My wife and I are buying a house. I hate real estate. It kind of reminds me of jewelry. Everyone tells you what a great investment it is. But it isn’t. It’s a shiny bauble that’s only worth something to you. And a house is not an investment. It’s a dwelling. And it’s an expensive dwelling. I prefer renting. When the toilet breaks I call the landlord. Done. And if the economy tanks, you can’t even get out of it what you have in it. You don’t have that problem in an apartment.
It seems everyone in the real estate business is shady. Contractors charge inflated prices and hide shoddy work behind sheet rock. Real estate agents take the path of least resistance, whether it’s the ethical path or not. Appraisers amazingly always come up with numbers suspiciously close to the sale amount. Bankers get their cut. Lawyers get their cut. Insurance companies get their cut. Uncle Sam gets his cut.
I hate all the hidden things that can go wrong when you purchase a home. We’re purchasing in DC, which has the most extortionary tenancy rights in the country. Our new house was a rental. So when we made our offer, we had to wait till the tenant (whose lease was up, by the way) “gave” the owner permission to sell. And by “gave” I mean extorted to the tune of two months’ rent, a fully refunded security deposit, and a $500 moving stipend - totalling $8,000. All so they would be allowed to sell, in a timely fashion, that which they should have every right to sell, any time they wish. Because they own it.
This seller also had the good fortune to have hired a shady real estate agent who likes to hide things until it’s too late to do anything about them. I wanted to walk. My wife wants a house. I understand. Our first child is on the way. We need the white picket fence. And the yard with the swing set. And a place for our dogs to pee. That becomes a much bigger mission when you have a baby in tow.
I’ve never liked real estate agents, in general. I have some friends who are real estate agents. I like them. They were friends before they were real estate agents. Some of you might know or be related to real estate agents. Or you might be real estate agents. And what I’m going to say next is going to offend you. Most of the real estate agents I’ve dealt with have been a combination of lazy and incompetent. In good economic times, any monkey can sell real estate.
I don’t like most general contractors. I bought a new house from a contractor one time but they didn’t finish the work before closing. When I told them we would be cancelling the closing, my real estate agent suggested we instead put $1,500 in escrow to hold until the contractor finished the house. This being my first rodeo, it made sense to me. It was a stupid deal suggested by a lazy realtor who just wanted the commission. If that came up again, I would make it $20,000. Make it hurt. What the hell does the contractor care about $1,500 when he’s just sold a house for a quarter million? Nothing.
So we’re going to buy our house. And it will be our home where we’ll raise our son and be a happy family. I hope I don’t have to do it again, but I probably will. Every time I do it, I learn a little more. This time I learned that I should be a hard-ass right from the opening bell. You want to be shady? I’m walking. There are lots of other houses. Maybe next time I’ll just buy a house boat. Then any time I don’t like my neighbors, I can just weigh anchor and leave. I think that’s a much better deal.