I've been evicted--now what?
June 3, 2016 8:14 PM   Subscribe

I just received a 60-day eviction notice. I am pretty sure it is because the owner wants to sell, and I am interested in buying so that I won't have to move. I don't know the owner directly since they use a property management company. What is the best way to proceed?

I want to make the owner a reasonable offer based on the sale prices of comparable properties in our neighborhood and hope that they jump at the chance to skip a bunch of the typical selling process.

So ... how do I do that? Do I start by telling the management company that I want to make an offer and have them put me in touch with the owner? Do I just go straight to the management company with the offer and have them forward it along? Do I need to draw up some kind of formal "offer" offer that involves paperwork, or do I literally just send them a number to start with?

I am terrible at interpersonal communications and a bit freaked out about the whole situation so I would love any advice about how to actually word this email.

Another question: I live right next to Google headquarters so the real estate market is crazy here. If the owner is not interested, do I have a hope in hell of buying a different condo in time to be out of here in 60 days? I have a one-year-old and a two-year-old and I HATE the idea of having to move twice with all the craziness.

This will not be an all-cash offer, in case that is relevant.
posted by insoluble uncertainty to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Update to add email I just received from the management company:

"The owner has recently informed me that she wishes to sell the townhouse. She told me that she mailed you a letter in regards to this and is inquiring about whether or not you are interested or in a position to purchase the property from her. Please let me know if you have received that letter, or when you receive it along with a response."
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 8:21 PM on June 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

There's nothing worse than that feeling that you've wasted your weekly AskMe. My condolences. Enjoy homeownership.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:24 PM on June 3, 2016 [29 favorites]

So, yes, by all means, let the management company know that you're interested, did not receive the letter, and set a date on which there will be a follow-up call in the event that you do not receive the letter.

My wife and I experienced a similar situation. Shortly after we received our property manager's voice mail message warning us about the owner's desire to sell and what that might entail, we responded that we were very interested in purchasing, and that we would be sending him a scan of prequalification letters from lenders to indicate that we were serious. (This was 2010, and banks were generally unwilling to lend, so this may have meant more at the time.)

We obtained the prequalifications for an amount that we felt was the lowest amount we thought the owners would take seriously. We sent them on. We negotiated - through the property manager - slightly upwards from there. We made it all happen in one crazy month, bought the house at a good price, and that's how we actually own a house in San Francisco.

How do you word it?

"Thanks for letting me know about the letter. I'm very interested in purchasing the townhouse, and have not yet received it. I believe that I'm in a position to purchase the property in what I hope will be a simple transaction, and I'd be happy to obtain documentation from lenders to that effect. I'll be watching for the letter, but in the meantime, please let the owner know that I'd like to move forward. Let's talk on [date] in the event I don't receive the letter, otherwise I will be in touch with a direct response once I receive it."

Then start looking at lenders and get prequalifications. Good luck!
posted by eschatfische at 8:35 PM on June 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

In light of that email, I'd just respond (ASAP) "Thanks for your email. Yes, I would be interested in speaking with [landlord] about purchasing the property. Please have [her] contact me directly about [her] proposed terms."

If you're going to need financing, which us mere mortals always will, you really should follow up with your bank/a bank/a mortgage broker Monday morning to get a "pre approval letter"--it's painless and typically doesn't bind you to anything. You'll just give some (not even complete) information about your financial picture (SSN, account balances, debts on your credit report), and they will give you a letter that says you're approved to borrow $X. Preferably, they will give you a few letters that say you are approved for different amounts (up to the amount that is your outer limit)--that way you don't end up sending the seller a letter that you're pre approved for up to $2M of credit if you're buying the property for $750K--that would make you seem like deep pockets, and undermine your bargaining position.

It's a fantastic turn of events that the landlord is asking whether you are interested in purchasing; as you allude, much SF real estate is going significantly above asking and much is going to all cash offers (or with financing contingencies waived). The fact that the LL is asking you suggests that they're not necessarily ruthless about this. A great position to be in.

Good luck.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:36 PM on June 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

This isn't technically an "eviction" and you'll be hurting yourself if you refer to it that way when applying for rentals in the future when you have to answer the question regarding evictions on the rental application.

