House Hunting: The Move

So after all the work we did over the weekend, the only thing left to do was move. Easy, right? Wrong. As I’ve said many, many times, we don’t have a lot of stuff, and we did a lot of packing leading up to Monday, so we were pretty prepared. Our movers told us they’d  be there between 9 and 12, so I assumed they’d show up around 11:30, and I’d have plenty of time to pack up those last minute items the morning of the move. You know the ilk: toothbrushes, bath towels, um … the cats!

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Well, you can imagine my surprise, when the mover’s arrived at 9:15. There were 5 big guys, and things moved so quickly! These guys came ready to work. I asked them for a few minutes to put the cats in their carriers (something I had planned to do before large, strange men came in the house to scare them ((actually, they were lovely, but our cats scare easily)) but again, I thought I’d have more time). There is no graceful way to put two scared cats in cages. No matter how you do it, you look like the world’s worst, meanest pet parent. I’m sure these guys thought I was downright cruel the way the cats looked and sounded, but they were fine. I promise.

After the cats were locked and loaded, I put them in the bathroom to minimize the noise-induced terror, and the guys got moving. In about 45 minutes, they had all our boxes, bags, and furniture in the moving van and ready to go. I was in shock. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off shoving last minute items into suitcases, half empty boxes and garbage bags. Needless to say, my oh-so-organized packing plan went right out the window. Once they were loaded, directions in hand, they headed out, and Chris and I had a few minutes to take a breath, load the car and hit the road.

The cats hated the car. Miles meow’ed the entire way. Moshi went catatonic. We both felt so bad for them. There’s just no good way to explain to pets what’s going on. Still, we made it there without event despite early morning rain storms, and stowed the cats in the mudroom to avoid any escapes with the mover’s coming and going.

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The guys arrived about 20 minutes after we did, and the unpacking moved even more quickly! They were so gentle with our furniture and newly painted walls and made sure to stop and ask where every piece and box belonged. I have never had such a pleasant moving experience. Those guys were worth every penny. Speaking of pennies, guess who packed their checkbooks… these guys! Whoops! Obviously, they were ok with cash, so I made a quick trip to the bank (and a stop for pizza!) and made it back shortly after the guys finished unloading.

Luckily for us, our Verizon installer was able to come earlier than his scheduled 1-5 window, so he arrived as the movers were wrapping up and got to work setting up our Fios. We lunched while he worked, and once he was finished, we got to work ourselves.

The first order of business for me was the kitchen. We had already set the bathroom up over the weekend, and in my opinion, you can survive a pretty long time in a new house with just a bathroom, kitchen, bed sheets on the bed, and a few clean outfits. The kitchen seems to always take the most time, so I figured I should start there to avoid trying to tackle it later in the day when I was feeling burnt out. It took me about 2 hours to unpack, put away and clean the floors again. The most time consuming part was just unwrapping each individual plate, glass and mug, but to my credit, all those hours spent wrapping and unwrapping paid off with zero broken dishes.

Next, it was on to the bedroom. This took longer than I thought mostly because I have so much more space! I’m used to hanging as much as I can and stuffing the rest in drawers, storage bins and boxes, but now I had to really think about how I wanted to spread my clothes out. It was kind of lovely. I had just enough energy left to put the sheets on the bed before collapsing on the couch for a break. Chris tackled getting all the electronics plugged in and set up, setting up our wireless network, installing like 8 sets of blinds and putting all his clothes away. We’re a pretty good team.

Right around our break time, my mom stopped by on her way home from work. Only then did it hit me just how long we had been up and running! Talk about exhausting! It was really nice to see my mom. It’s so surreal to think that just a year ago, I was living in Jersey City and she was all the way in South Carolina, and now, we live 30 minutes apart!

