Wednesday, February 8, 2012

April 2010 Part 4

While a full-price offer on your first home was the norm just a few years ago it quickly grew out of fashion by the time we were ready to purchase a home. At the beginning of 2009 one could expect their home to sell for an accepted offer price of about 5-10% less than they originally offered it for (though that came as a combination of both price reductions and low offers). Our full price offer was bold, immediate, and was intended to get the remainder of the competition our of our way and provide us with the house we wanted without having to wonder about real estate agents' secrets, problems with the home, coming in too low with an offer, etc.

The news we received back was less than stellar. Though we were the highest offer they received (yes, they received multiple offers that day and took the house off the market less than 48 hours after it had been posted), the sellers weren't apparently ready to sell their home.

Stick with me here.

When you put your home up for sale, I'm pretty sure that means you should be ready to sell your home; you should have investigated whether you can afford a different place, where you are going to live in the interim if you don't have another home secured yet, and should have your finances in order. The home's sellers had none of this figured out ahead of time, and so when it came time for our offer to be accepted they included more than a few stipulations, including a week-long waiting period in which we, the potential buyers, were at their mercy, waiting to hear back on whether of not they would be approved by a credit union and their bank for a larger amount of money to move into a new home. Apparently the growing family was breaching the bounds of the small(ish) home (not surprising), but they hadn't bothered to check with any financial institutions or bothered to carefully observe their own finances prior to putting their home up for sale.

We were "bound" by the contractual offer, stating that if we wanted the home, we couldn't put in another offer and have one accepted, unless it was a short sale and needed to go through bank arbitration. So for an entire week we sat at the mercy of their banks, their finances and their timeline as we anxiously waited to hear back about the home, all the while other houses were put on the market and were accepting offers, ones that we could have purchased or looked at. It was a painstaking waiting game until finally...

We were informed they couldn't afford it. The house was being taken off the market not because we would soon be its new owners but because the family couldn't get any financing for a larger home, or for any new home for that matter. They were essentially stuck and had negated to check on whether or not they would be able to move out, prior to posting their home. Assumptions are a terrible thing, and while they were upset about not being able to move out of their home, they were certainly still gaining equity in their home and we were again left struggling to find a home to move into, as the expiration date for the tax credit crept ever closer and prices rose another 1-2% each week.

But the next weekend we conducted a house hunting campaign akin to shock and awe. We saw a home and immediately made a list of pros and cons and decided within 1/2 hour if we were interested in it or not; interested being we would draw up a full-price offer and put it in immediately or we weren't interested enough and we would walk away and never think about it again. Brutal and necessary.

One of the homes we looked at on their particular Saturday had all the makings of a "no" house, until we got inside. It was a newer home, which meant fewer things needed to be updated in it. It was essentially untouched on the inside--the two previous owners had left everything exactly how it was when the builder built it. It had a two-car underside garage, a 1/2 acre lot, and had an unfinished basement. While the backyard was nothing glorious to look at (it has a high tension powerline abatement running through the backyard and down the road in either direction), the interior of the house required the smallest amount of work (aside from painting) of any house we had seen before, including the aforementioned heartbreakers.

We immediately said no because of the large swath of powerlines, small visibility of the highway in the distance, and the price $250k, which was way outside of our budget. But our real estate agent assured us that this property was unique for those very reasons and would attract fewer buyers and would therefore be a home to more easily make a low offer on. We decided to trust our gut instincts after creating an extensive pro and con list, which included some research into living near powerlines.

What we discovered about purchasing a home next to power lines: We discovered that nothing has substantially been proven either way, but evidence suggests there could be long-term mental effects such as depression after living nearby for more than 20 years. While some cases referred to cancerous cells being created in children, the reality of the cause of the hysteria and questions regarding living near power lines are the same "sources" we are surrounded by everyday--the electromagnetic waves.

The amount of electromagnetic waves and "radiation" from working on a laptop for 8 hours is the same as living near powerlines for 8 hours. Cell phone usage is up to 20x as powerful (and we press those directly to our brains). Microwaves are up to 100x as potent (explaining why pregnant women should not stand near them). Living in a brick home carries with it about 1/2 the amount of electromagnetism and radioactivity as high tension powerlines. And to our surprise, many street powerlines are actually 3/4 as powerful, especially when they're carrying a power load to a large new development and the developer has neglected to place the lines underground.

It took me hours to amass the knowledge I needed to garner in order to make an informed and safe decision. The bottom line turned out to be that if you live a healthy lifestyle, avoid overexposure to additional electromagnetic and radioactive sources, and don't live in the home for longer than 15 years, your risks for any type of negative side effects or disease are negligible.

We put in an offer for $25k less than the sellers originally wanted for the property. It was a brazen and tactical move, designed to offer the sellers only a single alternative (work with us or face more months of uncertainty and most likely a deadened market post-tax credit). After some haggling, we agreed upon a price of $230,000, above what we had wanted to spend on a house, but an offer which nonetheless gave us a home. Finally.

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