Monday, August 8, 2011

How we got where we are: The 2010 Real Estate Experience in detail

This has been a long time coming. Ever since our real estate FIASCO I have said that I would write about it so that everyone could understand the drama and chaos we endured. I can honestly say that just now, 8 months after the dust has settled, I finally feel ready to mentally revisit the wounds. Just a friendly warning---take a seat, settle in…this is a bit of a long read.

I am going to recount events to the best of my ability. Some of it is still very much a blur. The human mind has a great self-preservation technique—it blocks out trauma. And this was very much traumatic. I will not use names other than those of which I speak fondly of. I do not wish to slander anyone or hurt anyone’s business reputation. I will, however, say, that if you read this and would like to know who NOT to use or associate with in real estate dealings I will inform you of that privately. Just not here.
It all began the weekend before Mothers Day 2010. My good friend Lara Jane Coffey just moved from Waco to Killeen and got her real estate license. We had listed our home 6-8 months before with little luck. We were so disenchanted with out listing agent that we cancelled our contract and took our home off the market. This agent, for whom we will call ‘Agent CS’, was the listing agent for the house we had a contingent offer on, and our selling agent. She had the potential of making double commission on the home we wished to buy, and then also on our home we wished to sell. She was in a great position to make a lot of money but she was VERY unmotivated, unreachable and ditzy.

She once drove out to the middle of nowhere to let us into a house only to realize once she got there that she didn’t have her device to open the lock box--just not a dependable agent. Our home was listed with her for 6-8 months with only THREE showings!!!! This just did not seem right to me. Lara Jane knew about this experience. She was now an agent with ERA and wished to do a referral for us. She knew we still wanted to eventually sell, and I figured why not help out a friend.

I went into the referral experience with no immediate compulsion to list. The markets were down. It was clearly a buyers market, and houses just weren’t fetching top-dollar. I wished to meet with an agent just to see what they thought our house would sell for and when they thought the best time to list would be.
Well, low and behold, we were contacted by none other than PATRICA MEADOWS!!! If that name doesn’t ring a bell for you, it should. She is the QUEEN of real estate here in Waco. Patrica founded ERA Graceland years ago. She is no-longer owner, she sold it, but she is still a top agent. Nationally she ranks among the highest selling ERA agents across the country.

This woman is AMAZING! After we removed our home from the market the first time around, Patricia Meadows contacted us by mail stating that she noticed our home was removed and unsold. She said she understood that those things usually happen for a reason and that she would like to help us. Well I was sooooo thrilled to have her on my team this time around!!!!

Via our first phone contact I told her a bit about our situation. We had been in our home for 7 years. We owed a bit over $50000 on it plus a $8000 home equity loan. The home had been COMPLETELY remodeled. New kitchen, new bath, new doors, new hinges, newly converted garage, large laundry room, indoor storage room, large closets, new metal roof, new plumbing, recessed lighting, new AC and heat, tile, hardwoods, 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, brick veneer, large back yard, garbage disposal, dishwasher, surround sound, playground, shed, rose garden, carport, double drive etc, etc, etc. She said, “Well let me come over, take a look and I can give you my opinions”. This was HUGE.

Our first time around Agent CS basically just asked, “What do you want to sell it for?” listed it and forgot about it. Patricia was offering to look up comps, look at the house, consider the upgrades and actually counsel us. I was so very excited. She was totally professional, well organized and informative.


She gave us a realistic listing price of $89,900. We bought the home seven years before as a fixer upper for $67,000 and we felt that $89,900 was fair. We wouldn’t get all of our investment money back out of it but we were motivated to move.


We bought in Robinson years earlier as childless newlyweds. Only after we purchased the home did we realize that although the street is in Robinson, and the utilities are in Robinson, the school district was WACO!!!! Not only was the school district Waco but the city had recently purchased land at the end of our street that was once a sleepy little corn field and they had begun construction of the 4A University High School campus.


We had NOT signed up for THAT! We wanted a quiet neighborhood--something more rural—something not next to a huge high school.


So after talking to her, we decided to list right away. My oldest was turning five 10 months later and we needed to get her in a good school district or homeschooling was going to be in my near future.


