I'm heart broken over a house that's not mine

March 22 2011 | Guest post by Ashley Coffman
Love hurts…
Photo by Xanetia. Used under Creative Commons license.
My realtor called me this morning to tell me that we would not be able buy the house we wanted. The seller received two bids this weekend — one from us — and went with the other buyer. I called my husband in tears.

It's not just the frustration of having to start over. Or the sting of rejection. Or the time and energy we now have to put into finding another house that fits our criteria and budget. It's the heartbreak of losing a home that I was really in love with.

I tried not to fall in love. I really did. I knew there was no guarantee they would accept our offer. I knew that nothing was set in stone and that things fall through sometimes. This wasn't just the first house we'd bid on: it was the first house we looked at! But fall in love I did. I scrolled through photos online, showed them to our friends and family, surfed the internet for decorating ideas, spent a whole weekend watching HGTV, and even began referring to it as "our" house, "our" backyard, "my" kitchen.

The first moment I decided it was "ours" we'd spent the whole day looking at houses and narrowed it to two. On paper, they were the same house. Three bedroom, two bath. Same area, same utilities, same layout. The only difference was that the second was $5,000 more and out of our price range. We took another look at the first one. I tried to imagine myself living there: now I'm making lunch. Now I'm watching TV. Now I'm getting out of the shower. I walked into one of the bedrooms. Now I'm getting the kids up… and then, I cried. Not sobbing, just a little misty. I could imagine raising my kids here, and that was it.

I was in love.

I could kick myself. How could I fall head over heels for a house that wasn't even mine? How could I not protect my heart? But how many times have we all said that to ourselves? I think back to old boyfriends and how many times I've been in love and let down. Was it worth it? Oh hell yeah. Because I learned from each experience, just like I'm learning from this one. We now have a better idea of what kind of home we want for ourselves and our family. We know how the process works and which questions to ask. I'll risk the heartbreak and fall in love again because, really, who wants to buy a house they don't love? That's like getting engaged to someone you haven't given your heart to, just in case it doesn't work out.

Today I had my heart broken. But it was worth it.

  1. My husband and I are tentatively starting the process of looking for a home, and this is one of my biggest fears. We feel like there isn't a point in bidding on a house we don't love, since we'll have to live there and take care of it, but also are scared to get our hopes up. I'm glad to hear it isn't the end of the world!

  2. There absolutely IS another house out there for you, even better than the last.
    But don't use the word "our". DON'T. Do not think about decor, do not watch HGTV, do not buy little things that will look just perfect in that little breakfast nook. I know it's easier said than done, but you have to build a wall between yourself and the house once you place your bid.
    Why?
    Falling in love is how you go over budget and rush into a house. Even if the bid were accepted, being in love with the house and getting an absolutely awful home inspection… would that make you take it, even though you really shouldn't? Possibly.

    You can be in deep, heart-fluttering LIKE with a house, but don't give your heart away.

    • What a fantastic description — "You can be in deep, heart-fluttering LIKE with a house, but don't give your heart away."

      When we bought last fall, we ended up buying the first house we looked at (which we'd initially driven by and thought was out-of-budget), the first house we visited (followed by a bazillion more) and the only house we bid on. Negotiations went back and forth for a very long time, and I had major jitters about how heartbroken I'd be if we didn't get it.

      I agree. Don't use "our". BUY NOTHING. But have heart. Think about how happy you'll be when you step into your first actual house that you're SO HAPPY you waited for.

      …I feel like I'm giving a "wait until marriage" talk.

      • Oh, I know.
        I feel like I sound so negative about this, but honestly, THERE ARE OTHER FISH IN THE SEA, YOU WILL FIND THE ONE WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT, OTHER DATING CLICHES.

        But it's true.

        My Realtor was amazing. She was always like "Don't fall in love with a house. I've seen it a hundred times. There's always another house, and it will be everything you've ever wanted and more."

  3. I totally hear you. We looked at LOTS of houses before we found what we thought was "the one". It was a foreclosure, 100 years old with all kinds of cool details like built-in storage benches and original iron heating grates, much bigger than we thought we'd be able to afford, and in the town we really wanted to live in. The buyers accepted our offer, we were approved by our bank, and we moved forward with the sale. I started calling it "our house", imagining how I'd decorate it, picturing the baby I was four months pregnant with growing up there. I was over the moon.

