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Archive for February, 2011

March no spend month?

February 28th, 2011 at 05:20 pm

Hubby and I briefly discussed making March a No Spend Month. We did this in November 2008 and managed to sock away a lot of money. With (maybe) a mortgage in our near future, having extra money on hand would be really nice.

Last time, we gave ourselves a budget of $400 for the month to cover groceries (excluding milk for the babies), gas, entertainment and incidentals. Our regular monthly bills were no included.

We managed to squeak through to the end. Hopefully we will decide what to do, as March is only a couple of hours away!

real estate ping pong

February 28th, 2011 at 10:31 am

We finally heard from the seller. We are in the process of counter-offering. Hopefully we will all agree on a price. The sellers came down 10,000 on their first offer back, which is a good sign, I think. We raised our offer 10,000, and if we meet in the middle between those two prices, we will be at the target price we had agreed to before we wrote the contract. Fingers crossed.

And we're still waiting

February 27th, 2011 at 06:00 pm

Turns out the seller is out of the country, half-way across the world, and her realtor can only reach her by email. He's hoping she checks her email and sees we made an offer.

Ugh. Technically, it expired tonight at 7 p.m., but I guess that won't matter given circumstances. I hate being in limbo. It drives me crazy. I am trying to just do what I have to do as if nothing is happening, but it's hard.

On the bright side, we did learn that the seller had rejected an offer that is about 7k more than our initial bid, but about 7 k less than the max price we are willing to pay.

now we wait...

February 26th, 2011 at 10:47 am

We made an offer. $28,000 below list. Now we wait.
And, if we end up in contract, I start to freak out about not selling this place and moving. This is going to be hard!

Clearly, I need a new plan

February 24th, 2011 at 01:25 pm

We still haven't put the offer in on the new house. I am dragging hubby to go look at three more places Saturday before we sit down with the realtor to make the offer. (I just want to be 100 percent sure!).

I am coming to grips with my terror at not having this place sold before we move or make an offer. Yes, we are in a better position than most people to carry two houses, I just hope it doesn't go on too long or else I will be a landlord. I have always kind of wanted to have rental property, but when I'm ready not because I can't sell!

Anyway, I got a late check today for January freelance projects. It was for $600. Until this whole house whirlwind started, I would have known exactly where to send that check, but today, I realized I need a new plan.

I couldn't help myself. I did send $50 to the car loan and $200 to the kids college ($100 each), but I left the other $350 in the checking account. I guess I should start stashing as much cash as possible whenever it comes in, in a bid to build up reserves to meet our inevitable expenses should we buy the house.

I forgot how much of a racket this whole mortgage loan and moving process is. Loan fees, moving expenses, improvements, it's just money out constantly. It isn't make me feel better.

Hubby is not concerned. He is amped about being able to bike to work and have all of this done and over with with plenty time to spare before kindergarten.
Clearly, I am the worry wort!!

Fixed rate or adjustable? Hmmm...

February 22nd, 2011 at 07:03 pm

We have yet to make the offer on the house. First, the banks were closed on president's day, and then today, the mortgage guy at my local bank magically called me back during the whole 10 minutes I wasn't in the house today, then I couldn't get ahold of him at all the rest of the day.

I did print out all of the documents we'd need to get preapproved and prequalified. During that process, I forgot how much I hate having to deal with all of this-- shopping around for loans, having some stranger look over all your numbers! Blech. Just hand over the cash. I'm good for it, really.

I did briefly consider a 5 year adjustable rate. It could save me about 10,000 in interest during the first five years, and I like the idea of that money going to pay down the balance rather than pad the bank's coffers. Still, I'm not sure the interest-rate reset risk is worth it, even if we are planning to pay off the house within five to seven years.

**update**
I just got off the phone with the bank offering the seemingly attractive ARM loan. Yep. Not worth it. The rate lock option I was interested in doesn't lock it at the incredibly low rate you get for the first five years, it locks it at whatever the market rate is when your loan resets, or you have the option to just take the normal 2 percent increase. Too much interest rate risk. I'm not comfortable with that.

**

So, tomorrow I begin again trying to set up meetings for preapproval. I plan to shop at a few smaller community banks as well. I have heard from friends that they are offering better rates than even some of the larger locals. We'll see.

I almost feel like a pro at this. This will be the third house we've bought in eight years!!!

Well, decision is made

February 21st, 2011 at 11:12 am

It looks like we are making an offer on the house. Hubby really loves it, and wants to go for it, so he has pushed me off the fence. I have to go to the bank tomorrow to get preapproved and officially start the loan shopping process. Eek.

I looked at the money and I know we will be okay. We have a lot of things we could adjust or resources we could tap to free up money if we got into a serious pinch. And, if this place doesn't sell within six months, we have agreed to rent it out until the market improves.