After mom left, I scrubbed down the living room before hopping in the shower. The term “hot mess” had never been so fitting. Chris and I, on the brink of delirium, went to Target to pick up a lamp (our living room has no lighting now that the wall sconces are gone) and a few things for dinner. Thank you Bertolli frozen entrees for helping put the quickest dinner ever on our table. Even though we didn’t sit down to eat until 9:30, we had to laugh considering that was the earliest we’d eaten in days! This is coming from the pair that normally eats at 6:45. Moving is just insane.

So, right about now, we have a few rooms totally done, a few rooms partially set up and most rooms completely empty! We definitely have more rooms than we have things, but having spent the last 8 years of my life in the opposite situation, this feels like a very fortunate problem to have.

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House Hunting: The Prep Work

Wow! I’ve been gone a long time, but seriously, I have not had a minute to collect my thoughts for weeks. Everything has been go, go, go and is only now beginning to slow down… a teeny bit. After we closed on our house and officially became homeowners (!!) things started moving really quickly. Chris took a few days off of work and started painting and prepping for our move-in on Thursday. Friday night, we got to check out Debbie and Mike’s new place (love it!) and headed to bed relatively early for a long weekend ahead of us.

Saturday morning, we headed to the house, and my mom and Molly met us to help out. After a quick lunch, we worked pretty much all day. Chris and Molly prepped and painted the living room, I scoured and scrubbed the downstairs bathroom for hours (it was that bad),and my mom cleaned the kitchen all day long. I would literally eat off that floor now. There was a trip to Target thrown in there too, and way too many dollars later, we had most of what we needed to get our new house up and running. My mom and Molly called it a day after about 8 hours, and Chris and I hung back and put a second coat of paint on our living room.

Prior to this weekend, I had never painted (outside of art class) in my life. I thought it would be so much fun. I was wrong. It’s exhausting, and I didn’t really get the hang of it until we were almost done. My one tip: tape really well. The closer you get the tape to the borders of the room, the less edging and touch up work you have to do. I am now a master taper.

Sunday, we drove back down to the house and Chris’ whole family met us there bearing food and a power-washer! Chris and his dad did some complicated electrical work and transformed two dated sconces into two useful outlets for the TV and electronics. Chris’ brother installed 6 (!!) huge window ACs that had our house feeling like a tundra (can’t wait to see that electric bill ;)) and powerwashed our front and back steps and sidewalk for like 4 hours! Chris’ mom cleaned basically everything my mom didn’t have time for (thank goodness for moms) including the upstairs bathroom and our gross basement. God bless her. Chris’ aunt and uncle brought over a table and chairs, an AC and two end tables! It was such a nice surprise!

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How cute is this dining set? I feel like it has so much potential! Disregard my errant shoe, but please note those beautiful new floors!

In the meantime, I painted our bedroom (just a quick top coat since we ended up serendipitously picking out the exact same paint they already had in there) and the most garish room of all. It was cute for a kids’ room, but once the cribs were out of there, it just looked like the circus had passed through town. It took me hours to tape, paint, and paint again, and I saw no sun and breathed no fresh air (not wise) all day, but I did it!

Before:

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Cute, but LOUD

and after:

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Notice the transition from day to night?

Both nights, we didn’t eat dinner until we got back to Jersey City around 10:30. That was insane and so bad for my stomach, but all the prep work for painting made us want to just finish rather than stop halfway through and have to set it all up again the next day. I’m glad we did it, but I’m surprised we came out relatively unscathed (I have bruises all over my arms and legs, but other than some soreness, I’m fine).

Overall we:

– cleaned (like super, deep cleaned) 6 rooms and a basement

– painted 4 rooms

– did some electrical work

– went food/home supply shopping

– powerwashed the house

– put in 6 air conditioners

– had the locks changed

– had the floors completely refinished

all in a weekend! phew! Little did I know, Moving Monday would be way, way more hectic…

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House Hunting: Closed!

Words can’t even express how I feel right now, so I’m not even going to try. Just know that Chris and I are totally over the moon to be homeowners!

