Monthly Archives: November 2014

Home Buying for Morons, Part III: The Good, The Bad and the So Very Ugly

Money Pit House
Step right up and place your bets. Come on people, who wants to gamble that this house isn’t a wreck? Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ddpavumba

Is there anything more disappointing than finding out the house you wanted to buy was a trap set for the unwary and uninformed buyer? Maybe discovering the day of your wedding that your dress doesn’t fit because you didn’t lose that ten pounds you expected, but other than that, a home inspection is probably one of the more shocking experiences you will have in your lifetime.*

As many of you know,** I recently made an offer on what I thought was a nice little house in a lovely neighborhood. I was half right. The first time I saw the house, I immediately put in a bid because every other house in the area disappeared before I could blink. (You’d get whiplash watching the buyer’s dropping off their earnest money.) So, I thought, this is how it’s done. You see a house, you make a bid and then you pay someone to tell you what a colossal idiot you are. (Cue the Inspector! Duh duh DUH!)

Actually, I had an excellent recommendation for a person who does home inspections. I highly recommend him. Todd Moelker in the Hudsonville, MI area. Nice guy, not afraid to climb up and brush three feet of snow off an icy roof to try and tell you whether it will cave in on you. The only bad thing about the inspection was the news he had to give.

The roof (what he could see of it) looked okay. But the rest of the house? If you have seen the movie The Money Pit with Tom Hanks and not Meg Ryan, then you have some idea of what level of decrepitude is possible.

The entire time Todd is walking me through the hoped-for home of my dreams, he is cataloguing the problems. Windows are ‘new install’ which is apparently a bad thing in an old house—especially when they are poorly installed. The floor in the kitchen with cracks radiating throughout the tile doesn’t signify a bowling enthusiast with dropsy, but rather that the installation was done improperly. The furnace is not only old, but is running hot because the temperature gauge is broken…and it is leaking through the corrosion in the pipes that he can find no cause for. The stains around the ceiling are layers of dust that collected in areas with little to no insulation. He might have mentioned something about a gas leak, a wiring issue, a massive foundation crack, the fact that said foundation may or may not be sliding into a sink hole and a toilet in danger of falling through the floor, I’m not sure, I was busy trying to get out of my contract and wasn’t paying strict attention.

Tools for House
The problem with buying a fixer upper is that I have only ever managed to use a hammer to put holes in the plaster while trying to hang things. FreeDigitalImages.Net/kookkai_nak

So what did I get for my $400.00 inspection? The peace of mind that comes from knowing this isn’t the house you are looking for, move along.*** Oh, and I have a new standard for home purchases: if there is a dead mouse in the fuse box…walk away…just… walk away.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Hyperbole alert—the above statement may be an exaggeration of facts not in evidence. In other words, I made it up.

**The two followers of this blog who are not spammers.

***Horribly misquoted Star Wars Reference. Don’t hate me.

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House Hunting Blues: Part Deus Ex Machina

House Hunting for the Incredibly Inept–More of a How Not To For Those Who Learn Best by Example

Crime Scene
But it comes with a library and a really nice kitchen! Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net/ponsulak

I have been frantically searching for a house over the past month trying to find something I could afford before the snow flies. (Dangit) This week I made an offer on one and moments later had a panic attack that had me calling my therapist to talk me down from hyperventilating until I passed out. (I kid you not.) Why, you may ask, did putting an offer in cause heart palpitations and the desire to vomit food I’d eaten years ago? I’ll tell you. Because when it comes to finding, picking out and buying a house, I have come to a hard-learned conclusion that, apparently, The Idiot’s Guide to Buying a House doesn’t come with a guarantee. If you can’t follow their simple, step-by-step instructions well then, Caveat Emptor.*

Let me back up and tell you that, with regards to this house hunting expedition, I thought I was well prepared going in. (It’s a bit like getting married, you think you know what you are doing…at the time saying “I do” seemed pretty easy, right?) I attended a class for new home owners and everything. Then, I gratefully accepted the interest offered by the first mortgage broker who would even consider looking at a buyer who wanted a loan under $100,000. (Did you know the name for us in the industry is something like Time-Wasting-Applicant-Trouble-Seekers. I have been too busy to come up with an acronym for that.)

