Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dining Table - It Has Begun!

Today I started my next wood project - building our dining table.  Here's the wood:
Douglas Fir
I'm sitting at the desk that I built as I type this (start and completion).  It hasn't fallen down and still looks good!  That's given me enough confidence to take on this larger and more important project.

The big difference is the deadline - we are having family over for Thanksgiving and we need somewhere to eat dinner!  The pressure is on.

I decided to create the design on my own - I looked around online with Pamela for tables for sale that we'd like to imitate with our creation.  We borrowed a little bit from several designs we like.  I sketched out the layout on the computer and put together complete plans (well, not step by step).

I'll be sure to post with progress and the project plans.  Here's the wood cut into the pieces I'll need:
Looking good team!
 Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Home Ownership and Taxes

You are probably aware that the interest you pay on your mortgage and the property taxes you pay are both deductible.

If you go from being a renter to a homeowner, you should expect to pay lower taxes or receive a larger refund come April.  But how about boosting your monthly take-home pay to help your monthly budget?

By filing a revised W-4 with increased allowances, you will increase your net pay on each paycheck.  You could wait until you file your tax returns in April, but you are essentially giving the government a free loan (well, the government certainly needs it).

Each allowance on your W-4 is worth $3,700.  If you add your annual mortgage interest and property taxes, then divide by $3,700, you should get the number of allowances to file for (relating to your home; you may already have other allowances).  You can then use a paycheck calculator to estimate what your new net paycheck will look like.

Of course, consult a tax professional before you take the advice of a blogger.  Your individual circumstances will differ.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Free Credit Report (without the song and dance)

We've all seen the commercials on TV for various "free" credit report offers.  The truth is, if they are advertising, they aren't doing this out of the kindness of their hearts.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act enables consumers a free copy of their credit report once a year - see details here. The companies that are advertising will get you your credit report for free, but they are trying to sign you up for a monthly monitoring service or other services for a fee.

The FTC's link brings you to which is hosted by the three major credit reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

You'll follow through the prompts on the site to fill out your personal information and then you'll have to select which of three agencies to get your report from.  Your credit report will show your various outstanding lines of credit.  The report will not provide you with your credit score.  You'll have the opportunity during the process to sign up (and pay) to receive your credit score.

Getting your free credit report once per year is a good way to monitor your credit, although if there are problems, a once-per-year report may not be timely enough.

If you are planning on looking for a house, you may want to pull your report before you begin.  If there are problems, such as fraudulent accounts, they can often take a long time to resolve.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Project - Building a Desk - Finished!

The desk I built sat in the garage until Saturday morning.  I moved it into the house just in time for our housewarming - at least one person commented positively on the desk without knowing I had built it.  For everyone else, I made sure they knew right away.

Having made it through an entire project, I can confidently divide projects into a few different steps and grade myself:
  1. Buying stuff - C or D - I didn't make a smart wood purchasing decision and I ended up making several trips to Home Depot.  For the next project, I think this'll be an easy A.
  2. Cutting the stuff you bought - C+ - unfortunately, I let the 17 year old working at Home Depot make a few cuts so that the wood would fit in my car.  This led to some pieces which were shorter than they should have been.  Before I put together my saw jig, I think some of my own cuts with my circular saw weren't quite straight.
  3. Assembling the cut stuff - B+ - I would give myself an A, but I can't do that on my first project.
  4. Finishing the assembled stuff - B- - not terrible, but not great - see below.
Finshing - There's no such thing as too much sanding!
Once I had the desk fully assembled and the drawer was sliding well, I felt like I had reached the finish line.  How hard could it be to paint something?

First, you need to sand the project.  This helps smooth the project, but also create "grip" for the primer.  You could use a primer + paint, but I went with separate primer and paint.  Primer is generally white or gray.  It is suggested that you use gray if you are painting with dark colors.

So sand, then apply a thin layer of primer.  After it has dried, sand again, then prime again.

Next, sand again before applying paint.  It's really helpful to buy a "tack cloth" which is a cloth... that is tacky.  You bunch it up and wipe the project and it picks up all the little bits of sawdust.  I didn't do this at first, which was a mistake, because as I applied the primer, some spots looked gritty.