    Until, ten days before closing, our real estate agent called us and told us that something was happening with foreclosure sales all over the country, and that we wouldn't be closing next week. We did a little research and found out about the foreclosure crisis. We pressed the bank who was selling us the house to give us a definitive time frame for a new closing, and they said to give them two weeks. After that, another two weeks. Our agent told us that ultimately, the hold on foreclosure sales could last indefinitely, or it could be over tomorrow. There was no way to know. We also found out that many insurers were no longer covering homeowner's title insurance on these properties – that basically, because the legality of the foreclosure process was in question, even after we bought the house there would be a possibility that the former owners could try to reclaim the property and we'd be left with no legal recourse.

    Brokenhearted, we decided to let the house go. We lost the money we'd spent on the home inspection ($1,000), and resigned ourselves to having our baby in the teeny tiny apartment that we shared with our 85lb Bernese Mountain dog.

    And then, after seeing me depressed and anxious for a month, my husband remembered another house we'd looked at, in another town. A house that seemed out of our league when we saw it, which had since dropped in price — by $20,000. It was still more expensive (and smaller) than the foreclosure we'd lost, but it needed fewer repairs. After doing the math, we realized that because it was in a less fancy-pants town and the taxes were lower, that even with the higher purchase price, the mortgage would be lower than it would have been on the first house. So, we bought it.

    I love my house. My baby should be born any day. And I know he's gonna love his kick-ass "Where the Wild Things Are" nursery almost as much as I love my backyard, my front porch, my reading nook, my stone shower….

    You'll find the right house. You, like me, may have thought you found The One. But there's another One out there that will be even better.

  4. I fell in love with a short sale – five months ago. What an incredibly heart-wrenching journey it has been. We just got final lienholder approval last week. I did all of the same things – called it "our" house, "our" backyard… Totally worth it.

    • Ugh. We just put an offer on a house the DAY BEFORE it went into short sell. I'm hoping this process doesn't drag on this way. My Realtor said that sometimes the process goes just as quickly as a regular home, sometimes it drags on for months. We sent in our offer, the seller countered the next day, we agreed that afternoon, and now we've been waiting on the bank to approve our offer for two weeks. If it drags on, we may have to walk, which terrifies me because I SO have fallen in love with this house.

  5. I completely get this. The very first house my fiancée and I looked at was… perfect. It needed a little work but it was absolutely the house. We went to put an offer on it only to find out they'd accepted an offer that day. Later I found out it was a cash offer. And several months later I found out the buyers were house flippers. They'd put the house I loved and wanted to live in back up for sale, after I'd already bought a house and in a price range that I couldn't afford. Heartbreak all over again. I totally feel your pain. But! like dootsiebug said, there is another house out there for you. I wish you the best of luck in your hunt for it. Don't forget to have fun with house hunting.

  6. Ashley, I feel your pain! My husband and I just started to seriously look at houses a few months ago. I preceeded him in the search for a home by several months, and quickly learned not to fall in love with any of the homes I was looking at. Of course, I had to learn the lesson by falling head over heels for a home that quickly went off the market (despite me crossing my fingers that it would last until we were ready to really look and buy). But don't fret. The first loss is always the hardest, and from months of scouring MLS, I can tell you that you will find another home that you will love and when the time is right it will belong to you!!!

    Good luck in your home search!

  7. This has been quite the struggle for me too. We *should* be set to get our house now, but we have to wait until the end of May to close because the seller is still in school. We've been trying to negotiate with them since the beginning of January and our contract just now got locked in. It seems like, just short of losing the house, everything that could possibly get in our way has.

    I would be in the same place as you are if something happened and we couldn't get our house. I have very, very clear ideas of what each room will look like, we've picked out furniture, and I think I look at the pictures pretty much every day.

    I do use the word "our." But since our contract is locked in pending official approval of financing (we know we'll be fine) and appraisal (we're pretty sure we'll be fine), do I get to call it "our house"? That's what I can't figure out. At what point can I call it that? Do I "have" to wait till we close in May?

    At what point in the process is it okay to think of it as your own?

