29 Reasons Why I Didn’t Buy Your House

Happy 3-year houseversary!  As we celebrate 3 years of DIY fun, we’re reminiscing and thinking of all the homes we almost got.  If you came here wondering why your house isn’t selling, don’t worry – almost everything on this list is fixable!

29 Reasons Why I Didn’t Buy Your House

1. You highlighted the house’s storage problems

reasons why your house isn't selling overstuffed storage

Need some ideas for that small pantry?

2. Your hot tub was gross and moldy

reasons why your house isn't selling dirty hot tub or pool

The summer home of the Creature From the Black Lagoon

3. Speaking of mold, you left a couple of mold-filled fridges in the garage

4. You left your chamber pot in plain sight

reasons why your house isn't selling too messy with laundry everywhere

Michael Jordan says, “Clean your room”

5. Your garage was packed with clutter

reasons why your house isn't selling clutter

The corpse says “Boo”

6. You hung a “DO NOT FLUSH” sign on your toilet… and the oven, and the sink (thanks for the warning, I think…)

reasons why your house isn't selling everything is broken

Warning: Do not attempt to use house

7. You showed me your woodworking and carpentry skills

reasons why your house isn't selling bad diy skills

“Close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades

8. Your home was empty except for the abandoned car in the garage

9. You were home when I was viewing your house and it was super. awkward.

10. You wallpapered with family photos and it was super. awkward. 

11. Cool World?  That movie was trippy.

reasons why your house isn't selling graffiti

Hey, I have that same dustbuster!

12. Your bathroom was actually two rooms: a giant tub room and a postage-stamp sized toilet room

13. There was rust in the electrical outlets

14. You showed me your grandchild’s depiction of your vices

reasons why your house isn't selling grandpa is a drunkard

Sometimes Stinky has his Scotch on the rocks, and sometimes he doesn’t.

15. You unsuccessfully tried to cover a hole in the floor with an electronic keyboard

reasons why your house hasn't sold missing floorboards

It’s a portal through time: next stop, the 1970s

16. Your roof had enough leaves, pine needles, and branches on it to build another tree

17. You left your remodel half finished without enough supplies to finish the job

reasons why your house hasn't sold unfinished projects

I never finish anyth

18. Your house reeked of cat litter 

19. There was a giant hole in the garage ceiling that you couldn’t explain

20. You let me see where “The Incident” happened

reasons why your house hasn't sold filthy carpet

We miss you, Grandpa

21. You didn’t get a building permit for that otherwise very nice looking basement addition

22. Your light fixtures were dangling from makeshift chains

23. You showed me your DIY electrical skills

reasons why your house hasn't sold shoddy electrical bad diy

Look at that gorgeous granite countertop!

24. There was a door locked from the inside

25. Dirty clothing hung from every piece of furniture and blanketed the floor

26. You didn’t tear out the 80’s when you had the chance

reasons why your house hasn't sold dated interior

Set the VCR for Miami Vice!

27. You showed off evidence of water damage

reasons why your house hasn't sold water damage

Thanks for your honesty, most people just cover this sort of thing with an appliance

28. You countered our at-list offer with a $25k increase (that’s not how it works)

29. Your walls look like a circus tent crashed into an orchestra… oh wait, I did buy this house! :)

20 reasons why I didn't buy your house

A gallon of Kilz fixed this right up

Pretty crazy, huh? Nearly all of these come with an implied “… and you didn’t lower your list price accordingly.” 

At the right price, most of these are forgivable or heck, welcomed – we were specifically looking for a property in need of repair.  These sellers either left money on the table or frustrated themselves trying to sell a needy house at an unreasonable price.

10 Rules for Getting a Good Deal on a House

Wealthy people just call up a realtor, find a nice-looking house, buy it, and move in.  But that’s not us! :D  Getting a good deal on a house was the only way for us to leave our apartment and move into a house in the neighborhood of our choice. We had to work a bit harder to get into home ownership.

getting a good deal on a house

Fortunately, I grew up in a family that loves a good deal on a house.  My parents moved us a couple times as a family and acquired a few investment properties while I was growing up.  They love looking at houses, talking about houses, and buying houses when they’re a great deal.

