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We're embarking on a home building expedition, and here's what we have to say about it!

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shhhh....we found a house...

...MAYBE! Don't scare it away.

We actually saw a house last week that we really liked but I didn't say anything about it. After all we've been through, I didn't want to jinx it! I didn't want this to be the 4th house that we liked, commmitted to and then didn't get. That's just deflating.

We've also been giving each other a heavy dose of "if it's meant to be, it will happen", and "our house will find us", and "when the time is right" blah blah blah. Whatever gets you through the day, right?

Last week, my Dad went downtown to run an errand (or perhaps to get out of the house since we ALL live there now!!) and ran into a guy he was friendly with when my brother and I were in school. His daughters were me and my brothers ages, and we all went to the same church. They got to talking and Dad mentioned that John, Kyle and I were living back at home again since we were having some really bad real estate luck.

Old Friend says, hey, I'm thinking of selling my house, I'll give them first look before I put it on the market if they want. He told Dad his address and Dad told us. 

What?? Did a house just find us?

John almost had a heart attack. It's on this road that he runs on in Ashland that he LOOOOVES. Good neighborhood, well-built homes, nice street, easy location, close to my parents, etc. He was SO EXCITED. We drove by the house immediately. Dad didn't really have any idea what the house was like, or how big or where, but John knows that street so well and knew that all the homes are pretty nice and good sizes so we felt pretty confident.

We did a drive-by and it's a contemporary house. Not too crazy, but not quite the open colonials we'd been looking at. If we saw this online, we'd probably debate whether or not we wanted to see it at all. Here's what it looks like now:

See? Kind of funky looking. But not bad!

The next day, we called Old Friend and went to see the house. It's a TOTAL bachelor pad. It's just Old Friend and his 24-year-old son. And has been for the last 10-15 years. They have done nothing to update it much at all. They use the dining room for all their boxed junk and the kitchen table is a fold-out card table! There are hardly any curtains anywhere, nothing on the walls and the wiring for a security system that they ended up not installing is just sticking out of the walls. haha, Old Friend laughed about it with us and told us he knows he is not 'real estate show' ready. No kidding.

They did add AC a few years ago (yay!) and that was it. He told us he was going to have the roof redone, some of the windows replaced and was going to repaint the outside. Those things will make it look a lot better. The yard is a bit overgrown, too, but that's just a good long weekend in the spring project.

It's a a 3 bedroom (we were hoping for 4, but the basement is not finished so that's high on our list of things to do. That will give us the extra space we are looking for when John's LA family comes to town), but has almost 2300 total square feet. When you walk in the front door, you are in a gorgeous 2-story foyer which opens to a 2-story living room. Very pretty and light! There are two huge picture windows in the living room, one on the front and one one the side and a skylight above the front door. The dining room (or as Old Friend likes to call it, his 'junk room') is to the left and has a great little prep area/pantry that joins it with the kitchen.

The kitchen has tons of cabinets and a space for a table (which we never had in the condo!) and leads out to the deck. It also looks into a nice sized family room with a real fireplace! I am BIG on the kitchen that looks into the family room! I want to be able to cook dinner and watch Kyle at the same time!

There's a half bath downstairs and lots of coat closet space. The best part, is the laundry room is on the first floor, right where you walk in from the garage. Awesome.

Here's a really rough layout of the first floor:

I don't think I can make it any bigger so sorry if you can't read it very well! You get the idea, though. We really like the flow of the house and the openness in the foyer and front room.

The second floor has a huge master bedroom with the 3 big windows you can see in the picture above. It has a walk-in closet and it's own enormous bathroom. There is a full bathroom and 2 more bedrooms upstairs and both are really good sizes.

The 'bones' are there. Definitely. But...there are some SERIOUS updates needed. Like:

The MAUVE carpet that coats the entire second floor has to go. Like immediately. The first floor is only carpet (all 3 rooms but the kitchen) and the foyer and kitchen are tile. Old, dirty, white tile. That has to go, too. We plan to do hardwood in the foyer, kitchen and dining room and leave the living room and family room carpets (for now...they are a nice neutral gray, so we can live with them.)

