So after digging a bit online, I was able to turn up the name of the owner of the house we were both smitten with still after all these months and with a bit more effort found a phone number. As always when making cold calls, my stomach was a bit nervous as I dialed the number and wondered how I was going to begin the conversation.
I managed without coming across as a stalker to begin the conversation and found out that yes the owner was still interested in selling the house. Since we had last looked at it last year, the owner had taken it off the market and had been fixing it up even more. Mostly it was little details like replacing ugly carpet and painting but the owner did say that they were in the process of updating the septic system. This house is just outside the city limits and thus not on the city sewer system (despite being on city water, gas and cable) so it has to have the ability to treat its own sewage. Here in Iowa, legislation passed awhile ago mandates that any house that is sold must have their septic system up to date which due to the legislation, means just about every house that hasn't already replaced their septic system in the last five or six years.
So with all these updates being told to me over the phone, I didn't have high hopes when I asked what the owner was looking to get for their house. When they told me a price $25,000 less than than their previous asking price, I almost dropped the phone. Not only are they significantly reducing the price (some of which is a savings by cutting out the middleman and selling it privately), but they were now way below assessed value and probably below the going rate value of similar real estate that we have looked at. Of course I played all cool and collected but as soon as I got off the phone, my wife was doing a happy dance. However, like waiting to call back someone after the first date so not to appear too anxious, we waited until that evening to call back and set up an appointment to come tour the place again the following weekend, this time with the owner and not a Realtor.
We knew several things that artificially inflated our expectations. One, the house wasn't currently on the market and hadn't been on the market for awhile so it wasn't likely to be snatched up by someone else before we had a chance to visit it again and perhaps make an offer. Two, the owner didn't balk at selling it privately and in fact seemed to revel in the fact that they would be saving money by doing so. Since we bought our first house privately, I wasn't too worried about going through the process for a second time. Still, like any sane person who was preparing to throw down a chunk of change on a house, my stomach and mind were a mess all week as I waited. I filled my time by freshening up my previous contract, researching the neighborhood, talking with a neighbor whom we were friends with and making a list of all the things I wanted to look at in more detail when we toured it. Still it was a long week before we hopped in our vehicle and drove over there on a Friday evening with contract and checkbook in tow... just in case.