This is part of an ongoing series about what “happily ever after” can look like. We are giving you stories about previous home buyers and sellers and some of the challenges they faced. If they made it through, so can you! All client names have been changed to protect the innocent and crazy.
Can you love a house too much? The answer is… maybe?
Clients Allie & Max came to me about purchasing their first home. We sat down to talk about wants, needs, budget, and everything in between. Within a couple of weeks, they found a New Orleans home they were ready to make a move on. I scheduled the appointment and was told we couldn’t view it right now. We needed to wait till after the holidays to be able to see it. Ok, kind of odd, but that’s fine. They were okay with waiting because they knew no one else could see the house yet either.
Let me pause here to say this is the last bit of normalcy you will read.
Allie & Max LOVE this house. They have driven by. They have peaked into windows. They KNOW this is their house. They are officially obsessed with this raised basement house.
The listing agent, Mary Ann, contacted me after the holidays and said they were unable to sell the house. “Why is that?,” I asked and not prepared for everything that would follow.
Mary Ann proceeded to explain to me that this was a succession property. (Meaning that a house had been left to family members.) Not only was it a succession property, but there were four heirs. Three of the four were ready to sell. The fourth heir (we will call him Tommy) not only didn’t want to sell, but he was living in the house and refusing to let people in. If the fourth heir didn’t agree to sell the property, the remaining relatives were putting the house up for auction and he would then be homeless.
Allie & Max are not the types of people to give up on something they want. They asked for my permission to reach out to Tommy directly and see if they could reason with him. I gave them my blessing and hoped for the best.
They made a care basket and went to drop it at Tommy’s door. The basket was filled with homemade gumbo, baked goods, a bottle of wine, and a note that explained why they wanted this house so much.
Within an hour, Tommy called this awesome couple and invited them over. He wouldn’t eat any of the food because he thought they had been sent there to poison him by his relatives. So, they ate some of the food with him to show that they were just two people in love with this old house. They ended up sitting over there for hours while Tommy rambled on and on about all the ways he made improvements on the house – despite the fact he had hoarder tendencies. Allie & Max sat patiently, listened to him, and made agreements that I would have never advised anyone to do. Tommy wanted an additional $5000 paid to him because he had been “taking care of the house” and deserved it more than his relatives. He also wanted to stay after the closing date so he could get his money and then move elsewhere. They agreed to his demands. That’s how much they loved this house.
I wish I could say that was it, but the saga continues.
I draw up an offer on the house while they signed an agreement to pay him in increments as long as he allows us to enter the home for inspections and an appraisal. He got $1600 for signing the contract, another $1600 for letting us back in, and the remainder after he signed all of the closing documents.
Let me throw this tidbit in – we have now learned that he likely selling drugs from the house as well. We suspect he is also on drugs, but do not have concrete evidence of this.
It took us a week to get him to sign the contract. Once he did and he was paid his first lump sum, he promptly spent it on acquiring more things for a house he wouldn’t not be living in much longer.
We were able to get in for inspections and the appraisal. Allie, Max, & I quickly found out that the house needed a lot more repairs than originally thought. All of the alleged “upgrades” he did to the house were being held together by duct tape and gum, metaphorically speaking.
A week later we got the results of the appraisal and it wasn’t good. The appraiser wanted a lot of work done before it would be worth the amount they were buying the house for. Uh-oh.
Because the drama never stopped on this house, Allie & Max’s lender called me to say that she could NOT, in fact, lend to them at all. She gave them a pre-approval letter, let them pay for an appraisal, and then said they weren’t qualified.
Let’s stop for a second.
Allie & Max have now given someone about $3200, we know the house won’t appraise in its current condition, and they can’t get approved for funding with this lender. Some people would sit down, cry, and likely give up.
NOT THIS POWERHOUSE COUPLE.
I got them set up with my favorite local lender (shoutout to Courtlin with NOLA Lending!) and she handled business like the pro she is. She was able to secure financing, but she asked “What are y’all going to do about the appraisal? We have to get another one and it’s likely to have the same red flags.”
This is when I thought Allie & Max had lost their damn minds. They dipped into their savings and started doing repairs on a house that did not even belong to them yet. I would NEVER in a million years encourage anyone to do this. You could easily not close on this home and never see an ounce of that money back. There was no stopping this couple. They wanted this house and they were going to do what it took to get it.
Fast forward a week and a half later – they have spent every waking hour at this house. They have done plumbing work, electrical work, sheetrock, and a massive clean out – all in HOPES of passing the appraisal.
The next week was a real nail biter as we waited for the results.
Appraisal results came in and the house appraised for about $40k more than the purchase price.
Think this it? Not a chance.
When the day came for us to close on the house, Tommy was over an hour late. Two of the heirs had already signed off and we sat there…. waiting… His phone was off and he wasn’t answering the door. Finally, he showed up, fought with the attorney about how he was getting paid, and while leaving told Allie & Max he needed the remainder of his money.
Allie & Max agreed to let Tommy stay in the house for one month after the act of sale. Which, I can tell you many reasons why post-occupancy is not a good idea. The rest of this story will be the only reason you need.
Tommy used all the money he made to go on a major drug binge. This was not fully known until right before he was supposed to move out. They told him it was time to go but he didn’t want to leave. He made lots of excuses and even had other people living in the house at this point. They started eviction proceedings, as there was nothing else they could do.
One night, while driving by to check on their home, they saw Tommy was destroying portions of the house. They called the police to try to minimize the damage. New Orleans’ finest took him to jail. After going to court, the judge said that Tommy could not go back to the house.
Allie & Max had estimated that Tommy caused over $20k in property damage. He ripped off doorknobs off, broke off plumbing, destroyed walls, and even defecated in the house.
Weeks after this incident, they also reported having their cars vandalized and strangers showing up on their doorstep. They spent over a month cleaning this old house and getting it back into working order. They have a long way to go for it to be “complete”, but they are headed in the right direction.
Are they living happily ever after?
Looking back at all of this and asking this couple “Was it worth it?” They still give a resounding “YES!” Seriously. They LOVE this house.
Loving a house so much that you’re ready to take huge risks is something most people would call nuts. But, here is some lagniappe information – it would have been extremely difficult for this beautiful couple to find a home of this size, in the area that wanted, at that price point if they had not made the sacrifices for it.
Please take note. I am not encouraging anyone to start spending money on upgrades for a New Orleans house before they own it. I am certainly not saying you should let a lunatic heir live in the house after the closing. What I am saying is, if you really, really, really, really, really love that house – I am going to help you get it. I will warn you of the pros and cons. And I will buy you a drink when you think you’ve lost your mind.
Allie asked me one day “Am I crazy?” I truthfully replied with, “Yes. But you really love this house.” We agreed that day to keep moving forward and just do what we had to do.
Those crazy kids now have the house of their dreams and it looks AMAZING. You would never know the mud they waded through to get there.