We signed the contract, and just a few days later Patricia’s partner, Melissa Bogusch, stopped by to take pictures of the house. This is a great opportunity to highlight the GI-NORMOUS differences between Patricia/Melissa and Agent CS.



Robinson House

Agent CS took a few fleeting pics of the house for the MLS listing. The main image she used to market the house was of the playground in the back yard and she didn’t even take a pic of the front of the house. I had to take one myself, email it to her and request that she use it on MLS to market our home. Well, Melissa took 10-12 pics. All of them were of high quality. She took street shots, inside shots, pics of my rose garden and of course the playground as well. It was like night and day. I immediately knew, after looking at the MLS listing, that this time around was going to be better.

Jason was so very excited that he insisted on going the very next weekend and looking at available houses. I was more reserved. Our first time around we looked before we sold, and got our hearts broken. We fell in love with a house before we were in a position to truly buy. I didn’t want to go this time—but he did. So we went. We found house heaven—5 acres, secluded, fenced in, 3 sheds, a workshop, man-room, 3 bd 2 bath, manufactured home, with metal roof, huge concrete slab porches, fruit trees…our dream.
But we couldn’t make an offer. I got so angry at Jason and told him that this was exactly why I didn’t want to look!!! We could not act.

Patricia and Melissa brought us multiple showings, hosted an Open House, and mailed out fliers to the surrounding neighborhoods showcasing our home for sale. They even posted weekly to Craigslist about our home. Just about 2 months in, after several other showings, we got a call from he whom we shall name ‘Agent Trustfund’.
Now if you know anything about MLS listings and house showings, owners can place a time frame that they would like notification before a showing. We had requested an hour. I am a stay-at-home mom with 2 small children and 2 dogs. An hour is a very short amount of time to stage the home in the manner than I consider acceptable. Not to mention that I had just fallen the week before and dislocated my left kneecap for the 3rd time in my life. I was in a brace from hip to ankle in a house that desperately needed some TLC.
Well, it seems that Agent Trustfund didn’t think that the time stipulation applied to him, and he wanted to show my home to a client in FIFTEEN minutes! Yes, I said FIFTEEN!!! So here I go frantically wobbling around the house hiding this, and tossing that--placing strange things in even stranger places. I called Jason and he RAN home to help me, knowing that I was moving at a snail’s pace in my hideous leg brace. Somehow we did it.
It wasn’t perfect but it looked nice. I loaded up my girls and headed out. After the showing, Agent Trustfund did not make the courtesy call to let us know he was done showing the house. I had to keep driving by, all creepy and lurky, trying to see when I and my two impatient preschoolers could return home. Finally the time came, and we returned to the chaos that is stay-at-home motherhood. I will say that Agent Trustfund had left a nice note and some pens etc. So my attitude towards him temporarily softened a bit. Notice I say temporarily.

Patricia and Melissa were great at following up with showings for feedback, and this time was no different. They promptly called Agent Trustfund to find out what his client thought about the house. He liked it!!!! But Agent Trustfund, who has only been in the business all of 2-3 years, was quick to inform the VETERAN, Patricia Meadows, that the home was priced too high.

Ok , soooooo this kid pulled comps and YEAH, our house was MUCH higher than the foreclosed comp down the road that sold for $70000 with beat in walls, ripped out electrical, a smaller backyard and trashed indoor AC unit. I mean, COMEON! Common sense, people!!!!! This really twirped me off.
While lurking around the neighborhood trying to wait til I could return home I saw Agent Trustfund’s vehicle--a BMW. His car cost more than what my home was listed for, give me a break. We rolled with the punches and just decided to move forward.

Or so we thought…
In the meantime, the home we saw weeks before on the 5 acres sold and was removed from MLS. We mourned.

A few weeks later the phone rang again. Guess who it was! Go, on—just guess! TRUSTFUND!!!! He wanted to show the house again, in 30 minutes. I was now out of my leg brace but I was still struggling with some lingering back issues from having to walk crooked for the past several weeks. I was still moving slow and in a lot of pain. We totally did not want to let this insensitive agent through our front door again---that is, until we realized that he was showing the house a second time to the same client. *SIGH*
We decided to let him back in but only after Jason called him back and informed him that there was no way we could clean the house, load the girls and get out of there in 30 minutes. He insisted the agent wait an hour. Trustfund Agent was not happy about this. He claimed that the client was a very busy man and this was the only opportunity for his girlfriend and mother to both view the house with him at the same time, but he would see what he could do.

