I don’t know what it is about this house hunt series that compels people to read these posts, but I am eternally grateful for your companionship. The last four months have felt like an episode of House Hunters, except instead of viewing three places and then magically ending up in my dream home, I’m just constantly falling in love with places, losing to higher offers, and crying a lot. Why isn’t there a TV show where someone spends 8 months searching for a place and then ends up empty-handed and weeping on the phone at the end??? HGTV, I AM AVAILABLE.
But maybe I’m being a little dramatic. It’s not all bad (or is it?). I teased this in Wednesday’s post, but I was waiting for a counteroffer on a place…so it felt like a good time to catch up with my friends, AKA you, on the state of the LA housing market and how I ended up here. Today’s update contains some of the freshest information I’ve ever shared (i.e. 10 hours from phone call to content going live on the site), so a million thanks to EHD for lending me the platform for the day and to Jess and Ryann for proofreading my tiny novel outside of business hours. There’s some real drama if you can make it all the way to the end with me! But it’s been a long time since my last update, so let’s get on the same page first with a quick refresher on where we left off…
My name is Caitlin and I handle all things money here at EHD. (Sponsored posts, affiliate relationships, and yes, even the site ads – I’m sorry, I know!!! But I would not be able to have a job – or buy a house, I guess – without the ads, which makes it a real ouroboros, so your tolerance is very much appreciated.) Anyway, I am 29 years old, super single, and I’ve been living in Los Angeles for about 9 years. I’ve saved up about $85,000 in a dedicated account (yes, I do overshare personal financial information in these posts, thanks for noticing) to spend solely on a downpayment and closing costs. Originally, I had been hoping to spend about $400,0000 to $500,000 on a property and put in about $100,000 worth of reno work, but LOL. That was in July when I was young and naive and hopeful, but now it’s February and I’m a tired, worn-down weathered husk of a woman so let’s be clear: that budget has gone out of the freakin’ window.
I first fell in love with an abandoned hillside property but honestly missed out due to timing (and maybe due to me putting a little too much faith into the universe ~working things out~, which I now have mixed feelings about). It sold for $340,000 and needed $300,000 to $400,000 in repairs (in addition to like, needing a road and neighbor approval and a new foundation, so yes, I’ll concede that there were a variety of problems) but I guarantee that halfway through this update you’re going to be like, oh, yeah, maybe she should have gone that route, huh?
The second property I introduced you to was an absolutely wild vintage home with a 1970s update. I offered the asking price of $550,000 on this place, despite some seemingly enormous structural problems – the walls were very cracked and it had a surreptitiously leaning retaining wall that hinted at major issues, but I was in love. Honestly, I still am – vaulted ceilings, wood paneling, saloon-style swinging doors, and 70s wallpaper still does it for me. This place ended up selling for $600,000 and again, I wish I had just offered more. Being closed on a property in October would have made things so easy!
Which brings us to today: I flew home to Delaware on November 8 so I could quarantine for two solid weeks before seeing my mom for Thanksgiving, and guys…I’m still here. (Before you ask: yes, I’m from Wilmington; yes, like most Delawareans, I am basically 0 degrees of separation from the Bidens – and honestly, if you’re from Delaware, I’m sure we also know each other; and yes, it is very fun seeing your hometown on the news every night.) But basically, at the end of November, I kinda sorta broke my back (the easiest way to describe it) and when combined with the whole ~raging LA pandemic~ thing, I just decided to stay here until I was fully healed.
All of this brings us to today’s theme: y’all, I have started making sight unseen offers. Cross country. On homes I have only seen 3-minute videos of. A friend of mine recently described me as their most “irresponsible responsible friend,” and I think that explains a lot of what you’re about to read.
But before we get too in the weeds, let’s all bow our heads for a moment in honor of Brenda, my mom (to whom I wrote a very long and loving ode to in an earlier update), who has had to stand by my side as I make life-changing decisions WHILE HEAVILY MEDICATED. I know the rules for sainthood (Catholic high school alumni here, NBD) but there should be a special Brenda exception for going through this process with me up close and in real-time. Please drop your praise in the comments because she deserves all of it (and more)!!
Now, I hope you’re settled in and ready for a long read, because here’s how my real world, real rollercoaster-y episode of House Hunters went down (please play along – I want to know which house YOU would have chosen)…
First Up, A New Hill House
I HAVE NOT LEARNED ANY LESSONS, GUYS. This fella is priced at $569,900 and has been on the market since March 19, 2020. Yes, that is almost a year. And yes, it has been in and out of escrow FIVE TIMES. I actually first fell in love with this place in July of 2020 when I was trying to stick to the lower end of my budget…but like, who could resist those special ceilings or gorgeous views? NOT ME. I can be swayed by architectural charm and by bright windows and I’m only a little ashamed about it. Take a look, though, and tell me if you disagree…
There are a lot of things about this place that drew me in right off the bat. I know it’s not a super popular opinion, but I love LA homes that are up a flight of stairs. I’ve lived alone since 2015, consume an amount of the ID channel that could only be described as “oh gosh, WAY TOO MUCH,” and am kind of worried about being murdered. Something about making access to the home a little inconvenient really speaks to me. (As if a murderer would be like, “oh, Caitlin lives up a flight of stairs? Ugh, too much work. Pass.” But like, HEY, let me have my illusions of security, thanks.)
But beyond that – did you see that view? The sweet little terrace above the garages? THE CEILINGS? I had emailed my realtor, Francine (as always, if you’re in LA and have no idea how to find an agent, I vouch for her a billion percent #notsponsored) back in July when we had started working together asking about the property. At that time, it had been on the market for a couple of months, so I figured that they’d be open to a lowball offer, but she reached out to the listing agent and learned that the sellers were VERY firm on price.
Since then, it’s just been flopping in and out of escrow. And sure, it’s a bit dated and there’s a lot of obvious damage (it’s most visible in the dining room). But it’s also not not worth the asking price. And yeah, the primary bedroom DOES have windows that look into – you guessed it – a weird addition with a drop floor, but who needs privacy? So when this place came back on the market in late November, it felt like a real kismet moment for me. The universe must have been holding this for me, I thought, because I am dumb.
The place had charm, the lot was HUGE (as always, I need to clarify that this is by LA standards, but it’s almost 6,000 square feet!) and it checked all my boxes. To be fair, at this point the boxes needing to be checked are basically “near LA,” “standing,” “financeable,” and “under $600,000,” but I’m also flexible on all of those requests, so it’s honestly a bit of a free-for-all.
Anyway, the kismet really kicked in when a potential EHD partner emailed me to introduce their startup brokerage, which at the time would enable regular buyers (i.e. me) to find homes and to place all-cash offers. There’s usually a lot of vetting that goes on behind-the-scenes before we accept any partnership here (I won’t sign a deal for something we haven’t tried), so they graciously offered me the chance to test out their product by getting a tour of this house.
The experience was awesome – they sent an agent to the property and I was able to have a body on the ground exploring in real-time. My mom (Brenda, you know, the lady I talk about all the time) and I ate dinner as he toured the property. He looked in cabinets, surveilled the parking situation, and explained the property’s problems (“uh, it’s bad” was his main takeaway, but y’all have probably learned that I cannot be deterred).
Whereas this guy saw a house with bizarrely low basement clearance and impossible street parking and some…bold (???) bathroom choices, I saw a home with cathedral ceilings that had been on the market in my price range for almost a year. AND AT THIS POINT, THAT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME. I was ready to give this one a go.
I don’t mean to undersell this place, though – in a true plot twist, it had A STUNNING BACKYARD. It was ENORMOUS. I am pretty confident that if the first image of this house had just been its huge, flat, lovely backyard, it would have sold immediately. Instead, the listing agent chose to go with some ~creative~ choices, like this unpermitted basement bathroom with 6′ ceilings.
Seeing it on video chat was kind of like being surprised by a Tinder date who uses a ton of bad photos, and then they show up, and you’re like “WOAH, I WASN’T READY FOR THIS???” So despite all its problems and the initial photo impressions, I talked with Francine, told her that I had gotten to tour the house as part of our partnership vetting process, and asked about making an offer. (An aside: the potential partner who facilitated the viewing is in the process of tweaking their business model a bit, but I can’t wait to share more about the company when they’re ready! They’ll be an awesome resource for first-time buyers.)
Because the universe has a hilarious sense of humor, the house went under contract for the FIFTH TIME while this conversation happened. Francine chatted with the listing agent and said that I could submit a backup offer at $540,000 – about $30,000 below list – but also mentioned that this place had foundation issues.
