Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You want to tell who about my blog?

So Jess calls me today, and tells me her cousin Tina wants to see pictures of our home-to-be. Jess says, "I was thinking, I could just send her a link to your blog rather than sending her the pictures individually."

That makes all kinds of sense. Save labor, save electrons, all that :).

I just never thought of any of her family reading these pages. I had to sit there a couple minutes and make a quick mental assessment of what filters I have applied when I wrote these things.

To spell out the metaphor, imagine that my raw ideas come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Now, imagine I realize that certain of those objects would scare, offend, hurt, or just plain bore-to-tears people if they encountered them. Based on who those ideas were going to hit, I would make sure certain filters were in place to block the offending objects, up to a certain degree. At some point, if you don't like what you see you shouldn't be looking that closely.

To pick an extremely obvious example, I might not want my boss to get exposed to the "I hate this aspect of my work" idea. But there are more tricky ones. Do I want my conservative brother-in-law exposed to the huge rant about the proposed flag burning amendment I wrote earlier this year? He knows how I feel about some things, but I choose not to rub it in his face most of the time. But if he chooses to come here and try and figure out how I feel about issues I choose not to bring up with him, then it's his responsibility to deal with what he learns like an adult.

Basically, up until now, I've just assumed that family wouldn't be reading any of this. I know I have friends who read it at times, including folks online who I don't know very well. But I've never told anyone I work with about it. I've never told family about it. So I haven't really put that filter on what I write. It raises an interesting question. How different is my "friends, Basiners, Ars lurkers, and so forth" filter from my "family" filter?

Who can say? I can only imagine how much tougher this question is for someone, say, who wants to write professionally. Here's this awesome story obviously influenced by the way you were raised. Oh, it got published, and now your mom reads it....

Nothing like that here, I don't think. Well, maybe. A little.

In any case, I sent Jess the link, and she'll send it on its way.

Nothing will probably come of it. But, if you're reading this and you're not who I expect you to be, welcome, I guess :). Feel free to poke around and get offended. It's actually, despite all this navel-gazing, pretty fucking boring. Except for the occasional swear word :).

Monday, September 26, 2005

Offer made

So, yesterday we actually handed over a piece of paper to the current owners of our future home, offering to purchase it from them.

They go to see their lawyer on Tuesday who will review it, suggest changes, and likely start the process of drafting a formal purchase and sales agreement.

Tentative close date: November 30, 2005.

In related news, I decided to "test" my Wells Fargo representative. She sent me a "courtesy email" to see how the process was going so I replied back with an update on the situation and a couple specific questions I wanted answers to. A theoretical person I'd like to deal with would answer those questions for me in email. A person I don't want to deal with would just ignore them. The person I'm afraid I'm dealing with will reply back "call me so we can discuss."

I'll pursue financing in earnest starting October 1 ....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Looks like we're buying

I'm scared to death. It was a weird morning.

I overheard half of the conversation between Jess and her friend Lee this morning, and it sounded like Lee was telling her that she wasn't going to sell. I was very disappointed, which was odd -- I expected to be relieved. I was sitting there going, "ok, now what, do we go shopping around for a different house, or ..." ... and then Jess came upstairs and said, "Lee wants to sell us the house."

Evidently they've decided they need to move to this other town because of the kids' school, and they want to do it sooner rather than later. They're having trouble finding "the perfect house" in their price range but they have found a fixer-upper they think they'll be buying. It's not for sure yet, but now that they've crossed that bridge (into looking at places that need a little TLC) it's only a matter of time before they find something.

So now the ball is back in our court. We've gotta call a lawyer and have a purchase agreement made up. We've got a verbal agreement on a price and what's included in it, but we still need to hash out some details.

It's highly possible I'll be celebrating Christmas and ringing in the New Year in a new house.

I'm scared shitless, as I said :).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mortgage Preapproval Woes

As I mentioned previously, we secured a mortgage preapproval over the phone recently. We did this using Wells-Fargo, which I've since learned is not the most customer-friendly banker out there.

That's ok -- I don't need friendly yet. I just wanted to know the loan could come if I needed it.

Well, yesterday I finally got something in the mail from them. It was the loan documents for the smaller loan, the "20" in the "80/20". I was disappointed in the amount of information provided, and also confused by the form. I have to look at it closer this evening but it looks like the loan they approved me for, at least for the 20, has a balloon clause -- we pay X/month for ten years and then pay off the remainder of the loan.

