Friday, November 13, 2009

Finding A House Is A Full Time Job. But We Finally Did It

I'll add more pictures of the house once I move. I have a couple from google down below but none of my own. I'll post those in a separate blog around Dec 20th.

Well I've been in South Florida for almost three years now and this year Natalie and I decided to buy a house. After living in the hood "East Miramar" for almost three years I decided I was going to be really picky about where I'll buy a house. I absolutely hate moving and decided when I do move I'm going to stay there for at least a good 15 years so I knew that I needed to get a good house the first round instead of getting a "starter house". Plus I think a starter home isn't really the best investment since most of the mortgage in the beginning goes towards interest so if I was to sell in 5 years I wouldn't have much of the principal paid off. So needless to say I did a lot of research before deciding where I want to buy. I spent a lot of time looking up crime statistics, demographics, house prices, schools, zoning restrictions, etc... I wanted to make sure there are no mistakes.

Part of our deal is we decided that we are not going to be one of those people that lose our home. So we decided anything we get we are going to get off my income only. So when applying for the mortgage we kept Natalie out of it completely. Yes she is on the title. But we wanted to make sure that we keep her income as extra so we can travel and see family, live comfortably, and not have to worry about losing the home if something happens. Just thought I'd throw that in there because some people are worried that we got in over our head. Trust me, we have a whole second income that wasn't even involved in the approval and we will be fine. I'm a pretty smart guy and we thought this through first.

Natalie decided that she hates my neighborhood, obviously, I do too. She wanted out right away and wanted to rent somewhere else but I told her we're just going to have to deal with it because I'm not moving twice and it's gonna set us further back. So we stayed in our apartment, renewed the lease, and started saving up to get out. We were going to be moving out in Spring of 2010 but then something happened. My dad had loaned my sister money to buy a house and she got the money back from this first time home owner tax credit. So my dad called me up one day and said that he's gonna give us some money for the down payment and we can just give it back when we get it back on our taxes. So this pushed our move up quite a few months.

So finally I decided on Coral Springs, the best city in South Florida.
According to wiki:
Coral Springs was ranked as the 27th best city in the United States in which to live by Money Magazine in 2006; was named the 10th safest city in the US by Morgan Quitno in 2007; and was identified as one of the 100 best communities for kids by America's Promise, also in 2007. In 2007, Coral Springs became the first state or local government in the nation to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

The schools in Coral Springs are the best in the country. They are almost all A+ schools. The elementary school by our house is an A+ school with several national awards and the high school is ranked in the top 1% in the country. The median house price is about $100,000 higher than the rest of Broward County and the prices are holding value much better than the rest of the county right now because of the tough city ordinances. The city of Coral Springs is like a big home owners association. They have laws on everything from what percentage of shrubs and trees in your yard must be native species, to what colors you can make your house, and what cars you can park at your house. They have an approved "street tree list" and a list of nuisance trees and plants (those ugly Melaleuca and Australian Pine I don't like are on that list). RV's and boats are not allowed to be parked in front of houses. If you don't mow your lawn and clean your roof you get a ticket and have to appear in court. A couple years ago I thought I would never want to live in a HOA neighborhood because I don't like the way they control things. After living in the hood where people bring down the neighborhood I changed my mind.

Coral Springs Crime Statistics. Much lower than the national average. On top of that almost all the crime happens in one area far away from me. Even the hood is clean in Coral Springs though. And Coral Springs is now rated the safest city in South Florida according to this news article.,0,4181670.story

So this last summer the search began. My annoying coworker that drives me crazy all day tried to get me to use his wife as a realtor. I didn't want any part in that. But then she came down here one day when she got her citizenship and she gave me her card and started sending me mls searches of houses and stuff so I caved and used her as a realtor. I should have held my ground and told them no, it was a bad choice. We looked at over 50 houses with her and got nowhere as far as a purchase.