OH GOSH. GUYS. The optimist in me gets it: we live in LA! Earthquake country! 100-year-old houses will have problems! But I’m batting 100% when it comes to falling in love with houses with severe foundation issues. WHY??? I emailed back: “Is that the lowest you think they’d go? I think I’m fine with that as a starting point, but like, if I offered $540,000 and then found out it needs $80,000 of dedicated foundation work, do you think they’d be willing to at least try and meet me somewhere in the middle around $515,000? I can only assume it’s a BIG problem if it’s come in and out of escrow this many times.”
She responded, “I asked if they have reports or estimated costs on the foundation repair and if the seller is willing to do any credits. He said ‘No, the price is with the discount.’ It doesn’t sound like they are willing to budge, and it could totally be why they have been on the market a long time.” And guys, that is when I made the first responsible decision of this whole saga: I WALKED AWAY, DESPITE THE 8 MONTH REDFIN LOVE AFFAIR WITH THIS HOME. IS THIS BEING AN ADULT???? Brenda celebrated quietly when I told her that I would not be making an offer.
And Then…The Silver Lake Box
But that celebration didn’t last long. Not to weave too much of my ~personal life~ into the post (that said, I LIVED IT, and I want you to understand the circumstances!!), but I started collapsing regularly with severe back pain at the end of November. I probably should have gone to the doctor but I also come from a family of folks who ignore their medical problems – my great grandpa chopped his own thumb off with an axe instead of seeking frostbite treatment, so I think it’s genetic – but it kept getting worse and worse. On December 3rd, I collapsed (while on the phone with someone from 3M, so I had to be like “oh, uh, I just…stubbed my toe??” while crying on mute. CASUAL!) and I lost all my ability to move or walk and y’all, that is NOT FUN OR COOL!
I ended up in an ambulance and got to spend some time in the hospital during the peak of the rona, which is a story for the books. (I also had a very attractive doctor who was my age and who ended up quoting Lumineers songs to me while he like, ran a billion tests on my decrepit and terrified self, which was horrifying. That’s not actually important, but if I’m sharing the info, you might as well get the whole story. Mallory, from our team, ended up making me a ‘Hot Doc Prep Kit’ for Christmas, though, so I’m ready for any future emergencies.)
I’m only telling you this as context because I was discharged from the hospital pretty quickly – you know, cause like, there’s a contagious disease floating around or something – but I was given a bunch of prescriptions for heavy-duty, mind-changing pain medication, which just adds a WHOLE NEW LAYER to this story. It always just gets harder! (PS. I’m fine-ish now, 9 weeks later!!! 20 years of ice skating injuries can really compound in a bad way when ignored!!! Listen to your body!!!)
But a few nights after being discharged from the hospital, I was sitting in my room in the dark (not normal) and refreshing Redfin (actually normal) when this popped up. It was 736 square feet on a ~1,500 square foot lot (read: LA tiny) and listed at $499,000. It was in Silver Lake – a big deal, if you’re not from LA – and it was walking distance from two of my favorite music venues, a bunch of my favorite coffee shops, and my old hair place. NEW. TARGET. ACQUIRED.
I made it through about 3 of the photos before I emailed Francine and asked her to put an offer in on this place. Seconds later, after realizing it was a trust sale, I sent a follow up: “PS. I saw it was a trust/conservatorship – if someone died in this house, can you please never tell me???” I learned my lesson on that Highland Park bungalow and I AM NOT MAKING THOSE MISTAKES AGAIN. 2021 CAITLIN IS MAKING SMART CHOICES!
I knew I wanted to go over the asking price almost immediately, but I also had to confirm that I hadn’t totally lost it, so I lumbered downstairs (again, heavily medicated, and very slowly) to show Brenda. I know I’m almost 30 and I know I have my stuff together – or like, at least as together as it can be – but when it comes to house hunting, I kind of feel like one of those girls on Say Yes to the Dress who can’t buy something without their parent’s approval. She has my back and I trust her and I want her blessing and I’m not afraid to say it!
But y’all – look at this place. I WAS ENTHRALLED FROM THE START. It looked like my first two loves, the hill house and my 70s dream mansion, had a baby. She was boxy and modern on the exterior with vaulted ceilings and a fun, 70s paneled interior. And like, sure, it needed work, but THEY ALL DO, so I was gung-ho on this one.
And to my absolute delight, Brenda agreed. “I’m seriously putting an offer in on this,” I said. “OK,” she said. There was no waffling, no “uhhh, it’s kind of gross” or “you do see that it needs a ton of work, right?” – there was just a simple “OK.” I had made my case (poorly and confusingly – it was basically me screaming for about 4 minutes straight as she cycled through the photos a few times), but she agreed. I emailed Francine and told her that I actually wanted to go above asking.
That night, I had floated a modest figure – $520,000. $21,000 over asking, I thought, was okay. But by morning, that number started ratcheting up in my brain. IT WASN’T ENOUGH, AND I NEEDED TO WIN THIS ONE. I looked at some comps in the neighborhood with similar tiny footprints and saw that they were selling around $700,000, so I figured I needed to bump up the offer a bit to compete with flippers.
Okay, so…$550,000. At first, that number felt pretty good. The place needed a pretty substantial gut job, which I figured would run a bit over $100,000 (because of rona-induced surcharges on materials). A house in Silver Lake couldn’t really swing a traditional quick flip – you know, the kind of flip that just picks the cheapest gray finish for every possible item. Gray floors, gray paint, gray cabinets, gray walls, large-scale marble-look tile…you’ve seen these, I know it!!! – so investors would really have to INVEST in the quality of its remodel. The market couldn’t sustain anything higher than that, right? With fees and costs and timelines, flippers couldn’t go higher than $550,000 and still make a profit, right?! I would win them over with my heartfelt letter, right?!??!
So that weekend, before I submitted my offer, Francine went to tour the house for me. She had said that I’d look like a more serious buyer – you know, less flakey – if it appeared that someone had actually looked at the house instead of submitting an offer ~willy-nilly~. (She didn’t say willy-nilly, but that was the sentiment.) I agreed and it turns out that this is a very smart thing to do in a hot market, which is why you should basically always listen to your realtor on all matters, always.
The video she sent me made me even more sure. I WANTED THIS ONE, BADLY, and I was going to try my absolute hardest to get it. I emailed my loan officer, Andy (again, if you’re in LA and you have no idea where to start, Andy gets my highest recommendation – he was Em’s loan officer, Sara’s loan officer, and he introduced me to Francine, so he is the true hero that’s bringing you all the EHD homes!), to ask if I’d be able to make an offer at $575,000. We are now SEVENTY-SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS OVER ASKING. On 736 square feet. Yes, the tunnel vision did set in…but SHE WAS IT. The universe had made this weird hybrid house baby just for me and I was going in, GUNS BLAZING. I was leaving it all on the table. Literally.
As I got to work writing the most earnest letter I have ever written (which was a challenge for me, a lady whom a commenter once described as “achingly earnest,” but with a mean connotation) to the trust selling the house and to the family of the deceased, I got a call from Andy. Good news, he said – he’d run my credit and I’d be good to put in an offer at $575,000 with a 10% downpayment. GREAT. He also wanted to tell me that he liked this house better for me than the original 70s dream house, which was feedback that I genuinely loved. We’re cooking with gas now, folks!!!
Francine worked on prepping the offer as I put the final touches on my letter – and y’all, I’m not sure if I’ve put more thought into ANYTHING in my entire life. I had researched the previous owner and was totally inspired by her. Not to overshare too much of her information, but she was also a single lady with an incredible career and she seemed like the kind of person I wouldn’t mind being haunted by, so again…IT FELT LIKE KISMET. We submitted, I waited, and then…this.
Did I want to counter? DUH. But I also want to do a lot of things that are bad for me, like drinking Coke Slurpees from 7-Eleven for every meal. I’ve somehow trained myself to override that impulse, so I decided to let this one go. AGAIN. I’m going to tell you how much this 736 square foot house on a 1,5000 square foot lot sold for, but first, I’m going to need you to make a guess. Are you ready?
Numbers ready??? Here we go…
$710,000. NEARLY THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS. $211,000 over asking. At $710,000 pre-renovation, the 3 bed/2.5 house on the hill would have been cheaper. HOW. And when I started to feel like there was no hope for a girl like me, the dream place just happened to come along. I know people say that’s true about relationships – you know, that when you’re not looking they just show up – but it turns out that the same idiom is true for real estate, too.