There was no verbal indication of this when I spoke to the bank, so I was very surprised to see this. It's one small strike in the "con" column for dealing with this company in the future. Given how competitive the mortgage market is right now, I'm surprised to see this being handled so sloppily.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Second Visit to the House

So, this weekend we went back and had dinner again with Jess's friends Lee and John, and Jess's parents came as well. Since he's a contractor and has tons of experience in related areas, it was useful to have her Dad along.

Seeing the house again after some time away was a good way to sync up the memories we had of the place. It was a little rougher around the edges than I remembered -- a couple areas where the gutters needed repairing, more dirt on the exterior of the house -- and the living room felt smaller while the kids' rooms seemed bigger. I don't know, just how it felt.

This time we also paid more attention. The downstairs, while finished, is not heated. It gets down to 55 or so during the winter, which is really too cold for doing a lot. You'd need a space heater, or something. If we wanted to hang out down there a lot we'd need a more permanent solution -- extend the heating or put in a pellet stove.

Overall, though, we saw nothing to make us want to run away. It's scary, now, because we're moving towards the area where we have to make real decisions. So far it's been "nothing binding," but we're getting closer by the day.

We took some pictures, this time, but it was at dusk so they didn't come out great. Here are some of the more useful ones.

That's the front of the house. It's a raised ranch, so the front door is above the ground. I'm not a big fan of those front steps and mini-porch thing, and Jess agrees. We'd be changing that fairly soon. There are some nice flowers around the base of the house, though, which could look even nicer with a little care.
This is a shot of the back yard, taken from the side of the house. At the left you can see the stairs leading up to the back deck. Immediately in front is the kids' pool which is in the process of being taken down and put away. The property extends back into the woods.
This is a shot of the back of the house, taken from near the swing set in the back. As you can see, plenty of yard. Again, the deck is a little ugly, and if you look close you can see the busted gutters. The gutters are almost nothing to fix, and the deck would be a project but not the end of the world. Under the deck now is a sandbox which would need fixing up too. You can also see the sliding doors into the kitchen and basement from here.

This is a shot of the living room upstairs. It's much bigger than it looks, because you can't even see the bay window in this shot (that you can see in the exterior shot above). Note the fireplace ... yay!
Here's a shot of the kitchen. Jess and her cousin love this picture because it shows how big the area is. There's room for a table behind the spot where Jess took this shot, even. The three of us are all sitting at an island which may or may not stay.

Last of all, here's a shot of the finished basement. It's in total disarray, being used for storage more than anything else. This would be a completely blank slate, really. It's a little intimidating thinking of what we could do down there with a little time and materials. I have visions of basement bars, poker tables, and HDTV projected onto a hanging screen, but we'll see what the bank account can actually handle in a few years.

In any case, we don't know what this actually holds for us. But it did us good to see it again, and to have someone else there to cast an impartial eye. Jess's parents really liked it -- her father was constantly pointing out little things, talking about how easy it would be to change this or that ... very reassuring. Gotta buy while he's young and healthy enough to help out! After all, I'm not going to get stuck doing all this myself....

Friday, September 09, 2005

Home-Buying, Next Steps?

We are moving forward, but we haven't done anything yet which locks us in. We have now gotten pre-approved for a mortgage from Wells Fargo, who I approached out of laziness (my work has some kind of association with them). This is basically the first bridge to cross -- can we do this if we want to? Of course, we wouldn't have taken this step if we didn't think there was a good chance we'd want to continue down the road.

My primary concerns with the property haven't changed -- the commute is long and there's no central A/C. I haven't been thinking of the A/C issue as a deal-breaker, though. Nowhere that I have ever lived has had it, and I've always gotten along fine. In some ways, it's similar to not having a garage -- I always sort of pictured it in a "house" but it's not going to ruin the place.

The commute is a tougher nut to crack. I'm a big baby when it comes to driving, but the fact is that 45 minutes is not an unreasonable drive. I spoke to my boss about the possibility of working from home more often, and she said that given the responsibilities I have and my track record, she would feel comfortable with me having a regular schedule of days where I work from home and days where I come in -- so two days a week at home is no biggie, and three might even be possible. That's actually less time in the car net even if the time spent on any given day is longer. It wouldn't be a spur-of-the-moment thing, it would be a "Dave isn't in the office on Tuesday or Thursday"
or something like that.

In terms of non-work commute, yes, it does put us farther from friends and places we've grown accustomed to. But Jess will still be working in Worcester and I'll still be working in Hopkinton. Not only that, it's not like we're moving 2 hours away -- the distance we're talking about seems like something we could handle and still manage to get together with friends regularly. Trust me, that was a concern.

