Tag Archives: buying a house


It’s possible there’s someone out there who is still actually interested in our housing saga.  If so, this is for you, with a little review to help your head stop spinning.

The seventh or eighth house we tried to buy was the Train House.  They said they would sell it to us, then stalled and procrastinated and never signed the damned documents till we gave up and said, “You know what – just forget it.”

We put in a bid on a house with great bones but in need of a good deal of work.  We’ll call that the House on the Hill.  We didn’t get that house, as there were three competing bids.

The next week, I went to look at the dregs of houses that were left.  “You know,” our agent told me, “the Train people still want to sell you their house.”  Second verse, same as the first.  We agreed, they agreed, they un-agreed and decided not to sell their house at all.

I picked myself up off the floor and went to look at the House With the Pool and Screwed up Bedrooms and the House of Tiny Kitchen.  Of course, it goes without saying that the House With the Pool people decided to take their house off the market that day.  It didn’t matter, because the House on the Hill people called to tell our agent that their other deal had fallen through and they would now sell us their house.

But, here in New Jersey, we aren’t under contract till our attorneys squeeze some ducats out of us, and since our lawyer took a day off, attorney review took a day longer than it should have, giving the House on the Hill people just enough time to get and accept an offer from someone else.

Twenty-ninth verse, same as the first.

That was Friday.  I was eating lunch with Lilah and J called.  “What I have to say to you is completely unbelievable,” he began.

“The train people want to sell us their house.”

“Well, actually, yes,” he said.

You see, he works in the same company as Train House Woman, and she had called him up to tell him that they are now this time really, honestly, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die ready to sell us their house.

Fool us once, shame on you.  Fool us thrice?

So, um, we’re back to the train house.  Our agent has their signatures, which means crap until we get into and out of attorney review, but we put some Super Glue on our lawyer’s seat, so hopefully he’ll be stuck there until he finishes getting us under contract.

Maybe this will go through.  If not, anyone have a guest room where we can crash?

Here we go loopdy loo

So, it was an hour before I was supposed to go see the Tiny Kitchen House followed by the House With the Pool and Fucked Up Bedrooms.  I got a call from my real estate agent, Elizabeth, the most patient and supportive woman in New Jersey.

“I just got a text from the agent for the Great House That Needs Work,” she said.  Well, not exactly like that.  She actually said the address, but I’m not giving addresses here because someday we may actually get one of the houses and then everyone would know my address and could come stalk me.


“It looks like the other buyers are falling through and she wants to know if you’re still interested.”

Neither Elizabeth nor I knew exactly what that meant, so we went ahead and saw the other two houses, after she had texted the agent for the Great House That Needs Work to say that, hell yes, we were still interested.  We spent a looooong time looking at those two houses, and I left with no better idea of what I wanted than I had before I went in.

No matter – that evening the owners of the Great House decided they would accept our offer, as the other had fallen through.

So, they’ve signed it.  We’ve signed it.  In New Jersey, that means we are under attorney review, which is a fancy way of saying we blow a few hundred bucks on each side in lawyer’s fees before we are officially under contract.

The sellers have disclosed knob and tube wiring, which they are fixing in advance of the sale.  They have also disclosed an underground oil tank, which we are paying to have them remove prior to closing.  So, two big hurdles are already checked off.

Who knows?  We may actually get to closing on this house.  It has to happen someday, right?

I just wouldn’t go shopping for our housewarming present yet if I were you.

No place like home

We thought we had the train house.  We really did. Until the husband selling it decided that he couldn’t possibly let it go for the price we could afford.

We moved on and began looking at other houses.  I saw two I liked.  One is a big, old house at the very top of our price range.  It is a house with great bones on a quiet street that needs aesthetic updates.  Another is also on a quiet street, with a great downstairs but an upstairs that needs some rearranging.  That one also has good bones and is a walk to the school, but it has a pool, which we see as a liability.  We decided to offer on the first house.

Whereupon the train house people told us they were ready to sign our offer.

These folks backed out of a deal last summer, leaving buyers and sellers on both sides hanging.  But, we love their house, so we let the other house go and told the train house people to go on and sign.

Three days later, they still hadn’t signed.  The wife wanted to sell, the husband didn’t.  We were in the middle of a marital spat.

Frankly, if I wanted to fight with someone’s husband, I’d fight with my own.

So, we rushed back to the big, old house people, who already had two other offers in.  We came in with an offer above asking.  In this market.  The sellers negotiated a little with us but then sold it to someone else.  Of course.

Still unsure of the house with the dysfunctional upstairs and the pool, we went to see another house.  This one claims to be on a lake, but it’s really more of a puddle.  Again the top of our price range, and my husband – a mosquito magnet – fondly referred to the pond as a “breeding ground.”

“You know,” said our agent, “the train house people called and they said they really do want to sell you their house.  They are under contract to buy another house and have to sell theirs.”

“Do you trust them?” I asked her.

She wasn’t sure, but she said if we loved the house that much, we should give it a shot.  So we gave it a shot.