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you know you’ve made it when your town is a parkway exit 😉

We closed Wednesday, but our movers don’t come until Monday, so we’re not in yet, but the house is definitely ours! Our bank actually approved our mortgage last Friday (which I hear is unusual) so our lawyer was able to tell us the final closing amount due in order for us to get a certified check from the bank. Check in hand, we drove out to the house first to meet our realtor and do our walk through. It’s exactly like it sounds. We just walked through the house to make sure it was in the same condition (or better) than when we saw it at inspection. We were really nervous then, and it hadn’t hit us that in just a few hours this place was ours!

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After the walk through, we split from our realtor and drove up to our attorney’s town to grab a quick lunch before meeting up with him. Lunch was… a little tense. Both of us were so nervous we didn’t really eat or talk much, and before we knew it, it was time for our closing. We drove to our attorney’s office and sat in a very fancy conference room feeling like total big-wigs. Our attorney had a stack of papers with him the size of our cats, which was only mildly intimidating. For about an hour, he went over EVERYTHING with us. He explained each disclosure, the terms of our mortgage and how our closing costs were determined. We really understood everything well by the time he was through.

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Eventually, our realtor met us at the attorney’s office to collect her commission and drop off our keys!!! She also left us a very sweet “Welcome Home” basket (it’s actually in the lower left of the second picture). It was a really nice touch. We signed a few more documents with her, and then the house was officially ours!! We were thrilled and even our grumpy lawyer picked up on it and started smiling. After getting the key, we called our parents to tell them the good news then headed back to the house to walk around like bosses.

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Chris actually carried me over the threshold which I thought was going to feel silly, but actually almost made me cry. It was pretty wonderful to walk into our new home with the love of my life by my side. I felt like I was walking on a cloud. This was a big moment that we had both been so nervous and stressed about, and it felt like it just melted away in that moment.

At that point, it was pretty late in the day, so we walked around and took a few “before pictures” then decided to head back up to Jersey City for the night. It’s safe to say that that was the best day ever.

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ahhhh!!

As promised, I’ve been noting some tips I wish I had known at the outset of this project. I think there are some things you can only learn by messing up, but in case it ever helps anyone else, here’s what I learned:

  • Don’t ever forget that you’re in charge. This was so hard for me because I hate any type of negotiation/confrontation (unless it’s for my job, oddly) and tend to just defer to whoever I’m dealing with. It’s also hard because whatever we were negotiating (from the actual house to movers to floor guys) was something we really wanted, so I was afraid to push back too hard and lose out. I wish I could go back and tell myself, “You’re the one writing all the (big, fat, huge) checks, dummy! They want your business!” Seriously, everyone from the house sellers to the contractors want your business. Obviously, they want the best deal possible, but they definitely don’t expect to get what they’re asking for, so negotiate!
  • Negotiate. Jumping off the first point, I wish I had played more hardball with our house. I wish I had gotten multiple prices for movers and attorneys. A lot of our situation was dictated by timing. Remember, we first saw this house like 2 months ago. That’s crazy fast. Lots of stuff had to happen yesterday, and that prevented me from really shopping around. Still, I read this line on Young House Love that stuck with me. Sherry basically said to always ask, “Is that your best price?” Chances are it’s not, and just by asking you might get a better deal. The only time I felt like I really negotiated was on the floors, and we got a good deal, so I wish I had done it more.
  • Ask about ALL the fees. Speaking of the floors, while I did get a good price, it didn’t include everything I wanted. It was my fault for not reading the estimate more carefully, but there were a couple instances where sneaky fees really got us, and I think it was because I was too naive to guess that there were hidden costs. Before committing to anyone, ask, “are there any additional fees I should be aware of?”
  • Schedule your stress. This sounds silly, but Chris and I made a rule at the onset that only one of us was allowed to be stressed at a time. It really helped too. When he was stressing, I just told myself, “Pretend you’re not involved in this deal at all” and it helped me be objective and stay calm. When I was ready to stress, I told him, “You have to stop stressing now because I’m ready to freak out.” Two stressed people tend to feed off of each other in a vicious loop, so it really helped to have only one person at a time losing their sh*t.
  • Take advice, but take it with a grain of salt. Most times it was really helpful talking to family, friends and coworkers. Usually, we discovered that nothing we were going through was new or shocking, though it felt like it at the time. And we generally got a lot of good counsel. Still, there will always be someone who tells you how they did everything 150% better than you did. Usually they don’t mean to be such a Braggy McBraggerson, but they are, so let it flow in one ear and out the other. You’re doing the best you can.
  • Pick your battles. Chris and I debated for a while about whether or not to get movers. We don’t have a ton of stuff, but we do have some. We wanted to save the money, but we weren’t sure it was worth the stress. We’ll paint. We’ll garden. We’ll clean until it shines like the top of the Chrysler Building. We’re not a fan of moving. We opted to pay for movers, and we’ve been very happy with that decision.
  • Soak it all in. Even if you do everything “right” buying a home is stressful. There have been a few times we’ve found ourselves just wishing it all away. Still, we tried (and are still trying) to make some memories. We’re hoping this is the last house we have to buy for a long time, so we’d really like to remember it. I want to be able to tell our kids all about this someday, so I’m hoping it didn’t fly by too quickly.