Your first step is to go to check your bank's requirements to apply for a mortgage, get those materials together, and make an appointment with a loan officer, as noted by Admiral Haddock. Maybe check online for a mortgage calculator first to see what your idea of an asking price means as far as a monthly expenditure, keeping in mind that if you're putting less than 20% down, you'll need to pay mortgage insurance. It won't be precise, but you'll get a ballpark number. Giving the management company or owner a number of how much you'd like to offer for the place will be pretty much meaningless without a pre-qualification letter.
posted by LionIndex at 8:54 PM on June 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

Sounds promising!!! Fro the owner's perspective, no need for deep cleaning, cosmetic remodeling or staging or landscape work, no gap between end of tenancy and sale of property. Use that in your negotiations.

Something to consider - I rent out an apartment in the UK which is managed by an estate agent (aka property management company). There is a clause in my contract with the estate agent that says that if I sell my property to a tenant then I pay them something like 1.25% as commission. So don't burn any bridges with the property management company, because it sounds like if they accept your offer, they will be involved / be handling the sale on behalf of your landlord. But do try and get contact details for the owner and/or their realtor if you can - one fewer person in the communication chain avoids delays and misunderstandings...

And remember that the property management company act on behalf of your landlord, they're not on your side. So if this progresses further, consider appointing your own realtor to make sure that all the relevant checks on the property are done and to help with negotiations and all the contractual stuff (not sure how this works in California). As a tenant, you don't care whether the roof has been replaced recently or how much it would cost to get rid of the mold in the basement. As a potential homeowner, you do. So make sure you get surveys done.

Good luck!
posted by finding.perdita at 9:12 PM on June 3, 2016

I disagree that this is good news for you. I mean, I guess it is if your primary goal is to stay put at all costs instead of making a judicious and reasonable real estate investment, but you are in a terrible negotiating position here. It's laughably easy to sell property in the current Bay Area real estate market, so selling to you doesn't save the property owner very much work. She has no incentive to improve the property or mitigate pests or really do anything at all except say, "Pay me as much money as I want or move out." There is someone out there right now waiting to outbid you with an all-cash offer that waives all contingencies, and I'm sure the property owner is aware of that.

I can only imagine how unbelievably stressful moving in 60 days with two small children would be, but being on the losing end of a bad real estate deal is a world of hurt. Proceed with extreme caution.
posted by jesourie at 9:45 PM on June 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Thanks so much for the answers so far. So happy that it looks like this might actually happen!

Would it be appropriate to hire a real estate lawyer to help with this transaction? A real estate agent seems like overkill, but I would like to have feedback from someone that I am doing all the right steps in the right order. I have heard real estate lawyers are much cheaper.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 10:35 PM on June 3, 2016

Yes, a lawyer is a good idea. S/he won't be on commission (if s/he proposes it, find someone else!) so s/he will be 100% in your corner, advising you to get the best price and least hassle. You might also tone down your awesome overwhelming delight at having the opportunity to buy the place--that may read as "willing to pay more."
posted by spacewrench at 10:59 PM on June 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

At a minimum I'd engage a buyer's agent. We just went through this in a less crazy market and did dual agency just to get the deal done. It was a pain but it got done in about 60 days, with me pushing from my end on every little thing. In a market like that you want someone else to advocate for you, I think.
posted by cabingirl at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2016

If the owner and you come to terms rapidly, they can wave the two month deadline. Don't let them use it to pressure you into making a bad decision.
posted by Candleman at 11:06 AM on June 4, 2016

Before engaging in an agent, find out if the seller is using an agent. If the seller has already committed to using an agent you might as well, but if they are planning "for sale by owner" then your offer may be more attractive if no agent's commission is required.

(You will still want someone to represent your interests, of course, but in my opinion you are probably at least as well served by a decent real estate attorney who represents you directly than by an agent, especially one who is only paid if there is a sale.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 5:59 PM on June 4, 2016

Also, check to make sure there aren't any looming special assessments with the HOA. Owners are supposed to disclose these but it may not be set enough yet where she would have to disclose, and I don't know if a private sale like this would require it. You don't want to pay top of the market price only to find out in six months every unit is being assessed 30k because of long deferred maintenance or something and realize the reason the owner was desperate to sell quickly and quietly was because they had some foreknowledge of this.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 7:36 AM on June 5, 2016

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