The Ballad of House Buying: Part 5 – The Art of Negotiation

Negotiation isn’t the sharpest tool in my skillset. So after I had made the decision to make a move and try to buy the House with the Cute Backyard, I was a bit worried about the negotiation part of the process.

To not bore you with the details of the financials, (that are printed in the newspaper any way) it should be sufficient to note that I had a ceiling that I was willing to pay. I also had a goal of what I was hoping to pay. The gap between these numbers was about 5,000. The gap between the listing price and my goal was 13,000.

I talked to Lori on the phone on Monday, January 12. I gave her a starting number that was extremely lowball. I also asked for the window treatments and for them to update the electricity. I also asked that they pay the closing costs (which through this process I learned is little more than a shell game) and I asked for the receipts that were down in the basement that were from the original building of the house in 1950. To build this house in 1950 it cost less than 8,000. That number includes the labor.

Lori asked me what I wanted to put up for Ernest Money. I still don’t quite understand the concept of Ernest Money. I guess it is money you put up when you make an offer on a house to prove that you aren’t just dicking with them.

We agreed on 250 bucks and she began filling out the paperwork.

I had a full day of slaving a way at the Computer Mine, so when I got off work I went over to Lori’s house to sign my name to a document a bunch of times and initial it a ton more.

While we were going over the paperwork, Roger (Lori’s husband) made me a chocolate shake. It was quite excellent.

On Tuesday morning Lori submitted the offer.

I didn’t hear anything about it the rest of the day.

On Wednesday morning Lori called me with their counteroffer.

The good news, I could have the ugly window treatments. I could have photocopies of the original receipts. They would pay the closing costs. The price came down under the ceiling of what I was willing to pay, but not quite to my goal.

The bad news was that they weren’t willing to do anything about the electrical.

I had a full day of swinging a pick axe ahead of me, so I told Lori that I would mull things over and call her when I got off work to tell her what I was thinking.

That night I was meeting Kelly (from the Jaycees) at Cafe Diem to discuss setting up PayPal for the Ames Jaycees.

In between the work and this meeting I called Lori back with my counteroffer.

The number was a little lower than my goal and I asked for a thousand dollar allowance to get the electrical updated.

Lori submitted my counteroffer.

I had the meeting with Kelly and I think all that was decided at that meeting was that Cafe Diem makes an excellent Hot Chocolate.

I also decided that whatever their counteroffer was, I was going to take it.

The next day around noon, Lori called me back with their counteroffer. The price came down exactly to my goal and they agreed to the allowance for electricity.

I accepted the offer.

This meant that I had to sign and initial some more forms. I couldn’t do it that night. I was going over to Jen and Derrick’s new pad to help paint.

I went over there after work to admire the handiwork of Derrick and his old man. The night before I had dropped by for a tour of the place. Derrick and his dad were painting the master bedroom.

On that night there had been some debate over which wall would be the accent wall. It was one of those debates where Derrick (as the man) was engaging in for pride because he surely knew that the wall that Jen had picked was going to be the accent wall.

Regardless, Derrick was very excited about the paint on the accent wall. They had painted the rest of the walls a blue-gray color called Shade. They were painting the accent wall a brown color. Derrick was very excited about this paint because it included granite. This was going to make the wall sparkle.

I spent the night primering one of their secondary bedrooms with Shannon. The room was painted an Ogden Bulldog blue. I did take note that Shannon is very good at taping. A skill that will undoubtedly be put to use on my future painting projects (if everything came together on this house).

Lori came over at 8 in the morning the next day and I signed the offer sheet in my pajamas.

I had agreed to buy a house.

The Ballad of House Buying: Part 4 – A Closer Examination

On Sunday, January 10, I looked at the House with the Cute Backyard with Jason. I had seen the house with my Mom, Carla and Jay. Plus Teresa had seen it earlier. I wanted Jason’s far more practical perspective.

Jesse also dropped by to look for a lead pipe. A simple lead pipe once cost that man 10,000 large. It has become a personal crusade of his to prevent any of his friends from going through such an ordeal again.

Jason felt that the house was solidly built and didn’t see any major problems.

It was now my time to think about whether or not I wanted to buy this house and what my purchase price goal would be.

