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Archive for March, 2011

We now own two houses....

April 1st, 2011 at 01:23 am

We closed today on the new place. Now we own two houses, have $50,000 less in savings and are the proud owners if $212,500 in debt! Woo. hoo. Isn't home buying great?

Now, it's time to start packing and get this place ready to sell!

Organization question-- off topic

March 31st, 2011 at 02:10 am

Um, it's off topic but I need some advice. We are living in chaos because we are generally not organized, and we have two toddlers (age 3 and 1). So, how do you guys stay on top of things like drawers, closets, documents, and all the little things you need to find?

I would like to put some organizational systems in place for the new house, in the hopes that we can actually be organized.

Almost there...stay on target!

March 30th, 2011 at 09:01 pm

I thought we were through the Biblical plagues that ravaged the kids and totally upended our schedules last week, but alas.

Kid 2's pink eye reemerged. We are squeezing the last few drops out of the medication we have left, and hoping for the best. He also has a nasty cold, and was coughing and crabby this morning.

Hubby and I got in an argument this morning about it, because I had a work meeting downtown and we weren't sure if little man should go to the sitter's while sick. Hubby refused to take him, fight ensued, then off to the sitter he went. It turned out to be better. He was much happier to be someplace fun and new than he would have with one or more crabby parents who needed to be somewhere else.

I just got my settlement statement from the title company.We buy the house tomorrow. Paying $265,500, putting 20 percent down. Yet, with the credit for the HVAC, and after all the other stuff, we for some reason only have to bring about $49,300 to closing-- less than our 20 percent down payment. A pleasant surprise.

I'm also taking my mom to Las Vegas on Sunday for my Aunt's 80th b-day. It's my dad's last remaining sibling. Good cause, stressful timing.

I have been burning the candle at every point it's possible to stick a wick recently and I am totally beat. The mortgage, transferring utilities, designing to sell my current house, planning the LV trip, trying to arrange for movers-- which by the way, were not in the budget, hiring the carpet and HVAC guys for the new house. The list goes on.

On top of that, I have to do extra freelance work -- basically everything that is due before during and immediately after the week in LV, so that I can actually have something close to a real vacation. It's a lot. And a lot to keep track of.

My whole life has been scribbled on index cards lately. The night before, I've been writing down what I have to do each day on an index card. And trying to knock everything off the list.

I think the argument over sick kid today was a symptom of that. After last week--when all work and everything that needed to be done was delayed due to the kids' illness and contagion, I flipped. I can't push anything else back. It all needs to get done, and now. Murphy's law, however....

Shampoo was actually FREE!!!

March 29th, 2011 at 06:56 pm

I got my two rebate checks for the Renpure organic shampoo today. I bought them BOGO at Walgreens for $6.99. So I got four for $13.98. I just got two rebate checks to cover the total in the mail today.

I was skeptical that they would really be free, as rebates are usually hit and miss, and I didn't know if the company would honor them, considering the BOGO deal. But they did. It actually worked!

Can you tell I am a coupon newbie?

In other news...

We close on the new house on Thursday. Bye Bye money. It was nice knowing you!

And a house two blocks away went on the market today-- for $139,000. My heart sank when I saw the listing. Same price we are going for, but 900 square feet more. But, I double checked property records and the reality is, it's the same size house as ours-- they just fudged the sq feet in the listing to include the basement. a Big no no, but what am I supposed to do? If I include the basement, I'll be at 2850, as opposed to 1450. Will people even come see my house--which is actually bigger than that one-- if I am honest about the sq feet?

I wish this weren't so complicated.


March 27th, 2011 at 02:42 am

I can't believe we are buying a house on Thursday, and our nigh debt-free life will be over. I really enjoyed the flexibility of not having a mortgage these last 5 years, and I am genuinely nervous and sad that that we are taking on housing debt yet again.

Our loan balance, after 20 percent down payment, is going to $212,700. Of course, the goal is to pay it off as soon as possible, hopefully within 5 to 7 years.

Now that we are packing boxes and closing, the anxiety around not having our current house on the market or sold is really setting in. Pray that we sell, and quickly! Managing two houses, financially and mostly emotionally, will be hard. Let alone mowing two lawns on different sides of town every week. EEK!

I just have to hope for the best, I suppose. Two of our neighbors have expressed interest in buying our house, but I'm not holding my breath. Those things never work out.

That said, we have already spent $8,225 on the new house and we don't even own it yet. The new hVAC and new carpet for the basement (it's unfinished, we're finishing it), are ordered and installation is set for the week of April 4. Okay, technically the sellers paid for the HVAC, via a credit at closing. Still money spent though!

