Tuesday, January 31, 2006
A brief historical tangent: In college, my roommate Jillian and I knew so very many guys named Rob that we had to give them all adjectives to keep them straight. This practice wound up spreading a bit, and eventually most of the guys we knew had adjectives attached to their names in our casual discussions. My favorite, I think, was Naked Howie.
Anyway. Turns out Punk Rob is working in DC for Media Matters as a research analyst. Neat! After a little creative internet sleuthing when I got to the office, I also found out he's getting married next month. Double neat!
It was really surreal to run into someone from college on the train, though. Yes, I know, I act like college was so long ago, when I actually only graduated in May. But it's still weird. When I go through transitions like that, I tend to lose touch with the people from the previous period in my life (with a very few, very important exceptions, of course). I'd already lost touch with a lot of people-- including Punk Rob and all the other Robs-- when I moved out of the dorms and in with Don, and spent so much less time on campus. And the Baltimore/DC area is big. It's not like my hometown, where my mother once ran into the mother of someone I'd gone to elementary school with, who had heard from the mother of someone I'd gone to high school with that my boyfriend at the time had given me a ring for christmas and so all of a sudden the whole town thought I was getting married and my mother had to do emergency grocery store gossip triage.
It's not like that. It's big. So running into Punk Rob, of all people, was weird. Cool, but weird. We talked about houses. Of course. Not a lot of time for much else-- I'm only on the red line for two stops.
I wonder if I'll run into anyone else? The internet makes it a lot easier; I know, for instance, that even though Jillian hasn't spoken to me in a year and a half at least, that she got married in September and is living in Frederick and working in early childhood education. But completely random freak coincidences like running into Punk Rob on the train because I was an hour late this morning, those aren't really findable on Google.
I was originally going to post about how the cat fell down the stairs for the third time on Sunday, but I'll save that for later.
Friday, January 27, 2006
And so I give unto you an actual, for reals, gen-u-wine picture of the house. Because that's what the public wants.
It's not a very good picture, but damn if it isn't a picture. You can see the screen porch which will eventually become a plain old open porch, and the windows to the bedroom which we are currently using as the master. Plus... uh... the mailbox. And if you squint, Don's car in the driveway.
Two hundred thousand dollars.
Which is only twenty thousand less than we paid for the entire house-- and a new kitchen, master bedroom, and master bath are not going to double the value of the house. Even if they did, it wouldn't matter. If we HAD two hundred thousand dollars, which of course we don't, we wouldn't sink it into this house. We'd put a down payment down on, say, a four hundred thousand dollar house. Bigger. Nicer. Finished. Much as we love this house, it's simply not worth that sort of investment.
So. What now?
We're not totally sure. We currently have forty thousand dollars from the sale of the townhouse sitting in a high-interest-bearing savings account. It's time to sit down and figure out exactly what we can do with that amount of money. Extending the house, any major construction, is out. Hiring a contractor is out. The only definite is that we must have central air installed by summer; it's not an option not to, as I am extremely vulnerable to heat exhaustion and literally can't survive in a house without air conditioning during a Baltimore summer. I've tried. I got very, very sick. So. We do know that HVAC will cost us about ten thousand dollars. We have to remove the drop ceilings before we bring them in, but that's a do-it-yourself project (or maybe a get-the-fraternity-brothers-to-help project).
That leaves us with thirty thousand dollars. I did a little bit of research last night and determined that we can probably get the entire main floor done in hardwood flooring for another ten thousand, maybe a little less. Before we do that, though, we have to do whatever we're going to do to the walls. Which means making a final decision about what to do about the kitchen.
My opinion, as of this moment, is that we should break down the wall in between the kitchen and what will be the dining room, as we had originally planned to do, and put in a peninsula/breakfast bar. This will make the kitchen into sort of a long, skinny U. Then we'll open up the wall in between the dining room and the 'bonus' room-- which will turn into an office/library/family room-- and also open up a large opening between the dining room and the living room. All of these we could do ourselves, with the help of Don's dad and maybe some of the Lambda Chi Alpha boys. Finally, we'll re-do the kitchen with nice cabinets and plenty of counter space.
Don had discussed moving things around in the bathroom that's off of the kitchen, and turning some of the space from what is an unnecessarily large bathroom into a pantry. This would also be nice, and I think it could be done, although I don't know if we would include it in our immediate budget.
So. Ten thousand for the HVAC. Ten thousand for the floors. Twenty thousand for the kitchen and the walls.
It might work.
