Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The First Offer

I found a place that's perfect for me!  It's in a wonderful location! With a great layout! What a view! And, lots of closet space! (Just shhh about the grotesquely stained carpet, water rot in the kitchen and windows that aren't quite up to code...) It's perfect!

Now it's time---for the first time in my life---to make an offer on a piece of real estate that could actually be mine ALL MINE!

How do I bid on a property? I dunno. Apparently, it first involves two full days of phone and email tag with my realtor followed by lots of waiting and waiting and stomach-aching and waiting.

In the meantime, I'm crunching numbers trying to come up with an offer that works within my budget, isn't insulting, but is realistic to the property's worth and also mourning the impending loss of my savings account.

Yes, after years of saving up for this very moment, my mind can't help but wander to the place of "other things I could have done with this money instead of spending most of it in one big chunk":

  • Gone to Disney World, like, a dozen times.
  • Visited the emergency room more than a dozen times.
  • Added 100+ pairs of leather boots to my collection.
  • Purchased over a thousand large pizzas without a coupon.

But, forget all of that.  Because, I'm wasting even more of my thoughts on decorating the place that I'm still waiting to bid on.

Hello Pinterest!

I need this:
...and this:

...one of these:

...a chalkboard wall in the kitchen:

...a barn door for the hallway:

...for the bathroom:

...and, of course, one of these, please!

Or, maybe I just need my realtor to get me that paperwork. Stat!

P.S. Pinterest is funny.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Interim: Apartment Life

The house hunt continues.

Or... make that condo hunt.

My realtor and I have come to the conclusion that my small budget will go further in a condominium living situation rather than in a traditional home.

His line is that a condo offers "more bang for its buck". (My realtor may possibly be related to Ned Flanders.) And, my argument agrees that---while the month-to-month out of pocket would be higher---the condos that we've looked at so far are definitely in much better condition than the houses (ie. possible crime scenes) that are listed at the same price point.

Further proving my point is the fact that none of the houses and their beautiful yards had a lawn mower, a snow blower, and a husband to employ use of such devices bundled into the titles. So, a condo it is!

In the past week, I've had one condo showing sponsored by a drunk homeowner who shamelessly insisted on being present. Well, he was mostly present in the bush he fell into on the way up the two flights of stairs... and then later on the couch on which he slumped sideways while spouting out numbers that made no sense mathematically to the sober.

Not the guy.

If there was ever a time and a place for obnoxious Google Glass, this showing was the appropriate setting! Since I didn't have a spy cam at the ready, this picture I found online can paint a somewhat accurate picture of my experience. Except my guy manage to hit the bush completely dead center. None of this sloppy half-miss stuff I found on Google. (Whose search engine, by the way, had an alarmingly varied amount of "drunk in bush" images to choose from. Although, half of which were just pictures of former president George W. and Laura Bush, for some reason.)

The showing was co-hosted by the drunkard's wife/girlfriend who was under the influence of a greater than or equal to substance of choice. She traipsed through piles of dirty laundry while trying to persuade my mother to take off her shoes to "feel how soft the carpeting is!" Unless the place is actually carpeted in the six inches of used socks, tees and undies... I could not even tell you the color or texture of the actual flooring. (There was, however, beige Berber wall-to-wall carpet in the full bath for some strange reason.)

Needless to say, I'm still searching.

In the interim, my parents and I have holed up in a short-term apartment rental that has been a crash course in shared-wall living for all of us. This crash course being a necessary one, though, seeing that the final landing pad for all of us will be our own respective condos and/or townhouses.