The doors are about 2 steps above plywood, so those will be replaced, along with the frames and trim. It's all wood now (which I hate!) so it will be replaced with white trim, frames and molding.

All of the bathrooms need to be redone. Not that I don't like the color forest green, but it's just not a good countertop color. AT ALL. The kitchen is liveable, the oak cabinets have stood up well, but the lamiante counter top is making me sad.

We also want to finish the basement, add some recessed lights in the family room, replace the glass and brass chandelier in the foyer (please, and quickly!) and replace more windows. And actually paint. I think all of the rooms are still the same off-white primer that comes with the house. haha

Old Friend is going to replace a few of the windows on his own. Some of the window panes and frames are starting to fall apart, but some are fine. There's also one with a crack in it that a bird flew into. ouch. And, they are all crank windows, so they only open about 6-10 inches from the side. We want to eventually replace them all with standard push up windows and update the picture windows in the downstairs.

I have no doubt this was a great house in 1995, but it's been 15 years! It needs a new wardrobe!

Almost all of those things (aside from finishing the basemenr) are weekend projects. And stuff we can do, or can get someone to do quickly. There's nothing major, just replacing some fixtures, doors, countertops, etc. The plumbing, wiring, structure, etc, that's all fine. We can do the little things.

Our plan now is to go back tonight to take a second look with our agent. Old Friend is selling without an agent, so we have a little room in the price without having to pay two agent commissions. And, since techincally we found the house, we don't need to involve our agent either. But, she knows the process, can get us the good inspectors, the good assessors, and can navigate the closing process for us. And Margot the Agent has done SO MUCH for us, that how could we box her out now? She told us she's cut her commission in half, too.

I am 99% sure we'll be making an offer tonight and hopefully can move before Kyle's birthday in November. If that all happens, we are taking our two months of no mortgage payments and replacing the carpet and adding the hardwood before we even move. That will be one project out of the way!

Hopefully, we'll have REALLY good news tomorrow!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Short and sweet

Good news, we officially closed on the condo on Friday. As of 9:30 am, Friday, August 27, we no longer own a condo!

Good thing...they broke ground on new construction last week! That was one of our fears, that if they started new construction, we'd never sell since people would be more likely to buy brand new if it's available rather than something that's almost 4 years old.

Made it out just in time! :)

We are pretty settled in to my parents house, and have had very little problems with being in each others way so far. Thanks to 2 full bathrooms and different morning departure times, we've been OK.

It's a little crowded, but Kyle is having the BEST TIME EVER with so many fun people to play with and tons more room to run around!

We definitely need a house with a yard, or Kyle will never want to leave Grammy and Grampas!

We're working on it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Our days are numbered!

Officially, we have 4 more days in our little condo. Unofficially, we're out!

Last week we spent a ton of time at night packing as much as we could and sending it to the storage unit. My parents came by last Sunday and helped us by either watching Kyle, or packing, whichever was needed at that moment. We got a good amount of stuff done but had a long way to go.

Thursday and Friday, John took off work (I don't have enough vacation time to take work off right now) to do what he could on his own. He got a ton done but sometimes it feels like the more you do, the more there is to do!

Friday my Mom picked Kyle up from daycare and I left work a little early (yay for my manager leaving at 2!) to frantically pack before Kyle got home around 5:30. We had all 3 bathrooms clear, everything that was IN something in the living room/dining room, the coat closet, about 3/4 of our kitchen cabinets, my dresser and half of John's clothes. Not bad. So, we rewarded ourselves with a relaxing day at the lake.

Sunday, we got right back into it. That was supposed to be our last time in the condo. We have cleaners and movers and carpet people coming next week so we wanted to be gone by Sunday. Kyle...had other plans.

Poor little guy started throwing up (TMI, sorry) around 10 am and didn't stop until 4 pm. There must have been something in whatever he ate that didn't agree with him because it came on really suddenly, he had no fever, no messy diapers, no change in personality or appetite. He was still asking for food and milk, and still playing. He would just get sick every 30-45 minutes. It was really sad, so I took some time off packing to take care of Kyle.