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House Hunting: The Almost Home Owners

Just popping in quickly to update the status of the house buying experience. I didn’t mean to leave it hanging here, but there hasn’t been too much to report. Last I checked in, we had just finished the home inspection. Obviously, we were thrilled to have passed the inspection, and that was really it for us for a while. Most of the work that’s been going on these days is happening behind the scenes.

Our bank is still reviewing all the documents we submitted to secure the mortgage, and they’ve assured me that we’re right on track, which means… very little. Still, it’s reassuring, and we’re hopeful that we close on our anticipated date. Our lawyer (gosh I just love saying that we have a lawyer. Feels so #richkidsofinstagram) is securing the title binder (which will turn into the title for our home when the sale is completed). And our insurance company is liaising with the bank to put our policy together. Other than a few emails to clarify certain questions, we haven’t had much to do on the home buying front.

We have been working though! We heard from a lot of people that the one thing they wished they’d done before moving in was refinish the floors, so we got a couple estimates and put a deposit down to have the living room, dining room and hallway floors sanded and stained. The process takes 3-4 days during which time the floors are off limits, so we figured, what better way to use the grace period between when we own the house and when we no longer have a claim on our apartment.

We found movers! I used Yelp to find a father-son company in Jersey City with good reviews, and they gave us an estimate I liked, so we scheduled them. We also picked up some paint chips and are currently planning on painting three rooms. We’re waiting to see what they look like in the house before we make a final decision. We also took care of some minor things like scheduling a TV/Internet/Phone installation date.

We both have a million items on our to-do lists of little projects we’d like to undertake in the new home, but right now, our real life task list looks like this:

  • Follow up with our apartment management group to see if they’ve found new renters to assume our lease.
  • Keep in touch with the bank to keep our loan on track
  • Pick up boxes, tape and bubble wrap
  • PACK!
  • Get a certified check from the bank for the total amount due at closing
  • Perform a walk-through of the house (final inspection)
  • Close on that bad boy!
  • Meet and pay the floor guys
  • Paint
  • Meet and pay the movers
  • UNPACK
  • Relax?

So, yeah there’s still a long way to go, but we’re getting closer every day.

I’m by no means an expert, but I have been learning a lot as we go along, so I hope to wrap this whole series up with a few tips that have helped me get through this (relatively) painlessly. We’re almost there!

House Hunting: The Home Inspection

I’ll keep this post short and sweet as the house hunting saga has been particularly long-winded.

After our offer was accepted and we went “under contract” we had the option of scheduling a home inspection. So long as your seller’s agree to it (they should) you can have a state licensed home inspector come check out your potential new home (you should). We were given a few names from our realtor and shopped around for the best price. We scheduled an appointment and told our sellers when we would need them to be out of the house.

