In the late fall of 2012, my wife and I were in a self-created, high-stress real estate pickle.
After deciding to drastically change our lives from comfortable, but unfulfilled, Canadian professionals to Italian innkeepers and tour operators, we had negotiated the purchase of a property in the beautiful Abruzzo region just east of Rome and set the closing date for early March 2013.
In order to close in Italy on time, we needed sell our house in Ottawa’s Chinatown neighbourhood and close that deal before the other one. We had four months - and there were issues with our house.
Our real estate agent thought we could get something in the $500,000 to $550,000 range for the four bedroom detached 90-year-old house. That was pretty damn good for a property that looked like a dump when we purchased it from the head of an international money laundering ring (that’s the truth) for $185,000 nine years earlier. The bad news was he said we’d needed to repair our basement walls and fix a leak in the foundation if we were hoping to get offers in that range because when people spend that kind of money, they expect all issues to be addressed before the purchase.
So, we costed the works - $20,000. Yikes. It was a hit to our financial plan, but we were fully committed now, and following professional advice is usually the best course. So we got the work done by the end of October and the place was listed on the market for $579,000 a couple days after we signed the purchase agreement for the property in Italy.
We got a few visits in the first couple weeks but no offers. The comment sheets indicated people liked the house, especially the new kitchen, but that the price was simply too high, so we dropped the price to $549,000. This prompted a few more visits, but we only got one offer - $500,000 firm, accept or reject, no counter offer would be accepted. The house had been on the market for only a month, but it seemed like a lot of money to reject. We needed to get things moving to meet the Italy purchase deadline, but we needed the money too. We rejected the offer.
Then … nothing for two more weeks. Not even a call to our agent. Gulp. We lowered the price again to $529,000. I was expecting this move to result in some action, but for two more weeks, nothing happened.
It didn’t help that there were speculative reports of a housing price bubble at the time. It was also getting into the Christmas season, which our agent said came with a slowdown in the market until after January, meaning our closing date in Italy would not likely be met.
I have anxiety issues with particular stress related to financial things, so at this point, I was out of my mind with worry.
So we asked our agent to contact the agent of the person whose $500,000 offer we’d rejected to see if they wanted to make the offer a little better.
A day later, we learned that the person who made the offer was in the process of negotiating on another property, but that if we would accept $510,000 it was a deal.
It was less than we’d hoped for, particularly considering the unexpected $20,000 bill for the basement. The price would have an effect on the timing of our future plans, but it would allow us to move forward, and, as an added bonus, it would allow me to climb down off the ceiling, and maybe even get some sleep.
So we agreed to the offer with a closing date in mid-February 2013.
When we moved in, there were hookers and drug dealers outside our door. When we moved out, the neighbourhood was firmly in the “up and coming” location category, which, along with our efforts, resulted in the great rise in value that, in turn, allowed us to execute our Italy plans.
We loved that house a 4 Christie Street. It was the first house either of us had bought, and it held lots of great memories from many family gatherings and our annual Christmas party when the furniture moved out and the P.A. system, microphones and amps moved in.
Later, we found out that the purchaser of the house was Buddhist Monk, and it’s now a prayer centre. (No kidding.) So we bought the house from a criminal and sold it to a holy man. That’s got to be good karma, right?
Next Blog: “Hey Mom, I’m moving to Italy.”