Looks like we have a plan, now let's see if the seller will agree to our price. My realtor forwarded some emails from their realtor, and I'm not sure how willing they are to wheel and deal, but we'll see. If they won't meet our price, I may walk away, and then if it doesn't sell in another few months, hit them again with the same offer.

Complete coupon failure

February 20th, 2011 at 06:34 pm

So, I made the mistake of sending hubby to the store with the coupons. I had two Colgate toothpastes on the list, because they were free after the sale and double coupons. He promised it would all go according to plan.

So, he comes home and admits that he forgot to use his store loyalty card. That means he paid super full price for all of the groceries. And, that the toothpaste wasn't on sale for 98 cents. AND we both learned that coupons are doubled ONLY when you use the card. Ergo, what was supposed to be two free tubes of toothpaste ended up costing us $3. This is why I do the shopping...

The good news is that I popped by the thrift store and found an amazing gigantic action figure of Sully from Monsters, Inc. It's one of my son's favorite movies. Since the movie is 10 years old, all of toys are all out of print and considered collectible, so finding a Monsters Inc toy is a real treat. I had looked at several similar items, but refused to pay $18 on ebay. I paid 90 cents at the thrift store and he was super excited when I brought it home.

Fence sitting

February 20th, 2011 at 08:10 am

Well, we looked at two more houses yesterday. We still have not decided what to do about the seemingly "perfect" house.

Hubby said house hunting hasn't gone how he thought it would. He thought I would be giddy and excited. I said I just can't be considering what a huge financial move it is.

We toured two houses on similarly sized lots, but they were all wrong. Very cool vintage features, but all wrong. Then, we spent about 45 minutes at the house we are thinking of buying. It's not all wrong. It's just right.

Still, I just don't know what to do. It's got everything we want, it's got a great layout. We would use every single space in the house. It doesn't have any "Stupid" rooms-- as hubby likes to call the odd spaces we've seen in other houses. There would even been room in the basement for a proper library area (necessity, if you've seen our books), and a space for ping pong! (as well as an office, and a manspace media room with a fireplace.

We drove around the area. We mapped out the walk to school-- very close, with sidewalks-- the parks are nice, and they are close. They are even adding a new skate park and they have a water park. Great for teens. The neighborhood is great. There were two little boys playing in the adjoining yard. Not too much older than our kids.

So, I don't know why I'm hesitant to jump. I think the big part is the price tag, but that's just what houses cost in that area. The second maybe is that I am overwhelmed by idea of moving and staging a house to sell. And being farther--albeit 15 minutes-- from our caregivers.

So yes, still as yet undecided. It's a great house. We'd have to put carpet in the basement and a rail on the stairs, but that is about it. All the systems are done. New roof, new furnace, new windows.

BUT, the yard is not wholly fenced, so sending the kids out to play at this age would require constant supervision unless we ponied up for two gates and one long row of fence to finish it. Hubby said we might not need the fence, considering the little kids in the attached yard and that in a couple of years, they won't try to run off like they do now. He says it's a temporary problem.

I could also have a large proper garden and some fruit trees, (Heaven.)

Still, I would miss my sunporch, and my patio. Yes, we could add these things. But with a mortgage, who can say when?

So, we've left it at the realtor is going to talk to the agent and try to get a sense of the owner's urgency to sell (ergo, willingness to lower the price), and then we will take it from there.

Yay for money!

February 18th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Hubby's bonus hit on today's check. It was much more than we both expected, so I managed to shuffled $9900 into savings today. I also paid all the bills, and thanks to the bonus, the pad has been returned to the checking account.

I also filed our taxes, and we are looking at about $12,500 in combined federal and state refunds. I'm quite excited.

Of course, the jury is still out on if we get to keep that money or if it's going to go toward buying our next house. Sigh.

We're heading out to look at three or more houses tomorrow, as well as take another look at the strong maybe house.

I'm hoping something will click, either one of these places screams "YES!" or sways us toward "We can find something good, even if we wait."

Let's hope the stars align and offer us some guidance.

The argument for staying put

February 17th, 2011 at 09:35 am

Today, I've been thinking a lot about staying in our current house. We love it, we enjoy it, it's paid for, and it suits our needs right now.

There are other benefits to staying put for another two years, while the kids are small.

Closer to childcare and preschool

We could SAVE money-- probably at least 35,000 more in savings in two years

We could have the car paid off without tapping assets

I'd be able to concentrate on what we need now-- my personal goals of novel finishing and weight loss via my gym.

Getting the kids in swim lessons and kung fu. ( I KNOW we'd be able to afford them if we don't have a mortgage!)

