I snapped back to reality and set to work. We put an offer in. I think the listing agent and the sellers were a bit shocked too. Their attorney didn’t even know he was still representing them on the matter! We negotiated the LOI pretty quickly, and I got nearly everything I asked for including the purchase price, my due diligence periods, and more. I was enthralled, to say the least. If you were there, you’d have actually seen me drop to the floor unable to put words together. To me, in that moment, the property was mine. I knew I still had a long way to go, but if I wanted it — it would be mine. Based on the quick negotiation of the LOI, I was hopeful that the purchase would be relatively quick and painless. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Signing the LOI was deceptively easy. E-mails were sent out to lawyers to draw up a contract on September 17, 2019. While we began contract negotiations, we also began our due diligence. While due diligence wouldn’t start until we’d actually signed a contract, some aspects of due diligence could make or break the deal, and I didn’t have time to waste. It took nearly a month to negotiate the contract back to the original terms of the LOI, and we finally signed a contract on October 17, 2019.
With the contract signed, our due diligence period officially began. Our due diligence was divided into two 45 day periods, with the first dedicated to gaining our zoning approval. We’d spent the last few weeks conducting research and gathering documents to submit our zoning permit. On October 25, 2019, we submitted our zoning permit application. On November 11, 2019, we received our zoning permit approval! By November 18th, the survey had been completed. By November 22, the Environmental Phase 1 was completed too. We’d barely entered into the second 45 day period, and we were done. I was ready to buy. Now, we would wait.
It took the remainder of November, all of December, January, and most of February for the sellers to make good on their end of the deal; they needed to deliver a clean title. They were underwater on the property. Every time one title issue was resolved, it seemed like three more popped up in their place. We received e-mail after e-mail stating that certain issues would be resolved by the end of the day. That day turned into weeks and months, over and over again. I was losing faith. Would I ever be able to close? I wasn’t so sure. The sellers repeatedly assured me that they were working on resolving the title issues, but I wasn’t seeing any results. New documents repeatedly popped up to contradict their promises. I didn’t trust them, but I was stuck. At this point, it was far too late to begin this process on another property. I didn’t even have a different property in mind. Besides, this property was perfect. I was stuck, so we continued to trudge forward. It took hours and days of phone calls and e-mails to eke out even a fraction of progress on one of the dozens of issues to be resolved.
Meanwhile, I trudged forward on our construction plans. I was losing faith that we’d even be able to buy the property, but I had to move forward assuming that I would. If we closed on the property without architectural drawings, there would be no way for us to finish construction in time. If our plans were delayed due to the sellers, that was one thing. It was a completely different issue for me to cause the delays myself. I wasn’t going to do — or not do– anything that might hinder our plans to open in September.
Our closing date was postponed again and again. Eventually, my attorney served a time of the essence to the sellers in a futile attempt to force closing. He set a closing date of February 28th, threatening to terminate the deal if they didn’t show up to closing. As the day drew closer, I doubted that we would close. I was growing anxious and irritable. It didn’t seem possible. So many issues were still left to be resolved. I’d heard the sellers say time and time again that they’d be resolved by the end of the day. The first time they said that was months ago.
The title agency needed at least two days to reconcile everything before closing. At least, that’s what I was told. According to our timeline, they’d need everything resolved by February 26th. February 26th came and went. Could we still close? At this point, everyone was exhausted, and no one wanted this to drag on longer. They’d make it work. Thursday was chaotic. Would we close? Where did we stand on things? There were still issues to be resolved. At 12:56 PM on Thursday, February 26th, I received the HUD. I called my attorney, did this mean we could close? He still wasn’t sure, but we were going to prepare all of the documents just in case. They’re still working on resolving one last lien and negotiating a credit for property damage that had occurred while we’d been under contract. I felt like I deserved some compensation for the thousands of dollars I’d spent on attorney’s fees too, but at this point, I just wanted to close. Besides, there wasn’t anything left in the purchase price to give me.
The workday is almost over. Are we closing tomorrow? If we are closing, I need wire instructions. I need to get to the bank before it closes at 5 PM. We still aren’t sure. By 4 PM, I’m in a bind. If I don’t set up a wire transfer, we can’t close. It’ll take me twenty minutes to drive to the bank. I can’t wait. I drive to the bank, and I sit and wait. I sit in the parking lot and wait. At 4:34 PM, I receive an e-mail with wire instructions. We’re closing tomorrow. I run into the bank and authorize a wire. Wire transfers of this magnitude need to be approved by a manager. The manager isn’t available. We put the wire transfer in, and they tell me that they’ll make sure it gets reviewed and approved today. I stress that this can’t be delayed. The bank closes, and I leave.
On Friday, February 28th, I woke up filled with anxious jitters. It’s closing day! We’re closing at 11 AM. Ms. Voit and I decide to go out to breakfast before closing. As we eat breakfast, I check my bank account to make sure the wire transfer went through. The wire transfer didn’t go through. It’s 9:30 AM. I gulp down the remainder of my coffee, pay, and rush out the door. Now, we were really tight on time. Now we need to stop at two banks. I didn’t have enough notice before closing, and I wasn’t able to consolidate all of the funds into one account. As such, Ms. Voit drops me off at one bank while she races to the other.
