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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

End of the (new) Road

Well, there's not much more we can do. The FHA approval process is not something you can speed up and Steve the Builder isn't going to wait for it to happen. (meanie).

We got a call back from Howard the Lawyer who talked John through some of the changes Steve the Builder made. We understood most of them, but there was one little thing that we overlooked that was a huge red flag to Howard. This is why we pay Howard the big bucks.  :)

In a standard P&S for new construction, there is a clause to protect the buyers in case of construction delay. This is especially important for us, since the house was supposed to be built throughout the winter. Obviously, there's always storms and bad weather and lots of things that could delay construction. In the P&S, it stated (not sure of the official language) that if there was a construction delay, it was not our responsibility and we wouldn't have to shell out any more money. Our new mortgage would have begun on  January 28, our original closing date. Without this special language clause, on January 28, we would have had to start paying for the new house whether it was built or not. Or, we would have had to go back to the bank and get a new mortgage based on the interest rates at that time, which we have no way of knowing what they would be. We could get into a position where we might need to get a new mortgage thanks to a delay from the builder and the interest rates could be so high, we might not qualify. The language in the P&S prohibits that from happening. Somehow...again, this is how Howard explained it and we believe him.

So, when we sent the P&S back to Howard for review, already knowing that we didn't like the date thing, the fact that Steve was going to release the hold on the lot, and that wouldn't agree to the holdback, we hadn't even seen the language that protects us from losing money in case of delay.

Know why we never saw it? Because Steve the Builder TOOK IT OUT. Just deleted it. Basically said, if I'm late, oh well, it's on you. If the house isn't done by Jan 28, too bad, you still have to pay for it.

Howard was really annoyed that he just deleted it and said that is NOT standard for new construction. What's the incentive for the house to be done on time? Nothing if you are already getting paid for it.

Howard's official response was, 'Wow, talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it too".

His legal advice was not to sign. We didn't. :(

John immediately emailed John the Agent who was on vacation with his lovely wife, Margot the Agent. They were scheduled to fly back from their trip to see their grandkids Tuesday. We got a call from John while they were waiting to board their flight! Talk about good customer service!

John told John the Agent all about what had happened (including that of the 3 people that came to see the condo last week, none had given any feedback) and that we were thinking we were done with the whole process. We had no choice thanks to the stupid FHA thing and the condo not selling. He understood, but seemed a little annoyed at Steve the Builder's actions. Clearly, this isn't our fault, we aren't doing anything wrong, we just became victims of the FHA process and mortgage crisis that still seems to be going on.

John the Agent is going to talk to Steve to see if he's willing to be a little nicer about this whole thing, and if he's not, if he'll honor our house plans if we just decide to wait until Phase 2, which should start construction sometime in late fall. They will be installing the sewer lines and clearing the new street first, then homes should be starting in early 2011 with a 4-6 month construction time. Who knows, though, the prices could go way up. We'll see what he says about that. And really, at this point, do we even WANT to wait another year??

Margot the Agent thinks we should keep the condo on the market just in case, but we're not sure we want it to sit for that long. She's supposed to be calling us today to talk about our options and give us an update on the FHA approval process. We are thinking about asking her about rent-to-own options, or just simply renting it out.

But, after all this hassle, we are seriously considering just taking it off the market, spending the next 4-6 months getting rid of car payments and student loans and starting our home search fresh after the holidays. Either with a totally new house, or maybe with Ridgewood's Phase 2. (Summit Street)

Maybe things will be a little easier, or they will be cheaper. I'm sure the FHA process will be completed by then.

Famous last words...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Slip-sliding away....

Is there a more depressing title for this entry? I don't think there could be. It's like there's 6 seconds left, we're down by 4 points. Our only hope is to hit the 3-pointer, get fouled, tie it up and redeem ourselved in overtime.


Here's the latest. Steve the Builder did not sign the altered P&S for the new house. If you remember, there were 3 issues.

