The purchase of my house was a bit more excitement than I had initially been looking for, and came with its own set of setbacks. The market in our area is currently very much a seller’s market, with houses frequently changing hands behind closed doors without ever hitting a real estate listing website.
I’d been looking for a fixer with character in my price range for weeks, watching the clock tick down until I had to be out of my marital house when it closed, and seeing house after house sell in only one day, or have other features that knocked it out of consideration. Finally the listing for what eventually became my house showed up in my inbox. I made an appointment to see it with my realtor that day, and by the evening I had made an offer, only to find out that I was competing against two other bidders – all for a house in poor condition, after ONE DAY on the market.
I couldn’t afford to make a full price offer, not if I hoped to build funds for my renovation into my loan, so I wrote this letter to the sellers, hoping it might sway them:
I love your house. The details are so charming, the yard is gorgeous and I really feel like it’s got so much potential.
Just to tell you a little about myself, I’m a single mom, just finalizing my divorce, and I’m looking for a house that can truly become a new home for my young daughter and I. She has already picked out her room (it’s the one at the end of the hall on the left, with the blue carpet), the backyard will be a magical place for her to play, the playground is a short walk away and we even have the space to keep the dog she’s been asking for.
This house has the potential to be a haven for us in a time of upheaval in our lives. I am obviously on a tight budget and planning to renovate the house with love and care, over time. I’m not a flipper or a professional investor; we’re just a small family looking for a place we can truly call our next home for a long, long time. We love that your neighborhood is full of children and families that have been there for a long time, and we want to become one of them.
I hope you’ll seriously consider our offer.
I waited almost 48 hours to hear word back. I was competing against two other offers – one of which was too low and was discarded by the sellers immediately. The other offer, however, was coming from an investor, and I waited on pins and needles to see if my letter would make me a contender against an investor with obviously deeper pockets than mine. Finally, I heard – my offer was accepted!!
However, that was just the start of the drama. Next step was inspections. And they didn’t go well.
Fortunately, the structure of my house is sound. The foundation looks good, the roof is only 3 years old, and the windows, while the paint is peeling, are still water tight and structurally sound, per my inspector.
The house sat vacant for several months while the children of the seller (who was elderly, and had made her children her power of attorney to handle the sale) readied the house for sale. A bird made its nest over the front entry light.
The roof trim was also showing signs of wear, and the gutter guards in the front were improperly installed when the roof was redone.
And that’s where the trouble begins. Because the gutters were improperly sloped when the roof was redone, water damage has occurred in multiple spots along the roof soffits.
In one place, the damage was severe enough to allow a squirrel access to my attic. My inspector found lovely squirrel droppings in one large section of my attic insulation, which will have to be cleaned and replaced with fresh insulation.
The side of the house featured a cracked and settled stone patio (cracking is common in our area, due to frost heaves) which had allowed water to sit against the composite siding of the addition and caused substantial rot.
There was similar water damage along the joint between the composite siding and the brick chimney, caused by improper weather proofing of the joint.
But the real problem was hidden behind this one innocuous wall.
The bane of every homeowner’s existence. With no way of telling how extensive the damage to the framing of that wall was without being able to open up the wall, I was in a very difficult spot. Since it was an estate sale, being sold as-is meant the sellers were obligated to treat the termites but were not obligated to make any repairs.
On the other hand, backing out of the sale meant that I was back to ground zero in my search for a house, and with no guarantees that anything suitable would even come on the market at all before I had to be out of my marital house. My realtor even suggested that I consider renting.
I finally decided to take a chance and have a contractor write me up a bid for a best and worst case scenario for repairing the termite damage, as well as a bid for repairing the squirrel damage. I wrote a strongly worded message to the sellers informing them of the cost of repairs and telling them that I could not safely keep my daughter in an environment with pests such as those. My realtor wasn’t optimistic, but in the end the sellers caved. They agreed to reduce the price of the house by the amount my contractor figured as his worst case scenario cost for the repairs. The rest of the updates and fixes will come out of my renovation budget, but the reduction in price on the house meant that I could still fund the renovations I wanted to do to give the house another life, while still having the funds necessary to properly repair all the damage without cutting any corners.
The closing went forward, and I continued getting bids on the updates. Now, having closed, I’m still waiting on my contractor to come out and assess the full scope of the termite damage. It’s the middle of his busy season, but he should be coming out next week to start the exterior repairs in earnest, and when he’s done, I’ll be able to sleep in peace in a house that’s once again sound and ready to last through the years.