13: The Auction

13: The Auction

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

The Auction

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.

~Author Unknown

“We must be crazy to even consider buying a house we can’t see inside,” I told my husband Don. That morning we drank two pots of coffee as we sat at the computer, waiting to find out if we had the chance to do just that.

“Desperate is more like it,” he replied.

“Well, don’t worry.” I shrugged. “It’s about as likely as us winning the lottery.” In this case the prize would be our dream home and the end of a frustrating two-and-half-year search during a drought in the Seattle real estate market.

For thirty-three years we’d lived in suburbia, raised our children and remodeled our home to suit our growing family. Now we were empty nesters. We longed for the late day sunlight, blocked by the hundred-foot Douglas fir forest that had grown up around us. There were too many steep stairs inside and too much traffic outside. Our dream was to move to a neighborhood in the city with easy access to downtown, the Pike Place Market and the waterfront. Most of all, we wanted open skies and westerly sunset views over Puget Sound.

Two days earlier, driving away from another disappointing open house, we noticed a vacant home on one of our favorite streets. We still disagree about who actually spotted it. Perched on a hillside in the middle of the city block, the 1950s brick and wood bungalow with large picture windows looked perfect. It was the kind of house that never seemed to come up for sale.

As we pulled to the curb, I noticed an official-looking notice posted on the front door. “Maybe it’s for sale by owner?” I tried to contain my excitement. By the time we were up the front steps I’d fallen madly in love. “Look at the view — the mountains, the water — it’s exactly what we want.”

Don pointed to the note. “Yeah, but read this. It’s a foreclosure, going to an online auction. With this location and view, there’s no way we could afford to bid high enough.”

I wasn’t about to give up. “We have to try. Come on, we’re here. Let’s at least look.”

We skulked around the overgrown yard, peeking in the windows, trying not to draw attention to ourselves. “The hardwood floors are beautiful.” From the kitchen window I spied an old stove and worn countertops and linoleum. “It’s all original.”

Don checked out the exterior. “Brick and siding looks okay… gutters and downspouts are in good shape.”

I felt hopeful as we headed home. “It needs a lot of work inside, but we’ve done that before. With a foreclosure, there may not be much competition.”

He shook his head. “Contractors watch for them all the time. Some builder will nab it, do a quick renovation and sell it for a million.”

“We have to try.” When we returned home, I pulled up the online auction website to read the rules. We would have to submit proof of finances and a large deposit. But most daunting, the winning bidders were not allowed inside the house until they officially owned it!

Then I noticed the auction date. “Oh no! It’s the day after tomorrow. If we’re going to have any chance at all, we’ll have to act fast.”

I couldn’t sleep that night thinking about the risk we’d be taking if we actually got the winning bid. But my mind kept returning to our dream of living in that neighborhood, enjoying sunsets and unobstructed views away from the dark, gloomy woods. Back on the Internet the next morning, I found county records and a few old real estate photos that gave us an idea of the house history and floor plan. We already knew the kitchen and bathrooms needed remodeling but the rest was still a mystery.

I convinced Don to return to the house that afternoon. In spite of some concrete cracks and dingy paint, it appeared livable. We stood on the front porch and took in the view one more time. I turned to him. “I know we’d be starting over but look where we’d be living!”

He grinned. “Okay — we might as well try. I think I have one more remodel left in me!”

I couldn’t sit still the next morning watching the online auction site as the timer counted down to the noon closing. Bids rose slowly on the screen. One minute to go. My heart raced. The last bid we’d submitted still stood on the screen in front of us.

“The high bidders are all waiting to jump in right at the end, like us,” Don said, confirming what I’d been thinking. Our strategy was to hold back with our last and final offer right before the bell.

I counted the seconds off. No other bids came up. The bell rang and the screen went blank. Then the following words came across our computer:

CONGRATULATIONS — YOU ARE THE WINNING BIDDER!

I was stunned. When I finally caught my breath, I screamed out loud and did a happy dance across the kitchen floor. “I can’t believe it! We did it! We actually got the house!”

“Not so fast,” my ever-cautious husband responded. “It’s not over yet. Remember, our bid has to be accepted.”

A few minutes later a man from the auction company called. Our bid was below target. We had no idea what that amount was, but we would be notified in a week or so if the mortgage company currently holding the title was willing to accept it.

That week turned into three grueling weeks. I was sure we’d get the house. Don was sure we wouldn’t. The wait was killing us. Finally, Don received a call on his cell phone in the middle of a dental appointment. The caller told him our bid had been rejected. “But you’re very close,” he added. “You have one last chance to bid higher if you do it right now!”

Our dentist waited while my husband made the big decision that changed our lives. He offered the maximum amount we’d originally planned to bid during the online auction.

“That ought to do it!” the man said. “I’ll get back to you soon.”

Two days later, we got the good news — the house was ours! Then reality hit — we still had another month of waiting before closing, when we could actually step inside our new home.

When that day finally arrived, our Realtor received the key and walked us through our house. “No bad surprises,” Don said with a sigh of relief as we made our way through the main floor.

“Some good surprises too,” I added as we took the stairs to the basement. The garage was deep enough for two cars and a workshop, and there was plenty of space for guests and an exercise area.

We’ve been in our new home for six weeks now and there are many remodeling projects ahead. Don still teases me. “Aren’t you glad I spotted this place?”

“Yes dear.” It’s easy to agree with him now as I stare out the window at blue sky, snow-capped mountains and ferries gliding across Puget Sound. “Aren’t you glad that I pushed you to take the risk?”

~Maureen Rogers

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