Jason raced home, once again, to help me get things in order and we actually got out of there in 30 min. Jason called Agent Trustfund and informed him that the house was empty and ready to be shown. The agent said they were headed that way. I drove all the back streets of Robinson for 30-45 minutes and decided to creep back by the house to see if the coast was clear. As I pulled onto the street I saw it. THEY WERE JUST THEN PULLING IN TO BEGIN THE SHOWING!!!! They had not even viewed the house yet!!! My 2 girls were going stir crazy! My back was ceasing up and my temper was boiling. I did the only sensible thing that I could think of—we went to Sonic (momma needed a drink).

Another 30 minutes passed and I just couldn’t stand it any longer. We drove back to the street. They were still there. Granted they were done with the viewing and standing in the front yard, but they were still there and I could not return. We pulled into a business at the front of the street and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, after an additional 30 minutes they got in their cars and drove away. We very hastily returned home. STILL no courtesy call to let us know they were done. If I had not sat there and waited I would have not known that they were finished.

I called Jason very frustrated about my 2 hour car episode and he was furious--after all that rushing around Agent Trustfund still just marched to the beat of his own drum. We considered calling his company and filing a formal complaint about his behavior and complete lack of respect….then we got it. An offer! Our hands were tied. We couldn’t complain about the agent who just may represent our buyer. So we sucked it up and moved forward.
Well, I called it an offer. I was more like an insult. The original offer was for $12,000 less than asking. That was laughable!!!! $77,000? Really? Bawhahhahah! NO! Obviously we countered. We offered $87,000 with some help with closing costs. I guess their first attempt was just to see what they could get away with, because they accepted our counter.
And then the clouds parted and there was sunshine! The house we loved with the 5 acres was back on the MLS listings. It seemed meant to be! We were ecstatic!!!
We met back out there with Melissa and filled out the paperwork for our offer. She contacted the selling agent to submit and we hit a wall—the seller had been burned once before on a deal that fell through, and she did not want to view our offer until the inspection on our home and option period were over and final. So we had to wait, and wait, and wait…..

Our buyer had a 10 day option period. The days came and went—day1, day2, day 3, day 4…and so on and so forth. Normally it would not have mattered. Not our problem. If they let it pass without inspecting the house---that would be their loss. But we had to wait for them to submit our offer. We were at their mercy. Finally on day 8 the inspector showed up. Get this…Agent Trustfund wasn’t even there to let him in!!! Jason just so happened to have stopped back home for lunch, he had to let the inspector in!
Regardless of all the waiting and frustration, the inspection could not have gone any better for us. The buyers of our home asked for nothing! That was wonderful! We were ready now to move forward with the dream home.
We met Melissa back out there once again to resign our offer since some dates etc had to be changed and to write our check for $150 in earnest money. She called the listing agent, who we will call ‘Agent X’, to let her know we were submitting our offer. Then we found out the terrifying news. The listing agent was showing the property that night to a family that would probably also be making an offer. Oh the anxiety.
They indeed did. Now this property had 2 offers on the table. The owner was out of town and requested for the two parties to resubmit with their best offers. She would look them over and make her decision when she returned home about a week later. OH MY GOODNESS! What heartache!
We put together what we thought was the most attractive offer that we could make and placed it in Melissa’s hands. The next day at work, Jason felt moved to write the seller a letter to accompany our offer. He felt like she needed to see the personal side of us and our offer. I am going to try to find that letter to include it here.
So the night she flew in we were deep in prayer and very anxious. I had be-friended the daughter of the seller on facebook. We had several friends in common and I am just funny like that. Jason tells me I am stalkerish. Anyhoo, an hour passed and I was on the computer messing around when a message came across. That same instant Jason’s phone rang. I am in the background screaming and crying, we got it, We Got It, WE GOT IT! And he gets the word from our agent, the seller chose our offer!!! What a high! We just knew then that it was ‘meant to be’. We were on track to close October 28th!!!!