So, a few Saturdays ago, we had our inspection! It was just one guy but he came prepared with a bunch of tools, a flashlight, a camera and pen and paper, and he reviewed every inch of our house.

He started in our basement where he looked at the ceiling and the floors for signs of a shifting foundation and other damage. He checked out all our major appliances (furnace, water heater, sump pump) and our electrical panel. He looked at the wiring and plumbing. All the while, he took notes and explained to us his thoughts on everything. If he found something he didn’t like, he took a picture of it for the report.

He poked around upstairs looking at the floors, walls, fireplace and kitchen wiring. Lastly, he checked out our roof and the outside of the house. It was really fun to tour around our almost new home and learn about it’s condition.

We were lucky in that we had a fairly clean inspection with no major issues. He found a few problems, but hopefully nothing that will prevent this deal from moving forward. He explained everything to us while we were at the house then followed up with a written report.

The next step is for us to review the findings with our attorney and determine how much money we’d want from the sellers if they refuse to fix the issues. We’ll ask some contractors for quotes to get a better idea of what the repairs would cost if we had to undertake them ourselves. Just because we’re asking for repairs or money to do them ourselves doesn’t mean the seller’s will agree to it, and I have a feeling they won’t. At that point, we’re on our own, but we can hope and are hoping that they’ll offer to at least fix some of the damages.

Once we learned that there were no major issues with the house that could potentially delay our move-in date, we told our leasing company. Their terms suck (as expected). We have to pay one month’s rent right off the bat for the “administrative costs” related to re-leasing our apartment. We also have to hope that they fill it quickly because we are responsible for all rent until the apartment is re-leased or our lease expires (November 2013). So, if you’re looking for a really great apartment at a really competitive price in Jersey City, let me know 😉

 

 

House Hunting: The Closing Period

Ok we’re back! To refresh, we got pre-approved, hunted for house, and made an offer. Now what? Well, once our seller’s accepted our offer, the ball was in our court to keep things moving. Our first step was to find an attorney to review our contract. This part of the process is called… wait for it… Attorney Review. Though real estate contracts are fairly standardized, each side is encouraged (required?) to find an attorney who will negotiate with the other parties attorney to try and create the most fair deal possible.

My mom was a real estate agent for many years, so she had an attorney that she trusted and recommended to us. Otherwise, your real estate agent can recommend someone. It’s better to go with a stranger who specializes in real estate law than a family friend who does not as these things are pretty specific. I contacted our attorney and forwarded him our completed contract. I stressed to him that with the nature of our speedy closing (less than 60 days) things needed to move quickly. He was wonderful and promptly reviewed the contract, explained every detail to me, and informed me of the changes he was requesting from the seller’s attorney.

Predictably, the seller’s attorney came back with his own set 0f changes, most of which we agreed on, some we did not. Mainly it came down to the issue of appliances. Typically, the stove, dishwasher and anything else “bolted down” is considered included in the contract, and the rest is up for grabs meaning the buyer and seller can negotiate on what stays and what goes. Our seller’s stated in their listing that they were leaving all appliances. However, when we got their seller’s disclosure (short statement from the sellers listing, among other things, what appliances are staying with the home) we noticed that they were NOT including their washer and dryer. We asked our attorney to write that into the contract thinking maybe they just forgot it (hah!), but they came back saying not only were they taking those two, but they were taking the refrigerator as well.

Hold up. That refrigerator was supposed to be included! They said they were leaving it. They can’t take it back! Right?? Right?? Wrong. Our attorney explained to us that, during attorney review, either side can change ANYTHING they want. Meaning, our sellers can “take back” anything they previously offered. It’s his job to negotiate it back for us. That’s why you get an attorney who knows real estate law.

Long story short, we got the refrigerator and lost the washer/dryer and felt a little burned. It wasn’t worth losing the house over, but it ruffled our feathers to say the least.

