August 27, 2004


Well, I was going to sit down this morning while waiting for my daily build to compile and write a chatty-Cathy blog entry about how we had no problems getting homeowners' insurance for the new house (despite my worries about the knob-and-tube wiring; thank goodness we're not in Canada, where the presence of any K-and-T recently seems to have become a no-go for insurers), or how Shelby and I went to Plummers yesterday and looked at couches (surreptitiously "scratch-testing" certain favored models with our fingernails to get an idea of how they might look after being worked over by Beagle claws).

But then Shelby's mom told me that I had a message on the answering machine. It was from our rep at the mortgage company, telling me that they'd received the appraiser's report on the house, and that she had a couple of things to discuss with me. Like an idiot intent on ruining his day, I called her right after I finished listening to the message.

Long story short, the house appraised for significantly beneath what we agreed to pay for it -- and to boot, the appraiser measured the house's dimensions at a couple of hundred square feet smaller than the size the sellers were claiming it to be.

The valuation was a total surprise -- at the originally-claimed square footage, the house was a bargain (relatively speaking; this is California, after all), and even at the now-revised square footage, the price seemed spot-on when compared to the average price per square foot of other homes sold in the neighborhood during the past six months. The appraiser's fieldwork seemed pretty sloppy, as the three "comparables" that he chose to include for purposes of valuation in his report didn't seem very comparable at all. Two of the houses were outside of the historical/landmark neighborhood that our house is in, across major streets in either direction, well into scruffier lets-all-put-burglar-bars-on-our-windows territory. One of these houses was a modern ranch house! The final 'comp' that was in our neighborhood looked like it was originally very similar to ours -- the same floorplan, only flipped left-to-right -- but where our house had been carefully taken care of, this house featured a dead lawn and vinyl windows. But still the appraiser decided that our house was worth $4 per square foot less than the cheapest of these three houses! Recent interior renovation and preserved historical niceties didn't seem to count for anything.

The square-footage issue was actually something I'd been expecting; there was a lot of hand-waving over whether the back bedroom (added in the 1930s) had been added to the total assessor-reported square footage of the house when it was premitted and built seventy years ago. I was prepared to forgive a size discrepancy of fifty-square-feet or so -- but a couple of hundred square feet? Wasn't the house appraised and measured when they bought it, less than a year ago?

Our agent called their agent this afternoon, and on the basis of what we'd learned, adjusted our offer to a markedly chopped-down price. The sellers' agent seemed to think that our new offer was entirely reasonable, even generous, and still favorable to his clients -- and our agent, after getting off of the phone with him, said that based merely on that man's attitude alone, he thought that our new offer still had a good chance.

We still want the house; it's still the right size for us, and it hasn't become any less cute than it was on home-inspection day. In the best case, we end up with the house and a lower housing payment than we'd originally planned; in the worst case, we walk ($1000 lighter, thanks to a non-refundable deposit with the mortgage company), and start the fun that is househunting all over again.

Please think good thoughts and keep your fingers crossed!

Posted by Kevin at August 27, 2004 11:27 PM