The rest of our money and effort will go toward design to sell projects for this house. Hubby and I both concede that we are sad to be leaving it, but that the new place is great for the long term. And, we'll feel better once we are moved and settled in. Hope so. I am sad to leave this house. We have put so much into it and it is home. But alas, we need more room and better schools. I suppose that is how it goes, right?

Made it through the minefield...

March 25th, 2011 at 07:59 pm

The bank just called to say we are ready to go, cleared to close. We have successfully navigated the minefield of post housing-crash mortgage financing. It was a doozy.

It's like I can finally see clouds parting (and can see more work waiting on the other side, but at least the storm clouds are passing!). Our federal tax refund finally hit,a nd it was $200 more than expected.

Both of the kids have pink eye. Hooray. But only three more days of eye drops, obsessive hand washing, and praying that hubby and I don't catch it until we are free and clear.

I still have yet to hire movers, arrange to transfer all the utilities or pack even a single box. Ugh. So much work to do, and it doesn't look like it's going to end until mid-may. Oh well. Once it's done hubby and I will be sitting in our awesome new backyard sipping maitais. Or something!

In an effort to move less stuff, I've been trying to use up all the food we already have. Today, I made a bumbleberry pie out of the farm coop fruits I froze last summer, and oh my gosh does it taste great!!

mortgage headaches-- a rant

March 23rd, 2011 at 02:40 am

I have an aching mortgage headache.

I expected to have to provide extra documents and endure a higher level of scrutiny to get a mortgage these days. But I have to admit I am surprised by what they are scrutinizing.

You would think a bank would be looking at your assets, reserves, your income, and your credit history to really get a good idea of your ability to repay your loan and avoid foreclosure. Oh no. They could care less about that!

When I provided documentation of assets, I was missing a huge piece-- statements from hubby's 401k. Well into the 6 digits. They told me not to bother. It didn't matter.

The only things they keep bugging me about are related to the downpayment. I have told them multiple times I am selling stock for part of it, and that it will be transferred to checking when the trades settled. It's like they are on another planet. First, they needed a receipt for every last share that was sold. I managed to scrape that together-- about 12 documents in all.

Then, they wanted me to fax them a copy of the "check" we received from the brokerage for the stock sale. (and then a deposit slip for our bank account) Um check? What is the real estate 1950? It's all online. You sell, it goes into your account. They just couldn't understand why I wouldn't get a paper check OR why I wouldn't have a deposit slip. Um really? I had to explain no less than 5 times today that it would be online transferred into my checking.

Then, just as I was rolling my eyes, it got worse. I got an email from the underwriter tell me I HAD to deposit the stock sale money into my online savings account, then provide 30 days transaction history, a DEPOSIT SLIP (what is the obsession with deposit slips, which once again do not exist with online transfers...), and that my cashier's check for closing would have to come from that account and I would need to document that.

Um, yeah. It's an online savings account. I can't go to a branch and ask for a cashier's check. I spent most of the day arguing with them over this, and insisting that the money will be transferred into my checking account-- ironically, at the same bank I am getting the mortgage from-- from which I will draw the cashier's check.

They finally relented-- after I explained that I can't transfer to my savings account from my brokerage without first filing a paper form and waiting two weeks for them to add that account (we close in a week)-- or that I would have to transfer to checking, then to savings, then back to checking and hope the money would be there on time.

So, yeah, checking. And once again, they said they needed a deposit slip.That doesn't exist. For an online transfer.

Do these people work at a bank in 2011 or in 1895?

So yes, I am frustrated. I have never been asked to document in minutiae the movement of my own money between my own accounts. It's ridiculous. I also don't see how this information has any bearing on my ability to pay the loan OR would improve in any way the mortgage process to avoid any further housing crises. I just don't get it.

Deposit slips and telling me which of my personal accounts I HAVE to take the money out of? It just doesn't make sense.

Now, my income and assets, yes. That kind of information is actually relevant to my loan, but for some reason, they have only required minimal documentation for that.

But transferring my own money from one account to another? Now that is scary shady complicated stuff!

I was so mad today that I almost called the whole thing off!!!

Day from hell

March 22nd, 2011 at 02:01 am

Today was a real doozy.

Kid 1 woke us up way early this morning, and was super crabby. He kept telling me he had an ouchy in his mouth. I looked and saw nothing, but suspected something was up because normally he points out his ouchy, then says "it'll be okay in a minute."