Here's a short list of lessons learned so far:
  • On move-in day, as we carried the first load into the apartment, the neighbor kids decided to climb into our U-haul to peruse what kind of neat stuff we own. Lesson learned: We no longer have a private driveway. Your belongings are not your belongings until you play a good defense at your vehicle and a speedy offense to relocate them indoors.
  • Two weeks in and I'm still swearing there's a raccoon on the roof. Lesson learned: We're on the bottom level of three stories. Those are your neighbors.
  • No matter how cautious you are with setting the water temperature in the shower, it will not remain constant. Lesson learned: You now share a water heater and pipes. Every cleansing risks burn or frostbite.
  • There are train tracks that run behind our apartment complex. I'm not used to living near trains. The first night, I thought, "How nostalgically American!" Now, they're just unnecessary alarms clocks at ungodly hours. Lesson learned: At least they keep away from my morning and evening commute!
  • Our apartment community is a very large one. Every cluster of buildings seems to have its own large decorative rock. Each large decorative rock seems to have assigned to it one fifty-something-year-old alcoholic. They sit on their designated rock each evening, with that night's six-pack disassembled around their feet. Sometimes they even visit each others' rocks, which is kind of sweet. Lesson learned: You can't pick your neighbors, so be grateful when they're nice ones.
  • I have never before had to share a washer and dryer with anyone that I wasn't related to. This is also the first time in my life that I've had to scrape up quarters to do so. I must have become jaded somewhere along the line, because I'm convinced that everybody's trying to steal my clothing. I've even taken to counting my panties after every wash to be sure there's no perverts lurking around the shared laundry room. Lesson learned: When you purchase your underwear in packs of four, nobody's probably interested in them.
  • As I mentioned, we're on the lower level of three stories. Our apartment is 50% submerged below ground. A neighbor kid was running along the side of our building and "fell down" right next to my bedroom window. He laid there moving his head in vain at every angle trying to peep down into the apartment-issued horizontal blinds that I don't completely trust, while I sat on the bed staring back at him in disbelief. Lesson learned: Get undressed only in the windowless bathroom.
  • Everything I do, I must do from my bed. These are very close quarters that only a bed and a long dresser fit into.  My bed is now my seat, my dinner table, my bill paying station, my reading nook, my couch, my dressing area, my hair-doing station, my laundry table and, oh yeah, I sleep there too. Lesson learned: I'm sure glad I have a bed! Or I'd be seatless, tableless, nookless, couchless and sleepless too.

Here's to more adventures in making it work! *clink*

Sunday, July 27, 2014

House Hunting: Part II

My house-hunting adventure continued today with the first slew of showings with my new realtor. (New realtor = the one who actually called me back and whom has this whole fancy email thing figured out.)

House 1: This house is very near to the home we had lived in for the last 13 years and on a street that is a part of our regular evening walking route. It had a nice front porch, a quaint and easily maintainable backyard, and a friendly black kitty next door that I would be likely to catnap and call as my own (only until the neighbor woke up and realized it was missing, of course.) 

The inside of the house wasn't so much of a treat. Musty smelling, wallpaper in every bedroom (even in places where wallpaper doesn't belong. Hint: Wallpaper was designed for walls, yo) absolutely no appliances, makeshift closet rods made from leftover plumbing, and the piece de resistance... wood paneling in all of the common spaces. 

Now I realize that real wood paneling can be easily painted to look like beadboard or wainscoting. But, this home had this this flimsy thin faux wood walling that someone had, not so cleverly, cut out little hidden "doors" in. What? I know this makes no sense. But, imagine following along the wall to discover a piece of packaging tape, masking or duct tape (Believe me, the tape came in an abundance of variety.) You notice a rectangular cut-out along the wall and give the tape a tug. Like a little trap door, the thin paneling would give way to reveal either a surprise "Oh. A fuse box!" or the deception of one, "Oh, a bed of splinters!"

I think I jumped the gun, though, on the piece de resistance. This was actually the fact that we never did find the furnace. We found the water heater, the hookups for where a washer and dryer should be, the air conditioning unit outside, but never a furnace. My realtor was still looking for it along the home's perimeter when we tried to let him off the hook, "It's a 'no' to this property, so there's no need to find it." He couldn't give up the game though, "Okay. But, I still want to find it. It's got to be here somewhere!"

Condo 1: The only condo we toured today was located in a dream location. Right in the downtown area of my own hometown, but in a complex I'd hadn't considered due to its extremely cramped parking situation. 

There was a subletter who hadn't vacated the premises prior to our arrival, but who was kind enough to shirtlessly take to the bedroom to iron his laundry while we had a look around. (He wasn't so kind, however, as to turn off the internet porn he'd left up on the screen of his laptop on the dining room table. But, if you ask my mom, "I thought he was just studying to be a doctor." I'll let you folks decide for yourselves.)

