Name: Jena and Mark Boomhower, both 36
City: Battle Ground, Wash.
Year of Home Purchase: 2018
Sale Price: $412,000
Home style: 2014 modern Craftsman single-family home
Profession: Jena is a medical technician; Mark is a supervisor for TSA
Mark and Jena Boomhower’s 1,400-square-foot starter home was just right when their daughters, Tanahleigh and Adalyn, were tots. But as the girls got older, Mark and Jena realized they needed a bigger house and yard. They wanted a two-story farther from the city, but there were a few challenges.
First, they had to figure out how to buy a house before selling their current house. Second challenge: Buying a house with a VA loan. VA loans offer competitive interest rates and don’t always require a down payment or private mortgage insurance. But VA loans limit what buyers are allowed to pay in closing costs, and sellers don’t necessarily have to pay them, either. Closing costs become a big part of the negotiation. Here’s their story.
When did you realize you needed more square footage?
Mark: When Tanahleigh started having her friends over. If they all wanted to watch TV in the living room, we had to go to another room. I would go hang out in the garage. Jena would hang out in the kitchen. We were like, “OK, we’re stepping on each other in this little house.”
So what’s the first thing you did to escape your exile in the garage?
Mark: I called our agent and told him our plan: that we wanted to buy a new house but not until we sold our current house. And that we wouldn’t sell our current house until we had one to move into because we didn’t want to spend weeks or months in a hotel with two kids and a dog. And we wanted to buy with a VA loan. Our agent said that our stipulations were tough but that it could be done.
You faced a seller’s market. Houses were going fast. What did you do first: shop for a new house or list your old one?
Mark: We started looking at houses. We looked at three or four. The last one we looked at, I don’t think Jena stopped smiling after we walked through the front door.
Jena: Yes. It was perfect.
How perfect was it?
Mark: So perfect that we put an offer on it, even though our old house wasn’t even listed.
This all sounds so simple. Did they take the offer?
Jena: They countered at a higher price. They were asking $409,000. We offered $400,000 with $10,000 in closing costs. They came back at $418,000 with $10,000 in closing costs. They raised the price to cover closing costs.
Mark: We thought it was ridiculous.
Jena: We walked away.
Oh no, those VA loans and their non-allowable fees! It was your perfect house!
Jena: We went through the whole weekend and couldn’t get the house off our minds.
Mark: We talked to our agent. We talked with our lender. We realized we would have to pay a higher price for the house and less of the closing costs, or a lower price for the house and more of the closing costs.
Jena: We went with paying more for the house and less of the closing costs. So we made another offer: $410,000 + $7,000 closing costs. We wanted to walk away with the most bucks in our pocket, so we went with them paying more of the closing costs.
Did this offer go better?
Jena: Yes. They countered with $412,000 plus $7,000 in closing costs.
Mark: We weren’t going to lose the house over $2,000. Jena crunched the numbers, and it would add less than $50 a month to our payment. So we took the offer.
Great! You got the house! But you still had to sell your house. With the same agent, right?
Jena: Right. Our offer was contingent on us selling our old house in 30 days. And once the seller accepted our offer, we had 48 hours to get our house on the market.
Mark: So we had two days to get our house ready to sell. We picked up, cleaned up, threw things out. It was a tornado of excitement and anxiety. But we got it done and were ready for showings.
The clock was ticking. You had 30 days to sell. How did it go?
Mark: We weren’t getting many showings, even though it was a seller’s market. We had just two people come by the first week. We were in full-blown panic mode. We were worried because we could lose the new house while we waited for our house to sell. [Under regional MLS rules], if someone came by with a better offer for the new house during the 30 days, the seller could accept it. So we were worried.
Jena: After about two and a half weeks, we finally got an offer — a little under what we were asking, but they were buying with a VA loan, too, so we took a lower price and they paid closing costs the VA wouldn’t cover.
On what day of the 30-day period did your old house sell?
Jena: Day 24.
You did that with a week to spare!
Mark: Everything had to be perfect for this to work. It seemed like an ordeal to us. Our agent said it went really smooth. He said he’d never seen a transaction line up like ours did. We wouldn’t have stayed sane through it all without him telling us it would work out and telling us what we should do.
What’s your advice to a home buyer facing a similar situation?
Jena: Be patient.
Mark: Make sure you have a competent agent, one you can trust.
Jena: The agent we worked with sold us our first house.
Mark: He became a family friend. He and his partner bought, I’m not kidding, hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout cookies from my daughter.
Jena: We totally trusted him and everything he said.