One thing that this housing market and terrible economy has provided is a pretty decent buyer’s market in terms of housing. There are lots of homes on the market right now, and interest rates are ridiculously low.
Here in Cascadia, there seems to be a gluttony of mobile and modular homes up for sale. I have nothing against a modular or mobile home. My mother lived in one (as did I when I stayed there) for 20 years or so, and most modern modulars aren’t that bad. They do however, loose value with rates similar to a used Yugo and don’t qualify for certain types of loans.
Because of our current situation, we’re in the market as first time home buyers, and are finding that we’re looking at a very narrow market in terms of homes. Some of these parameters are external due to our choice in using a USDA loan. We’re fine with the rural nature of the loan, but the houses we’re looking at sometimes only need a very little amount of work but USDA won’t go near them. Some of the parameters are self-inflicted. We’d like at least 3 bedrooms, over 1100 sq feet, and at minimum a 1/4 acre lot. In many places in this country that wouldn’t be too hard, but around here it is. What’s left after the mobiles and modulars are some nice, small homes. The bigger the lot, the smaller the home in our price range, and the bigger the home, the smaller the lot. Some of the yards here are about as big as our kitchen table. We need a bit more room for our kids to run and burn off energy, and for our plans to garden, compost, and raise chickens.
What we’re often left with are some nice little houses that we get outbid on or are already snatched up by someone else. What’s left after that are the foreclosures and short sales. We’ve found a nice place with a half acre lot, and a good sized home that is a little farther out than we had liked, but it seems to be a good house so distance might have to be a sacrifice. However, it is a short sale. These can go easy, or they can be like slowly pulling a band-aid that has been adhered with Gorilla Glue. The current residents in this house don’t answer their phone, and don’t return the calls of our or their real estate agents. Why not? Because until the bank sells the house, they’re basically there rent-free. So any delay they can create is a benefit for them. This is frustrating for us to be sure.
Yet I also can’t help but sympathize with those people. They live in a small rural area that has had some very tough economic times as the main employer there, a lumber mill, has laid off several workers over the past few years. Tourism hasn’t been that great there either. So, it is understandable that this mother and daughter have hit some hard economic times. They likely became unable to pay their mortgage for any number of reasons. They have every reason to fear a knock at the door and the phone ring. They probably want nothing more than to be able to stay in their home, to provide themselves with some type of stability in what may be some rather chaotic times in their life. I feel bad for them. I really, really do.
I do have some issues with looking at this house because of all of this. I don’t want to see a family forcibly uprooted because of something I do. But it is going to happen regardless. And, the longer the house sits on the market, the less money they will be able to get for the house and the less likely the bank will end up going forward with the short sale, which will hurt the owner if it ends up in foreclosure. It is a tricky situation, but I’m also thinking of my family’s needs (we’re currently 2 adults, a 3 year old and a 1 year old in a 2 bedroom apt) for now and in the near future.
The home buying process thus far has been much more frustrating than I would have hoped, but we’re making baby step progress.