Re-up on your coffee because this is a little bit of a rollercoaster and there are LOTS of weeds to get through, y’all. (Also, a special hello to all of my real-life friends who witnessed me crying over the past few days and who have skipped to this section in search of an update as to what is going on. You’re in the right place!)
Throughout this whole process, I’ve been pretty clear that I’m on the hunt for a house in particular because (a.) I want a private outdoor space and (b.) condo fees are a NIGHTMARE in LA (like, any time I’ve seen an okay condo, the HOA has been $600-$800/month, which does not work for me). On a seemingly-unrelated note that will soon make sense, I’ve also written at great length over the past year and a half about how much I love my apartment. (Most recently like, less than a month ago, so yes – I love my apartment. I HAVE A POINT, I SWEAR.)
I’ve never shared it publicly on the blog – for reasons detailed in that earlier post, but mainly it boils down to me never designing it because it always felt like a temporary point – but I just want to show y’all a few quick shots so you’ll understand my surprise when I FOUND IT’S LITERAL TWIN. FOR SALE. A CHANCE TO LIVE IN MY APARTMENT, FOREVER, BUT BETTER.
Couple of things to note: 1930s construction, faux fireplace, great moulding, huge living room (mine is 14′ x 20′), wall of windows in the dining room, semi-open concept/railroad construction. For what it’s worth, these pictures are NOT GOOD and my apartment sat on the market for a month before I grabbed it for $1,900/month (under market for almost 1,200 square feet + a private garage in Koreatown).
So COLOR ME ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED when last Thursday I opened Redfin, turned on the condo setting for fun, and then found this 2 bed, 1.5 bath for sale at $540,000. It’s 2.7 miles from my current apartment but more important than anything, it’s still walking distance to Hae Jang Chon which is THE BEST RESTAURANT IN LOS ANGELES. (If you haven’t gone, you are missing out.) Unfortunately, for some reason, I am not being paid to write a bulgogi review (though maybe I could swing it if y’all requested one in the comments), so I’ll continue showing the new place and explaining the circumstances that got us here…because they’re about to get a little wild. WOULD YOU EXPECT ANY LESS FROM ME AND A FUTURE HOME?
The above photo isn’t of the actual unit – it’s of the upstairs one, so I emailed Francine immediately and wrote, “So uh, I realize that this is basically the opposite of everything I’ve asked for (not single-family + already remodeled), but it is basically an exact dupe of my current apartment (which I love a lot!!) with the addition of a little bit of outdoor space. (Like, same square footage, same layout, same moulding – a twin!!!) I’m kind of curious to see the actual unit because if it’s similarly bright, I think I want to put in an offer??? VERY weird and again, VERY OPPOSITE of all the info I have given you but I’d buy my current apartment in a heartbeat if it were an option so I have a good feeling about this one!”
And I did have a good feeling – it was the first time I really felt like this was it. Are y’all familiar with that feeling? The last time I had felt this way was back in 2019, right when I had applied for my job here at EHD. I had my final interview with Emily on a Tuesday and was actually supposed to move cross country on Thursday to start a different job, but I never actually packed anything – I just felt so sure that it was going to work out, and it did. I’ve tried to trick myself into feeling that way since, but when it happens, it’s really honest and true and unflappable and WHEN YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW. YOU KNOW?
Geez. Back to the new place, huh? So basically, this place isn’t actually a condo, despite being one unit in a 4-unit building. It’s actually a tenants in common listing, which is a thing that I’ve had to spend the whole week learning about so I’d be able to explain it in a simple way for this post.
The simplest way I can break it down is this: if you buy a condo, the government has a list of every unit inside that building with a separate APN and separate tax info. When you buy a tenants in common listing, you basically buy a share of a building and then you sign a separate agreement with the group that gives you exclusive rights to one building. You all own the building together, which has some pros – like, splitting one property tax bill, which generally lowers costs – but it also has some cons, like…well, they’re valued at 10-20% lower than a condo, and you may not turn a ~profit~ upon resale, so they’re not for folks looking for a super investment vehicle.
But I, a person who has spent over $150,000 on rent over the last 9 years, don’t really care about EARNING money if and when I decide to sell in the future! I think my attitude is shared by a lot of millennials – I just don’t want to pay rent and I want somewhere permanent that belongs to me. I did the math for myself and realized that if I were to buy this place for $540,000, it could depreciate by half AND I could lose money on a sale 5 years from now, but I’d still be coming out ahead compared to staying in my current apartment. I’m not sure if this math works out for everyone, so obviously, ALWAYS RUN YOUR OWN NUMBERS, but for me…well, I guess I have the risk tolerance, the math, and the appropriate level of laissez-faire attitude required to jump in piloting new types of ownership.
But when I went to make an offer, I ran into the big hurdle: since tenants in common buildings are still super new in LA (side note: in San Francisco, TIC units are more popular than co-ops, so it is a well-tested model), there were only two banks able to loan on the units. Well, uh, okay. That definitely takes away some competition and my ability to get the best rate, but…this is a fully-finished place for $540,000 in a layout that I *already know* that I love, because I have been living in a literal dupe for the past 2 years.
I ended up reaching out to one of the banks before putting in an offer just to get an idea of rates and heard back immediately – they’d need 25% down (aka $135,000). That technically would have been doable, but there was NO WAY I was actually going to do that for cash flow reasons, so…I guess in my case, there was ONE BANK who was able to finance this purchase. COOL! That’s not stressful or scary at all!
Francine toured this place for me on Sunday morning (yes, the timeline has gotten very recent) and I put in an offer on Sunday night. I signed my offer while sitting on the couch, watching the Super Bowl halftime show with Brenda. She has not said this out loud but I can tell that she was VERY excited by the idea of me not dropping an extra $100,000 on a renovation over the next few years. If I was a betting gal, I’d say that this was her favorite. (Shockingly, I think the hill house would come in second. She’s a wild woman!) For the first time, I also chose not to write a letter, because they somehow make rejection WAY worse.
The other catch – and it’s a dealbreaker for a lot of folks – is that tenants in common can only be financed via adjustable rate mortgages. If you weren’t a homeowner during the last financial crash, let me catch you up real quick: basically, you sign on with a fixed rate for a few years – let’s say 3, or 5, or 7 – and while it’s usually low for that intro period, the lender has the ability to change the rate every year moving forward after your initial period is up. This was part of the reason the housing market crashed in 2008 – folks rates shot up from a low, manageable amount to something they couldn’t afford.
The government has since set limits and made these mortgages a little less risky for borrowers (i.e. there are strict limits about how much your rate can increase and you’re aware of that amount before signing), but they still have the stench of, you know, collapsing the whole American economy on them, so they’re not necessarily anyone’s first choice for a home loan. They also make TIC units a little less desirable…but hey, after forty offers on the last place, is that so bad?
Anyway – I learned all this info and I submitted my offer on Sunday night. Francine texted me a couple of minutes later and said that we’d hear back on Monday, which I took as a very good sign. Everything else I’ve offered on has had a deadline and I’ve heard back in 24 hours, but offering on something without a deadline and getting that kind of feedback made me feel VERY ENCOURAGED. I remember looking at Brenda and being like, “…yo, this one is going to happen. This is it.”
But Monday came and went, and nothing. I somehow waited until EIGHT PM to text Francine for an update because I have incredible and impressive self-restraint. She responded that the listing agent had just texted her, that she was working on counters, and that we’d hear back tonight.
COUNTER. OFFERS. GUYS. WE MADE IT!!! BABY’S NOT GETTING STRAIGHT-UP REJECTED ANYMORE!!! It was a cause for celebration. I was so, so, so excited. EIGHT MONTHS AND MY FIRST OFFICIAL COUNTER OFFER. But then 9 PM came, and 10 PM, and 12 AM, and when I woke up and checked my phone every few hours there was still nothing.
I could feel my frustration mounting because I also already knew the prices that the other units had sold for – the upstairs that I’m using pictures from went for $555,000; the other downstairs unit went for $540,000. The one I had offered on was arguably the worst unit in the building – it was next to the driveway and garage (and I mean, I don’t mind, I live on top of a Jack in the Box drive through. Anything will be an improvement from a woman screaming over the speakers or their dump truck at 4 AM on Monday mornings), but it’s yard was also only half the size of the other downstairs unit’s yard. If anything, it should have been less than $540,000. But also, I just wanted to be done and did not really care about paying an extra couple thousand dollars over the course of 5-7 years (AKA how long I’d expect to be in this place based on how long I’ve spent in other apartments in LA) if I meant I could just be done.
