excited about it and the price was amazing for what we saw in the listing photos. We had already lost one property that we thought was going to be our new home so we had been in the mind set that we weren't even going to look at anything until we had an accepted offer on our current house. The Manor made all those plans go flying out the window. We made an appointment to see the house with our realtor and, as I've already said, that showing ended up being in the dark and pouring rain. But we were smitten even in the dark.

HUD listings have a certain time period in which you must place your bids and you normally will not ever know if anyone else has placed a bid or what price they have bid. The home has a listing price to give you an idea of what the house is worth but you can bid anything you want. If you think nobody else is going to bid on it, you can bid a total lowball offer and hope that you are the only bidder. We knew that this house was listed much lower than what it sold for the last time and that it was worth more so we decided to bid above the asking price. We were pretty sure there were going to be other bids and we didn't want to lose but we also didn't want to bid too much. But, never knowing what anyone else bids makes it just a pure guessing game. Our agent suggested we bid an odd number because she knew a woman who often won bids by a dollar or two.

You must use an agent who has a registered number with HUD to place your bid and they enter it online. Once the bidding period closes you will usually have a response within 2 business days as to if your bid was accepted. We heard back the very next morning that our bid had been accepted! We were so excited but then the realization that we are very soon going to be the owners of two houses (again) set in and we got a little apprehensive. HUD properties are sold as is and will not accept any contingencies. So we knew going in that this was a risk.  But nothing risked means nothing gained!

I told you that you normally don't know if there are any other bidders or what they bid but we found out through the grapevine that there was at least one other bidder on our house. We learned that bidder #2 had placed a lower bid and then last minute they called and raised their bid. Unfortunately for bidder #2, the amount they raised their bid to was just $73 dollars less than the bid that we had placed and we won.

I hope that this is a somewhat helpful walk through the HUD buying process. I would love to answer any specific questions you might have about bidding. Next time I'll talk about what happens after you win the bid. This whole thing is very 'hurry up and wait' and can be frustrating. Even more so when your agent, however much you like them, is not familiar with the process.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Still on the market

We listed our house for sale 7 months ago. We had several showings in a row, then nothing for a few months, then several in the few days before our listing was set to expire, and then nothing again. I've taken new photos of some of the rooms because my real estate agent is not a great photographer and once we get them online we plan to lower our price and hopefully get some new eyes on the photos.

We were under contract for a home across town that we loved and I had big plans for the renovations I was going to do but our contract was contingent on our home selling and expired while we sat with no interest. At the time it felt like we were going to lose the perfect house and I'm still sad to lose some of the things it offered but that house, which we called The Pink House, is still on the market but our feelings towards it have cooled. Mostly the husband was concerned about the fact that the house had had structural piering done about 12 years ago. The owners had only done the absolute minimum amount of piers when there were many more recommended. We would have had the home inspected by a structural engineer before completing the purchase but even that is no guarantee that there wouldn't be further shifting in a year or five. So we moved on.

Last month we saw a listing for a HUD owned property and couldn't believe how nice it looked. My husband was more excited about the pictures of this house than any property we had looked at or driven past or talked about in all of our house hunting throughout the years. We went to look at it with our realtor on a rainy evening with a camping lantern and a garage light because there was no electricity in the house and it was pitch dark out. We couldn't reschedule because time was running out on the listing and we needed to get our butts in gear to even think about making a bid.

In short, we both loved this house. It was move in ready enough for M to not be afraid of it and has enough needs for me to feel like I can make it our home. If you've never gone through the HUD home buying process it all feels very 'hurry up and wait' and there are so many hoops to jump through that I'm exhausted just thinking about it. We did put in a bid on this house and I'll tell you more about the process but I want to take it one step at a time. Next time I'll explain the bidding process and how it went for us.

Have you ever purchased a HUD or REO property? Would you do it again? What was the hardest part of the process in your experience?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

brain no makey clever title

My brain is all clenchy and my eyes are hurty and I just want to crawl into a dark hole and cry. But my job allows no time off so I'll just whine instead. My migraines have changed their patterns after each baby and I am not liking this new schedule. Every month, along with my joyous cycle, I get to suffer from a migraine for 3 days. And the nausea is overwhelming. Just yuck.

We had a showing today so we all spent the entire morning cleaning and organizing things to show the house and rushed out the door. We found out immediately afterwards that the people thought it was too small and they have 5 kids. I fail to understand how a person can look at a real estate listing and not know immediately that the square footage is to small for a family with 5 kids. You should know how large your current home is and whether or not you need something bigger. Tip of the day: be an educated home buyer. Watch HGTV for a full weekend. Look at every listing in your town. Do drive bys in the neighborhood of anything that catches your eye. Do this at different times of the day and different days of the week. Know what square footage you need and don't look at anything smaller unless your realtor knows that there is something wrong with the listing.

Can I answer any real estate questions for you? I consider myself a very educated home buyer and would love to help you to be the same. Is anyone looking right now? I love the search for a new home but trying to sell is my least favorite thing in the world. I do wish that I hadn't even looked at new houses until we had sold this one but even knowing now that I feel that way, I probably won't do anything different in the future. It's too much fun and everyone always wants to skip to the fun part.

Friday, August 15, 2014

All I do is feed people

I'm in a place where I feel like all I ever do is feed people or think about what to feed people or shop for food to feed people. It is never ending and takes up all of my time.

We're currently on the market trying to sell our house. I love this house for many reasons but it just isn't working for our family right now and we need something bigger. We've been on the market for about 2 months with no real interest yet so I'd love any prayers or good vibes you have to send the right people our way. I know there's someone out there that is perfect for this house.

And finally, my tip of the day! Hopefully this will be a new thing that I can keep up with. My big girls are back to school as of Wednesday and while it is nice to have more time to focus on my little ones, the early mornings are not my favorite. In order to help with packing lunches, my goal this year is to stay one day ahead whenever possible. So when I'm making lunch for W and myself on Monday, I will make extra for the big girls lunch on Tuesday. This works really well for sandwiches because you can freeze them and then they will stay cold until lunch time. It also works well because I already have all the stuff out and have a knife dirty and it's easy enough to just make 3 of whatever W is having. I want to get some metal thermoses for them so that I can start packing some warm items but that can wait until the weather cools off a little. It's pretty hot in the south in August so they don't really need a warm lunch anyways.

What school lunch tips do you have? Thankfully the older two don't have any food sensitivities or allergies so I don't have to get too creative to get them a balanced lunch but I would love some ideas for getting veggies in at lunch time. They are tired of sugar snap peas, carrots, and bell peppers. Silly girls!

~Heather Tull