Tips on Buying a house in Brooklyn part 3 / by greg brophy

How do You Say FU in Brooklyn or Learning the Local Vernacular

It a cold winter night and our broker shows us a few houses in Bedstuy and Crown Heights. The first two house we really no good and the Agent turned to us and said “I have a house, it’s still being renovated and is not on the market yet but will be soon.” They key to finding a good place in Brooklyn is having an agent with connections in the neighborhood. Our Agent went to the same synagogue as the seller of the house. We pull up to the house and it was promising, three stories with a basement. The outside was in ok condition but we were told they would be redoing the outside of the house as well. It was a fake red brick. We walked into the second floor where the master bedroom would be. It was covered in a pink shag carpet and looked pretty bad. Eni gave me this look like she wanted to just leave, but I said wait, lets see. We walked through the house and saw 3 bedrooms upstairs and a huge open living room and kitchen downstairs. There was very little there, just a large empty hole. Next we went to the basement, which was a little short but had cool brick walls and we were told they were going to finish the ceiling with sheet rock. It can be very helpful to see a house in this stage before they are able to hide all the problems. I looked at the beam and it seemed like it was in pretty good shape. I could see the pipes, but it did not mean much to me at the time. We finally went upstairs and saw the two-bedroom apartment. It was a pretty good size and very nice, or at least better than what we were currently living in. 

I managed to get a minute alone with Eni to ask her what she thought. She was not very impressed with the place, but I told her to wait and lets see what it would look like done. I could visualize what it would look like and saw the potential based on all the other places we had seen. The next day, the agent took us to a place the seller had also renovated in Bushwick and it was ok compared to the other houses we saw, usually they use the cheapest appliances and cabinets from Home Depot. To give you an idea, if we were to do the kitchen ourselves, we would spend $25,000-30,000 at least. Most renovated houses look like they spent $10,000.

Eni was convinced and we put in an offer without seeing it fully done. Our agent told us that the seller wanted to wait for the place to be fully done before he accepted any offers. This is a good and a bad idea. Good because sometimes it’s the only way to get a place in a competitive market like Brooklyn. Bad because the seller has not incentive to make any more upgrades to the house and will finish it off as cheap as possible.  The other important thing we learned about biding on houses is that if the seller is asking for $800,000 he really wants $850,000. They hope that by offering it at a low price (I know, the irony is not lost on me) that more people will bid on it and raise the price. When it can time to make an offer, we bid on what the seller asked for, the agent was not very enthused. In the meantime while we waited for the house to finish; approximately two weeks, we looked for other houses. After about 5 more houses, we were still convinced that the one in Crown Heights was for us.

Finally the house is pretty much done and the broker submitted our bid. He came back saying that he really wanted $50,000 more. We were very disappointed because it was out of our budget and we really liked the place. I actually was pretty pissed off that the agent did not tell us this before. He said if he is going to have an open house next weekend and if he doesn’t get any offers he might sell to use. I believe they just suspected that we would say ok. The next day after talking it over with Eni, we told the broker thanks but no thanks. He was also pretty disappointed but I did not like the idea of not being taken seriously and being someone else’s backup plan. So I asked the broker to see more places. The next week we went to see three more places in Bedstuy and Crown Heights, two of which I found myself and forwarded to the broker. We saw all three of them and well surprise; all three were actually pretty good and all in our price range. So while discussing the places we found, the broker told us that the seller of the house we liked in Crown Heights would agree to our offer if we upped it 25,000 more and decided now. He would also not have the open house or accept any other offers. At that price, the place was now again within our reach and we said ok.

The next day I called Zack, the inspector to come and look at the place on Saturday. He gets there a little earlier than us, but I was surprised by the fact that they were still having an open house. Something the seller said he would not do. That should have been my first hint that the seller was less than honorable. Well we can play dirty as well. To begin with the two other real estate agents there were not happy that we had an inspector there during the open house, but they were not the brightest agents I have ever met either. We were upstairs with the inspector when a couple came to look at the house. Eni acted like she had never seen the place before and said to me in a very loud voice “Greg did you see how bad that leak is?” “This place has lots of problems!” and other similar comments when other buyers were around. Eni moved downstairs and heard one of the agents say to the couple ”Well these guys already have an inspector here and the deal is almost done.” What agent says that to people? What a dumbass. The couple was pissed and said to the agent “Why did you have us come here then?” We were all downstairs in the kitchen and the agent was eating fried chicken. The whole place smelled of greasy food. Not the kind of scent you want in a house you are trying to sell. Eni turned to him and said “You should pay me for letting you eat in my Kitchen.” The look on his face was priceless. She said I am going to buy this place and if you sell it to someone else I will kill you. When anther couple came in they had their back to Eni and the Real Estate agent was facing Eni. She made a motion across her neck like slitting a throat. I don’t think he knew what to do with us.

The inspector was finished and we went over his finding. The good news was that there were no termites he could see and no major problems. Most of them were pretty minor and what wasn’t, we asked the seller to fix. He agreed to most of the fixes. The only main problem was that the heating system had not yet been turned on and we would have to come back to check that. Two days later we went back for a final review and signed the papers. I gave him a check and told them that the money is being transferred from one account to the next and to wait a two days before cashing the check. 

This is a pretty long series, but I feel that it is important other people know what is happening so they don't get ripped off too. The other two parts are written and I will post them next week.