Category Archives: House Hunting Virgin

Race to the Finish: A Limping Victory

SHHHHHHHH! 

Shhhh with Clock
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/stockimages

I have been keeping a secret from you. Two really. I think it’s time to come clean. I have been emboldened by Karen Copeland, a writer who shared her struggles about being honest in the blog-o-sphere. Sometimes it is easier to write about that which is funny, or at least funny in retrospect, than it is to contemplate the scary that is the now or immediate future. As most of you know, I have been trying to buy a house…well…find a house first and then buy it. Who knew finding it was going to be the easier of the two prospects?*

I did it. I found the perfect, tiny house in Grandville, Michigan. Perfect in that it was way over budget and still had toxic gas seeping through the floor boards.** (Everybody chant: Mediation is Salvation!) Okay, so it was perfect in that it was still on the market and would actually pass an inspection. Why didn’t I just wait and see what the spring influx of housing would bring? Because, I was running out of time.

I have been juggling two major life changes. I have only told you about one of them because, to be honest, if I think about the second one, over which I have absolutely no control, I want to vomit. So instead, I have focused exclusively on the house purchase to the point of wearing blinders to the other big, scary thing in the hopes it would go away. It hasn’t and it won’t; and the stupid thing is, I knew that. I’ve known it for about four years. What I hadn’t known then was that I would be in a race between buying a house and facing the ‘Big Scary Thing’ and that the race would come down to a matter of days between the two cataclysmic events. Today, they collided.

I have been waiting on tenterhooks for a call from the mortgage company regarding the closing date. And waiting…and waiting… I finally get the call and I am chatting with my broker before he takes off for spring break. Bad news, he’s going out of town. The good news? I get to close this week. Yay! Which is critical because, if I didn’t, my two big secrets were going to meet and it was going to get ugly.*** And then I get the call…

“Hi, this is Shelly from Dr. ReallyDutchName’s office. I’m calling to let you know your total hip replacement surgery has been scheduled.”

I am mid-conversation with the terminally perky nurse who is informing me that my surgeon will be slicing and dicing me open at 1:30 p.m. Monday and that, oh, by the way, I can’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before…the man hates fat people and this is his way of ensuring I know, at least once in my life, what raving hunger feels like…when my phone interrupts to tell me that my realtor is calling.

I get off the phone with little Miss Ray of Sunshine RN and find out that my closing can take place either Thursday or Friday this week, which would I prefer? So there you have it. Thursday I will be buying my Barbie Dream House and Monday I become the Bionic Woman—thus fulfilling two lifelong goals. Now I just have to figure out how to move into the new house without leaving my bed. The universe is a perverse bastard sometimes. 

Old-lympic Hopeful--my dreams of running in the Olympics aren't necessarily dead!  Check the story out at: http://www.olympischstadion.nl/en/53_news/?news_id=2028
Old-lympic Hopeful–my dreams of running in the Olympics aren’t necessarily dead! Check the story out at: http://www.olympischstadion.nl/en/53_news/?news_id=2028

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Those of you who have read the past few (thousand) whiny posts about my poor judgment in housing prospects are rolling on the floor laughing. In review: Bad House#1, Bad House #2, and Lament for a House

**I got over my fear of mutant radon when faced with the fear of not finding a home in time.

***Like day-two in re-hab ugly.

Advertisements

My Toxic Life

Tomato soup
My fallback comfort food: tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich.

I am presently suffering the agonies of mid-winter flu. Typing is exhausting and my brain is all a-fog with the unwashed desire to return to bed. I also suffer the angst of once again being homeless.*

The home that almost was, isn’t any more. The inspection turned up enough accumulative unknown repairs to make the purchase cost prohibitive. Added to that, the home turned out to be radioactive. (Okay, I exaggerate, but it helps me to think it was a toxic environment that I am better off rid of.) The inspection report showed Radon.

wonder-woman-clip-art1-208x300
On the other hand, I’d make a kick-ass Wonder Woman.

For those of you who don’t know what radon is…you need to educate yourselves. It is a natural gas that is a “colorless, radioactive, inert gaseous element formed by the radioactive decay of radium.”  (thefreedictionary.com) Now, I’d love to develop super powers as much as the next girl, but unfortunately, radiation only does that in cartoons. Radon is the number two cause of lung cancer leading to deaths by the thousands every year. It can be found anywhere. But in my particular case, it turned up in the inspection report, sealing the doubts I had based on the myriad other things wrong with the building—the fact that the roof wasn’t entirely attached being one of them. This means I am back to house hunting and the market has been picked clean.**

I am weepy with being ill for two…(wait, what day is it?)…three days. I am depressed that the house I was hoping was perfect for me, isn’t. I am tired of looking at the real estate site only to see all the other houses I liked have gone to less indecisive buyers. I have been living on cookies and hot chocolate for days…and I have just run out of cookies.