1. The date. We are clearly not going to sell by our original deadline of July 12. So, we asked to extend until August 31.
2. The "hold-back". The bank will want fund leftover to finish the landscaping and driveway since the house is supposed to be done in December and they want it from us. We don't have $20K or so lying around, so we asked that it become the developers responsibility.
3. Our lot. We needed Steve to honor our deposit until the end of August.

How'd we do? Here's another sports reference. 0 for 3. Bottom of the 9th, two outs, down by 3, bases loaded...and it's a called 3rd strike.

I'll walk you through it slowly, so you can experience the disappointment with us.

1. The date. Steve did agree to honor our house plans until August 31st (small yay!) but....he will not hold the lot if someone wants to buy it and has no "must sell current home" contingency.  If someone comes in and says, "hey, lot 36 is great! We'd like that one please, oh and we have nothing to sell and here's our mortgage committment letter"...Steve can say OK. As a business person, I wouldn't blame him for taking the quick money. I will be very mad at him, but wouldn't blame him in this economy.

2. The "hold-back". Steve took this out of the P&S entirely. From his point of view, it's a punch list item and he has up to 1 year to finish it. Sounds like another small victory, right? Nope. The bank won't go for that. Banks think punch list items are small, like 'fill in that crack', fix the nail that's sticking out', 'tighten the faucet'. They don't consider paving a driveway, or landscaping a 1/3 of an acre lot as 'small items'. I kind of agree, while it annoys me to say so. If there's no mention of the tasks in the P&S, the bank won't OK the mortgage.

3. Our lot. Sadly, I covered what will happen to our lot over the next 6-8 weeks or so above. It's too painful to relive! :(

We are waiting to speak to Howard the Lawyer one more time to see if he has any advice for us. His home was also built by Steve the Builder (well, it was 20 years ago, so it was Steve the Builder's Dad) so he has gone through this before. Yes, times have changed, but at least he knows the company.

Consider the phone call to Howard the Lawyer as our last Hail Mary attempt to still build our lovely little house on Ridgewood.

I'll give you a little hope to get you through these extra innings. We had 2 people come take a look at the condo this week. While we are still not FHA approved, the process is still in the works, it's just going to take awhile.

The first guy loved it so much he had his agent call Margot the Agent and ask how quickly we could move. He wanted to know if we could say yes to a 30-day close. Ummm YES! That would actually give us a chance with Ridgewood. BARELY, but a chance (yes, we just sunk that 3-pointer and are waiting for the ref's whistle for the foul).  However, it's been since Monday and we've heard nothing. Tick-tock, tick-tock. We think he probably couldn't get decent funding...just like the other 2 couples that were close to (or actually writing) an offer.

The second couple liked it so much, they are coming back on Sunday. I just want to scream at them...GET YOUR FUNDING FIRST!!! You are getting our hopes up!!

We'll see. We have no doubts that people will like our place and want to buy it, it's just the funding that's crushing our dreams.

In the meantime, we panicked and did a little house hunting. We found a very pretty house that's not as new (built in 1998, which in house years, is very young. It's like a house baby) but about 300 sq ft bigger in a good neighborhood, in our price range. We decided we are going to take a look at it next week. Just in case. That way, if our place sells in the next 3-4 weeks (the QB drops back, there's an open man about 75 yards down the field....) but our lot has been sold (and he drops the ball!), we have a back up plan (but wait, there are flags on the field!)

Who knows, after all this hassle with builders, P&S forms, lawyers, lots, houseplans...we might just like the new house better. It's already standing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A mix of good and bad news

We had a lot of 'real estate' activity this weekend, some good, some bad.

Let's start with the fun, good news. We were invited to a block BBQ in our new neighborhood! How nice, we barely even own the pile of dirt that's annoying all the neighbors and they wanted to meet us! Sounds like they all have confidence we'll sell the condo and move right in by February. Little do they know...

Unfortunately, we couldn't go, we had a million things going on that day. But it was nice to be invited!

