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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Party Times with Eminent Domain

I haven't been posting a lot lately. (Lately being the past two years or so.) BUT! But, I thought I'd type out our experience with this happening to us, in case it might ever help someone out there.

I blogged last year when this all started. The day someone from the state showed up and said "Surprise! We're taking your house!" I blogged about that day here. We started looking at houses soon after, not knowing for sure how quickly things were going to move. The woman from the state had said it would be pretty soon. It turns out MY definition of soon, and the state's definition of soon, are very very different.

We looked at houses and stressed and worried. We didn't hear from a soul for six months. In October, the same woman called me up wanting to meet with me so we could sign papers that would actually get the ball rolling. The next day, I hadn't called her back yet, and she showed up at my house. She said the people she worked with were very urgent about getting stuff signed, as things needed to happen "soon." I signed the papers which were their offer for the actual house, our moving options, and then the really interesting stuff, "Comparable replacement houses." Now, there had been an appraiser, and we were supposed to get a copy of that, but thinking back, we never did.

Their offer was a lot lower than we were expecting. Just enough to get us out of our mortgage, and that's it. They weren't even offering us our tax assessed amount. To make things even more hair-pulling, those "Comparable" houses they found for us were all almost $30,000 more than what they were giving us for ours. Even though the law here in our state says they have to give us fair market value, somehow to them, that turns out being thousands less than our tax assessed value, and tens of thousands less than comparable houses. How that logic works, I have NO idea.

At that point she told us we had 30 days to accept their offer. We got in touch with an attorney, and got really serious about looking for houses. The attorney couldn't figure out the logic, either, but he couldn't get them to budge. If we paid the $500 to have our own appraisal done, they may have considered going up a little, but not enough to make it worth it, and basically, it was a take it or. . .take it. Situation.

We did end up taking it, because there was also a clause that stated since the comparable houses were so much higher, if we bought a house at that same price, they would give us the difference as a down payment. ONLY if we bought a house that high, though. (So, if we bought a house $5,000 more than what they gave us, they'd give us $5,000 for the down payment. $10,000 more, we'd get that. Up to a cap of almost $30,000.) We did the only logical thing: shopped as expensive as we could, up to the cap that the state was willing to pay out. We figured it would be asinine not to. I still don't get how any of this is logical, but, whatevs.

That brings us to the end of November. We were first told that we'd need to be out 60 days from then, so we freaked the heck out, and told our realtor. (The look on his face was priceless.) Halfway through the process of finding and putting an offer on the new house, we finally find out that no, we won't have to be out until 60 days after we officially sign over the house to the state, which hadn't happened yet. We were told they wanted the closing to happen the beginning of January. We got all of our ducks in a row for that, and it didn't happen then. We waited, and waited. . .and waited for the funds to come down from the powers that be so we could sign our house over.

The closing that we were told to expect the first week of January didn't end up happening until February 8th. For people that were so urgent to have us out of the house, they sure took their time. So, on February 8th, 2013, the kids and I sat with a lawyer in a conference room, and I signed away our house to the state of Georgia. No one from the state was there.

(Hannah at the proceedings)

This whole thing had been so difficult, we were trying to look ahead, to the closing on the new house. It was supposed to be the following Tuesday. The hubby called the state people to make sure the down payment funds would be there, and. . .surprise! No, they wouldn't. They needed to inspect the house themselves, and then send off paperwork to request the funds. The closing would have to be pushed back. Our realtor warned us that if it didn't happen within a week of the original closing date, the sellers could back out, because we would be in breach of contract. We stressed and the hubby made lots of phone calls that week. I think he called the state people every day asking if the funds had come in yet. Finally, finally they did, and we closed one week later. Just in time.

Now we're at the point where we are under the 60 day clock, and have been since February 8th, although in a weird twist, they are giving us all the way to April 21 before we have to hand over the keys. The kids and I are slowly moving what we can until the hubby can come down and help us move the bigger stuff, so we can start living in the new house. It's all been very hard on the kids, but they are really excited about the new house.

You'd think we'd be done with the aggravation of dealing with the government people, but no, it still drags on. We had the choice of the state hiring someone to move us, or we could move ourselves, and we'd get moving expense money. We chose to move ourselves, and then found out the "fun" thing, that you don't get the moving expenses until AFTER you've moved. In our case, we're not rolling in money, so the state agent agreed to send of the paperwork to get half up front. It takes weeks to get it though, of course. We won't get the other half until we're completely out of the other house, and then they submit the paperwork, and we get to wait weeks again.

This whole thing has been. . .annoying as all get out. A lot of hurry up and wait on our part, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of frustration. (And looking back, I'm realizing that by the time we hand over the keys, it will have been an entire year since they first showed up at our door.)

I know this has been long, and maybe even a bit convoluted, but I wanted to get it all out there. Maybe someone out there will be googling "eminent domain" or "OMG the state is taking our house", not knowing what is going to happen next. Maybe they will land here, and at least get some insight.

p.s.-Is it May, yet?

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