I began packing up our home. We had 30 days, and there was a lot left to be done. We had not heard from our buyer’s agent for a week or two at this point, and just wanted to touch base for an update and to be sure all was still on track. It wasn’t.
They were originally supposed to close at the end of Oct, and things were getting tied up with the lender. Rules had changed and things were stricter. Our buyers were put through the ringer with 6 months worth of bank statements and other crazy requirements to get their loan in order. This would have all be fine with us, we aren’t unrealistic people….but here is the problem--Agent Trustfund had stopped returning calls and even answering his phone.

Our agents tried, Jason tried and nothing. It even got to the point on more than one occasions that his voicemail inbox was too full to even accept new messages. He wasn’t return anyone’s calls. This would happen for a week and then he would answer intermittently here and there. Then finally he quit responding to Patricia and Melissa at all. I was at my wits end. My house was full of boxes, I had no pot nor pans nor dishes. We were only eating foods that we bought as fast food, or that we could cook in the microwave--and I was going NUTS!

I just wanted some communication! I posted on his wall on facebook that my agent was trying to contact him and that I was very angry about his lack of communication and that I wished he would answer his phone or return calls, and then I did it--I called him.
I knew his type. He would answer immediately for me. My number was an unrecognized number. Because it could possibly be a new client, he would put his best foot forward in the initial meeting just to gain business. I was right. He answered on the third ring. Mind you, Patirica had tried him all morning to no avail.
I introduced myself, stated the fact that my agent had tried to reach him all morning, and in the days prior--and he stumbled. “Oh, ahh, hmmm, well, I was in a meeting all morning.” Yeah, ok. That was convient, huh. Well I informed him that he should call my agent and that was the end of it. Well not really.

I deleted my comment on his page just as soon as he answered my call and assured me that he would talk to Patricia, but not before someone saw it. I got a call back from my dear friend Agent Trustfund informing me that I was behaving very unprofessionally and that it was inappropriate for me to air my complaints online. I assured him that the comment was no longer public and that my issues were resolved as soon as he FINALLY answered a phone call. And that was that. My personal opinion: if you don’t do your job, then you open yourself up to public negative commentary on your performance….period.
On three different occasions we were told that our buyers would be closing the next day. In hindsight it was a blessing that the deal stalled, but in the moment it was very stressful and frustrating.

While all the issues with the sale of our home were taking place, we were diligently getting all the paperwork together for our FHA loan on the dream house. And was it A LOT of paperwork! If you aren’t familiar with FHA, is it an alternative government backed home loan program that allows lower down-payments and low interest rates. This was the route we wanted to go, and we were told that this property was FHA loan acceptable. We were only going to have to place $3500 down and we could afford that. Then the troubles began.

First off the FHA appraiser could not find the tags for the manufactured home. Just like cars and boats, manufactured homes have tags with something similar to a VIN #. The ones on this home were not visible. The home had been vinyl sided, and the numbers had been covered—no one knew where to find them. This was not the end of the world, but this was a hold-up. Paper work had to be submitted to request the numbers from the manufacturer—it was done and finally squared away. Then the appraiser required an engineer to come out to verify that the mobile home had a permanent foundation (this was an FHA requirement).
The engineer came and there was NO permanent foundation. This was a $3500 expense and we did not have the cash to cover it. Luckily, the seller agreed to pay to have the foundation fixed. It was in her best interest to do so since no-one could purchase the home via FHA without the repairs made. We would soon discover that it was all in vain.
The engineer came back out to verify that the repairs had been made, and signed off on the foundation.
We had a webpage from our lender that showed the status of our account and everything was checked off except for this one strange requirement. It asked for verification of first-time put down on original foundation. We really didn’t even understand what that meant. We asked the engineer if he could verify that for us while inspecting the foundation, and he informed us that that was not something that he could tell from simply looking under the house. He explained that first time put down on original foundation meant that the home came from the manufacturer to the lot and stayed there. It could never have been moved or that stipulation would be broken.
So our agent called the listing agent, Agent X, and asked if the trailer was first time put down on original foundation. Agent X was adamant that the house had never been moved, and had only resided at this location. Word of mouth was not sufficient for the lender so an investigation into the title took place. The home had indeed been moved. The people who currently owned it bought it second-hand as a repo and then moved it to its current location. What that meant was that this manufactured home was not first time put down on original foundation---our world was rocked!