Another happy note, someone wanted to come see our place this morning while we were at work. Our agent told us it was someone looking at multiple properties. We're really hoping it's an investor-type that wants to buy our place and rent it out because there's a better chance they will have the money to put down. I haven't heard from the agent yet, so I'm not sure they liked it.

Also, Margot the Agent finally got through to someone at Fafard and was able to start collecting the information to get our place FHA approved. It turns out, instead of unit by unit, you have to do the whole complex, so thanks to us, the rest of the place will be approved and everyone will have an easier time selling!

Did you think there would be no bad news??

Sorry, there is.

The FHA approval doesn't just take 4 weeks. Margot found out that Fafard has another complex in another town trying to be approved right now. It's been 2 months and they have heard nothing. FHA is totally bogged down with applications and it's really slow. She's starting the process now and we might be lucky to have it approved by September. :(  We were able to get some more time on our P&S for the new house...but only until August 31. We need a miracle! Margot is looking at other programs that allow buyers to have less than 20% down to hopefully be able to adverstise them and bring more people in.

We also haven't heard anything from Steve the Builder about our new P&S with the wording about the 'hold-back' and the date change. So we don't even know if he's going to sign it at all.  Lately, our biggest worry has been getting rid of the condo, but if Steve doesn't agree to the new date and new wording, it doesn't even matter if we don't sell the condo! :(

Way too many bumps in this road. We didn't think it would be totally smooth, but this is a bit out of control. There are so many things happening (or not happening) that we have no control over, didn't do anything to deserve and can't help.  


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bumps, bumps and more bumps

AAAAAAAAAAAA Fafard. We hate you. If anyone out there is considering buying a Fafard built home, don't. (I know there are SO many people that read this...)

I won't even get into the issues we've had with our place since we moved in but now Fafard is biting us in the butt even as we're trying to leave! Come on, what did we ever do to you??

As you know, we've been getting some interest in our place, and rumor had it that an offer was coming in, and possibly even two! Last week, Margot the Agent got a funny call from a mortgage broker about our place. This was the broker that was trying to write an offer for a couple, while we were having another couple take a second look at our house. Our first thought was, awesome...bidding war!! But no.

Turns out...FAFARD (jerk) just didn't bother to get our unit FHA approved. Which means....Unless you have 20% to put down, you can't buy the place. Well, you can, but you get a crazy high interest rate. Who wants that??

NO ONE! Know how we know? Because the offer was pulled off the table before we even saw it, the second-look couple bailed and a third couple that was coming for their first time cancelled on us, too.

This is a disaster. If you just happen to have about $50K lying around, you aren't going to buy a crappy little condo. You're going to find an FHA approved house that's twice the size, and move in there.

Luckily, we can apply to be FHA approved, but it can take awhile. Margot the Agent is on it! She's going to apply and thinks we can get approved in a few weeks. She also told us that the rumor around real estate land, is that no one gets a good deal at America Blvd. Fantastic.

My thought is to pull the condo off the market and wait until we are FHA approved. Then, relist but with BIG BOLD LETTERS that say right up at the top "FHA APPROVED!!!"  Maybe that will help us.

We also hit 2 potential snags on the new home front. We got our Purchase and Sale agreement and sent it off to our lawyer...who coincidentally, owned a Farfard condo and sold it as fast as he could because he HATED it, and bought a Richmond Development house (Steve the Builder owns Richmond Development) and LOVES it. Howard the Lawyer was very pleased to help us follow his path in home ownership.

Anyway, Howard the Lawyer noticed some odd wording in the P&S. Something about 'hold-backs'. Since our new home is going to be done in January, we won't have a driveway or lawn yet. Neither of those can be done in the cold (freezing) weather, so it's in the contract that they will finish in the spring. But...according to Howard, if there's a 'hold-back' the bank will want the value of that 'hold-back' available. So if you assume a full driveway and landscaping costs about $20K, the bank expects there to be $20K available....FROM THE BUYER. Us. hmmm. Definitely won't have an extra $20K lying around. I guess this is to protect the building in case we default on the mortgage before we get the work done.

