I mentioned previously that my fiancÃ©e and I were in a bit of a bind in terms of purchasing a new house in Atlanta. Long story short, we needed to close on a purchase prior to quitting our jobs, or risk not being able to get a mortgage. So, we headed to Atlanta last month for a full weekend (Thursday morning until Sunday evening) of house hunting (and wedding planning and business planning). We got the business and wedding stuff out of the way on Thursday, and also on Thursday, we got our pre-approval for our mortgage loan.
On Friday, the house hunting began…though in reality it had begun several weeks earlier. You see, my fiancÃ©e had spent literally three to five hours per day for the past month investigating houses online. She had acquainted herself with every REO, MLS listing, and For Sale By Owner (FSBO) available within 30 miles of our desired location.
She had used Craigslist for leads, perused the websites of every bank who owned REO property, used Zillow to get aerial perspective on the land layout, used the local tax assessment website to get tax and owner information, and sent emails to lots and lots of sellers/brokers to get an idea of how flexible they may be in their listing prices. Combined with the various MLS searches that our real estate agent had done on our request, we had about 40 properties that we were very interested in seeing, all â€œpre-qualifiedâ€ to our standards.
So, at 9:00am Friday morning in Atlanta, we were picked up by our real estate agent, who brought a nicely bound packet of 21 houses we were to see that day. We didnâ€™t end until after 5pm, but surprisingly we were able to get through 18 houses in those 8 hours. By the end of the day, we had fallen in love with one house (letâ€™s call it the â€œEstate Houseâ€) and had found one other that we would highly consider (letâ€™s call it the â€œIn-Town Houseâ€).
The Estate House was in a beautiful hilly subdivision that must have easily had 2500 houses, all stately with decent sized plots of land. This house was possibly the smallest in the subdivision, but with 4000 square feet (including a huge basement), it was plenty big for our needs, and actually felt more â€œcozyâ€ than any other house we had been in. It was way more than we needed, but the house just “felt right.” The In-Town House was a bit less stellar, but was in a perfect location, and at $100,000 under original asking price (it was owned by a relocation company), it was likely a great bargain.
On Saturday, we decided to visit the remaining half-dozen houses we wanted to see, and also to revisit the two houses that we really liked from the day before. One of the new houses we visited, I fell in love with, but my fiancÃ©e was quite convinced (letâ€™s call this one â€œThe Mansionâ€). While certainly not a mansion, it was bigger than any of the other houses we had seen, and unlike the Estate House, this one was likely the largest in its subdivision. My fiancÃ©e found the less-than-tasteful decorating hard to overlook, and had good reason to wonder why we needed 6 bedrooms, 5 full bathrooms, and a huge basement (with another 1200 square feet of unfinished space).
We were both in shock at how far our money would go in Atlanta â€“ and in this buyers market â€“ and were starting to realize that maybe we were thinking a bit too extravagantly.
After revisiting the Estate House on Saturday, we were still very much in love with it. And after revisiting the In-Town House on Saturday, my fiancee had fallen in love with that one as well, though I was still on the fence. And while I loved the Mansion, my fiancÃ©e wasnâ€™t yet convinced.
So, having a house that we both loved, we made an offer. The house had been on the market for several months, and had already come down 10% since the original listing. As this was the lowest-priced house in the subdivision (currently on the market), and since it was being listed for under what the seller had paid for it three years ago, we didnâ€™t want to lowball too much, but thought asking for an additional 5% discount would be reasonable. From the records we had, this offer appeared to be less than what the seller likely still owed on the house, so we expected a counter-offer, and gave the seller 24 hours to respond.