The story of how we purchased our house is a good one–not just because everything fell neatly into place for us, but also because our experience with the Realtor we picked was pretty exceptional. A few weeks ago I realized that in the three years we’ve been operating this blog, we’ve not once talked about buying this house, the “fixer-upper of our dreams”. We see our Realtor on a regular basis at our church, and after we talked a few weeks back, I promised him a personal review along with a story of how he helped us get this place.
Before we lived in this house, we actually lived in a smaller single family home in the same neighborhood here in Baltimore County, MD — just about 1.5 miles away. Just married and still without kids, Kim and I used to walk the neighborhood at night–sometimes as much as two miles away from our house–talking and catching up on the day. We knew that at some point we wanted to buy something a little bigger that we could work on together (we were already home improvement junkies), but in the Fall of 2005, housing prices were hitting their peak and moving up was a pretty expensive proposition.
That didn’t stop us from looking, though. We looked at one house that was awesome, just like the one we live in now size-wise, but with 2 acres of land and an in-ground pool. At $575,000 there was just no way to make that work in our budget. We had resigned ourselves to stay in our split level single family for several years. Until one day we were walking through a section of the neighborhood that we hadn’t seen before, a section that had just the type of house we wanted. These houses were on smaller 1/3 acre plots and generally didn’t have pools, but the wooded surroundings were beautiful, and with no fences between the properties, they felt like they had much more land than they actually did.
Unfortunately, none of these houses were for sale.
Bob Riley, Coldwell Banker
I got in touch with a friend of ours, Bob Riley with Coldwell Banker, who worked as a Realtor in the Howard County/Baltimore County area of Maryland. I asked him how much a property like the ones in the nicer section would go for… His estimate: around $400,000. That was at the high end of our price range, but still do-able without becoming house poor. Still, no properties were for sale. And we really liked only about 15 of the houses in this section of the 45 that were there. These 15 homes were full size colonial models, and were the only ones that would entice us to make a quick move.
Bob suggested that we let him write letters to these 15 homeowners to see if any of them were interested in moving. We thought this was a long shot to say the least, but figured it couldn’t hurt. Bob was anxious to get the business.
Two homeowners got in touch with Bob. One of them wanted an outrageously high price (sort of a “sure, we’ll sell for 50,000 more than this house is worth), but the others said that they had been considering retiring to Georgia and wondered if Bob was serious when he wrote about having two motivated homebuyers who wanted to raise a family in that house. Of course, he was serious, and we were excited!
The owners said they were willing to do a FSBO for 400,000 based on other home sales in the area. They were actually relieved, because the house wasn’t really in “for sale” shape, but we didn’t care, because we were in the market for something we could fix up and make our own!
Long story short: we sat across from the owners and wrote a contract for the house together, face-to-face. Bob brokered the deal and the house appraised for $401,000. We found just $1,800 in minor structural repairs during an inspection, and closed about 30 days later. The owners moved to a temporary house in Georgia while they built the retirement home they’ve always wanted, and we moved in just in time for Thanksgiving.
All in all, the experience was absolutely fantastic. We felt very blessed to have found and moved into a house that never even listed on MLS. The owners felt like they got a great deal… a fair price for a house and they didn’t have to do any work to get it ready for a sale.
If you’re thinking about moving in the Baltimore County / Howard County area of Maryland, we highly recommend Bob Riley. He was an excellent real estate agent. Here’s Bob’s contact information:
- Bob Riley, Coldwell Banker | Phone: (443) 676-6620 | Online Website
Tell Bob that you heard about him from Fred and Kim at One Project Closer!