It was a one bedroom unit (I had been looking for two) but the one room was ample enough in size and closet space to make up for it. The layout was well appointed and the picture window in the living room had a lovely view of the courtyard space below.

The downside? The parking, as mentioned before. At least one nosy elderly neighbor who was not at all shy about hanging out in the hallway and gawking at us a we toured the rest of the building. And, worst of all, horror upon horror, NO CATS ALLOWED! Come on, people! I'm turning 40. I'm unmarried. I've earned at least one cat in life!

It remains on the maybe list.

House 2: We actually started out this afternoon in the property that I'd referred to in my last post as the home in the meth-y neighborhood. But, for the purpose of good writing and suspense, I decided to save the "best" for last.

I'd recently re-nicknamed this one the "rapey woods" home because there's a wooded ravine behind the property. This intrigued me with the thought of wildlife but, instead, alarmed some in the family with its imminent threat of rapey danger. (Upon further research, I also learned that there is a registered sex offender living, ummmmmm, as the closest neighbor to the right!) But, it's newly renovated and miraculously in my price range. Let's take a look!

The yard was beautiful, fenced in, and the woods dropped off almost immediately into the Rouge River; giving any rapist worth his salt a great challenge to attack me from the property's rear. But, that's where the fun ended. 

Upon opening the front door we were immediately hit with the strong scent of mold. Then, when taking a first glance around, I realized that "newly renovated" was really the listing agent's code that they had newly acquired skills in the the art of Photoshop.

The gorgeous original hardwood floors pictured online, in reality, had the smoothness and consistency of a highway rumble strip. Their appearance, in person, gave the impression that a former owner at one time had strapped two pairs of ice skates on the family dog, let go, and said, "Let's just see what happens."

Now, I am not a flooring snob! I am fine with carpet. I am fine with tile. I am fine with laminate "hardwood". It's just that when sinking my savings into a home, it would simply be nice to walk across my own living room without the fear of splinters and sea-sickness.

I am also not an appliance snob. But, let's just say that the stainless steel refrigerator's freezer had a stain in it which could have possibly been left behind from a severed head. Moving out of the kitchen...

The bedrooms were okay, but with the really weird closets of a house built in the 1920's. (By the way, this house was built in the 1920's.)  The bathroom was standard. The smell of mold was STRONG throughout the entire upstairs and had already cemented a "no" vote in my mind. But, since we're here, why not check out the basement?  What harm could come from checking out the basement?

Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp... down the stairs we go. Looking up, yes, there is obvious water damage to this home. And, the copper plumbing did not have one inch that wasn't covered in rust.

It's still a "no" vote, but I possess a curious mind. Let's open the washer and dryer. Well, I think that severed head may have also taken a run through these.

Turn around. Ooh, a pet spider.

Turn around again. Ooh, a mysterious room that was probably used for storing beets and raw potatoes back in the day.

What's behind this door? 

The best I can describe what was behind this door is, if you've ever watched season one of Bate's Motel, it's the room where the kidnapped Asian sex slave was being held in Officer Shelby's basement. 

There could be no other explanation for this room other than to hold a kidnap victim hostage. 

Then when you walk into the room, there's another door that leads to another hostage room. The first room even had a wire for cable TV hanging down from the ceiling. Presumably, this was the "good hostage" room that you're allowed to watch TV in. When you're a "bad hostage" you get led through the labyrinth to the bad hostage room.

What house needs TWO hostage rooms in the basement?! (Maybe even three, if the room by the basement steps isn't really for storing beets!) These rooms also had excessive water damage to the point where the floor was coming apart. Presumably due to water torture or the rinsing of the severed head. 

I had squealed in horror when I opened the second hidden room's door. My realtor scurried over to ask me what I think. I said, "Well, if I ever decide to take up serial killing, I've found a place to stow the bodies." He laughed and actually agreed. Therefore, he is still my realtor.

