Our Silver Lining in The Real Estate Cloud
The real estate market in the United States is not great. Everyone knows that. Las Vegas, Nevada has the worst market in the country and that is where my husband David and I live. We owned a home for over twenty years and thought we would probably be there a lot longer, then life changes and we were making decisions that affected the rest of our life.
My employer of over twenty-six years had decided to retire. I had begun to get a little depressed and started watching more TV than usual. One channel I really like is HGTV. I became an HGTV junkie. I especially like the shows that illustrate how you could change a look in a room for very little money, sometimes as little as $500. “House Hunters,” Designed To Sell” and “Get It Sold” are the shows I enjoy the most. They make selling your home look very easy, little did I know. David and I, over the twenty years we lived in our home, had made a few improvements, mostly maintenance, carpeting, garage door, new roof, etc. We did some painting with the help of some friends. Without their help especially Linda, it never would have gotten done. I am not really a do it yourself type of person. Before we could paint we had to strip wall paper. The painting project was only going to be our guest room and it wasn’t done until a bathroom, hall, living room, dining room and kitchen had new paint.
I started to entertain the thought of selling our home for various reasons. After living in one place for twenty years, I knew exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I was tired of doing clothes in the garage, especially when it was 110 degrees outside and the garage felt like an oven. I fell in love with the idea of a great room, that layout would be great for our family get togethers. David and I were childless but my brother and his wife had three children. David’s Mom and brother also live in Las Vegas, and I have two sisters, one married. Most of the family celebrations and holidays were at our home because we had more room. The main reason I wanted to move was my brother had spent six weeks in the hospital in 2007. We lived thirty minutes from him and the first hospital he was in was further than that. I came to the conclusion after he came home from the hospital that David and I could have helped more if we had lived closer. I wanted to live closer to him and his beautiful family.
David was not so sure about putting our home up for sale, but then our neighborhood really started to change. The house next door to us the whole time we lived there never had the same tenant for two years straight. It had been empty for a long time and the last person who bought it contracted it out as a halfway house or something like it. At first that did not bother us until we found out one of the male occupants had exposed himself to a child in the neighborhood.
We had a few long real estate discussions but David was not really convinced we needed to sell. Our 29th wedding anniversary was February 17, 2008. Since we live in Vegas, we usually go out and explore the new hotels. Before we did that we looked at some model homes first and David thought maybe we should take a chance. A newer home had a lot more to offer than the one we lived in. If we did more improvements in our home the money we put in would never come back to us.
We knew a realtor through our church, Patricia Snyder. She had known my brother since he was fifteen, and now he is 42. Patricia had supported our family the whole time Ty was in the hospital. We knew she was someone we could trust and help us make the right decisions. David and I met with Patricia; -- she showed us comparable homes in our area for sale and homes that we might want to buy. She liked that we had replaced our sink with stainless steel and had a new stove top. Without the house being really ready to show, Patricia told us it had potential. Our home was 1620 square feet, with a large two car garage, three bedrooms, one and half baths, dining room, large covered patio and a nice size lot. One of the best features was our wood burning double fireplace. Another plus: we were on the smallest cul-de-sac in the neighborhood, only eight homes. The other cul-du- sacs had 12 homes. All the appliances were staying.
About a month went by and we cleaned, uncluttered and felt we were ready to sign papers. We did that on March 19, 2008, the feast of Saint Joseph. I didn’t know it at the time that Saint Joseph is the patron saint for people selling their homes. I should have known, I attended Saint Joseph High School in Brooklyn, New York. I surfed the internet to research this. After reading, it occurred to me Saint Joseph had to move Mary and Jesus around a lot. Therefore Christians over the centuries prayed to him to help sell real estate. David and I said a prayer to Saint Joseph every night for someone to find our home as loving place as we did. I have to admit that we did bury a statuette in the front yard. Patricia found out and said get that out of there and put it somewhere prominent. I continually think of my Mom, who passed away in 1994. She was a devout Catholic, thought it would be better just to pray to Saint Joseph and not worry where the statue was located. I placed the statuette on the piano where all could see.
