House hunting and house selling, and here's where we are

It's hard to write this, since I usually try to stay pretty positive on this blog! But, for those of you who're interested in homes and buying and selling, here's our story.

We’ve spend the past few months planning on selling our townhouse and moving into a fixer-upper—either a small ranch-type house or a split level with a basement we could rent out to my brother-in-law or someone else. (You can read more about our plans here.) It’s been an ambitious but feasible plan. Once we kicked things off and listed our home in August, though, it has not been smooth sailing. 

By the way, our goals were threefold: 1, have a yard for chickens, bees, and a dog. 2, be closer to our families... although we're not too far now. 3, save money either through a cheap house with a huge down payment from our profit selling this place, or through a home with a rental unit potential in the basement.

But, our plans didn't work out the way we were imagining. We've been stressed about it, and recently, I've been kind of depressed, so not sharing a lot about what's been going on. But now we've reached the end (for now) and I'm happy to share our story!

Our house-selling/buying story!


1. We started looking for a new place late last spring. We met with our realtor (Claudia Pobanz, highly recommend her) and talked about what we wanted. I set up search alerts and checked my Redfin app constantly. It was so exciting to think about having a new place! Hopefully one we could make our own with fresh paint, new flooring, and updated lighting. We really wanted a yard, too.

But we weren't ready to list our home yet. We had a lot going on with busy summer things and husband's school. I was anxious to get going, thinking the perfect house could come up at any moment and we'd better sell ours do we were in a position to buy!, but we realized we had to wait till early August when husband's school term was over.

2. We found a home we loved. We well cared-for but not cosmetically updated split level, a one-owner home with tilled backyard for gardening and corner lot. We got the offer papers ready, but first had to have an accepted offer on our home. We waited a few days, till a Thursday, to list. We budgeted, assuming a good sales price for our home and slight discount from the listing price of the split level (it has been on the market quite a while with no offers). We picked out flooring and I made a spreadsheet of expenses for updating it and getting the basement ready to rent.

3. We listed our house. People toured it. We got a full price offer after two days in the market and accepted it.

4. We made an offer on the split level we wanted. But after all those months of it sitting with no offers, someone else made an offer days before ours--and theirs wasn't contingent on the sale of a home. The sellers chose the other offer.

5. We were very sad. We knew we were closing on our place in a month or so, so we had to find somewhere to live! None of the smaller ranch houses appealed after the cared for, big split level we'd loved.

6. We found another split level. This one had beautiful hillside views and a larger lot, but had not been kept up or updated, and had a partially finished basement. And was overpriced. But had a spacious living room and great master suite, and we could imagine living there for a long time and making some updates immediately, some over time. We made a low offer on it, negotiated with the sellers a little, and had our offer accepted.

We scheduled all the inspections (home inspection, radon test, and sewer scope). We picked out flooring again and I updated my spreadsheet. Shopping online for home improvement stuff was my new hobby. I looked into contractor pricing options and other discounts we could get. I thought through the timing of the 10 days we'd have for immediate upgrades after closing and before we had to be out of our place. It was a crazy plan, but doable.

7. Inspection day. I was so excited to get to the home again and measure windows and doors, take photos of lighting locations, and get more info to inform my spreadsheet.

But first... We found out the the buyers on our home couldn't get the loan. Something to do with their immigration status. Bank couldn't tell us more but apparently they tried everything and hadn't expected this issue, hence their preapproval. Now no buyer on our home and still a closing date on the fixer split level pending.

Then the inspection. I headed over after work to overlap with the inspector the last hour and measure. My parents came out and I showed them around. They were supportive and helpful with improvement ideas.

When he was done, the inspector talked me through the photos and findings. Lots of little issues here and there. Electrical, water heater, siding damage, water in the crawlspace, flashing issues, deck connections, and... the roof. Totally shot. Apparently these are typical issues for older homes and the inspector wasn't worried, but we were.

We had budgeted for improvements, but not all of those.

8. We negotiated with the sellers. The bank won't lend with a dead roof, so they potentially planned to replace it before closing. We got bids on siding repair and drainage in the crawlspace. We asked the sellers for a credit for all or part of it, or to repair. They declined. Then they got a certification from a roofing contractor that the roof might be good for another 3-5 years (what the bank requires).

We couldn't do it. With no guarantee on the sales price on our house, and unreasonable sellers and no certainty on what the bank would require after the appraisal that the sellers still wouldn't agree to, we terminated our offer. We got our earnest money back, but of course were out the money for the inspections, and kept getting calls from our lender and insurance company until we explained.

9. Simultaneously...we put our house back on the market. We cleaned up again and got back into the routine of leaving it pristine when we left for work in case someone wanted to see it during the day. We were exhausted and discouraged.

We started looking at smaller homes, 1-story, in better condition but cheaper. We lowered our bar in terms of lot size, and found more homes but some of them very similar to our townhome but with tiny patches of dirt in the back. They were all father away from our jobs, and nothing too exciting to work with. There were a few nice ranch houses in our price range, but they tended to go pending in about two days before we'd had a chance to look at them.

10. We got another offer on our home. Good terms, solid buyer. Only financing $50,000 of it! Reasonable closing date and two weeks free rent after. All sounded great.

But...it didn't feel good. We'd been at this house thing for so long and considered so many housing options, and not all of them were that much better than where we currently are. We might have ended up with a lower mortgage payment, but a smaller, less nice, father away place AND we'd have to pay the bank and realtors and do all the moving stuff.

Plus, a lot of the people who looked at our home were looking for investment purposes. Renting it out. That's something we'd considered before, because rents in our area are much higher than our mortgage, but then we decided we were being too ambitious and should take advantage of the current market and set ourselves up with a great down payment plus money to spend on improvements by selling now.

But now we don't really want to move like we originally did. Our house is great. If we can wait another year or so, maybe we can save up for a 5% down payment on a new place and keep this one as a rental. I checked again, and rents for our kind of place are very high. I'm confident we could rent it out to a nice family sometime.

11. We turned down the offer. They offered us more money...we said no to that, too. We took our home off the market. With our apologies to our patient realtor.

The end!


After having our stress levels up for so long, it feels like a huge relief to postpone moving and making big decisions, but it also feels like the more responsible thing to do long-term. It's one of those situations where we can't know what might have happened... if we'd listed our home a week sooner and been the only offer on the nicely kept up split level, we could be moving next week! Would that be better? It was what we wanted... we'll never know. All we can do is make the best out of what did happen.

This process has been so long and trying, I think there should be a word for it. "Housetressed," maybe. Or, because I'm sure it's hard to do this with apartments, "Homestressed." I'm tired of being housetressed! Ready to move on!!

So, I've decided to make the most of the wonderful home we have. I'm already feeling better. (Stay tuned for my list of ways to love your home without moving!) Feeling grateful for our supportive families and our comfortable townhome, with no yard but a great location and potential for future income. We're in a great place in a lot of ways and I appreciate that. It's hard not to look at what happened as failure, but I think there are ways to see it as dodging a bullet and making better decisions rather than being lured by the appeal of something new and exciting.

That's the end of the saga for now. As my dad said in a very kind email back to us when I shared the news, "...take some time to relax, enjoy each other's company and prepare yourselves to glide easily into winter and a new year." Will do. Onward!

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