We're also going to go through the stuff in the attic-- it can't hurt, and it's very possible that some of those antiques could be worth money. Every penny counts, now.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
The irony about all of this is that we do get a couple of channels perfectly: the Food Network and HGTV, the two channels I am always trying to force Don to watch with me! Now he has no choice but to suffer through episodes of 'Divine Design' and 'Barefoot Contessa.'
Every so often he forgets himself and gets really interested in a show, though, which is very funny to watch. Don, you see, has a bad habit-- picked up from watching football with his Dad, I suspect-- of shouting at the television when they don't do what he wants. This is pretty normal when you're watching a Ravens game: "What? You've got to be kidding me! Bad call! Penalty!" But it's a little weird when you're watching HGTV: "What? You've got to be kidding me! That paint color is all wrong! You can't put that lamp there!"
So this morning I got to set up my computer finally-- the cable only got turned on two days ago, of course, and Don only set up his computer to test it, he didn't bother to set up mine, figuring we'd get around to it when we had time.
In the townhouse, I used a built-in desk which of course stayed there when we sold it. So I'm using the folding table from the laundry room until the construction is done. Then I'll get to buy a really nice desk. I want one of those fancy estate desks that you see in mansions, the really big flat ones. Mmm, big desk. Anyway. So I dragged in the table from where the movers had left it, on the screen porch, and set it up in the designated corner. Then I got out all of my cords and wires and bits and pieces and plugged everything in and was good to go.
It's so nice to have the internet again.
Now I think I'll go have breakfast.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Oh, the possibilities! Movies on demand! The game show network! TV Land! The food network! Five different versions of HGTV! I may not move from the couch for a week. This may have a serious impact on our unpacking timetable (we don't actually have a timetable, though, so it's okay).
That said, I spent last night curled up in bed with "The Chronicles of Narnia."
So maybe TV won't take over my life. But the fact that there's a library on the way home from the train station might do something to my free time.
I once said in another blog that my reasons for doing things are often skewed; I'll do a fairly normal thing for a very strange reason (I got my tongue pierced in college so that I could make faces in ice cream cones, for example). This holds true when it comes to making snap judgements about people. I will often decide that I want to be friends with somebody based on their haircut, rather than, for instance, the fact that they're reading the same book I am or show signs of pursuing the same interests as I have.
I bet the Baltimore bloggers all have really interesting haircuts.
Monday, January 23, 2006
This weekend we did a lot of unpacking and exploring. When we first looked at the house, I'd noticed a large desk in the basement which had clearly been there for many years. I was right; it was a Brinkley possession and as such the sellers left it in the house (this was part of our contract agreement-- they left everything in the house which had been left in it by the previous owners, Don's family). Don stayed home on Friday, feeling sick, and spent some time puttering around exploring. He called me at work in the afternoon, and told me that he'd found "some stuff" in the desk. He wasn't particularly descriptive-- it's not one of his gifts-- and I was itching to get home and see what he'd found. I couldn't, of course, until the next day; my commute is so long now that I don't actually see daylight at all, and by the time I got home it was much too dark to go stumbling around in the basement.
So, on Saturday, before our friends came over, down I went. And lo! There was, in fact, stuff. The middle drawer, the one I always call the 'pens-and-pencils-drawer', was full. Most of it was mysterious electrical components and random hardware, nuts, bolts, screws, and the like. I did make a few finds, though. My favorite is this "delegate" ribbon. It's from the Maryland Firefighters' Association's National Convention of 1966. Later, I went over to Don's parents house, and his mother told me that nearly every Brinkley who ever lived in the house was involved with the firehouse in some way. I'd known that Don's mother and father were both volunteer firefighters, back in the day-- they actually got married in the firehouse, and the little old ladies from the Ladies' Auxiliary cooked their wedding dinner! As it turns out, Pop-Pop Brinkley (Edward Sr., I believe) was actually one of the founders of the local firehouse, and both his wife and his daughter worked as part of the Ladies' Auxiliary. Fascinating!
We also found a very retro earring, Pop-Pop's lunchbox (filled with hinges, for some reason), and this great warrantee from Jordan pens. Too bad we couldn't find the pen-- we could have seen if someone would honor it!
Friday, January 20, 2006
Anyway. Back to the real blogging.
