We looked at a property last September that stood out as a candidate for a home purchase. It had a house on 7 acres of land, and we could afford the asking price… barely. Now that might be ringing all sorts of bells, and to be sure there is a laundry list of issues to go with the house and the property. But there was nothing else close to it in terms of something that we could afford within commuting distance of downtown St. Petersburg that actually had a livable, or not-too-much-repair-needed-to-make-it-livable, house plus some land so that we had a place to train the dogs in agility or flyball.
The property is in Palmetto, Florida, and runs alongside a railroad line easement. It used to be a strawberry farm, but more recently the former owners had used it as a place to dump lumber from a tree surgeon’s patients and to fix up stock cars. It was foreclosed on last year, so we bought it from the bank. That turned out to be a saga, and took about as long as the usual short sale, despite the fact that we were dealing only with the bank’s selling agent.
You see, we got under contract for the place early in November. But it turned out that the bank’s title was incorrect, something that our lawyer pointed out to us. They had failed to get the easement for ingress and egress recorded when they foreclosed. So their task was to go back to the court and get the title corrected. We thought that our closing could be done late in November, but we got word that the seller’s agent wanted to extend to December 18th. Our real estate agent discouraged us from having any contact with the seller or people working for the seller, so time simply passed by until mid-December, when the seller’s agent again proposed an extension, this time to December 28th.
That got us worried about the process. I went online and found that Manatee County had an excellent online site for their courts. I found out that there was no scheduled motion putting the issue before the court. We gave up on the notion of being passive buyers at that point. Diane got the lead for which law practice was involved in the case and contacted them. It turned out that the first request for a change to the title was incorrectly formed, and the clerk had kicked it back with instructions for correction. In the meantime, the lawyer at the firm handling the case had moved on to other employment, and had not passed on the file to anybody else there. So as far as anybody at the firm could tell, the file needed no action. It took Diane’s pushing to locate someone there who agreed to pick it up and finish the job. But at that point, the holidays were in full swing, and it became apparent that nothing further would be done before the end of the year. With that also ended our anticipation that we could at least camp out in the house as ours in order to claim homestead exemption for 2010. The next extension took us into January, and more interaction with the lawyer handling the title correction effort. But it became apparent that things would not move fast enough to close in January. The next extension put the closing date at February 15th.
The court did act before the end of January, but getting the change recorded took us into early February. At that point, the seller’s agent finally woke up to the fact that the property could be sold, and started pushing for a close as fast as possible. We, though, needed to have the corrected title before ordering a survey, and getting the survey scheduled was an adventure itself. With assistance from the title company, we settled on a closing date of February 24th and worked toward that. The survey team actually got out to the property on the 19th, and the title company got the completed survey yesterday. Today, we got our funding sent to the title company in two wire transfers and went to their office in Tampa to get our papers signed and notarized. About an hour after that, the title company told us that the sellers had signed off on the settlement statement.
We still have oodles of work to accomplish before we can actually move in. But we’ve managed to clear a huge hurdle. The place is ours to restore and make our own.