But then Tuesday came and passed, too. At 8 PM, I texted Francine. Nothing. And then Wednesday (read: 2 days ago)…still nothing. I started to feel hopeless – I DIDN’T HALLUCINATE THE COUNTER OFFER, RIGHT? I had the text receipts! Finally, Francine called me at 3:30 PM and the first words out of her mouth were, “I have news…it’s not good.”
Y’all, I was emotional immediately. Basically, Francine explained that the seller’s agent – the main folks who manage TIC sales in Los Angeles – had said that they actually COULDN’T accept my offer because the bank (remember, there are only 2 banks who loan on TIC properties in the area) couldn’t loan on more than 70% of the units in a building. This would be their third unit in the building, pushing their stake to 75%, which means that they couldn’t lend to me.
Francine told me that they had instead accepted an offer from someone who had submitted months ago (like…October? November?) and who had been approved by the OTHER bank, the one that required 25% down. After we hung up, I cried SO MUCH. I cried privately, and then I went downstairs to tell my mom and cried some more (she LAUGHED, saying that I was going to have more weird buying stories than anyone else, which isn’t wrong, but I also was not ready to laugh about it yet!!!), and then THANKFULLY I had to pull myself together for a partnerships zoom because I was headed on a DEEP SADNESS SPIRAL. But true to form, I woke up and cried some more yesterday morning because I had been SO SURE that I was going to get this one. I’ve never been wrong when I’ve felt that level of security before, and my heart really did break a little bit. I’M CRYING AGAIN SO WE NEED TO MOVE ON.
This is when it gets juicy – this morning (I’m penning this on Thursday night, because things are unfolding in real-time and it’s fun to have you along on the ride with me!), I emailed the bank who had financed the other 2 units in the building.
Basically, I said that my offer had been rejected because of their 70% rule but that I’d still like to chat and learn about how ARMs and tenants in common work because at this point, my goal is to become an expert on all obscure forms of real estate transactions so I can write tiny novels about them for y’all to enjoy with your morning coffee. But then I got a call back and GUYS, THERE WAS NO 70% RULE.
I’m not sure where the lapse in communication came from, but MY OFFER WAS REJECTED FOR A FAKE REASON. I spent an hour and a half on the phone on Thursday afternoon with Derek, a loan officer and expert on TIC properties (and on regular properties, too – talk to him if you’re considering either, he was amazing!!!) who spent time breaking down everything I needed to know: why ARM rates on TIC units are higher (there’s no secondary market – i.e. the bank can’t sell the loan to someone else); why they have credit score minimums for their loans (it’s about having a good track record, but folks with dings can still apply for exceptions); how much I’d qualify for (less on a TIC loan than I’d been approved for on a 30 year fixed – TICs only loan on up to 38% of your income, whereas conventional mortgages can go higher); and like, a billion other very specific problems. I’ve met a bunch of real peaches during this process and towards the end, Derek basically assured me that if it was meant to be, it would happen, and THAT’S THE KIND OF WOO-WOO THING I NEEDED TO HEAR. I felt like I was back on track, a least a little bit.
I texted Francine during this and was basically like, “uh, what the heck, I’m talking with the bank and there is no 70% rule, they can lend on every unit on the building if they wanted to” and she texted me back at 8 PM on Thursday night (again, this goes live at 4 AM on Friday morning, so y’all are UP. TO. SPEED. with me) that my offer’s now being kept in backup. I mean. Maybe it’ll work out? Maybe it won’t? I had such a dream of accepting the counter offer and becoming the new spokesperson for tenants in common – this weird real estate format worked for me and it can work for you, too – but it just fell apart and it didn’t work for me, so we’re back to square one. GREAT. PERFECT.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on what this all means and why this process has been so long and drawn out. On one hand, I could just write it off as like, “seller’s markets suck and this is just a trash experience,” but I don’t really think my psyche could handle that, so off I go on the hunt for meaning!
I think that this Blythe Baird quote really sums it up, despite not being super ~on brand~ for me (poetry is not my thing, but this sentiment is spot on): “I am trying to see things in perspective. My dog wants a bite of my peanut butter chocolate chip bagel. I know she cannot have this, because chocolate makes dogs very sick. My dog does not understand this. She pouts and wraps herself around my leg like a scarf and purrs and tries to convince me to give her just a tiny bit. When I do not give in, she eventually gives up and lays in the corner, under the piano, drooping and sad. I hope the universe has my best interest in mind like I have my dog’s. When I want something with my whole being, and the universe withholds it from me, I hope the universe thinks to herself: ‘Silly girl. She thinks this is what she wants, but she does not understand how it will hurt.'”
So yeah, I guess…in time? I’d like to think that things do work out for the best, so I can only imagine how great my future place will be and how much I’ll love it. I do keep thinking about the person who submitted an offer on my apartment-lookalike TIC unit in October and how happy they must have been to find out, 4 months later, that they’d won. Maybe in 4 months things will be looking up for me, too? Fingers crossed.
As always, let’s chat all things house hunt in the comments. Thanks for going on this long, weird ride with me. I don’t know how people without blogs process their feelings (privately??? What is that???) and I’m grateful that you’re here. Also, if you want to sell me your house in LA or if you’re ready to cast me on your new HGTV show where someone makes offers over and over and over again until they die, my email is open. Happy weekend, see you down there. xx
Caitlyn, I’m emotionally drained and physically exhausted from your house-hunting sagas and all I did was literally sit in a chair and read about them. I can’t even imagine how you are coping with all the insane twists and turns – oh, on top of a broken-ish back too. All of *your* houses have had certain charms but to be denied a chance to live in an utterly dreamy twin of your current home because of a gigantic mistruth just seems wildly unfair. Yes, I ultimately agree that the universe knows something you don’t, and will provide the right home at the right time at the right price; I just hope you are still of sane mind when it happens.
thank you, Diane 🙂
A wild ride indeed! What a bummer that you missed out for a fake reason, but on the bright side this means we get more house hunting posts? (sorry not much of a bright side for you) Some of my colleagues have spent >2 years looking for the right property (and missing out on offers) and usually they end up with a house they like better than the ones they were looking at first…but maybe they’re just happy to finally be in a house :p
HAHA, yes, truly so lucky to be able to channel all the sad feelings into posts. i don’t know if i could do this for 2 years without y’all dropping encouraging comments!!!
After reading all these posts I so badly want you to be able to buy a house, but that means we wouldn’t get these updates anymore, which have quickly become my favourite regular feature on EHD. The farm looks nice and all, but as a 25yo from the third least affordable city in the world – LA is only number 5!!! – this is so much more relatable.
So while the house hunt has taken much longer than you would have liked it to, the upside is that there are more posts for us to read. Selfish, I know, but it’s true. Looking forward to hearing how it all turns out, chaotic oversharing and all. Best of luck! It’ll work out! Living with Brenda in the meantime sounds like a pretty sweet deal 🙂
well shucks, thanks Ames!!! here’s to two twenty-somethings in expensive cities. <3
Same story! Some mall differences – a smidge older (32) and in the most expensive city in the US (whattup SF) but agree 100%. The farm looks nice and all but this is content I can relate to. Reading this post is girding my loins for my upcoming search.
You may have touched on this before, and I’m sure it’s something you’ve considered thoroughly, but why the commitment to staying in LA? With everything COVID has turned upside down, to me one of the bright spots is how it’s opened up geographic options for where people can reasonably live and work moving forward. (See Emily’s move to Oregon and Orlando’s move to the woods). You have every right to just love LA and know that’s where you want to be, I just hope that’s a thought process you’ve gone through as this world changing pandemic has unfolded. I’ve loved reading your stories and wish you the best of luck finding the place that’s meant for you!
i have definitely considered moving elsewhere – including a compromise of building in the desert outside of LA! – but at the end of the day, i just really love Los Angeles. i wish i didn’t!!! it’s just my favorite place to be, so like, despite me being the number one advocate for the @cheapoldhouses Instagram and wishing i could just move somewhere less expensive, i still just feel so drawn to stay here. the heart wants what it wants!!!
I agree with Kara. You can love LA AND also love other places to live, that maybe aren’t insanely expensive to buy. Middle America has a lot of amazing, beautiful and inexpensive cities that aren’t going to push you to your budget redline. The current housing market feels unsustainable and volatile. I know renting sucks and you’re invested in a homeowning future. It will happen! Maintain that objectivity, though. Don’t get sucked into a deal that will stretch you too thin. You’re wonderful and vibrant and lovely and I don’t want to see you buried when this housing market flips–which it’s going to do sooner or later. I’m rooting for you! Personal recommendation, I’ve lived in both Memphis and St Louis and they are inexpensive cities with character and heart. Highly recommend either one.