The only thing we gained is that we got to see what we do and don't like, mostly what we don't like. But she obviously hasn't be doing this for too long and didn't explain the process to us. For instance I thought when you got a loan they just approved you for a price flat out. I didn't know that they approve for a different amount on each house because they factor in insurance, HOA fees, taxes, etc. She didn't tell us any of this! So we would put in a bid, without her doing research on the house and finding out what is a fair market value, and then we would find out all this other stuff that should have been lined up before we even placed a bid. Not the right way to do things. On top of that she couldn't even give us an opinion on a fair bid. She would say "I don't know, that's up for you to decide. You can offer a dollar, you can offer a million. It's for them to accept or not." The dumbest crap I have heard. Well this is when we had another surprise put on us. We would bid on a house and then find out later that the house has to appraise at a certain value because that is all we could get for the loan.

She should have done her research on the homes first because she kept showing us homes that we wouldn't even consider. Homes that looked good on the website, and some that looked great when we got there, but then there was something wrong she should have known about before even wasting our time taking us out there. Like I said, we were being picky and we told her:
No houses with busy streets behind them. We don't want to hear traffic.
No houses with apartments close by. Apartments attract the ghetto.
No houses with large parks directly behind. We don't want to hear people playing basketball at 7am on Sunday morning.
If possible avoid HOA. Coral Springs has so many codes as it is we don't want to waste another $2,000 a year on HOA fees, especially since they decrease my buying power. She kept finding only HOA houses for some reason.
No houses where they are asking for an insane amount of money over the fair purchase price. If they aren't willing to negotiate to a fair price I don't want to deal with them. I'm looking for a good investment for myself, not looking to pick up the tab for someone else's bad investment.

She kept showing us houses over and over that had something wrong with them that should have been caught before we went out there. Houses for $400,000 that needed 60K dropped into them because they weren't kept up inside. These homes weren't worth 280K and she should have caught this before wasting our time. A lot of these people were crazy and asking for 150K more than their house was worth. People that are delusional and think we are going to pay for their bad investments and offer up what their house was worth 2 years ago. Or people that though that they can add 150K to their house because they put on a 20K roof. Lucky for me a friend at work showed me a website where I can see the fair market value of the home. Because of this I knew more about the home before I walked into it then our realtor did! I was organized and had print outs of everything, she wasn't too organized and only had the mls print out and not the records on appraisals and sales. Why even look at a home if it won't appraise? Then I'm out $375 on an appraisal and I don't have a house. These people are insane for even wasting our time listing their house if they aren't going to get into a realistic price range. And time and time again she kept showing us houses where the owner wouldn't go for a realistic offer so we walked away.

The worst was one that a company called TNT bought for 292K. They said they did all these upgrades and they did none. The house was really nice but needed 45-60K put into it. So this company buys up the house for 292K and tries to turn around and sell it for 419K! And this is why people can't find a house. It's insanity. It would be one thing if they did something to the house but they didn't drop a dime into it. We offered up 330K and they wasted our time making us put that price in a formal bid just to reject it and say they won't move on the price. Why waste my time with all that paperwork just to reject it? This was getting ridiculous and people were wasting our time. Our realtor should have been on top of the listing agent and should have figured out ahead of time that they were wasting our time. We had another one where they wanted 384K for the house yet it was the only house we have ever looked at that didn't have hurricane shutters. We told them to take off 20K for the shutters and they wouldn't budge. Instead they gave us the stupid excuse that they've made it through a storm without shutters before. Stupid answer. Plus shutters save around $1,000 a year on insurance. Then we had the divorce sale. O fun stuff. We offered up 16K over fair market value and they wouldn't take it. Instead they thought they would sit on it for 2 months and they finally said if we give them 5K more, their listing price, they'll take it. Haha. Yeah right. No one pays listing price here. Every single house that sells here sells for 40-60K below listing price and these people aren't going to sell until they get realistic. They finally came back with this offer just last week, after we already got a house for a fair price.

