House Buying Timeline

February 19th, 2015
Julia and I just bought a house, which is really exciting. It took a very long time, however, and was a giant mess. Now, I believe this is not typical, with most house sales either going much more smoothly or being called off entirely, but this was our experience:

Julia notices a house, and that it's been being listed since July at progressively lower prices. We've previously put in offers on two different houses, being outbid both times.


Requested tour on Redfin.


Redfin books us a tour with the assistant of a Redfin realtor we worked with the last time we made an offer on a house.


Julia tours the house, likes it, we decide to make an offer. We ask a bank for an updated preapproval letter, since we last made an offer on a house several months earlier.


Bank gets back to us with a preapproval letter after a bunch of phone tag (our loan officer had a family issue). Redfin assigns us a different realtor because the one we'd worked with before was on vacation and we want to put in an offer that day. Send out offer, lowballing a bit at $45k under asking.


No response to our initial offer. We think maybe we offended them by offering too little, send them a new offer $20k under asking.


They counteroffer $10k, halfway between the asking price and our offer. They also ask for a closing date of 2015-01-30. This is atypically far out, but we're not in a rush. We accept their counteroffer.


The loan officer I'd been working with can't give us a rate lock valid through 2015-01-30, and another bank is both willing to do that and offer a slightly lower rate, so we switch lenders.


We go on a home inspection, I see the house for the first time. The inspection turns up various things that need doing, some of them potentially very expensive.


We visit the house with a structural engineer and get an estimate. Combining their estimate with other things the inspection turned up we get $45k of work the house will need soon after purchase. We decide to ask for a $30k price reduction.


Our realtor talks to theirs, asking for $30k, they counteroffer with $10k, we ask for $20k.


They say no to $20k, we ask for $15k.


They say no again, we send them a post-inspection offer accepting the $10k reduction.


Seller accepts revised offer. This offer sets a deadline of 10/8 for completing a purchase-and-sales agreement.


Our lawyer sends theirs a draft P&S.


We send our lender lots and lots of documentation.


Our lawyer asks theirs whether they've had time to review the P&S and whether we're on track to finish by the agreed deadline, that day. Theirs says they need more time, they agree to extend the deadline one day.


They get back with adjustments at 4:30pm, agree to extend deadline one more day.


Our lawyer accepts their adjustments.


Everyone has signed the P&S. We now have until 11/15 to get a commitment from our lender to cover the loan.


We agree to lock with our lender at 4%, with a $4.5k rate-lock deposit. They need the deposit within 48hr to hold the lock. They only take money via credit card, our credit cards don't have high enough limits, they reject my offer to bring cash to their office downtown.


Bank of America tells me the daily limit on my debit card is $5k. We use that, everything is fine.


Our lender had ordered an appraisal, which they need before agreeing to cover the house because they want to make sure it's worth enought to use as collateral. Unfortunately, the appraisal comes back saying it is "subject to [various repairs] and obtaining a certificate of occupancy for two units from the Somerville Building Department". It also said that the listing agent had told the appraiser that the repairs would be made prior to closing, which we were not expecting them to do. We ask our lawyer, who is doubling as our lender's lawyer.


Our lawyer talks to our lender. Our lender says they'll look into it. Our lawyer also talks to the seller, who files for a certificate of occupancy, but didn't think to update us and let us know they were on top of that.


Our lender writes to the city, asking them if they could issue a certificate of occupancy.


The city gets back to our lender, saying there's no certificate of occupancy on file, but there is an active application, from 11/3. Seller gets back to our lender saying they didn't tell the appraisor that the repairs would be done prior to closing, and instead said we intended to do them after closing.


Our lender gets back to us, lets us know they're still working on it, says they'll probably need an extension on the mortgage commitment date.


Our lawyer asks the sellers for a one week extension on the commitment date.


Our lender gets back to us, saying that they they've gotten it reappraised and we're good except for the certificate of occupancy. Our lawyer requests and receives another 1-week extension.


The building inspector tells us the certificate of occupancy can't be issued until the sellers pay their back taxes and provide a smoke certificate from the fire department.


We agree on another 1-week extension.


Seller's lawyer says seller will be paying their taxes and getting the inspection from the fire department this week. We agree on another 1-week extension.


Our contingency is expiring, our lawyer tries to reach theirs, no response.


Turns out the sellers needed to repair their fire escape, and they've scheduled an inspection.


Our lawyer asks again for an extension, no response.


Our lawyer asks again for an extension, this time gets one back, extended through 1/7. The certificate of occupancy is still not issued, apparently because no one heard the doorbell when the fire inspector arrived.


Certificate of occupany issued, can't be picked up until 1/6.


Seller picks up the certificate of occupancy, sends it to us, we send it to our lender, they issue a commitment letter. Now we're all set for our 1/30 closing!


The sellers let us know they're not going to be able to be out by 1/30 because their new rental might not be available until 2/15 (possible delay in current tenant moving out) and ask for a 3 week lease-back. We're not ok with this, because we're not confident they'll really move, we decide to try and postpone the closing instead. Our rate lock is good through 2/13, but talking to our lender they're willing to extend it.


Our lawyer asks theirs whether a closing date of 2/18 would work. Theirs says the sellers would probably rather just move forward and close, but they'll get back to us.


Our lawyer asks them whether we're closing 1/30 or not.


Their lawyer says they're still not sure, and that projected snow might delay moving. They think 2/6 might work for closing but don't confirm anything.


Our lawyer asks again whether we're closing 1/30.


Their lawyer says they think they can probably close 2/6, and that they're still trying to sort out a tax lien issue.


Our lawyer asks if we're closing 2/6, no response.


Our lawyer asks again, their's proposes closing 2/13, we accept.


Their lawyer asks their lender for a final statement (payoff amount) so they can figure out how to divide money between the seller and the seller's lender.


Their lawyer asks their lender again for the payoff.


Our lawyer asks if we're all set to close 2/13. Their's says the owners aren't out yet, and ask if we'll accept an extension to 2/27. Our appraisal was valid for 120 days, which would expire on the 20th, so the 19th is the last date we can close without the delay/risk/hassle/expense of getting a new appraisal. We tell them we can't go past the 19th.


We agree to close on the 19th. Their lender says the payoff is under review.


Their lawyer asks their lender again about the payoff.


Their lender says they're generating the payoff now.


Our lawyer asks if we're all set to close on the 19th. No resposne.


Our lawyer asks again. The seller's lawyer says the sellers plan to move on the 17th.


The seller's lawyer calls their lender, speaks with ten different people, can't get an update on the payoff. Sends a really angry email to the bank.


Seller's lawyer gets a reply from the bank, apologising, saying they'll get the payoff out as soon as possible. Seller's lawyer also tells us the owners are out.


Walkthrough goes well. There's a bit of junk in the basement, but way less than there was at inspection. We go to closing, still no payoff. We fill out the closing papers, but they can't be filed until the payoff comes in. This happens just before the registry of deeds closes, like minutes before, and it is all set. Papers are filed, we own a house.

Lots more to do now, utilities to put in our name, repairs, etc, but now any delays are our fault.
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