By Bruce Carlson

We’re buying a house. Our house in North Aurora has an offer and we have to move out by May 4th. Fortunately, Alecia, who was selling our house in North Aurora, did some research and gave us the contact information for a realtor, Jane Stone, in the area we were wanting to be in. So on February 17th, we headed down to O’Fallon Illinois, and met with Jane for the first time. As I wrote in an earlier article, as we were driving down I started to get sick. It turned out to be covid-19. Nice way to meet someone for the first time, here have covid-19.

Jane is a high-energy and positive-minded person. It was clear she was going to find us a house. She was putting together a list of homes to look at for the next day. The next day Karen, Scott, and the family went to look at houses. I was in no shape to go anywhere. They reported on what they saw. The houses were nice, but not quite what we were looking for. Jane was learning what we wanted in a house. We headed home on Monday. Jane and Scott fed us a steady stream of houses over the next couple of weeks.

Crazy nature of the housing market

As we received the listing from Jane and Scott, we soon became aware of the crazy nature of the market in southern Illinois. First was the distance. It was a 4.5-hour drive to southern Illinois. We couldn’t just jump in the car and see a house. To make things more interesting the desirable houses were selling in hours. We couldn’t get here in time to see the house and make an offer. One of the houses we saw in February is still on the market, but it was a disaster.

We planned our next trip down on March 5th. We went to Mass at St. Marys and I did the communion service at Franciscan Way. We headed south around 9:35 am. The first house was an open house Scott had sent us. It was a very tempting house. It pretty much had everything we were looking for, but the dining area was a little small. Getting our dining room table in the area would have been a challenge.

The next house was smallish and wasn’t what we were looking for. The third house was interesting in that we drove through an area that was rundown and impoverished area. The area the house was in was much newer and a nice-looking area. The price was good. The house wasn’t quite what we were looking for. What was the big issue was the mold. When I looked in the basement I could see black mold all over the outside joist of the foundation. The homeowner had backfilled dirt and mulch above the foundation. The joists were exposed to moisture and didn’t have a chance to dry out. We’ll pass, thank you.

The last house we saw for the day was for a young family stationed at Scott Air Force Base. I couldn’t help wondering if they may know our son, who is also in the Air Force at the base. The house was plain and small. Yet I felt the urge to try and figure out a way to make the house fit for us. Jane caught on to what I was doing and came up with her own ideas of what could be done. This bought out her favorite line, “I know a guy.” My reply was, “I can do that.” It became something of a running routine between the two of us.

A key date

March 17th was a key day in our search for a house. We had just gotten the offer for our house in North Aurora. We hadn’t scheduled any visits to southern Illinois. That morning Scott texted Karen a listing for a house that fit what we were looking for. I had just left for the office. She called me and we reviewed the listing. Before I had gotten through Aurora we had decided to head down to Swansea. Karen called Jane and said, “We’re serious about the house and we’re coming down. Get us in.”

As we were driving down I-55 we were on the phone with Jane doing a video walk-through. The house looked great. The location was close to Scott and Nachole. We put together a bit and told Jane to make the offer. We offered more than the listing price. We wanted it to be a killer offer. It turned out Jane knew the listing agent. They agreed the offer was solid and should be accepted. We had a viewing set to see our house at 6:00 pm. We arrived at Scott and Nachole’s house and waited.

The time came to see the house. Scott, Becca, Karen, and I went. It was similar to the first house we saw on March 5th, but a little bigger. Great basement, I could do a lot with it. The offer was formally sent. In a way, I expected to hear a reply in a few minutes. Of course, someone would have to show the offer, explain the details, do all the legal details, etc. We would hear something later tonight, we waited.

And we waited. We weren’t hearing anything. We checked with Jane and she said there were other offers. Our was a good one be patient. It was a long night. Saturday morning came and we were still waiting. We both began to wonder if it was going to happen. We talked to Jane a couple of times and it was becoming clear we did get the house. We were crushed. Our mood became very dark. I was ready for war. Karen looked like she just lost her best friend.

No place to move

We figured since our house was sold and we didn’t have any idea of when we would be moving, we had better look for storage. We drove around and looked at a couple of places. Somewhere during those visits, we talked to Jane. We found out about an escalator clause. We never had a chance. In theory, the seller could have taken our offer. But the escalator clause automatically outbid us. Why would the seller take less? I let Jane know I wasn’t happy. She commented after she lost two pants sizes.

We got back to Scott and Nachole’s. Originally we had planned to stay and celebrate the purchase of the house. But after losing the house, neither of us was in a good mood. We said we were sorry, but we weren’t good people to be around and were going back to North Aurora. What they said was very insightful. No, you need to stay here and we will be with you. We reluctantly agreed. They were right, they help us work through our grief. They are great kids. This is one reason to come down here.

We headed home on Sunday. I did talk with Jane and apologized for chewing her out yesterday. I think she understood. On the way home we did stop at an open house. It was another flip. It wasn’t at all something we would buy, especially at the price they were asking. We got home in time for me to make three trips to the storage place. The garage is filling up. We just need to find a house.

Over the next two weeks, we shifted to packing mode. I managed to get everything out of storage and back to the house. On March 26th Scott sent us a new listing. The description sounded very good. We reached out to Jane and she will do a video walk-through tomorrow at noon. I was at the office at noon. Karen was at home. Jane walked us through the house. It looked very promising. The only drawback was it’s 26 miles south of Scott and Nachole. By the time we finished the video walkthrough, it was clear we would be making a bid.

We would be making a bid

Karen worked with Jane to get the details together. We overbid by 15K. The biggest challenge to our offer was our house in North Aurora hadn’t closed yet. The way houses are selling downstate, you need cash in hand. Karen was able to get documentation showing the closing was solid. It was just a matter of waiting to sign the paperwork. The offer was sent and the waiting began again.

It took a day to get a reply, and the offer was accepted. It was contingent on no other offers and our closing. The one thing we didn’t want to happen was closing while I was in Bolivia. But to show we were serious about the offer we had to close on the new house just after we closed on the North Aurora house. Karen and the lawyer would have to work out the details. We drove down on the 30th. I was driving a rental truck with some of our stuff and the freezer. Karen met up with me at the Dixie truck stop. We got to Scott and Nachole’s in the early evening.

We unloaded the truck when we got there and returned it before dinner. The first step of moving has started. On Saturday we saw the house for the first time. The inspector was there and let us in. He was a really great guy. He was very impressed with the house until he saw the water heater. It was improperly installed. Apparently, it was a replacement for the original water heater. It was a dangerous hazard and needed to be corrected. This could be a deal breaker.

For the next three, almost four weeks, until the closing we held our breath. The seller did finally agree to repair the water heater. Karen was able to close on the North Aurora house and get the funds transferred to the mortgage company for the closing of our new house. We have a home to move into. On May May 3rd we walked into our new house. New Athens, Illinois is where we will make our new home.

We walked into our new house

Moving was an experience, but that’s for another article. We hope you are enjoying these articles and are willing to continue to follow along as we move through the process of selling our house, buying a new house (to become our home), and the adventures of learning about life in southern Illinois, Bruce & Karen.