House #8

I shared that I would tell the stories of our home purchases. Instead of starting with #1, I decided to start with the most interesting. This property was being sold by a licensed Realtor, so we had a false sense of security. It ended up being the sketchiest (technical term) deal we’ve done. This is in Virginia.

We started with a home inspection, which revealed several issues. We requested the HVAC condensate line be cleared and the water in the backup pan removed. We also agreed to have our attorney withhold $1,300 at closing, to be paid to a contractor of our choice after closing, to repair other items found during the inspection. I can’t remember why we were handling the home inspection items, but that should have been the first red flag.

Our closing was scheduled for 8/18.

We were told that the HVAC repairs agreed upon were completed. We went to check on the progress of cleaning out the house and the HVAC repairs on August 10th. The HVAC’s backup pan still had water in it, and the house was filthy (after being told it was ‘vacant’ and ‘cleaned’). Plus, the electric was turned off. We had our Realtor reach out to the seller to cover our bases. Here’s his email:

While waiting for a response on this email, we checked with our closing attorney to ensure everything else was ready for closing; it wasn’t. We fully expected a “we’re clear” response, but instead we were told they were having trouble clearing the title. We weren’t given the specifics, but that’s not what you want to hear a week before closing. It ended up being cleared, but that was one more thing to worry about!

As typical, we had to do a final walk-through of the house to ensure it’s in the same condition (or better) as it was when we went under contract. Knowing how poorly the seller communicated over the previous month, we wanted to see the house the day before closing, rather than right before we head to the closing table. The electric was still not turned on, and it wasn’t cleaned. Our Realtor contacted the seller again. We were assured it would be addressed, and the electric would be on. We made plans to walk through the house in the morning.

Our Realtor was unavailable that morning, since this wasn’t supposed to be part of the schedule, so he sent a team-member to let us in. As luck would have it, she dropped the lockbox key below the front porch, so we couldn’t get in. We called our attorney and postponed the closing to later in the day. The Realtor was able to obtain a copy of the key to let us in, where we learned the electric was still off.

I contacted the electric company. I explained that I was the buyer, and the seller kept saying the electric would get turned on, but here we are at the 11th hour with nothing. The woman on the other end couldn’t tell me what she was seeing since it wasn’t my account, but she carefully played with words to let me know: sorry, hunny, but there’s no way this electric is getting turned on while under this person’s name because there is a high outstanding balance. She assured me that if I put it in my name, there wouldn’t be any issues. However, I wasn’t about to pay fees and put it in my name before the house was legally mine.

This is where we learned that a good attorney is worth his weight in gold. We never really understood the role of a closing attorney, since all our closings had gone smoothly (I mean, we could sign all the closing documents in about 20 minutes at this point). Since the electric wasn’t on, and we couldn’t verify the condition of the home, as required by the contract, our attorney withheld $5,000 of the settlement proceeds. The seller’s attorney was NOT happy, but it was entertaining to watch from our standpoint. 

We had been provided a ‘receipt,’ dated 8/17 (the day before closing), that indicated an HVAC repair man had been out to do the work required. We are pretty sure that this was falsified. There was no electricity in the house that day, and there was still water in the pan on 8/18. Here’s the email I sent to our attorney releasing the $5,000 withheld, less the cost of my HVAC technician performing the repairs.

It cost me $125 for the HVAC technician’s trip. Our attorney told the seller’s attorney that he would release the $5000 less the $125. The seller’s attorney said he didn’t have any authority to allow that; so our attorney said he didn’t have any authority to release the $5000. Well, the seller’s attorney decided $4875 was better than nothing, and I got my $125 back.

All in all, everything fell into place, but there were many days and hours that felt like we were about to fall into a pit.

We purchased the house for $89,000, plus the $1,300 for contractor repairs, and the seller paid $2,000 of our closing costs (this minimizes the amount we have to bring to closing and allows us to leverage every last dollar we can for maximum efficiency). Our first lease was for $995/month, exceeding the 1% Rule. We closing in mid-August, and the first lease didn’t execute until October 1, which was one of our longer vacancies. That tenant renewed her lease once. Currently, the rent is $1,025/month. We sought $1,050 for a 12 month lease, and the prospective tenant negotiated an 18-month lease at $1,025. We accepted this because it was rented in October, and an 18-month lease brought as back to spring-time turnover. Even though taxes have risen since the purchase, we still maintain the substantial cash-on-cash return that is provided for in trying to obtain the 1% rule on investment real estate purchases.

After closing, I painted nearly the entire house (including the trim) over the course of a week; the house looked significantly better with just a fresh coat of paint. We also had to do a more thorough cleaning job than we’ve typically had to do on houses we purchase, including caulking the tub and cleaning the carpet.

We replaced the dishwasher with the first tenant, and then replaced the refrigerator after the second tenant kept complaining about the seal not working well. Most costly, the house has had several roof and siding issues. The kitchen was an addition with a flat roof, which typically causes problems. We replaced the gutters, fixed the flashing, repaired some siding, and then eventually replaced that part of the roof altogether. We also had to replace a cracked window, which was surprisingly under warranty. It took a lot of work to find the window manufacturer and a local distributor, but it surprisingly all worked out because it was a stress fracture and covered under a lifetime warranty.

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