Aug 16 2011

Miscellany we need to buy for the house


I’m putting together a shopping list for things we’ll need to obtain one way or another when we move into our house in three weeks. Help me fill in the blanks for what else I’m missing.

We have a lawn mower (who knows how well it works, though) thanks to negotiations with the sellers. We also have a garden hose and a  few yard tools and I *think* a big outside trash can but I need to double-check that one.

  • New smoke detectors. The ones already in the house appear to be really old (probably original to the 11-year-old house) and I want to get good ones — the kind that detects smoldering fires and flaming fires. Also, we need carbon monoxide detectors. Perhaps we can find some combo units. We want to make sure the alarms are interconnected, so if one goes off, they all do. Go big or go home for fire safety, ya know?
  • A fire escape ladder*. I’ll keep it in my bedroom on the second floor and as the kids get old enough to use one themselves, I’ll get one for their rooms too. For now, we’ll just get the one. If I can’t get my children out of the house if it catches on fire, then I’ll die trying, Lord help me.
  • More outlet covers and baby-proofing type things for cords, and anchors so we can secure furniture to the walls. I do think it’s important to teach kids not to touch certain things, but Vivienne is in the “crazy stage” right now where she’s mobile but doesn’t have any sense of danger or understanding, so we’re still working on that. Plus, I like to plug unused outlets on exterior walls just for the added airtightness of it all.
  • Foam outlet plate cover things*. I may be pleasantly surprised and find them already in there, but not too likely. I like to put these things on exterior walls because I do think it helps with drafts. I’m so used to living in drafty, poorly insulated apartments but this house is hopefully well-insulated in the walls. Still, these things are so cheap that I think it can only help.
  • Gates for the stairs, unless the sellers will leave theirs behind. Need to check on that.
  • Window wedges. Don’t need anyone exiting two-story windows. Unless mama is shuttling the wee ones down the fire escape ladder, of course.
  • More bathroom things such as a new shower curtain liner, toilet scrubber.
  • We need to re-key the locks on the exterior doors.
  • Broom for outside sweeping
  • What kind of thing should I get to clean laminate floors? A swiffer-type mop? Help me out.

These are things we do want to take care of when we first move in. We’ll unpack everything and (finally!) get rid of our moving boxes and then assess what types of organizational things and furnishings we’ll want to add to our list. Those types of things will have to wait while we save up for them though. This house-buying thing is expensive, donchaknow.

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Aug 12 2011

We almost walked away from house negotiations


We came very close to walking away from negotiations on the house we’re buying.

We had our house inspection on Saturday, July 30. We put together our response for what we wanted the sellers to do, and gave them until the following Friday to get back to us to give them time to get estimates. We got their response on Friday, and at first, I thought it was covering a lot of things.

But when Shane and I looked at it more closely, we realized it was minimal and it wasn’t going to cover everything we needed to have done. We weren’t going to have the extra money after closing to go and do the repairs that someone already should have completed. We didn’t want to start home ownership by being behind on maintenance.

The sellers needed to increase the amount of money they were crediting toward repairs, or to do more work themselves.

This is where things get complicated and where the emotions ran hot.

All of these back-and-forth negotiations were happening over last weekend when it was harder to get a hold of companies to get estimates and such. The sellers shot back a response that didn’t budge at all, and they were giving us tight deadlines to work with. We thought they were starting to be ridiculous and unreasonable.

Also, they had someone work on the HVAC before we had completed the repair negotiations. It started to seem sketchy.

If they weren’t going to be reasonable about things, we were done. We just couldn’t afford to keep going, even if it meant losing the amount we paid for our inspections (which was around $600 and was a general inspection plus radon, termite and mold. Expensive, but money well spent).

We found out later that the seller’s agent is actually related to them in some way. That should have been disclosed on the MLS just to keep things on the up and up. We also found out that the listing agent was really irritated with his clients because they were going against his direct advice to NOT do any repair work yet — just get estimates. And they also shot back one of their responses without going through him. They just wrote out an addendum and emailed it to our agent. I guess their agent was out of town that weekend or something and they were getting hasty.

I seriously think if they had just listened to their realtor, we wouldn’t have had the drama we were having.

Shane and I were amazed at how quickly we had gone from wanting to buy the house, to wanting to be done with it. House buying is emotional even if you don’t want it to be.

We put together one last response, basically so we could get our earnest money back if they said ‘no’ to our demands. We couldn’t completely walk away without one last response and still get to keep our earnest deposit, based on how our previous responses were worded (they didn’t have price figures in the earlier ones).

So. We asked for money and backed up why we needed it. Our inspector said these things needed done, and we wanted them done. We didn’t think we were being unreasonable about it.

We sent them our response and waited. We gave them a few days to show our goodwill and to give them more time to come up with estimates or more money. Maybe their realtor relative could kick back part of his commission or something to close the deal.

(Speaking of realtor kickbacks, we’re getting $1,000 from our realtor at closing, to be applied toward our closing costs. I like that we’re getting part of her commission. Not all agencies do this, so check around!)

While we were waiting for their response, we drove past some other houses for sale that maybe we could go see once we got our earnest money back. There were two houses for sale that we wanted to at least tour, but after seeing one neighborhood we were like “meh” and the other one was ok, but it didn’t seem like it was what we were really seeking. So that part was discouraging — if this house deal fell apart, we really would be back to square one and probably would have to wait awhile before finding something that would work for us.

Combine that with this cruddy apartment we’re in, and I was just feeling really drained by all of it.

Also, we were wondering if maybe WE were the ones being unreasonable…asking for everything on the inspector’s list to be done. We weren’t sure if we’d run into the same issue with another seller — certain repairs needed done but the seller was unable or unwilling to do that.

Still, we knew we had to do what was best for our family, and that meant getting a house that was caught up on all maintenance and repair issues, or getting a house that was priced according to the work it still needed.

We did hear back from the sellers in the 11th hour, and we were surprised and happy to discover that they were willing to give us a credit at closing to cover the work remaining. They attached estimates to back up their dollar amount.

We thought their latest response was reasonable and something we could work with, and accepted.

The sellers saw that we were serious about walking. Maybe they realized that they’d have to do these things to appease the next buyer to come along (whenever that might be) and probably drop the price to attract more buyers, so it would still be better to work it out with us rather than re-list the house.

They saw we had canceled the appraisal. They heard from their realtor that this was where we were at. I told our realtor to let them know that we really didn’t have the extra money to throw at those repairs. Maybe they thought we had more to spare, since they knew we were putting 20% down. We don’t. I’m not using our emergency fund to do things that the seller should have done.

I learned that you have got to be serious about walking away from house negotiations if you see that things are not going to work out in your best interest. If the inspection turns up crazy things, walk away. If the inspection shows things that you simply can’t afford in a reasonable amount of time, walk. Yes, it stinks to lose your inspection fee and to start all over. But if you are paying too much for a house that needs too much work, that’s way more expensive in the long run.

If we had acted like we were desperate to get into the house at all costs and had emotionally moved into the house already, we would have had to accept their lower offer and come up with the extra money for repairs ourselves. Being willing to walk saved us money.

We’re still set to close in three weeks. Up next is the appraisal.

I really appreciate and respect how Shane handled all of this crazy stuff. He’s so level-headed and I’m glad he’s my husband!

Have you ever walked away from house negotiations, or come close to it? Have you lost a potential buyer during negotiations?

Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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