Patricia called Agent X once again to try to verify that the information was indeed correct. This time Agent X called her client and discovered that it was indeed purchased as a repo and therefore was not even eligible for sale as a FHA property. Partricia called her out on claiming that is was before, and Agent X denied ever saying that the home had not been moved. As far as who recalls right and who recalls wrong here I cannot speak. All I can do is report is what I was told.
This is what I KNOW. Agent X listed the property on MLS as an FHA eligible property and therefore, in my opinion, whether by deceit or lack of knowledge misrepresented the property. This misrepresentation caused us much heartache.

What I have not yet divulged to you is this: We had already leased the storage buildings on –site from the seller, in anticipation of a very near closing date, and more than half of our belongings were already stored on the property. We had spent hours unpacking trailers, stacking boxes, walking fence-lines and even having a small picnic. We were emotionally, financially and physically invested in this deal. We had lost the $400 for the FHA appraisal and Jason had spent hour upon hour running around town getting paperwork together. We were vested, and not yet ready to back out.

We cried. We weren’t sure what our options were. And we felt defeated. We loved that property!!!
Patricia Meadows and Melissa Bogusch went into hyper-drive and scoured loan products to find us a solution. They were empathetic and caring. A traditional loan is an 80/20, meaning that you finance 80% and pay 20% down. First off, we didn’t have $20,000 cash and had no way of getting that kind of moolah. Secondly, even if we did have it, I was not about to put $20,000 down on a 15 year old mobile home. At first glance this seemed to be the only loan lenders were willing to make on a used manufactured home. They wanted to see us in this property as much as we wanted to be there. Melissa prevailed.

She found us a local lender willing to do an 80/15/5. This loan was one much popular before the recession and housing collapse, but much less common in these post real estate bubble times. This loan would mean that we finance 80%, the seller carries 15% of the debt and we place 5% down. We could swing $5000. It would be more than we planned, but we could make it work. So we began the process again. ALL. OVER. AGAIN.
We paid an additional $400 for yet ANOTHER appraisal. Filled out all the paper work, AGAIN, and waited.

Packed

In the meantime, our home was nearing closure. We knew we would not close on our dream home in time to make a fluid transition, so we contacted Agent Trustfund about a lease-back. A lease-back is when the seller leases the home back from the buyer for a short amount of time. We wanted like 12 days. Trustfund assured us that this would not be an issue. We got the paperwork together and all was a go…so we thought.
The sale on our home closed early December. We went in to sign the papers assured that Trustfund and his client would be signing later that same day. Do you think that happened? NO! Granted, the cleint’s girlfriend went into labor and had their baby but still, just be honest and say that. Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no…..I cannot stand deceit.

Trustfund and his client did manage to go in the next day to get the papers signed, but of course there was a surprise coming our way. Our buyer now wanted $500 for the 12 days we were leasing back our property. This had NEVER been discussed. It was understood that the leaseback was of no charge since Trustfund assured us that his client was in no hurry to move in. We had time.


Yet more deceit!

Of course we scoffed at the request,, and luckily the issue dissolved (After the fact some social networking posts led us to believe Trustfund had never, until closing, informed his client that we wished to do a lease-back—I guess, at least, we weren’t the only people he lied to).

All seemed well with our lender. We were expecting to close mid December and be at our new dream house for Christmas. This dream was never realized. 2 days before we were supposed to close on our dream property, and be out of our current home, we got a call that our lender no longer wished to do a 80/15/5 loan. They wished to do an 80/10/10. That means that we would finance 80%, the seller would carry 10% of the debt and we would pay 10% down. WE DID NOT HAVE $10,000 cash! Nowhere, no way, no how did we have it.

Melissa and Patricia were so very sweet and caring. They offered to waive their commission just so that we could afford the higher down payment. There was even an off-handed mention of a personal loan from Patricia to us in order for us to close the deal. It was not allowable per the loan company, and even if it had been we were not about to mortgage our lives just for a great house. It wasn’t worth it. But those two ladies were indeed sweeties! They were just as exhausted and shocked by the whole process as we were. I think we can actually claim that we gave Patricia Meadows some real estate firsts—and that is saying a lot.
We were so exhausted. I had existed in a home for weeks and weeks with no creature comforts--no pots, pans, no bowls, no clean sheets, very few articles of clothing, minimal toys and a WHOLE HEAPING LOT OF STRESS!
We were done. We had no energy left. There were no more tears to cry. Our bones ached with real estate woes. We walked.