I live in LA and I am from St. Louis and it does have a lot of great things about it, however progressive it’s not, as racism runs pretty rampant there-the city is very divided by race. It’s a rather backwards city. BUT you CAN get a great house it a great area for around $350 (some places lower and some higher than that but WAY cheaper than LA). I have and still am thinking about buying a house there. There are always pros and cons, sigh. Good luck though!!!
Oh and I forgot to add that it has hellish humid summers which suck. 🙁
Caitlin, I’ve loved reading your posts! I bought my first house at the age of 27 right after the financial crisis in 2008, but I was a teacher, so my house was 78K :). I think your drama is probably a lot more than mine was then, but do know that the Universe has got your back, and will figure something great out for you.
I wasn’t looking, and someone found me and decided that I should have their slightly run down house and five acres in Iowa. For 125K. It’s in need of tlc, and frankly middle America’s incomes aren’t that high (I work for a non-profit and make under 50K a year) but I can afford 5 acres and a house that’s huge (over 2000 sq ft. is huge to me) in what might currently be the coldest place on earth (tomorrow’s high is -10 :).)
LOL people’s responses are so funny. How incredible it is to find a city you love so much! I wouldn’t trade that for anything. (It took me 10 years and 6 international moves and I still don’t have a single city I love like you seem to love LA. Hang on to that, girl!)
LA is an awesome city! I totally get why you want to live there. But I live in San Jose, CA, an even more expensive place, so I have a different mindset. While I understand the philosophy of relocating, sometimes you just know where you live to live. Trust that feeling.
I so feel you Caitlin-I live in LA too and me and my hubby are trying to decide-do we stay here or move to St. Louis, where I am from and which he likes okay. And my parents, many relatives and 2 of my BFF live there. Buying a house there would be way way cheaper and likely a lot easier (from what you have experienced and shared!), but then I would be living there and like you, I love LA. My husband is a screenwriter and is still hopeful to make a living at it. He has off and on, but lately it has been a lot off. He has been making a living lately with something he could do anywhere. I am an AMFT and still getting my hours (which will take forever it seems) and as a therapist I worry I won’t have as much good opportunities there (you know LA peeps love their therapy! LOL). AND STL isn’t progressive at all (very racially divided there), etc. But…despite the pandemic and all that, I still want to buy a house somewhere here. I don’t want a condo as this may be where we will stay and live… Read more »
If that’s the case, search on and good luck! I also know what it feels like to find the city/town that is just “it” for you, and I wish it for everyone. Glad you’ve found it in LA ❤ I just also think it’s always worth checking in with yourself to make sure you still want what you’ve been pursuing, especially after this big of a world/life shift. Again, good luck!
Those were my thoughts exactly! You have the best reason NOT to buy in LA – you can work from anywhere! There’s so many cool places in the USA to live in your price range. Maybe you should think about somewhere on the East Coast to be closer to Brenda?? At any rate, buying a house unseen just seems really risky when you don’t “have to”!
It’s not just LA. I’m reading this living in a camping trailer (with my husband, 3 small kids, and dog) while renovating a house on a property we bought for $650,000. The house was unlivable and we’re putting at least $150,000 into the renovation. We’re outside Seattle. People tell us all the time that we got a steal for the location.
It’s okay to suffer a bit to live where you love!
I live in Asheville, NC and your price range could get you such an amazing house here. We are having loads of transplants moving here from LA and San Francisco, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.
It’s so hard to me to understand spending the kind of money you’d need to just to live in an unsustainable area with pollution and horrible traffic and wildfires. Ha! You must REALLY love it.
Your posts are super entertaining and informative though! Good luck with the continued search!
Hi Jen, I am just curious- What is Asheville like? I have heard it’s the only like liberal/progressive city in NC? Like an enclave? lol But it has peaked my interest. What is the weather like in the summer? I hate humidity (which is why I haven’t left LA to go back and live in St. Louis).
Not Jen but I have spent a ton of time in Asheville and used to live in Charlotte, NC. Charlotte and the Raleigh/Durham area are also fairly liberal and progressive but Asheville would win the crown there and is also much more of a quirky/hippie kind of vibe. It’s the south though. There’s an overarching conservative vibe. The humidity is rough in the summer. I currently live in Minneapolis and the summers in Asheville are longer, hotter, and much more humid. I haven’t really spent significant time in STL though, it might be slightly better because you do get a bit of that mountain crispness.
I’m not Jen either, but I live an hour outside of Asheville and it’s where we go for big errands. It’s a super great place, definitely liberal, but take 3 steps outside and remember Mark Meadows was our congressman (yay, gerrymandering). I love Asheville so much. Housing sounds almost as competitive as LA’s, though – people are flocking there, especially after COVID. We’re definitely more humid than LA; less than St Louis though.
Just here to say that I live in LA and I LOVE it too! People love to hate on LA but I think it’s fantastic!
Me too sister! 🙂
Guys, she lives in LA’s Koreatown. It’s hands down the biggest most vibrant Koreatown in the world, other than actually being in Korea. It’s also surrounded by other incredible local ethnic communities. She’s not going to find that anywhere else in the U.S.
You know what’s occurring to me reading all these comments about how people love their city so much? That your perspective on the “perfect” city really has a lot to do with where you are in your life (not a novel point of view, by any means). I’m from a city I love (Miami) and have lived in another city I loved (Barcelona) but in both of those instances, I was pretty young and either childless or with very small children. I now live in a small college town where there’s exactly 1 of every thing you need (one Target, one Trader Joes, one art museum, etc) and I kinda love it. I keep insisting to everyone I meet that I’m a city girl through and through. But I like the fact that going “across town” where I live takes twenty minutes, there’s no traffic, the house prices are competitive but not exaggerated, and that my kids can ride their bikes in the neighborhood and all the neighbors have their eyes out for them. I do think though, as young progressives, that we can build the communities we want to see in other places. Every time Texas and Florida and… Read more »
yes. the comments that say a city, for instance St. Louis, is very racially divided and not at all progressive made me think – the best way to change that is for smart young people to move there and change things! I know that is a very simplified thought, obviously not “an answer” but it is true that any help would be great – we need our awesome young people to move this country move FORWARD NOW!
LA is my favorite city. My partner was born and raised in LA Koreatown. We lived there for many years. It’s wrong to say the city is only for young people or singles. It’s not the “best value” in terms of square footage for a home but the history, vibrancy and communities in this city are special. I found that LA is a great place to raise a family, too.
i do think about this ALL THE TIME (as in, like, the value of getting a bunch of progressive folks to move to a new place). i applied for the tulsa remote program a couple years ago – basically they paid 10k for remote workers to come move to tulsa – so i’m not totally opposed to building communities elsewhere…it’s just SO DANG COMFORTABLE in la to be with all my friends and creative folks in nice weather with so much to do 🙂
Caitlyn, did you end up moving to Tulsa? I’ve lived here for over 30 years after growing up in Denver, Dallas, Costa Rica, and Chile, and in the last decade it’s become a really wonderful city. We have our issues, but we are moving in the right direction and it’s young people, their businesses and their creativity who are helping make the positive changes. It IS hot in the summer and cold in the winter but I like four seasons, plus our home prices are ridiculously low. It took me years to be content in this city, but I loved it first for the people, and now for the art, music and food too.
P.S. You’re SUCH a great writer! This was an incredibly well-written and entertaining post-your pain, our gain, I guess. I hope and pray the perfect house is out there waiting for you!
Sorry about Georgia. Was born there, won’t live there for that reason.
Brenda is never getting her office back. xo
Wow, that was painful. I live in the midwest and can’t fathom those prices…Have you ever considered moving outside of LA, or in a different state altogether? You could get so much more for your money. I hope you find the perfect place, thanks for taking us along for the ride.
Right?! Our house was like $130K and we’ve put a lot into it to make it our own! But – -love where I live too so I get it…..kinda
Thanks for sharing your house journey with us. I appreciate your honest and realness. I fell in love with that hillside house along with you. I have a similar experience of loving those type of houses and had a house on a hill I loved but it didn’t work out. We found one that fit our needs better. But it was fun to dream.