Howard is going to reword it, so the 'hold-back' is the responsibility of the builder. John the Agent is unsure if Steve the Builder will sign that. So we might have to either find 20K somewhere (right, like I just left it under the couch or something) or push the closing back to spring so it's all done at once. Annoying!

There is also a rumor floating around that Steve won't sign a P&S with a contingency plan. Ours would be contingent upon sale of the condo. John doesn't think Steve will go for that. But...we met with Steve and told him our entire situation and never ONCE did he say there would be a problem with a P&S if we weren't quite sold yet. We'll be pretty angry if suddenly now he says no.

Lots of issues coming up! Geez.  We didn't think this would be easy but still, this is a bit ridiculous!

Really, I blame the whole thing on Fafard.

Friday, June 11, 2010

An update

Here's an update for you....there's no update. No offer, nothing about it, no reasons for the delay, we don't even know if they are still going to make an offer. Supposedly, they had to go to their bank and get pre-approved before they made the offer. We were told they were already pre-approved, but not for whatever it is they were going to offer, so they had to go back to the bank.

It doesn't take 4 days to go back to the bank and ask if they'll approve you for a little more money. All we can think is that they did it, and the bank said no.

We have heard nothing from them, and Margot the Agent is pretty frustrated, too. She doesn't know what's going on and doesn't know why we are having a hard time. She was sure we'd have an offer by now.

Yuck. This unknown is the worst.

John did some research and found that mortgage applications have dropped significantly in the last month, mostly due to the first time home buyers tax credit the government offered in early 2010. That's over, so there's little incentive to buy now.

He also read that we are set for the second dip of this recession that's eating away at our savings, 401ks and home values. It's like a big 'W' he said. We went WAY down, and then came back up a little. Now, we're going to dip back down a little before the economy really turns around. That's not good, home sales are already low enough, we don't want them to go lower!

We're just going to have to leave the condo on the market, hope for more traffic and continue to save and save and save. And keep the place clean! At least we're teaching Kyle how to put his toys away now!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The waiting begins...

After our listing went public, we had some great responses! So far, 6 couples have come in to see our place. Not bad for only having been on the market for 5 days or so! The amount of viewings was encouraging, it reinforced that we priced the place well, decorated well, and advertised well. All those things are drawing people in and now we just have to wait for an offer.

And that's what we are doing. Waiting for an OFFER! Yep, that means there's one coming.
There were 2 couples that expressed real interest this weekend. One wasn't 'readable' according to Margot the Agent, and 3 other either didn't like the layout, or wanted more space (helloooo? There were pictures on line and the exact square footage... were you expecting something different? Why bother to come out if you knew you wanted a different layout or more space? stupid)

Anyway, we had a couple come in to our Open House on Sunday and love the place. I got a call yesterday from Margot and said she heard an offer was being put together. This was an indepentent couple (no agent) so she asked one of the agents in her office to handle the buyer side. Technically, she can do both, but it's tough and she prefers not to. She said that the new agent was going to get in touch with the couple and start working on an offer.

We got this great news later yesterday afternoon. Margot didn't think it would happen that afternoon (it would have been about a 30 minute turn-around and that's fast!) so we should expect something later today.

It's later today. I don't have anything...

Patience is not easy in the real estate market! I'm sure there are a million reasons why we have nothing solid yet, but that doesn't make us feel any better!

Let's go, people!

Margot held an agent open house today during the day for agents to come see the place and get to know it before they start showing it. This is good. In case this offer doesn't end up coming, we've had agents running through the place all day who are no doubt just itching to get people in to our adorable place!

Even if this first offer doesn't happen, or isn't what we want, at least we know 3 things:

1. Someone liked our place enough to buy it. Which means others will, too.
2. Our pricing was not totally off the wall. It wasn't so high that no one wanted to even try.
3. All of our decorating, cleaning, straightening, organizing, neatening, keeping-the-toys-put-away efforts are worth it.