And, of course we would have the luxury of time to declutter and fix up the house. I could take time to really sort through every area, maybe have put some things out at the community yard sale this summer or sell via craigslist instead of freecycling or donating because we are rushing.

I KNOW I'd be able to afford to go to Las Vegas next spring for my best friend's 40th birthday trip.

And maybe, just maybe, we could get our house for sale and have an offer in hand BEFORE we put an offer on a house.

All of this is very tempting. Life is crazy with toddlers, and part of me feels like it would be foolish to upend our routine right now. What we are doing now is working.

Will we risk that we won't find another completely updated house with a half acre lot less than half a mile from all the things we want? Yes. And that is the downside.

Everything is full of so many unknowns!

Plecosaurus Rex, and things I've learned about myself while house shopping

February 16th, 2011 at 06:14 pm

What a title, huh?

For the record, Plecosaurus Rex is the name of the clown pleco the well-meaning clerk at the pet store sold us. I was convinced, once I brought him home, that he was going to die a horrible death in the tank. But alas, a week later, he is alive and seems to be doing well. He has also managed to get the fish tank so squeaky clean and algae free that ironically, I have had to buy algae chips to feed him. Who would have thought. I also rewarded him with a piece of driftwood, which in theory, they also like to eat and lounge on.

Anyway, as y'all know I have been obsessing about whether or not to buy a house now, or wait for another year or two. That has not been decided, but I will say that I have learned a few things about myself in the few short days we've been discussing it.

First, I should probably just go ahead and pay off the car. When thinking about reordering our budget, and cutting expenses, the car just glared at me. We have to pay for full coverage insurance (cut!) as long as we have the loan. We have assets, so why not pay it off? That's 200 less a month in bills and lower insurance. So, whether we do or don't buy the house, I will be paying the car off this year.

Second, we have too much stuff. I have always felt like this, but looking around and thinking of moving, my list of what I am willing to transport has gotten significantly shorter. Moving or not, it's time to start selling, giving away, and purging purging purging!

I have also come to terms with some of the things that will not change between now and our original one to two-year time frame:

It won't be any less scary trying to sell our house

It won't be any less work moving, painting, and prepping this place to sell

The money I will get for my house won't be significantly higher.

So, all of those things are no longer deciding factors. They will be universal, now or then. Moving is never easy. Moving with kids is never easy, and you will never know how long it will take to sell.

The factors that do count, and are specific to now:

Driving 15-20 min longer to the preschool and babysitter. That will disappear once kindergarten starts, but we are committed for at least another year. Already paid and enrolled, and we love the program.

Paying for childcare, to the tune of $400 to $600 a month, until kid 1 goes to kindergarten in two years. Then, we'll only be paying a yet to be determined amount for kid2. In four years, we won't be paying for any, so there is savings in the future. But for now, this expense isn't going anywhere, which would mean a tighter budget if adding in a mortgage.

On the money front, I have mulled our options:

I need to talk to the bank, and look at our assets. I would prefer a monthly payment, including taxes and insurance, of closer to 1200 a month. (which would be a mortgage of up to 130,000 on a 250,000-260,000 house.)

We can generate a $50-60k downpayment now out of tax refund and bonus plus non-retirement brokerage accounts. That would put our loan payment at 1600-1700. If we took out a bridge loan of 100,000, we could get the payment down to 1200 ish. I would have no reservations about a mortgage payment of that size.

Just not sure if it's a viable route until I talk to the bank.

Or, if we opted against the bridge loan, my plan would be to drag out closing or put in a contingency clause on the new house, so we can get our current home on the market and see if we can get a bid.

And, in worst case scenario. Say we bought the new house and our current home doesn't sell in six months. I may consider renting it out at 1,000 or more a month, and putting all of that toward our new mortgage. Being a landlord wouldn't be easy, but it would be an option if we are in a pinch.

If we didn't want to do that, and we found ourselves in a pinch, we have options. We could
-adjust witholding on hubby's checks to free up more cash. We get a huge refund every year.
-use my freelance money to pay expenses, rather than sending it all to savings/retirement, etc.
-and if we were absolutely desperate, we could temporarily cut back on hubby's retirement contributions. We max out every year at 16,500. When we were in a bind after Katrina, we suspended them for about six months to get back on our feet.

Essentially, through the process, I have realized that we are incredibly blessed and lucky. We have options, we have flexibility.

And as our realtor said, we are in much better shape than a lot of people out there trying to buy houses. But I suppose that is what worries me! Will the person who wants to buy mine be in good enough shape to seal the deal!





Yay tax forms!

February 15th, 2011 at 02:25 pm

I never thought I'd be excited to see my last tax forms roll in, but I am and they did today. Now I can wrap up the taxes and get another big chore crossed off the to-do list!