02 April 2015

The House Saga, Part 1

The History . . . 

James and I were married in 2007 and as the slightly more mature married couple that we were, decided to not throw money away on rent when we could buy a house.  After looking for houses we realized how crazy expensive everything was and there was no way (even with our mature, age 27 savings, that we were going to be able to afford a real house).  We found a little townhouse in Granger area overlooking Monroe Elementary and we went for it.  We had a little piece of grass and some flower beds and big living room and plenty of living space.  Unfortunately, we bought this place just before the crazy housing market crashed later that year.  People had been buying houses they couldn't afford.  Lending institutions were selling sketchy loans and everything tanked.  Financially, of course, we were fine.  Its just that we found ourselves immediately upside down in a house we had just bought.  That was ok.  We were planning to live there for a while and things would eventually turn around.

Fast forward a few years . . . .

Our family was growing.  We wanted a yard so that I could plant more flowers and kids could run around.  We wanted a garage so James could fix our vehicles out of the weather.  We wanted a space that would allow us to invite family over for dinner.  We wanted an unfinished basement where we could store crap and eventually design our own family room.  Interest rates were super low.  New construction costs were super low and we wanted to take advantage of the still tanked market and build a home.

The Good - We had (and still have) no debt and good credit, so the mortgage company was happy to lend us the money to start building our home.

The Bad - We talked to a realtor about selling our townhouse and he suggested a price about $45,000 less than what we owed.

The Compromise - To get the new house, we'd have to rent the old house until eventually the market turned around and we could sell it.

The Landlord Business . . . 

James can fix anything and I am pretty good at communicating, so we thought we could do the landlord thing.  And honestly, it wasn't that bad of an experience, it just takes time and energy that we don't have.  I've heard horror stories of renters trashing a home and owing thousands of dollars to the owners.  We didn't have perfect experiences, but at least we didn't have that.  Our home showed wear and our renters didn't always pay on time, but it worked.

Our current tenants had not been on an official lease since May 2014.  Near the end of the summer of that year, some long-time neighbors of ours moved out and their place sold.  We thought that maybe the time was right to get ours moving and we decided to list it.  I took Meranda as my interpreter and we had a conversation with our renters about putting the house up for sale.  We found a realtor.  We got her information because she sold another unit in our complex and she is a Dave Ramsey ELP.

We had the house on the market from August through the end of October.  It had very little movement and very little interest.  We weren't too discouraged because we hadn't banked on selling it, but rather just wanted to give it a shot.  We also knew that it just wasn't showing well.  The pictures weren't great.  It was super crowded with stuff inside.  The renters didn't always get our messages that there was going to be a showing and they would still be there when the potential buyers came.  It was a headache.

We decided that we did indeed want to sell, but that we'd have to do it without renters.  We took the house off the market to let it sit through the holidays.  Our plan was to get it empty, cleaned up, and ready to go by the first of March to hit the spring housing rush.  We set a budget of what we wanted to spend to get it spruced up.  We were ready to go.

They Wouldn't Leave . . . 

We notified our renters the first week of January that they would need to be out of the house by February 20th.  Though that was the deadline (and the end of their rent period), I told them they could have until the next weekend, February 28th, if they needed that time to start a new lease somewhere else, but that they absolutely HAD to be out by Saturday the 28th.  We didn't hear much from them and just went about our business.  Rent came due the end of January and I reiterated to them that February 20th was the day and they said ok.

Two weeks before that deadline rolled around, I contacted them to see what their status was.  What day would they be leaving?  When could I meet them to get the keys back and return their deposit?  Unfortunately, they said they hadn't found any place yet.

The next week rolled around and I contacted them again, and again, and again.  I tried to use my most firm voice that I could muster to let them know that they had to be out by the 28th.  They said ok.

Saturday the 28th came and I still hadn't heard from them about when to meet up and finalize things.  I headed over to the house to contact them once again.  It was after 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon and I happened to catch them as they were leaving.  They said they were going looking right then, but had been unable to find anything.  There were no signs of boxes.  There were no signs of packing up belongings.  They simply weren't moving.

At that point, I realized the "pushover" light on my forehead was lit up as well as the "sucker" light.  I needed another strategy.

I asked James and Ross to help.  We did some research and found out the basic eviction process and had a plan . . . sort of.  We pulled up an eviction notice online and James and Ross were supposed to go over and serve our renters with the notice on Sunday night.  Ross was going to interpret and James was going to be the enforcer to tell them they had to leave.  Unfortunately, they weren't home.  Ross wrote some kind of note on the back of the eviction notice and they put it on the door.

On Monday (now March 2nd), James swung by to see if there had been any activity.  None.  I spent a good hour on the phone with different courts and police jurisdictions to find out the proper method for evicting someone from your property.  It was going to be a mess.

About 5:00 p.m. on Monday, we got a call from our renters.  They were leaving and would be out by 8:00 p.m.  Huh?  Really?  Ok, then.

I was staying out of it at this point, so I sent James over around 8:00.  They had a few things still to move, but it was basically empty.  They said they would repair a few small holes in the walls and be gone completely by the next day if we would give them time.  We did and they were gone the next day.