He and his brother went to the sitter to play with another baby. I dropped them off and went home to try to work. I was so tired and frazzled from trying to pack so much into every single day recently, that it was impossible to concentrate.

Still, I managed to make one work call, line up the homeowners insurance for the house we are buying next week-- eek-- and send more documents to the mortgage bank.

When I go to pick up the kids, things really go downhill. The sitter says I need to take kid 1 to the doctor. I take him, and find out he has an ear infection (the ouchy from the morning) AND pink eye in BOTH EYES.

Ugh. You try putting drops in the eyes of a 3 year old boy who is as strong as the hulk and fights every thing. AND getting him to drink 4 tbsp of pink icky antibiotic liquid a day. AND see if you can make it through the contagious phase without giving it to his 1 year old little brother.

On top of the exhaustion, it was just too much to take.

The only good thing is that the kid took the eye drops like a champ, although I did bribe him with a bowl of ice cream.

I am going to bed early tonight, just in case tomorrow is a doozy as well.

$23 to $20 challenge

March 21st, 2011 at 05:36 pm

I sold three giant boxes of awesome books to the used book store today and all they gave me was $23!!! It was so depressing. They were nice books and videos, some new, and that's all they gave me. So depressing, but I don't want to have to move them, so I took the money. It's now in the $20 challenge piggy bank, so that is $73 to the piggy bank this week, between used books and craigslist.

Uber productive "Designed to Sell" day

March 20th, 2011 at 12:15 am

Mom and sis came over today. Mom watched babies while me, hubby, and sis worked on our house. We're knocking projects off the "Designed to Sell" list.

Today, I repainted the exterior wood trim while my sister put two fresh coats of neutral paint on the bathroom walls. When sis was done, I installed a new floor in the bathroom. Hubby cleaned out the basement window wells and attached new covers and chopped up a few more firewood logs.

I also sold a vintage chrome table on Craigslist today for $50. I paid $35 for it about 15 years ago.

Now that the babies are asleep, the plan is to make a quick trip to the grocery store, install the new threshold in the bathroom door, and maybe to redo some caulking around the tub. Plus do some actual paid work. Maybe I'll skip the caulking...

moving money around: spending gravity!!

March 17th, 2011 at 03:04 pm

All the new spam entries are kind of annoying, don't you think? Spam bots are getting too clever.

Anyway, I started cashing out the stocks today for the down payment. The gravity of how much you are spending doesn't really sink in until you start cashing out. I keep thinking of how long it took us to save up this money,and now to cash it out, even if it is for a house, is a little depressing.

Maybe I need to make it my new goal to replenish all of this somehow-- but it would take a small miracle!

Tax refund on the way, and a flurry of home improvement!

March 16th, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Just checked the IRS web site. Our tax refund should arrive shortly, just in time for the house closing. Yay!

We are in super home improvement mode. We've been up late every night sanding, repairing, packing, etc. I have also been shopping for homeowner's insurance for the new house, and I have hired a couple of guys to come in and do some improvements before we move in.

The seller lives in Japan, but the closing is still on track. She has given her realtor power of attorney to sign the documents.

Of course, we are selling stock for part of our downpayment. We can't catch a break. Thanks to all of the madness in Japan, our portfolio lost about $800 in value today. It's frustrating to have to sell when it's down. That means another $800 out of savings for the down payment. Argh. Both stocks and real estate have been bum investments for Gen Xers like me. Makes me wonder if there is anything actually worth putting money in!

settling into the extra work.

March 16th, 2011 at 03:22 am

If it's possible, I think hubby and I are settling in to our even more busy and hectic lives. I seem to have gotten back into a groove with work, and may even get a chance to get ahead a bit, even with all the house stuff there is to do.

For the new house, we still have to shop for insurance, move all the money around for closing, and shop for carpet for the basement media room.

The mortgage process seems a little weirder this time. Our bank keeps bugging us for proof that we have moved our down payment money into our checking account. It seems weird to me. I don't remember doing that on our previous two loans. Maybe that's a new thing. I supplied so many documents, it's clear we have the money. Why do they need to know it's in the account? We have to get a certified check anyway. Who can say...

Alas, the seller of our house lives in Japan and is without electricity. She has been planning to do sign the documents and either courier or fax them back for the closing. I have no idea how this is going to work , or if we should even plan on closing on time, given everything that is happening in Japan.

It's eery. All three major real estate transactions in my life have in one way or another involved an incredibly large-scale natural disaster. the sale of our house in Nola and the purchase of my current house resulted from Hurricane Katrina, and now the purchase of this house involves the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. It's bizarre.