For two weeks after I got my pre-approval letter, I yapped at my poor realtor every single time a house came on the market that I could afford. I’d see something in my budget and shoot her an email. I strongly suspect by the fifth or sixth communication she wanted to shoot me back. When we met in person, she explained something I didn’t know…realtors cannot tell you that a neighborhood might not be desirable to live in. I guess I was sending her listings that apparently should have come with crime statistics. On her advice, I finally went to view the neighborhood that was offering such lovely houses at prices that seemed to be a steal. I drove past beautiful bungalows and cute cape cods until I passed a house with actual crime scene tape in front of it. I did a quick look around to see if the CSI officers were hanging about (no such luck), just in case they were as cute as Warrick on the original show by that name. (I still curse the writers who killed him off and sent Grissom away.) Where was I? Oh, right, leaving the house of my dreams in the location of my nightmares behind me as fast as the speed limit would allow.

Once I figured out where the safest neighborhoods were, the number of houses in my price range dropped dramatically. (You thought the DOW plunged alarmingly in 2011? If my house choices were stock options, I would have gone belly-up.)** Not only that, but the houses that did come up that weren’t condemned or had crawl-space basements just big enough to hide your average serial killer, the most likely homes disappeared from the market before I could get out to see them.

So, Thursday morning, when a house came on the market in an area that I would love to live in and it was reduced to a price I could almost afford. I nagged my realtor (a really nice woman who didn’t do anything to deserve a client like me) to get me into that house immediately. After probably the fastest walk-through in the history of house hunting anywhere, I jumped at the bait like a carp snapping up a juicy fly. Now I am worried that the hook sticking out of my jaw might possibly mean there is a frying pan somewhere in my future. “Don’t worry,” I tell myself, “You can always jump out of the pan!”

Right after I signed the digital dotted line (after reading the contract, I’m not a complete idiot) I start to dwell on all the negatives of the home I just told someone I could pay $94,000 for if they chipped in $2,000 for closing costs. (I felt like Wimpy in the Popeye comic strip: I’ll pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.) Negotiating a purchasing price of a home is like a really confusing shell game where you think you know where the ball is, but you’re still certain you are about to be conned. When the sellers leapt at my offer without negotiating anything, I was convinced I had made a mistake.

I honestly think I would have had an aneurism if it weren’t for my realtor pointing out the clause in my contract that says something to the effect that “If the inspections turn up anything of significant concern, the buyer has the right to repent at leisure that which she offered for in haste.”*** Or words to that effect. It’s the magic ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’ of real estate. So, even though I have made an offer on a house I barely saw and am now chewing my nails that it will be a move I’ll regret for the next thirty years, I have the lovely prospect of an inspection to look forward to next Thursday which will either tell me that I have made a good choice or let me play my card. I may not be able to avoid the luxury tax for stupid people (i.e. loss of earnest money), but at least I can avoid jail. And, perhaps that’s the best a first-time buyer can hope for in a seller’s market.

Monopoly House
I’d like to live on Park Place, please! Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ James Barker (And yes, I realize I could have taken a picture of a Monopoly house myself…but I’m busy being a blogger. So there!)

 Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

* Caveat Emptor in this case translates as: You just bought an empty cave!

**Fine, you write a better NASDAQ analogy—I still get NASDAQ and Nascar confused!

***Leisure lasts ten days, in case you wondered.

Swallowed by Nanowrimo, please stand by…

In lieu of writing a post, I am busy avoiding writing for Nanowrimo.  If you don’t know what that is, then this doesn’t matter.  If you do know what that is and are participating, what are you doing reading this right now?  Get back to work!

Here is today’s installation of lame-ass poetry:

Roses are never as red as they seem

Violets are always more purple than blue.

Literalists should never write poetry.