What a frustrating process for you. The citizens of Toronto stand with you in the world of insane housing markets. Average detached home here is $1.2mm and that includes suburbs well outside of the city. I was lucky, oh so lucky to pull the trigger in 2014. Family thought I was insane buying a 2 bedroom, 600 square foot bungalow for 550k. 2.5 years later I sold it for 780k. Our market has gone up 100+ thousand per year with no end in site and extremely low inventory. For millennials like me there is the chasm of those that got in and those that didn’t and those that didn’t likely won’t be able to. Combine that with very high childcare costs and living costs and people in their late 20s and 30s are fleeing the city just to keep their head above water. Anyways I digress…the whole thing sucks. I hope you find a beautiful home very soon and have a good feeling you will!!
Fellow Canadian here, in Ottawa trying to buy a house. I relate to your comment so much Christina and this whole blog. Ottawa’s market isn’t quite as high as Toronto, but there are some wild things happening all pandemic induced. Great time to sell in Ottawa if you don’t also need to buy. Been looking for nearly 4 months and its either trash or we loose the bid. We will both find a place Caitlin!
sending good vibes your way!!!! 2021 is our year 🙂
Caitlyn, I cannot tell you how reassuring this was to read. I know that was probably not the intended vibe of your post (essay?) but my husband and I are currently in a different but similar house hunting marathon in Toronto Canada… and I am about ready to throw in the towel!! To give you a summary, we have made multiple offers on *very small* *row houses* that need *a lot of work* and all of them have sold for at least $400,000 over asking. That amount is in Canadian dollars but even if you convert to American it’s still sooooo much over asking that we just feel like giving up! The market is super hot here which seems to be a mix of low inventory because nobody wants to sell during a lockdown (we are under stay at home orders here), pent up demand from last year when nobody moved unless they had to, and super low interest rates. But anyways, even though I know we are in a VERY privileged position to even be offering on these places, it still makes you feel like you’re losing your mind a little so it’s nice to know someone is in… Read more »
it makes me feel so much better to hear that other folks are in similar boats – i just see a lot of social media posts of people finding their dream homes without seeing any of the messy process. it’s fun that we’re in this together!! sending all the positive vibes back at you. <3
Just popping in to say I love, love, love going on this journey with you. I know it is such an emotional roller coaster, but I think you’re right that the universe will guide you to the right place in the end. Until then, you have lots of people who are rooting for you and enjoying these updates! Also, I would 100% watch your HGTV show <3
SHUCKS, thanks Virginia!!! :’)
Caitlin, I like you and I feel like we would be friends in real life. I want to go to brunch with you to hear your stories. I hope you keep writing for the blog!
Also, whose fake reason was it? Like, did the seller and seller’s agent make it up for some reason? Was it some junior broker at the lender who misunderstood?
i have no idea!!! the lender was straight up like, “yeah, that’s not true and we’re going to send out a notice to everybody to remind them that we can finance a whole building.” but i had also assumed that the counter offer process was taking so long because the seller’s agent had been in contact with the bank??? so honestly, WHO KNOWS. in any case, YES let’s be friends! i’d love to brunch with you!!!
Not to say that this is necessarily the case for your situation, but real estate can be SO shady!! Weird things happen without a good explanation sometimes, in my experience at least. I really hope this all works out for you, and I have a feeling it will. If nothing else, this crazy process seems to have made you an expert on real estate in LA and that HAS to be helpful for the rest of your search! Sending positive cozy house vibes ~~~
I have cried many many times over LA real estate. My husband and I were laughing the other day about when we toured a condo that had recently been on fire…and didn’t 100% reject it immediately. I relate to these posts so much!!!
Anyway, you should buy my LA house. But do you even want a house where somebody else already fixed the foundation problems??? Haha. But seriously, it’s going on the market in April, probably. I’ll send it to you!
HAHAH i have also looked at a fire damaged condo and would have offered on it had it been financeable! GEEZ. what a market. and you kid, but like…send it my way! what an EHD plot twist it would be to find my house from someone in the community!
Dear Caitlin (if I may): I’ve read tons of EHD posts… I enjoy reading yours the most. We bought a townhouse 2 years ago in a different overpriced market, and covid disrupted our renovations. Then we were finally given the all clear to move in, but turns out, well— As someone living in a beautiful fixer-upper my spouse fell for (it is gorgeous, and I’m very proud of my color-finishes-everything choices!), and living now w out proper heat and no hot water (covid x monopoly power cos.), I can definitely see how sometimes it’s better if your dreams don’t come true. I.e., no chocolate chip anything for me ;). So, condolences, yes. But you seem to have the best mom in the world, a sunny disposition, and you are an excellent writer! (I teach literature and history and writing—straightens her imaginary cravat and mortarboard—if that helps.) And I know you know this, but: Could you possibly have more people rooting for you? As a gen-exer who thinks millennials are way under-appreciated, love how you live by your non-sensical but at the same time fun-loving values. I would definitely watch a show starring Caitlin, guest-starring Brenda, that mixes your bright spirit… Read more »
THIS IS SO KIND. THANK YOU. :’)
Caitlin, you are living an alternate version of my life! I am also 29 and also super single and also in LA and I just purchased a TIC this May. I was freaked out by the ARM (didn’t really care about the riskiness of co-ownership) but ultimately justified it because it was between that and continuing to rent for like years more. So however this goes for you, good luck!!!
Wow… that is A LOT. I am so so sorry for all the emotional energy this has taken, it’s so hard!! I have bought and sold 1 house in LA and I know on some level this hard process (ours was a to-do as well). I do remember being so happy for the new owners we sold to, they had been trying to buy in LA for a very long time and had lost so many offers. I can’t wait for you to find “the one,” it will make it that much sweeter. Hang in there!
As I’ve always told my daughters who are now in their 40’s when what their heart was set on falls through…that just means something better is coming your way. Whether it’s, men, perfect shoes, jobs or yes…houses. Best wishes to you in finding “THE ONE” in the near future.
From a mom of 2 girls/women.💋
Wholeheartedly agree! I’m so thankful for life’s disappointments and what they’ve led me to! My mom still reminds me in my mid-30’s that everything happens for a reason, because in the moment it’s so hard to keep that perspective.
love this. THANKS, BILLIE 🙂
Dang, girl! I am so in for this ride. I mean, for my sake…for YOU, I can’t imagine how you’re holding it together at all. This is such a rollercoaster! Thanks for taking us along and I truly can’t wait to see where you end up!
(Also LOL’d really hard at this line: “Did I want to counter? DUH. But I also want to do a lot of things that are bad for me, like drinking Coke Slurpees from 7-Eleven for every meal.”)
Your posts are giving me flashbacks to 2002 when I bought my house in the hottest market Sacramento had ever seen. Houses in my price range were selling site unseen within 24 hours of listing for above asking with multiple cash bids! It was insane! And as a teacher married to a teacher our borrowing situation was not great! But hey, we eventually found a house in a nice neighborhood and were able to buy….on our like 8th house we offered on.
18 years later and we finally remodeled the kitchen so there is hope for you yet.
HAHA. i love this. i hope you’re enjoying your new kitchen!!!
Sara, our house hunt was long, too, and after 14 years in our house, we are hoping to start our kitchen remodel. Good luck with the process!
Please please please look outside of LA. This is what a housing bubble looks like. There is very little intrinsic value in these homes compared to what they’re selling for…. and your boss just moved to Portland. If you’re committed to this idea that the universe can direct you, then listen to the universe and expand your search zone INSTEAD of your price.
Yeah, I know the heart wants what it wants, but whenever I read posts about people skirting financial ruin to buy overheated properties in big cities I just want to be like…maybe don’t? There are so many other good cities! This city is like a bad boyfriend who isn’t treating you well, but you keep going back to him because you can’t see all the adorable but unassuming men (cities) that would treat you better.
Run away to one of those small-but-hip like all the other millennials are starting to do.
Or don’t! I’m just an internet stranger, enjoying these posts from my very inexpensive midwestern ranch home with a large backyard, lol.
I grew up in the midwest and moved to California and will never move back. Yes, you can get a huge house cheap in the midwest. You’ll need that huge house to survive the harsh winters. And actually the humid, mosquitoey summers, too. While fall is really nice, the climate made me feel like a prisoner for most of the year. My parents are aging and still there. The snow and ice become not just depressing, but actually dangerous. They are basically confined to their house for months on end. We are looking for a way to get them someplace warm so they can take walks. Unfortunately, their cheap house can’t be sold for nearly enough to get a place near us.
Sure, there are pros and cons to every choice. But there are also a lot of cities in between the frigid Midwest and LA though! Looooots of places with temperate weather where you aren’t going to make yourself completely bankrupt to purchase a shack with a faulty foundation.
And plenty of people survive the midwest just fine in small houses, we’re just a little hardier about the weather situation 🙂 I’m outside frequently most of the year, as are all the old people who live around me. To each their own!