    • I totally understand about everything that can go wrong going wrong! NavyFed botched our initial preapproval paperwork, we got assigned to the slowest mortgage person on earth who overused emoticons, the seller refused to initially take care of any addendums for the inspection, some forms were mis-typed and social security numbers got mixed up so we had to do some paperwork two times, the seller went into breach of contract at one point because they just…seemed to disappear!

      It's gut-wrenching at times because you don't want to hope, but when you're already knee-deep in the process and hemorrhaging money the worry becomes more and more real.

  8. Andreas and I still grieve "the one that got away," the two-bedroom condo with a loft office and Tudor detailing. It got bid up to $50k more than we could afford, but four years later, we're still sad. I remind myself of its shortcomings (no washer/dryer, dingy building common areas) but still. It's been four years. I should be over it.

    • We have a house like that. Bid up to 20k more than we could pay.

      We love the house we are in, and it is bigger and more functional than the one that got away, but it will never be as beautiful.

      (who said it was a buyers market, we got out-bid on 3 houses just 6 months ago).

  9. I fell in love with a house that was sold before we even got to look at it, and I was shocked at how upset I was – it felt like I'd lost a person rather than a thing that was never mine to begin with. I think its something that most potential homebuyers have to go through before they really understand what they want and get serious. There will be another house out there, and you'll probably love it even more.

    When we finally found a house to make an offer on, I didn't let myself get too attached. I refused to take pictures, or imagine myself living there for fear I'd have my heart broken again. It's a huge emotional ride, but it's all worth it in the end.

  10. I felt the same way when I found out I didn't get the job I'd applied for.

    I was already imagining going there every day, the people I'd meet, what I'd talk to them about, how it would really help my career and how I could go about making that happen. I was so, so sure I'd aced the interview, but then it didn't happen and I felt utterly devestated.

    I think on some level it's a normal response to losing anything you felt strongly about, even something that wasn't really yours to begin with.

  11. I've been there. My husband and I decided to start the homebuying process and fell in love with a house. LOVE. It'd been on the market for 7 months, so after seeing it Friday, we planned to make a bid on Monday……only to find out on Monday that it got sniped from us.

    Saddened but hopeful, we moved on to another house just two blocks down the street. Perfect! This one was even better, since it also had the original pine wood floors, was also built in 1920, and had a slightly nicer backyard. Sweet! We were sort of glad the other got away. So, we go to make a bid the next day after getting our preapproval paperwork taken care of….only to find that it's under contract, and nobody told our agent! Frustrations, frustration, frustration.

    So, we try House #3. It's not in the Fan (the part of Richmond we wanted, but with those 2 gems gone, all others were monstrously out of our price range), but it's close. And we fall in love. Really, truly in love. Made a bid, got it accepted. But of course, it's not ours yet, and it turns out the seller is the SLOWEST PERSON ON THE PLANET in terms of getting in touch, responding to paperwork deadlines, etc.

    We finally got our appraisal done this morning, so it really does look like we'll get it. I've been in wallpaper-hunting mode for weeks now, so I'm glad I'm not getting my heart broken a third time….knock on wood, of course.

    Case being…you fall in love once, maybe twice, maybe three times…and eventually, you just might find something comparable.

  12. This happened to me last year. I fell in love with a house and we put in a reasonable, offer as it was fairly overpriced for the comps in the neighborhood. After a couple rounds of counters we did not accept their last number. I was heartbroken. I tried not to get ahead of myself by thinking of decorating, landscaping and being within 5 minutes of downtown, but I couldn't stop myself. So we moved on.

    We eventually found and bought a house and it's wonderful, but I still have those 'feelings' about the other house. Funny thing is that while we were looking at this house, we got a call from the sellers agent from the previous house saying that they'd meet our offer. We were already set to put the offer on this place (more space for less money in a very kid friendly neighborhood). It's been an occasional ache that I've been working out of my system. One of the best ways for me to do that is to focus on what I can do to make this space feel like us.

  13. Eek! We just had the inspection on Saturday, did the mortgage paperwork yesterday, and are patiently waiting for our closing date on a house THAT. WE. LOVE. I am so anxious about some catastrophe snatching "our" house away from us.