There's a sex offender next door, two to three torture rooms in the basement and the likelihood that a severed head has frequented every appliance in the joint. This home is also not for me. NO LIST!

I realize that living by myself might eventually become lonely, but I'll take loneliness over being visited by the souls of those who passed here any day!

We're going back to the drawing board and praying for new listings this week. Home shopping on a tight budget may not be easy, but it is certainly entertaining!

Now if you'll excuse me, I had to go wash the mold spores out of my sinuses. They're giving me a headache.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

House Hunting is a Load of Crap

Let me start off by saying this: HGTV is a network of liars.

House hunting is not as fun as reality TV would have you think. There's no half-million dollar budget, dry-witted realtor, miles of granite countertop, hickory flooring, river rock showers, nor a film crew to capture all the amusing hijinks. (And, those Property Brothers won't even give me the time of day!)

No. In reality, hickory floors are not in your price-point, your realtor never bothered calling back (probably after scoffing at the tiny commission your purchase would generate), and all highjinks so far involved are sad and not anywhere near worth documenting for posterity.

House hunting it stressful.  House hunting is bad for your self-esteem. And, it basically just makes you have to go to the bathroom in more repetition than you are normally used to.

As my regular readers and friends all know; YES! I currently live with my parents. 

Roomies since day one. Now, with bigger jammies and a newer paci.
But, what you may not know is that home ownership was the last remaining unticked bulletpoint on my "Before I Turn 40" bucket list. (Last bulletpoint! I am SO dang close!)

What you also may not know is that this year-of-the-big-4-0 happens to coincide with my parents sudden urge to downsize, once again, and become snowbirds. 

What you really don't know (unless you see me everyday, then you already know too much and will probably want to toggle back to Facebook at this point...) is that our current home sold in under four days and we all need to vacate the premises in less than five weeks having absolutely no place to go.

House hunting has moved into super-stress mode! 

[Pause writing for additional bathroom break]

I'd considered breaking a promise on the lease agreement for my storage unit, by sleeping there for a few nights/weeks/months, if need be. (I've kept enough promises in 39 years, I should be allowed a freebie at this point, right?)

But, the mad packing dash has changed the comfort level of my storage unit from this (above) to that (below).

(Although, I'm training myself to fall asleep in this posture as a backup plan.)

One of my other pre-40 bulletpoints that I did manage to pull off thus far was to "not get married".  No shit. That was an actual goal of my thirties. (As if I were having diamond rings thrown at me from every direction. "Stop trying to marry me handsome, intelligent, hilarious men! I'm not that kind of girl!")

The real reason for that "goal" was that I actually wanted to take that decade to explore my independence and straighten out some heavy financial, spiritual and familial stuff.  Made sense at the time, but was not at all considering the fact that had I only left that one goal off the list, I could now have a housing budget that was double in size (making that river rock shower a total possibility.)*

I can't blame God. We all know that He carves a much wiser path for our lives than we ever could. But, I will blame Destiny's Child in small part. "♫ The car I'm driving, I bought it! The house I live in, where is it?! ♫" Why'd you get us all worked up, ladies? This crap is hard!

Here's the state of my housing options as of this week's realty listings:
  • The pre-forclosed condo that's in my dream neighborhood, but has been bank-owned for over nine months and is not yet listed for sale. (I'm waiting on the aforementioned realtor to look into the bidding possibilities and get back with me.) The comps for the neighborhood were raised with a recent sale this past week, which has caused the prices in the neighborhood to be suddenly driven up, which has only aggravated my stress-belly further. [Insert additional bathroom trip.]
  • The okay-priced home that is, not only two lots down from the local sex shop, but also about 100 yards from where I saw a wino passed out in the grass with his paper bag last summer. (I wish I were exaggerating!)
  • The newly refinished home that lies just across the city border. Priced a bit higher than what I have to put down and in a neighborhood where I've spotted at least three places where I could likely procure crystal meth. (If you are confused, that last point is a negative. I do not have any need for meth and am not likely to in the coming years.)


Well, if we can't classify it as being fun, what is a successful house-hunting experience? 

I guess it's just one where you eventually end up with a place to live in. After you've pooped. A whole lot.