We closed escrow on our house in Virginia on Friday morning. It's a little weird owning a house 5,000 miles away that you've never seen with your own eyes.
Many thanks to our mortgage broker, Dave Jones with Prosperity Mortgage, for the quick turnaround on financing our mortgage after the fiasco with USAA. Also many thanks to the wonderful people at Vanguard who were very understanding and helpful in getting our wire transfer done on time.
Closing on this house was not as smooth as our previous house-buying experiences. In addition to the mortgage fiasco that I've already written about, we had a couple of other minor bumps in the road in the last few days before closing.
When we thought we were using USAA for our mortgage, then the wire transfer from Vanguard was going to be an easy phone call because it would be going to our USAA account that was already set up for wire transfers. Unfortunately, when we switched away from USAA, we didn't anticipate the wire transfer would take longer because it was going to a new payee.
I called Vanguard on Wednesday to wire the money and was alarmed to find out I would have to fill out a wire transfer form and take it to a bank for a signature verification (sort of like a notary, but somehow more trusted and special) and then overnight-it to Vanguard in Pennsylvania.
Self, calm down. Take a deep breath. everything's okay. We can do this. We'll still make it on time. No problem. We just need to get moving on this. LW came and picked me up at work and we went to Navy Fed to get the signature verification stamp on the form.
We got that done pretty quick and headed to the FEDEX office at the airport. I figured being ON the runway that they'd put the envelope on the next airplane taking off. ...Nnnnnot so much. The FEDEX guy at the counter informed me that they don't guarantee overnight delivery from Hawaii.
Self, everything's not okay anymore. This is seriously bad news. FEDEX only guaranteed it would get to Vanguard by FRIDAY morning at 10:45. We were scheduled to close on Friday morning at 9 a.m.
I called Vanguard and explained the situation to them. I told them I got the signature verification stamp and the form was en route via FEDEX, but it wouldn't get there until Friday morning. The Vanguard representative put me on hold to discuss the matter with a supervisor. When he came back on the line, he agreed to accept a fax of the wire transfer form with the signature verification stamp and a copy of the FEDEX airbill. After they confirmed with FEDEX that it was a valid tracking number, they called me at my home phone number on Thursday and took a voice recording of me saying I authorized the wire transfer, and they processed the transfer that day.
My heroes! All's well that ends well. We look forward to getting to Virginia and getting to actually see our new house for the first time.
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It seems like most people we talk to are surprised that we would buy a house sight-unseen. I would think in the age of the internet, digital cameras, and GIS websites that it would become more common.
This is actually our second experience buying a house via the internet.
The first time we put an offer on a house sight-unseen was when we were moving from SOAC in Groton to San Diego. Since I grew up in San Diego, I was pretty familiar with the area. I had been browsing the realty listings on the internet and found an awesome house in a good neighborhood. When I emailed the realtor though, she said the house was already under contract. Bummer. Kept looking.
About two weeks later, still in Groton and browsing the realty listings again, I happened upon the same house listing. It seemed odd that the listing hadn't been removed from the internet. I wrote the realtor another email to ask if it was still under contract, and she wrote back, "It just fell out of escrow about an hour ago, would you like to see the house?"
My mom went and looked at the house, talking to us on her cell phone as she walked through the house. She and the realtor emailed us photos and a floor plan. We decided to jump on it and made an offer.
We had a "way out" in that there was the standard house inspection contingency. If there was a broken door latch, we could say, "No thanks," and back out of the deal. We already had a house-hunting trip scheduled over Veteran's Day weekend, so our house-hunting trip turned into a house-inspection trip.
That brings up sort of a funny story though...
WARNING: Tangent Ahead
We weren't the only people to place an offer on that house. There were two competing offers. The sellers were Navy and were transfering to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey where we had just come from. We figured they took our offer because we were Navy.
Fast forward to December. I graduated from SOAC and we were flying out to San Diego. My mom wanted to stock the fridge with some basic essentials like milk and juice so we wouldn't have to race off to the grocery store as soon as we arrived. She got to the house and was surprised to discover... there was NO refrigerator.
We called the realtor and she said the refrigerator wasn't included with the house. I said, "Oh yes it was! Look at the MLS listing!" The realtor admitted that she screwed up. She wrote "refrigerator" in the MLS listing, but the sellers had no intention of selling it and took the refrigerator with them.
In fact, and here's the real kicker, the realtor told us that the sellers chose OUR offer over the competing offer because we didn't ask for the refrigerator.
It all worked out though. The realtor gave us like $600 for a new refrigerator since it was her mistake. We chipped in some of our own money and got a pretty nice new refrigerator at Sears.
End of Tangent
I don't think I would be comfortable making an offer on a house sight-unseen in an unfamiliar area though. When we moved from San Diego to Ashburn, VA, I was going to be out at sea for my last 3 months on board, so while I was still in port, I helped LW with the movers and put her and the boys on a plane to DC to do the house-hunting in person.
That brings up another funny story, but I've already told that story in this post.
We didn't know if we'd be in Hawaii for more than a year, so we just lived in Navy Housing while we were here.
Now we're going back to DC. We're familiar with the Ashburn area. We're using the same realtor as last time. We found a house listed on the internet that we really liked and was listed for less than what we thought it was worth (based on analyzing recent house sales in the area). So we jumped on it.
Our friend Corey walked through the house for us and took videos with her flip video camera (thank you Corey!). It's a great house in a great neighborhood with good schools and close to our old church. It was too good a deal to pass up.
Maybe we're just crazy. Stay tuned for initial impressions of the new house in late September.