I spent Sunday night thinking on whether or not I wanted to buy this house.

Shannon had asked me about the house and so I sent her the following email to both inform her and as a way for me to work out the pros and cons of this house.

SUBJECT: RE: Post-Holiday

This Nostradamus end of the world thing is lamer than anticipated.

Some pictures of this potential house.

The Great House Hunt

Pluses for the kitchen.
1. Tons of cupboard space.
2. Fridge is usable.
3. Kitchen vent.
4. Space for a small table for a place to eat in the kitchen.
5. No dishwasher, but space for a dishwasher.
6. I actually kind of like the antiquing on the cabinet doors, but the handles would have to be replaced.
7. In side of cupboards painted a sweet red color. Would consider painting rest of kitchen that sweet red color.

Minuses for the kitchen.

1. The stove is usable, but I would most likely want to replace it right away.
2. Not a ton of counter space, but probably more than enough for somebody like me.
3. The saloon doors would have to go. This would break Jay’s heart.

The Great House Hunt

Dining Room Pluses

  1. Chandelier is pretty. Only pretty ceiling light fixture in the house.
  2. It is just nice to have a dining area since I would like to be able to entertain.
  3. The Hoosier would most likely go in the dining room. It has always been used as storage. In the future it would most likely be used for serving and storage.
  4. Nice open floor plan
  5. Wall separates entry way from the dining room.

Dining Room Minuses

  1. Stupid saloon doors.
  2. Would need to install a digital thermometer. But that is a cheap and easy fix.
  3. If I would decide to further distinguish the living room from the dining room by leaving one room with carpet and exposing the wood floor in the other room, the carpet seam is in a weird place.

The Great House Hunt

Living Room Pluses

  1. 2 decent sized walls, so a few possible layouts.
  2. Big.
  3. Great window.
  4. Plenty of electrical outlets, but they need to be updated.

Living Room Negatives

  1. Don’t really have any except general electrical updating.

The Great House Hunt
Other half of kitchen

The Great House Hunt

Master Bedroom Pluses

  1. Big.
  2. Two window thing is cool.
  3. Two closets.

Master Bedroom Minuses

  1. Curtains are so ugly they will have to be doused with Holy Water and then burned.
  2. Perhaps the ugliest ceiling light fixture ever.
  3. Master bedroom is in the front of the house, so closest to the street.

The Great House Hunt
Bathroom Pluses

  1. Decent sized tub.
  2. Cool original tile.
  3. Closet behind the tub.
  4. Medicine cabinet.

Bathroom Minuses

  1. Kind of small.
  2. No shower, but there is a closet behind the tub, so it would be an easy add.
  3. Kind of wish the toilet was green to match the tile.

The Great House Hunt
Bedroom Two Pluses

  1. One decent sized closet.
  2. The fact that there are 3 bedrooms.
  3. Beautiful woodwork under ugly carpet.
  4. Newish, Pella windows.

Bedroom Two Minuses

  1. What, only one closet?
  2. Ugly carpet, but who likes carpet? Especially when you have wood floors!

The Great House Hunt
Bedroom Three/Office Pluses

  1. Three bedrooms means: 1 master bedroom, 1 guest bedroom and an office!!
  2. This would make a sweet office.
  3. Two closets.
  4. Sweet built in shelves.
  5. Good sized office.

Bedroom Three/Office Minuses

  1. By far the ugliest carpet in the house, but sweet wood floor underneath, so the carpet could go.
  2. Weird ceiling light fixture.

The Great House Hunt
Basement Bathroom Pluses

  1. There is a bathroom in the basement.
  2. Includes shower, toilet and vanity.
  3. Good sized and walled in.

Basement Bathroom Minuses

  1. Shower is a bit on the short side.

The Great House Hunt
Basement Workspace Pluses

  1. There is a basement workspace.
  2. Could probably be turned into a dark room fairly easily.

The Great House Hunt
Screened in Patio

  1. There is a screened in patio.
  2. It has lighting.
  3. There are two doors.
  4. It lead to an open air brick patio made with Boone Bricks.

