We finally closed on the house this week! That deserved an exclamation point. It seems like we have been talking about the house, writing about the house and spending lots of money on the house (architect, structural engineer, expeditor) without having actually owned the house. Now we proudly own a small percentage and the bank owns the rest.
Tip: don’t assume that the bank documents are all correct—check all the figures before you get to the closing. There is only so much small talk you can make during a 5 hour closing.
We had only one negotiation during the closing. The house was advertised as a legal two-family home but because it was built in 1899, long before the Department of Building Codes were around to torture homeowners, there was no Certificate of Occupancy. The house was listed as a one-family when it was built. When the seller’s family moved in in the 50’s they immediately started using it as a two-family (two separate families from the same extended family). Since we want to add an extension, we were told we need a C of O (to apply for one is costly and time consuming) but we also found out that we could get something called a Letter of No Objection from the City that basically says that it has no objection to it staying a two-family. The sellers submitted an application but it had not come in at the time of closing. Our lawyer negotiated a certain amount of money to be put into escrow (rather than delay the closing) in case the application was denied and we needed to file for a C of O ourselves. The seller agreed and we just negotiated on the amount.
Tip to buyers: find out whether your prospective house has a C or O or at least a Letter of No Objection well before you close (or at contract time ask the seller to provide one at closing). If you are thinking of purchasing a fixer-upper find out the codes in your city and what you will need to start renovating so that you will be armed with knowledge when you negotiate for that diamond in the rough because we all know, when it comes to renovations, time is money.
Luckily in our case, the sellers were very nice and we learned a lot of details about the house because they grew up in the house. One interesting tidbit was that there is a small stain glass window that is in the wall of the third floor apartment. Apparently, it was in the hallway leading to the living room and was intended to let light in from the skylight. It is now covered by a sheet of drywall or wood. We will post a picture when we uncover it. They also told us how much fun they had as kids in the backyard. Their dad used to turn the backyard into a skating rink in the winter. It was nice to hear that it was a happy family home for all those years.