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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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Friday, September 24, 2010

One step to go...

We officially have a signed purchase & sale from both parties! All that's left now is the appraisal which should be sometime in the next week or so. Pending a horrible appraisal (which could actually happen) we will be closing as originally planned on October 27!

I'm not sure what happens when a house appraises below the asking - and agreed upon -- price. I know that if it's over the agreed upon amount, either the seller pays the difference, the buyer pays the difference, you split the middle, or the deal is off. I'm not sure if that goes for when the appraised value is below.

We'll find out!

I think it might actually be safe to get to Lowes, or Home Depot and check out some paint and carpet samples. I've been dying to do that!!

Happy Weekend! (finally!)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Home Update

I had to take a break from the home stuff. We had so much going on, so many decisions to make, so many options to consider, it was getting overwhelming. We needed a few days to think things over, drive by the house a few times, see how we felt toward it without worrying about the repairs, and to talk with our family to see if they REALLY mean it when they say they'll help us in any way we might need it (like manual labor?) :)

We went back to Old Friend one more time for two things. We gave up on the paint thing. We'll repaint the house a decent color next summer. The biggest issue was that there was mold and some pieces that needed to be replaced because they were rotting. We got Old Friend to agree to fully clean and scrape the house, fix anything rotted, and do one coat of paint in the old color. It's ugly, but fine. At least it will be fresh and without mold, stains or rotting wood.

We asked lawyers to clarify something. This whole time, we've been asking Old Friend to replace the window because it's rotting. He keeps saying, no, he'll replace the sash but not the window. A few days ago, he finally said he'd replace the rotting wood AND sash, but not the whole frame. The problem is, the frame IS the rotting wood. He's been saying "sure, I'll replace the rotting wood, but not the frame", while we've been saying, "but the rotting wood IS the frame", so what is he replacing?

We got clarification that Old Friend would replace anything that's rotted on the bottom, but not the actual window glass. (We got him to sign off on that, too, so that way if they get in there and can't replace the frame without the glass he has to pay for that too, and can't stick that bill to us.) We are still pretty sure there will be rotting wood on the top and they'll have to do the whole thing, but now, it's officially back on Old Friend's plate.

Lastly, we found out that radon mitigation systems are between $900 and $1200. I got a verbal quote (they didn't actually see the house, but I gave them some measurements and square footages so it was a guess) and it was only about $950. Both of our parents have offered to help us out with that, but since it's way less than we thought, I think we can handle it. So, we let that go, too.

Here's where we scored a little victory for us. Old Friend couldn't find a place to live for Oct 15 like he had hoped, so he wanted us to move the close date to Nov 2. His new place is ready Nov 1. We said no for a host of different reasons, one of which was if we closed during the beginning of the money we have to pay forward the interest on the mortgage and since Old Friend refused to fix practically anything in the house, we can't spend MORE money at close and still get the stuff done that absolutely needs to be done. And, we really want to be in before Kyle's second birthday (November 9) since John's parents are coming and they want to help us unpack, paint, fix, move, etc.

What is going to happen, is we will still close on Oct 27 like planned.  Old Friend will have to rent the house back to us for a week. For about $500, and he still has to pay utilities. That's more than half of the radon mitigation unit he refused to pay for!

Ahhh, small victories.

This also means we won't actually move until that weekend of the 5th-7th, which is one more paycheck for both John and I. That also makes things easier for us. We can still get the radon thing in, some of the rooms painted and the carpets in the upstairs. And...I might even get to buy some curtains!

Since I pay for our storage unit on the 9th of every month, I won't have to pay extra for that as long as we are out by that Sunday, November 7.

That's where we are at now, we've done the whole mortgage application, and have sent the P&S over to the lawyers today to see if Old Friend will finally actually say yes to something we have proposed.

If he does, and he signs the P&S today...we will officially own the home in 34 days!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Black Cloud Returns

We FINALLY (after 5 days) heard back from our lawyer about the list of improvements we wanted made based on the home inspection.

Basically, Old Friend said no. To everything.

He offered to paint the house before we even bought it. That was put into the offer that we both signed. But, now, he's saying that he only wants to paint one coat and we have to pay the rest. Not sure why he thinks that second coat is a luxury rather than a necessity, but he does. He is refusing to fully paint the house even though he told us he would, and signed the offer saying the house would be painted.

