Adventures In Ill-Timed House Hunting, Part 1: Keep A Sharp Watch

With a record high median home price in June, mortgage rates threatening to climb further, low inventory in popular neighborhoods, and Nashville’s new “it city” status, WPLN’s Mack Linebaugh is experiencing first-hand what it’s like to be a buyer in a seller’s real estate market:

These key lock boxes have become sophisticated in recent years. Agents scan their ID card before entering a code. Apparently, the boxes also have a data connection and can be operated remotely. Mack Linebaugh/WPLN

These key lock boxes have become sophisticated in recent years. Agents scan their ID card before entering a code. Apparently, the boxes also have a data connection and can be operated remotely. Image: Mack Linebaugh/WPLN

Currently in Nashville, you cannot house hunt casually or on your own schedule, at least not in Inglewood where my wife Holly and I are looking. You must be watchful, ready to act, like a frog in the grass waiting for a tasty-looking bug to fly past.

It’s 7:15 am on a Monday following a weekend spent mostly at home showings. Holly is at Shelby Park, running with a friend in a torrential downpour. I’m on Wren duty until she returns. Wren is our 21-month old daughter who’s been hauled in and out of the car at least 50 times since our house hunt began.

She’s a happy toddler who’s generally fun to be around, but our efforts to make home showings seem fun to her have failed. She’s fussier at each successive one, constricted in our arms in the homes of strangers who keep fragile things on low shelves. Inevitably, she squirms loose and grabs something, or she charges toward an open basement door, koi pond, or the edge of an un-railed deck. She’s fallen in a puddle on someone’s patio and tripped on a stranger’s threshold, banging her head on the doorjamb. Each trauma leads to a meltdown that tends to herald the end of showing. Maybe we should start looking only at empty single-story homes with soft carpet and padded walls.

One of the more relaxing showings because there isn't anything for our toddler to break and few ways she can hurt herself. Image: Holly Clark Linebaugh

One of the more relaxing showings because there isn’t anything for our toddler to break and few ways she can hurt herself. Image: Holly Clark Linebaugh

What’s New?

We receive an automated email from RealTracs just after midnight each day. Our agent set it to send us everything listed in the past 24 hours within tailored parameters of price and zip code. Each morning is a mini-Christmas of expectation. We check the inboxes on our phones before we get out of bed. Once last week, I caught Holly on hers in the middle of the night when she couldn’t sleep.

This appears to be the only way we’ll find something we want before it’s gone. Each house we’ve found on real estate sites like Zillow or Trulia has been under contract before we’ve had a chance to see it. Apparently, the day or so it takes for a new listing to appear on those sites is longer than the good ones stay on the market. An article in the Nashville Ledger says that lining up buyers before houses go on the market has become common practice. Like landing a job or a record deal, buying a home is about who you know.

Ok, We’ll Bite.

A new listing in the Rosebank area appeared in this morning’s email. I’m at the point when this brings up mixed feelings. Yes, we want to find our future home. But we’d rather not squeeze yet another showing into our already busy schedules just to be beaten to the punch again or fooled by a tiny kitchen that was photographed with a room-enlarging fisheye lens. Is there an official diagnosis for house hunter’s fatigue? We are starting to get more protective of our time.

Giving it the "drive by test" Image: Mack Linebaugh/WPLN

Giving it the “drive by test” Image: Mack Linebaugh/WPLN

This house is about the right square footage but there are no pictures posted online yet, so I feel obliged to give it the drive by test. This entails rolling past slowly to assess exterior looks and general vibe. I’m a total amateur but can generally tell if the roof and HVAC look new. If it’s a Ranch house, I hope it won’t be “too ranchy” for Holly, who pictures us in an old Bungalow like the one we’re renting in Lockeland Springs (a neighborhood we love, but where we cannot afford to buy).

If it passes the drive by test, I’ll have to call our agent and schedule the soonest possible showing. A new listing in 37216 is fresh meat to a feeding frenzy. If this house has a good layout and no major problems, the seller is likely to receive several offers before tomorrow.

I ask Wren if she wants to walk outside under the umbrella. She thinks umbrellas are amazing so I figure this is likely to entice her into the car again. Before she can think to complain, I’ve got her strapped in and we’re headed for Rosebank.

When we arrive at the address at around 7:25, an SUV with Illinois plates is already idling outside. Holly later confesses to driving by a half an hour later and seeing a car from Oregon doing the same. It looks pretty good. A coat of paint and some landscaping could take it to the next level.

We call our agent to schedule a showing and get a 2 pm slot. How many eager buyers will come and go before 2? I try and put that out of my mind.

…to be continued

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