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"I Thought This Was Supposed to be a Buyer's Market?"

The author of this submission isn't sure whether or not he's lived a 'horror'. The story has a happy ending, but tells of an agonized home buying journey and the unseen hazards of a short sale. Horror? Decide as you like.

The wife and I didn't really have a horror story experience as first-time home buyers last year; it was more like agonizingly drawn-out, will they/won't they, "I thought this was supposed to be a buyer's market" drama for about a year. We had just found an agent we thought we could work with (Morgan Sage w/Keller Williams, she's great, free plug!) when I found out I was going to get laid off back in August of 2009. By the fall of 2010 I had been at my new job for long enough to get back into the market and start really looking. We started looking right before Christmas in time for the first really cold and snowy days of the winter. Eventually we found a duplex we liked enough to put an offer in on and start negotiating. Even after looking at comps and hitting our max offer, we were still more than $15k apart so we walked away. Walking away hurt, but seeing as how the place is still on the market (HA!), it wasn't the end of the world.

That part of the process repeated itself a few more times before we found our current home. We were $5k apart on place in Lincoln Park, couldn't do it. Had someone beat us to the punch on a short-sale offer even though we went in at list-price and they were a few thousand under. I think there were a few more places. Then in March
we saw the one. All the amenities we were looking for, great neighborhood, in our budget. The only thing making us nervous was that it was another short-sale.

We were right to be nervous. Our initial offer was accepted, but the sellers had to convince their bank to say yes. Weeks turned into months as we didn't hear anything, and didn't see anything else on the market to talk us out of what we had come to think of as "our home." When we finally heard back that we were a go, the sellers added an
amendment to the contract to keep possession after closing as they looked to move. Some legal jujitsu and that was a no-go. We couldn't get a firm answer on when we were closing anyway, so there was no way we were letting someone stay after the paperwork was signed.

We were 3 months into the short-sale with the inspection (no major issues) and appraisal both done when we finally sat down to close. Of course, there was an outstanding bill due on the unit that almost stopped the deal at the table when the seller's bank found out. "A little paperwork" turned into 5 hours at the title company while the sellers' attorney faxed back and forth to the bank promising to pay the bill as soon as we were through to keep them on-board with the sale. I'm still shocked we actually left with the keys that day. After submitting an offer in March, we finally walked into our first home in June. And I could bitch about the shape the sellers left the place in, but as a short-sale we knew what to expect. There weren't any boot holes in the walls at least. It took a few months but we've rounded the place into shape and couldn't be happier with how things turned out. Like I said, not quite a horror story but know what you're getting into when it comes to a short sale.

Addendum:

Even though we spent a few hours longer than expected at closing, once we were handed the keys we took a few loads of boxes over that night after showing the dog the new, empty home we owned. The next day we had movers coming but we got up to make a few quick runs beforehand. Halfway there on the first run, a terrible rattling noise had us turning onto a side street to make sure that noise was ours. It was, and faced with the choice to turn around or proceed, we kept going. Oops. We were two blocks from the new home when the Rav shuddered and stopped, completely dead in the left-turn lane on Lawrence.

I hopped out and the wife took the wheel to steer as I pushed the car through the intersection. Thankfully someone walking by ran out to help and we were able to get it to the curb out of the way. We literally carried the car load of stuff we had packed the last two blocks into our condo. I got to ride with the tow truck driver back to the old neighborhood while the wife stayed at the new place. The auto shop was close enough for me to walk to our old place and get ready for the movers. Not the plan we had had in mind, but it all got done eventually. We like our new car, but we love our home. —Jeremy J.