We searched high. We searched low. We searched so low, three vacant lots we looked at turned out to be in flood plains. One was on 5 acres. 5 ACRES! But it turned out only a small isosceles triangle of it—up against a busy street—was buildable. Everything we found had a major compromise like that.
More often than not, we found sellers still trying to squeeze the pre-bubble-bust value out of their property. And who can blame them? But we needed a deal. A number of foreclosed homes beckoned, but more on that later.
Friends of ours pointed out a log cabin across the street from their place on a gorgeous wooded lot. The place was an obvious tear-down: A Petri dish of mold, waiting for a demolishing, hamster breath of a wind gust to knock it down. And likely haunted, of course. But the owner’s asking price was basically full value of a functional, livable house. Our friends said she was “bat shit crazy” and the nickname stuck. For kicks I e-mailed the agent back and forth a few times. It culminated when I took a comparative house for sale on the same street, reverse-engineering it with an assumed cost per square foot, minus the pool and other amenities, and determined the lot would have to go for about 39% of their asking price (and still a little high for our budget).
A month or three passed and I checked the listing again and noticed it was under a new realtor. The new agent turned out to be… THE OWNER! I e-mailed. Then called. I told her that for it to work for us, it would have to be competitive with some example listings I sent.
She said that the properties in Washington Township go for more, citing two at her higher price point. I knew which ones she was talking about and was polite enough not to mention neither had sold in over two years. She also cited a whole bunch of improvements she made before deciding to sell it outright – new septic, furnace, and roof complete with architectural rafters. She said the only way to go down in price was to offer less of the land (she would split it up). I’m still baffled why anyone would put money into that house!
I ended on, “well, it’s probably just not a good fit for us.” And that was that.