    • That's pretty much exactly where we are. The sellers put the house on the market in January, we put an offer in 6 days later, and then we found out they don't want to close until May so they can finish school. It's been good and bad because we've had so much crap to deal with with them, but now that (almost) all the crap is done with, it seems like torture to have to just sit here and wait until the end of May! (I wish they would have put a note on the listing that it wouldn't close until May so I could have been mentally prepared.)

  14. It will be worth it! We fell in love with house after house. Our house hunt was VERY trying, with multiple offers over a period of two years, none of which 'stuck'. It was painful and heartbreaking each time. On the first, another offer was accepted over ours. On the second, which was a short sale, it came to light that, after 4 months of waiting to hear back from the bank, it turns out the seller had filed bankruptcy prior to listing the home as a short sale, which meant we couldn't purchase it. The thrid was just like the first, another offer over ours. And the FOURTH failed when our inspector discovered the house had extensive termite damage. Each time I'd gotten my hopes up, and each time I was devastated. But FINALLY it worked out. We found a house even more perfect for us than the other four. It was almost like it was meant to be! Though there were three other offers, ours was amazingly chosen!
    Being patient during a house hunt is definitely hard, but when you find truely the right house, it's SO worth it!

  15. I think we made the opposite mistake in a way… I was so tired of house shopping (with a limited budget that relegated us to, shall we say, the slightly rougher areas of our city) that I agreed to buy a house that hubby liked for it's three sheds. Yes, we bought a home for it's sheds, and bought with it the leaks, lack of space, impractically-shaped kitchen, dodgy plumbing, and weirdo neighbours.
    Having said that, it's our HOME. It's where our baby will be raised. I wasn't in love when we bought it, but I love it now.

    • my brother bought a house for the poll barn. and bulldozed the house and built a new one. out building can have character too.

  16. I totally did that with our house. Thankfully we were the only bidder and it worked out our way, otherwise I would have been so gutted.

    Good Luck finding somewhere else you'll fall in love with.

  17. My first true love was a house… it was a 1br 1bath with rooms so small you could barely turn around in them. It had hardwood floors and a two fireplaces and the most amazing sunporch that Indiana has ever seen… it was the whole length of the house and it had those little Florida style crank out windows, ahhh my heart be still! Other great features were 4 fricking acres of land, an enormous 2+ car garage (which was great for me 'cause at 20 I had huge aspirations of being a mechanic) and a fabulous stone patio complete with built in outdoor stone fireplace. Oh I loved it like it was my own. When my bid got turned down I was heartbroken. I felt like my dream home had just dumped me. I stopped looking for two years after that one. It really tore me up, but had I gotten it I wouldn't be living in my fantastical 2400sq ft built in 1940 dream home with my beautiful new babe… Bittersweet memories.

  18. I wonder if sometimes when we fall in love with things before we own them, if we don't idolize them beyond all rationality. I had the complete opposite experience where my then-fiance and I bought a house we fell in love with back at the height of the housing boom. We were young and probably more than a little naive, just chasing the "American Dream". It was our first time owning, and within a year of moving in I realized what a huge burden it can be to own a home, and not just financially. Soon after we bought, home values tanked, we became house poor with an underwater mortgage, things broke that we couldn't afford to fix… I still own that house (jointly with a guy who is now my ex) although I live in a different time zone, and I will probably continue to own it for many years to come until the market rebounds despite my best efforts at getting off the mortgage.

    I know home ownership is a dream for many people and I can understand that. I was not realistic about the potential pitfalls and sacrifices of home ownership, and the pink tinted glasses fell off hard after I moved in. I am a renter for life now.

    I realize this is a different topic, but it would be interesting to see a feature here on the dark side of home ownership sometime.

    In the meantime, I wish Ashley the best of luck in finding the right home for her family.