The Great House Hunt
The Cute Backyard

  1. This is a good sized yard.
  2. “Fenced” in by a hedge.
  3. Lots of landscaping
  4. 2 small trees. Potentially those pretty trees that flower in the spring.


  1. The white picket fence doesn’t really serve any purpose.
  2. Lots of landscaping could be lots of work to break up.
  3. Not really sure what they were growing back there. I think both grapes and raspberries.

Other Positives

  1. Garage.
  2. Flagpole, where I could fly a Cyclone flag on game days and the US flag on special days or where I could make political statements that would make me unpopular in the neighborhood.
  3. Built by Thorngren, the most widely respected builder in Boone during the 1950s.
  4. Loaded with potential.
  5. Furnace is only 15 years old.
  6. Lamp post in the front yard.
  7. Located in a phenomenal neighborhood. Pretty much a straight shot out of town to get to work.
  8. Only one owner. Ever.


  1. Fuse box. That would have to be replaced.
  2. Garage is narrow. Driveway is long. Lots of potential shoveling. No service door on the garage.
  3. It doesn’t have maintenance free siding. The outside will have to be painted every now and again.
  4. Because of the hedge, I’m not sure what do about a fence.

The Great House Hunt
I do like this window. A lot.

I actually looked at 5 other houses. There is another one that I kind of liked. It had a much bigger kitchen. It had 2 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, but it doesn’t have much of a yard. But one of the bathrooms had a sweet pink tub and sink.

I have no doubt that you are sufficiently bored now.

The Ballad of House Buying: Part 3 – Re-Pre-Approval

I got pre-approved for a home loan in March or April of 2008. I went through the process with the bank that houses my checking account, Bank of the Bear.

I would like to say that the process was enjoyable, but as most of my interactions with that bank, it was not. After filling out the paperwork with a loan officer, I didn’t hear back from them for over a month.

When I got pre-approved, I immediately did nothing. In fact, pre-approval lasts for four months. I did nothing for so long that my pre-approval expired before I even looked at the first house.

I’ve been looking at houses since October, but I have not gotten my financing remotely in order. In fact, I hadn’t even thought about get re-pre-approved.

Since Bank of the Bear has never been particularly good to me, I decided to go to a mortgage broker by the name of Tracy Van Sickle. I didn’t know Tracy, but Lori raved about her on multiple occasions.

I decided I better start this process because I was seriously considering making an offer on the house with the cute backyard, but it is awful hard to do that when you don’t know if anybody is going to give you the money to make such a purchase.

Tuesday, January 6, after I completed my shift at the Computer Mine, I called Tracy to start the process. I assumed from my previous experience with Bank of the Bear that the process would last 3-4 weeks.

A long story short: What took over a month for Bank of the Bear to do, Tracy Van Sickle was able to do in under 30 minutes. I was re-pre-approved.

I was now able to make an offer on the house with the cute backyard, if I became so inclined.

The Great Snow Ordinance

In addition to being Lowell’s birthday, Saturday, January 10, 2009 was Symposium. It was also the Ames Jaycees Year End Banquet, where I apparently got an award that involved batteries, but I was not there. I had to make a choice. I chose Symposium.

Well the truth is that I was hoping to make a late night appearance at the Year End Banquet, but fate would have other ideas for me on this night.

For those who don’t know about Symposium, it is Jay’s annual bash. He put out a spread that would feast kings and invites several of his closest chums over to feast and enjoy the company of one another. It is always on the second Saturday of January.

This Symposium was going along brilliantly, when we heard coming from the street below the sound of a truck backing up.

Jay lives in a second story apartment in downtown Boone. He rushed to the window and said, “Does anybody drive a SUV? It is getting towed.”

I went to the window. Sure enough, Jen’s Cherokee was getting towed.

Jay next reported the absence of all cars on the street.

Sara asked if her car was there.

I reiterated, all the cars were gone, except for Jen’s jeep that was in the process of being towed.

Jen ran down the stairs, to try and stop her car from being towed.

Sara went down to find out about her car.

The short version of the story is that the Great Town of Boone had put their Snow Ordinance into effect. This meant that every car in town that was parked on any street in town was getting towed.

Jesse went down to harass the tow truck driver.

Then he harassed the shift commander for a bit.

