In Vancouver, the pursuit of your dream home can often turn into a nightmare, usually because it's also everybody else's idea of a dream home.
For the person who has spent months looking and finally finds the perfect house, only to enter into a bidding war, the stress can make the process nearly unbearable. This is a little story about why, when attempting to buy a hot property, patience can be a virtue.
In every market, there are those homes that attract the bidding wars. We all know them. They look like they came straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting – not architectural, but old-world, spacious, homey, and with a contemporary upgrade. That describes Heather White's house. Ms. White is the co-star of W Network's reality show, Cupcake Girls, and the co-owner of the Cupcakes bakery chain with Lori Joyce. Ms. White lives in one of the arts and crafts style homes that were built around the 1911-12 boom that happened throughout Vancouver and the North Shore. She's in North Vancouver, on a big corner lot that was divided in recent years, her house moved over to make way for a new house that's a respectable distance apart.
Like so many who walk into their dream home, it's hard not to have an emotional response that becomes an all-consuming need. Personally, I think it's the appropriate response to have if you're going to spend a big chunk of your life there. Unless it's completely outside your price range, it's the best response. A feng shui master told me that such feelings of ecstasy are even a sign of excellent feng shui, so there's that.
Three years ago, Ms. White and her husband, Trevor, who works at Deeley Harley Davidson Canada, had been looking for months. Her realtor gave them insider access to the Multiple Listing Service, and she was browsing the listings when she caught sight of a new one for a 2,830-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom house.
"I sent a text to my realtor, saying, 'I want to get into this house today. I need to make an offer.' I hadn't even told Trevor."
The agent told her to calm down and then booked an appointment at noon. But he wouldn't allow them to write an offer until the end of the day. The house had been tastefully renovated in a heritage style from top to bottom.
"As soon as we walked in the door, I knew it was perfect. It was beautiful, amazing, exactly what I wanted. I said to the realtor, 'This is great. You can tell the owners that I love the house,' and Trevor and the realtor were trying to play it cool, and saying, 'Shut up. Please.'"
They followed their realtor's advice and anxiously waited until 6 p.m. to present their offer. They had been pre-approved for a little more than $800,000. The asking price was $949,000, and their realtor felt they should come in at asking. It was a stretch, but they wanted it badly enough that even Trevor was willing to sell his bike to make it work. It was August, and the sellers didn't want to move out until the end of January because they wanted one last Christmas in the house. Although they had a baby on the way, the couple was willing to wait to take possession in the New Year. To make it yet more enticing, their offer didn't have any subjects.
That night, their realtor presented the offer and learned that there were three other offers on the table.
The bidding went to 11:30 that night.
"And then the realtor called us and said, 'Someone has outbid you.' I bawled," recalls Ms. White.
They were outbid by a mere $100. The realtor found out that the other bidders had arrived at the house with all their kids, and with tears in their eyes, begged the homeowners to sell the house to them. The owners felt pity for them and agreed, even though the offer was subject to financing.
Ms. White's realtor asked if they wanted to present a back-up offer in case the other offer fell through, and feeling dejected, Ms. White refused.
A few days later, while browsing in Ming Wo cookware store, the realtor called and asked Ms. White what she was up to.
"Buying knives to poke my eyes out," she responded sarcastically.
"He said, 'Stop. The financing fell through. They didn't get it. I need you to submit a back-up offer. Get to a fax machine.'"
They re-submitted their original offer of $949,000, exchanged signed documents, and the house was theirs. A week later, they attended a prescheduled open house to fully absorb the reality of their new purchase, which Ms. White already had plans to completely redecorate.
She remembers chatting with the selling agent in the kitchen when one of the open house visitors approached her. He asked if Ms. White was the new owner. "Yup," she responded. He then offered her $1.5-million for the house.
"Not a chance," she said.