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The Dreamy But Untouchable Fourplex

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Throughout Rookie Roosts Week, we'll be hearing from first-time homebuyers with tales both awesome and terrible (the terrible ones will compete in our horror stories contest for a chance to win a $2,500 home store gift card - standard contests rules apply). Got a first-time homebuying story? Hit us up at the tipline. Today's tale: a horror story that ends with a happy twist.

I'd been looking for a place to buy for months. Eventually, after seeing a few 4-plex apartment buildings, I realized that buying a place with rental income could be a way to afford a somewhat nicer place than my budget would allow for a stand alone house. My realtor showed me several, but none were in very good shape. The last one we visited had three individual units, and one had a tree growing through the roof in the center of the living room! I passed on that one and as we and the selling realtor were walking to our separate cars, he called out to me and handed me a piece of paper with an address on it. It turned out to be right near where I had been renting a place in a neighborhood I liked very much. I drove by and saw a fantastic two story square building set far back from the street by a huge and beautiful old garden.

I immediately called my broker and together we met the agent from the day before at the property. It turned out to be occupied only by an elderly man who hardly spoke. The place had dramatic views and all three unoccupied units had been cleaned and painted and locked shut for several years. There were windows all around, that garden, and a 4 car garage with ample parking. So I wrote a full price offer on the hood of my agent's car and handed it to the seller's agent. Anxiously we waited to hear back from them. When, after 24 hours, we'd heard nothing, I was a nervous wreck! This was my first offer on a house, and I'd taken the risk at a much higher price than I originally planned. Why weren't they calling back? Did they have another buyer? After 3 days of silence, we reached the other agent and he said the following: "The owner was taken ill suddenly and is in the hospital. He can't respond to your offer. And, by the way, that old man you saw in the house is not the owner." There was nothing we could do! I felt cheated and disappointed and I didn't believe what I'd heard!

So I stalked the place! I checked a couple of times daily for a week or so and noted that the trash went out on schedule, the roses were watered and the lights went on at night. I grew to love the building and began to imagine living there. So one afternoon, without telling my agent, I walked up to the door and rang the bell! I heard slow steps come down the stairs to answer the door and it opened. The smiling gentleman I'd seen the week before greeted me. I asked, "Do you remember that I came and met you last week?" "Yes", he said. "Did you have a chance to look at the offer I made?" "Uh, no". "Do you own this building?", I asked. "My niece handles all my affairs". "Oh, what is her name?", I asked. "Why don't you come upstairs and I'll write down her name and number".

I called the niece and got a shocked response. "That god-damned realtor! The house is not on the market and we have many things to take care of before I can get my uncle's affairs in order to sell."

So now the notes and phone calls began to fly! My realtor called me saying that she'd been admonished by the head of the other agency. Didn't I know better than to approach the man myself! I loved the building and if I wanted any chance to buy it, I'd better do some quick fence mending. I wrote an apologetic note to the other realtor, thinking that I'd need to be in her good graces....and I wrote a careful and expressive note to the niece. After that, I couldn't make a move, except to reluctantly keep looking for a property....there was no guarantee that this one would become available any time soon.

At least 6 months later I had made an offer on another house on the next hill over from this property. As my realtor and I waited around the yard while the inspector checked out this property, I could see through the trees the original place which I'd love so much. Later, the inspector told me about the new place that he'd never seen a house that was closer to falling down. I decided to pass on that deal and we returned home--I to my rental and my agent to her office. A half hour later, my agent called to tell me that the original seller's realtor had called while we were out and that they were putting the house I loved so much on the market that week! I again made a full price offer (they had raised the price a bit) and I closed before the house hit the market. I was never happier and felt like I had made a very lucky deal.
· Anatomy of One Couple's First Home Downpayment [Curbed LA]