The House on Bickel Court

That’s right, Bickel…

Copyright Columbia Pictures

Our decision to buy a house was a bit rushed, but it was definitely level-headed. Misou’s sister Sylvie and her boyfriend, Matt, were in the market for a place in Reston, and the rest estate listings they sent our way got Misou thinking: Maybe we should get out of the rental racket, too.

I took a little more convincing. I’m a longtime serial renter. I’ve always preferred to live in urban areas where convenience is king and purchasing is way out of my price range. I’m also a lifelong “hater” when it comes to the suburbs. I’d rather be out in the middle of nowhere—I’m talking Deliverance-level wilderness where shoes and teeth are optional—or directly downtown with a train blasting past and fifteen restaurants below my window. So I was not overly keen on moving to Sterling, Virginia, whose sole claim to fame as far as I know is that it’s the hometown of comedian Patton Oswalt.

So one night, Misou comes into the room with a pad of paper on which she has proven, with cold mathematical logic, how much we can save per month by buying a house in Sterling. Given the fact that we also have a wedding to plan for October 2014, an extra $400-$500 a month was clearly worth more than living across the street from the Red Line and next door to a Giant supermarket. (I still had to do the math a few times to be convinced of this…)

And so we started to look for places. Our idea from the start was to find a house in the area through which the new Metro Silver Line will one day run. The first section to Tyson’s Corner is opening up this year, and the line is scheduled to extend to Dulles Airport within the next five years. Why not get in now, when prices are low, and ride the wave of rising real estate prices? So we were looking in Herdon, Reston, Sterling, etc., and within the first couple of weeks we found a place we really liked.

The only problem was that it was the only place in our price range that we liked. In fact, there are several other houses almost exactly like it in the adjacent subdivisions that we could have made offers on, but none of those had a badass deck off the kitchen, and all of them had buried basements rather than a nice sliding glass door onto a fenced yard. (We have two Chihuahuas, so the fenced-in yard was a must.)

The house on Bickel Court went on the market on a Wednesday. We saw it Thursday and made an offer on Friday. That night, we heard from our agent that the seller was going to accept our offer; they told us they’d have our ratified contract back on Sunday.

Then for the next four days, we hear nothing from the sellers’ agent. Not a word. Our agent called, texted, emailed. Nothing. When he did finally get back to us, it was to tell us there was a second offer on the house and that we could make a single counteroffer.

We spent an evening trying to figure out what the other offer might be, how high we had to go to beat it. We figured if we went up by a few thousand, we at least stood a chance. At the end of the discussion, we told our agent to make the call and increase our offer.

As it turns out, we did beat the second offer. However, in the meantime a third offer had come in that trumped us both. Bidding, we were told, was now closed. Game over. Thanks for playing.

We were a more than a bit bummed—but mostly pissed that the sellers’ agent had promised us a ratified contract before accepting several other offers. Oh, well, that’s the shit sandwich of being in a seller’s market, right?

Then it struck us: If this seller’s agent was willing to screw us over for a higher bid, what’s to say he wouldn’t take a higher offer from us even after accepting a “final” offer from another buyer and closing the sale. If the other contract had yet to be ratified, perhaps we could swoop in and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

And that’s just what we did. We jacked up the price substantially (while still staying within our budget and offering around $20K less than similar properties in the same subdivision), and the sellers bit. We got a ratified contract a few days later, with the contingencies we wanted, and began the long and nerve-racking process of securing our financing, getting home insurance, and all that jazz. On Friday, we signed our giant stack of papers and officially became home owners.



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