13 May 2016

Sweet Serendipity - How I Bought A House in Seattle

I love birthdays. Christmas, Easter, the last day of school.... pretty much all of the holidays kids get excited about pale in comparison to birthdays for me. Birthdays are the one day where you are different than (most) everyone else. Everyone should enjoy feeling special once a year.

In my circle of friends, I'm known for being ridiculous about my birthday. I countdown - generally by month - to my big day, beginning with my 1/12th birthday on June 13 (you can thank my dad for this annoying/endearing tradition). The countdown culminates in a month-long celebration, including a huge theme party full of costumes and revelry. I love birthdays so much I wrote a 'How To Have a Kickass Birthday' blog a few years ago. 

This year, however, I slacked on the celebrations. I don't have any party plans, and I certainly haven't remembered the countdown. But it's for a good reason: this year for my birthday I bought a house! It closes today: Friday, May 13, 2016. My first day as a 32 year old I have become the owner of 1 stoop, 4 toilets, 2 decks with water views (one on the roof), 1 fireplace, 8 closets, 1 garage door, and 4 stories of Seattle Real Estate Glory!

The search has been really difficult. Seattle is not a buyers market right now, most specifically not a market for a single woman on a nonprofit salary. In an average market, if you stopped listing houses today, it would take about 6 months for all of the remaining houses on the market to sell. That's considered a "6-month inventory". Seattle has about a "3-week inventory". Because of this, people are doing crazy things. Pre-inspections, waiving the appraisal or financing, and all-cash offers are very common. Every open house I went to was packed. Each place received multiple offers. I made two offers that were not accepted, and in both cases the final sale price escalated more than 20% above asking price. I felt disheartened to say the least.

Then, something really crazy happened. I made an offer on a three bedroom, 3.25 bath townhome. It was the middle unit in a three-townhouse building. The owners - the "Smiths" - received 4 offers. Mine was not the one they selected. Wha wha.

Two days later, my agent and I got an email from Mrs. Smith. She said the owners in the south-end unit were also interested in selling, and wanted to do a deal off the market. I was apprehensive at first - why are TWO owners in a three unit building selling at the same time? Is there some kind of woodpecker situation I don't know about??? went to take a look anyway.

Because this as an off-market deal, the owner "Shauna" and her husband "Eric" met us at the door. We chatted for about 15 minutes and really hit it off. Shauna's also a runner and goes down to Carceek Park - just a mile away - to hit the trails multiple times a week. She loved that I already somewhat lived in the neighborhood, and that I want to live in the house instead of rent it out. I genuinely like her, and immediately wanted to call her place home. 

They were moving because Shauna had recently met and married Eric, each bringing a teenage son into the marriage - your classic "Brady Bunch" situation. The house was too small for four grown adults, and by the time the neighbors in the middle unit had listed their house, Shauna and Erica had already bought a house further north. Rather than go to the trouble of listing it, they figured, "here are three buyers that definitely want this place since they bid on the unit next door. Let's offer it to them".

After our chat with the owners, my agent and I took a look around the house. It was the same layout as the middle unit. A little less updated, but what it lacked in fancy sinks it made up for in extra windows and views. We decided to make an offer, and with the terrible market I just made the very best offer I could. I wrote a letter to Shauna, saying how much I loved the unique space and its warm spirit. That to me a home should be a sanctuary – a place where you can unwind, relax, and feel like yourself. That it was easy to picture myself sitting on the roof, drinking a glass of wine, and reading a book at sunset. We turned the offer in on Tuesday morning. 

My offer prompted the other two parties to make offers as well (Mrs. Smith received 4 offers, accepted 1, and emailed the three "rejected" parties about Shauna's unit). Waiting was nerve wracking. In addition to being unsure if I had offered enough, I'd also asked for the close-date to be extended by 2-weeks, meaning they'd have to wait longer to get their money (The close date would have been April 29, the day I was set to leave on a 10-day ski trip to Canada. I had asked them to extend it to May 13, the first Friday after I was back....which also happens to be my birthday).

Review day came. By 9:15pm I still hadn't heard anything. Then, I got a text from my agent saying "I don't know anything yet, but we should know soon." Fifteen minute later the phone rang, and I answered, "Hey Adam, what's the word? Just spit it out!" He started singing Happy Birthday.

I was flying high until he said, "They have one stipulation.... just go with me on this." Greeeaaaat, I thought. Let's hear it. "They were fine with the close date on the 13th, but they crossed out your price. They LOWERED IT by $5,000."

After I picked my face off the floor, I asked him why? Apparently they just really liked me. Even in this crazy Seattle market a personal connection makes a difference. Later Shauna told me she wanted me to have a story to tell. BOY DO I EVER!!!! Happy Birthday to me!

Mama and me on zee roof.


Casey Price said...

Everything happens for a reason, no doubt "Shauna" had a connection with you. You are a wonderful individual, kind, caring and real. Cheers to you my friend! -Casey

Jeanette O'Brien said...

What a cool story indeed! Congrats!

Tom said...

That is damn heart-warming, and the place looks awesome! I think the lesson here is that you should moonlight as a real estate agent haha. Congrats and happy birthday!!

Jefferson said...

First, let me say Happy Birthday to you! I would never would've imagined for my 32nd birthday to ever get a house, especially in the great Emerald City! Congratulations on getting what you want. It seems that you've worked very hard to get where you are, and I like the final present they gave you, $5,000 off the price!