Strange Things that Happen while Buying a House

The more things change, the more they get strange.

Yesterday, I left the office at noon. This was partly because I’d been here all night (we were working on a pitch for a client who would be worth a LOT to us) and was caught up in a conspiracy of people forcing me to go home. But added to that, I was meeting with Robyn to go look and some more homes.

There were four on the list, some nearby, and others a little further away. One was in Inglewood (a trendy little area east of downtown), which although nice had a few things that didn’t sit well with me. The second was in Bridgeland (just north east of downtown). Aside from the fact that it had tenants in the basement suite (and the renovations to make that suite weren’t all that great, either), I didn’t think the overall design was great.

House #3 was a considerable improvement. Located just north of downtown in Crescent Heights, it was a beautiful home — tastefully painted stucco, a nice large front room, great design care inside, and great landscaping. But at nearly $220,000, I had a hard time with the warped floors, tiny kitchen, abysmal basement, and rather unattractive bathroom.

The fourth home was in West Hillhurst, about two or three blocks from Crowchild Trail. On the outside, it was HIDEOUS. Unpainted stucco that really needed some help. My initial impression: This was gonna be a dud. But if there’s one thing I learned from that house: Don’t judge a house by its exterior. The owners must do design of some kind for a living. They had it coordinated out the wahzoo — the entire first floor was completely redesigned in (somewhat recent) IKEA. The only issues with the home were the basement (the stairs down looked unstable and felt twice as bad) and the fact that it sat on a major road.

The afternoon adventure over, I retreated to my apartment to try and get some sleep. No sooner than I had started to drift off than the phone rang.

“Get your butt downstairs! I’ve got another place in Sunnyside!”

Ten minutes later, Robyn and I were back on the road. The house had been on the market for about an hour. (Robyn moves fast.) It was not only the kind of home I was looking for, it was even in the right area of Sunnyside (west end, close to Kensington).

It gets better.

Remember the home that I put the offer in on last Saturday? (See [[Finding a Great House, Losing in a Bidding War]].) Well, this house is it’s mirrored twin sister neighbour (say that five times fast). Mirroring aside, the only other differences were a double garage and a higher price. The higher price I wasn’t big on, but it was worth a look.

Well, it would have been, if I could get in to see it. But Robyn always has a trick or two up her sleeve. We put in an offer on the house, with an extra condition: I had to view it and approve. A little strange, perhaps, but such is the nature of the real estate industry. As it stands, the listing realtor was very happy with this — she would only have to deal with me, and not multiple offers. The viewing was set for noon today.

With a good night’s sleep behind me, I was prepared for another day of negotiation and kicking the baseboards. Around 10:00 this morning, I got a call from Robyn. I figured she was calling me to make sure I was ready for the viewing. Little did I know what else she had to tell me.

“I’ve got good news.”

I had a mental pause, where I wondered what that news could possibly be.

Remember the house I lost the bid on last Saturday? Well, it seems that the people who had won the bid had put on a rather odd condition on the sale. I don’t remember what it was off the top of my head, but it was unconventional, very vague (to the point where Robyn said that she would never use the condition), and basically allowed the buyers to back out if they got cold feet.

It seems the people who won the bid need to wear thicker socks.

To avoid the problems of competing offers again, the listing realtor of the “first house” (as it came to be known) decided to give me first right of refusal, if I so desired. I desired. So instead of one house to potentially purchase, I now had two.

I couldn’t stop giggling for most of the morning. Most of the people I told this to just gave me strange looks.

So just before noon, Chris, Robyn, and I ventured over to take a look at the “second house”. We couldn’t get back into the “first house” — I wanted to let Chris have a look — but luckily I took pictures the last time I was there.

The listing realtor of the “second house” was there to meet us, and defend us from the two tenants who lived there (it’s not owner occupied). It seems the tenants are quite angry that the owner is selling the home, as they’ve lived there for quite a while and are really attached to it. (My general opinion — if you like it that much, buy it. If one person (e.g. me) can afford it, two people should be able to.) The realtor wanted to stick around inside, assumedly so I couldn’t escape without signing onto the deal.

The kitchen was not as nice — the work was good, but I think it lacked style. The basement seemed even more cramped than its neighbour (but it was also more full of stuff), the upstairs was well finished, although the bathroom was not nearly as nice, and the floor seemed to have a noticeable slope to it.

I was convinced there that this wasn’t what I wanted. Robyn suggested we go outside and look around back. I’m not entirely sure this was as a double-check, or just so that she could get me past the listing realtor without signing anything and she could tell that realtor that I wasn’t going to purchase after all. (By that point, the listing realtor had 12 calls about the house, so it wasn’t really going to put her in a bind, and the sellers would likely get more for the house in the long run.)

With the purchase withdrawn, we returned to the office to put the offer back in again on the “first house” — the one I wanted. So once again, I scribbled my initials and signature to a series of sheets I’ve gotten to know quite well. Once again, Robyn made the calls and arranged for a presentation to the sellers. And once again, I had to wait.

This time, it was almost anti-climactic. As I didn’t have anyone to compete with, I figured I was pretty much a shoe-in. I was — by 3:00pm, the offer had been accepted. Because I’d started looking for financing the day before, it was the only thing that still worried me.

I need a fair bit of money to purchase this house. Although I do have a fairly large down-payment (thanks greatly to my extremely generous parents), I still need a large mortgage, and that’s what I wasn’t sure about. Luckily, because I spent two years getting all my finances straightened out, my financial situation is pretty good. But I still wasn’t sure if I could borrow the money.

This little batch of nerve-wracking hell went on until about 7:30pm tonight. That’s when I got a call from Robyn. She was calling for the purpose of arranging for the home inspection (one of the two conditions, the other being financing, that have to be fulfilled). She asked me how I was doing — I said I wasn’t great because the stress of the financing was killing me. I didn’t want to lose this house a second time.

“Oh, you’re so silly!” she laughed, “You got the financing earlier this evening.”

I turned around, and saw myself staring back with the same slack-jawed glare of surprise and amazement.

After a loud “YES” (which would have had every head on the floor staring at me, if they hadn’t all already gone home), I finished the conversation. I think I said “yes” the entire time to every question she asked. (Hopefully I didn’t agree to something bad…)

So, only one condition remains outstanding — the home inspection. That’s this Saturday. Once that’s covered, the restrictions are cleared, and the house is (more or less) officially mine. Then all I have to do is wait — the closing date is June 1. I’m just glad I’m a patient person.

At least I would be, if I didn’t want everything right now.

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