How to close on a house: a cautionary tale

Not my house

FAIR WARNING: There’s lots of swears in here.  Carry on as you wish.

Once upon a time there was a young couple who bought a house and started a family.  As their family grew, their house grew smaller and they set out in search of a new place to call home.  Last year, the couple found a house they loved and bought it-before they sold their first house, which didn’t sell.  The couple lost that house and turned their energy towards getting their first home ready for it’s next owners.  After lot of hard work, sweat, tears, and buckets of money the couple was ready to try again.  They found a new agent and a new mortgage broker.  The first house sold and then the task of finding a new house began.  After seeing lots of trash and junk the diamond in the rough appeared and the couple’s offer was accepted.  And they lived happily ever after.

Not quite.  Just when you think the stress of buying a selling a house is over…you still have to close.  Several days before my closing on the-last-house-I’ll-ever-own Honey’s cousin told me that closing on the house was more stressful than the rest of the process.  What?  I thought we were in the home stretch.  Ha ha ha.  Without getting in to the whole process let me just say that the closing on the house was so stressful and overwhelming that I was reduced to sobs on my front stoop praying that an answer that worked for my family and didn’t involve living in a hotel for a week would present itself.  An answer came in the form of a closing on the-last-house-I’ll-ever-own even though we hadn’t closed on our old house (and as of this writing still haven’t).  If I told you the whole story (which includes power outages, lost documents, and a bagillion frantic phone calls) you’d be saying things like “What the fuck?”, “Are you fucking kidding?”  and “This can’t fucking be happening.”

In an effort to move forward from this experience I’d like to share some things I learned over the last two weeks of moving and closing and crying and dropping F-bombs.  Hopefully these tips will be helpful to someone who is going through the process of buying and selling.

  • Work with the best.  Find the best agent, mortgage broker, moving company, and lawyer you can.  In this situation, having the best costs money, but it pays off.  Our agent, broker, and movers worked their asses off to get us in our house and we can’t thank them enough.  Our movers even came in on their day off to get us moved in.  That said: Sara Felter with Coldwell Banker, Woodland Moving, and Zito and Clark SAVED OUR CLOSING.  I’d give you the name of our mortgage broker too, but he is a close personal friend and works out of state so it won’t help you.
  • Have a back up plan.  In fact, have 15 back up plans.  Things fall apart.
  • Be prepared.  Throw out your shit.  Have an idea of a packing schedule and stick to it. Know where all your documents are in case you need them last minute. Get more boxes than you think you need (just ask people, most are more than happy to be box hoarders for you.)
  • As for the kids, line up babysitters that your kids are comfortable with.  There are going to be LOTS of changes for them to handle, you don’t want to stick them with someone they don’t know well.  Hire a babysitter for the last minute packing days, you will need it.  Also, have the kids stay at someone else’s house the day of moving.  Watching all that stuff go onto a truck is a lot for adults let alone kids.  Your sitter should be available on short notice for closing day as well.  The best thing we did for the girls was take them to the toy store to pick out new toys to keep with them the day of the move.  They were special for them and novel, two things that help in a stressful situation.  We also bought them a new dollhouse.  We figured we got a house, they should get one too.  It was a surprise that just “showed up” a couple days after we moved.
  • Enlist the help of friends.  Lots of friends.  People will ask you what they can do to help: tell them.  BFF came over one day and used her Studio Art major skills to help me wrap all my artwork and frames.  She also invited us over for dinner the night we slept in an empty house after the movers packed us up.  (This gesture was akin to someone showing up on your doorstep with a hot meal and a bag of diapers after you come home with a newborn.)  It was just what we needed.  Especially the large glass of wine she poured.  Honey’s friends helped with lots of the heavy lifting.
  • When you pack your clothes, pack more than you need for everyone in the family.  We had two days of clothes for ourselves when we found out we weren’t closing when we thought.  Not something you want to  have happen.  Take it from me: it sucks.
  • Don’t close on the last Friday of the month.  Make it a Thursday even.  Trust me on this one.
  • Have your ducks lined up and in pretty little row, but be ready for those ducks to fly the fuck off and leave you.  As prepared as you can be, this process is completely and totally out of your control and of you’re anything like me, that is torture, but in the end, it truly is all worth it to be in your forever home.
Also not my house

2 thoughts on “How to close on a house: a cautionary tale

  1. I can totally relate. The sale of our home fell through the day before the closing. I was 6 months pregnant and we were packed up and ready to go. We had to put our house back on the market. We sold it 6 months later but I had to basically unpack and reorganize. So, label boxes! It gets old but do it! And yes, you need more boxes than you think. Check out juggle box on line. Rentable plastic bins.

  2. I soooo relate to this post. We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of moving and while I’m so happy we found our new home, the anniversary does not evoke warm fuzzy nostalgia – it’s like having post-traumatic stress or something – I keep having flashbacks of the panicky feeling of so many obstacles we had to deal with. I am so with you on the “if I told you the whole story you’d be saying WTF?” – looking back it’s really unbelievable. Anyway we lived to tell the tale and it really was all worth it…but wish I had read your advice back then! It would have been much easier with more clean clothes on hand 🙂 …I wish you the best in continuing your journey…

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