Condo-Shopping Speed-Dating Style

Speed dating provides an opportunity for busy singles to spend a few minutes chatting with other singles in a controlled environment and quickly decide if they want to get to know each other better through subsequent dates. It is fast and furious and often mocked on sit-coms and commercials. Really, how well can you get to know a stranger in five minutes?

This week’s condo shopping experience felt very much like speed dating. We drove to Virginia on Monday, interviewed real estate agents later in the week and selected one to work with. Our agent sent us links to 15 homes in our price range, which we rated in descending priority. Some were ruled out because of square footage, others ruled out because of price, and most second floor units were discarded. That narrowed the field down to eight homes that we wanted to visit. We set up our house hunting on Saturday.
In four furious hours of shopping we toured these properties, selected a home and placed an offer to purchase; it was almost like speed dating.

This will be a second home for us, similar to the northern cabins that many Michigan families own. It will be occupied part-time and doesn’t have to be fancy or luxurious, which is a very good thing considering our lower price range! We discovered that most of the homes in our price range are foreclosures, bank owned, repossessed, or abandoned. Only a couple properties we wanted to view were for sale through a private owner.

The bank-owned units were scary. The utilities are disconnected, most appliances missing, and are sold “as is,” meaning that the bank will not make any repairs that the buyer discovers during personal or home inspections. The buyer pays to have utilities connected before the inspection, and purchases these properties at their own risk. Most of the bank-owned units we toured were distinguished by tattered window treatments, broken door locks, missing appliances and light fixtures, stained carpeting, and black mold.

And, bank-owned properties are notoriously slow to close, taking months to come to an agreement, as opposed to the 30 to 45 days usually needed for a sale to close by dealing with a home-owner. Possession is negotiated with the seller, and can be at closing or after an agreed upon time to give the seller time to remove their things. Bank-owned properties are empty and possession is immediate a closing.

We found only one home in our price range that we liked and placed an offer. It is well maintained, but the cabinetry and fixtures are dated. The carpeting is neutral, but worn, and the window treatments are not to my taste. This is minor when compared to the conditions we encountered in the bank-owned properties. We like the neighborhood and the lay-out of this unit; cosmetic things can be reasonably corrected.

The seller countered our offer, and we accepted their new price. Now, we start the parade of appraisers, inspectors, and financial juggling to pull it all together.

Once we close and have possession, we will start a frantic week of repainting and re-flooring before moving our furnishings from our apartment in Tennessee to this new dwelling. The target date of the move is mid March. I don’t think the “speed” part of this speed-dating process will slow down any time soon!