Once we thought he was doing better, we brought him to my parent's house. I asked him in the car on the way out if he wanted to say goodbye to Kyle's house because someone else is going to live in it now. He said no. Then I asked him if he was OK with leaving Kyle's room to stay with Grammy for awhile. He said, "Pay (play) cars at Mimi's (grammy) house?" I said yes, and he replied, "OOHHH YEAH!". 

You can see where Kyle's loyalties lie.

We put him down for a nap at Grammy's house and then packed up his room. We had left everything visible as is (his closet was clear) as long as possible so Kyle didn't get confused or anything. When we got it all over to Grammy's house we set up his curtains, bumper, sheets and blankets just like home and he loved it.

In Kyle's 2 hour nap, we were able to get everything to my parent's house that we need to live on. Clothes, food, toys, etc. My guess is there's about 4 more boxes of glasses/dishware and our pots and pans left in the condo and that's it. We'll finish that tonight. The goal was to get it all done yesterday and I think we would have if Kyle wasn't sick. Luckily, he's been totally fine since around 4 pm yesterday, so we'll be able to leave him with my Mom for an hour or so and finish up the kitchen.

Tomorrow, John will take out our last load of trash (it's going to be a big one!), take apart Kyle's crib and our bed, and take our big mirror off the wall in the living room.

Movers come Wednesday to take our furniture to storage!

Not much has come on the market in the last week, we keep hearing there will be a bit more activity after Labor Day since a lot of people are finishing up their vacations this week and getting started in school. We hope so!

Our 2 prospects from last week both fell through. One was a good house with some updating needed but a horrible yard and shared driveway. It was almost a straight drop down to the street and the driveway was SO steep. We have no idea how anyone can navigate that in the winter! And it connects to another driveway so not only are you worried about the icy steep hill, but you'd be worried about skidding into your neighbor who is also trying to get out! No way.

The other was the one we mentioned a few times. We really liked it but were a little unsure about the yard. We asked for the lot plans so we could see if we could clear out some trees and make a bigger yard for Kyle.

Last Friday we still hadn't gotten them, so Monday, Margot the Agent called that agent to 'remind' him (re: bug the crap out of him) to get them to us. He said, oh, sorry, the house sold this weekend.


Chalk this up under 'we really can't catch a break'. The agent got another offer and without even bothering to tell our agent, presented it to the sellers and they accepted. He knew we were very interested and didn't even bother to tell Margot the Agent that he had another offer coming in. We had no chance to make our own offer.

What a jerk. Plus, he could have lost out on money for the sellers and commission for himself since he didn't know what we were planning to offer. Oh well, his loss.

Well, ours too, but we're not totally shocked that yet another home fell through. That's 3 now. We must be approaching some sort of record of homes lost by bad luck. haha

Now, we're at my parents house, and focusing on finding that perfect house. Or semi-perfect...whatever gets us some space! At least we have nothing to sell now, that makes our offer (when we decide to make one) more attractive since there will be no 'contigent upon sale of home' clause.

Crossing our fingers! Again!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Free and Clear

I hope this doesn't shock anyone, but we have more good news. I know, it's weird.

We heard from Margot the Agent that the assessment matched the selling price. We have officially passed all tests and as of August 27, we are free and clear of this condo!

Get packing!

Two nights ago, I rented a storage unit in Ashland and last night started to pack up some boxes. John was not interested in helping me, he felt that we still had the assessment hurdle to cross and we shouldn't jinx ourselves by packing when it all might fall through. Valid point, but I was itching to get going. So, I just did easy stuff, my nightstand contents went in shoebox. My nail polish/care went in another shoebox and my jewelry boxes and a few other little things went in yet another shoebox.

At least I felt that I had done something, and that those things were easily undone if our luck hadn't changed.

John called me at my desk this morning and said that Margot had called him with the good news. My FIRST question was...are you going to start packing tonight?? haha, he said yes.

We have some boxes, and have a friend that just moved so we'll be taking over his boxes. I'm not sure where we are going to start, but we better get going! The biggest thing now is deciding what to put in storage (could be a month, could be 3), what to bring to my parent's house and what to throw away/donate.

