Home Ownership: Buying a Home

by Kay Lynn

escrow papers (photo tip #3)

This is the third article in a four part series on our experiences with real estate transactions.   Previous articles are Home Ownership: Our Experience and Home Ownership: Selling Our House.

The worst part of my job was commuting 23 miles from our home to the office five days a week.  I was thrilled when I had a business trip because it meant I didn’t have to fight the traffic twice a day (or at least the traffic I knew). 

Once the kids had finished high school there really wasn’t any reason to stay in the same area…other than a paid up mortgage and a very low property tax.  Once Mr. Boomer hit the golden age of 55, we could take advantage of the option for a tax free exchange as long as the replacement property cost no more than 5% of the selling price.    Mr. Boomer had empathy for my commuting woes as he had that battle in his career before retiring and agreed to sell his first real estate purchase.

Location, Location, Location

I wanted to move close enough to the office that the daily trek wouldn’t involve getting on the freeway.  That meant we’d be within a 10 mile radius of work.  The neighborhoods closest to the office are higher end than the one we were leaving.  With the requirement to stay within 5% of what our house would sell for AND the desire to have minimal mortgage payment it led to one conclusion.  we’d have to downsize.

The Hunt is On

Because San Diego is such a large county real estate agents tend to stick to a particular geographic area.  We weren’t likely to find an agent that would know the neighborhoods we were shopping in and the one we were leaving.  I asked around and ended up getting an agent from an online listing.  Not the recommended approach but it worked out.

We started looking at homes several months before we listed ours so we  would have an idea of what the possibilities were and reinforce (or dissuade) our decision.  By doing so, we saw virtually every community in our price range and knew which ones we would even consider buying in and eliminated those we wouldn’t. 

Our minimum requirement were three bedroom, two baths, garage and some space. We knew there would be sacrifices in going from a single family home to a condominium but we would not accept apartment style living.   Fortunately, most condominiums in the area were built to be just that and are not conversions so we had options.

We also saw where we needed to compromise as the realities of our price range hit up against the homes available.  You could get more home for the money the further away from the office, but that strategy defeated the reason for making the move. 

Making an Offer…or Two

After six months of looking the house we were selling was in escrow.  We were afraid of being priced out of the area so we wanted to find a place to buy now.  We found a townhouse style condo within our price range.  It required a kitchen update and installation of central air so we made an offer with this work in mind.  Let’s just say a meeting of the minds between the seller and us didn’t happen despite a couple of back and forths. 

There was another property we wanted to take another look at now that was listed at the top of our range.  In fact, their range went over the top of our range (what’s up with the range thing anyway?).  The second time we were able to look past the torn curtain, stained carpet and cluttered rooms to see the possibilities.  

With one less bedroom than the single family home we lived it, the condo was still 100 square feet larger.  It also had three full baths, two patios and a balcony.  Best of all, we had no neighbors behind us as we were on a hill.  Yes there is traffic noise, but we were living on an intersection and used to some traffic noise.  We made an offer and after some negotiations were in escrow.

End Result

The closing would have gone pretty smoothly if not for the drama with the buyer of the home we were leaving which I won’t rehash again.  The only complication with this transaction was that the title was recorded with the selling price of the original offer versus the lowered price we ended up (via addendums) at closing.  Because that would have put us over the 5% cap, we had the escrow company correct it to ensure we got the transferred tax basis.

Two years plus later we love our home and are slowly updating it. We’ve painted the interior, replaced the carpet and are gradually replacing the window coverings (the torn one is gone).  There’s more work to do, but we’ll get it done in time.

photo credit: billaday

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