Here’s everything I know about getting a good deal on a house, boiled down to 10 easy rules.

1. Don’t Hurry

I put this rule first because this is really the one rule to rule them all.

Don’t rush into the largest purchase of your life.  Don’t let anyone rush you.

The market is not going to run out of houses.  Even in the “off season”, even in a “bad market”, people are constantly breaking up, moving cities, and changing jobs.  There are always more houses.

When you start looking, 99% of what’s on the market will be stale houses.  You won’t find deals among the stale houses, but if you buy in a hurry a stale house is probably what you’ll be buying.  Stale houses have sat a while because the deal hunters ruled them out already. No, if you want a deal you want to sit and wait for a fresh house, which brings us to…

2. Be an EXPERT in Your Local Market

Long before you’re ready to buy, start attending open houses in and slightly above/below your price range. (Note: if you’re like us, your price range really has no bottom so you’re just looking at everything in and slightly above your price range).

Look at a good variety of houses. Aim to tour fifty houses before buying.  

“Look at 50 houses” was the advice my dad gave me when I set out looking for my first home and wow, was he was right. If I’d bought the first house (or tenth) I’d looked at, I’d have gotten ripped off.   When I started my search, I had no idea what houses were a deal and which ones were robbery.

getting a good deal on a house master your local market

Every market’s different, but I guarantee you the good deals sell within days to people who are experts in their local housing market. If you want a good deal on a house, you must become a master of your local market.

Want more proof?  Our home was a new listing deal.  We saw it get listed on a Sunday afternoon and knew it was a deal without even stepping foot into it. 2 stories at that price?  We’re there. We toured it Monday morning and put in an offer immediately.  It was ours Wednesday, and at a price that prompted other realtors in our neighborhood to call our realtor and ask why the house went for so little.  (Slightly more awkwardly, all our neighbors seemed to know what a deal we got, too, and all of them brought it up when we met them. Good thing that was three years ago now…)

3. Start Looking Early

Do not wait until your lease is running out to look at houses, you won’t have time to master your local market or really figure out what you like (and don’t like) about houses in your price range.

As soon as you think you might want to buy a house, start going to open houses.  Go even if you have 11 months left on your lease.  Looking’s free, so have a good look around your potential neighborhoods.

Call a few realtors.  Get your savings in order.  Learn what you like (and don’t like) in houses.  All these things take time.

4. Have a Net Worth of At Least 50% of the House’s Closing Price

This is my own personal rule of thumb, and I think it’s good advice to anyone wondering just how much money they need to have before buying a house.

You’re not ready to buy a $200,000 house until your net worth is $100,000.  Houses are expensive and random stuff breaks in them all the time.  It it took every penny in your pockets to scrape together a down payment, then the maintenance will bury you.  Prove you’re capable of sitting on a pile of money without spending it before you enter home ownership, it will save you a lot of grief. 

5. Have 30% of the House’s Closing Price in Liquid Cash at Closing

20% is for the down payment, the other 10% for moving and immediate repairs.

getting a good deal on a house

If you got a deal house, it’s probably because there’s some annoying thing(s) wrong with it.  In our house, one of those things was the furnace (it didn’t work).  Since we were buying in November, a furnace was the first thing to go into the house.

We also had to replace all the carpets and purchase a hardware store’s of tools and paint to get basic repair and painting done before our stuff moved in at Christmas.  We spent thousands of dollars after closing but before we even moved in.

PS: I once had a co-worker who asked the boss for a loan to hire movers so she could actually move into her new house.  Definitely don’t do that.

6. Know Your Hard Limits

Hard limits are things you just can’t deal with and will never grow to love.

Hard limits are not things that can be changed, like “the light fixtures are ugly”.  Hard limits are things that  will never change, like the house being too close to a busy intersection or not having enough bedrooms.

