Friday, May 27, 2011

One last freak out?

So we received notice today from the mortgage company how much money we would have to bring to closing. No surprises there, in fact it was slightly less than anticipated. However, the next part of the sentence stopped me in my tracks and threw me into a major panic, "and needs to be a certified check or wire!" Umm, why would you tell us that 1 business day before the closing? It's not like Monday counts, it's a federal holiday, the banks will be closed. How fucking stupid are you? Remember, first time homeowners... wtf! So I sent the woman an email back asking why she couldn't have told us that a few or two ago? She managed to misunderstand what I meant so I spelled it out for her. Could you have told us we needed a certified check or wire transfer from the bank holding our down-payment money... a few weeks ago?

Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but let me elaborate. Our down-payment money is happily sitting in the bank... in Michigan! We are buying a house in Washington, DC! Our bank in Michigan does not have a local branch, which is why we finally looked for a new bank a few months ago. If I'd known a few weeks ago, I would have just cut myself a check from the MI to the DC bank and gotten that certified check or wire transfer no problem. And I checked with our DC bank, a check was not going to clear by Tuesday morning. Then I checked with the MI bank, they don't do wire transfers. But they could overnight a certified check to us, but no guarantees it would get there in time either (especially with the way our mail services drags around here).

Finally my hubby came up with the perfect solution, have my father-in-law pick up the check and bring it with when he drives to DC on Sunday. So, I wrote a letter to the bank asking them to process a certified check and release it to my father-in-law, ran down to the bank on the corner and got it notarized, ran back to work and faxed it to the bank, and then kept calling the bank to try and get the manager on the phone I'd talked to previously to make sure he'd gotten my fax. I kept getting his voice mail. My father-in-law called me to tell me that he needed to pick up the check that day instead of the next day, because he was going to my sister-in-law's place which is an hour out of town. And he and my brother-in-law had planned on leaving right from there. So I tried calling the bank manager again, still no answer. Finally I called my father-in-law to ask if my brother had dropped off the stuff my mom wanted my in-laws to take to DC, and he told me that the check was in his car. Why couldn't someone call me and tell me it was taken care of? I hate banks.

So, yet another crisis averted. But I might go gray by the time we sign our paperwork.

On the utilities front, I sent an online form to Pepco asking them to start service on Tuesday. The automated response email said a representative would contact me in the next FIVE days! We need it turned on asap, not in five or more days. Crap. Then I called the gas company, they just wanted me to set up an account, but the service is already on and will remain on. Next I called the water and sewer company, but the office wasn't open and won't be until Tuesday, so I guess I'll have to pray that they either a) didn't interrupt service or that they b) can start service quickly. Next stop, Comcast for our internet. No problem there to move it from our current residence to the new house. But because I didn't know when we'd have electricity, I decided to make our appointment for Friday to give Pepco some extra time to get back to me.

In happier more exciting news, my mother-in-law is sending several plants with my father- and brother-in-law for our garden. I'm so happy at the thought that I get to dig in dirt and make our yard something beautiful and peaceful. I've never had a yard of my own to take care of. I don't even know if I'll be a good gardener. I guess we'll find out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Division Street" and "The Calf-Path"

At work today, one of the departments screened a documentary called "Division Street." The movie explains the history of why roads were built in the United States and that currently the furthest you can get from a road in the lower 48 states is in the wilderness of Yellowstone Park (the distance to the nearest road is 22 miles). In the Eastern United States you can't go further than 5 miles from the nearest roads and that spot is somewhere in the mountains of Virginia. It also explains the need for wildlife over and underpasses because roads divide the historic territories of most wild animals, and lead to localized extinction. Out West, most of the wildlife related accidents happen on about 2-5% of the total roads, so it's very easy to pinpoint those stretches and do something about it. In the East this is not quite so easy, in part because we have a much denser population and road network.

It was also recommended that we take a look at the poem "The Calf-Path" by Sam Foss which talks about how roads were built on the top of 2-lane wagon trails, which were built on top of wildlife paths, etc. That poem really made me think about the wisdom of how we build things and its impact on the environment. I'm always so amazed when people talk about Portland, OR and about how concerned the politicians there are about city planning and the environmental impacts of urban sprawl. The movie made a point that no one seems to be willing to talk about the issue of urban and road planning on a national level or about the need for a shift in societal thinking.

Both the movie and the poem make me so mad that a country as rich and powerful as the United States can't get its act together and do something positive for the environment on a national scale. It acts as a model for other countries around the world just developing their own infrastructures. For example, the Tanzanian president is pushing for a trans-country highway that will cut across the oldest and longest wildlife migration in the world and has rejected offers of help to make the road more friendly to wildlife.

However, there seems to be hope on the horizon at a local level. Western States and American Indian reservations are taking up the fight. Arizona started a wildlife-friendly road program in 2008, which routinely includes over and underpasses for local wildlife such as mule deer, elk, desert tortoises, and other animals. Some Eastern states have joined the movement. Even Orlando, Florida is experimenting with ways of getting more cars off the roads (mainly through commuter rails) to cut down on the need for a larger road network.

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Another book by Terry Pratchett, which I actually finished right before starting Wyrd Sisters from my previous post. On Discworld, the fantasy world that Pratchett created to "play" in, a lot of ideas have personifications shaped by the way humans think of those ideas. In this case, Death, one of my favorite characters of the series, has a "body" and a persona that has been created by the way people image death to look. Which is why Death is a skeleton wearing a black hooded robe, carrying a scythe, and speaking in all capital letters. He can also only be seen by the magically inclined, small children, and people who don't know that you shouldn't be able to see Death. The book Reaper Man starts out with the Auditors (beings that Pratchett calls the "bean counters of the universe") deciding that death is a messy part of being alive and therefore figure out a way to kill Death.