Two days later, the train house people told us they had decided to back out of both deals.  They were taking their house off the market.

I think Camus would have gotten a kick out of our house hunt.

There are two houses left now.  One is the one with the wonky upstairs.  While we don’t mind moving walls, we really don’t want the pool, as well. It has a nice, big kitchen that just needs an update eventually, but I could never just let the kids play in the yard, we’d have to keep up the pool, and ecologically I have issues with a personal pool, not to mention that we live in a lake community, so we have two public beaches right here.  That said, I love the downstairs on the house, it has a great yard, and the house is well cared for.

The other remaining house is across the street.  It is completely redone and beautiful.  It lacks a master bath, which may be a resale issue, but we don’t care about it, as there are two full baths.  It has a big family room and a study.


The kitchen is tiny.  I mean tiny.  Like the house is embarrassed to have a kitchen.  I spend about 3 hours a day cooking.  There is no place in this kitchen for my kids to help me, no space for them to run through while I’m working.

It goes without saying that the people with the pool decided to take the house of the market yesterday, right?  They’re tired of hearing people complain about the upstairs.  However, they are letting me in, given our situation, as long as we promise not to whine about the bedrooms.

So, I’ll see both houses again today.  They are across the street from one another and down the street from the elementary school, so location won’t be a factor.  I’m going to decide which problem I prefer: a pool and a big remodeling project or a tiny kitchen with no place to expand.

It’s possible that street will get hit with a plague of locusts tomorrow morning.

The impossible dream

I think it’s time for a housing recap, because unless you’ve been keeping a running scoreboard, you have probably lost track by now.

So, first there was the big, charming yellow house with seven bedrooms, no dining room, termite eaten support beams, and knob and tube wiring that the owners had no money to fix.

Next there was the big, charming, six bedroom house backing onto the wooded parkland that we did not have enough money to buy.

That house was followed closely by the architect’s house, perfectly restored on the first floor but in dire need of work on floors two and three.  We loved that house and made an offer, whereupon the architect decided she loved her house too much to sell it.

So, we made an offer on another house, which the owners rejected, probably wisely, because shortly thereafter they got a much higher offer.

Moving right along.  We went back to House Number Two – the six bedroom backing onto wooded parkland.  We loved the house.  It was not my dream house, as my dream house would have a model train running along the ceiling through several of the rooms, but it was a charming old house.  We dug under our sofa cushions, found some loose change, and upped our offer a tiny bit.  The owner accepted, and we went under contract.  Only to be undone by knob and tube wiring again.  When the owner of that house discovered that she had knob and tube wiring, she decided not to sell her house at all.

We seem to have that effect on people.

Then there was the big faux pas.  Up until that point – Houses One through Four – we had been Virtuous Buyers, never at fault when the deals fell through.  House Five, however, was the Big Fuck Up.  We came to an agreement on a house that had been on the market for a year.  No one wanted to buy it because it lacked a master suite and a lot of the charm had been snuffed out.  We would need to put on a master suite addition in order to ever sell the house again.  We were through inspections and seventeen seconds away from going under contract when J decided he just didn’t love the house enough to go through that kind of a major project.

OK, sixth verse, same as the first.

House Six was a smaller house, still in need of work, but at the low end of our price range.  Awesome.  I like spending less instead of spending more.  Except the owners have delusions of grandeur and think the house is worth 10% more than it actually is, which might be why it has been on the market for over a year.  So, no deal.

Then came House Seven.  I wandered off to an open house down the street from where we are living now.  The house was 15% over our price range, but I just wanted to see it.

This one was a giant ranch house.  We are not, as a rule, big ranch house people.  This ranch, however, is stunning.  Perfect floors, master suite, office for me, rooms for the kids away from the main living area, giant finished cellar, brand new kitchen with an eat-in sunroom.  The works.  This house had me at “hello.”  As I turned to tell the listing agent that I’d send my husband back to take a look, I happened to glance up and see it.

A model train running along the ceiling, going through the kitchen, sunroom, and laundry room.

So, we put in an offer.  There was already another offer on the table, a very, very low offer.  We figured maybe we had a chance if we came in with only a very low offer.  I wrote an impassioned letter, and our agent put the model train as an inclusion.

Well, today we found out that they accepted our offer.  There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the house, so hopefully we will pass inspections.  The house is too new for knob and tube wiring.  Barring termite eaten beams, seller cold-feet, or a typhoon that engulfs the entire town, we might actually have a chance of fixing a closing date.

A girl can always hope.

In case you were wondering

We are no longer under contract.  The seller wouldn’t fix the knob and tube wiring.

I would write more about it, really I would, if it didn’t make me so tired to think about it.  And then I feel horrible and selfish for being upset, because we are lucky to have the means to buy a house and there are plenty of people with bigger problems than not being able to find a house to buy.

You know, like say the homeless.

Anyway, we’re back around to where we started, which is nowhere.  I think we may just pitch a tent in the woods and be done with it.  That’s all well and good except that this area has a substantial black bear population.