So finally Natalie had enough. About a month ago we decided to meet up for lunch one day at Crab House on the bay and have lunch and this is when Natalie told me she's had enough of the BravoSierra (BS). Natalie fired the realtor and we found a realtor that knows what she is doing. One that grew up in Coral Springs, only deals in Coral Springs, knows the area, knows fair prices in the area, etc. A Coral Springs expert. I actually wanted to use this realtor before my annoying coworker kept insisting we use his wife. So our new realtor setup for us to see something like 9 houses one Saturday and none of them were in an HOA, funny how that happens. There was one house that we really liked and we decided we wanted to put a bid on it. Natalie wasn't too optimistic I don't think because of past failures but I was confident that our new realtor would get the job done. This is when we got to see how an experienced realtor works.

This house was bought 3 years ago for $554,000. They had it on the market for $369,000 and that was after reducing the price already (that's why Natalie didn't think they would go lower). But like I said, no one sells for the listing price. They only sell once they wake up and get into reality. Our last realtor would have been afraid to attack and go for fair market value. The listing agents kept telling her that these homes had all these other offers and stuff which I know isn't true because they are still on the market months later. They were playing games with her trying to scare us into a bid and she wasn't smart enough to catch it. Well I looked up the fair market value for this house on the website and it said $335,000. So we asked our realtor where is a good price to start, should we start out at bidding for 330K? She said wait, before even bidding she is going to do some research on the sales in the area and some other stuff first. At the same time she was doing that she was having her broker get his appraiser to see how high he thinks the home could appraise since she didn't know if it would appraise high enough to cover all our closing cost. He didn't go out there and do an official appraisal but he did a pre-appraisal and said he thinks we can get it to appraise for 350K. She was already two steps ahead of the game. So after she had that done she said lets go for 330K. Well they didn't take 330K, they said they have to get at least 334K out of the house. So we settled with 350K and we get 16K back at closing to cover closing cost and buy down our interest rate. On top of that she was smart enough to manage some other stuff in the deal. This first time home buyer credit was set to expire on Nov 30th but she heard it got extended but was awaiting approval from congress. So she was smart enough to put in the deal that we will close Dec 15th but if the first time buyer credit doesn't get extended then we will close Nov 30th and the people living there will rent from us until Dec15th. Well it did finally pass and get signed so we don't have to worry about that but it's good to know she was smart enough to work that part out.

So finally some progress. One week with this realtor and we already had someone accept our offer. Next she got the appraiser out there and sure enough it appraised just as high as he said it would. So next on the list was inspection. The inspector went out and everything looked good. They replaced the roof just before hurricane Wilma gave Coral Springs it's only recorded direct hit in history as a Category 3 hurricane, so they are one of the few that didn't lose a roof. The inspector said these are some of the best built homes in the country. All exterior walls are made of cinder block and rebar. We have accordion shutters on all windows. Our garage door is not your average garage door. It's a hurricane code garage door. Instead of using 2X4s in the interior they used all 2X6. So our house not only passed inspection, but the inspector told me we are getting ourselves a great home. During inspection they also did what's called a wind mitigation report. Basically I'm saving probably $800-$1000 annually on my insurance because of the shutters and the new roof. So now that the inspection is done we are just waiting for them to finish up the loan. My broker has been doing this over 20 years and said we should have no problem with the loan and we are looking to close December 15th. He actually told me yesterday "I'll make you a deal. You keep yourself employed and I'll get you financed."

So here are the details of the house.

