Lina Betancourt Fensch is a citizen of the world. Born in the United States to Colombian parents, she moved from Dallas to Paris, France, in 2004. She lived in the City of Light for over a decade, meeting and marrying her husband, Antoine Fensch, and having two children, Mathis and Mila.
They moved from Paris to North Texas in September of 2016 and started house-hunting shortly thereafter. In May of this year, after looking at dozens of houses and being outbid time and time again, they finally bought a Richardson Heights house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and 1,856 square feet. Their story is fascinating!
Full names: Lina Betancourt Fensch and Antoine Fensch
Occupations: Corporate communications, stay-at-home dad
Price Range: Under $250,000
CandysDirt.com: Why did you move back to the US generally, and Dallas specifically?
Lina Betancourt Fensch: When I was pregnant, I realized I didn’t want my children going through the French school system. I thought there would be more opportunity for them being raised in the United States. My husband was open to change because he’d lived in France his entire life. Plus, we were four people living in 400 square feet on the seventh floor with a broken elevator, so it was time to find more space!
We chose Dallas as it was low hanging fruit for us. I grew up here, had contacts, and new that the transition back would be the least difficult, all things considered.
CD: Tell us about the process of looking for a home in the DFW market over the last year.
LBF: It was like running fire drills. Luckily, my husband is a stay-at-home dad and was available almost at a moment’s notice to visit a house, but it was demoralizing. As soon as something would go on the market, he had to drop everything to run to see it and end up seeing the same dozen families looking in the same area and price range every time. It made us really not want to look for a house.
CD: How did you finally buy a house?
LBF: The house we bought was on the market for $259K and we put in an offer at $274K. We were told we weren’t the highest offer but we were chosen because we had a flexible move-in date, which was very important to the sellers as they wanted a lease-back. We offered a two-week lease-back for free.
CD: There was some unpleasant drama with the seller. Tell us what happened.
LBF: The appraisal only came in at $260K. I wasn’t going to split the difference and things started to get ugly. The seller was furious with the appraisal and wanted to put the house back on the market and take a chance with another appraisal. I think she felt she was being cheated by us. We offered the full two-month leaseback for free and that still wasn’t enough.
The seller’s agent put the house back on the market while the house was under contract with us. Then there was an issue with the closing date: they wanted to close by May 30, but because the back and forth took so long, the law required a certain amount of days before the closing and we were now pushed back to May 31.
With the house back on the market and everything just going to pieces with the seller, the only thing that would appease her was a $1,000 check from us. This was a very ugly process and everything was so dirty. It made me feel like this deal wasn’t supposed to go through.
CD: What did you like about the house? Dislike?
LBF: My husband really liked the large backyard and windows. He felt good in it. I didn’t like much as I felt it was too dark with too low ceilings, but because of the low appraisal and having it in our price point and really checking the boxes in terms of what we wanted, I really couldn’t say no just because of a feeling.
CD: What changes have you made?
LBF: What turned the house around for me personally was remodeling the kitchen. We love to cook and we spend the majority of our time in the room adjacent to the kitchen, our den and children’s playroom. The kitchen was a tiny galley kitchen with old cabinets — you felt like the cabinets were going to fall on you! The pass-through window area above the sink was the only way to see through to the den, a problem with two toddlers.
CD: Your renovations look extensive!
LBF: We took out that wall dividing the kitchen and den, removed all the cabinets, had new cabinets put in, got new appliances, and installed beautiful quartz countertops. It really opened up the space and made the den/kitchen area look so much larger and better integrated. We also painted the wall a really fun bright purple, which gives everyone a pick-me-up!
I want to just enjoy that space, but now I’m motivated to update other parts of the house, too. Some of the house had hardwoods, but the bedrooms had carpet, which we think is totally gross. Adding real hardwoods wasn’t in the budget, so we found laminate flooring that worked with the existing hardwoods. I think the laminate floors look better, to be honest.
We also tore out all of the ivy that had completely overtaken the fence in the backyard. While it looked very lush and nice, it was running wild. By tearing it all out, we now have plenty of space for a garden! But on the negative side, the fence is in really bad shape and obviously needs replacing. Before the ivy was taken down, it looked perfectly fine. In French we call this “cache-misere” or “hide misery,” in that the ivy was hiding the rotten fence.
CD: What are your future plans for the house?
LBF: We’ll be painting, upgrading the plugs to add grounds (they don’t have them and it’s very bad), and remodeling the hallway bathroom. We have a new coral couch coming for the living room that we’re really excited about that. In the spring, we’ll be landscaping the backyard a little more and adding a garden.
CD: What advice do you have for people looking to buy in the highly competitive under-$300K range in DFW?
LBF: Don’t lose hope. Something will come up if it’s meant to be! I wish I had a better answer but you just have to believe. There are some days where I’m still not convinced about this house and have my doubts that we did the right thing since the closing was such a horrible experience. But then I walk into the kitchen/den area and I realize there is a lot of potential!
Got your own real estate story to share? Email Leah at firstname.lastname@example.org.