I’m thankful when I see the same kind lady who’d helped me yesterday at the bank. She knows exactly why I’m here. I sit down, and she starts making calls. The manager at this branch never approved the wire. She starts calling other branches to find an available manager. After what seems like an eternity, she finds an available manager to approve the wire transfer. I call Ms. Voit. She’s still at Santander, so I walk across the street to get more coffee from Wawa. I need it. I pace anxiously back and forth while I wait for her to return.
When I arrive at my attorney’s office, my realtor isn’t here; he’s on vacation. Months of work went into this deal, and he won’t be here to see us close. The seller’s agent and a representative from the title company are there. The sellers didn’t even bother to show up. They signed and sent the papers this morning. My attorney emerges, greets us, and leads us into the conference room. We sit and wait some more. We’re still waiting for the wire transfer to come through. We make small talk while the representative from the title company refreshes their bank account. We wait. The money’s left my account, but it hasn’t shown up in their account yet.
Finally, the transfer goes through. I sign a few papers. The last lien hasn’t technically been resolved yet, but the title company agrees to take responsibility anyways. As long as they’ll issue my title insurance and take responsibility for it, I don’t really care. The realtor hands me some keys. There’s even a key to the old abandoned house on the property. I’m surprised. I’d doubted that they’d even had keys to the house. I jingle the keys around in my hand. It’s mine at last. We made it. Receiving the title itself is anti-climatic. It’s within a bundle of documents, a document that looks like I could easily recreate it in Microsoft Word. I spent nearly six months working to get this document, couldn’t it look just a bit more impressive? I wanted something frame-worthy! Nevertheless, it’s mine.
We have students this afternoon, but we take some time to drive to HEROES’ future home. I take a minute to bounce around the vacant musky hallways. It’s mine. I take a minute to soak it all in, and then we’re off. Back to work.
Finding a Contractor
For the last few months, I’ve been able to blame others for delays. Now, it’s my responsibility to make sure we’re ready to open in September. No rest for the weary. I still didn’t have a contractor. I’d met with four or five contractors over the last few months. Some of them had given me bids; others had not. Some of these bids were outright outrageous. By the time we’re ready to close, I’m fairly certain I’ve found my contractor. I wasn’t going to sign a contract until closing; I couldn’t bind myself to a contract without knowing the building was mine.
My deal with the contractor falls through. After closing, I ask him for a final contract to sign. As I talk to him, I feel uneasy. His confidence should make me feel better, but instead it starts to make me uneasy. Still, I was referred to him by someone I trust. I give that individual a call while I wait for a contract to arrive in my email. He assures me that I can trust the contractor. Ok. I’ll give him a try.
I haven’t received a contract yet, but I know I’ll need copies of my architectural drawings to submit the permits. I call my architect and request “signed and sealed” copies. I call the engineer for the same. I pick the plans up from my architect curbs-side. He leaves them in a bag on the porch. My engineer says that he’ll have them for me in two days. Okay.
Meanwhile, my back molar is causing me debilitating pain. I can’t eat. I’m struggling to talk to these people on the phone. I’m already on antibiotics thanks to the new tele-doc services, but they aren’t helping. It’s time to face my worst fear — the dentist, in the peak of COVID-19 nonetheless. The last thing I want to do right now is to have a dentist inches from my face, but it’s not optional at this point. After dozens of phone calls, I’m able to get an appointment the next day.
I opt to have the tooth extracted. A root canal just doesn’t seem in my tolerance zone for dentists, and it’ll require more visits than an extraction. Who knows if or when I’ll be able to go back to the dentist? Thanks to the help of some laughing gas, I survived my tooth extraction. My engineer calls me several times during the process. I pick up the phone on the third call; the dentists has just finished up. The dentist scolds me. I need to rest today and tomorrow, he says. He’s trying to go over post-op plans. My plans are ready to be picked up; I don’t have time to spare. I’ll rest when I have signed and sealed plans and a contractor.
I stop at my engineer’s office on the way home. The plans aren’t ready. He’s on the phone. I wonder why he called me to pick them up if they aren’t ready. The space where my tooth once was hurts. It’s pouring outside. His office is not socially distancing at all. There are four people crowded into a tiny room. The secretary offers to get me a seat to wait. No, thanks. I’ll come back, I say.
I arrive home, and I check my e-mail. The contractor has sent me a contract. At first, I’m enthralled. I’ll be able to submit my permit application today! Then, I start to read the contract. It’s more than 100k over what we’d agreed upon on the phone. It’s vague, and it excludes several major aspects to the construction. No deal. I’m not negotiating this any further. I don’t trust him, and that’s important.
Nevertheless, I pick up the plans from my engineer later that day. At least I’m prepared for when I do sign a contract. I need to do that as soon as possible.
I’ve been referred to another contractor multiple times, Sodano contracting. I still hadn’t received an official bid from him, but he received high praises from multiple other people that I trust. I call him. I need a bid ASAP. If he can beat or match the price I received from the other contractor, he has a job.
I’m anxious to get started. The property is a mess. I can’t start demolition, but I can make the property look a bit better. I buy my very first lawnmower. Ms. Voit and I get to work. I mow the dead waist-high brush, and Ms. Voit rakes away the debris. I hire Victory Junk Removal to clear the trash from the property. I put up a temporary sign. Within a week, the property was almost unrecognizable. Passer-bys marvel at the changes, and so do .