With a new router (and new blog header!) I can finally get to the full story of the sheriff sale. Remember folks, one of my bachelor's degrees is in English writing, so I've been known to throw brevity out the window at times.
A few weeks ago my husband and I went to our first sheriff sale. We had only the vaguest idea of what was about to occur. We had a restless night behind us, and limited hopes for the hour ahead of us. In the year preceding we had lost two houses that seemed far more certain than this one, but they say hope springs eternal. And so, just in case, locked in the glove compartment of the truck was an envelope bulging with hundred dollar bills.
We had arrived at the sheriff’s office an hour before the sale was to begin. Both of us were wishing we had had the chance to go to an earlier sale, just so we would know how the whole sheriff sale process works. As I watched other people come in and sit down, I tried to remind myself that it would be okay if the bank outbid us. If that happened the house would eventually end up being listed with a realtor, and we had been patient already, we could be patient some more.
At about two till ten a podium was brought out and sat in a front corner of the lobby. And promptly at ten o’clock the sale began. Two women from the sheriff’s staff ran the sale. There were general announcements – bids would be made by raised hand, appraisals had been made without interior inspections, typical "buyer beware" language – and then it began. As we had talked the night before, my husband had expressed the hope that the property we wanted would sell somewhere in the middle of the sale. But that morning, at 10:02, the first address read from the podium rang familiar in my ear and I realized that this was it.
Twenty-four hours earlier I was almost dancing around. We had transferred the required 10% of the appraised value from our online savings account and Charles was going to pick up the cashier’s check after work. I was going to meet the loan officer at the bank when I got off work at 4pm, but his earlier email had assured that we should go ahead and bid on our dream home without worrying about the financing. We knew the bank that had foreclosed on the current owners would bid the property up but we were prepared to go to 96% of the appraised value, and I figured our chances were pretty good.
That was twenty-four hours before the sale. It was 18 hours before the sale that the dominoes started to fall.
First Charles called me on his cell. He was at the bank, but the transfer from ING wasn’t there. He sounded frantic. From my computer at work I logged on to ING. I saw the transfer made on Sunday, just after we had gotten home from visiting the property we hoped to buy. And then I saw the entry from Monday, "Requested Account Closed, deposit returned". In the headiness of Sunday afternoon we inadvertently transferred the money to an account with our old credit union, an account that had been closed for nearly a year. ING caught the mistake and returned the funds but as I stumbled the words out to Charles over my cell phone at 3:50 that afternoon, knowing the money was still there provided no relief. ING requires three business days to transfer funds, and we needed that money by 10am the next morning.
The woman at the podium read out the case number, street address, and case caption for the property. It felt surreal. She read out the appraised value and said that bidding would begin at 2/3 of the appraised value. And she asked if there was an opening bid of 2/3. In my mind I couldn’t believe this was happening already and it seemed that everything in the room was in slow motion. But it was only a few seconds before my husband raised his hand beside me.
I was in the parking lot pacing circles around the truck when Charles met me after getting off work at 4:00. We made a couple harried phone calls before I left for my meeting with our loan officer. Charles went back to our credit union, prepared to drain our checking account. We would still need to find $8,000 before the next morning. I was 10 minutes late to my meeting with the loan officer, and the preceding 20 minutes had left my mind almost numb. Somehow it seemed appropriate that the details I was hearing now only added to my sudden despair. Portfolio loans with hoops to jump through, concern that the house might not appraise high enough for us to roll renovation costs into our loan (no matter if we could afford the monthly payment).
It was a dark night. Through cell phone calls with my mother (who was visiting my brother 1300 miles away) we determined that my parents had $8,000 they could loan us. Over the phone, she guided me through their on-line banking and the money was transferred into one account. My father arranged for someone to cover for him at work the next morning so that he could meet me at 9am at their bank, and sign for the cash withdrawal.
But as Charles and I considered the financing, we wondered if the efforts of my parents would end up being for naught. We had decided to bid up to 96% of the appraised value. It was a figure we were comfortable with, even with the repairs the property needed. But we had assumed on a conventional, 30 year fixed rate mortgage. My meeting that afternoon had been dominated by words like "adjustable" and "appraisal", and coupled with our suddenly AWOL 10% downpayment, the mood that night was impossibly grim. After much agonized discussion, we decided to drop our bidding limit to 79% of the appraised value.
The woman running the sale asked Charles to identify himself for the record. Somehow his voice sounded firm and confident. He spelled our last name while the second woman at the podium wrote diligently. The first woman restated Charles’ name and the amount of his bid. There was only a pounding vacancy in my head. No words formed into thoughts, but it was a prayer anyway. At the podium she asked if there were any other bids.
....to be continued. Part 2 here.