Dead Rose
You’d be shocked at what comes up when you put ‘violets’ into your search. Try it sometime. Here’s your dead rose instead, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net by Foto76

That is all.

Book Promotion that Makes an Impression—Don’t Advertise When You Can PADvertise

Okay, while I am not generally a fan of ‘reposting’ this one is too funny not to share. Kristen Lamb may be onto something here.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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Since most of us are neck-deep in work and NaNoWriMo, I thought it was time to talk about something OTHER than writing. How are you going to MARKET that NaNo novel by December 3rd, 2014?

Only amateurs need “revisions” *rolls eyes*.

We all know what we are writing is PURE GOLD begging to be unleashed  available for purchase in time to pay off all the money we’ll spend on Christmas gifts. That and being a NYTBSA by the end of January of 2015 is a great start, right?

Any of you who regularly follow my blog know that I am totally out of my mind a bit eccentric. Saturday, Hubby took pity on me and let us go out to eat (a rare treat around here). As I closed the door to the stall, I noticed all the advertising on the back of the bathroom door. This cluttered wall of…

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A Villain After My Own Heart…

 A Villain After My Own Heart

or

There is a Jeckle Inside You Mr. Hyde

DoRightCast
What is it with Nell’s fascination with Dudley’s horse? I mean, what kind of subversive deviants wrote this script?

I have been puttering around Chapter One of this year’s Nano project (Book 3 of a mostly-incomprehensible trilogy) because I have been dreading writing about the bad guy. Last night I took a stab at it. (I’m surprised my laptop isn’t bleeding.) But I find it really difficult to even want to write the parts of the book that involve conflict. No wonder Quentin Tarantino has so many guns and swords in his creations…there’s something about an antagonist that is so…so…antagonizing!

 

Stories resonate because of conflict. What would Star Wars be without Darth Vader? Who would breathe heavily into our ears and make us wish we had the light-up phallic symbol to battle our fathers with? (Uhh, that got kinda weird. Sorry ‘bout that.) What makes a perfectly rotten character so good?

 

My favorite villain of all time would be just about any character played by Alan Rickman. He just has such a flair for it. His best line ever, was when he played the Sheriff of Nottingham in the dreadful Robin Hood production starring Bull Durham. Following an incredibly vexing day, Nottingham stomps down the halls of the castle yelling: “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!” Even when he plays a good guy, like the bulbous-headed alien in Galaxy Quest, he gets to be the snarky sidekick who makes all the astute observations about the narcissistic Captain Nesmith played by Tim Allen. Don’t get me started on his bad boy, Severus Snape.* He could make a girl go all Slytherin!  Uhh, where was I?  Oh, right, building the perfect bad guy.

i_am_a_slytherin__by_dragontygress-d64061v

Everybody loves to hate the bad guy. They give the story depth and flavor. They get all the best lines—if not the girl. They are usually the more exciting character—heroes tend to be all alike in their sterling qualities. As a writer you have to examine the development of both halves of the equation: Is a valiant, brave, but predictable leading man bringing your book down? Bring on the sly, devious lothario to ripen up a flaccid plot. If he looks good in tight leather—bonus!

It is very hard to create a villain that isn’t a one-dimensional Snidely Whiplash standing over the girl tied to the railroad tracks**, twirling his mustachio and cackling “I’ve got you now, Dudly Do-Right! Mwa ha ha ha.” Everything I write seems to be a challenge to my desire to make an unredeemable villain who isn’t a cardboard cutout. When I have to write about the motivations or methods of my current villain, I am repelled delving into the monster I have created.  Am I alone in this?

I leave it to you, the writer. How do you write a character that just won’t play nice? For now, I just ask myself one question: “What Would Snidely Do?”

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Hats off to J.K. Rowling that she managed to sneak a hero in dressed as a villain. Not many authors can carry that off! (Blatant appeal to vanity in hopes she won’t sue for my use of the above ‘Slytherin’ artwork.)

**Who knew this was a fetish?