Want some examples?  Some of our hard limits were:

  • No permit-less constructions
  • No HOAs (home owners associations)
  • Nothing under 1600 sq feet
  • Nothing over $325k
  • No highways within a mile

Want more? Read my bigger list of things to compromise on (and not compromise on) when buying a house.

It’s okay to tour houses that violate your hard limits as research, but don’t let a nice kitchen fool you into living on a busy street you can’t back out into.  You’ll go crazy.

7. Don’t Buy More House Than You Can Afford

If the 2008 recession taught us anything, it’s not to buy more house than you can afford to pay for.  Start by knowing your monthly expenses – the more months worth of data you have, the better.  A whole year is ideal, because if you’re like me, your months vary wildly.

For the previous year, look at each month’s income (your salary) and spending (credit card bill) and savings (if you don’t have this, don’t buy a house).  Is a mortgage payment reasonable?   And keep in mind that unless you’re living in some bangin’ apartment, there’s a good chance your mortgage will be higher than your rent.

It’s always better to rent an apartment than it is to stretch your finances too thin for a house.

8. Dump Any Real Estate Agent You Don’t Like

Your agent is your employee, and you are entitled to make them work for you.

Don’t be shy, this is their job.  Even if your agent is the nicest person in the world, they secretly want you to buy something ASAP so they get paid and can move on to new customers.

Remember, you’re the one living in the home you buy.  If your agent pressures you to just buy something already, or is unreliable, or intimidates you, or if you’re just not comfortable with your agent for any reason, dump, dump, dump.

9. Don’t Pin Your Hopes on a Short Sale

Here’s a dirty secret about short sales: that low list price may not be for real.

We put in an offer on a short sale.  Three months later, we heard back: the seller’s realtor wanted $35k more than their list price and our offer. We rejected their counter-offer with some paperwork from our realtor (who was awesome, by the way) to make it extra official and forgot about that house.  That low list price wasn’t even for real.

(The real kicker was when a few weeks later, the same week we closed on our house actually, that same seller came back asking if we’d be interested at our offer price.  I guess that $35k wasn’t so important now, but that ship had sailed and I’m glad it did because the house we got was way better and $50k less than the one we put that offer in on.)

When people go looking for a deal on housing they often look at foreclosures and short sales.

Yes, they have low list prices.

But they can be extremely frustrating and time consuming (several months, if not a year+) to actually purchase.  I’m all for bending over backwards for a deal, but foreclosures and short sales are too much for me.

One more story: We live near a short sale home.  It’s identical to half the houses in this neighborhood (houses that sell quickly).  It’s still on the market nearly 3 years later.

10. Be Critical (and Realistic)

Walk into every house ready to hate it.  Look for problems: bad floor plans, impractical kitchen layouts, too much yard, low water pressure.  Be extremely critical.  Homes are expensive and moving is expensive, so you’ll be putting up with this one’s crap for a long time.  Make sure there isn’t too much crap to put up with.

We looked at houses that would have had lower mortgage payments than the one we ultimately bought, but they came with things I hated.  Bad floor plans were everywhere – who puts a water heater next to a toilet??  Why is the master bedroom half the house’s square footage?  Why is the toilet in a closet?!  Ugh.

We also encountered a lot of “oops, ran out of money!” situations: half-finished kitchen remodels and basement remodels were common.  Good luck matching the tile and finishing the project.

We wanted a deal, but we didn’t want a stupid bathroom layout or the hell of finishing someone’s remodeling project.

In Conclusion…

getting a good deal on a house probably not in san francisco

If you can do all this, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a good deal on your next house.  Or, at least, as good a deal as your local market will allow for (good luck if your city is San Francisco or New York).

Just remember to go slow, stalk the market, and be ready to pounce.

Photo credits:

For sale signs: coffeego via photopin cc
Red houses: Images_of_Money via photopin cc
Aerial neighborhood: San Diego Shooter via photopin cc
San Francisco houses: nicolas.boullosa via photopin cc

What to compromise on when buying a house? (And what to ignore?)

what to compromise on when buying a house

You can compromise and still love the house you get!

