In the fall of ’08, I revceived a client referral from an old friend of mine. A young couple who was renting in Normal Heights had made that decision that they wanted to take the plunge and buy a home.
When Martin and Laura initially contacted me, they were thinking about relocating to North County. After looking at the prices there, and then comparing them to Temecula, they decided they could get more bang for the their buck there, so Temecula it was.
Having Martin and Laura as clients was fun and enjoyable. They had already done the leg work of getting pre-approved for an FHA loan with Chase. When they agreed to work with me, I immediately called their loan officer to introduce myself. The loan officer was personable and pleasant to deal with.
Now, let’s put into context the time and place we were doing our house hunting. By December of ’08, the financial markets were in full meltdown. Lehman Brothers had collapsed three months earlier, and the stock market was in free fall. The housing market, which had been weak for most of the year, had the bottom fall out at the end of ’08. Temecula itself had boomed for most of the 1990’s and 2000’s when San Diegans flocked there to find affordable housing as prices spiked in SD County.
The problem with Temecula was that most of the homes that were purchased during the “boom” were financed with adjustable rate mortgages. It was the same story at EVERY house we looked at, there was an ARM loan with a second, or a home-equity line or the the owner had done a cash-out refi leaving them upside down when the market tanked. Ooops!!!!
Although it was sad for those home owners, their misfortune provided a HUGE opportunity for people like Martin and Laura. They had played by the old rules, they didn’t get sucked in the sub-prime world. When they were priced out of the market a few years ago, they saved their money and waited. Martin and Laura’s patience paid off, they were able to qualify for a substantial FHA loan in a down market. Since they rented, they did not have any contingencies in the offers to hold them back.
Since Temecula is an hour north of San Diego, we had a pretty strict rountine on when we would make the weekly trek up to Riverside County. I would arrive in Normal Heights around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings, and then we would go in one car with Baby Lucas in tow.
Because of the sheer volume of inventory, we thought it would be relatively EASY to find a home. We soon found out that we were competing with ALL CASH investors, which meant we were going have to be in the right place at the right time if we were going to get an offer accepted.
We looked a lot of houses, and when I say a LOT, I mean we looked at 77 houses. Most houses were in decent shape, some needed some MAJOR work. One that we’ll never forget was a home that the listing agent asked us to, “Look beyond the clutter!”
The house appeared to be pretty average on the outside, but the inside? Oh, the clutter!! Actually, it would not have been so bad if it had not been for the hundreds (it seemed like THOUSANDS) of all kinds of little figurines (statues). They were in every room. On top of that, one end of the kitchen/dining area had been turned into an office with hundreds of books and papers scattered about. When we went in to the master bedroom, the bed was unmade, but the comforter was in such a position that it looked liked someone was curled up in the bed. Laura said, “Ok, WE’RE LEAVING NOW” and we were out of the house in less than a minute.
Another house (not nearly as “unique”) also comes to mind. It was a decent tw0-story, but there had been a less-than-stellar conversion of the back patio into an enclosed room. One side-yard walkway had been redone in a really bad tile job. The new addition looked like it had created some unique drainage problems. When we looked in the garage, we discovered a classic car from the 1960’s that was being protected by a car cover. While Martin and I were talking excitedly about our new find, Laura thought she smelled gas fumes and quickly exited with Lucas. When we re-entered the kitchen, we found the car’s registration pinned to a bulletin board. What’s THAT about we asked each other……
By the time mid-March rolled by, we were still looking. One particular Sunday stood out. It was the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, and after a very hectic day of house hunting, we decided to have an late lunch/early dinner at an Irish pub we had just discovered. The pub seemed nice enough, and we thought we could have a nice quiet snack after running around Temecula for over 3 hours.
We knew something was up when the service was slow, particularly for me. Martin and Laura had to wait a long time for their food. Then the real nightmare began, someone started playing bagpipes….INSIDE the pub.
I’ll own this, I’m not a big fan of bagpipes. I guess they’re cool when hear from a distance, but they’re just not my thing. But to have them in my ear in a confined space???? When my food came, it was the wrong dish. To give the management credit, the manager came back with the right dish and comped me the meal.
On top of the bag pipes, there were several children going around the pub doing the traditional “riverdance” type dancing, on hard wood floors, right next to our table. I usually don’t drink on Sundays, but I think I had a glass of wine (or two) when I got home that evening.
By the time we had gotten to late March, we were all a little down (and frustrated), but we were not giving up.
That week was pretty normal for us. Martin and Laura would scan over various real estate websites as I would sift through listings on the Temecula MLS. We would start comparing notes mid-week and pair the list down to 5-6 homes. I’d call the agent on each listing for status to double check everything and we had our Sunday list. That was our routine when we motored up to Temecula that last Sunday in March.
The first house on our list was actually an open house. We walked in the house and no one else was there, except an agent who was holding the open house for the listing agent. The house was almost in pristine condition, having just been cleaned. It was a short sale and there were NO OFFERS on it. The agent onsite could not have been nicer. The three of us looked at a few more houses and decided we should put in an offer on the first house we saw. Laura was giddy when she found out Temecula had a Lucille’s restaurant. We decided to go there for a snack, and I would write out the offer by hand. The place was crazy-busy, but I didn’t notice much because I was totally focused on the offer.
Once I had finished the offer, and we had finished snacking, I advised Martin and Laura that we turn the offer in personally at the agent’s office. A good omen to me was the listing office stayed open until 7 p.m. on Sunday!!! When we arrived at the office, we were greeted immediately at the desk. The gentleman manning the phones promptly picked up the phone and notified the listing agent of our offer. We had an accepted offer in 48 hours. Ahhhhhhh, we’re almost there!!!
This was a short sale. The listing agent (who was terrific), said we’d be in escrow in 3 weeks. Yeaaaaahhhh….about that…….we opened escrow a the beginning of Sept. Lender’s…gotta love ’em!! Oh that wait through the rest of spring and summer was frustrating!!!!!
We finally closed at the end of the third week in Sept., almost a year after Martin and Laura had started their search for a home. We did it!
I keep in touch with them on a regular basis, via phone and Facebook. It was so cool see the photos of them celebrating their first Christmas in the new house! Baby Lucas looked so cute peeking through the window right next to the front door.
The experience had its ups and downs, and we can laugh about it now, especially because of its happy ending.