Tag Archives: Cape Cod

House Hunting Update, part 1

13 Jun

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*Edit — This post was originally written on April 16th, 2016, but I couldn’t publish it until now for fear of jinxing it. But now that the home is ours I wanted to share a recap of our house hunting fun.

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Guys. I think this is the one!!! I say that with a heaping dose of sarcasm and hopeful humor because we have had the most heart-wrenching home search you can imagine. The past two months have been the most challenging of my entire life, probably because it was largely ME doing the majority of our house hunting. While caring for our daughter. And working nearly full-time.

I wouldn’t have made it here if it weren’t for my mom’s help on both the child care and real estate fronts. THANK YOU, mom! This life-changing dream of ours to own our own home couldn’t have happened without your support and guidance.

bedroom 1So how did this happen? We’d had an offer accepted on a cute home in another town in early February. After what happened with the awful home inspection on the Stoughton house back in the fall of 2014—house #1—we decided to keep things much quieter this time around and not announce that we’d “bought” anything until the paperwork was official.

The location of house #2 was in a great part of another town and the potential for the 0.5+ acre yard had me drooling with garden ideas, but the place needed a complete cosmetic overhaul since it was absolutely covered floor to ceiling in wood paneling. We weren’t excited about the house really, more the idea of finally owning anything just so we could be done with house hunting. The price was right, it seemed like it had been well-maintained, and it was local to family for easy help with childcare.

Since we’ve found “the one,” my mom has repeatedly commented about a really sad moment after she saw me after our offer on that house (#2) was accepted. I think I’d asked her, Are you supposed to feel excited about buying a house? Because we weren’t really. We were just beaten down and tired of looking.

How sad, right?  Then we had the home inspection and everything came to a crushing halt. Termites. Structural issues. Cracked waste pipe. Plumbing issues. It was an absolute disaster. We almost walked away during the inspection it was so bad. Afterwards, we put together a list negotiables,  consulted some specialists like pest inspection agencies and three different structural engineers, then circled back to negotiate.

That’s when things got a little weird. We started to hear from the listing agents (there were two we worked with, which was strange) that there was fighting among the siblings in the trust and there was threatened legal action. I guess someone wasn’t happy the trustee had accepted out slightly low offer? So long story short, we thought we were in the middle of post-inspection negotiation when really, we were just spinning our wheels trying to make something work when we’re pretty sure, these sellers had NO intention of helping that happen.

Up until last week in fact, I was still holding out hope that whatever was going on would fall through and they’d come back to us, accept out reduced offer, and we’d get the damn place and we’d be able to continue as planned with the late March closing. But thankfully, I’d continued to house hunt on my own and saw house #3 come up in Norwood for under $400K and the rest, well… couldn’t have worked out better.

I should back up and say that house hunting probably wouldn’t have been such a headache for us if we’d had an agent. And that’s not to say we didn’t — my mom provided daily guidance and I couldn’t have done this without her incredible wealth of real estate knowledge.

We didn’t feel like we could work with an agent without knowing the town we wanted to be in, and that was something we just weren’t sure about since we wanted to keep the variable we were most tied to — cost — in our favor as much as possible. We’d even talked about leaving Massachusetts in the hope of finding a little more bang for our buck somewhere else, assuming our jobs could be worked out. So we were house hunting all over the state — looking in Dedham, Walpole, Medfield, Plympton, Halifax, Kingston, Duxbury, Norwell. All over.

Our new town wasn’t even on the list after a while because we’d found we were basically priced out of the town ages ago, kind of how we’ve been priced out of Watertown. (Side note: I WISH we could buy something where we live now. I’m seeing SO many single families get “flipped” into two families/condos and selling for $500-600K+. If I could swing financing a second mortgage, I’d snap up one of these flips in a heartbeat to keep as an income property. After almost 7 years in the area, I know what a steal it is to live so close to the amenities of Boston, while enjoying the proximity to the gorgeous towns we are bordered by: Newton, Belmont, and Cambridge — basically three of my favorite towns in Massachusetts. Even Brookline is accessible to Watertown! But, that’s a post for another time.)

kitchen_3Which brings us to now. We BOUGHT A HOUSE! It had only been on the market two or three days when the open house happened, so I ran down to see it last Sunday despite being the sickest I think I’ve ever been in my entire life. Imagine a combination of the worst allergies/sinus issues paired with whooping cough.  I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. To add to the fun, Brian was away on a work trip.

