We’ve made offers on at least half a dozen homes in the last three months. D.C. area housing sales are defying the trends that define housing in the rest of the U.S. We have a genuine seller’s market on our hands, with competitive bidding, contracts being written on houses site unseen, and full asking price (or more) being met without flinching. I heard on the radio the other day that June has been the busiest for home sales in this area in 6 years. I believe it.
Which brings me to our current predicament. We qualify for a certain price range, and we need a certain amount of house and yard to accommodate the size of our family. If we were to create a Venn diagram (and who doesn’t love making those?!) we would find that the overlap between the two would be very, very small.
Where they do overlap is coincidentally where just about the hottest sales activity seems to be happening. We’ve made offers on at least half a dozen places. A number of these have been short sales, and we’ve offered less than asking by approximately the exact difference between asking and what we are qualified for.
We have thus far been largely unsuccessful. We get outbid, out financed, out downpayment-ed, or something. Every time. The margin of error we’re facing with most houses is about a $30,000 – $50,000 price difference. Not particularly substantial in the grand scheme of things, but enough that we’re missing out on the “let’s settle down here and never move again” houses and instead looking at the “let’s buy this one and hope the market doesn’t get any worse, at least, so we can move to something more suitable in five years or so” houses.
I’d like to take this opportunity to state that I really don’t want to hear about renting. We’ve rented for most of our married life, and we’ve moved about 7 times in 8 years. Rent hikes, idiot landlords, massively energy inefficient properties (I will NEVER do oil heat again!), ludicrous commutes, nice houses that are way too small – they’ve run the gamut, and we’ve been nomads because of it. And at the present moment, rent for a house of the size we need is almost exactly the same as a mortgage payment on an equivalent-sized house, tax included. You do the math.
Which brings us to the present moment. After nearly four months of constant searching, we’ve seen everything on the market in the area where we want to live to maintain reasonable access to parish/homeschool coop or diocesan school/work/extracurricular activities/shopping/etc. No stone is unturned.
Which means that we’re looking at a townhome. We have one in our sights and have a counter-offer on the table that we could sign today. Upsides? It’s big enough, nicely laid out, in a good area, close to woods, a small lake, a community pool, a state park, a shopping center we already frequent, closer to work than many we’ve looked at, for a price we can definitely afford. Downsides? No real yard to speak of (a small grassy patch with a slightly less small grass patch behind it leading to a big fence separating subdivision from road) an otherwise nice view of said state park marred by a large set of power lines directly parallel to the back deck, about one less room than we really need (home office), and it’s a townhome. Which means it’s four floors and lots of stairs, piled on top of the neighbors, no privacy to speak of, no place to really garden, and not the country home we’d hoped to settle down in. It’s transitional, but workable. Assuming we don’t get stuck in it after the currency collapses or they start billing us all directly for the national debt or there are food riots or some such.
We have an outlier – a bank owned home that’s nice, big, on land, and went to auction twice already at far less than we offered (and even farther less than the current asking price on the open market) with no bids received. We have no idea if the bank will take our offer. It’s sort of last ditch.
We’ve got to make a decision on the townhome within 24 hours or we’ll probably lose it. The big bank-owned home is telling us we’ll hear back in 3 to 6 days on whether they’ll even accept our offer. Decisions, decisions.
I always wanted my kids to have what I had growing up. Room to grow, trees to climb, shrubs to play in, the peace and serenity of rural living. It’s looking instead like we’ll probably be playing a game of “How High Can You Stack ‘Em?”
Steve Skojec is a storyteller, writer, blogger, photographer, designer, and sci-fi fan. He is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. He lives in Arizona with his wife Jamie and six of their seven children.