So yes, speaking of Japan. I can hardly look at the pictures. It's like I'm looking at pictures from the Gulf Coast again. The disaster is half the world away, but it brings out very intense, deep personal feelings for the people who are going through this now.

Anyway, napping out of it.

Hubby, who have never once hung a shelf or undertaken a single home improvement act in his adult life, has been gung ho about "Designing to Sell" our house. For my b-day he gave me 100 hours of home improvement as a gift. It could be dangerous. For the past three nights, he as been hammering away into the week hours of the night trying to repair a small section of our basement drop ceiling. It was damaged when the electricians ran the wiring for our geothermal HVAC a few years back. It's taking him an awfully long time to do a small section, but I'm secretly proud of him. I wish he were like this more often. More things would get crossed off the to-do list!!!

We are having a big day Saturday as well, basically giving our main bathroom a makeover with new paint, flooring and baseboards, and repainting the soffits outside, and generally sprucing up the paint on the front of the house. We repainted two years ago, just a few spots of trim are looking a little dingy. In this market, every little detail counts, so I am not letting anything go. The house has to look perfect. We can't afford not to sell!

On a money note, looks like the mortgage note on our new place is going to be about $1650 a month, all inclusive. We're going to start out owing about $212,000.

My plan is to be VERY conservative with the cash until we sell our current house, then use the majority of the money to pay down the mortgage balance. We might reserve some of it to put in a bigger patio and maybe a sunroom at the new place, features we love and use on our current house. But we'll see.

Even with a big paydown, we'd be looking at another 5 to 7 years of mortgage payments. Ugh. But, the payoff is a great house, right next to a great elementary school, and a HUGE backyard. Can't wait to put in a garden!!

Another fine birthday comes to an end

March 14th, 2011 at 02:03 am

I'm 36 today. Eek. Not exactly a landmark birthday though. It is just funny how my expectations of what makes a good day have changed through the years. Today, I opted not to do anything exciting.

Hubby took the kids to the zoo, so I had about 3 hours of peace and quiet. I worked on an article that is due tomorrow, went to Home Depot to buy a $1.72 part, and then spent the rest of the time replacing the old light in the main bathroom with a new one. We ordered pizza for dinner, and while hubby was outside playing with the kids, I just kind of had some quiet time and stared at the wall. Magnificent. Had a little bit of quiet time and knocked a big "Designed to Sell" item off the to-do list.

Hubby is excited about our pending move, and now that it's okay for me to decorate the place in my head, I feel more excited as well. The house has a lot of potential.

We did have a few rare moments today to talk, while both kids were napping. The last five years have been brutal. (Hurricane, three deaths, including my dad, two births, recessions) He says it's been hard coming to terms with our adulthood. I hadn't thought about it that way, but he's very very right. We were technically adult in our 20s, but we got to have so much fun and only worry about ourselves. It's just so easy compared to the crushing responsibility of two children and aging parents.

So yes, this new house is a big move in many ways-- it's the house we are buying BECAUSE we have children, and FOR the children. Our house is great, but we bought it for the two of us, when our needs, desires and lifestyle were very different. This next one is designed for us to live there until the kids graduate from high school. It's been chosen as a place for all four of us. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but it is SO ADULT!!!!

Guess that is what 36 is!

Today is TCB Friday

March 11th, 2011 at 07:14 pm

Finally, things are moving along.

The refrigerator repair guys came today and hopefully that will be the end of the appliance woes.

And, we heard back from the sellers. They are paying for the HVAC, so it looks like it's a done deal. (as long as the bank underwriters see fit to give us the money...)

The tax situation seems to be slow, but mostly sorted out.

The house stuff was a little funny, because hubby began to jump excitedly around the kitchen, gushing about the parks and the new restaurants. He is NEVER excited about real estate, and even though he was the push to put in the offer, never acted giddy. I asked him waht was going on, and he said he didn't want to be excited over a house like the silly people on HGTV. We watched an episode of My First Place the other night and it was painful, watching these people make tons of mistakes and be emotional. Can't say I blame him!

I also finally managed to clean the fish tank today. I do partial water changes, but with two goldfish and plecosauras rex all in one 10 gallon tank, boy do they stink up the place fast!

It's pouring...

March 10th, 2011 at 05:21 pm

It's been 48 hours and still no word on the house. I understand the time difference makes things more difficult, but I do know the seller has had two full working days to see and consider the contract. I'm really starting to get frustrating.

And, as they say "when it rains, it pours."