Still, I dragged myself out and the moment I walked in the door, I just knew. The hardwoods. The fireplace. The six-over-six windows. The LIGHT. It had all the charm I’d been hoping for but not yet found in ANY house we’d looked at. As I stood in the yard, I nearly burst into tears. It was perfectly flat, fenced all the way around and had the established trees I’d been longing for. It was the perfect blank canvas for all the gardening ideas I’ve been collecting over the years. Then I went to the basement and that’s when my heart started to race. It’s begging to be be finished. I’ve NEVER seen such high ceilings in a basement! And immaculate. And as a total bonus, there is an unfinished space on the second floor for whatever the heck we want down the road, with space above that for a pull-down attic. The house is very modestly-sized in terms of actual currently-available living space, but as far as the potential for refinishing down the line, it’s deceptive how much potential is packed into such an unassuming little cape.

The open house was absolutely packed with young couples, older couples, and even one young guy clearly looking for a “flip” property. I watched as one agent excitedly brought his young clients all over the home, pointing out where he’d bump out the kitchen and how they could add dormers on the second floor to bring in more light, similar to how the neighbors had renovated across the street. I was silently screaming, “Noooo, shhhh!!!” in my head at him and hoping no one else there would have that same vision for how to eeek out a little more potential out of this charming little house. I chatted with the listing agent to get a feel for what he was expecting and wasn’t surprised when he shared that he expected at least four offers that day.

In situations like this, there are a few ways to position yourself as a buyer. First, you can go in with the listing agent. We did this with our first home offer, on the house in Stoughton. You can lose your shirt if you don’t know what you’re doing, but after three offers on three different homes, and my mom’s guidance after years and years in real estate, I felt pretty confident with this approach. But ordinarily, I’d 100% have preferred to be working with our own buyer’s agent.

The advantage to placing your offer via the listing agent is that he or she has more of an incentive to push your offer through since it means he won’t have to share his commission with another agent.

Also, offer over asking. Based on my monitoring of the market over the last year, I had a really good sense of what costs what and where and what was selling. Leading up to finding this house, I’d found probably 4 or 5 homes I really liked that had gone under agreement within 2 or three days on the market. So it’s clearly a seller’s market right now and, as my mom had advised, you have to move FAST when you see something you like. So I didn’t mess around. As soon as I saw this house come on the market, I jumped. I knew that similar homes in this neighborhood were selling for $400K so I had a pretty good idea that it was slightly underpriced so it would sell quickly, so I knew to offer closer to what it was worth instead of trying to sneak away with a deal. Considering there were SEVEN offers on the house by noon on Tuesday, I’m happy I chose this strategy because we managed to stay in the running for a second round of bidding.

Finally, write a really good letter. Selling a home can be an emotional thing. Not always, but often, it is. I grew up in Norwood, so I know that the atmosphere of the town is very family-oriented. You don’t just leave Norwood. Especially if you live in the very desirable high school-area of town. So I had a feeling that a letter from a young family that spoke to what a charming house it the town I grew up in, near the high school I went to would help our offer stand out from the rest. And we got the house, so I think it’s safe to say — it worked! You have to be sincere though.

Anyways, that’s the story of how we finally bought our house. It feels totally different from the other two, but I think that’s probably because at this point, we’re old pros at this making-an-offer thing. I have our mortgage broker and favorite home inspector on speed dial at this point and know to ask about the systems of the house before anything else. This house has a brand new roof with a 30-year warranty! How amazing is that?! Considering the doozies we’d nearly purchased, it’s like night and day with this one so fingers crossed that the home inspection goes smoothly and we continue on to the purchase and sale.

We are SO EXCITED. Lucky number 3!

 

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Portuguese Kale & Sausage Soup

18 Sep

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Here is another incredible recipe given to me by my co-worker Dan. Weirdly, it’s a hugely popular summer soup on the Cape, but I like to make it right around now when air is getting chillier, but the leaves aren’t quite ready to fall. Grab a loaf of crusty bread, a snuggly sweater, and enjoy with abandon.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion
6 chopped cloves garlic, minced
1 pound linguiça (Portuguese sausage) sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 pound chouriço (Spanish sausage), sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
* 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & diced
* 2 large Red Bliss potatoes, diced
* 1/4 cup chopped parsley
* 1 (14-ounce) can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
* 4 quarts chicken stock
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 1 pound kale, well washed, ribs removed, and torn into bite-size pieces
* 1 loaf crusty Portuguese bread

Directions
1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.
2. Add the sausage, garlic and onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent.
3. Add the parsley and the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
4. Add the bay leaves, thyme and crushed red pepper, then the potatoes and kale. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about another 30 minutes.
5. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Remove the bay leaves. To serve, pour the soup into individual soup bowls and serve with the bread.

Yields 8 servings
sources: Recipe courtesy of Michael H. Stines, for Cape Cod Today, photo via the Kitchn