Last night we had grand ambitions to get lots of unpacking and cleaning and rearranging done. Instead, we made a frozen pizza and collapsed into bed at 8:30 (which caused Don to moan about how we are old and boring, which is marginally true). We have people coming over at noon tomorrow for Dungeons & Dragons (yes we are nerds), so at the very least we need to have the dining room table... er... uncovered. Right now it is barely visible underneath the piles of stuff. The plan for tonight-- barring any alarming exhaustion-- is to clean out the refrigerator (Don managed to do the freezer last night before I got home, he's so great) and then go grocery shopping so that we can finally stop eating frozen pizza. Then we'll move all the junk off of the dining room table (I'm pretty sure it's actually the entire contents of the hall closet sitting on there) and move the table itself out into the middle of the room and put the leaves in. One of the dining room chairs came apart a little bit in the move; the rod on the bottom fell off, which was fairly unsurprising since it was wobbly already. We will either fix it on Saturday morning (unlikely) or scrounge up some of the bounty of bizarre chairs that was left to us in the house and use those instead (more likely). I'd like to get some of the kitchen stuff put away on Saturday morning just so that it's a little easier to get around in there. Right now there's boxes practically filling the whole room-- and it's a big room.
Man, my paragraphs are long. Sorry about that.
Anyway, hopefully we can get the cable guy to come turn the cable on on Sunday. I can't live too much longer without the Food Network, as I made sure to tell Don at least three times yesterday. More importantly, neither of us can live much longer without the internet at home.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
So. As you may or may not remember (if you’ve forgotten, scroll down. Duh.), we were supposed to settle on our new house on Friday. The 13th, if it matters (portent of DOOM, anyone?). Our homeowner’s insurance policy (and all of our other policies, incidentally—discounts ahoy!) is with Allstate. Our agent, the fabulous and ever-helpful Tola, was out of town last week, on some sort of fabulous and helpful vacation. So when we needed to provide our lender with proof of insurance—did you know they make you prove it before they give you money? The nerve—we called the generic 1-800-Allstate number. They got us a policy and promised to fax it to the lender. This was on Thursday night. It took three phone calls to these people before they sent anything at all. The lender finally got a fax from them at about seven PM Thursday night. He was out of the office by then, of course, so only got a notification that he’d gotten something, not the fax itself. He told us he’d gotten it and that we would settle on the morrow (okay, I don’t think Frank has ever said ‘on the morrow’ in his life, but you know what I mean). Our realtor set up a 1 PM settlement.
The next morning, at about nine, Frank called. The Allstate people had sent him a BLANK FAX. Four phone calls to them later, they helpfully sent him ANOTHER BLANK FAX. By this time it was almost noon, and we had to push back the settlement time to 4:30. Finally, the Allstate people got it together enough to send Frank our policy. But there was a problem—the policy didn’t have a premium attached. They informed us that it would take them 2 to 3 days (!) to put together the premium, and that our actual agent would be the only person who could do it any faster.
So we called Tola. The poor woman was in the doctor’s office, having blood drawn. She helped us ANYWAY, because she’s that cool. She called her office, and had them work out the premium and send the binder (it’s not actually a binder like the three-ring kind, since those don’t go through fax machines so well, but that’s what they call it) to Frank. The dutiful Wally (yes that’s his name), her assistant, did this. By this time it was 2 PM and we were beginning to sweat. See, once the lender has everything they need for the loan, it gets taken to ‘Docs’ (not doctors, documents) to be processed. This takes about an hour. Then it gets sent to the title company (aka the middle man slash notary), where it takes another hour for them to PRINT IT ALL OUT because it’s so freaking huge. So Wally sent our binder over, and then Frank called us. Wonderful Wally had forgotten to include a COVER SHEET, with all of the contact information for Allstate on it. Okay, simple. Right? Wrong. Through a series of bathroom breaks, miscommunications, misunderstandings, incompetence, and sheer stupidity, it took TWO HOURS to get the damn cover sheet faxed to Frank, at 4:10. The title company closed at six.
I’ll wait a minute while you do the math.
That’s right. Everything was finally ready for us, FIVE MINUTES after it was too late for us to settle that day.
Worst. Day. Ever.
So Saturday was spent rushing around making sure that we could stay in our house until Wednesday (we had to pay a rescheduling fee for the guy’s movers), since our new settlement appointment was at 2:30 on Tuesday (too late for our movers).