When I first applied the paint, I used a paintbrush.  This was also a mistake.  For a rookie, it seems that no matter how hard you try to keep from leaving brush strokes, they'll be there.  And they don't look good.  After a layer of paint, I bought a roller and the results were great.  The problem was that I had a layer of brush-strokes beneath which I couldn't effectively sand away.

In between layers of paint (and you want at least 2 layers) I sanded again.  At this point, you want to use a very fine sand paper and slide it across the project to again, create "grip" and to even out any minor bumps.

Once the paint has dried and you are happy, you'll want to apply a protective finish.  I read that a spray can of water-based polycrylic was the best / easiest.  Let me give you a tip to save you some headaches - you are going to be applying many layers of polycrylic, so spray the project very lightly, let it dry (30 mins) then do it again.

After my first pass with the polycrylic, I looked at the project and thought there were some areas I missed.  So I gave those areas a more focused spraying.  This only led to buildup of the polycrylic.  I tried wiping them with my finger or paper towel, but then the area looked smudged.

After layers of poly, you again need to sand with very fine paper.  Since I had created some smudges and buildup areas, I sanded with a bit more force - in at least two spots, I sanded away the poly and the paint underneath to expose primer.  Ugh!

So now I needed to re-touch a few areas with paint, then hit it all with poly again.  I probably should have re-touched with paint, let it dry, then done it again.  At this point though, the project had been out in the garage for a good week and I was running out of time to show it off at our housewarming.

As a final step, I drilled some small holes in the feet and added screw-in felt furniture feet.  This would also make it possible to adjust the desk if it wasn't level, although it was.

The feet did left the project off the floor by 1/4" which I felt took away from the look a little.

All-in-all, passing grades.  The big test was whether Pamela would let me try to build us a dining room table next, and I have received the go-ahead.  So, be on the lookout for dining table posts soon!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Donald Trump - Never A Better Time to Buy (from a bank)

Donald Trump, in the clip below, explains why he believes there has never been a better time to buy, as long as you are buying from a bank:

I think his comments are timely - six months ago, I believe banks would have been more reluctant or less likely to just "get rid" of properties they owned.  Now with the economy really struggling again and the focus on banks' balance sheets, both in the US and Europe, banks should be more willing to cut deals.

His comments on financing a deal when buying from a third party may be a bit off - we didn't have a problem getting a good mortgage, but I guess I can't speak more broadly than my experience and what I've read.

One point to highlight - Trump, love him or hate him, is all about confidence.  He sued a reporter who dared say his net worth was not in the billions.  Over the past several years, Trump has been licensing his name for properties (and other projects) rather than buying and owning himself.  It is interesting to note that he has now become a buyer again.  If you think he is a savvy real estate investor, maybe you should follow his lead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Housing at Core of Economic Malaise

Today's NY Times addresses the role housing is playing in the current downturn in its article Gloom Grips Consumers, and It May Be Home Prices:

That has led a growing number of economists to argue that the collapse of housing prices, a defining feature of this downturn, is also a critical and underappreciated impediment to recovery. Americans have lost a vast amount of wealth, and they have lost faith in housing as an investment. They lack money, and they lack the confidence that they will have more money tomorrow.
I've discussed this changing perception of home ownership in previous posts.  While I don't want to sound callous to those who are struggling, I think this shift in attitudes will be a strong positive long-term, although it will cause lots of people pain in the nearer term.  Home owners - new and old alike - need to view their home as a shelter, not an ATM and not a stock that goes up and down.  I think first-time home buyers likely get this while prior generations will have more trouble accepting it.
“I don’t know that it’s going to get better. We just have to get used to it,” said Sherry DeWeese, whose home in Ocoee, a northwestern suburb of Orlando, is worth less than she paid for it 13 years ago — and about a third of its value at the peak of the market. “It was nothing to buy whatever we wanted. Now we just think about what we really need.”
Sherry gets it.  While it is sad to hear her house is worth the same now as it was 13 years ago (the NY Times doesn't specify, but I'm guessing that is in nominal terms, meaning she has actually "lost" money on her home in real terms due to inflation).  Is it perhaps more striking that her home has not changed in value in 13 years or that it was worth 3x its current value at the peak?

