On the first day, Katie and her husband saw 13 homes.
Only three were anywhere close to move-in condition, despite the fact that all of the homes were built in 2005 or later. All were foreclosed properties. "People find out a year before they're ever kicked out, so what do they do for that year?" says Katie. "Completely destroy their homes."
I know we've already heard about this, as had Katie, but the destruction was even beyond her expectations. "There's no cleaning that would help." There was dirt rubbed on the walls, graffiti, holes in the walls and garbage deposited inside the holes. The smell? "I couldn't get past it." Obviously there was no hardware on the doors and no appliances, kitchen cabinets, stovetops...whatever could go went. 75 percent of the homes she went into were an instant no.
But here's the crazy part:
"We went to a home that had been on the market for one day, and the key was stolen out of the lock box. Our Realtor said immediately, 'You want this home.' She told us another Realtor had stolen the key because they wanted their client to get it. So what did my Realtor do? She broke in. And sure enough this was the home we fell in love with. It was on for $132,000 so we decided to be really aggressive and offered $160,000, plus we had government backing on our loan. Well our Realtor called that night and said, 'You're not going to get the home. They got 30 offers and half are cash offers, so the bank is not even going to look at you.' The banks just want the cash to unload these places."
Finally, on day 7 of looking, and after having 7 offers ignored by the banks (who owned all the homes), the Realtor called Katie with "a gold mine." Yes, an owner-occupied, regular home. A rare non-foreclosure. They went immediately and put in an offer. The owner claims to like them, but she ended up with 10 offers and is still mulling.
Ironically, in a market still flooding with new foreclosed properties every day, at the end of their week Katie and her husband met with a local builder. "We know our money will not get us as much, but they're giving away the granite and hardwoods for free." It's not in their ideal location, and they wouldn't be able to move in until March, the month their first baby is due. But at least they don't have to deal with the banks, the filth and the competition.
Oh, and by the way, a fun factoid on Katie's Realtor: She bought her brand new home in 2005 for $240,000. According to the comps she runs daily, she says it's now worth between $90-110,000. So in January she decided to stop paying her mortgage. No financial hardship, she just figured she was throwing money away. The bank hasn't gotten to her yet, so she's just been living there for free. At some point, she knows, her bank will foreclose, but she's fine with that. She says she'll do far better financially renting for a while.
This is what the housing market has come to.
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