“Don’t worry–it’s a great neighborhood!”
Insomnia. Agitation. Distractibility. Fatigue. Behavioral changes.
Are these the symptoms of a drug addiction? Do they indicate an imminent nervous breakdown? Perhaps…but perhaps it is something even more devastating. Could it be the feared Home Buyer Syndrome?
I shall tell you my story in the hopes that others may avoid the same terrible fate.
Several months ago, we decided which city to target for our home buying needs. I then took to the local realty association website like a moth to a flame, like a bee to nectar… like a preschooler to Dora the Explorer reruns. At first, the high was great. I could picture our furniture in the living rooms, could see our children running through the back yards, could feel the satisfaction of standing at the front door, welcoming guests into the foyers of these exquisite homes. Nothing compared to the euphoria of a beautiful, spotless house where I could finally paint the walls and change the bathroom fixtures after endless years of leasing from penny-pinching landlords.
By the time we needed to contact a real, live agent, my list of prospective homes was longer than the kids’ Christmas lists. I even had a spreadsheet of my favorites with notes, list price changes over time, and pros/cons of each. I had memorized the details of each property all the way down to which rooms had crown molding and what was planted in the back yard. If you have been reading my other posts, you will know that my “free” time is almost non-existent…so you know I spent every spare minute online.
Ah, the joy of that first day of driving around with the agents (Hey, if one is good, two is even better!), looking at these homes I had dreamed about for months. If memory serves, we toured seven houses in three hours. It was a frenetic whirlwind of foyers, kitchens, bedrooms, and game rooms. I went away slightly confused by the endless choices and feeling like none of the homes were an exact fit for our needs. It was distressing that none of the homes really looked as good in person as they did in pictures, so I stepped up my efforts on the local realty association website in the hope that at least one candidate would stand up to visual scrutiny.
The next week, we were back in the saddle, touring even more homes. This was the first time I realized that I both loved and hated the shopping process. They were all beginning to look alike.
Finally, one home felt “right.” It was easy to picture us on the ample back porch, relaxing after a hard day. Can you see the flawless family holiday meals in the dining room and the fun play dates for the kids in the game room? Look at the front of the home awash with twinkling Christmas lights! Yes, this was the one.
We slapped down the earnest money, and I spent the next few days on “Cloud Nine,” dreaming of welcoming guests into the expansive foyer. It came time to schedule the home inspection…and hubby got cold feet. The down payment would eat up every last dime in savings, which in our world is just asking for something unforeseen to go expensively wrong. Would it be a huge medical bill? Would the Burb go kaput? Would there be corporate downsizing in our future? Surely, something would come along.
I grumbled. I pouted. I finally got over it. Nothing compared to my sheepishness when telling the agents that we had to start the house hunting process all over again.
It was at this point that an unhealthy obsession with that annoying HGTV show, House Hunters, took hold of me. Having previously thought that perhaps HGTV was offering at least a few thousand dollars to the poor slobs who agreed to be on the show, I had researched their offer. If it paid for some of the closing costs on a house, we might just consider becoming the director’s trained monkeys for a few days. No such luck. According to their website, they give the participants a measly 500 dollars, minus the cost of electricity for all scenes shot in the participants’ current homes, for three days of precious time that would be better spent packing.
I was now fully convinced that no sane person would agree to this arrangement. Nevertheless, I became a House Hunters fanatic. Perhaps I just wanted to prove to myself that there were bigger idiots in the world who whined about more things than I did. “That kitchen is too small!” “I wanted a bigger pool!” “This house is too far away from our favorite shops and restaurants!” (That was my favorite one; nothing says “sufficient maturity to buy a home” like whining about not being within walking distance of your favorite restaurant.)
A random email from one of the agents informed me of a promising foreclosure property that just hit the market. Even if it needed extensive work, it would still be within our budget. I fired off a quick email to my boss (who I now owed at least a truckload of freshly-made naan and and five cases of bourbon for all the house-hunting forays that took me away from work) and planned to meet the team at the property the following afternoon.
