This post contains affiliate links. Anyone who has been trying to buy a house the last few months knows it’s a brutal market for sellers. We discovered that firsthand in June and July when we made not one but two trips to upstate New York to try to secure a home. (To be fair, the first trip was short and designed to give us a feel for the area.) We were on a mission to find a house in one week on the second trip. Even though the market had softened slightly by the time we went, our experience buying a house in New York state was still challenging.
Our Experience Buying a House in New York State
The good news is that we did secure a house, but the bad news is that it took three tries to finally get a house!
When we went to New York in June, we went to several open houses. One of them was in a suburb that my husband wanted to live in, but I did not. When I researched the area, I found that this particular suburb has excellent schools. However, some homes have foundation problems because the ground is soft, and the traffic around the area is heavy.
Was This House Taken Care Of?
We went to the open house for House #1, and it was cute. However, I was immediately disinterested when I saw what looked like mold or mildew on the seal between the shower walls and the tub.
Plus, the wood around the window and the wooden steps from the garage had significant peeling paint. I thought, if they don’t make minor improvements like painting when the house is on the market, what else haven’t they taken care of?
Besides, we knew by the time my husband secured his work contract, the property would have already been sold.
Do We Want the House?
A few weeks later, after my husband signed his work contract, I called the realtor representing House #1 because we thought we might work with her. She told us that after two failed offers, House #1 was back on the market. I wasn’t interested, but my husband was. The owners would rent the house to us, so we would have a place to stay while we were waiting to close. My husband wanted this house because we wouldn’t have to make a second trip back to NY to house hunt.
I pondered this house for a full day and then agreed to put in an offer with the caveat that we could back out if the home inspection came out poorly. Thank goodness we did this!
I found an inspector who was well-versed in working with out-of-state clients. He spent 2.5 hours at the house and sent us pictures along the way. He found many problems.
The roof was long overdue to be replaced. In addition, the garage had leaked from the poor roof.
The foundation had large vertical cracks on three basement walls and was potentially structurally unsound.
The electric was only 50 amp. The inspector said it should be 150 to 200 amp, so that would have to be updated.
The shower was moldy, and there was an 18-inch crack in the shower surround, so water had been gathering back there.
The basement had mold in it, and the garage, too, where the roof had leaked. The inspector submitted samples and, a week later, let me know there were four types of mold in the house, including black mold.
No thanks! We backed out of that contract quickly, and I learned that a good inspector is invaluable and that I should trust my instincts.
In July, we booked a hotel for one week in New York and spent four days looking at houses. Once again, my husband wanted to put an offer on a house in the suburb he liked. For potential resale value, this was an excellent house to buy.
An 88-year-old man had owned this house. It was dated and needed a lot of improvements. We knew making these improvements would cost a lot upfront, but we also knew we’d likely get the money back when we went to sell it. So we put in an offer for the list price.
The owner’s daughter had three offers to choose from, and ours wasn’t enough. Someone else put in an offer over asking.
I was not disappointed that this house fell through.
The Lake House
We found one house that was on the shore of Lake Erie. We loved the beautiful view; even better, the owner was an older woman who had taken meticulous care of the house. Every year she made significant upgrades. As a result, the home was move-in ready and had everything we wanted. We LOVED this house.
And then, I made the mistake of researching the area. I’m from Michigan, so I know how violent the Great Lakes can be. I was nervous about buying a house close to the lake, but the owner assured us her home had never flooded in the 20 years she lived there.
I believe her, but just a quarter mile down the road, where the water is a bit deeper and the protective walls are a bit lower, some houses are routinely iced over or flooded. One poor woman lost the entire back of her home to the wind. She started rebuilding only to lose the back end again the next year. I stood beside that house, and the damage was sobering.
Sadly, we chose not to buy the Lake House, as we called it. I still wish we would have bought it. Perhaps we would have if I wasn’t so risk-averse.
House #3 was in the suburb I wanted to live in. We looked at the house early in the week and initially dismissed it because it was so DARK inside. The homeowners had shrubbery blocking the front window, and the rooms were painted brown. Even with the lights on, the house felt dark.
I have seasonal affective disorder, so natural sunlight is a must for me.
However, when the offer on House #2 fell through, we knew we were running out of time to put in an offer and have an inspection. Plus, the homeowners had already moved out and were willing to rent to us until we closed.
We hired the same inspector who had inspected House #1. Luckily, House #3 came through with no significant issues. We put in an offer, the owners accepted, and we will move in sometime in early August. We should close by late August.
When we put in our offer, the house had been on the market for 30 days. I think that was because the house was so dark and overpriced. (By the time we put in our offer, the sellers had dropped the price twice, making the price we paid $30k less than when they originally put it on the market.)
We don’t think this is our forever home, but we will likely stay there for six to eight years until our children are grown. We’re just glad to have finally found a home.