It's pouring. I was sitting in the living room last night when I heard a terrible noise. The refrigerator fan has been humming very loudly (loud enough to be alarming), and although the freezer is cold, the refrigerator is warm. Great. After some investigation-- and a late-night pouring down rain trip to the store to buy ice so we can save all the milk and leftovers in a cooler-- we've determined it's likely the evaporator fan motor crapping out on us. Repair cost: $187. Yay. I could technically do it myself but the part with shipping would cost $100 and wouldn't get here until Monday.

The repair guy can do it tomorrow. Given how complicated and crazy life is right now, I've opted to hire the repair guy. I can't live for five more days with no fridge and two babies who drink a ton of milk.

So yes, more money out. Still no tax refund and the IRS status still says 1201 and delayed.

**update** I finally got the nerve to call the IRS about the refund. Turns out I forgot to record one of the estimated tax payments I had made. I had just started getting steady work last year, and thought I had made 2 payments, when really I had made three, so that apparently delayed the return because the computers have to transfer the data from my account to my hubby and me's joint account. So, that could have been worse!!***

I just wish a few things would be resolved around here. One way or the other. I hate it when everything is on hold.

living in limbo

March 9th, 2011 at 05:39 pm

Ugh. We entered our counter offer on the house, post-inspection 24 hours ago. We are still waiting to hear back. The seller has moved to Asia, so the 14 hour time difference slows down all correspondence.

We asked for the price of a mid-range HVAC replacement, considering the listing made it sounds as though the system had been upgraded, and the current system is at or past the end of its life. Hubby wants to walk away from the house if we don't get it.

He is convinced that they will concede, because it's supposedly a buyers market. I say they probably won't, or will probably try to offer us half.

I just hope whatever they come back with is clear cut. Either they say screw you, you get nothing or they give it all to us. (I know that won't happen!!), so then the decision process is easy. Nothing= bye bye. Everything= green light.

We stressed to our realtor that we are willing to walk. We are the rare type of buyer in this market. We wrote a clean offer, not contingent on sale of our house. We have two more years to look for a house. We've got the money, they can take it or leave it.

I feel just too exhausted. I just want to know if we are moving or not, so I can get everything done that needs to be done. Right now, we are in limbo and I can't stand it.

Not knowing is the worst part for me. I've always been the type that, good news or bad, I'd rather just know so I can live and plan accordingly.

A break from the crazy, please?

March 8th, 2011 at 04:25 am

I can't believe how crazy every day has been since we've been in contract for the house. Like I wasn't busy enough before! Now I've had mortgage docs to gather and sign, inspections to attend, etc. forms to fill out, ducks to line up.

We just had the inspection. Only one big surprise. The furnace and AC are 18 years old. The listing IMPLIED that it had been updated. The HVAC system was listed in between the new kitchen, and in the same sentence as the new roof and new water heater. Um, why would you even mention it as a feature if it was that old? I don't know if they deliberately were trying to mislead or not, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who read the listing that way.

So yeah, we are putting together another counter. Outlining all of the costs of all the repairs recommended by the inspector, and then saying "hey, we'll cover all this other stuff, if you either reduce the price or give us a credit for the cost of the HVAC, since our current agreed price was based on those things having been done, as your listing kind of led us to believe."

I spent all day on the phone with all manner of contractors getting quotes for everything. In addition to my the actual work tasks I have to do every day-- and in the mere three baby-free hours I have every Monday to do it in.

I feel like I'm treading water, barely doggy paddling my nose above water, with all the house-related stuff I've had to do, in addition to all of my work. Ugh!

I hope I am not being unreasonably asking for the HVAC credit. Hubby and I have tenatively agreed to walk if they don't give it to us, but now I am even doubting that. They will likely give us part of what we are asking for, but probably not all of it.

The house is overall in good shape, very solid, and it still is close to work and schools. So is it foolish to walk over a couple thousand dollars, if it's the place we will likely be til the kids are in college? I don't know.

of course...

March 3rd, 2011 at 01:42 am

So, I was inspired to check the status of my almost $12,000 tax refund. The one I am counting on using to pay part of the downpayment for my house on closing day March 31.

It was on a lark. Tuyrbotax said my estimated pay date is March 4. But then I check on the IRS website and it said it is delayed, code 1201, and that I need to call and have my tax return ready.

So now I am scared. I do not need any more stress in my life right now. And, we have very simple taxes. Nothing really to screw up. It's kind of making me angry.

Is it because I have a large refund? I think I am extra inspired to change our withholding.