It remains the prevailing view of economic policy makers that economic activity will eventually return to the same trajectory as before the recession. Mr. Bernanke and others have said that they see no evidence of any permanent change in the economy. Previous bouts of economic pessimism, as in the early 1980s and early 1990s, went away once growth picked up.

There's been a lot of discussion around the idea of the "new normal" and whether it will remain in place.  Will people remain frugal even after the economy has rebounded and their jobs are more secure?  I think that is a toss up - we as Americans do tend to like reality TV, celebrity culture, and all these other influences which tend to make us want to spend and own more.

Can we return to the same level of economic activity (consumer spending) as before the recession?  I doubt it and I hope not.  Many or perhaps most people didn't over-extend themselves, but everyone has been caught up in the recession.  Those that did spend in excess have likely had a harder landing.  I tend to believe that the experience of the past few years won't simply be shrugged off.

I do fear the government's involvement though.  The current and previous administration, along with the current and previous Fed created dangerous situations.  The current Fed wants to keep interest rates artificially low to drive lending and grow the economy.  The key, in my opinion, to being successful in this regard, is to turn off the spigot at the right time.  Failing to do so will lead us back into an environment of easy credit and the bad decisions that follow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Project - Build a Desk

First off, I have to say that none of this would have been possible without the help of, a site and blog about an Alaskan mother who builds furniture on her own time.  Please visit her site for helpful how-to's and project plans.

Before we even moved in, I began thinking about DIY projects that I'd like to accomplish.  We knew the house would be lacking in furniture, as we were coming from a one bedroom apartment and now had several bedrooms.  Our apartment also had a kitchen island, so we didn't have a dining table or chairs.

I originally intended on building a dining table, but the scale of the project and the daily usage the table would receive guided me to try something a bit smaller first.

In our kitchen, there's a corner space where the seller used to have a desk with a TV on top.  We thought that'd be a great place for a laptop and some stationary outside of the office.  The space available is 40" x 24"

Pamela and I found a plan online that we really liked and thought we could adapt to the space.  See the Simple Modern Desk plan here.

Our version would have slightly smaller dimensions, one large drawer instead of two, and wood boards as a top rather than a single sheet of MDF.

Supplies and Materials
On one of our first trips to Home Depot I got to buy power tools.  I bought a drill and a circular saw, along with nails, screws, and an array of screwdrivers and other hand tools.

If you are in the market for power tools, I suggest buying corded tools if you can.  If you are like me and will be working around the house where you have access to electric outlets and/or extension cords, spending the extra money on cordless tools might be a waste.  Cordless tools also need to be charged and often aren't as powerful (for the same price point).

One of the key enabling tools for me has been a Kreg Jig.  When joining pieces of wood together for furniture, you have several options.  The Kreg Jig, in my opinion, is the simplest and may also be the most attractive visually.  Just peruse a clip on their site and you'll see what I mean.

I purchased poplar boards from Home Depot for this project.  This was a rookie move - I walked up and down the lumber aisles and thought these boards looked best.  They were also labeled as good for furniture.  I didn't realize they were priced per foot, as opposed to many other boards that were priced per piece.  For a 1" x 3" board that was 8 feet long, I probably spent $15 to $20 per board.  With other types of wood I could have spent less than $10 or even less than $5 per board.

Below is my garage / workshop / man-cave:
Man Cave-y
In the forefront on top of two stools you can see my saw jig.  I use this to make perfectly straight cuts with my circular saw.  The perpendicular board in the center of the photo is used as a guide, I press the circular saw's foot along that board as I am making the cut.  I slide a piece of wood below that board but on top of the jig's base.  You can see the channel that is cut in the jig to the left of the perpendicular board.

Before I had the saw jig setup, each cut was nerve wracking.  Being new to a circular saw, I was concerned I'd make a lop-sided cut or remove several fingers.

