After we made an offer on a house in May 2020, my uncle asked what the backyard looked like. “I don’t know. We didn’t see it,” I said. In fact, we only looked inside the house in Westchester, NY, for about 15 minutes before deciding to buy it. And we offered what the sellers asked for, even though the house it had been on the market for months.
If you’re like my uncle, you’re thinking, “This guy is an idiot.” Our real estate broker was not allowed into homes with us in May 2020 due to the strict and changing COVID-19 rules for brokers at that time. While we were looking at a different house that day, he was out on the phone arguing with another broker about these rules. But during our tour in August 2020, on closing day, I asked him what he would have told us if he had been able to see the house with us in May. Were we crazy to pay the offer price, I asked? It was quite the opposite. “You would never have gotten this house at this price not even three weeks later,” he said. I have been following the housing market on a daily basis in our town of Zillow and I see what it means. Almost all homes are now selling in a few days and for more than the asking price. Due to multiple factors, many people are looking to move, mortgage rates are near historic lows and there is a lack of home inventory, it has been a challenging year to buy a home. As a result, home prices have risen. House prices rose another 12% in February 2021, the biggest jump in 15 years. As an anecdote, I heard that many houses in our city are now being sold for cash. And as my colleague Jacob Passy recently pointed out, the most effective strategy in such a market, based on Redfin’s analysis of thousands of offers made between July 2020 and February 2021, is to enter with all cash. “Homebuyers offering all the cash almost quadruple their chances of winning a bidding war,” according to Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist. And many home buyers are doing things like buying houses without looking at them first and skipping inspections and appraisals. The fact that we saw the house, though of course not the backyard, and walked through it, makes us look complete in comparison. We also had the house inspected and appraised. This was the first time we bought a home (we had rented apartments in New York City for years) and we were able to see the benefit of many of the formalities involved when you get a mortgage, such as the inspection, as they essentially helped prevent us from committing A big mistake. Now about the car we bought. We left our city apartment in early March 2020 when it became clear that the pandemic was severe and was not going to subside. We drove a rental car to upstate New York to stay at a family member’s home, and the day after we arrived, the governor said that all essential businesses would close the next day. My girlfriend, who rented our Hyundai Elantra from Enterprise, said, “I like that car and I think I’ll buy one.” We had a 10 month old son and we lived in a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan. We were already thinking that we might need to live in a bigger place outside of the city; and for this, we probably need a car. I told him that Enterprise sells its cars after a certain amount of use and we are looking to buy the car that we rent. They told us we couldn’t, but we went to a website where Enterprise lists its cars for sale. There was an Elantra for sale near us, and we selected it the same way you can select a shirt online from Gap. He drove the rental car to the Enterprise sales lot and bought it about an hour before the store closed, and the statewide closure was about to begin. The next day we told some relatives about the purchase and they said: “This is not how it is done. Why not go to a dealership and try a few cars first? “But it was at a time when we understood the pandemic less than we do now, and it was unclear what was safe to do and what not. We bought the 2018 car for around $ 12,000 and it seems like we got lucky with our time. Used cars have skyrocketed since then, and the average cost of a used car is now over $ 20,000.I was also struck by when The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a story about how Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise sold so many of their cars. during the pandemic there is now a nationwide rental car shortage. It is important to add here that I am someone who will spend weeks online researching and comparing purchases even for a $ 10 item, so I give you full credit for these two large and relatively quick purchases to my girlfriend, who especially sensed the impending run of houses and got us into one just in time. About a month after we bought the car I took it to a Hyundai dealership for a multi-point inspection, and the car was in good shape, they said. So it worked, mostly. I spent over a month trying to remove the smell of cigarette smoke from the interior. I learned a lot about the powers of distilled white vinegar and baking soda. And most importantly in this case, how to replace the cabin air filter of a car.