The Short Sale

Background Information:

Before they decided to put in an offer on the Ladybug House, D and L were negotiating for the purchase of a large 1900s farmhouse. Lynne had halcyon dreams of making it look something like this.

The farmhouse had a very tight turnaround time for closing. We learned later that it was because the owner was facing foreclosure.

We backed out of the sale during the inspection period: a little something about allegedly high arsenic levels in the drinking water and the main house perhaps slipping off its foundation and potentially sliding down the hill. Graffiti in the basement and garage also gave L concern that the property may have been used as a meth lab while unoccupied.

Dejected, D and L looked at other houses in their modest price range. These also looked like meth labs. D then tried to convinced L to make an offer on the very first house they looked at -- before they fell in love with the fated farmhouse -- the Ladybug House. L balked. She reminded D that she walked in and out of the house in less than 5 minutes during the showing. She pointed out the dated and tired kitchen, the crumbling main bath. D argued that anything in our price range would be a fixer-upper and that he "knew a lot about home repair." He told L that their options were limited and that he had confidence that L could turn it into a jewel box. L was both flattered and convinced.

Our offer was submitted along with someone else's. It was at that point we learned that the property, which had recently dropped in price, was now a short sale. The Realtor apologized. L had heard some horror stories about short sale transactions and knew that laws governing short sales had recently changed. She was supremely confident that, as an attorney, none of the problems asspociated with short sales would occur on her watch. She was wrong.

We asked the sellers to keep up with the lawn care. They didn't. The water heater failed right before closing and the sellers told us they didn't have the money to fix it. The bank lost the sellers' paperwork on multiple occasions, pushing us back to square one. L sweated out the inspections. She ran the numbers again and again and again, to guess whether the bank would approve the low offer or require more money. And so on....

Shameless Pre-Sale Acquisition:

Before the farmhouse deal fell through and anticipating a quick move to the country, Lynne didn't hesitate to purchase a 1930s waterfall dresser and mirror at a nearby thrift shop, for a planned guest bedroom. While waiting for the bank to finally get their short sale paperwork straight on the Ladybug House, this behemoth blocked TWO doorways in their apartment for five months:

Choosing A Design Style:

Lynne spent a lot of time with decorating books, design web sites (especially Houzz), and Pinterest trying to figure out how to make the fixer-upper their own:

Stage One: Global Eclectic

Pros: Lynne already had a lot of appropriate furnishings from her travels. Lots of unique "eye candy."

Cons: Too much like her last house.. with a previous husband. Lynne wanted to make new memories with Darren. Also, the style doesn't complement a split-level architecture.

Stage Two: Post-Modern Contemporary Minimalist

Pros: Clean and light. easy to keep clean.

Cons: Too sterile and unfriendly. No "personality." Both Lynne and Darren prefer darker woods. Lynne likes to shop too much... she couldn't keep anything that stark and "empty".

Stage Three: Mid-Century Organic Modern

Pros: Neutral colors. Earth-friendly.

Cons: Others can find the color scheme, well.. "scatological". Lynne was too attached to belongings that didn't fit this style.

Stage Four: Pure 1970s Fab Thrift Store Chic

Pros: Low cost. Full of personality. Can mix in existing furnishings.

Cons: Lots of washing and disinfecting can be involved. Could look like the opening shot of an episode of "Hoarders", if not done well.

Now: Global Eclectic/Organic Modern/1970s Thrift Store Chic

Pros: Best of all worlds. Good for someone like Lynne who takes "This looks JUST like Pottery Barn" as an insult.

Cons: Hit-or-miss availability; takes longer to fill house. When you see something you like, you have to buy it on the spot or it'll be gone.

Escrow and Closing:

After some false starts (and a five-month wait!), escrow and closing went smoothly. Lynne and Darren aren't sure they'd recommend the short sale process to others. But for them, it was the only way they could get into the neighborhood they wanted, at a fair price, while interest rates were still rock-bottom.

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