Sunday and Monday, we lived out of boxes and ate a lot of frozen pizza (virtually the only thing sold in the grocery store that is inexpensive and does not require kitchen utensils). Finally, Tuesday afternoon, we settled. It took two and a half hours. The sellers were nice enough (okay, she was—he didn’t say anything, since he wasn’t speaking to her since the divorce and seemed like a surly sort anyway). We got the keys, went back to the townhouse, and got all of the stuff we knew the movers wouldn’t move (the lawnmower, propane tanks, the weedwacker, gasoline, etc.), and took it over to the new house. We stowed that away, stopped by Home Depot to pick up a couple of things, and went to the Olive Garden to use the gift cards my mom had given us for just that occasion. Mmm, ravioli.
Wednesday, I had to go back to work (though it really sucked, after having five days off! I can’t wait until I start making enough money writing non-technical things to do it at home!) While I was working, Don stayed home and supervised the movers while they lugged our stuff to the new house. Which cost—hold your breath—seven hundred dollars. Which is, incidentally, seven hundred dollars worth of him not having to listen to me complain about having to move the stuff ourselves, or how I’ve just dropped the couch on my foot, or how this was all his idea anyway and why should I have to do any heavy lifting, or how I really don’t feel good and isn’t it hot? He said it was worth it. I think he would have paid more if he had to.
So I left the townhouse yesterday to go to work, and came home from work to the new house. It was a little surreal. Mostly so far I just keep wandering around going “It’s so BIG!” over and over again (actually my first reaction was to point out that the dining room furniture was in the wrong places, but that’s not important). The cat seems to feel the same way I do. We picked her up from Don’s parents last night, and she spent a good half an hour running from room to room on the main floor meowing piteously and looking confused. Then she figured out that there was an upstairs. Poor kitty. I think she’s mostly gotten over it, though she needed some reassurance this morning and will probably need a good solid snuggling session this weekend. Hopefully the cable will be turned on by then and we can indulge in some Jamaila-and-kitty Food Network-watching slash snuggling time. It’s her favorite thing to do on weekend afternoons.
Of course, that assumes that we’ve put the couch cushions back on by this weekend.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Yeah, that stage.
So we got burgers last night and packed the dishes. Last year I got a great deal online from JC Penney on an eight piece stoneware service in blue and white, the colors we decided to emphasize in our kitchenware. They shipped it to us in a great big box full of smaller boxes, which were carefully packed in the most complex way possible, with bizarre combinations of big plates, small plates, salad bowls, cereal bowls, mugs and serveware. So last night, a year or so later, we had to try to figure out how to put the dishes back into the small boxes. Don nearly cried.
Plus I broke a plate this summer (really it broke itself, just flew off the counter, I swear), so that screwed ALL the packing logistics up! I'll never live that one down.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Monday, January 09, 2006
Apparently I'm feeling very parenthetical today.
So cross your fingers; only one thing can go wrong now, and everyone seems pretty confident that it won't.
We went to the new house on Saturday, and met up with both our realtor and the sellers' realtor. The contractor was supposed to be there at one; we waited until two. He never showed up (our realtor said, "Well, maybe that's why they call it Budget Waterproofing!"). This proved to be less of a problem than it could have been, however, because the sellers' realtor was able to shed some belated light on the situation. She was surprised to hear that she hadn't in fact called our realtor and told him what she knew (though she managed to find the time to go behind his back and call our lender to check up on us!). He informed her that she had in fact not called him back in a week, and she had the grace to look slightly abashed. Anyway, she told us that when the owner came home from her business trip on Thursday, she found that the water softener tank had leaked all over the basement floor (the source of the 'standing water', natch). In addition to that, the sump pump was clearly not working-- we saw for ourselves that the hole it was in was full of water, over the top of the pump and beyond.
So. Tank leaked; pump broke. Well, then. Essentially, we worked out a deal, although we won't know for sure the financial details of it until later today or possibly tomorrow. A plumber will have to come in and fix the sump pump and remove the water filtration tank (which is unnecessary anyway, as the house is on city water-- nobody's quite sure why it is there in the first place). Said plumber shall furnish us with a receipt, which we shall cheerfully provide to the bank, who will then give us lots of money. And then we'll settle. Our realtor is positive we'll be able to settle by Friday; we'd be happier with Thursday, since Don needs to be up in Deep Creek for his fraternity's winter retreat Friday night (if he could get out of it, he would, but he's got an important duty to fill). At this point, though, we'll take what we can get. We just want to move. We'll have the holiday off of work to unpack, though, which is quite nice. We both work for defense contractors, so we both get federal holidays off. Quite a nice change from the retail jobs I worked in college!