For the first month no one looked at our home. I would check it out on Patricia’s web site and on realtor.com just to give me a sense of how we were doing. I checked the competition and looked at homes David and I might want to buy. I became discouraged. We were keeping our home neat and clean yet not one person looked at it. Though not a neat freak, my mom said she gave me the perfect name: her personal Lazy Susan, David and I have a clean home, but we were never fanatical cleaners. Now we had to be. No dishes in sink, no clothes on the bed, and keep the bathrooms immaculate. We also have two cats to clean up after. David was a huge help keeping our home looking good. That is how I knew he wanted this as much as I did.
After six weeks we met with Patricia and dropped the price a bit. Then we started to get calls. We started playing this little game when we got home from work. “How many fliers are left in the box outside?” Four fliers taken in one day called for a mini celebration. Over the next few months we had more calls and dropped the price again. Realtors were pleasant and professional. David handled most of the calls; he was more available. Once we had a call while we were at church. The realtor just left a message saying they would be coming by around 5:30 p.m. We had some time to go home and make sure everything was fine. She was very thoughtful and called us back letting us know they wouldn’t be coming after all. Her client walked with a cane; our sunken living room would not suit him.
In the meantime we had done a little more landscaping to our home so it would have “Curb Appeal”, another HGTV show I enjoy.
The weekend before David’s birthday a realtor from Zip Realty, Dottie, called to make an appointment for the next day at 4pm to show our home to her client. David and I had plenty of time to get the house in order before meeting friends for dinner. Dottie arrived early and I noticed she was sitting in her car. David invited her to come in. It was the middle of August in Las Vegas; nobody sits in their car very long, too hot and humid. Dottie was very nice and during our conversation we were pleased to find out her client was eager to buy a home. He had been in escrow four months and then the bank took over the home. Once her client arrived, David and I went out on the patio. They didn’t stay too long inside but talked with Dottie outside before leaving. At dinner that night with our good friends we make a wishful toast that this may be the one. After all David’s birthday is coming up and an offer would be the perfect present.
On David’s birthday, August 25, 2008, Patricia called to let us know there will be an offer on our home. She arrived at 8pm that evening and went over the offer with us. According to Patricia it was a good offer and even to our inexperienced ears we agreed with her. The buyer offered $5000.00 less than we were asking, but he would pay all closing costs and he wanted a friend of his to do all the inspections. There was only one thing the three of us did not like. The buyer wanted the house vacated 72 hours before the close of escrow. Our counter offer only had two changes; the house would be vacated 24 hours after loan documents were in place at escrow. The buyer had also made an offer on two other homes. Therefore in our counter offer we included we wanted to be notified no later than Friday, August 29th 5pm.
That was a long week. We prayed and asked all our family and friends to pray. I sent out emails to all our friends and family in and out of town.
On Friday at 9:15 am Patricia calls and informs me another party would like to look at our home. Well, thankfully we did not get lazy and the house still looked good. In a very calm voice she states that our prospective buyer has narrowed his choice down to two homes; ours is one of the two.
I share this information with my co-workers and then let David know, we happen to work at the same place. David receives a call around 12:15 pm from a realtor to show our home. I in turn relay this information to Patricia. She informs me we should know something by 1pm. Right around 1:10pm my phone rings and in a very serious voice Patricia says “Susan, you know you were one of the two.” I reply “Oh, we didn’t get it.” Patricia replies “And you got it.” I can barely contain myself, but I did long enough to tell David in a very calm and collected voice.
We were already going to a play with some friends that evening that was being performed outside in a state park about 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas. Everyone toasted our success and hope for a smooth escrow, and the finding of our new dream home.
The next day we finally got to do the fun stuff; looking at possible new homes. We had looked when we first put our home up for sale just to see what was out there. There were really good deals, but a lot of the homes needed work because the owners had left the homes in a mess. One home had sinks ripped out and holes in the ceiling and possibly someone living there that shouldn’t be.
I had been looking at a lot of homes online and had given Patricia the addresses. On realtor.com the homes looked great and in our price range, but then Patricia would let me know that some of them were short sales. According to our trusted realtor, short sales were not something we wanted to get involved with. I wasn’t sure what a short sale was. Patricia explained that was when the owner owed more on the home than what it was worth and usually foreclosure was not far away. There were a lot of short sales in Las Vegas, but Patricia assured us that our new home was out there waiting for us.
