As I write this I’m waiting to hear from my Realtor whether or not I just bought a house. It’s my sixth attempt at purchasing a home in Seattle this year, and you know what they say—the sixth time is the charm!—or maybe it’s the sixteenth? Whatever the case, if this offer isn’t accepted it’s going to be because, as my three-year-old daughter keeps forecasting, “Someone else has more money than us.” Not because I lacked good counsel from your well-meaning but out-of-touch self.
It’s been a harrowing adventure, trying to buy a house in this market in the year since my marriage ended and I was shooed from the family home. I’ve learned more than I care to know about poured concrete versus post-and-pillar foundations, stucco versus EIFS siding, knob-and-tube versus modern-era wiring, interior perimeter drains, exterior perimeter drains, sewer scopes, sump pumps, and the nesting habits of rats.
People are beginning to feel sorry for me. My inspector stopped charging me for pre-inspections. My Realtor has taken to baking us cupcakes—from scratch. One of my best friends and my ex-husband both offered to loan me thousands of dollars just to Make It Stop.
This market is a hungry, greedy beast—insane in a totally predictable way.
Please stop telling me I need to keep the faith because my perfect house is right around the corner. Stop suggesting I look for houses in neighborhoods you would never set foot in, let alone purchase property in. Stop recommending fixer-uppers, tear-er-down-ers, vertigo-inducing five-story new construction, and/or drowning-nightmare-inducing houseboats. I’m a single mom, not a contractor, and my children are accident-prone and—despite what they claim—do not know how to swim. And for the love of god, stop recommending that I include a heartfelt letter and photo of my adorable children in my offer packet.
I’m on top of all these things, and I promise they aren’t enough. This just isn’t that kind of market. No seller is going to accept my offer of 20% over the asking price when someone else is going 30% over, and no one would choose 20% down over 100% cold hard cash, no matter how cute my children are. (For the record: extremely.)
There’s nothing quite like waiting for the call from your Realtor to find out whether you just spent your entire savings and then some on a house that may or may not survive even a minor earthquake—you won’t know until said earthquake hits because you had to waive the once-standard opportunity to have the house properly inspected because inspection contingencies are so 2015. Nevertheless you hope beyond hope that you get this house—despite the fact that the foundational supports are shimmed up with a log, a brick, a wedge of plywood, and—is that a stack of plates?!—because if you have to write one more sickeningly earnest letter about why you’re the best buyer for this home, you might have to call it quits and move back to Iowa where hundreds of thousands of dollars buys you an entire operational farm—including a posse of cats totally on top of the rodent issue.
I’m in the state fellow home-shoppers know as “Trying not to get your hopes up about getting this particular house while maintaining a modicum of enthusiasm for the general process because you might have to resume the house-hunting slog tomorrow.” Like a job interview, it’s totally nerve-wracking, and it feels both personally judgey—like a beauty pageant—and vitally important—like hearing from the surgeon after the operation. “The good news is that you’re going to live. The bad news is. . .”