I should have mentioned that we actually had two first steps (?). While recruiting our attorney, we also had to forward our contract off to the bank to let them know we got the house and would be formally applying for a mortgage. I love our mortgage loan officer (as much as someone can love a bank official). Seriously, everyone (except our sellers) has been so incredible to work with. Pick people you feel comfortable with. It will make all the difference in this stressful time. Anyway, our mortgage officer congratulated us on the home and told me which documents we needed to get her asap. Luckily, I had read up about it online and had already gathered and scanned most of the documents which included (all documents needed for any parties signing on the loan):

  • two most recent pay stubs 
  • past two years W2s and tax returns
  • two most recent bank account statements (for all accounts, including retirement accounts)
  • transaction histories for any statements that are outdated (for example: though the first quarter of 2013 is over, we did not yet have that statement for our retirement accounts, so we provided the 4th quarter 2012 statement along with a transaction history bridging the gap)

As far as I can gather, the bank wants to assess our creditworthiness through a credit check and thorough review of our accounts. It was also important to them to see that we had enough cash on hand for the down payment as well as two-three months of mortgage payments. Basically, don’t make any large purchases while considering buying a home. Have that cash ready to go.

Our final immediate step was finding a home inspector. When you sign a real estate contract, it’s legal binding but also contingent on a few things. So, while you can’t back out just because you got cold feet, you can back out without penalty if, say you can’t get approved for the mortgage you need to afford the house. You can also back out following an inspection. The home inspection is performed by a private inspector licensed by the state. We were given a few names from both my mom and the realtor and shopped around for the best price. We felt confident going with the most affordable inspector because they are all licensed under the same authority and required to check for the same things. Because of our area and the age of our home, we scheduled a full inspection, termite check, radon testing and an oil tank sweep. Necessary inspections vary by home.

After the inspection, we negotiate with the seller’s once more. If the findings are huge and expensive or time consuming, we have the right to back out of the contract. If the findings are more minor, we can ask the seller to fix the problem or compensate us so we can fix it ourselves. They can elect to do so or not in which case we’d have the option of accepting as is or breaking the deal.

This is why we’re not celebrating yet. Between the mortgage process and the inspection there are so many things that could cause this deal to fall apart between now and our closing. We’ll basically be holding our breaths for 60 days. I’ll keep you updated as things move along. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

House Hunting: Making an Offer

Ok, so when I last left you dangling off the edge of a cliff, Chris and I had just seen a home that we really, really, really liked and were on our way back to Jersey City. Well, as we were about a mile from home, my cell phone rang. It was our realtor telling us that there was an offer on our home! *yes you really do start to think of it as “your home” right away. Not only that, but the seller’s wanted to make a decision on the offer by noon of the next day! If we wanted to bid on the house, we had to come up with an offer and have it signed and delivered in about 14 hours.

Now, conventional home-buying wisdom will tell you to stay away from this. Getting involved in a bidding war while still thinking emotionally about a house you just fell in love with definitely does not put you in a position to negotiate a favorable price. The thing is, we had looked at a ton of houses online and nothing comparable to this house was available in our price range. This place was priced to move, so we had to be ready to go if we wanted it. We did.

Our wonderful realtor stayed up until 11:30 with us explaining the process of putting forward an offer. In case you’re unfamiliar it goes something like this:

Normally, you come in at a low number which gives the sellers an opportunity to come back with a higher number and allows you to meet in the middle at what is hopefully the price you wanted all along. You tell your realtor the price you’d like to offer and she writes up a contract which all buyers have to sign and initial many times. This contract is then presented to the seller and negotiations begin. The problem was, our sellers already had an offer on the table which weakened our negotiating position. We had no idea what the other offer was, so the sellers could play each offer against the other. We decided to offer a price that was higher than our planned low-ball number. We wanted to the sellers to know we were serious rather than risk losing the home to the other potential buyers.

