Adventures In Home Buying

Condemned houseMy lady and I are buying a house. It’s a three-bedroom in Deer Park, where I lived for eight years. She likes the neighborhood, and my stepson from a previous marriage (Don’t ask. It works for us.) lives there. It has a deck, a pool, and a front porch, as many houses built before World War II do. We love the place.


It’s a fixer-upper. “Customized” plumbing. Some walls that need patched. Six-legged critters! Right now, the basement is open to the elements and guarded by eight-legged pest controllers who are feasting nicely on pretty much everything that can get into your house short of wasps. Fortunately, there are mortgages that cover that sort of thing, but you have to get a contractor to sign off on doing the work that needs done. Not good when the seller is in a nursing home and in no condition, physically or financially, to do the repairs that need to be done. So we’re getting the place, even with financing a lot of repairs, cheap.

So how’s it been going? Well…

  • A renovation loan is not like a conventional mortgage. Technically, it is a conventional mortgage, but all that repair work the seller usually does before close? You’re paying for it.
  • You have to pay for an inspection. About $500.
  • You have to pay for your own appraisal. Also about $500. I haven’t even brought the down payment in, and I’m already $1000 in the hole.
  • Putting in a bid the week before a three-day holiday weekend does not really work well, especially if you have a tight closing date. Guess what. General contractors take holidays, too.
  • That guy you know who does plumbing/electricity/heating & cooling? Well, he may be your go-to guy when something breaks, but if he’s swamped as far as renovation work, you’re better off letting your general contractor know.
  • Every time you visit a house in need of some love, you find something new that needs fixed: Basement windows, bathroom fixtures that looked fine the first time, dry wall you didn’t look at before.
  • No matter how smoothly getting a mortgage goes, it is always nerve-wracking. Your contractor has his own schedule, but your loan officer needs paperwork three days ago. And then the seller wants their cash by a certain date. Yes, just like at your day job, you’re getting pulled in too many directions.

It is a stressful time right now, but so worth it. We are starting a new chapter in this place, and we saw the house as a blank canvas.

Besides, it has a deck and a pool. Those are getting fixed first after the contractors leave.

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