076 - Real Estate

Today, on a lark, I went onto a real estate website to see if the price on the house next door had been reduced yet. It's not getting much action that I can tell and I think the price is ridiculous for the size of the house. Instead, I noticed that houses in my neighborhood seem to have gone up in value since I looked a couple of weeks ago. That's never bad news.

I decided to look for houses similar to mine, to see what my house might be worth. It's always good to know such things.

During my research I saw a house that was adorable, and inexpensive. It's more of a rustic looking home, in an older neighborhood. Not that they're anything alike, but it reminded me a little of a house I'd fallen in love with in Scotland -- it had a great yard... lots of big trees... green grass... a brick bbq pit... it had built in bookshelves, so I would still have the library that I love so much, and overall, it was cute (though it seems incongruous to call it cute when it's about 200 sq ft bigger than my current house).  It has window units and wall heaters instead of central air and heat... not ideal, but honestly the window units could work, especially since the lot was shaded; I have no experience with wall heaters to know. No garage, but the carport was built onto the house with brick; it's not a crummy carport that will blow away in a strong wind. It's certainly not perfect, but the price was good enough for me to consider all of this, and good enough that I could afford to do some remodeling to correct what I didn't like. I figured I would probably stay in a house like that for two years while I made my financial recovery, and then move on.

I started to crunch the numbers... If I sold my house for x-amount of money, paid y-amount in commission and closing costs, I would have approximately z-amount of equity that I could put toward this house. I could put 20% down and still have money to go toward my credit card bills. Happy-Happy, Joy-Joy!!! And my mortgage payment would go down, too -- not to mention my taxes and insurance. It was golden.

But what was wrong with it?... The ad (literally) screamed, "A GREAT VALUE FOR ''DO IT YOUR SELF BUYERS''.... ITS NOT PERFECT BUT THAT IS WHY YOU CAN BUY THIS 3 BEDROOM HOME FOR ONLY (price redacted)" That raised a flag, but I'm willing to put a little work into a house... just depends on how much... and I have to know that it's worth it.

I emailed the real estate agent to ask. She told me there was some rotten wood and the downstairs bathroom didn't work. She urged me to come look at the house.

Not so fast lady.

I wanted to know more about the house first. I asked her if the rotten wood was just on the facade or if it was structural. I asked if it was due to termite damage and if so, was there an active infestation. I asked if the toilet flushed to a septic tank or to the city wastewater system. I asked what the home would be worth if it didn't need repairs. And finally, I asked if homes in the neighborhood sold fairly well (under normal market conditions). I refrained from asking more detailed questions about the bathroom because I figured she's not a plumber.

Were these questions unreasonable? Were they difficult to answer? I didn't think so. But apparently I was wrong.

She said she "would not know the condition of this home" and urged me to make an offer and have it inspected.

Um.... no. That didn't sound nearly as logical to me as it did to her.

As the real estate agent who is trying to sell this house... seems like you oughta know these things. Or at least be willing to find them out. You might not know if there are termites, but if someone has told you there's rotten wood, or you have seen the rotten wood for yourself, you should be able to tell me if it's easily fixed by putting siding on the house (6k), or if the damn floor is rotted through. You should DEFINITELY be able to give me market information for the area. If this house is only worth 10k more than I'm buying it for, it ain't worth it. However, if it's worth 40k more, that might work for me. And the septic tank question is pretty fucking basic... like knowing if a stove is gas or electric. Seems to me that you aren't hungry enough.

If you were my agent, and the house wasn't your baby, I'd be more forgiving-- then again, any agent I retained would be expected to get answers to my damn questions.

I emailed her back and told her I would pass on the viewing, but thanked her for her time. I should have added that it must be incredibly precious if she is so stingey with it, but I restrained myself (and put it in my blog instead).

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