Non-Step By Step
For a good step by step, please download the project plans from

Since the dimensions of our desk were going to differ, I had to sketch out each section including all the new measurements.  This really saved me a lot of heartache as I realized making a board 1/4" shorter would affect both the length AND the width of the project in several instances.

I also didn't follow the advice on in allowing Home Depot to cut a few pieces of wood to help them fit in my car.  The guy at HD doing the cutting was probably 17 and had been off on a lunch break.  He came back to a long line of customers waiting to have their wood cut.  I only had him cut a few boards, but he managed to screw one up (I made the mistake of not measuring before I left).  Now that I had one important board that was short, I needed to adapt all the dimensions to fit this board (the alternative was to buy another board and have it cut right, but I was home and ready to get working!).

Here are most of my boards cut down to size (some still waiting to be cut):

Here are the legs mostly assembled:

 Here's the frame:

Fully assembled!:


Primed and ready for some paint:

A Few Notes on Finishing
Wood filler is s savior.  It's primarily used to fill cracks and cover nail heads - it can then be sanded and painted.  For my first project, since some boards didn't fit together perfectly, I filled the gaps with wood filler so that they wouldn't be noticeable.

Adding to my rookie mistake on choosing poplar boards, I later found that poplar is very difficult to stain.  My original plan was to stain the desk into a deeper brown / wood color.  I found sites on the internet that said I could use a sealer first, then apply stain although the sites cautioned that the outcome might not be desireable.  I tried this on some scrap and really didn't like the look.  Poplar does paint well though, so that's what we'll do.

We primed the desk and will paint it in the next few days.  We are leaning towards painting it white, but red is also under consideration.  Anyone want to post a comment with their vote?

The project has taken me two weeks or so.  If I were to do it again, I could probably do it all in one weekend (minus painting).  I'll post again in a few days after it has been painted and moved into the house.  Pamela is very impressed and has given me a free pass to build other things.  There are a lot of other projects around the house that I could maybe build, but the dining table (and chairs) is probably next.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First Mini-Project Complete

I always wanted a workbench and tools.  With the proper equipment, I could become handy, right?

When our offer was accepted on the house, I immediately started dreaming of my man-cave.  Whether it would be in the basement or the garage, I didn't care - all I know is that it'd be a workshop and maybe double as an indoor driving range.  In the weeks leading up to moving in I found myself watching How-to videos and researching different project plans.  I was particularly inspired by Ana White.  You should really really visit her site.  The short version of her story is that she is a mother in Alaska who decided to build furniture to save money.  She blogged about the projects and posted detailed project plans for others to follow.  Her latest undertaking is building a "Momplex" - a duplex for both her mother and her mother-in-law.

Back to us in Westchester...

Off we went to Home Depot the other week - wow, just getting some basic tools was expensive!  I also made an agreement with Pamela - we would purchase a breakfast table and chairs that I wasn't necessarily thrilled about, if she would let me try to build our kitchen table.  You'll see more posts in the near future about this and other projects.

As for the blog title, since I reached a stopping point on my larger project until this coming weekend, I decided to use some scrap to make... something.

Allow me to present to you, the Cellphone / Alarm Clock Nighstand.

I've used my cellphone as an alarm clock exclusively for some time now.  It has a nice setting which makes the screen appear just like an alarm clock (not pictured - lights need to be out).  Generally, I've laid the phone flat and propped myself up in the night to see the time.  This stand will allow me to more easily see the time.

The stand is built from some scrap 1x4 as a base and a scrap 1x3 cut at a 30 degree angle as the upright.  I sanded both pieces and I may decide to stain them - good practice for my first larger project!  I used wood glue to attach the two pieces.  My first attempt used a singular screw, but let's just say that is now officially unusable scrap.

Cellphone / Alarm Clock Nighstands now available for sale... umm... $5?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Busy Weekend

The pace of blog posts has slowed considerably since we closed on our house.  We've been very busy over the past weeks getting settled.

One major impediment to blogging is our lack of internet at home.  We tried to move our Verizon FiOS account from our apartment to the new house, but a technician wasn't available for the install until the end of October.  I was fine dealing with this, but Pamela decided she had enough.  She called around and found that Optimum / Cablevision could do an install today, so we are dropping FiOS.

