By Alyssa Isenstein Krueger, January 30, 2020
By Alyssa Isenstein Krueger, January 30, 2020
With some buyers the journey towards home ownership takes a few more twists and turns then planned. My buyer Sydney had a few bumps in the road along the way, but through luck and good timing, reaped the reward of the perfect house for her.
Sydney was a Portland Housing Center client and enrolled in their matching savings program, and was in the know about the upcoming LIFT program that gives home buyers under a certain income $20,000 towards a down payment and/or closing costs. Registration for getting a coveted LIFT appointment was planned for the week before Thanksgiving, and on the morning of registration opening, so many home buyers were trying to get a golden ticket that within 90 seconds of the system opening, all reservations were gone. Sydney had really been hoping she would get a reservation, but sadly (or so we thought) she missed out. The second chance to snag a reservation was Dec. 13th, but once Sydney missed out on the first round, she decided she was going to put LIFT out of her mind and start looking for a home right away.
The week after Thanksgiving we went out and saw a few homes in her price range. One of those homes was a large 3 bedroom 2 bathroom mid-century right off Rose City Golf Course that had been sitting on the market for a couple of months. It did retain some basic mid-century charm- lovely hardwood floors, a couple of nice fireplaces, a great layout, and a large unfinished basement with high ceilings. To Sydney’s benefit, the previous owner didn’t have the greatest taste and had altered a lot of the rooms to suit a very specific taste- one bedroom was painted bright pink and had textured walls reminiscent of a frosted wedding cake, another bedroom had the ugliest wallpaper ever and someone had the brilliant idea of turning it into a true master with ensuite bathroom by blocking off the hallway entrance to the bathroom and cutting out an entry space maybe 18″ wide between the wall of the bedroom and bathroom so one wouldn’t have to walk around to the hallway to get into the bathroom via a proper door. Most buyers can’t see past the projects, but Sydney saw an achievable challenge and an opportunity for true sweat equity.
Sydney is a woman of vision and she was able to see past all of that wackiness and envision a mid-century marvel. For most first time home buyers, I would not necessarily recommend purchasing a house that needs as much work as this one clearly needed, but Sydney’s resources include her own handiness and handy contractor friends. The bones of the house seemed fine, but clearly work beyond just cosmetics were needed, so we wrote an offer for $10k under list price knowing that most likely the repair list was going to be long, and hoped for the best.
The seller was represented by a court appointed conservator, and accepted the offer and we moved onto inspections. I knew stuff would come up in the inspection, but I had no idea the extent of what needed to be done. After the inspection, the repair list included: sewer line needed replacing, oil tank needed to be decommissioned, electric panel and service line needed replacing, roof needed a full replacement, both bathrooms underlayments were so moisture damaged that one of them needs to be completely gutted down to the studs and support structure, and the other bathroom need the drains to work and the toilet to be re-attached to the floor, much of the wiring was dangerous and most of the plumbing was at the end of it’s life. Given the seller was being represented by a court ordered conservator, we had no idea where we would end up. Sydney was more than prepared to take on the cosmetic stuff and a few repairs on her own, but the totality of what else needed to be done was way beyond her scope both financially and logistically. Thankfully the listing agent was a true gem and understood that all of the repairs we were asking for were repairs that any buyer would ask for and was able to convey that to the seller’s representative.
Meanwhile, while we were in the midst of repair negotiations, Sydney found out through her contact at Portland Housing Center that not all of the LIFT funds had been reserved, and Portland Housing Center had a few more grants available they were releasing to their clients who were already under contract. Sydney registered online immediately and actually snagged one of the very last LIFT grants giving her $20k towards her down payment. This significantly changed the stakes because it meant that while we still needed the seller to do most of the repairs, it meant Sydney could use $20k that she had planned on putting towards her downpayment aside so she can get those bathrooms working and stylish. And with the exception of fixing the bathrooms- they gave her a small price concession instead, the sellers representative agreed to have all the necessary repairs done prior to closing.
So with the grant in hand, she was able to accept the seller’s counter on the repairs and we moved forward. Nearly 2 months after her offer was accepted, I handed Sydney the keys to her very own house. We couldn’t have planned it better with Sydney getting into contract before the unleashing of all of the other LIFT buyers, and then actually getting the $20k LIFT grant if we had tried.