While parking the Burb and waiting for the senior agent to arrive, I noticed a shiny, brand-new Jaguar parking on the other side of the driveway. Strange… A woman got out of the Jag and wandered over to the front door to have a look inside. She walked around the exterior of the house. My agent mentioned that she was giving a showing [ahem, to ME!], and the woman chatted with us briefly about her home search before getting back into her car. Just what I needed: someone who could make a cash offer and pull this opportunity out from under us. Yes, I will admit to really wanting to scratch out her eyes. House hunting is war, people, and if you know me, you know how I hate to lose a battle…even over a foreclosure. Especially over a foreclosure.
After finally calming down, I noticed the property was in extremely good repair; it appeared to need new paint, and there was some tile work to be done in the pool, but it was a beautiful home. It hadn’t been gutted like so many foreclosures these days. The brand new double ovens were still intact. I had moved beyond picturing the home of our dreams by then and so began to focus on such things as whether the Burb would fit in the garage and how soon the windows would need to be replaced. You just can’t get that first “making an offer” high a second time. In any case, we made a generous offer and waited for the bank to pounce on it. New paint schemes began to whirl through my head.
To make a long story short, we are not fans of Bank of America (who owned the property), nor are we fans of purchasing a foreclosure as a primary residence. They wanted to close in an insanely short time frame. After waiting for a long time on pins and needles, BOA finally decided they might consider our offer, along with the offers of two other potential buyers, and they would let us know in another week or so. A week?! We didn’t have another week to spare! We had already been waiting to hear from BOA for an eternity in the world of home buying, and with the summer moving season upon us, houses were going onto the market and being optioned in mere days.
I scheduled one more home viewing appointment with the agents and told hubby that if I found a good one, we would retract our offer on the foreclosure. Crossing fingers now. Side note: it appears Little Miss Cash Offer might have spent all her money on the new Jaguar, for which I felt extremely grateful…and a little smug. The bank would not have wanted to consider our offer if a cash offer had been available.
It was another whirlwind home tour that fateful morning. The first home we toured seemed slightly smaller than what we really needed. The others were either a terrible fit or at the very top of our budget. The all-important wish list I had carefully compiled at the start of the home search was now almost completely defunct: big gourmet kitchen with double wall ovens, gas cooktop, a lot of counter space, and a breakfast area that would easily accommodate our large table; separate dining room with space for our dining room set, as well as any other related furnishings I might collect over the years; separate office; game room large enough for a TV viewing area and a sewing space; no upstairs railings (they seem unsafe); impressive foyer; an oversized garage for the Burb; and a well-kept back yard with room for my garden, no neighbors behind us, please. Okay, you can stop laughing now. Could we get all of those things and stay within our budget? Yep. Could we get all of those things AND live in the “right” neighborhood? Nope. Reality really does bite. I felt like a slightly more realistic version of those people I made fun of on House Hunters.
Well, we made an offer on that first home, and it was accepted. What’s not to accept, since we had to offer full list price? After all, this little gem had only been on the market for two days. I quietly mourned the loss of my would-be brand new double oven and gas cooktop, worried about suitability of the upstairs railings, and considered what kind of cushioning to add to the front garage wall that the Burb would invariably bump into every time it was parked. Gone was the euphoria of house hunting…but the jitters and insomnia remained. The upside? We could now thumb our noses at BOA with impunity.
It has been over a month, and I still wake up occasionally in a cold sweat, wondering if this was indeed the right house. Nightmares about bizarre home issues abound. The other night, I dreamt that the living room carpet pad in the new house was extremely worn in heavy traffic areas on move-in day (ridiculous, since it really has wood floors). The same night, I awoke in a panic because our living room furniture had morphed into ‘60s style furniture in bright teal. It was terrifying. You can stop laughing now.
We are still in a constant state of stress over the move—our lender has requested an insane number of documents, some of which do not exist (I wonder if they do that on purpose!). We thought we were sure of the closing date, and so we scheduled movers, childcare, time off, etc…only to find out that there was an amended contract that for some reason we forgot to save to our computers…so we had to reschedule everything, down to the last detail.
Thankfully, I have been too busy packing up the house to watch House Hunters lately. Perhaps the dependency will lessen on its own. It remains doubtful that a full night of restful slumber will make its appearance until six months after we move, at which point exhaustion will do a fine job of lulling me to sleep.
Please, someone, remind me why home ownership is considered the American Dream?