Good news!

Now why isn't my phone ringing!??!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

We're listed!

Our condo is officially on the market. Sad and scary and exciting all at once. It's very weird to see pictures of your own home on all these real estate websites. (Especially because right now, it's cleaner than it's EVER been!)


Please feel free to put a nice generous offer on it. Thanks.

We have showings available on Saturday morning and an Open House on Sunday. We're really hoping for a call from Margot the Agent to tell us that people are lining up to see the place!

Now we just have to wait. Which neither one of us is very good at....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

January 28th, 2011

If all goes well, this will be MOVING DAY!!! I'm sure it will be cold, snowy, miserable and totally awesome.  On this day, we will officially be residents of 15 Ridgewood Street. FOREVER! We're not doing this again! :)

We recieved the official P&S from Steve the Builder this morning. We have until June 25th to submit our mortgage application and then July 12th for the mortgage contingency. Don't ask me to explain. All I know is that by June 25th TDBank has to say "yes, you can buy this house for this amount" and it's all due July 12th. I think...John is getting a lawyer to look at it and then we'll get to signing!

Meanwhile...Margot the Agent is at our condo now taking pictures for the official condo listing. Should be live today! We'll have our first showings on Saturday and an Open House on Sunday. Everyone cross all your fingers for us!

Last night we cleaned up and de-personalized and got our house ready for random strangers to walk around, poke things, open and close things and judge everything we've done to the place. Sounds fun.

Whatever, it just takes one person to want to buy it! Margot is confident about our sale ability considering the upgrades we made and opted for in 2006 when we bought the place, but we're still in need of some serious luck on the price. It's not "will it sell" as much as it's "will it sell for the price we need". Lots of stressful showings, I'm sure.

The best part about the P&S from Steve the Builder is the renderings that came with it. Similar to the original plans I posted in May, but this includes the changes we made. Here's the house from the front:

Very cute. You can see the dormer window we added over the garage now. We have no idea what color anything will be yet, but we won't have to worry about that for awhile. You can also see the pop-out window on the front right. This will be a very cute little window seat in our study.  You can also see (barely) on the side, the chimney is sided to match the house. This is for our fireplace which was originally on the back of the house.

Here's a view of the first floor:

This shows the knee wall we added to the kitchen in between the living room and eating area, the french doors we added to the entrance to the study, the double windows we added on the back of the living room (where the fireplace used to be) and the movement of the fireplace from the back to the side wall.

It also shows the new mudroom off the garage, and the extra door off the mudroom onto the deck. Looking good!

Here's the upstairs:

There weren't too many changes upstairs, just the windows over the garage, and the addition of a closet in the laundry room. We kept most of the upstairs about the same.
So that's it! Hopefully in a few short months, I'll be able to start posting pictures of actual house, not just drawings.

Now, we just have to wait for some lucky person to come along and buy our condo. Soon!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dirt pile update!

Good news, the dirt is being moved! See how much smaller our pile is getting? Thanks bulldozer-thing, or big digger, or maybe it's a backhoe?  I need to read up on my construction terms throughout this process!  We stopped by the new house this weekend to check out the movement. John the Agent told us the dirt was getting moved around so we wanted to see for ourselves.



Kyle was extremely excited to see the big truck there. Big Tuck. We didn't get out and he was a bit disappointed in that, but we had already been in the car for almost an hour having come back from the Beach House for the official start of summer!

We did ask Kyle if he wanted to take a trip by our new house on the way home. "Boo How?" he said. Yes, Kyle, this is going to be our boo how.

Margot (John the Agent's wife) is coming to our condo tonight to list it. She's our listing agent for the condo, keeping it in the family! We will have an open house on Sunday and hope to get some good visitors and maybe even an offer or two. Money is tight thanks to the market, so we need offers close to or at our asking price (which we don't think is unreasonable considering it's so much less than what we paid. boooo).

We will be crossing our fingers all week for some interested people!