Our realtor doesn't start working until about 10 AM, so we'll probably find out a little more about who is paying for what and how things are going to work and a timeframe for everything a little later in the day.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
At any rate, settlement went fine. We knew as of yesterday that we would not be settling on the new house today; the standing water issue raised by the appraiser must be fixed. Our realtor scheduled three contractors to come in and give us estimates; one today at 1 PM, one tomorrow at 2:30 PM, and one on Tuesday at 10 AM. But the seller asked us to cancel the contractor appointment for today, because the husband wanted to go to the house and take a look and see what was going on and if he could determine if there was just a sump pump problem (from the pictures we know it isn't, but whatever). Apparently the couple are getting divorced, and he no longer lives at the house. The wife does live there, but is apparently almost always out of town (which is probably why she's not keeping such a big house). So the husband went to the house today and took a look. We have no idea what his reaction was, or what he said; we haven't heard anything since we said goodbye to our realtor at 11 this morning. We will be heading up to the new house tomorrow for the 2:30 contractor appointment. Hopefully he'll say it's a fairly minor problem. Whatever he says, we have to be out of the townhouse by the 16th, which really means we need to settle on the new house by the 13th. If we can't settle by then for whatever reason, we'll have to put our stuff in storage and move in with Don's parents (again!) until we can settle. We'd prefer to just get it over with.
We went to both Columbia Kitchens and Home Depot today to look at cabinets for the kitchen. A bit preemptive, but we didn't really have anything else to do since so many things had gotten cancelled. We disagree on a lot of things about the kitchen; I'm hoping we'll be able to compromise enough to get a kitchen we both like, though Don doesn't seem willing to compromise at all (eek!). We do have some similar ideas; we both want dark cabinets, though he likes brown and I like rich red tones (for a while I wanted all white cabinets, like Giada DeLaurentiis on the Food Network, but after both Don AND my mother pointed out that I wouldn't ever clean them, that idea went down the tubes. What can you do when they team up on you?). We also are both on the same page about hardware color-- brushed steel-- though we disagree on styles. Another thing we disagree on is the stove: I want an oven with a stovetop, and one separate wall oven. He wants a countertop stovetop and two wall ovens. We both agree that whatever we get should be gas, though. And we definitely agree on what fridge to get, which is good.
What comes next? The appointment tomorrow, and probably bickering about washers and dryers. Wish us luck!
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
What this means is that settlement on Friday is now virtually impossible, unless by some miracle we can get a contractor to come out today and to say that there really isn't a problem. Which will of course cost money.
We've now spent over $2200 out of pocket, and we still don't have a house.
I'm a little annoyed.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
When Don's aunt Maugie (his father's eldest sister, Margaret Anne) died in 2003, the executors of her estate sold the house, because Don's father didn't want it, and his uncle couldn't afford it. A young couple bought it, presumably with the intent of fixing it up and living in it. Alas, we thought, the ancestral home is lost to us. Or we would have thought that, if any of us were particularly inclined to think in such high-falutin' language. But in November, the lovely young couple put the house back up for sale, having mysteriously changed their minds after owning the house for two years.
We weren't planning on buying another house just yet-- both of us had just gotten pretty good jobs, and we wanted to use the new income to save some money so we would be able to put a decent down payment down and wouldn't be slammed by closing costs and moving fees. It was a good plan. But then came the phone call. The big house is back on the market, Don's mother told him. You could totally afford it. Totally.
So we looked into it over the weekend. Could we? As it turned out, we could. So we called our realtor. We had really enjoyed working with the realtor who helped us buy the townhouse, so we turned to him again. Did he think we could do it? He certainly did. Not only that, but he thought we could do it rather better than we'd hoped: as it turned out, our cute little yellow townhouse had somehow managed to double in value in less than two years. So we put it on the market. A little less than two weeks later, we had an offer, and a contract.
Then came the financing fiascos. Our lender's appraisal of our new home-to-be showed that the roof was in disrepair and the basement was damp. Well, yes. It's an old house. The basement's made of concrete, and in heavy rain like there was on the day the appraiser came, it gets a little damp. That's why someone invented dehumidifiers. And the roof? It needs to be replaced. We planned to do it immediately. Not good enough; the lender insisted that any house they financed must have a roof on it that is good for at least two years. Yeah, right. We worried. Then our realtor said, why not let Long and Foster give it a shot and see if they can get you a loan? You shouldn't have to jump through all of these hoops. We gave it a try.
Settlement is on Friday, for both houses. The yellow townhouse will no longer be ours at 11 AM. The big house will come into our possession at 4 PM. The movers are coming at 8:30 Saturday morning.
It's going to be some kind of adventure.