Needle Works users can safely ignore this post and follow progress on the program here instead.
For the past 16 months or so I have been scouring the East Bay for a home to buy and live in. While the housing market is down in most parts of the country, this area has been very resilient. Berkeley, in fact, was rated by Forbes.com as the best suburb in the U.S. to sell your home, which, inconveniently for me, made it the worst suburb in the U.S. to buy a home. Surrounding cities such as Albany and El Cerrito have also had fairly robust home sales though they are down from previous years.
I've had to do battle against those who have been waiting, like myself, for houses to become affordable, those moving downstream from more expensive properties, and those moving down or sideways from upside-down houses. The fact that I'm single income has made it the perfect storm to sink my dreams of home ownership.
The first house I bid on was a nice place not too far from my in-law apartment that required a modest amount of termite work and a new kitchen. It was a trustee sale where the deceased occupant's children came from out of town to sell their father's home. After a lot of angst-filled signing, initialing, scanning, faxing, copying, and emailing, the paperwork went off to the listing agent. I was the high bidder from among five or so up until late on the day of offer acceptance, but lost out to two bids that were one or two thousand above mine. Either the listing agent did not present the higher bids to the sellers for a round of counter offers, or the sellers did not wish to make more money on the home. The winning bidder's agent was a friend of the listing agent so I'm fairly certain I fell victim to a finder's fee.
The next home I bid on belonged to a hoarder. It was located in a beautiful neighborhood but the house was not maintained inside or out. The bidding process was difficult as it was priced well below market value. The house was going to go over list price, but how much? I was somewhat less stressed about the paperwork this go around since I had gone through it all on the first home. This time I came in second place from among eight offers and was asked to participate in a second round of bidding where I came in second again.
Several months later I tightened my belt and raised the ceiling on the purchase price to increase the potential property pool. (altogether, ten times fast) I eventually found a near perfect home for me which, unlike the first two houses, was ready to move in. It had a great floor plan, adequate space, plenty of storage, and was in a nice area. It was, however, listed at the very top of what I could afford, required some foundation work, and "the third time's the charm" is not an actual right of first time home buyers. Not willing (or able really) to take the home as-is, I came in second place yet again out of around 8 or so.
A few months later, a nice property went up for auction. It was located in an impossibly inaccessible neighborhood financially speaking, but still listed well within my budget. After evaluating the property and doing as much research as possible on it and the auction process, I decided to attend. I thought that even if I didn't wind up with the house, it would be an opportunity to learn. My agent and I arrived first the day of the auction and took some extra time to go through it. We found some paperwork we hadn't seen previously which indicated the house needed as much as $150,000 or more in foundation work. We moved rather quickly into the "learning experience" phase. The property inevitably landed with a contractor who will no doubt list it in less than a year and for more than $200,000 what it sold for.
I started to see a slight bump in the number of homes available over the first couple months of the year. Some were nice homes in neighborhoods with high crime rates and some were tear downs in beautiful areas. I saw one listing that caught my eye as being affordable and on a nice street, but it was not showing yet. It was to have only two days of open house and it was renter occupied. We weren't given an ideal opportunity to view the home, but it was sauce for the goose; all potential buyers had the same opportunity. So, yawn, another home, another bid and my agent called the next day to say that my offer was accepted. After almost a year and a half I wasn't quite certain what this meant. Was my offer deemed worthy of review or was it actually chosen? It turns out it was the latter.
Next: pictures, video, and final details...