In the coming weeks, you should see some updates on my status as newly found handy-man.  I bought power tools.  I'm building a small table.  Wish me luck!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Home Ownership Losing Appeal

Today's Wall Street Journal describes declining home ownership in the US:
The rate of home ownership in the U.S. fell in the last decade by the largest amount since the Great Depression, although the percentage of Americans who own their home remains the second-highest on record, the Census Bureau said Thursday.
...with info graphic:

I've discussed the rent vs. buy decision before, but I think this is more about the shift in attitudes towards home ownership.  If you are in your 40s or later, you may have experienced or been part of the housing boom - low or no down payments, buy a home, then either refinance in a few years or sell at a profit to realize the gains on your investment.  As the recession hit, those who were still in the game of "flipping" houses got stuck and watched their once profitable investment become a big, illiquid, losing investment.  The economy hasn't substantially changed, so why get involved in that mess again?

For those who are younger, the weak economy creates uncertainty.  Do I really want to sign up for hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and be fixed in my location when I could potentially lose my job or be assigned elsewhere?  You probably also don't view buying a house as an investment that will pay off anytime in the near future.  Renting seems like a much better option.

So how do we make home ownership more attractive again, or should that even be a policy goal?

Many believe that until we "solve" the housing problem, the remainder of the economy will stay weak.  The Fed, in it's "Operation Twist", is helping to keep mortgage rates low to spur home buying and refinancing.  Other proposals have been floated, going as far as to suggest vacant homes should be blown up to reduce the inventory of unsold homes.

The problem with these (rational) ideas is that the inventory is massive.  Bloomberg notes:
The nation added almost 16 million homes, a 13.6 percent increase from 2000, as the number of vacant residences rose to 15 million, a gain of almost 44 percent.
You can spur buying around the edges, but you can't force 20-somethings to buy a home when they don't want to.  You can't force parents with college-bound kids to take on a new mortgage.  In fact, the harder you push to create demand, the more likely you are to create bad loans - not unlike those that got us into trouble in the first place.

I believe the solution is to let nature take its course.  Government intervention seems to almost always create unforeseen consequences and is frequently gamed by those who need assistance least.  This will mean a long and painful period for those who hold mortgages that are greater than the worth of their home.  They should rightly consider "strategic default" as an option.  Those who are not in as dire of a situation should consider their home a place to live and forget any hopes of realizing gains on the value of their home.  And for those renters out there, they need to see the lesson of what can go wrong when greed and government policy meet.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

For Sale!

As I noted in an earlier post, I am also in the process of selling a home in East Stroudsburg, PA.  It's been a bit of a rocky road to start, but we finally got the listing up:

The house is 1,200 sq. ft. with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.  The house is in need of some repairs and renovation.  The key selling points are that the house is on 3.4 acres which  you could easily sub-divide, and the location - only minutes away from Route 80.

The listing price is $149,000.

Here is the official listing page.
Here is the listing on Zillow.

I'll be sure to keep everyone posted on our progress!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

8 Step Home Buying Guide

The links below will provide you with a detailed 8 step guide to purchasing your first home.  The guide is interlaced with stories about our home buying process as well as tips we've picked up along the way.

Step #8 - Onto Closing!

As you work with your broker / banker to get the final "clear to close", I would advise that you keep an open channel of communication with the seller's team.  They will be quite anxious themselves - it has probably been weeks since you signed the contract and there isn't a lot of information flowing back and forth.  I think it helps all parties to say "just fulfilling the final conditions; we are still on target for our scheduled closing date".  Surprises near closing are never good.

On or About
The closing date you've put in the contract of sale is referred to as an "on or about" date.  That means if you can close early, great.  If not, neither party should be surprised..  There will likely be language in the contract that will put some brackets around that date giving both sides room if delays occur.  Unless you have penalties written into the contract, there isn't much that can be done to force someone to close.