We asked him to fix the burner on the gas stove that doesn't work. He said it does, there's just a trick to it. Great, so while I am trying to figure out how this trick works, I'm filling my house with gas. He won't get it looked at or even cleaned.

We asked him to provide permits for the gas insert in the fire place, which we know he can't because we checked with the town and no permit was ever filed. We want it out since it was installed without a permit or an inspection, and figured if we asked him to provide the permits, he'd either get it checked and permitted (at least then we'd know it's safe) or just take it out. He said he'd produce a permit. Not sure how he's going to do that, but we assume it will be checked and permitted. Sort of a win for us.

We asked him to replace the big picture window in the living room that is rotting. The inspector wouldn't even touch it for fear that if he opened the window the glass would slide right out and shatter, and he said no. He said he'd replace the sash, but not the frame. Thanks. What good is a new sash on an old rotten frame? One bad storm and it will probably fall out.

We asked him to get the AC fixed (there's a leak) and to get a new air filter. He doesn't think there's anything wrong, but he is going to get someone to come out and look at it. If it needs to be fixed (which we know it does) he will ask us to split the cost with him.

Last but certainly not least... we had our radon test last week. Radon is a fun little chemical element that is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The EPA says that anything below 4 pCi/L (no, I don't know what that means) is safe. Anything above is not. Anything above 10 pCi/L is really unsafe and you shouldn't live there.

Ours was 7.9. That's DOUBLE what is the high threshold for safe. Closer to 'you can't live here' unsafe than safe.

Those results were forwarded to Old Friend and his lawyer. We believe that something like radon is the responsibility of the seller (legally, like they HAVE to take care of it) but we are not sure so we're looking into it. A radon unit can cost about $1,500, so Old Friend should be able to afford it. And frankly, if I were Old Friend, I'd be calling my doctor for a lung screening after finding out the radon levels in the house!

Old Friend and his lawyer are "discussing" the radon unit. We think this means they know they have to install the unit, but they don't want to pay for it, so they'll find a cheap quote and force us to split it.

No way.

And before you think, "wow, that's a lot of demands, take it easy!', here are the things that need to be done that we didn't ask for:

new garage doors (they are warped, heavy, and do not have child safety sensors)
railings on the back door and deck (not originally installed but codes have changed and we need them now)
bathroom repair (the master and half bath toilets are not sealed properly, and there is serious eroding of the tiles in the master bath)
new driveway (it's cracked, and our inspector said it only had a few more years left before it got dangerous)
bolts in the deck (currently the deck is only nailed to the house, not bolted. Old code again, we need to update it.)

And these are the things we didn't ask for but are needed more along the cosmetic line:

new kitchen flooring (it's ugly, dirty, old and chipping)
new carpet (it's 15 years old, faded, stained and flat)
new doors (not insulated, old and scratched)
new frames for all windows and doors (same thing, all just old and in need of updating)
new light fixtures in all bathrooms (half of them barely worked, could be as easy as some light bulbs, could be a replacement fixture)
serious landscaping (our inspector said too many bushes were overgrown and brushing up against the house, this can cause molding so we needed them pared back)
painting (not new painting, but just painting. The walls are white and full of scratches and marks. They haven't been painted in 15 years!)

It's a lot. And we knew that, but we THOUGHT that if we were reasonable and asked Old Friend to replace the things that we felt were general home maintenance that he should be doing anyway, he'd see that we were taking on a lot ourselves too. Kind of a 'meet me halfway' thing. You know, a compromise, like grown ups are known to do?

Needless to say, this is crushingly frustrating and pessimistically expected. Margot the Agent said she is not surprised because "he is cheap" and will try to get out of anything. And Margot the Agent has known Old Friend for 30 years...

We have 3 options.

1. Go back to the lawyer with the repairs that are deal breakers for us (the paint, the radon and the window) and hope Old Friend realizes that these are going to have to be fixed no matter who he sells to and just says yes.

2. Accept that he's going to pay for NOTHING and ask him to pay our closing costs so we have some extra money immediately to do the repairs that are essential to live safely in the house.

3. Walk away. And continue to troll the stagnant real estate market listings every day (every hour, really) while pretending it's OK to live in my parents' basement. No ill will toward the 'rents for being there for us, we couldn't do this without them and appreciate the open arms, but it's a 300 square foot basement room and we are cramped! Two extremely independent people only last for so long in someone else's home.