Chicken Soup
This would have been a lot more comforting if it hadn’t been frozen solid from sitting in the garage all winter.

I could use a hug. And chicken soup. And a house.

*Sob*

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*’Cause nothing warms the soul like hyperbole.

**Like the Thanksgiving Turkey on Friday, the only houses left are the neck bones of that analogy. And nobody wants to live in a neck bone.

House Hunting Commitment Phobe – The Sequel

Part V–I think, I’m starting to lose track–of an interminable series.

    YAY! THE HOUSE OF MY DREAMS.... or...is it?
YAY! THE HOUSE OF MY DREAMS…. or…is it?

I did it. I made an offer on a house. Again. And again, I battle the nerve-wracking indecision that comes with making such a huge commitment. Added to this burden is the fact that I am still receiving notifications from the auto-generator set up by my realtor. It’s as if the agency wants me to second guess my decision: “Here’s a house nearby that doesn’t have a creepy basement vibe and is $10,000 less than the house you just offered on.”

I am trying to think about this rationally. “You made a decision, you can stop looking now. Really. Stop. Looking. Now!” The problem is, this is one of the biggest decisions of a person’s life. How do you know when you’ve found

You would not believe how many pictures I had to look at to find one that conveyed the poignancy  of my message. Pages and pages and pages worth. Thank you Farconville of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. You earned your kibble with this one.
You would not believe how many pictures I had to look at to find one that conveyed the poignancy of my message. Pages and pages and pages worth. Thank you Farconville of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. You earned your kibble with this one.

‘the one’? I have tried to imagine a similar scenario happening after saying ‘Yes’ to a marriage proposal. You, all excited, shove your hand into the face of your envious circle of single friends, boasting and nearly cutting them with your massive rock: “Look, he went to Jared’s!”* Your friends, pasting overly bright smiles on their lying lips, respond: “Oh, wow. That’s just…great. We’re so happy for you…” A moment of shifty silence goes by. The girl with the slight overbite raises her hand and says, “But look at that guy over there!” Said ‘friend’ points out the handsome hunk across the room. “He’s single, employed, has no mommy issues, and is eyeing you like prime rib.” Then girl turns back, tips head to shoulder and says, “Gee, it’s too bad you can’t date him now that you are engaged. I guess I’ll go over and console him.” You grind your teeth as she flounces away.

I have a history of, let’s just say, buying something on impulse and regretting it a nanosecond after I get it home. The thing is, with most purchases, you can sheepishly slink your way back into the store with a receipt and get your money back. I think this habit has ill-prepared me for buying a house. I know, I know, I still have the inspection to go through. (And we all remember how well the last inspection went, don’t we?)  Maybe the guy will discover a massive problem with the roof, or explain how the water stains in the garage are terminal? Maybe I’ll get hit by a meteor and I can stop worrying about all of this.

So what’s a frazzled girl to do? I’ll tell you, I’m staging my own intervention. I will look myself in the mirror and say, “Kiri, we need to talk. You have a problem. And I’ll be there with you as we figure out how to deal with this.” Maybe I’ll enter house rehab; it will be like a 12-step program but involving less steps. There will be one to be exact. I will tell the realtor to stop the notifications—I want to get off the house hunting merry-go-round. I will do exactly that…just as soon as this house passes inspection…which is set for Friday the 13th. I’ve got a good feeling about this.

*Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*This joke will only be understood if you live in West Michigan. My apologies to the rest of the world. However, I have wondered why Jared’s Jewelers hasn’t paired up with Jared from Subway sandwich fame to make a cross-over commercial:

Scene:

Two women sitting in a picturesque setting—probably surrounded by flowers and sh*t.

Woman one: “So, how’re things with Jared?”

Woman two: (holding out foot-long sub and flashing a diamond ring): “He went to Jared’s…and then afterward, we went to Subway.”**

**Note to clueless men, this is NOT a suggestion for Valentine’s Day. You would definitely not go to Subway to celebrate. You go to Subway to propose!

Requiem For A House

For your reading pleasure, please link to the appropriate soundtrack to this blog:

Mozart’s Requiem  

 

The perfect house is out there. Somewhere. Laughing at me. I have seen several that come very close. But, in each case there has been something about it that spelled ‘DOOM’ in big letters. It’s almost as if the universe doesn’t want me to find a home.

[Confutatis Maladictis – when the guilty are confounded]

There was the one house I told you about in October that was so close to a park you could almost spit and hit a baseball diamond. I had no problem walking away from that train wreck and, from what I have heard, it is going to auction. I pity the fool who buys it.

Cue B.A. Baracus:

Then there was the gorgeous Victorian on Greenfield that called to me with its massive bedrooms and walk-in closets. Hardwood floors. Lovingly painted decor. Creaky original windows with actual rope-pulleys to open and shut them. I ached to buy this drafty barn of a building with its ancient furnace and cavernous rooms. I yearned longingly right up until I looked up the sex offender registry and found a pedophile living one block north. NEXT!