In our case, while we were ready to close on time (and ahead of our lease expiration), the seller wasn't ready.  This can happen for a host of reasons - is the seller closing on a purchase of his/her own new home?  Are they packing up and traveling far away?  Or, perhaps the seller doesn't want to begin packing the house up until he/she knows there is a deal in hand.

If you have some sort of inflexible timeline, such as a rental lease expiring, my first advice is to schedule a closing well in advance.  You'd love to have your lease end and move into your new home the same day, but as in our case, how big of a challenge will it be if you have to move out of your apartment but you and your belongings have no where to go?  What if the seller says he/she needs an additional two weeks?  You could make all sorts of empty threats about walking away, but #1) you won't and #2) depending on your contract, you might lose your deposit if you do so.

In that situation, you'd be livid about the injustice of it all (oh, I know), but there isn't anything you can do about it.  When drafting your contract of sale, you should discuss with the lawyer the idea of putting penalties in place if the closing is delayed outside of the brackets.  More often though, those delays will be the buyer's fault, so be careful.

Closing will require the presence of the buyer, seller, and their respective teams (agent, banker, lawyer).  This can also lead to slight delays, but everyone at this point wants to close the deal and get paid.  A few days before closing, you'll get your Closing Statement - this will be the final tally of closing expenses.  You'll need to get a certified check in this amount.  Take a good look over these expenses and have every item explained to you.  Most of these expenses should be the same as what you've seen on your Good Faith Estimates.

One area that can be a surprise is taxes.  You are required to reimburse the seller for the taxes that they've paid that cover the period beyond closing.  So if the seller paid a tax bill in June that covers July through December, and you close at the end of July, you'll have to reimburse the seller for August through December.  The amount you have to reimburse the seller depends on how many times per year your municipality collects taxes.

Once you've scheduled closing, I would suggest telling your cable / internet company of your planned move.  You can always cancel your request if closing gets pushed back or called off.  In our case, we waited until just before closing and then found we'd be without TV and internet for almost a month!

What Happens the Day of Closing?
On the day of closing, you'll first do a final walk-through of the house.  This is your last chance to spot anything amiss.  If the seller (accidentally or not) took an appliance that was part of the contract, and you don't notice for a few days, you are out of luck.  You'll want to look for the key items in the contract such as washers, dryers, and water heaters, and anything that was specifically written into the contract as an inclusion.  You'll want to check that all the appliances are in working order too.  Check the house to look for any damage caused when the seller moved out, and look for any damage that was maybe hidden by a piece of furniture or decoration.

After you have completed the final walk-through, you'll head to your lawyers office to sign the documentation.  It turns out banks won't lend you hundreds of thousands of dollars without asking you to sign an enormous stack of paper.  Depending on the type of mortgage you've applied for, document signing can take several hours.

At closing, there can be final negotiation of any outstanding items.  Sitting down and discussing things face to face can help bridge any gaps, although there is always a chance that the opposite could happen.  The others in attendance though are very close to getting paid and will likely help to push the two sides together.  In some cases, Realtors have agreed to reduce their commission if there is a small dollar difference on an issue that seems irreconcilable. 

Once the paperwork is signed, the seller should hand you the keys to the house.  Make sure to have the seller explain which key goes to which lock.

At this point, the house is yours!  You've just purchased a house and locked yourself into a mountain of debt.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Now to Make Our Big House a Home

We are very excited to have closed on the purchase of our first home yesterday.  Pamela and I have said "we're never moving again" countless times over the past weeks - in part because we want to stay in this house and neighborhood forever, and because this whole ordeal was so stressful.

Final Walk-Through
We arrived at the house with our agent, the person who performed our home inspection when we put in our bid, and the seller's agent.  We found that the wife/owner had left us a nice card wishing us luck along with the paint colors and lots of other goodies around the house (detergent, cleaners, extra siding, etc).

We also found out that the dryer that had caused us so much trouble does run, but does not heat.  It is likely a damaged part, so maybe we won't have to replace the entire machine.

The drainage system was the last big item of concern.  While walking the property, I saw the neighbor two doors down and spoke with him.  He was able to provide me with enough comfort that the drainage pipe would not be a problem for us in the future.