So far I've booked movers, booked a carpet cleaner (seller's request), rented the storage unit, found some boxes, and we've started to talk to my parents about where all our stuff will go. I think we'll be OK!

Tonight we're visiting one house for the second time and Sunday is the first visit to the crazy blue house that we like but will need work. With some more luck (maybe I should treat our luck like a no-hitter and not talk about it anymore....) we might be in a house before October!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More news

I bet you thought that since I haven't written in awhile I was storing up a bunch of good news and was going to rain down sunshine on you. Not. So. Much.

I appreciate any hope of good news, but that's just not the theme of this summer. We passed our inspection on the condo, but are still waiting for the assessment. If the assessment doesn't match the sale price we both agreed on, the deal is off. Well, we can pay the difference, but we've paid out enough just to get out of the place, we can't pay any more! The seller can make up the difference, but I am fairly sure that since she's only putting 3% down, she's not rolling in dollar bills either.

It's been a week since the assessment so we're getting nervous. Margot the Agent has been awesome, as usual, and is not only keeping us up to date on progress each day, but she's been helping us find a place, too.

About two weeks ago, we found what we thought was a pretty close to perfect house on Baker Lane in Hopkinton.
Four bedroom, a HUGE family room with a fireplace that you can see from the kitchen (one of my big requirements, I want to be able to cook dinner and still be able to keep an eye on the kid(s) while they play in the family room), a decent yard, a quiet cul-de-sac location in a good neighborhood, a finished basement and tons of little upgrades (like molding, hard wood, renovated kitchen, etc.) We JUMPED on it. It was on the market for 1 day and we scheduled an appointment to see it. We actually decided IN THE DRIVEWAY to make an offer immediately. We made one that night, and found out that another couple had also seen it an made an offer right away.

Guess what happened? They chose the other people. Well, not right away. First, they asked for our 'best offers'. Without knowing what the other couple is offering, it's hard to decide. We upped our offer to $100 over list price. We hoped that the other couple would think that list was good enough, and we'd beat them out by what would amount to pennies a month! Good thinking, right? It's all those sick days in elementary school when I got to watch the Price is Right. I learned a bit about bidding! :)

They still chose the other offer. The other couple had nothing to sell. Technically we didn't either, but because at that point we still needed the inspection and the assessment, they thought there was still a possibility the condo sale could fall through. Sigh. With our luck, I am not so sure they won't be right.

So, we lost Baker Lane (that's now the 3rd home we've tried to buy since May and have been rejected in one way or another).

Last weekend, we found another house that we really liked.  It's very similar to the home we lost out to, but a bit nicer. It's in Ashland, on Wadsworth Road. It's number 22. We think it's slightly overpriced, and so do other people apparently because they've already had to drop the price and they have not had much interest. We are a little gunshy now because of Baker Lane so we asked our agent to find out more and will be going back to see it tomorrow night. We found out that the couple is relocating soon and has to sell fast. We hope that we can get a good price because of that and the fact that they have not had much traffic!

There's also another house on the same street that came on the market today. One Wadsworth Road. It's a slightly smaller home (only by about 600 square feet), and not as well done inside, but it looks to be mostly cosmetic. It's like Grandma's house with the flowerly wallpaper, sea green living room, fake ivy around the doorways and copper tea kettles hanging from the ceilings (seriously, there are tea kettles hanging from the ceiling), but that is fixable. Oh and the exterior is this outrageous robin's egg blue... so that will have to be changed, too! See?

It will need a new kitchen in a few years, but that's what tax refunds are for! It's what we're calling our 'bones' house. It has the structure...the family room viewable from the kitchen, a full basement (not sure if it's totally finished or not) a really good yard (1.1 acres), four bedrooms, a nice deck and is in a cul-de-sac in a nice neighborhood that happens to run parallel to Ashland's second fire station. I like EMTs near by!

We are scheduled to see that house on Sunday. Both homes on that street were built in the mid 1990s, which means they have higher ceilings and door jams so John won't whack his head walking into the rooms, and they come standard with central air and things like larger walk-in closets and master baths that you won't see in houses that are 25-30 years old already.

We're feeling pretty good about both houses, so please think good thoughts. We need to catch a break!