[flammis acribus addictis – and doomed to flames of woe]

I was tempted by a nearly pristine ranch located, most appropriately, on Eden Street. Paradise found! With its redone kitchen and the odd passageway between the garage and the house that had been turned into a dining area with crown molding, it was quirky enough to appeal to me. The price was right and the house wasn’t a wreck; but I knew, even before I entered it, I could never buy the place. I had sat out front before the realtor arrived. As I waited, semi trucks barreled past on Byron Center Road heading to nearby 44th Street. It spelled woe to any child who dared to get off a bus there. I tried to convince myself my son would be ‘safe enough’. (This is a child who runs into the street for fun and profit.) Because it was a corner lot, a fence could not be put up. Nothing stood between my child and certain death except wishful thinking. Even as I debated the possibilities, I admired the scampering squirrels who were enjoying the unexpected hiatus from blizzards. Tiny wrens popped from bushes denuded of leaves down to the ground to hunt for seeds. “I could live here. This could work.” I tried telling myself. (Cue the irony.) A hawk from a nearby tree swooped down and snatched up one of the tiny birds, killing it in seconds. (I hope. I really, really hope.) The hawk took its meal and parked itself in the small tree about five feet from my car. I swear the bird stared at me. It was as if nature itself had decided I needed a slap-to-the-face reminder of how quickly life can blink out. I was firmly pushed from Eden. (I’m sure I could come up with a Paradise Lost reference here, if only I had read the book.)

[voca me cum benedictus – call me among the blessed]

This week I found another misfit house to love. It is big enough to hold a rambunctious child and a woman with an inordinate love of books and cooking. The basement isn’t entirely creepy and the roof doesn’t even look as if it is going to cave in. In other words, it is perfect. Except for the pesky rumor of gang activity. No one can come to a consensus on the safety of the given area. Some people say this area is going downhill, there are gangs and crime. The receptionist who mans (?womans?) the desk of the local United Methodist Church tells me, “I’ve lived here forty years and never had a problem.” I asked her whether she was looking for a roommate. She laughed. Apparently she thought I was joking. When I asked the police liaison about the area and whether I should move there… Her answer? “No!” Even so, I am still considering it.

[Ingemisco, tamquam reus: culpa rubet vultus meus–

I moan as one who is guilty: owning my shame with a red face]

Every day on the news we are reminded that safety is an illusion that can be torn away at any moment. And yet, I cannot find the courage to move to a neighborhood that might possibly require safety bars on both sides of the windows. What is a poor house hunter to do? For now, I am prompted to sing, not just a lament for lost and dying souls, but a song that truly speaks to the season and the un-reason of my current desire to run and hide:

 “Let It Go! Let It Go!”

“You’ll Never See Me Cry”

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.

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.

Houdini Housing Crisis – Finding a Home in the Special Needs Market

Barbie Dream House Fortress…moat and guard tower sold separately.

House - Castle
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/DebSpoons

I am trying to imagine the conversation I will have with my realtor:

Me: (Ring, ring – Because that’s how imaginary phones sound.) Hello? Hi, I need a home and this (insert laughably small sum here $XX,XXX) is what I can afford.

Realtor: Really? Is there no wiggle room on that dollar amount?

Me: Only if the budget wriggles lower.

Realtor: Okay. Well, what are you looking for?

Me: That’s the tricky part. I need a house with ultra-secure doors—preferably solid wood with no glass. And NO sliding glass doors exiting the house or accordion doors on the closets, thank you very much. No in-sink food disposal units. No ceiling fans. No carpets. An unscalable, securely fenced-in backyard. A lockable basement where the furnace is secured. No Jacuzzi tubs. No decks with a drop greater than three feet. No pools or water hazards in the immediate vicinity. Near public transit and a library if possible.

Realtor: (Stunned silence.)

Me: Oh, and if there is a bedroom with padded walls and no windows, that would be nice. …Hello?   Helloooo? Dang it.

Why do I have such a strange list? Because I am a Special Needs Homeowner. I gave birth to a darling boy…who is apparently a cross between Harry Houdini and Wile E. Coyote. If he’s not trying to break out of his prison, he’s likely trying to blow it up. I don’t need a house, I need Fort Knox…on a budget. What realtor wouldn’t jump at the chance to represent me?

So if anyone out there is wondering why I have dropped off the Blogosphere radar, I am trying to achieve the impossible: luring a reluctant realtor with the promise of good Karma and abundant gratitude. Failing that, I’m sure ACME Company will have a trap I could order. Meep Meep.

Wile_E_ACME
Image ‘borrowed’ from monthlybrand.com.

Stay tuned for the next installment of “House Hunting for Autistics”.