We met at our lawyers office and began signing papers.  A lot of papers.  I was also instructed I'd have to sign my full name with initials which is considerably longer than my normal signature.  After about an hour of being told what we were signing and marking the individual sheets, we went into the conference room where the seller and his attorney were, along with a person representing the title company.

In the conference room, we and the seller exchanged papers and continued signing.  The process seemed more involved for him, as he probably had to payoff his outstanding mortgage while directing the rest of the proceeds to his lawyer and the agents, as well as to his own account.

There was only a brief amount of interaction - the seller seemed a bit gruff.  He asked if he was done signing paperwork, and then got up to leave.  He handed us the keys and explained which keys were for which lock.  We then had a quick conversation about the drainage system and then he left.

We had been warned that closing can be very contentious.  Had we gone into closing with issues remaining about the dryer or this pipe, we'd probably tell them our position, then they'd go to another room and confer.  They'd respond, then we'd get up and go to another room to confer.  Luckily, all the issues had been resolved, so we avoided that.

The entire process took about 2 hours.  After the final docs were signed and we got the final handshakes, Pamela and I left to pickup the truck and move in!

Moving In
We had two movers help us unload, while Pamela, me and 3 family members moved boxes around the house and began unpacking.  We ordered Italian food for everyone and our agent came by later with wine.

Sometime around 4am this morning, something fell with a loud thud.


Monday, October 3, 2011


Feels good.  Time to move in.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Packing is the worst!

When you move into your first apartment, you might own a bed and a foreman grill.  You guilt your friends with pizza, but you leave out that you have an 8 floor walk-up.
Today, we packed and loaded up a U-Haul truck.  We paid for movers to help us load the truck and it only took 2 hours thanks to them, otherwise, Pamela and I would still be packing. There is something to be said for the quote "The things you own begin to own you" (Fight Club).

The apartment looks spacious without any of our stuff in it!

Here is everything we own, packed into a 14' U-Haul truck.
The Plant We Own Has Begun to Own Us

Update on the Drama
The good news is that the seller has agreed to give us a $750 credit for the dryer, which is the amount we had asked for.

The other news is either a non-event or completely borks the deal.

One of the things we love about our potential new neighborhood is the people.  We actually know several families and they have all told us how it's a neighborhood out of the '50s - everyone knows each other, is friendly, "howdy neighbor" and all that.

Early this morning we got an e-mail from one of the neighbors we know.  He pointed out to us that the drainage pipe in the house's back yard flows into a nearby stream after it crosses another persons back yard.  He said that we'd better make sure we have an easement in the deed and that this wasn't just some verbal agreement to allow us to drain water that way.

I asked my lawyer to check into this - nope, nothing in the deed.  Without this drainage system, we know the backyard would turn into a mud pit and we could imagine the basement would be much more susceptible to flooding.

The complicating factor is that the neighbor whose yard the pipe crosses has sold their house to a developer.  So, if an easement isn't in place, we'd have to negotiate with the developer who may or may not be willing to do so.

The seller works for our local municipality, and our lawyer says he could have filed with the city to allow this drainage connection, which would obviate the need for anything in the deed.  We are hoping this is the case.

If we show up to closing tomorrow and it turns out there was only a verbal agreement, we can't close.  And if we can't get the neighbor or the developer to agree to legally grant us access, we can't close - period.

So the chance of this deal entirely falling apart went from 1% to 25% very quickly.  Again, the seller works for the city and I think it is unlikely that he just built a pipe and never filed for permission with the city.

Lessons Learned

We knew of the drainage system and spoke with the seller about it extensively.  We did not ask him if the pipe was illegal.  We also failed to let our lawyer know about this drainage system.  He would have otherwise known to look for this in the deed.  It was a failure on our part and our agent's part to not connect the dots. 

We are scheduled for our final walk-through tomorrow at 2pm, then closing at 3pm.  If all goes well, we'll be done signing paperwork at 5:30pm and moving in soon after.  If things don't go well, Pamela, Akina and I are spending at least one more night in a hotel and leaving all our belongings in the U-Haul for another day.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Akina and Mommy having fun while packing