Now here we were. 2 days left in our home, and no where to go, just a few weeks before Christmas 2010. Our only option seemed to be to put our stuff in storage and move in, temporarily, with Jason’s parents in their 1500 sq ft 3 bed 2 bath home. This did not sound palatable. We were distraught.
Jason’s dad had been sharing through the weeks of our real estate drama with his Church family about our ordeal. This Church had once been our family as well. Seven years earlier, as newlyweds, and even before we were married, this was our congregation. However, when we moved 15 miles away, to Robinson, we searched for a new place of worship.

We had floated from here to there, joined a church plant (that is where I met Lara Jane) and eventually had stopped being active in any congregation. Our faith had continued to grow as well as our relationships with the Lord, but we just hadn’t rededicated ourselves to a Church. We used the excuse of moving time and time again to talk ourselves out of getting involved. We longed for the comradery of brothers and sisters in Christ, and pledged to make that a priority once we moved.
Well God apparently had a plan, and His plan directly involved this congregation, The Church at Tree Lake. An elder in the Church had mentioned to Jason’s dad, Robert, on more than one occasion that the Church’s parsonage was empty and available to us if we would like to use it.

moving out of dream house

We felt akward about this since we had not been a part of this Church for many years. However, Jason grew up with this congregation. They knew him well. loved him and me and the girls by proxy.


 Jason still hesitated. I sat him down, looked him straight in the eyes and said—“Jason, would you rather cramp all of us together in your parents house or take advantage of a generous offer? Let someone help us.”
Jason made a call to Bill Garrett, an elder at The Church at Tree Lake and 20 minutes later we had a house, a great rent situation and a new Church family.


Sprain
 
The moving in day Jason had to revisit the dream home to get all of our belongings that were stored out there and that was very hard for him.  Luckily we had a great future friend who without even knowing us volunteered to come help Jason move.  Thank you Chad and Kim Vana you are indeed the hands and feet of Christ.  Unfortunately, on move-in day I severely sprained my left ankle for the 3rd time.  I actually thought it was broken since I had to pysically straighten it back out.  we spend 5 hours at the ER that day and I got to finish moving in to our new home in yet another nasty brace.

God knew what He was doing all along! We have since rejoined Tree Lake. Jason is head of the Men’s ministry. We help watch the pastor’s house and church building. I am involved in the women’s ministry, have helped with the youth, and am currently organizing a garage sale fundraiser to buy ‘Proclaimers’ for Pastor Jeff Wyers to take to Honduras and Belize. We both rededicated our lived to Christ by baptism in the Brazos River. My 5-year-old daughter has shown an interest in getting saved and being baptized.

parsonage

None of these things would have come about if God had not worn us slap out. He knows our character. He knew that if Jason and I were not at the absolute end of our ropes we simply would have found another property and purchased it instead.
We were not supposed to buy.

If we had, we would be bankrupt right now. Some financial things have come to pass that if we had been homeowners we just may have fallen into default. But not here. We pay rent, but it isn’t rigid. It may be more one month, less the next and sometimes not at all. We are performing some much needed upkeep on the parsonage. And God is blessing us ten-fold.

There was one last bit of drama after the move. We received a call from Melissa out of the blue because that poor Engineer that inspected and then re-inspected the foundation had yet to be paid. He was owed $750. We felt sorry for him, but we did not feel liable for the fees. And we held our ground.
It was an unfortunate situation but in our opinion Agent X was liable. She listed the home for sale on MLS as an FHA eligible property when it wasn’t. She costed us $400 for an unneeded FHA inspection, and then lied about claiming the property had never been moved. This was our stance.

We sent an email detailing our refusal to pay, and never heard another word about it. Not sure who ended up having to absorb the cost. It is an unfortunate situation…but we had already paid the piper and had nothing left to offer.

I am now exhausted all over again. That was really hard to write and probably also hard to read. What a long and trying ordeal. But even in the darkest hour, God can resurrect beauty—and this is just what He did for us.

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