We did like one home that was about 10-15 minutes from my brother but it would have been a 45 minute drive to work. I thought that was just too far. David and I were used to driving only 10 to 15 minutes to work, and sometimes David rode his bicycle. This home was definitely a possibility. The floor plan was open and it flowed, but not too spacious. We worked our way towards my brother’s neighborhood and looked at a home in a very nice sub division. On entering the home, a woman is there stating she has bought the home and escrow will close in two weeks. Fortunately this home did not have what we wanted.
Patricia called the listing agent to check on the status of the home and he apologized that he had not changed the listing on the web site. However, he had a home that he was going to be putting on the market soon and we could look at that one. We both liked the home from the outside, desert landscaping, three car garage, driveway and front walk had pavers, and good curb appeal. The address grabbed my attention, the middle numbers were the year I was born. David naturally thought this was ridiculous, but I believe in that sort of thing.
As soon as we walked in I got the same feeling as I did when we bought our home of twenty years. As we walked around this home we realized it had everything we wanted. Upon opening the front door, we walked into a formal living room that flowed into a family room with dining area and gas fireplace, which the kitchen overlooked. Off the kitchen was the much wanted laundry room. There was a beautiful Master Suite with a sunken tub, and walk in closet, also sliding glass doors that led to the backyard. This house also featured two more bedrooms and another master bedroom down the hall. The total square footage was over 2700, which included three and a half bathrooms. The backyard needed landscaping, but it already had a beautiful covered patio. We were pretty sure this was the one. Another plus; it was only four years old. Patricia informed us it was in our favor that it was not on the market yet; because the closer we were to our closing the bank that owned this house would be more willing to deal with us. Banks only wanted to deal with buyers who had cash in hand.
On September 5th our buyer had scheduled the inspection. This took a while but it went well and we agreed to have the vent for the clothes dryer cleaned out and give the buyer $1000.00 for the rest of the minor repairs. The following Wednesday the appraisal was scheduled and David was nervous. I suppose I was a little too. As it turned out we had no reason to be. Our home was worth every penny the buyer was paying.
The following weekend Patricia had some more homes for us to look at, definitely a buyer’s market in Las Vegas. To be sure we looked again at the house that was further out of town, also one across the street from “The House”. This time I bought my camera and took pictures. I also took notes on what we were going to have to buy and do before we moved in. By this time the house was on the market and we were getting nervous. Patricia had our offer ready to go as soon as we closed on our home.
On September 18, 2008 we moved out of the home we spent twenty of our thirty year marriage. It was very emotional especially when the house was completely empty. Some friends came over to help with the odds and ends after the moving company took most of our “stuff” for storage. While they were waiting in their car and David and I were locking up, I said I wanted to make one more check of the closets and cabinets. I actually went in to say good bye. It wasn’t just our house, it was our home.
We thought we were going to have to move into a budget suites or something like it but David’s Mom graciously offered the little apartment off her house, that we had forgot about. My poor Mother-in-law, I don’t think she realized how much we really would be bringing with us. I didn’t want to put any of our clothes in storage because Vegas weather can be weird hot one day, chilly the next. Gail was great and the six weeks we were there flew by.
In the meantime we had made an offer on “The House” and waited patiently. We had heard the horror stories how some banks take forever, but this one was ready to sell this house. I think our offer had a lot to do with the speed of their reply. The one thing that David had heard on one of the HGTV shows was how you offer just a little more than the asking price when dealing with a bank. Also on Patricia’s advice we offered to pay for all inspections and closing costs.
Before we knew it our loan was approved, and on October 14, 2008 we had keys to our new home.
A few improvements were necessary before we moved in. Our handy man and his son, who helped get our old home in shape, helped us with these. They painted, installed blinds, garage door openers, and two ceiling fans. A company recommended by Patricia thoroughly cleaned the carpet throughout the house. The previous owners took the fridge, dishwasher, washer and dryer and garbage disposal. These were all installed before we moved in.
As it turned out our move in date is one we can never forget October 31st, Halloween of all days. We just passed our two year mark in our new home and have for the most part settled in. We were lucky to sell our home in this economy. The equity in our old home was a huge factor in being able to buy our new and possibly final home. Our main goal was to be closer to my brother and his family; we are less than two miles away.