The house is a 5 bedroom 3 bathroom, 2,616 sq ft., triple split floor plan on 10,800 sq ft lot. Our lot actually only goes half way to the canal and the rest is city owned but that's just more land for me that I don't have to pay for. It's just a buffer zone between my land and the canal so I can put fruit trees there and I'm the one that has to mow the grass there. The only thing is I don't have to pay taxes on it! The water has four zones and our sprinklers are on the zone that pumps from the canal so we get to water our lawn for free. The faucets of course are on city water so we don't have to fill our pool or wash our vehicles with canal water. We have a large solar panel on the roof to heat our water for free. Everything on the left side of the house, left of where it says foyer, that is the master suite. This includes the master bathroom, two closets, master bedroom, and attached to the master bedroom with two french doors is the office which has a window view of the pool and a sliding door that opens to the pool on the next wall. The master suite is on it's own 2 ton ac unit and there is a door that closes there. So basically we can just shut the door to that part of the house and save a lot of money on our electric bill. The rest of the house is on a 4 ton ac unit. The four other bedrooms and other two bathrooms are actually in separate hallways so that is why it's a triple split floor plan. All together we have 5 sliding doors that open up to the pool and a couple window views. The whole back of the house opens up to the pool and you can see the pool from everywhere, even in the hallway. In the kitchen the window opens up to a bar in the pool area. I am going to install 3 ceiling fans on the patio so we can eat outside. In the front yard there is a, I don't know what to call it. It's not really a pond because it's above ground. I guess it's a fountain?

Here's the floor plan
South Florida. We are way close to the Everglades and not too far from the beach. Our house is where the A is.

Our neighbors across the canal. They have a nice canopy on that street.
And last of all,,, our house. More pictures to come once we move in.

So the only thing I had left to do was get myself out of my apartment lease. I wanted to talk to the apartment manager but I could only talk to her assitant. They want a 60 day notice. I gave them notice on November 9th so 60 days would be January 9th. That's a couple weeks after I move out that I would be paying for but I said that's fine. But on top of that they wanted $1,000 for breaking the lease, three weeks early! So I had her talk to the manager and she came back to me and said since I have good payment history on my rent she'll drop that to $500. At first I took it but then I thought about it and got all pissed off. I thought about it and they were trying to play me for a fool. So I called up the manager and told her how it is. I told her that even if she wanted to she could not charge me $1,000 to break the least because that would exceed the cost of me staying to the end of the lease. I told her on top of that it's only 21 days and they haven't cut me any slack. I have been there for 3 years. I moved in January 7th, 2007. The lease ends for me 3 weeks after my 3 year mark and they gave me two options each year. 1. Sign for a year or 2. move out. I told her they are being completely unreasonable. I told her I already agreed to pay for a couple weeks that I won't be there and I will be exceeding my three year mark. I have never given them trouble, I'm quite, I'm a good tenant, and I think they need to figure something out. I told her I'll even pay the remainder of my rent until January 9th today. She told me "OK, I'm dropping the charge for breaking the lease". Of course she wouldn't put it in writing because she's not actually suppose to do this and it says in the lease that leasing agents don't negoiate. So hopefully she will keep to her word. She's always been nice to me so I don't anticipate a problem. I went to pay the rest of my lease off and she told the assitant manager what is going on and said they are going to work with me.

So I am offically rent/mortgage free until January or February. I need to find out. But part of the closing cost covers the first month or so and my apartment rent is taken care of so I don't have to worry about paying for whichever of the two roofs is over my head at the time until next year.

Also things got really ghetto right after I walked out of that office. I have never seen this happen but something like 50 kids were hanging out on the property after school and none of them lived there. So the manager walked out and had to kick them all out. I don't envy her job having to deal with all these morons all the time. Well a couple hours later I hear this girl yelling all ghetto and I think she was yelling at the manager. Then she comes over by my window and starts yelling out what's on my signs in my window. One sign says "Forget about the dog, beware of owner". It's got a picture of a S&W revolver. The other says "This house is protected by a shotgun three nights a week. You guess which three". So this girl is yelling in my window what the signs say. I was cooking and had my back to her so I turned around and gave her the look of death. I was about to tell her "congrats you can read now get the hell away from my window", but before I could even open my mouth she took off and two of the apartement staff were chasing her out.