It’s definitely a balance, and different aspects are important to different people. Glad you found a living situation that works for you. I hope Caitlin finds something that makes her happy!
I SO SO RELATE and feel the same! I live in LA.
I HATE, no I ABHOR (esp the humid summer hate fest) the climate in the Midwest. I am from St. Louis and it sucks for half the year! Trapped indoors, etc. I love being able to live outside basically all year. I love Cali so much, I don’t know if I can leave it. Who knows as this is such a crazy time. But just wanted to say I feel ya V.
As someone who grew up in the Midwest, only minority in my school! The ethnic and cultural diversity of CA and LA is matched by….NYC and that’s it. Whenever I see people recommending small towns as the perfect place to live, I just think “clearly they’re not dealing with the so where are you from” question.
I live in TX and my city is one of the most diverse in the country. We can get food from almost any country within a 10 mile drive and most of my neighbors are immigrants. LA and NY don’t hold a monopoly on diversity. It’s out there if you look for it.
Um have you been to Miami or any major city in Texas?
If I were uber-wealthy I would legit just buy you a house at this point. This saga is just too much for any one house hunter to go through! Also, I can completely relate to ending up ( or NEARLY ending up) with a house that is not at all what you thought you were looking for. After touring dozens of condos, one day my realtor was like, there’s a duplex in a neighborhood you’re not even considering, please just go look at it. She was right, and we ended up buying it and living in it and loving it for 9 years.
Caitlin – I am addicted to reading the updates on your house-hunting saga. You manage to convey what must be a chronically emotional and traumatic experience with honesty, pragmaticism and humor! I hope you find your home soon. Also, Brenda you are the BEST!
brenda IS the best, thank you for noticing 🙂
WOW. Just…wow. I love your writing SO much and I’m giving you a mental hug. These posts feel so relatable and I’m happy that you’re sharing. Even though I’m not currently house-hunting (been there and it’s HARD), I can relate to this wanting in other areas of my life and not getting it (like being crazy and trying to start a family during a pandemic). It’s helpful to hear stories from others that we are all GOING THROUGH IT. And your writing is lovely! Loved the poem share at the end. You’ve got this! Keep us all along for the ride because I’m hooked – we will celebrate with you when the universe opens up!
I mean, goodness knows how you feel because I only -read- that and I’m gutted it didn’t work out! But now you know you would be happy with a shared building with private outdoor space I think you have opened up a whole load of new options! Thanks for taking us along.
Just wanted to pop in and say how much I LOVE this series. In a world where social media makes everything look like it happens perfectly and magically, I love seeing a real world story of how DIFFICULT this crap is sometimes. Thank you so much for sharing!
thank you, kelly 🙂
I love these updates! I read the whole thing. Thanks for sharing! I’m sending you lots of good, positive energy! When it is meant to be, it’ll happen for you. Good luck with your house search!
Caitlin, I’m on a similar path as you and just around the corner from DE in Philly! I’ve been on an eight? nine? ten month? hunt for my first house with multiple over-asking offers put in and still nothing. Someone give us their house!!! It is a MIND GAME. But I loved the quote at the end of your post – it’s true that it will all work out how it’s supposed to. Man, but its tough in the meantime. I can’t wait to see what ultimately ends up being “the one” for you and thanks for a great read to get me through to the weekend!
Maybe they googled your name, found your real estate posts and just don’t want to deal with that aspect of it? I know, from personal experience, that we will never sell or buy a house to/from a lawyer again. So we would now search and find out if the buyer/seller was a lawyer or related to a lawyer before proceeding.
i hadn’t considered this, but it’s totally possible!
Brenda for the gold medal!!! Wot a woman!👑 Caitlin, my preferences are 1. The twin apartment then 2. The Sikverlake bix house. I actually have an (take) issue with you being told a lie about why your offer wasn’t accepted and really think you sjould drill down and find out who and why this happ. It’s just wrong!! I really hope the other offer falls through and you get it. TIC are called “purple title” in Australia and are worth a chunk less, but I also know an elderly lady who’s lived in one for 40 tears and loves, like really loves, it!!! 40 years! The point is, is you’re happy living somewhere, THAT’S what’s really important. Also, you point about pouring rent money down the gurgler is sooo real! I am lighting a candle and having words with the Universe for you. Enough! Give the girl a home she loves, can afford and isn’t gonna fall off the edge of some dodgy hillside or explode or something equally as traumatic! Freakin’ broken back!?!?!😳 Me too! It happened when I fainted on some steep stairs when I was 21 and 8 hours away from decent medical care. Long story short… Read more »
Um, also, really well written (and well proof-read) post!
Go team! 🤗
thank you, rusty!!! <3
These are my favorite posts. Hopefully as things calm down and edge toward normalcy the market will become slightly less frenetic. I will say that though I’m sorry you didn’t get the apartment twin, in the end, you may be happy that you didn’t settle for something that wasn’t what you originally wanted (freestanding house, real yard, etc.) Plus, it would be great to be able to make a profit if you ever sell in the future.
That was like reading a novel–so well written but such a heartbreaking ending. Thanks for sharing with us, and I hope you find your dream house. My words seem so hollow, but I’m truly sad for you even though I don’t even know you!
Have you thought about leaving LA completely? Sounds like a nightmare. You’ve been in DE for months….have you peaked at real estate listings there? Just genuinely curious why the loyalty to LA, especially for a job that no longer requires that location. Hope this isn’t coming off as snarky, I’m just wondering. I wouldn’t have the stomach for the LA real estate market!
NEVERMIND just saw your comment below! 🙂
Caitlin, your posts are always such a joy to read (despite the obvious anguish the events themselves are causing you!). I love the chocolate chip bagel sentiment – it feels reassuring and helpful without the triteness of “everything happens for a reason.”
One thing I’m really curious about in your search is how you’ve come up with renovation cost estimates for each place you offer on (e.g. “a pretty substantial gut job, which I figured would run a bit over $100,000”). My husband and I are trying to figure out the scope for an upcoming renovation and the estimates we can find for different projects vary SO wildly.
Sam, whatever estimate you come up with, add 20% and it’ll be more realistic!
I’ve heard that before! Hence me being somewhat surprised/skeptical that a “pretty substantial gut” would be anywhere close to $100k.
ah, sure! i have a pretty good idea on general pricing for the fixtures/finishes i’d like to use in a future space (and i also have a good idea on whether or not brands offer trade pricing, which helps!!) so i’m usually able to just do some mental math with cost per square foot for new flooring, tiling, the appliances/showers/toilets i’m planning on, etc. this is obviously a rough estimate barring any major emergencies, but it seems pretty consistent with what similar renos have cost friends in LA in the past (being adjusted for covid increases, hah). it’s fun to noodle on!!
We are in the middle of a basement reno and will say that fixtures/finishes are the cheapest part of the reno. Things like plumbing and electrical work are sooooo shockingly pricey! Our little cheapo basement reno is 50k! So I would guess a big gut/reno would be more in the hundreds of thousands range. Just giving you a heads up!
Oh my. I feel ya…on many accounts. 1) Brenda rocks and you rock so I am guessing you have a mutually blessed relationship. 2) The stairs/security….LOL. Yes! I have an ugly/does-not-resemble-a-house-from-the-road home that we just built (on purpose this way!) b/c I like both unobtrusive homes and I totally don’t want to attract someone coming to my home to break in/harm the peeps who live here. So our curb appeal faces the property…kind of like a hidden diamond (I don’t have this) on the inside of a wedding band that only the bride knows about…simply b/c he loves her. We live in what appears to be an unlivable shed from the road, but with stunning views out the back and from the back. 3) Maybe tap into that alumna-of-a-Catholic-school faith/peace/patience a bit. It stinks. You have a desire and it is a good desire and it doesn’t seem to be happening the way it ought to be in your mind. But there are so many unforeseen and unimaginable things and maybe “someone” is looking out for you and actually has your very best interest at heart…maybe that “NO!” you seem to be getting at each attempt is really, “I have… Read more »
sending good vibes to you as you trudge through the middle of it, too!!!
I always enjoy these posts and riding along on your emotional roller coasters Caitlyn! Keep them coming, they’re some of my favorite content!
Great read! It sounds like it’s a seller’s market everywhere. I’m in Nashville and have heard great stories of people selling their homes much higher than asking, unseen, and receiving cash. This is crazy. I know it has been nerve-wrecking for you, but keep your head up. The perfect place will come. After the last offer blatantly lied to you about accepting your offer, I would be cautious of anything else they say…”fool me once…” Hang in there!