  19. I know everyone says not to fall in love with a house but I did. To be honest, it was that love that got me where I am today. I spent 10 stressful months trying to buy my house. It was horrible. We found our house on Valentine's Day 2009 and closed on December 15, 2009. 10 months and a day.
    When we put our offer in, there were 5 offers already out there. Then the bank realized the foreclosure paperwork hadn't been filed correctly so they would not have a clear title until June. Everyone dropped but us. Come June, the septic failed inspection. We went back and forth with the bank, not knowing if we would have to walk away from a house we had just waited over 3 months for. Then they agreed to fix the septic. Relief until August when big rain storm + a failed sump pump meant a flood in the basement. My loan would not allow water damage so we needed the bank to agree to fix that. Now we were 6 months in and not sure we would get our house. Then the town didn't like the septic plans, which meant a new design and more money from the bank. So many times we thought we'd lose it. Meanwhile the house was just empty, sitting all alone 🙁
    Everything did work itself out and even though it was the most stressful time in my life, I wouldn't take it back. My advice is good things come to those who wait and if it's meant to be, it will be. Your right house will find you 🙂

  20. I loved this house from the pictures online, but REALLY fell in love with it the very first foot I stuck in the door. I put in an offer right away but ended up having to "fight" for it for a month before my offer was finally accepted. Even after putting in the offer I looked at more and more houses, but none of them felt as "right" as this one. I'm so glad I didn't give up, because eventually they accepted my offer over the others. But the month between offer and acceptance was a very nervous up-and-down month.

  21. I feel you. We're in a similar boat, but with a rental. It shouldn't feel this bad because, hell, stuff like this happens all the time when you're renting. But this house was perfect; I take care of my mom and plan to move her in with us this fall, and this house was sunny and bright, big enough for several adults with a fabulous yard for our beagle. We'd already paid the deposit and signed a pre-lease when the owner decided to sell instead of rent. We're not in a position to buy it, so we lost it. And we have to start from scratch. We are crushed. Hugs, if you want them! <3

  22. Wish I couldn't sympathize with this one. :/ My sister, boyfriend, and I are looking for a house to rent right now. We found one that was pretty much perfect – great neighborhood, good value, good amount of space, and sososo cute. We were at the point of negotiating a lease with the landlords-to-be when they told us that someone had offered to buy the house – something they hadn't thought would happen in this housing market. I was completely heartbroken for a day, but we're hoping this means that we'll find something that fits our needs even better.

  23. Keep your eyes open, and you'll find something you'll love. I have the opposite problem. Our house was flipped before we bought it, so I love the yard, and many features of the house, but we're finding different features where the contractors just screwed up, or didn't get it together completely right. Then after we moved (we moved from out of state) in I figured out that the neighborhood has a fairly high turnover, lots of short sales and some foreclosures. It's still pretty nice and stable considering at's a university area, but it means I've had a lot more to look at since moving in. It's always torture seeing something within our price range that would have worked out better for us, and now you have the experience to know what you are looking for, and where you might want something a little different. Just keep your eyes open, find neighborhoods you like and you'll find your perfect house.

  24. I just lost my first house-love. My partner was out of town, and it was the first house we'd looked at in a while…but I fell in love with it, and we put a bid in anyway, a full price bid. I sent him pics and called my dad for architectural advice. It was so much bigger than most places in our price range and it had an amazing fenced-in yard. They accepted the other offer.
    We're paying a lot more for a flexible lease, so we need to start looking again and soon, but none of the listings are tugging at me.

  25. Please don't fret. Don't ever fall in love with a house because a house can never love you back. There is a reason for everything, and there is another house out there with your name on it. And, the other deal may fall through…You may be able to offer an even lower price in the future. Hang in there.

  26. We are head over heels in love with a house we just bid on, and it is really agony. Intellectually I know there are a million reasons it might not work out, emotionally I know I will be a total wreck if we have to walk away.

  27. My parents had three offers on homes in the same neighborhood accepted and then the sale fall through before closing because the seller withdrew the home from the market (in one case because liens meant the place actually couldn't be sold). Their realtor was walking around the neighborhood and saw the style of home my parents wanted, with a man outside doing yardwork. Realtor approached the man and asked if he knew of anyone around who had a ranch home they were potentially thinking of selling. Man looked very surprised and aid that he and his wife had just decided the week before to sell since they were pretty much living at their cabin anyway, and that they were doing some retouches on paint and getting ready to stage before listing. They chatted a bit, my mother was called and IMMEDIATELY went over to look at the place, fell in love with it, and made an offer the next day.