So, that leaves the more generic concerns. Is this the right time? Can we afford it? And the truth is that we can afford it, but it's not the perfect time. Our credit is perfect, I'm in a stable well-paying job that I've held for ten years and Jess has worked for the same Doctor for seven years and just recently made a big leap in salary potential. We're ideal lenders, except for the savings issue. And the bank didn't even bat an eyelash at that -- they spelled out the terms of the loans, one regular mortgage, one at a slightly higher rate to make up the 20% which would normally be a downpayment. The total amount of the two mortgages is $250 higher than our rent. Once you factor in property taxes and home insurance, yes, it's a jump in housing costs -- but not an unreasonable one, considering A: how much we've been spending on travel and eating out and whatnot which we
could dial back on, and B: how much increased earnings Jess is bringing in.

So we have to decide on the leap of faith -- is this a good enough opportunity that it's worth moving a little faster than we would want? Country setting, walking distance from a big lake, wooded lot, big yard, and a house we feel comfortable in and can see ourselves settling into for a decade ... it seems like a good opportunity.

No matter when we do it, buying a house is expensive and will force substantial lifestyle changes. And we know we want to do it. We can do it now, or you can save for 2 years and do it then. We have to decide what factors play into that decision and make it.

Along the way we have to inspect the house, figure out the exact numbers with the sellers, and do whatever other due dilligence makes sense to do in terms of making sure there aren't nasty surprises waiting for us.

It's a huge deal, and it's overwhelming. But, hell, everybody does it, right? :)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Do Something Cool: Buy a House!

Why have a blog if you don't use it to document in extreme detail something which is exciting to you but boring to everyone else?

I present to you: Dave buys a house. Or at least, Dave thinks about buying a house, sweats everything, and starts down a long road towards financial ruin and/or maturity.

First off, some background. Jessica's friend from school is the current homeowner. She, her husband, and their two kids live there. They love the house but want to move to a different school district (long story -- they were briefly separated and kids went to school elsewhere and they want to keep going there).

So, now they are on the road towards selling their house. Last time Jess visited with her friends, it came up, and Jess expressed mild interest. Last week, we went over there so I could see it. We had dinner, talked, took a walk through the neighborhood, etc.

The dry facts? It's a raised ranch with a finished basement on 0.92 acres in a country setting. Built in 1991. Oil heat, no central air. The "upstairs" has 3 bedrooms, a nice kitchen, a single large bathroom, and a living room with a fireplace. The finished basement has a huge open area with doors opening to back yard, a smaller area that's been made into a guest bedroom, a storage room, a room with a washer/dryer, and the unfinished utility area.

It's close to a large pond and much of the property is wooded, so mosquitos are an issue. It's "lived in" by a family of four, but not broken down. Needs some minor attention, mainly cosmetic. Certainly livable as-is. They're looking to sell it in the mid/high 200s, our price would likely be mid 200s.

There's a lot to like about this place, with the facts out of the way. I am rural at heart, and living on a decent-sized lot near a pond in a wooded rural area is pretty appealing to me. Right now the big things I worry about are:

I'd be much happier if I had a year to save up for a downpayment before doing this. This is the price range we'd be looking at, but we weren't planning to do this for a year or so, so we could save some, adjust to spending less money, and have Jess adjust to working.

Long drive to work (though I can work from home more often), long drive to friends. Long drive from "stuff" (though not that far from necessities -- grocery/etc). If I want rural, though, there are only so many options here, and it's not the end of the world. Not only that, Jess wants to live closer to her family. I always knew we'd be looking at the area near Sturbridge because of that.

In this price range, you won't get everything you want. Is the set of tradeoffs in this house worth it? Specifically, the lack of central A/C or even realistically the opportunity to add it?

The unknown is the big fear. What if? What if the neighborhood changes? What if something goes wrong? What if <...>? The truth, of course, is that this fear will be present -no matter what-. In this case, at least, we can be reasonably confident the seller is being honest with us. I must conquer this fear, because it'll stop me from buying -any- house.

Basically it comes down to deciding if this opportunity is worth shortcuttng our schedule for. At this point, it's sufficiently attractive to move forward -- figure out the next steps, get pre-approved for a mortgage, find out about a housing inspection, etc. Plenty of places to stop this train between now and the final deal, but we're definitely creeping forward.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans, I barely knew you

Nothing I write is up to the task of describing how it feels to read the news stories this morning out of New Orleans.

City uninhabitable for one to three months. Looting out of control. A man shot his sister in the face in an argument over a bag of ice. 25,000 people living in a football stadium. 20 oil rigs missing at sea.

Unknown hundreds dead, thousands living in total misery.

Bad times.

My employer is matching employee donations, just as it did 4 years ago in the aftermath of 9/11. Every little bit helps.