Death knows when to collect a soul because he has all of these "life timers," hourglasses that when the sand runs out so does your life force. Suddenly one appears that is labeled "Death" and because Death finally has time to spend, he decides to go off and use his last weeks of life taking a holiday. Of course that means that there is no one fulfilling his role of taking away the souls of the newly departed, the spirit world starts filling up with uncollected souls, and the life force is building up. And of course, it's Pratchett, so general hilarity and chaos ensues.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

I just finished reading [make that devoured] Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. If you're into satire, fantasy, or "That Scottish Play" [yes, I'm a theater geek, what of it] you might like this book too. Basic plotline: King gets assassinated, evil duke takes over throne, three witches try to make things right again. Enter playwriting dwarves, someone so crazy he's sane, a Fool who hates being a Fool, and Pratchett's trademark hilarity and you get a pretty epic story.

For everyone who has not made any forays into Pratchett's Diskworld series, you're in for a treat. The whole premise of his series is that there is a flat world on the back of four elephants which in turn are standing on the back of a giant turtle floating through space. There is of course plenty of magic, many unlikely heroes, a benevolent tyrant, a city watch made up of persons dead and alive, and other antics. I highly suggest any one of his books.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

To Do List

Only the bottom boxes have stuff in them so far.
Closing Date: 5/31/11

To Do List before then: seemingly endless!

Eric putting together boxes
For a small sample:
1) pack up four floor-to-ceiling bookshelves worth of books [most double rowed] as well as the rest of the stuff in our 1-bedroom apartment
2) turn off water and internet
3) turn on trash, recycling, water, electricity, gas, and internet at the new place
4) cancel renter's insurance [we're getting some money back from that, so that's a plus]
5) make a list of stuff we want the in-laws to bring from Michigan
6) figure out how the apartment complex handles last month's rent [I know they pro-rate if it's not a full month, but I don't know if they want the full amount up front and then reimburse us for the difference or if they just want a check for the pro-rated amount]
Sir decided to help by boxing himself up.
 7) change address at 2 banks and on numerous other things like our phone bill and car insurance, and forward our mail from the apartment
8) measure the rooms and pick out paint colors
9) start planning a house warming party
10) start making plans for the garden
11) figure out a list of needs and wants for the new house and prioritize [we're going to be fairly poor after the closing costs come out of our accounts]

Modest progress

My goal is to keep a pretty acurate picture log of before and after shots of our house.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We're Buying a House

After several interminable days of waiting (we sent the appraisal notice to the seller on Thursday and heard back today), we found out that the seller is willing to accept the appraised value as the sales price. But she is not willing to pay $5,000 towards the closing costs. I did a bit of quick math and with the reduced down payment and figuring in the Earnest Money Deposit, we should be just fine! I'm waiting on our loan officer to send us a new estimated closing cost sheet, but I'm fairly positive that my estimate is going to be very close.

Between the original negotiated value and seller subsidy, and the reduced sales price, she's come down $20,000 from what we originally offered!

So we close on the 31st and we're already planning on what needs to happen when. The day of the closing, we're getting everything ready to paint and starting to move our stuff over. The day after the closing we're going to paint and move most of our big stuff over. Hopefully both my mom and the in-laws will be here to help with the move. My biggest concern is the cat. I don't know how he's going to handle the move. I do know that I'm going to need a second litter box with three floors worth of space. And it's going to be hilarious seeing him race up and down stairs.

And the thing I'm looking forward to the most? The dishwasher and gardening!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Appraisal... I hate you!

So, we found out today that our appraisal came in low. It's the thing I had completely forgotten about, I wasn't worried about it, or anything. And now it comes in low. And not just $5000 under, $25,000 under the price we negotiated. I haven't gotten any answers from our realtor or our loan officers, but if our FHA loan isn't willing to cover anything over the appraised value, we might not be getting a house. We can't afford to pay the difference out of pocket, we just don't have that money. We can barely cover the closing costs and down-payment. This is completely fucked up!
In other news, I stayed home sick today with the worst stomach ache in history. And I ended up sleeping most of the day until our realtor called to tell me about the appraisal.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Termite and Home Inspection

We had our termite and home inspection on Saturday. The termite inspection didn't turn up any problems, except some un-baited termite traps set around the house.

The home inspection didn't turn up any major issues, just a few minor issues. One thing that might be in issue in the future but isn't one right now is the air conditioner. It's beyond its useful life, but it's still trucking along. There also seems to be some water dripping down into the electrical fuse box and the bottom of the box is corroded, but the wire in the box itself is fine. So just a few minor issues, we're going to ask the home owner to fix the electrical fuse box, and I guess we'll see if she agrees or not.

We're both so excited about the house now. The last hurdle is whether or not we get our loan. And right now that's a huge question mark. We brought some paint samples, and talked about what colors we wanted in which room.

My mother is going to come and help us move and paint. And Eric's parents and maybe his younger (not little) brother may come as well. I'm really hoping everything goes smoothly so we can see them. I really want to see my mother, and I saw my family in February, and Eric hasn't seen his family since last September. So this is proving to be a catalyst to see them all again. My father is also talking about driving down mid June.