We have solicited advice from both sets of parents and are trying to cool down enough to discuss what's really important so we can chose one of the above options.

Hopefully we'll have a plan tonight.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Before Pictures

We've been talking a lot about how this is a total bachelor pad. Nothing on the walls, barely a curtain anywhere, nothing matches and boxes of stuff are overflowing from most rooms. That's OK though, becuase it's like a blank slate for me, I get to redo pretty much every room with paint and furniture and art and all that fun stuff. I took some pictures today at our home inspection. Let's consider these the 'before' pictures. I can't wait for my post one year from move in day when I do a bunch of before and after comparisons! :)

Here are the outside pictures, with the old paint job and overgrown bushes:

Not bad. You can't really tell but the side/back yard is HUGE. I think there's almost 80 yards before the next house on the left.

The basement was too cluttered for a picture, and it's not finished anyway. We'll do that someday! Our project list grows more and more every time we see the place!

The kitchen and family room are connected and very roomy and open.This is the view from when you come in the garage. And here is the other view:

This is the family room: Needs some decorating help!

Here's the best part of the house, the open living room and 2-story foyer. Not sure if these pictures do it justice, it's so open and light!

The dining room is the room you can see behind the stairs. It's not pretty. Old Friend called it his 'junk room'. Yikes.

The upstairs is a mess too, but you can see the two bedrooms here:

Keep in mind, we bought this place from Old Friend, who never put it on the market. It was never cleaned out, staged, prepped or anything by an agent. So this really is how they live! Two guys, a man and his 24-year-old son. It's in pretty good shape considering! :)

The master bedroom is pretty big, and has great vaulted ceilings.

The best part is the view from the hallway upstairs. Here's what you see when you walk out of the master bedroom:


And yes, there really are forest green counter tops in the bathrooms:

I really can't wait to get started on projects!

Home Inspection

Today, we completed yet another step in the home buying process. Each step closer to the close date makes me think that this is actually going to happen. However, it's not without some doubt and what will end up being some tough negotiation.

We knew this house was going to need a lot of cosmetic work and some structural work. We found a little more than we thought today, and will have to have Old Friend the seller do some work that we know he is not going to want to do.

The good news is that Inspector R told us that structurally, the house is in good shape. There are no major faults, cracks, molds, crumbles, or anything like that. But...we have quite the list of things that need to be done either before or immediately after we move in.

We started by walking the yard, and he told us about the paint job that needs to be done (which we knew, and Old Friend is supposed to be doing that for us), some places where the bushes are too overgrown and brushing up against the house which can cause mold, and how old and heavy the garage doors are. All do-able projects. Nothing that was totally urgent, and all things we had thought about anyway.

We did run into a slight issue with the exterior paint though. Old Friend told us he'd repaint the outside because he knew it needed to be done. Great! It's in our offer (which he accepted) that the 4 window sashes that he knew needed to be fixed will be fixed, the exterior will be painted and the roof will be done. The roof is done, and he picked architectural shingles that have a life of about 30 years. Awesome. But...he's now arguing the painting. He's saying that because we are changing the color, it needs 2 coats and he only wants to pay for one. What?? He said he'd pay for the first coat and we could pay for the second. No way. Sorry Old Friend, but you accepted the written offer that just said "paint exterior", it didn't stipulate a price or how many coats, or whether or not it would need to be scraped and power washed (which it will according to Inspector R). Margot the Agent will argue that for us. We're not paying for something he already agreed to.

Inspector R also found out that one of our big picture windows in the living room is totally erroded and he was actually afraid that if he opened the window, the glass would slide right out and crash down on the lawn below. Yikes. That wasn't one of Old Friend's 4 windows that he agreed to, but it's so bad that Inspector R is listing it as 'defective' which means Old Friend is going to have to replace it himself.

We found out that the AC unit needs to be serviced, there's a leak. It's not too bad, and probably only leaks when it's really humid, but come on. It's New England. It's humid all the time. That's just a service call, so we don't think that will be a problem.

Inspector R then found some water marks on the ceiling in the first floor that are below the main bathroom. But, they are dry, so he thinks it was nothing more than an overflow bath or something. He suggested we take a look under the floor, but he really thought it was just a mark and we could probably paint over it.