    This guy was a woodworker by trade and hobby, and had built the kitchen cabinetry by hand. Including a matching panel for the front of the dishwasher. The house was in spectacular condition, they had obviously taken great care of it. It was a spectacular find, and one that might not have been made if that realtor hadn't been willing to take the initiative to talk to a potential neighbor.

  28. My husband got the call from the realtor that we didn't get our dream house…right in the middle of my Grandpa's funeral. Ugh. I was so upset 🙁 It was the third house we had fallen in love with and then lost, and I was so tired of losing people and places.

  29. It took me five years, a major breakup, several jobs, a marriage, and long-drawn-out-completely-out-of-our-control-financing-disaster that finally resolved itself before I found "my house." I can't tell you how many houses I fell in love with over the years, but I can tell you that every time I "lost" one it was for the right reasons and led me to the house I never would have bought at the beginning that it is the best possible house for us in so many ways.

  30. I specifically looked this post up because I just did this today. We've looked at a lot of houses but everything in our price range is, frankly, absolute shit. Last night our realtor sent us a listing that went on the market TODAY and I absolutely knew I was going to be in love with it. So we looked. And I am. And so was my husband. And we knew we might get outbid, but the starting bid was very low, so still, maybe a chance….

    then our realtor called to tell us that they're only accepting cash- it won't appraise, apparently, because it's very old and MIGHT have lead or asbestos. MIGHT. It's had a lot of work done, so it might not. But apparently even if it would appraise, they don't care, the jerks at Chase want cash, and what they really want is a cash bidding war. It's going to go to a business who will rent it out for offices (it's near downtown) or to an investor who will flip it.

    Thanks a lot for not putting "cash only" on the listings, douchebag. Even though we only just saw it… this was literally the house I'd describe if you asked me to describe a dream house. Old, brick, in aesthetically pleasing disrepair, wonderful light, lots of space. So many light years above everything else we've looked at. There's almost nothing on the market in this area right now and they're all selling immediately, it feels so hopeless and I feel like I just got dumped The worst part is that I looked up the folks who previously owned the house (it was a foreclosure) and paid three times what they're asking now- they're both young, artsy, partying types (we're young, artsy, non-partying types). The fact that they could get a mortgage for that same house for WAY more (despite whatever "issues" it potentially has) and we're not even allowed to try for way less just fucking stings.

  31. Loved all the comments here. Just needed to add my woes…I just lost my dream house because DH won't commit to it, although it was the only house he liked out of the ones we have seen. I had found this house as being sold on auction in the beginning of summer, and I wanted to buy it then, but we didn't have the funds. When it came back in the market right after we closed on our first house (a place I had buyer's remorse on, unfortunately), I had to goad DH to drop by the first open house. The house had a layout and space we needed, but the property tax was a killer! Still, when we worked out the numbers, I knew we could swing it, and I wanted to make an offer as soon as possible. Let's wait till fall, he says, if it's really ours, then it's not God's will. Sure I thought, being the nice wife, gritted my teeth and hoped that in this seller's market, God will rule on our favor. Well, a week before the first day of fall, there was a 3rd open house but when we drop by to check in, the house was locked. It was two weeks later that I learned that the sellers had already accepted an offer a few days after that open house and it was now in contract. I only found out because exactly a week after DH decided to finally make an offer, the sellers had accepted the first offer. Worse, I'm finding the extent of the "bad blood" between our realtor and the listing agent to be really unproductive, so even if we have already submitted a back-up offer, at this point I'm being told to pretty much give this up. I am hating myself for allowing this to happen. I knew better than this and I didn't fight hard enough. How could you say it's not God's will when you didn't even toss your hat in the ring? We didn't even do the most basic act to put ourselves out there…make a fudging offer! What was I scared of? I have been trying to make a case for a "good" house for my family for the past…grrrrrr 19 years, come on! As for hoping that the first deal falls through, even that I'm too "nice" to wish for, and my spirit has been destroyed that I pretty much know that I have certainly lost the house. Sorry, I've just been burned so I am so heartbroken and I just want to scream at the universe. I can see no light at the end of the tunnel… yet. And I'm now faced with another winter in this squirrel-infested apartment whose walk-out garage floods (!!!) and soot came out of the heating vents last year, so no happy thoughts yet for me.

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