Then he harassed the guy writing the tickets a little bit.

He used a string of profanity that would have made Jay’s stalker more than a bit proud.

I was following Jesse around to make sure he didn’t do anything too over the edge and end up in jail.

The ticket writer eventually had enough of Jesse and said into his little CB, “118”.

Next thing you know, Jesse and I are surrounded by the Shift Commander, two sheriff deputies and two more police cars.

On the bright side, we didn’t go to jail. By we, I mean Jesse in jail and me visiting him. On the negative side, it cost Sara 150 bucks to get her car back. It cost Jen over 100 bucks to have her Jeep lowered 3 inches.

But let met tell you something else, the white chocolate hot chocolate that Jay made more than compensated for me the anguish I went through when I was surrounded by cops and watching two other friends get extorted. That was some tasty hot chocolate.

The Ballad of House Buying: Part 2: Initial Look

Saturday was the day of the big Ottumwa Blitz. I made plans to see the houses on Saturday morning before Jay and I headed to Ottumwa.

I had drove past the house on Union a couple of times and determined that the backyard might be a little bit too cutesy.

I snapped this picture with my camera phone and sent it to Shannon, Sara and Jen with the caption: “The too cute backyard.”

The Great House Hunt

Sara sent me back a message indicating a desire to have tea parties there.

After some time at the house on Union, we went over to the house on Aldrich. It had a few things I really liked.

The Great House Hunt
A Pink Bath Tub

The Great House Hunt
Yellow Kitchen Counters

The Great House Hunt
Poured Concrete Foundation

However, it had some things that were problematic. There were only two bedrooms, but three bathrooms. There was no dining room. The yard was dreadfully small and I would like to get a dog at some point in the future. By dog, I mean a real dog that is going to require some space to roam around.

The Great House Hunt
Dreadfully small.

We looked at several other houses, but what I was beginning to call the house on Union Street AKA The House with the Cute Backyard was clearly the leader. It was only the second house that I had seen that I could really see myself living in.

The Ballad of House Buying: Part 1 The Surrogates

So I think I can be a little freer with the experience of house buying that I have been enduring.

I guess the most important news is that I am officially going through the process of buying a house now. I would like to at least go through the process of how I came to where I am today to update people that may have very unintentionally fallen out of the loop. I have gotten very busy with the process, work and Jaycee functions. Plus, there was Symposium and helping Derrick and Jen move. You could say that my plate has been more than full. It has been overflowing with crawdads, honey.

To start at the beginning of finding this house you have to go back to December 30 or 31. I can’t remember which.

I joined my Mom, Teresa and Ernie for lunch. When I got back to the office my phone rang and it was my Aunt/Realtor Lori. One of the great parts about this process is that now I can recommend Lori as a Realtor to anybody and include the phrase, “And not just because she is my Aunt.”

Lori was going to look at a new listing that had just went on the market. It was on Garst, which is to say that it is in a good neighborhood. She told me that the house was a foreclosure and I know from the time that Carla spent as a Realtor that meant two things. You could buy the house cheap and that is was probably trashed.

I work for a living, which is to say that I haven’t figured out a way for the Computer Mine to pay me for not being here yet, so I had to decline checking out this house on Garst. I did mention that there was a house on Union and a house on Aldrich that I was interested in seeing. We set up an appointment to see those houses on Saturday.

Then I remembered that somebody that has so many crawdads on their plate should use a surrogate. So I called Teresa and asked if she and Mom could swing by and check out the house on Garst to see if it was even worth viewing.

She agreed to do just such a thing.

About 45 minutes later I got a text message that said, “Garst house is disgusting.”

I called her back to find out what disgusting might mean. Did it mean saloon doors between the dining room and the kitchen? I can change ugly.

Disgusting ended up meaning covered in mold.

Well you can’t just take mold down and store it in the basement, so the house on Garst was eliminated from contention.

But Teresa told me that they had went over and checked out the house on Union that I wanted to see.

Earlier that week I had told my Mom about how I had high hopes about a house on Union, but last time I had gotten my hopes up real high for a house they were dashed by bulging basement walls.

She had mentioned the house to Lori and they had went over and checked out the house.

Teresa recommended that I check out this house on Union.