A friend of mine asked an interesting question on Facebook the other day:  “When buying a house, what did you sacrifice? Location?  Commute? House size? Age?”

It’s a really good question, and it got me thinking.  What do you compromise on when buying a house?  We spent 9 months looking at houses a couple years ago, and we learned a lot about what we were willing to compromise on (and what we weren’t).

Here’s what I told her:

We refused to compromise on:

  • Affordability.  This is our #1 do-not-compromise.  We absolutely will not leverage both our incomes when determining whether we can afford a potential mortgage.  The Two Income Trap is my favorite book on this subject, I highly recommend reading it – following this book’s advice made living on one income for a while much easier than it should’ve been.
  • Commute – It was convenient to the job we used to have, not so much now post-job change
  • Location on street – I didn’t want cars driving straight towards my house all the time, and I didn’t want to be near major neighborhood roads
  • Garage capacity – Must be 2+ for us, we reeaaally wanted to use half of it for our dream home gym
  • Incorporated – We like city services
  • Distance from expressway/noise sources – We put a one mile buffer between our local major highway and our house search zone
  • Structural integrity – Expensive to fix
  • Driveway slope – No X-TREME slope driveways, we wanted a flat driveway.  This was surprisingly difficult to find.
  • Number of bathrooms – Must have at least 2 potties, preferably 2 places to shower as well
  • Floorplan – Some homes had really freaking weird floor plans, some just too weird for us.  Floorplans are like location – pretty much impossible to change.
  • And no more f***ing HOAs. EVER!!!

We compromised on:

  • House’s interior condition – We took on a LOT of projects (big and small) when we bought this house, but the house’s condition is what let us buy into our neighborhood.
  • Kitchen size – Ours has one of the smallest kitchens we looked at. A small kitchen turned out to be not as bad as we’d feared.
  • Number of floors – We had hoped for a one story, ended up with two floors. Going up and down stairs keeps me trim.
  • Terrain – We’re atop a really steep hill. There’s no “but that’s okay because” to this one, my Taurus busted out a misfiring cylinder climbing it. We now take a longer, shallower back route up the hill.
  • Walkability – The nearest grocery store is a fairly walkable 1.5 miles, but that’s it.
  • Yard size – Our yard much larger than we’d hoped for. It’s more than we can maintain, but we’re doing a bit of DIY landscaping each year to improve it.
  • Commute – When we changed jobs, our commute went from 20 mins round trip to 60 mins round trip. Boo, hiss.
  • Popcorn ceilings  – Ugggh, our popcorn ceiling was so ugly and dirty-looking, and removing the popcorn was so expensive and messy we only did the downstairs.
  • Old windows – Any home that came with new windows also came with a 20%+ higher listing price. We just live with ’em.
  • Leaking master shower – We’ll fix this someday, but for the last three years we’ve made do with the shower in our DIY’d hallway bathroom.
  • View and noise – Our apartment had a much nicer view and a quieter street.
  • House color – It’s not the color I’d have picked, and it’d be a shame to spend thousands to paint over what appears to be a recent paint job. We just live with it.
  • Broken furnace – There went several grand before we could even move in.  It was worth it, the new furnace is much more efficient than the 18-year-old furnace it replaced.

We ignored:

  • Flooring or wall colors – Easy to replace
  • Dated light fixtures – Slightly less easy to replace
  • Dirt – We scrubbed it all off
  • Backyard deck – Ours is small, we don’t care (we’re not “deck people”).

In essence, most of the things we ignored when buying our house were things that could be fixed with effort or cash. In some cases, we lived with these things until we had time and budget for fixing them – downstairs flooring, popcorn ceiling, kitchen cabinet colors, light fixtures.

I’m sure this is different for everyone, and to varying degrees in each category.  If you’re a home owner, what did you sacrifice?  And what did you refuse to compromise on when buying a house?

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