The writer is sports editor and associate news editor of Spotlight Newspapers. This is a follow-up to his house search column from our Real Estate Guide issue.
I became a homeowner this week.
Closing took place Tuesday. All the documents were signed. The down payment has been made. The keys were handed over to my fiancée, Sherry, and me.
Getting to this point wasn’t quite as painful as I feared. There were very few surprises, and the ones we did have were not as bad as they could have been.
Let me go back to where I left off in March. At that point, Sherry and I had found a house in Schenectady we both liked. It was in a good location relative to where we both work, and it had some nice amenities such as an updated kitchen, a dining room with hardwood floors and built-in cabinets and a backyard with a deck. It was also within my $100,000 price range, but it was at the very top of it.
When the time came to place our first offer, my real estate agent Carl told me the fair market value was in the mid-$80,000 range – nearly $15,000 lower than the seller’s asking price. He suggested we come in at $82,000, which made me cringe a bit because I didn’t know if the seller would take us seriously with such a low offer. He also told me that we should be willing to walk away if we couldn’t get the seller to lower his price close to fair market value, which made me more nervous. It had taken nearly two months of searching to find this house, and I wasn’t willing to let this one slip away. Not without a fight, at least.
Still, I took Carl’s advice, and we came in with our $82,000 offer. Much to my relief, the seller countered with $95,000, which was a modest drop from where we started. He was willing to negotiate. How much he was willing to negotiate was the big question.
Carl suggested we counter with $87,000, which was a bit above what he quoted me as being fair market value. I went along with it and crossed my fingers. One day later, Carl called me with good news: the seller countered with $88,000 including covering the closing costs.
For a brief moment, I thought about trying to get the seller to agree to $87,500, but that would have been splitting hairs. I gladly accepted the counter offer.
Of course, accepting an offer is only the second step along the way to buying a house. We needed to get the house appraised by my mortgage lender and get it inspected for structural and pest issues. We went with the appraisal first, and my bank approved the purchase price. Another hurdle cleared.
The inspection was next. Now, I had taken the liberty of bringing a contractor friend of mine to the house before I placed an offer so he could tell me what condition the house was in. He immediately found some issues with the exterior of the house including some potential mold on the second story siding, but his overall observation was it was in good shape. He said a complete gutter system would take care of that, though. So when inspection day came, I already had my mental list of things that I knew needed to be addressed.
On inspection day, I also took the occasion to bring in another friend of mine who specializes in chimney maintenance. While the inspector and a pest control specialist toured the house, my friend looked at the chimney and saw it needed some work including a new liner and a cap. It turned out to be the only major repair needed for the house and one of only two surprises we came across. The other was we needed to fix some electrical issues – substandard wiring in the circuit breaker box, some ungrounded outlets in the upstairs bedrooms and a new outlet for the washer and dryer.
Still, those discoveries didn’t dissuade me from moving forward with the purchase. The house may have had several issues, but every house does. Even newly constructed houses can have problems if not done properly.
It still took about six weeks to go from agreeing on a purchase price to reaching the closing date. But now that the day has finally come and gone, I can safely say it went more smoothly than I thought it might. Sherry and I avoided every pitfall that could have stalled the sale, and now we have a house to call our own.
I’m going to enjoy that back deck. A lot.