Holy cow! Did you guys read the story in the Bangor Daily News this week about the woman, Erlene Morgan, who was driving down the road and saw a sign for a real estate auction? She made a u-turn, parked the car and walked out a few hours later with a 156 acre golf course and country club. Talk about impulse buy!
Now that’s a woman after my own heart. It’s definitely something that I would do.
Well, I don’t have half a million dollars sitting in a checking account and my only sudden u-turns involve side-of-the-road furniture and free cats. But if I could, I probably would.
You see, I have owned a bit of real estate in my adult life and I haven’t always acquired it in the most conventional ways. My first house was purchased in southern California in the 90’s. It was built in the ‘Spanish Eclectic’ style in the 1920’s and had an ocean view. It also had beautiful coved ceilings, ornate door knobs and a turret. Yes. The house had a turret! I had to have it.
At the time, it was crazy to think about buying a house — my new husband was unemployed and I was making barely more than minimum wage managing a juice bar. Our Realtor assured us that he ‘knew someone’ who could make it happen. I don’t remember the details and I’m sure that our mortgage broker did nothing illegal, but I remember that she may have somehow given the lenders the impression that maybe my husband was a small business owner. This, of course, was back in the day when lenders were throwing money at people. I know that would never fly now. (Although I do understand how people could easily get upside-down in their mortgages).
Anyhow, we qualified for a loan with an crazy-high interest rate since we were high risk borrowers. But I faithfully paid the mortgage payment every month and a year later, we were able to refinance to a more traditional loan. I realize that we could have gotten in a lot of trouble – as many Americans did when the housing market dipped, but thankfully it all worked out okay.
Probably my biggest impulse buy was the time that I purchased a home in another country…. sight unseen…. using a credit card (well, sort of). I was calmly sitting in front of my computer, probably procrastinating, and started looking at real estate web page in Nova Scotia. The US dollar was strong and oceanfront property was affordable. I printed out a few real estate listings and called the real estate agent. An hour later, I had made an offer on the tiniest of the properties – five acres of oceanfront and a small cottage (with recent updates, the agent assured me).
I packed up my Subaru and young daughter, bid farewell to my husband and son and headed up north to see what exactly I had purchased. It was my first trip to Canada since I was a teenager and my first trip across the border with a child. We had taken the Cat from Bar Harbor (my first of many ferry trips to NS, and probably the worst — you know the crossing is going to be rough when they hand out the barf bags as you board). I remember vividly cleaning child puke off of Sky Precious, the Cabbage Patch doll). Immediately off the boat we were pulled over while going through customs where I was questioned as to why I was taking a young child across the border without my husband. I didn’t know that you are supposed to have some documentation to prove that you are not a kidnapper. My daughter got us out of there quickly by sadly looking up at the customs agent and announcing, “I threw up all over Sky Precious and it’s past my bedtime”. Thankfully, the customs agent photocopied all of my information including our return ferry ticket and sent us on our way.
The next morning, the Nova Scotia sky was blue and we headed towards our new cottage. The drive was amazingly scenic, colorful and picture perfect cottages dotted the hills overlooking the ocean. Our new cottage, on the other hand, was not quite as updated as had been suggested. Pink shag carpet covered the floors and the walls were a cacophony of competing wall paper patterns. Later we would find charred beams from a fire holding up the floor as the bathroom (a 1970’s addition) gradually sank towards the bay, dropping acoustical ceiling tiles on your head as you showered. It’s now been 13 years, and we’re still working on the house. The handyman we hired that first year, Chip, is still working on it during the off seasons. If you’re old enough to remember Murphy Brown, Chip is our Eldin the Painter who arrived and never left. Chip is working on the bathroom this spring, by next spring it will probably be time to paint again.
Although those were probably the two most unconventional ways I purchased real estate, I’ve been creative in many of them. I’ve done 1031 tax exchanges. I’ve considered bidding on a house up for tax auction (but I chickened out after I actually saw the house in person). Am I done buying houses? Probably not. I also like collecting stuff. Old, vintage and antique stuff. And I always run out of room.
What’s the craziest thing that you’ve every purchased on impulse? Come-on, I know I’m not the only one. Let me know!