House Hunting: The Struggle is Real

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Historically speaking, when I make a post like I am going to make today, things change that nullify the post completely, usually in an ironic way … sometimes in a humorous … typically in a pathetic way.  In all honesty, that is exactly why I am writing it today.

Nearly half the time I spend outside of work I spend looking for a house.  During the week I usually spend a bit every day looking at what listings came up in the last 24 hours.  Many times during the week, I am on the phone with an agent or lender working on terms for an offer.  Then I usually spend Saturday and/or Sunday going to open houses, and since starting to do so I have walked through nearly a hundred homes.  Almost five months since I arrived in California, three months since I started looking for a house to purchase, and about a month since ‘stuff just got real’ …

I am still sitting with a blank slate.

So, for you people stickler for facts, officially speaking, I’ve only placed an offer on one house.  I went at asking and got beat out by someone who went at 10% over asking paying cash.  I actually expected to lose that, but you don’t hit a home run until you start swinging for the fences.  Since then two other properties fell into categories where they were worth the extra effort to go after it.

Mostly I am looking in the Pasadena area, but if you ask me at different times I give you different answers.  The main reason for that is the Pasadena market is absolutely insane.  This is the first house I would be buying in my life, and before now I have never had to compete on an offer (re-negotiate yes, but not compete).  That’s both buying and selling.  Heck, I only went at asking once, and then we expected the guy to replace a roof.  Out here, asking is like an opening bid on an auction – it’s the minimum they will accept.  Then the battle begins.  If that’s not enough, the inventory on the market is thin, and prices are high accordingly.  Those houses that need a lot of fixing up are jumped on by investors willing to pay cash.  Those houses that are move-in ready are battled for between owner-occupiers, investors looking for rental property, or the now hot Vacation-Rental properties.  My agent in Alaska told me there that if a house is on the market for more than 45 days there is something wrong with it.  Here if it on the market for 7 days, there is either something MASSIVELY wrong with it (like the previous owner hasn’t removed the dead bodies, or the neighbor Rob Schneider) or they are collecting the twenty some offers to compete against each other.

Still, I’ve had my shots.

Earlier this week I lost out on one of those properties.  A great house with a fantastic yard and a garage that was converted into a man cave.  It was two miles from JPL, a couple minutes from Old Town Pasadena, and offered up views of the San Gabriel Mountains.  I worked with the listing agent to come up with the offer that would win the property; using his inside track to know what the other offers look like, and even get help from him to reduce his commission.  Yet after hours of scrubbing my available cash, my current budget, future budget, and back-up if I get strapped, the offer I could make fell short of what it would take to get the house.  After an emotional back and forth with that agent and the lender to see if we can squeeze blood from on onion, the statement became: “We are close, but not close enough”.  Unlike the rest, this was me walking away from a deal.  My decision.  Yet still defeating.

That being said, I have another property I am on the tick for.  Good size house in a decent location for getting around, though not the greatest neighborhood currently.  It would be an investment for the future, however, because it is in an area in Pasadena that is plotted to be the next great ‘Gentrified’ part of town.  This property has been a topic for a while.  I’ve been in conversations with the agent and indirectly with the seller for nearly a month.  While money is a topic for both sides of the discussion, it seems the sellers decisions are more based on situations and people.  He’s passed on cash offers and the like, wanting this place to go to someone who will love it like his family did.  Yet he is also patient.  This house has been on the market a long time not because there is anything wrong, just that he isn’t ready to give it up.  There is a competing offer which has me beat on price, but they want him out in 30 days, and I since I don’t have to be out of my rental until August or September – offering the opportunity to lease the place back to them may be the inside edge.  I’ve given my best offer to their agent for review, and while it’s not a documented offer, it’s there.

Still, the rest of it continues.  Today I am looking at seven properties.  One in the foothill community of Tujanga.  Three in Pasadena.  Three in an area that just popped on my radar this week, the Mt. Washington community of Los Angeles.  I’d like to say I will have more news and better news to come, but for now it is what it is.

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