Saturday, February 13, 2010

How We Got the Townhouse

So we wanted this townhouse. Nice, brand new, decent square footage, tiny bit of yard. Not perfect, but within our price range, and in an unbeatable location, which is important for two people who don't drive.

We put in an offer, were accepted, were all ready to go about a week and a half ago when four creditors popped up and reminded the builder that he owed them a lot of money. They activated liens and everything ground to a halt. With that many corporations and lawyers involved, and a builder who seemed to be completely broke (even selling the townhouse wasn't going to make him any money -- our understanding is that he owed every cent to the bank already) the chances of our getting the place seemed slim to nil. Sure, maybe if we could wait around for a few weeks or months while everyone fought and haggled, but we don't have that much per diem left, and don't particularly want to start throwing money down the rental-pit while we wait for them to straighten things out, on the possibility that we might be allowed to buy it whenever they get around to figuring out who gets to sell it.

So we looked around, found a house in the same neighborhood, a couple of blocks from the shopping center which was across the street from the townhouse. The place was old and it'd need a lot of work, but it had good bones and it was a lot cheaper, so we could afford to upgrade the wiring and the pipes and put insulation and wallboard in the "finished" basement, replace the ancient windows with something energy efficient, fence the yard, and cetera. When that was done, we'd have a lot more space and a huge yard. I was actually enthusiastic about this; it'd be more work and hassle, but less money in the long run for a bigger place.

We put an offer on the house, a good one, and since our condo was near to closing we had cash on the way and could put up a full down payment with no sales contingency, whereas the other party competing with us wasn't in as good a position. We were pretty sure we'd get the house, and that was cool. Jim was still a little iffy about all the work needed, but had satisfied himself that we could afford to do it, and that we'd have a lot more in the end, for less than the townhouse would've cost us.

In the background, our finance guy (Derek) and the builder's real estate guy (Tom) were working frantically trying to get the townhouse deal to go through. I didn't think it was going to happen in any reasonable time frame, and neither did our real estate guy (Scott). Jim stayed hopeful, but I basically wrote the townhouse off and concentrated my hopes and plans on the house, and that deal proceeded apace.

Then we got word that Derek and Tom had pulled off a miracle and gotten the four creditors to all sign releases on the liens. The one minor creditor, who was only owed a thousand dollars, wanted $750; the builder (I think) paid a few hundred, Tom paid a few hundred out of his commission, and we wrote a check for a few hundred. Fine, the guy'll agree to go away, we've got the townhouse and can move in in less than a week, yay!

We were still a bit wary, and Scott still wasn't believing that the miracle would hold, so he told the sellers of the house that we had some concerns about previous water issues in the basement, which had come up during disclosure. It was true so far as it went, and it'd buy us some time.

With Plan B still in place, we went through the rest of the purchase process on the townhouse. A notary came to the hotel and we signed and initialed the usual bazillion papers, Jim wired the down payment to the escrow company, and we were all ready to go. The deed would be recorded on Friday, or maybe late Thursday, depending on how things came together, and we'd be homeowners again. I was still a bit disappointed about the house, but happy the process was almost over with; I'm really sick of living out of suitcases at a hotel.

Thursday Jim came home and said, "Guess what." :/

A fifth creditor had turned up, someone owed more money than any of the previous four. (The largest amount from the first group was $50K; this creditor was owed about $80K.) And he hadn't just popped up out of the woodwork, either -- he had a judgement dated the fourth, so he'd been pursuing his claim for a while. The deed hadn't been recorded in our names yet, so everything screeched to a halt.

Now, the first question to ask is why the bleep the title company didn't find this? That's what they do, after all, and if there was a court judgement, it's not like the creditor was hiding or anything. The next question to ask is whether there are any more creditors waiting in the wings, and why the builder didn't disclose all of this up front; if there are financial issues which might prevent a sale, you're supposed to let potential buyers know, so they can decide whether they feel like diving into your mess.

Jim and I were both fed up with the on/off/on/off crap, so we gave them (pretty much everyone working the deal) until close of business Friday to straighten it out. If it wasn't ready to go through by then, deed recorded, the property ours, everything done and finished, then we were washing our hands of it, demanding our down payment back, and going for the house. Again, I thought that was the end of it.

Turns out Derek and Tom had another miracle in their pockets; they got everything straightened out by Friday evening. Tom persuaded the fifth creditor to take a thousand dollars, which he'd pay himself, and we agreed that after closing we'd give him a check for half of it. (I have no clue why they bothered when they were willing to settle for that little; it must've cost them more than a thousand to file the papers and go through the court process, no? [blinkblink]) So it's all over and done with, the deed is registered, the place is ours. We now own a townhouse in West Seattle. :) And if any more creditors pop up, it's too late to fight over the townhouse; they can go argue over the builder's pocket lint or whatever; we're out of it.

I think I'm going to feel a bit of regret for the house with its the enormous yard, and the huge downstairs room (half the house's footprint) that was going to be the office/library (mostly mine), for quite a while. On the other hand, we won't have to either pay for a hotel for another month or three while we fix the place up, or deal with workers coming in and out around us for however many months, while the sixty-year-old place gets brought up to 21st century standards. And Jim's promised me a house house when he retires, which is only a few years away.

Next step is to buy a dozen or twenty bookcases. :) We had books stacked and piled and back-filled in corners and covering every bare patch of floor for years in the condo, and the few bookcases we had were over-filled with extra books on top of the properly shelved ones, and piled up in front of them. It was all but impossible to find anything we'd bought within the last half dozen years, unless it was purchased recent enough that it was up on the top of the strata. It'll be great to be able to actually shelve all the books and have everything in order, to say nothing of Jim's CDs and our DVDs. I hate clutter to that extent, but we didn't have any place to put stuff away, and no place to put bookcases or whatever. By the time we moved out, most rooms in our place (and it was a three-bedroom, mind you) had only traffic paths between key locations. Being able to spread out some will be pretty awesome.

I also have to go back to an electric stove. [grumble] I suppose I'll get used to it. The next place will have gas.

I'm glad it all worked out. I could've done without the back-and-forthing, and on-again-off-again deals. All that's over now, though, and I'm just as happy to have it so.



Bernita said...

"they can go argue over the builder's pocket lint"
I admire that line!
Am so relieved for you, Angie, though I too regret the house.
( I remember my husband lurking in an alley with a loaded moving truck waiting for our deal to close!)

Angie said...

Bernita -- thanks. :D

And LOL! about your lurking husband, heh. We're not quite there, but it's a nice thought.


Steve Malley said...


Angie said...

Steve -- thanks! We're just glad it's done with. :)