For the past several months the Boy has been trying to sell a house. He doesn't actually live in the house, it is an investment property that he purchased after we broke up in Round 1. We have affectionately named it the Project House.
After doing some remodeling this summer, the Boy put the Project House on the market for $185,000. Which I thought was highly optimistic at the time. Every few weeks when the listing expired, the Boy would re-evaluate his price and lower it by $5,000. First it went to $180,000. Then $175,000. Then $170,000. Then $165,000 and finally it stuck at $160,000 which is where it has been for the last few weeks.
Lately, I've had a feeling that the Boy would get an offer on the Project House. There has been so much traffic since he lowered the price to $160,000. At least four showings each weekend, plus a few during the week. He even had one offer come through last weekend, but it was a false alarm. The couple wanted to pay cash for the house and could only scrape together $125,000. So the Boy turned them down.
Throughout the process I have been very sympathetic to the Boy's situation. If you have been reading my blog, you know that working on the Project House dominated much of our summer. And I really want him to get a good price for it. But I also know that we are experiencing one of the worst housing slumps in our nation's history. And his mortgage on that house is only $95,000, so he has plenty of room for negotiation.
With winter approaching, the Boy started to explore his worst case scenarios. There was no way he could continue to pay his rent and maintain the mortgage on the Project House indefinitely. So he decided that if he couldn't sell the house by December 1st, he would have to move into it and get a roommate to help cover the costs. After all of his calculations, the Boy decided that the lowest offer he would be willing to accept is $140,000. That would pay for all of the renovations on the house and allow him to clear out a good chunk of his personal debt.
The various possible scenarios around selling or keeping the Project House have been a constant subject of discussion during our weekend bagel breakfasts. I have been trying to get the Boy to accept the fact that he might need to take a slightly lower profit just to get the house to sell.
"So if someone comes and offers you $145,000 you would just take it, right?" I said to the Boy last weekend. I figured that given the alternative of moving all of his stuff into that house and finding a new roommate, he would jump at any offer above his minimum threshold.
"Well, maybe I would counter back with $152,000," he said. "I just think you need to go back and forth at least once. And then whatever they come back with after that I would take it."
"Why $152,000?" I asked him. "If they offer you $145,000 then I guess you could come back with $150,000. The extra $2,000 just seems unnecessary."
Then I shared one of the best pieces of advice my real estate agent gave me when I bought my house. She said that if I liked the house I should make a good offer. So many people haggle back and forth over that last few thousand dollars. When you put that in terms of a mortgage it is less than 1%. It's like arguing over $1.37 a month for the next 30 years of your life.
Tuesday afternoon I was sitting at my desk when I got a text from the Boy. It said that he had gotten an offer on the house and would fill me in later that night. It was freezing outside so I offered to cook us dinner at my place. When the Boy arrived, I had already opened up a bottle of wine and I was relaxing on the couch. He eagerly poured himself a glass and came to sit down beside me.
"So, what's the story on the house?" I asked. "I want to hear all of the details and please tell me it doesn't include anything that has to do with the number 152." I was joking with the Boy based on our conversation the weekend before, but I could tell by the look on his face that he was not amused. In fact he seemed kind of nervous.
"Well, they offered me $150,000." He said as he looked down at his glass. I was completely shocked. After the last offer he had gotten I could not believe that someone finally made a decent offer on the house.
"Oh my god!" I exclaimed. "Are you serious?" Then it sunk in why the Boy was not jumping along with me in excitement. "Oh no. You didn't take the offer did you..."
"Actually, I made them a counter offer," the Boy began. I knew exactly what he was going to say before he finished that sentence with "for $152,000."
"Why did you do that?" I asked. "Remember last weekend you were crying in your beer and wondering how you would ever sell this house? You were willing to take $140,000 and today someone offers you $150,000 and you don't take it. What were you thinking?"
"I don't know baby," he shrugged. "I guess I just got greedy. Every thousand dollars difference goes right into my pocket." My jaw hung open in utter amazement. "I knew you would be mad about it," he said.
It's not that I was mad. I was just disappointed and frustrated with the Boy. After the conversation we had the weekend before, I really thought we were on the same page about the whole house thing. Mostly, I was irritated because I thought his counter offer was lame.
If you are going to make a counter offer, which there was no way I would have done under those circumstances, then you should make it bold. At least $155,000. Then the other side can meet you in the middle or just stick where they are at. A counter offer of $152,000 makes no sense. He was acting like a little kid playing a grown up's game.
"I am not mad," I said finally. "I am just a little surprised at your decision. You were so anxious to sell that house. I just assumed that if someone offered you anything above your minimum required profit margin that you would jump at it." And, I thought to myself, if you would have just taken that damn offer, we would be celebrating right now instead of arguing about the merits of the 152.
"Sometimes I am going to make stupid decisions that you don't agree with," the Boy said. "And you might get angry at me. But I still love you."
"I know," I said. "This whole thing is just stressing me out. These people made you a very reasonable offer for the house. What if they don't take your counter offer?" I knew it was an unfair question, but I could not resist asking it.
"If I fucked it up, then so be it." The Boy answered. "There is another guy who liked the house over the weekend so if this offer falls through I can just wait and see what he wants to do." It was astonishing that the Boy was able to shrug his shoulders and move on when he had the opportunity to get this thing closed out once and for all.
It was just one more reminder of the differences between us and why I would never want to get married to the Boy or merge our finances together. I always feel guilty that my first instinct is to bail out whenever there is a conflict in our relationship. The Boy seems to think it is something that we can just work through.
Needless to say it was a long night. The other realtor never responded to the Boy's counter offer. And as much as we both tried to focus on other things, it was hard to ignore the elephant in the room. By the next morning, the tension had settled. When we left work work I hugged the Boy and told him "I am sorry I gave you a hard time last night. I really do hope they accept your offer."
"Me too," the Boy smiled. Later that afternoon, I got a text from the Boy. The other couple did accept his offer verbally and they were going to put it in writing after the Thanksgiving holiday.
I think both of us were relieved at the outcome. And now that it's over I have to wonder what I was so upset about in the first place. The Boy has a right to make his own decisions. If he wanted my advice about how to handle the offer, he would have asked me. The beauty of my entire philosophy of not getting married and not living together is that each person is supposed to have the autonomy to do whatever they feel is best without suffering harsh criticism from the other person.
I have always been very conservative when it comes to money. The Boy is the one who went out and took a chance to buy the Project House in the first place. If he had asked for my advice at the time, I probably would have discouraged him and said it was too risky. Now he is about to make thousands of dollars in windfall profits.
This week was a gentle reminder of my number one relationship rule. Loving someone is important, but respecting them is even more important. If I am going to have a successful relationship with the Boy then I need to back off and let him make his own choices. Especially in financial matters that do not involve me.
When I spoke with the Boy later that night on the phone, he told me that when he looked at the offer more closely he realized the couple had also asked for the seller to pay their closing costs. "I guess I should have countered at $155,000," he said.
And I didn't say a word.