I am so ready to move out of this place. The apartments are nice. They are taken care of and they keep up the landscaping really good. I have a lake view and I'm only 50 feet from the water. But the people are ghetto to the max and I'm sick of dealing with the staff and the idiots that close my work orders without fixing my stuff. I went a week without ac last summer because they sent some idiot from corperate who said he ordered the pump and he didn't. The maintanence manager who is a really nice guy said that the idiot from corperate told everyone the same thing, closed work orders, and everyone was pissed off the next week. Well I had to tell them they are banned from sending help from corperate in my apartment and only the manager himself can work in there because everytime I open a work order it's the same thing over and over. They always send someone from corperate who effs it up and it takes me five complaints and a month of nagging to get something fixed. Just one of the headaches along with ghetto people that are too stupid to put their trash in the compactor, instead throwing it in the parking lot. On the weekends it builds up until Monday when apartment staff have to put it in the compactor for these morons. So this is what I'll be leaving. Let me tell you, I won't miss it.

Then today I get home and I get a thing saying if I do want to renew, which I don't and I already gave them notice, my rent will go up 200 bucks a month! This is insane. This place already started going to hell when they started giving first month free and no deposit, I had to pay both. Now they keep raising the rent on the old tenants to make them flip the bill to bring in new ones (Obama style). They are renting out two bedroom apartments for $1,005 with no deposit and first month free and then they want me to pay $1,255 for a freaking one room. These people are out of their effin minds. And this is why the neighborhood is going down the toilet!

Me hanging out behind my apartment

The weekend trash mess. We let people this stupid drive in this country. Scary!

The 305

So the last couple days I have had a reminder why you couldn't pay me to live in Miami.

Today at work we had a fire drill and everyone was instructed to move to the back of the parking lot, all the way back by the canal where I park my truck. They were told there is no getting in their cars and running the ac (it's a nice cool day anyways), and they had to stay in that area.

So by the time I get out there I see one person sitting on my back bumper, one person leaning on the side of my truck, and one person standing their with their arms resting on my top deck. WTF? Seriously! These idiots have no respect for others property. And they knew it was unacceptable because I opened up the back of my truck to get a fold up beach chair and they realize it's my truck and they all get off it real quick. So I pull out my chair and while everyone else is forced to stand out there I unfold my beach chair and I sit there next to my truck drinking a Mr Pibb. As a former boyscout I'm always prepared and everyone thought it was pretty funny. But back to my rage. Seriously what the hell is wrong with people. If they weren't my coworkers they would have received quite a tongue lashing but since I'm forced to work with this idiots I had to bite my tongue. Would they think it's ok if they came out and I was sitting on the hood of their car? Certain people down here have no respect whatsoever and I'm getting really sick of it.

Then there is yesterday. I'm not sure which one gets the idiot of the week. The coworkers from today or the moron that backed up traffic yesterday. I was in line to getting on I-95. They put in one of those traffic control lights on the on ramp about six months ago. Basically you pull up and it turns green right away. It's pretty pointless since you never fully stop before it turns green. Well yesterday some moron didn't go at the right time and it turned red. They were sitting still there waiting for, no exaggeration, five whole minutes for this thing to turn green. Obviously the motion detector did not catch the person but do they have the brains to figure this out? No. So for five minutes the on ramp is backing up. It's a complete cluster **** and everyone starts honking their horns pissed off and hoping this idiot would get a clue. But they were probably stoned off their ass, eating a bowl of rice, talking on the phone, and bumping their music, so they were in no condition to figure it out. All the cars behind him were too close together so no one could get out to go around. It was to the point where I was about to call the state troopers. Finally someone all the way back on 95th street decides to ride the shoulder and as he passed the moron he set off the sensor. After that everyone was free to go....You would think this ass clown would have figured it out on his own but no, someone else had to turn the light green for him.