But...in the master bathroom...the toilet was loose! It was just moving around the bathroom. And the grout and tiles from the shower are seriously old and moldy. We were planning on re-doing the bathrooms anyway, so we might just tell Old Friend that we'll re-do the master bath, if he takes care of the big picture window and servicing the AC (and painting like he already said he would!).

That way we can just totally re-do the bathroom right away and it's all ours. No need for him to come in and re-do part of it however he wants it done and have us rip it up sometime next year.

There were a lot of little things, but all stuff we can do. It's REALLY dirty, the walls are full of scrapes and scuffs, the tile is old and ugly and there is stuff EVERYWHERE. But, we'll get a cleaning service when we move in, we're planning on re-doing the floors and carpets immediately, we'll paint right away, and it's on Old Friend to get the crap out of there! :)

We still really like it, it's nice and open and has a ton of potential. Aside from the few things Inspector R found, he was pretty satisfied with it and felt good telling us it was a structurally sound place. He mentioned it needed some love, but we knew that. He also did mention that Old Friend had a gas insert installed in the fireplace, but he's pretty sure it was done with no permit because he said it didn't look like it was done right. So we have to call the town hall and see if there was ever a permit for that and if not, we might have to have Old Friend get that fixed to. If there was, it was just done poorly and that will need to be fixed in time. It's working, and won't blow up or anything, but it just could have been done a lot better!

We should get the report from Inspector R tonight and have until Friday to write up our list of 'demands'. We hope that either we'll get everything done, or we'll negotiate and take on some things ourselves (like the master bathroom) but drop the overall price a little. We'll see!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Seriously. We actually own a house. Exactly 3 months from the day we put our condo on the market, we had an offer accepted on a home. After the condo battle, the sale at a loss, the 3 other homes we offered on, the home we tried to build, out stuff being in storage and living in the basement in my parents house....we own a home.

We close on October 27. Happy Halloween! And just in time for Kyle's second birthday and the holidays.

What a relief.

Last night, we went to Old Friend's house to see it again, just to make sure we really liked it. We met Margot the Agent and my parents there and let Kyle run around the yard. What a great sight, to see Kyle and John playing in a YARD. That will be ours!

We both felt after walking through it again that we actually liked it more than the first time. It was a little easier the second time around to look past the mauve carpets and the wood frames and the old counters and see the bones of the house. The rooms are big, the downstairs is really open and light and everything is in good condition. Outdated, but good condition.

We spent about 20 minutes going through and asking a few more questions and then headed straight for Margot the Agent's office to make an offer. Margot is awesome and since technically we found this house all on her own, she's only taking a 1.5% commission. We've decide to just pay it out rather than tacking it on to the mortgage. It saves us about $50 a month!

Margot the Agent told us what Old Friend had in mind for a listing price (it was what the house was assessed for, which NO homes are going at assessed value right now). She told him no way. She brought up all the stuff that needs to be updated and if she was his agent, she'd list it for $20K less right off the bat....and hope for an offer between $5-15K less than that.

We offered $10K less than what she recommended he list it at, which we thought was totally reasonable considering all the updates the house will need.

Margot also brought over 6 or 7 comprable homes (size, bedrooms, lots, neighborhoods, etc) and what they've sold for in the last few months. All were within $10-15K from what she would list at (not what he wanted to list at).

They went over that and talked for almost an hour while John and I sat at home going crazy. She called us and told us he wasn't sure and wanted to think about it.

Of course, our first thought was, great, here we go again. ANOTHER house is going to fall through.

Margot was encouraged though, because he was very receptive to the homes she brought to compare, and he was asking a lot of questions about the closing process, like when the inspectors would come, what the radon test was, etc. She told us not to worry too much and that if worse comes to worse, he'd counter and we'd have to decide how much higher we'd want to go.

Old Friend promised to call Margot the Agent sometime today.

This morning, around 10 am, she called us and told us we were home owners! No counter offer, he just accepted our offer as is! Not only that, but he's still going to replace the few windows that he needs to, and will be painting the exterior. And, we get to pick the paint color!


We close eight weeks from today, pending P&S and inspection.

The best part is that with such low interest rates, we are only paying about $450 more a month than we did in our condo for a place that's twice the size on actual land!

It's so great to have an end in sight. We will be settled and cozy by the holidays. :)