Carl and Beverly Joyce figured August 2019 was as good a time as any to put their three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath South Euclid colonial on the market. After 15 years and the birth of daughters Mallory and Samantha, they’d simply outgrown it. They were scheduling showers in the one full bath. Neither Carl’s Dodge Ram nor Beverly’s Jeep fit in the narrow one-car garage. And properties on neighboring streets were selling quickly, for over asking price.
“I don’t think either of us were prepared for it to sell on the day we listed it,” says Carl, the 41-year-old director of accounting for Progressive Insurance in Mayfield Village.
Carl’s mother suggested the family move into her Seven Hills abode until they found a place of their own, a search Beverly and Carl believed would take a month or two at most. They weren’t looking for anything out of the ordinary: a house in the $300,000-to-$425,000 price range, preferably not overlooking a main highway, with four bedrooms, two full baths, a wood-burning fireplace, full basement and two-car garage in a top suburban East Side school district like Solon, Orange, Beachwood or Mayfield. The couple wanted to take their girls out of a parochial school and enroll them in a public counterpart with lots of extracurricular activities and students from a variety of religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“We were excited,” Beverly, a 42-year-old high-school English teacher/librarian turned stay-at-home mom, remembers. “It was a new chapter in our lives.”
They had no idea that chapter would begin with a year-long journey through one of the most competitive real-estate markets in memory.
Their real-estate agent, Kimberly Kolenc with BHHS Professional Realty in Moreland Hills, says the Joyces were as prepared for the challenge as any homebuyer could be. They’d prioritized needs over wants and defined their search area. She emphasized the importance of checking listings sent via e-mail as soon as they arrived, calling her immediately to schedule showings and being prepared to attend those showings at a moment’s notice.
“Even at that time, properties were going really quick, in multiple offers, if they were priced appropriately,” Kolenc says.
Unfortunately, Carl couldn’t stop working during any given weekday to see a new listing. As a result, many of the approximately 30 homes the couple toured during the next five months were houses that investors — apparently amateurs — had purchased with the intention of flipping. “Those were the only ones that didn’t move within an hour,” Carl says. They describe kitchen cabinets hung askew, window screens cut out with razor blades, floors that didn’t meet walls. One had a gutted shell of a kitchen; another had a roof that was never completed.
“All of the ceiling on the top floor was on the floor,” Beverly says.
Kolenc acknowledges that negotiating with sellers is difficult in a red-hot housing market, a fact the Joyces discovered when they made their first offer on an Orange Village house in October 2019. The seller refused to make even a portion of the tens of thousands of dollars in repairs — Beverly mentions significant foundation and mold issues — even though the property had been on the market for some time. “Just because something looks pretty doesn’t mean that it’s quality work,” Kolenc adds. For that reason, she always suggests opting for a general home inspection. “You want to know what you’re taking on,” she says.
To improve their chances of finding a viable residence, Beverly and Kolenc began going to showings without Carl. “It got to the point where Carl was like, ‘Just tell me whether you like it or not,’” Beverly says. Frustration turned to elation after they attended a January 2020 open house at a Solon Tudor and made the second offer of their search.
“The owners actually verbally accepted it,” Beverly remembers. But before the necessary paperwork could be completed, “they had gotten another offer and went with that one.”
Kolenc counseled patience. Friends and relatives repeatedly reassured the couple that more properties would begin hitting the market around St. Patrick’s Day. Then the pandemic hit.
“Nobody wanted anyone going in their homes,” Beverly says. “And I didn’t want to go in anybody’s home, either.”
The first week of June, Beverly got a call from her parents. There was a four-bedroom, three-bath colonial on a half-acre lot for sale right down the street from their Brecksville home. The Joyces never considered moving to Brecksville because of the city’s distance from Carl’s office. But Beverly had fond memories of growing up there. They immediately looked up the listing online. The 2,600-square-foot residence had all the features they required and, judging from photos, appeared to be in move-in shape.
“Kim called right away,” Beverly says. “There was one day of showings, back to back to back. There was one slot still available, and we got it.”
The offer the Joyces made that day was one of nine the sellers received. This time, however, they were not to be outbid. Kolenc included an escalation clause, an addendum to the offer that gives the buyer the option to increase that offer in set increments over the highest bid up to a predetermined limit.
“Our bid was $500 more than the second-highest,” Beverly says triumphantly.
Other factors made the Joyces’ offer competitive. Beverly explains that if the house didn’t appraise for the amount offered, they would pay the difference in cash up to a certain percentage. And although they negotiated with the seller to mitigate mold growth in the attic, they didn’t broach replacing the original HVAC system and kitchen oven.
“When you’re in a multiple-bid situation like that, you have to just accept that those are going to be extra expenses,” Beverly says.
Carl’s half-hour drive to work is a small concession to make for the peaceful bliss of living on a quiet cul-de-sac and the four-seasons beauty of a backyard with a ravine. They finally have an owner’s suite. And their daughters have made the finished portion of the basement their own. Carl reports that they’re happily ensconced in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights school system.
“The one fear I had throughout this whole entire process is, What’s the first day of lunch going to look like for them? Are they going to have to sit by themselves?” he divulges. “But I was really impressed by the kids in the district and how well they made friends — good friends — fairly quickly.”
There’s only one small problem.
“My truck won’t fit in the three-car garage,” Carl grouses.
“It’s too long,” Beverly explains. “He’s still parking in the driveway.”