I have been helping a close friend find a home. My friend has had a hard life and numerous struggles she has had to overcome. She has worked hard, been extremely brave and determined to create a good life for herself and for her children. Because of the significant amount of adversity in her life, she has had a hard time recognizing good times. She tends to get suspicious when things are going well and looks for ways that the bottom might fall out. It’s been sad to watch her absorb herself with bad moments and ignore or fear the good times. That being said, this way of thinking has become a problem for her while she is searching for a new home.
The home that this friend has been living in is incredibly small. There are two bedrooms, a tiny front room and a kitchen big enough to fit two people comfortably in it. There is no kitchen table because there is no room in the home. My friend has slept on a sofa for at least eight years so that her children each had their own bedroom. Recently it was found out that the foundation of the home is falling apart. There has always been water problems and the air in the home has gotten toxic from mold that is forming. The home is worth next to nothing. The value of the home is in the land alone.
My friend had an incredibly lucky break. She was able to sell the home herself to a builder she knew of. She got a shockingly good amount of money for her home. She owes very little on her mortgage and will have enough money from the sale to put down half the cost of a home if she’d like. On top of this good fortune, the builder gave her an extra sixty days in the home rent free after he buys it so that she has time to get into another place to live.
Everything has fallen into place and I am thrilled for my friend. There is just one problem, she is so afraid that there must be some catch that she feels as though she might have made a mistake. She questions the amount she got for the home, how she will pay for a new place and can she really afford to be in a different home.
To make matters worse, her list of expectations for a new home are not even close to being realistic. I keep hearing that she should be able to grab up a short-sale or foreclosed property for a few thousand dollars. If not, she is sure she can get a deep discounted price on a residential home.
My friend has seen so many shows where people get deals on homes and then only have to slap a coat of paint on the property and it becomes move in ready. The honest truth is that many of these homes are in horrible shape. There is cement poured into the pipes or electrical wiring stripped out of many of these homes. Disgruntled homeowners being foreclosed on sometimes trash their home before they leave. There is the issue of squatters which is becoming more common. You can buy a home, find out that squatters are living in it, and spend months in court trying to evict them out of your home while you pay the mortgage on your new property.
Short-sales and foreclosures alike can take months to get, and half the time, the deal falls through and you don’t end up getting the home. My friend has sixty days to find a home. If you find a home you want and the seller accepts your offer, it is common for the closing to still take 30 days to complete.
I have mentioned time lines and the risks of going after short-sales and foreclosures with my friend. She then blew my mind when she gave me the laundry list of things she had to have in a new home and how much she was willing to pay. She wanted a home in Rochester Hills. The home needed to be a brick ranch, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a basement preferably finished, good-sized backyard, 1,600sq ft. minimum, garage and she would really like a pool. I’m not joking, this was her list. Oh yeah, and she didn’t want to pay more than $85,000 for it.
Realistically, it won’t happen. I had to talk with her about looking at other cities and slimming down her list. I decided to send her daily emails with the latest homes to hit the market. The only criteria I used was the three bedrooms, $85,000 and at least 1,000sq ft. I also broadened her choice of cities. Under these circumstances, there were many homes to choose from. She came back saying that she would accept a home in Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Rochester Hills or Bingham Farms. She also insisted that the home could not be a bungalow (which is what most of the homes sent to her were) it had to be a brick ranch. There needed to be at least a bath and a half and the price had to stay at $85,000.
Again I had to explain to her that finding a home like that wasn’t a strong possibility. I asked her if she would be willing to rent a home for a while. That way she could save more money for a home that was more her dream home than a home she was just settling for. She decided to try a rental, but the criteria would stay. She wanted a rental home for no more than $600.00 a month. Rentals are going fast these days. There are so many people who were unable to hold onto their homes, can’t afford a home or have bad credit that rentals priced well are off the market as soon as they are listed.
The average price for a rental with three bedrooms, one bath and 1,000sq ft. in an area like Royal Oak, Berkley, Clawson or Troy is $1,200 a month. The cities she is interested in are much more expensive. I found one rental home in Troy that had 1,500 sq ft., three bedrooms, two baths, basement, garage, brick ranch and an inground pool to boot but it was going for $1,500 per month.
Unfortunately the days of rentals going for $600.00 are gone. My friend has turned an opportunity at a new start in a safer, healthier home into a tragedy of perfection equalling a homeless situation in sixty days if she can’t bend her requirements for a home.
I know that a home is an enormous financial obligation and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I know that when someone commits to buying a home, they want it to be their dream home. Homes on the market are more reasonably priced than six years ago. From that perspective it is a deal to get buy a new home. That doesn’t mean that you will necessarily get the dream home that people seem to get on these home buying shows. If my friend could just change her perspective, she could change the course of her life. She could find a home that compared to what she was used to living in would be a dream come true.