The Money Pit

We looked at an amazing house over the weekend, a gigantic old Dutch Colonial on 16 acres just 10 minutes from Downtown Albany. It was spectacular with its soaring ceilings, humongous rooms, and wraparound porch overlooking a vast lawn. All this for about the same price that I could sell my current house. It was a little intoxicating.

Our realtor friend, a smart guy who knows construction, was more realistic. “I’d hate to see you buy this place.”

The truth is it was a mess that would have taken years to fix —but only if you had a rather large pile of cash.

I remember our first house. We hooked up with a realtor who was brand new. She was nice enough, but completely clueless. Almost as clueless as the guy she recommended to do our structural, someone who pointed out the vintage light fixtures and period woodwork but missed the lousy roof and ruined heating system.

The realtor went on to sell a lot of houses and be president of the chamber of commerce —and we struggled for years to get out from under a house we should never have bought. We were young and stupid and in love. What can I say?

My point is this: be careful when you buy a house and only work with people you know and trust. Real estate agents are like surgeons. They have to learn, but you’d rather they do it on somebody else.

7 thoughts on “The Money Pit

  1. Ah, yes. The virgin househunt. I remember it well.

    The missus and I had our hearts set on a nice cozy Cape when we started…had a particular house in mind in the quintessential small New England town. Turned out the seller grew up there, the house hadn’t been modernized at all since it was built in 1949, and she was not willing to come down from her asking price, because she had an unrealistic attachment to it as it was. The missus was absolutely crestfallen for three weeks. We ended up looking at six or seven before landing on our current abode, which was not the Cape of our dreams, but a kind of ad lib square early 1900’s colonial with two additions put on in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s funky, but it’s home, and when we got it, we got it for about $20,000 less than market value because the seller used a Realtor friend from church, who lived six towns away and hadn’t done his comp homework. We’ve been in it for nine years, and even with the housing collapse, our last appraisal was for 60% over purchase price.

    I think it’s like finally meeting the right life partner. You know it when you see it.

  2. Our first house was a HUD home… bought as is, no structural. We got lucky. The house has nearly tripled in value since we bought it.

  3. Oh, the first house! We don’t think that anyone who ever lived in it,from the builder/owner on ever really loved that house. It looked like the kind of house that schoolkids draw. The draw was that it had incredible woodwork and, ha ha,was bordering the city park. By the time we moved we hated everything about the house with the exception of the new kitchen we had put in and the deck. Our realtor was a guy who clearly hated his job and even the attorney we had kept asking if we were sure that we really wanted to buy this particular house. Another of life’s many lessons.

  4. #6: I should dig out the “structural” this clown did. If we’d known the truth about the house we would have never bought it.

    I see our old “realtor” around town sometimes. I’m sure she doesn’t remember our house and can’t figure out why I always give her the evil eye. Probably time to let it go.

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