My First House: The Tale of the $650,000 Stove

But sometimes, government policies and practices are at odds with this goal.

By Dave Leckness

The buyer came in, pointed to the stove in the kitchen, turned to me and announced, “There’s something wrong with the stove door, and I want you to fix it.” I said, “That’s it! I’ve had it!”

Five and one-half years ago, we ran in the OC REALTOR® a series of first-person accounts titled “My First House” in which elected officials candidly described what happened when they set out to make that allimportant purchase: a first house. Among those who graciously shared their first-house adventures and misadventures with us were Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, San Clemente Mayor Lori Donchak, and Mission Viejo Mayor Dave Leckness. What follows is the first-person account by Dave Leckness, which previously appeared on pages 32–33 in the October 2011 issue of the OC REALTOR®.

The story that comes to mind immediately every time I think of my first house is not when I bought my first house but when I tried to sell my first house.

The house was—where else?—in Mission Viejo. I had moved there in 1984. The advertisement of a print shop for sale lured me to southern Orange County, and I found Mission Viejo’s rolling hills, winding roads, and the beautiful lake irresistible. Sold on the surroundings, I purchased the business and, on September 10 of that year, opened Kwik Kopy Printing.

Two years later, when Nancy and I were married and we needed a place to live, we bought our first house. We lived in it for a couple of years and then decided it was time to trade up.

Now, I’ve been in the printing business for more than twentyfive years. I was smart enough to know that I needed professional help when it came to selling a house, so I contacted Charlie Elwis, a REALTOR® who farmed my neighborhood.

He listed the house, ran ads in all the right places, put up signs here and there, and we were in business.

Everything was going great! A buyer responded and agreed in principle to my price. All that remained—I thought—was the formality of a walk-through and then the paperwork.

Smooth as glass, right?

First, the buyer wanted me to replace a screen. And then, there was some problem with a window.

But I did it. I did it all.

We had a second walk-through to verify that all of the buyer’s complaints had been addressed satisfactorily and that all of the “fixes” had been made.

This time, the buyer found something wrong with the front gate and a fence post.

By now, I was growing a bit impatient. I wanted to get the deal done.

But I fixed the gate and the post, and my REALTOR® scheduled a third walk-through.

This time, the buyer came in, pointed to the stove in the kitchen, turned to me and announced, “There’s something wrong with the stove door, and I want you to fix it.”

I said, “That’s it! I’ve had it!”

I told my REALTOR®, “I can’t do it. This guy’s killing me. I’m not selling to him!”

So my REALTOR® said, “Dave, what if you rented this house instead of selling it?” Without waiting for me to reply, he asked, “What’s the mortgage payment on the house you want to buy?”

“Two thousand dollars a month,” I replied.

“You could rent this house for about $1,700 a month,” he responded. “That way, you’d be buying a house for $300 a month.”

“Wow!” I exclaimed. “I could buy a house for $300 a month? Let’s do it!”

So I didn’t sell my first house. I kept it. I’ve been renting it for more than twenty years. And in that period of time, it has increased substantially in value.

Deciding to deal with a REALTOR® was the best move I’ve ever made because he gave me the best advice I’ve ever received.

The house was in Mission Viejo. It was my first house. I’ve still got it. Now, I rent it for a whole lot more than $1,700 a month.

And I thank Charlie every time I see him. Without him, I would have sold the house, and the money would have gone wherever money goes when it leaves your hands. But thanks to him, I kept the house.

So my story is not really about buying a first house or even about selling a first house. It’s about keeping a first house and renting it—thanks to the sound advice I received more than twenty years ago from a REALTOR®.

The moral of this story is: If you think you need to sell a house, don’t go it alone. Contact a REALTOR®.

Incidentally, the house I didn’t sell is now worth about $650,000, money I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for a foresighted REALTOR®, a finicky buyer, and a stove I refused to fix.

Dave Leckness is a former mayor of Mission Viejo and the owner of Kwik Kopy Printing in that city. A founding member of the Mission Viejo Chamber of Commerce, Dave sees himself as a cheerleader for the city he loves and each month publishes the Mission Viejo Reporter as a way of making residents aware of that city’s history, business opportunities, and good news.