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Home Value Highwire: A happy ending after disaster hits

Monday - 8/6/2012, 2:25pm  ET

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Even though the sign says the house is under contract, the new owners are moving in prior to settlement. An unusual circumstance allowed the family in early. (WTOP/Darci Marchese)
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Darci Marchese, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Imagine buying a home, getting ready to move in and having a major catastrophe strike.

Lisa Norwalk and her husband, Len Bisson, purchased a home in Derwood, Md., in July. About eight days prior to settlement, their realtor called them with some bad news.

He told them an upstairs toilet in their new home had broken. The water from the toilet had run for about 12 hours, flooding the entire house.

"We walked in and the first thing we noticed [was] that there was no kitchen," says Norwalk. "It was just plywood on the floor and studs."

They had no interest in rebuilding the kitchen, so they opted out of the contract. The sellers signed off as well.

But they needed a place to stay, since their Bethesda home was already sold and the new owners were moving in at the beginning of August.

They only looked at three homes during their search, but one of them stood out. Her 13-year-old daughter always thought they belonged there.

So they put in an offer on the home on Artesian Drive in Derwood and their real estate agent asked something very bold: Could they move in prior to settlement?

"Everybody said sure," says Norwalk.

They gave a hefty down payment to settle any nerves. Norwalk and her husband moved in right away, even though the for-sale sign outside still said the home was under contract rather than sold.

"We're very, very lucky -- very nice of them," Norwalk adds.

Norwalk says other than the first house flooding, the experience of buying and selling a home was smooth sailing. She sold her Bethesda home in a little more than a week and got exactly what they asked for.

"We got four times the land, 1 1/2 times the house and made a profit," she says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)