Yup, properties out of Sydney (everyone fleeing cities) are selling in days!!!
I’m on the west coast of Australia and things in the city are selling in jnder a week, if that long (we’re soooo lucky to gave a great govt. that has protected us from Covid).
I think it’s crazy everywhere.
I just love you 🤷🏼♀️ The urge to go buy a lottery ticket just so I can buy you a house is real ❤️
HAHA. thank you, ashley!!!
I NEVER comment but I have a mom just like yours and I need your mom to know how much she is appreciated! How lucky we are 💕💕💕
I almost feel bad at how much I love these posts since I know it must be heartbreaking to live it. Best of luck to you!! 2021 is gonna be IT.
Excellent post! I’m sorry about your back-that sounds terrifying. But also-hot doctor!
1. The condo is gorgeous. My friend owned a TIC in SF, and had a very good experience, and it did go up in price- so it’s very possible. I hope it works out for you despite the shady lying. I’m mad about this on your behalf.
2. The Silver Lake place had great potential. As a Bay Area girl, I was guessing it would go for 800k. None of this sounds crazy to me.
3. Did you go to Archmere?!
4. EH’s publisher should be offering you a book deal because you are a compelling writer. I would read anything you wrote.
Yesss!!! Especially #4!
oh my gosh HAHA i went to ursuline, class of 09! UA U KNOW. and wow, this is so nice, thank you :’)
Phew. What a ride. We did it in 2014. Just wanna say we ended up with a 1,100 sq lot in silver lake at 711k so the silverlake outcome didn’t surprise me, ha ha sob. But 5 previous offers we made would have broken us in hindsight so yes – the right place will happen for you!!! good luck.
Wow, this feels familiar. We looked at tons of terrible, nearly-condemned houses in DC and lost three offers because we thought we didn’t want a condo. Our realtor only showed us ONE because she knew it fit our desire for small building, great neighborhood, low HOA fees, etc.– cut to us buying that condo (with an ARM), renovating it, and loving it for 5 years. I agree with you- get a great realtor you trust and listen to him/her!
I hope it works out for you, too!
This is incredible writing. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I don’t even particularly care about real estate. I do think a greater purpose is at work. I hope your home reveals itself soon.
Thank you for sharing all this with us! As an East Coaster, can I ask – is there a coronavirus real estate bump going on? Is it possible that maybe it’s just not the best time to buy, or is this just business as usual forever in LA?
It’s the same all over Australia!😳
Most of California has a housing shortage. The state is working on changing zoning to eliminate single family zoning, so that any lot could potentially have a 4-plex built on it. There are probably some details I’ve missed, but that’s the basic idea. Many cities are working on changing zoning laws ahead of the state. At least, that’s my understanding. I’m in a historical preservation area of San Jose, CA, and there’s a lot of pushback in neighborhoods like mine. I hope they find a way to both allow development on single family lots and preserve historical homes. I think it’s possible, but regardless, California doesn’t have enough housing, and there are many arguments out there for why that is.
Okay I FEEL you on wanting to own, and I know intuitively it doesn’t seem like it makes sense to pay rent, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how you’re making the math work! Have you put your numbers into NY Times Rent vs Buy calculator? https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/upshot/buy-rent-calculator.html
Even buying at $540,000 and doing no maintenance over the course of 7 years (and then selling at exactly the price you paid for it–a more generous offer than your worst case of it depreciating by half), you’re still way money ahead renting your lovely apartment at $1900/mo…
But if money is not an issue, by all means! I know some consider a place to call their own priceless. <3
Absolutely this. Serious consideration of an adjustable rate mortgage on a home that you suspect you’d be living in for only 5-7 years and would likely sell at a loss … the math doesn’t work. If you’re looking for a signal in the noise, maybe this is a cue to reset? You note how much you learned from your first blog, so perhaps trust that there’s a message worth listening to now.
My heart hurts anticipating the blogs about the potentially devastating financial ramifications that you’d be writing in a few years’ time. I sincerely hope that positive feedback in the comments about your writing style and home-buying journey doesn’t propel a mistake that could take decades to unwind.
Given the positive feedback, are there other ways that you can contribute to this blog that don’t depend on for-real taking out a bad mortgage in a housing bubble? Maybe a recurring series about what viewers can learn from listing photos, or questions to ask real estate agents?
Yes, I really wish people talked about this more! I live in Seattle, and while I don’t think our market is quite as competitive and expensive as it is in LA, it’s still pretty much a nightmare if you make less than $100k a year. I’ve saved and saved, looked at fixer-uppers or places you could add an ADU, and the reality is it doesn’t make financial sense for me to buy, even though it would likely be my last home. These posts make me so anxious reading them because my overall feeling based on your experience searching and the numbers you’ve shared is that it doesn’t make financial sense for you to buy either, Caitlin. We’re sold this myth of homeownership as a mark of stability and success in the States, but it *often* doesn’t make sense if you live in an expensive city. And that sucks. It really, really does. But not recognizing that is a dangerous bit of magical thinking as GU described :/
This is indeed a shitty situation Caitlin. I’m so sorry you’ve gone through this. I don’t live in a competitive real estate market and yet, I was outbid on several offers for houses I loved. I’m totally convinced that the only reason I was accepted for the house I own now is because I happened to know the sellers. Can I ask, just honestly, why do you want to live in LA? So many friends from California ended up leaving during the pandemic since they were working remotely anyway (also because of housing prices and fires). And your budget could buy you a truly bad ass house somewhere else.
Have you read Ezra Klein’s most recent NYT article? It seems what California has is not a housing shortage problem alone but a collective action problem. Here’s the article:
Yes, this addresses how NIMBYism blocks housing from being built. Rich neighborhoods don’t want density, and definitely not shelters. But the state might find a way to over ride that and change zoning laws. More and more ADUs are popping up in my city, because of easier permitting. It’s not big development, but it’s a start.
Whoa. This was a LOT. But THANK YOU for writing out how so many of us think and experience the ups and downs of something that is often written in a few sentences “We lost out on our first two houses, but finally ended up with this place.” Your candor and details were refreshing and relatable!! Wishing you best of luck and lots of sanity!!
Caitlin, I love reading your posts so much, even though it must be such a PITA to live (over and over again). Not to be too Pollyanna, but you are learning SO SO MUCH. I mean, I just bought my first house last year and I know *nothing*. It’s kind of like electricity. You flip a light switch and suddenly there’s light! But I have no idea how it actually works.
I’ve recently had to deal with a lot of insurance bullshit and I spend at least an hour a week on the phone with Cigna. I’ve been denied a million claims and written letters and called and called and called and researched. And while I can’t say it’s been pleasant, there’s something so empowering about having knowledge that most people take for granted. And it feels so powerful to NOT throw up my hands and instead learn about this complicated industry.
Which is all to say… I hope at least part of you feel empowered and bad ass for knowing so much and powering through.
thank you, marian. look at us, learning and growing!!!
Isn’t amazing how homeownership throws you into a whole new phase of learning?!
This is not at all far off from the LA apartment hunt, just less money and one or two more adults. It’s savage here and the pandemic only seems to have exacerbated that. That being said I think Brenda knows more than she’s letting on…she seems wise. You should let her pick out the next one 😉
HAHA. HI, ROCHELLE! THANK YOU FOR READING!
Oh Caitlin, my heart aches for you. I know there are worse stresses in life (like loosing the Brendas of the world), but that doesn’t make your hurt feel any less. Maybe what the universe is trying to tell you is: LA is not your market. This truth could crush you. Or, it could be an opportunity. Your work is now remote, right? So the world (within time zone restrictions) is your oyster. Maybe there is a better market for you? A market where all your lifestyle AND real estate dreams come true. I was devastated to leave the Bay Area years ago (bc I knew I could never afford to buy there). But now that I live in my dream home in a walkable urban neighborhood. I have new (less busy) friends. A new community with shared values. And because my life is more affordable I’m preparing to buy a second home! (A true privilege that isn’t lost on me). Jen Gotch did it. Orlando did it. Hell, even Em is doing it! I did it. You can do it too. Or another way of thinking about it: is it really that important? What mattters most? …just a random… Read more »
Kim, please share where this urban walkable neighborhood where you live is!
I was JUST wondering this week how your house hunt was going; thanks for the update for all of us! Also – As if a murderer would be like, “oh, Caitlin lives up a flight of stairs? Ugh, too much work. Pass.” – made me die laughing. Love your attitude, honesty, AND these posts, but hoping the universe coughs up the perfect home for you soon!