Monday, November 24, 2014

House Acquisition, Part III

In the first part, we found a house that was awesome then decided it was unawesome.

In the second part, we looked a bunch of houses we didn't want.

In the third part, we... oh, this is the third, and final, part. Carry on.

It was rainy and gross the morning we arrived to tour the old-lady-driven house. Upon entering the house there was a sense of relief: there was nothing immediately wrong with it! Nothing appeared to be sinking, it didn't smell bad, and nothing was falling apart. It seemed a bit old, but that's because the house was old and was filled with cat ornaments, crosses, and yellowing family photos from 30 years ago. You could tell the house was well loved and well cared for and the family selling it put in a lot of effort in making sure it was clean and presentable. The flooring was primarily carpet, which felt so soft and spongy on the feet compared to laminate and hard wood flooring.

The upstairs had two good sized bedrooms, one small one, lots of carpet, and a hilariously dated bathroom.

Success! There was nothing wrong with the house! It had a backyard! A shed! A deck!

We arranged to put in our offer at a slightly reduced price and a closing date five weeks away at the end of July. Within 24 hours we received a phone call from our realtor saying our offer had been accepted, but the sellers wanted a closing date of August 29. I was slightly disappointed to miss out on a month of backyard usage, but it wasn't worth it to say no and then try to find another place. We contacted a home inspector who would come in the following week and do a thorough walk through of the house. We also called an insurance company who would send someone to check out a few things.

The home inspector was incredibly thorough and, thankfully, didn't unearth any major concerns! He had suggestions of things we should watch for in the coming years but nothing that needed to be addressed immediately with the exception of the oil tank. New regulations had been implemented and outdoor oil tanks now have to be fiber glass in order to be insurable.

Is a home inspection necessary when purchasing a home? No.  Is it a good idea? Most likely. In our case the inspector found a couple of things that we addressed in a modified offer to the home owners. Even if a home inspector doesn't find anything it's nice to have advanced notice of things to watch for. If the home inspector does find something of major concern he/she might be saving you a significant deal of stress in the future.

Once the home inspection was completed we were able to modify our offer based on what we had learned. In our case, the oil tank had to be replaced. This didn't put us at a disadvantage in terms of our offer being rejected as it would need to be replaced regardless of who would purchase the home. We also requested the electrical panel be improved and for $500 off the agreed purchase place which would be used to.... something something chimney. I actually forgot about our chimney issue until now, and apparently can't quite remember what about it wasn't ideal. Too narrow for Santa? Tipping over? Dirty? Picky eater?

In this case we gave the owners more than 24 hours to respond as it was over the holiday weekend and they need time to contact an electrician. I really didn't expect them to agree to all three items, but they did! Apparently our realtor hooked them up with a discount on an oil tank, which saved them enough money to agree to everything.

Next up: one more visit with the insurance person as he needed to inspect the new oil tank. The owners were home on this visit, sitting in the yard and enjoying the sunny day. I felt a little sad for them that they were moving. We later learned from the neighbours that one of the owners was having some health issues and just wasn't up to maintaining a home for another winter. As a result of the previous winter's awfulness, they decided to move into an apartment. It was sooner than they had been planning but seemed like the right thing to do. The couple was lovely. They had lived in the home for about 40 years and asked if we were planning on doing any renovations. I could had rambled on about our long-term vision for the house, but we didn't really have one beyond updating the kitchen, getting a dryer, and adding a shower. It didn't seem right to tell them what was outdated in their house because it really doesn't matter and reflects personal taste. I complimented them (very sincerely as it was true) on the condition of their home and how well it had been looked after, and they seemed pleased. They offered us some things they couldn't take and that their family didn't need: some gardening tools, leftover paint, etc. It was very kind of them and they seemed pleased that a nice couple was purchasing in their home. In retrospect, it was probably similar to when they purchased the home in their mid 20s.

Six weeks later our closing date arrived and we did the final walk through of the home before going to the lawyer's office. The house was so clean, it'll probably never be that clean again. They really went above and beyond preparing their home for us. I actually feel guilty that we somehow have a stain on the carpet already and that Michu has tracked poop onto the kitchen floor. Sorry!

Moving from one side of town to the other is, surprise, incredibly different than moving to a new country with only your backpack and carry-on bag. It felt like we had so much stuff to move. However, thanks to a small army of awesome people, it took just under two hours to fill the u-haul, drive the so long 10 minutes across town, and shove everything into the house. This included an elaborate struggle trying to shove a queen-size box spring up the narrow stairs on an old home. (Tip: just take the front door off, it makes everything easier.)

And voila! We now live in a house. And it's pretty awesome. It's the little things I appreciate, like having natural light in the kitchen, lots of windows, a deck (!!!), a shed, not having to carry groceries in through security doors and having to constantly unlock the door for each load. It's wonderful to still be within walking distance of many things, and although we never received a noise complaint in our apartment building, it's still nice to be way less paranoid when having people over in the evening/into the night.

A few comments on the whole house buying experience.

Unexpected Costs
Beyond the price of the house, expect to pay for a home inspection (around $450), lawyer fees ($1200), a tank of oil ($900), and $35 on your cell phone for going over your daytime minutes allotment in lawyer and realtor calls. (Also an unexpected cost of being unemployed since you no longer have access to a free-to-you landline at work.)

Charlottetown Real Estate Market
Thank goodness for living in a have-not province!

Not really, but real estate in Charlottetown and all of PEI is much more affordable than it is in major cities. Home ownership will never be obtainable for everyone, but it is certainly much more obtainable here than in many other places. It's probably the only thing that holds up in the "You get paid less because the cost of living is less there," argument (which is a whole other conversation of PEI actually not having a low cost of living compared to its wages).

The market in PEI has also been a buyers' market for quite awhile. Of course, the excellent places will get snatched up quickly andI have no doubt our house would had sold easily if we hadn't jumped in quickly), but you really can't slack and try to get more than what your house is worth. We looked at homes that were much more expensive than the one we purchased and although they were bigger, they weren't in very good condition and were on smaller properties.

Necessity of a Realtor
You probably don't need a realtor to buy a house. I'm glad we had one since we hadn't gone through this experience before but I wouldn't hesitate to try and sell or buy through a private sale. If it doesn't seem to be working out, you can always take on a realtor at that point.

Realtors are useful in that they know the other realtors and have relationships with them and they will likely know a bit more background on the home, but it's actually the lawyer who does the transaction, checks the deeds, etc. However, I did appreciate having a realtor and they definitely work hard in making themselves available at all hours of the days, including weekends and evenings.

Kitty Approved!
Because I'm sure you are wondering, Michu loves the new house. He thinks the basement is amazing, the carpet has helped him increase his average sprinting speed, and the stairs are defining his leg muscles in ways he has never dreamed! All the windows are lovely and the dog next door provides minutes (hours!) of entertainment. And the horse and carriage rides that pass multiple times per day during cruise ship season? Amazing.

Big Blue Smurf Shack is Michu Butterkins approved.

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