As part of our financial recovery plan after my husband lost his job and we were forced to do a short sale on our old home, we scraped together the money to purchase a bank-owned home from Homepath, the federal seller of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac repossessed homes. Here’s what we learned.
You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs. Many of the houses we looked at needed more work than we could do on our own, and our budget didn’t allow for too many professional repairs. We looked at houses built in the 1920’s with beautiful hardwood floors and rotted wooden porches. We looked at houses in scary neighborhoods. We looked at homes where the floors buckled under our feet. The search was time-consuming and discouraging at times, but we kept looking.
It wasn’t our dream home. Our dream home would include a fireplace, a pool, and maybe one of those big garden tubs. Our “reality home” has none of those features and is smaller than our previous homes, but it works for us for the near future. Perhaps when we’re ready, we’ll move to another home, but for now it works for us.
It had the right things wrong with it. After the distressed homes we saw on our home-buying hunt, we learned to look for the right things wrong. The home we bought had a roof that was replaced a few years ago, it’s concrete block (in Florida, where we live, that’s a plus when it comes to homeowner insurance rates), and it had tile throughout, which was an unexpected plus. The negatives? Godawful, clashing paint colors throughout the interior. No sliding glass door leading to the backyard. An air conditioner that needed some work. We painted ourselves, plan to enlarge an existing window to put in the slider (a future project) and bought a window a/c unit until we could afford to repair the central unit.
We got it inspected first. Our realtor knew the ins and outs and made sure we had an inspection clause. Indeed, the inspection turned up the a/c problems and we used that as a bargaining chip to lower our price. One caveat: make sure to use a reputable inspector and not necessarily the one that the realtor recommends. Our inspection verified what we suspected. This house had the right things wrong and we could handle the issues.
We were prepared to wait. We kept our moving plans flexible and prepared for a lengthy wait. To our surprise, our offer was accepted quickly and the closing came even faster than we dared to hope.
We fell in love with the house after we moved in. Sure, it’s on the small side. Okay, we don’t have the fancy vaulted ceilings and the spacious Jacuzzi tub. Still, we’ve grown to love our little house. We have wonderful neighbors, a big yard for our dogs, and I’ve definitely grown to love having tile instead of wall-to-wall carpets (my allergies thank me every day!)
Buying a bank-owned home seemed like a step down for us when we started. Now I’m glad that we had the chance to buy the right-things-wrong house that became our home.