A month ago I posted that I’d made an offer on a house, and that the offer had been accepted. I’d hoped that by now, we would have closed escrow and the house would be mine. Alas, it was not to be. There were several issues, but ultimately it came down to the roof (photo above). When I offered on the house, I knew it needed a new roof. So, I thought to myself, “I’ll buy the house, and put on a new roof.” If only it were that simple. Everything seemed to be going pretty well until my mortgage broker drove by to take a look. Her conclusion was she didn’t think the underwriters would approve a loan for a house with a roof in such poor condition. So, there I was, in a catch-22. I couldn’t buy the house until it had a new roof, and I couldn’t put on a new roof until I owned the house. She feared that if we took the next step of ordering an appraisal, I would only be throwing away the $550 appraisal fee.
My mortgage broker’s take is that five or six years ago if you were breathing, you’d get a loan, and if the house was standing, it would appraise for the selling price. But today, the pendulum has swung far in the other direction. Today, every “i” must be dotted and every “t” crossed, and then every “i” dotted and “t” crossed all over again for good measure–and it still might not pass underwriting! A further irony is that Wells Fargo was both the seller and the intended originator of the loan, so when I had to walk away, they lost on both ends of the deal. But what do they care? They’re making tons of money elsewhere. It appears that only someone who can pay cash will be able to buy this house. In other words, an investor who will rent it out, resulting in another house occupied by a renter, rather than by an owner–not good for a community which badly needs more owner-occupied homes.
But the upside is, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that the world of real estate is now an inscrutable, alternate reality. Who can figure it out? Little is transparent. Nobody admits to knowing why offers are rejected or accepted, and the rules seem to be quickly changing. It’s like trying to play poker without knowing ahead of time what will trump what. I’ve also learned not to be a romantic, not to fall in love with a house. Yes, a house may be cute, and have the potential to be drop-dead charming, but I’ve learned to take very seriously the condition of the foundation, roof, windows, plumbing and wiring.
And so, older but slightly wiser, I trundle on. I’m lucky that I don’t have to move. I’m living in a lovely rental where I’m happy. I can take my time, but it’s still true that I’d rather be paying on a mortgage than paying rent. A few minutes after bowing out of one deal, I made an offer on another house. It seems that a house I’d previously offered on had just come back on the market (who knows why–that, like so much else in this industry is not disclosed). So I put in an offer once more. This house (see below) has no obvious issues, but it is 80-years old and unknown what a home inspection might reveal, were my offer to be accepted.
Something else I’ve learned? To live with uncertainty. Buying a house is so not for sissies. Wish me well!
Update: (February 29th) My offer on the house below has been accepted. It is now in escrow, and set to close by midApril, and hopefully earlier. We shall see if this one works out!