Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Real Estate: Like a fun game for grown-ups

We have a house under contract here at 2540 West Maryland Avenue 33629 and closing is on July 2!

Buying a house so far has been a neat experience - especially because I was looking for location, price and equity more than granite counter tops, hardwood floors, and a jacuzzi style bath tub (can put all that in later).

Anyway, it looks like the hunt paid off and we were able to get a town home under contract two blocks west of Bayshore and just north of Bay to Bay. This is 2 miles from my work and about 2 miles for my wife as well. Plus we are less than a mile from shops and restaurants in Hyde Park.

click on image for larger view of layout

click on image for larger view of layout

We offered 28% less than their asking price and 20% less than any comparable house had sold for in the area. Originally, the property was listed at 240K. At that price, the home sat on the market for 80 days until the price was slashed to 199K. Then the home sat again for another 5 days until I came along.

At 199K, the house was at $148/sqft. In that area of 33629, especially compared to other very nearby townhomes, nothing really goes for less than $160/sqft. So, in reality, a house in relatively good shape (clean and well maintained, but out-dated) was already a good deal at 199K. Nonetheless, Money magazine (05/2008, 06/2008) predicts a continued decline in Tampa home prices. In addition, this house was offered by a seller who put no money/work into the home just before placing it on the market and had their mortgage 90% paid. In other words, they stood to walk with some money even if the price dipped. In addition, the sellers are in their late 70s and don't even live in-state at this time. The daughter is having to travel back and forth between Atlanta to deal with issues related to the house.

I took all of this into consideration when coming up with an offer of $126/sqft (170K).

We also asked seller to pay all closing costs (above the estimated fees and up to 6% of purchase price) and include a home warranty. The sellers had already offered to pay buyer's agent fees (it was on the face sheet) but we even increased that by $250 in the offer contract. In other words, I was trying to give the sellers things to negotiate before they went back to the price. My goal was to get the house at the offered price and walk into equity. I fully expected the seller to cut the amount of closing costs and cut the warranty. I also expected some movement on the price.

Let me say, I was pleasantly surprised when my agent called a few hours before the offer deadline to say that the sellers had essentially accepted EVERYTHING we asked for in the purchase offer. The only changes -- they found a cheaper warranty company and didn't want to increase my agents fees by $250 (no biggie though because there is plenty left in closing costs that can go to that). My agent definitely should get all the fees he can out of this because he has been great. We met last night at 10pm - as soon as he received the contract signed from the seller - to finalize the purchase offer. So, if you need a house you should definitely get in touch with Rob Wilson ( Oh, and an aside, Rob used to run Ink19 - the music magazine from the 1990s that we lived by for planning Florida road trips to see bands play in the pre-internet era.

Let me give a plug to my lending company, Compass Bank. If you are looking for a Doctor's Loan Home Mortgage, this is the place to go. Specifically, get in touch with the mortgage broker Drew Daniels ( I know there are few others out there (BOA, Suntrust, Tower) but Drew was able to still get 100% financing at a time when others were starting to have difficulty making that work. Plus, no PMI and I'm able to buy points to decrease the interest rate with the left over money at close. That parts kinda cool because I'm essentially getting a check from the seller to buy their house.

Well, no problems so far - now comes the inspection, appraisal and the joy of finding Home Owner's Insurance in Florida (a market where no one sells it any more thanks to the multi-Hurricane year in 2004).

One of the best things about the house is it's built in security and privacy. The garage and privacy fence are essentially all you can see/reach from the street and the garage can be used as the major entryway for residents.

After you come through the garage/fence, you enter the front patio. Notice the white door - what is not shown here (but is shown on the hand drawn figure above) is that this door goes into a small entryway that then has yet another door to enter the home itself.

This is the main living room after you walk in the front door - the front door is over in the left hand corner and this is taking from inside the room looking to the front.

The stairs are right in front of you when you walk in the door.

After you pass through the living room, there is a hallway with a bathroom on your left and a utility closet/pantry on your right.

Then you move into the dining room with the kitchen on your left

This is taken from the far part of the dining room, looking back towards the front of the house (kitchen on right and living room is down the hallway which has the bathroom and pantry).

One thing that is great about the place is it's size and the potential with that size. This room follows the dining room and is at the back of the house. It's large at 12X12 and was used as the TV Room/Family Room in the old home. We will likely use the front room as our main common area and forgo a formal living room (that never seems to get used anyway when people have one). This room will likely become a study or extra bedroom at some point.
There is a door on the left wall that goes to the outside back yard/patio.

There are 2 bedrooms upstairs, each is the same size. Each has a huge walk in closet. The windows have a view of the back patio in one bedroom and the front patio in the other. All of the blinds are nice wood blinds - no vinyl cheap mini blinds anywhere. Plus there are hurricane shutters (that's what the weird crank is on the left of the window).

They share this weird bathroom seen in the next picture:

The bathroom is really the only major house flaw. From one bedroom, there is an alcove (no door) that has a sink. Next to the sink is a door leading to the main part of the bathroom with toilet and bathtub/shower. Then there is another door that leads to another sink and toilet and is connected to the other bedroom. Yep, it's odd.

This patio is begging for a hot tub - don't you think? And the best part is the light maintenance that is required with the simple patio blocks and landscaping - no big yard but still a (fairly private) space outdoors.

This is taken from the corner of the backyard (where there is a little gate out to the ally) and looking at the back of the house.