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Sarah Makes An Offer Despite Serious Misgivings

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Sarah Buys a House chronicles Sarah DeGiorgis' journey along the road to becoming a property owner in West Philadelphia. If you have any tips or questions for Sarah, ping our tipline:

Last time I wrote, I'd gone back to the house I liked a couple times, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I basically had about a million different thoughts, some prompted by Curbed Philly commenters. My thoughts were: I like it! But I’ve only seen a few houses—should I wait until I see more? Why are these colors so ugly? Do I think this house is going to collapse? Are the floors under that ugly tile intact enough that they could be sanded and varnished into nice floors? Am I strong enough to even use one of those industrial sanders? Does the Tool Library have those? Why does the electrical box look so weird? What is the dropped ceiling in the dining room hiding? How old is the furnace? When was the roof last replaced?

A lot of these questions can (or should) be answered by what is called a seller’s
disclosure (Seller’s Property Disclosure statement, or SPD.) The seller’s disclosure is a state-standardized form that all sellers fill out. It asks about every part of the house—things like whether the roof has been replaced under the seller's ownership—and the seller fills it out to the best of their knowledge. But it’s not exactly, uh, informative. It depends on how much the seller wants to say. Some parts are left blank, which I assume is so that the seller can say that they didn’t lie on the disclosure. A quick Google search reveals that people do lie on these, unsurprisingly, but I’m pretty sure that would void the agreement of sale. All I learned from this disclosure was that the roof had been replaced (date left blank), the roof had leaked at some time and the electrical system is “unknown.” The seller says that they are not aware of any knob and tube wiring and I’m pretty sure that means that the whole system can’t be knob and tube, but I wouldn’t take that to mean that the electrical system is awesome. Oh, and since this is Pennsylvania: The seller is not aware of any strip-mining that may affect the property.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the seller’s disclosure. It didn’t help me with the age of the furnace (unknown) or the wiring. And it seems a bit strange that someone who wanted to sell a house would spend what looks to be about two minutes filling this out. It makes me think that the seller left a lot of the bad things out and they just want to get this house sold and get out of there as soon as possible. Not exactly the warm fuzzy feeling I was hoping for, to say the least.

As I was mulling over the house and the seller’s disclosure, my real estate agent called to tell me that there was an offer on the house and that if I wanted to make an offer I’d have to make one soon or else they’d probably take the other one (probably because I don’t know how much the other offer was.) I got this call on a Monday. I still liked the house (and had been thinking about it a lot) so I decided to make an offer. We scheduled a time for me to come in to write up the offer on the next day – Tuesday. I spent Monday night freaking out a little and wondering if I was making the biggest mistake of my life. Was I sure this was where I wanted to live? Should I hold out for something better? And most importantly: How much should I offer?

More updates later this week.