Have you been to an open house lately? You’ve probably experienced the frenzy. Maybe you toured a home only to hear the real estate agent say an offer has already been made on the house, sign unseen. Perhaps the process is too frustrating, and you’ve decided to rent.
We recently asked readers to share their stories of what it’s like to house hunt in Massachusetts. We received a wide range of stories from the “unbelievably lucky” to the “very bizarre.” Many readers were surprised at the state of the homes they toured — and the number of competitive offers they’ve made without success.
Below, we feature 10 responses from readers.
“We are still in shock,” Kate in North Attleborough wrote. After the pandemic hit, Kate wanted more space than her one-bedroom in Boston. With her lease up in October, she started house hunting in May. “We started looking in anticipation of a difficult search. On our first day meeting our real estate agent, the 2nd house we looked at was being built and would be ready in October. Put an offer in and it was accepted,” she wrote. “That was it, one day of looking at homes and our first offer we put in was accepted. We waited a while to tell some of our friends because one was on their 10th offer and still no house. We were unbelievably lucky.”
Don in Charlestown recalled a house he visited where the washing machine was located in a basement that was only 5 feet high. Then he noticed a number of chairs on wheels. “So to use the washer, let’s say (unless you were willing to stoop the entire time), you would sit in one of these chairs and wheel yourself around to the washer and wherever else you needed to go,” he wrote. “The house also had a stocked trout pond and the trout were obviously hungry. The broker would throw a handful of fish food into the pond and the water would erupt with starving trout. At any rate we did not buy this house and never learned why the basement was 3 feet short. We just hope the trout survived.”
Brandon Moss of Boston was house hunting in the Bridgewater and Lakeville areas with more than a few unusual touring experiences. One of them included a floor-to-ceiling pile of beer cans and boxes inside an enclosed porch and “a bedroom set up in the basement adjacent to the boiler (without windows), which eerily reminded me of Sloth’s living quarters in ‘Goonies,’ ” he wrote. Moss continued on to another house “where renovations were half-complete. When asked the status, the occupant indicated that it was the ex’s fault (clearly the marriage broke up in the midst of renovations).” Moss added, “Suffice it to say that no offers were made that day.”
Jennifer in Natick was house hunting in Needham when she walked through a highly monitored home that may have been owned by a family that also ran a dry-cleaning business. “They had a family member sitting like a statue in each room that we entered to protect against theft, I guess. They didn’t speak but just freaked people out as they walked through the house and entered each room. They also had a complete dry-cleaning clothes rack system in their basement, just like a dry-cleaner, filled with clothes. It was very bizarre,” she wrote.
“Looking to buy a house we inspected one that was currently being rented. The two people who lived there were naked in bed during the inspection time,” Kelly in Brookline wrote.
Richard in Boston shared his house hunting experience in the southwest region of the city back in 2007. “[I] was looking at a bungalow that came with, of all things, a recording studio. We made an offer only to discover that the attached garage which held our future soundproofed party pad was actually 7 feet over the property line, on land owned by the town. There was no way any mortgage company would grant a loan for something like that even in those days. The seller suggested we could move in anyway and rent it until it got sorted out! Then they offered to convert the studio into a small office with the bonus of a window. Our realtor wisely advised against it and the last we heard was the seller had to demolish the offending section of the house before putting it back on the market. Yikes!”
“I think the process as a whole is just crazy!” Gina wrote. She sold her condo in March with more than 100 people touring the space and selling in less than five days. “That was the easy part,” she wrote.
The Waltham resident went on to share what it’s like to be house hunting in the Worcester area since December. “Each week we see anywhere from 2 to 6 houses for about 15 mins because that is all that is allowed with our agent in towns from Bolton to Grafton,” she wrote. She noted that sometimes children aren’t allowed at showings, so she has to leave her 6-year-old daughter with family.
“Then comes the Sunday scramble — we can only put one offer on one house. So we come up with the best offer that includes things we are willing to waive (heat system upgrade, bank appraisal, etc.) to be competitive. We look at comps in the neighborhood, well water tests and disclosures from the current owner. Then we furiously sign document after document to get our final offer in by Monday morning with a friendly letter to the sellers about our family,” Gina wrote. “Then we wait to hear that we didn’t actually get the house because there were 30 other offers like ours. Unfortunately we haven’t closed on our house yet so most sellers don’t want to take a chance that our sale will fall through. It is a stressful process but made even more stressful because we have to do it all over again each week.”
“We looked at a home directly on the water in Winthrop a few years ago that had dropped its price to 100K, well below what it was worth and the open house was a literal frat party,” Gabriella in Winthrop wrote. With so many people viewing the property, and all the stuff the owner had accumulated, it was hard to move around the house. “The living room wall was being held up by a beach chair and the bedroom windows were covered in black trash bags. People were going around peeling wallpaper off the walls to see the condition of the plaster and pulling up corners of rugs to see the floors. … We ended up buying a house a few streets over, but the owner still hasn’t sold despite many, many offers.”
Paul and his wife in the South End have been going to open houses every weekend since October. The couple have been looking to buy in the suburbs “from Weston down to Hingham,” always submitting an offer at or above the asking price. According to Paul, when January hit, “things really heated up.”
“The first house we submitted an offer on was in Wayland for a house $729K. At the 1st showing (which was basically 10 minutes because there was a line of 30 people out the door on a Thursday) we submitted an offer for full asking price, no contingencies, close in 30 days. The realtor didn’t even get back with us! We only found out 3 days later that the house was under agreement and sold for $70K over asking. You would think this house was a funeral home because it looked like there was a wake line outside. … Lastly, my wife and I went to go see a home this past Wednesday in sleeeeepy Sherborn. When I say this house was in the woods, deep in the woods! At 12:45PM on a Wednesday in March, there were 25 cars on the street for a home that was asking $985,000. … Not disclosed to the average buyer looking at the pretty Zillow listing: The septic tank was 31 years old and hadn’t been pumped in 6 years! It was a beautiful home but we are staying away because of the underground details. Not to mention there’s a freight train that runs by the house at night and blows the horn. Little details that you pick up on when you do your research!
It’s super disheartening out there but I think it’s truly a marathon not a sprint. Once people get vaccinated and people want to travel once again this summer, I am hoping the competition dwindles.”
“I’ve made five offers in the South Shore over the course of eight months. The last house I didn’t get I was told by the seller’s agent that I had the highest offer, (significantly over asking, no contingencies) but they picked buyers that are more ‘similar to their family situation’ because of the letter they wrote. I think that could be discrimination? Incredibly frustrating, I decided to rent,” Kelly in Canton wrote.