The next morning, our realtor prepared the contract and Chris and I printed it, signed it, scanned it and emailed it back to her. Typically this is done in person, but because of the speedy nature of this deal it was done electronically. Our realtor formally submitted our offer a little before noon, and there was nothing Chris and I could do but wait.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long. Our seller’s got back to us within the hour. Unluckily, they came back with a higher number. They wanted the asking price on the house. Chris and I debated what to do. We knew when we visited the house that we might end up paying the asking price. We could afford the price, but it was higher than our original budgeted amount. Our realtor asked us to think about it this way, “In two weeks if  you found out the house sold for $x to the other buyers, would you be upset you lost the home or glad you saved the money?” It sounds intuitive, but we were so stuck on the problem that it really made everything click for us. We decided we’d definitely be sad we lost the house because we knew we couldn’t find something like that even at the asking price; so we decided to go for it.

Our realtor called their realtor and told them we’d meet them at the asking price. Then, our sellers asked for more. It wasn’t a lot more, but we thought it was kind of rude. I understand that this is the nature of negotiations, but we’d met all their demands in a very timely fashion, and the amount of money was so small (in the scheme of things) that it was almost insulting. It felt like they were just pushing us to see how far we’d go. We were peeved. We actually almost cancelled the deal then and there. Luckily, our realtor reminded us that we’d likely really regret losing the house over that amount of money, and that while it was annoying, it wasn’t unprecedented. We agreed and met their higher number.

Our realtor updated our contract to reflect the new price and forwarded the changes to us to sign off on. We did, and just like that, we had a deal! Sort of.

Now, because I know you’re all dying to know… here’s our *hopefully* new home

Um… I’M LYING. We walked by this absolutely gorgeous house in Westfield on Sunday, but I’m guessing it costs $2 million. No kidding. And I work for the government. I’d like to share pictures of our home, but I’m waiting until we have a better idea of where we stand.

I’ll get into what happened next later, but now I’d like to share some other tips we picked up along the way. In our case, it ended up being purely about the money, but if that wasn’t the case, we were prepared to offer a few non-monetary incentives to sweeten the deal and hopefully swing the sellers in our direction. If you’re in a bidding war and think the offers might be monetarily close, here’s a few things you can consider adding in:

  • A quick closing! We felt like we were in a strong position as first time home buyers because we’re coming from an apartment, so we don’t have an existing home to sell. That means we can move out and into the new place in about 30 days. Most sellers are buying their next home somewhere else and often have their own move-in date to consider. Offering to close on (move into) the home in less than 60 days can make a similarly priced offer much more appealing.
  • Scheduling the home inspection during attorney review. After both parties sign the initial offered contract, each side is given time for their attorney to review the contract and negotiate changes. This can be a long or short process, but either way, the deal isn’t going anywhere until it’s over. A way to speed up the overall sale is to schedule an inspection of the home during attorney review. It’s also a show of good faith that you’re really interested in the home.
  • Offering to waive the first $x in inspection findings or any findings under $x. This one is a little trickier. You can, if you choose, offer to waive let’s say the first $1,500 in inspection findings. That means that if the home inspector finds issues that will cost the sellers $3,000 to fix, they’re only on the hook for $1,500 of those issues. The alternative is to offer to cover anything under say, $500. That means, if the house needs a new roof ($$$), the seller is paying for that, but if there’s a broken window ($), you’ll cover it. Offering to waive nominal findings in a home inspection shows the seller that you’re not going to nitpick every issue found, but it still covers you should a major issue like a leaking oil tank be uncovered.
  • A personal note. This is the only one we actually ended up doing. It was my mom’s idea, and we figured it couldn’t hurt, so I wrote our seller’s a short email (and had our realtor forward it to them) thanking them for showing us the home and considering our offer. I told them a little about us (that we’re getting married, that we graduated from the seller’s alma mater too) and asked them to consider our offer. I don’t know that it actually did anything, but it made me feel more confident.

So, there you have it. I know more about buying a home than I ever wanted too. Next, up… What exactly happens in those 60 days between “We’ll take it!” and “It’s ours!”?