Wednesday, November 30, 2005

And ... it's done

Shortly after we got our phone call this morning, telling us what we owed, we headed out.

Our first stop was the bank, where we got a Bank Check for the amount we owed. That was as simple as it sounds, so we next headed for Jess's favorite lunch spot, Shiraz in Worcester. We were done there with plenty of time to spare, even after stopping to buy cat food. Nearly twenty minutes early, we arrived at the lawyer's office and waited.

About five minutes before 1, the attorney met up with us and took us into a conference room. There, we went over the terms of the mortgage, the breakdown of the closing costs, and everything else. And we signed.

And signed.

And initialed.

And signed.

And then ... it was done. There were no surprises. No "oh, you forgot this form." No "oh, we never got this from your lender." Nothing. It all went smoothly. You hear so many horror stories, but I guess this is part of what you get by hiring your own real estate attorney. They may have been a pain in the ass to deal with for the past couple months, but when it came down to it, everything was in order.

We were out of there before 2.

It was like a huge weight came off my shoulders. It's odd that taking ON a quarter million dollar debt feels less stressful than worrying about whether it would go through, but that's the truth.

As the afternoon ticked by, we checked the Registry of Deeds online. Sure enough, our deed was recorded before they closed.

In other words ... we're homeowners. It's official. Stay tuned for updates as we move in, get settled, and find out what it's like to live in our own house.

Two hours to go

I just got off the phone with the lawyers' office. Our closing at 1 PM is on schedule. She gave us the final amount for our closing costs (a bit over $2,000 -- remember, no down payment here, and we have a $2,000+ credit from the sellers for the condition of the carpets), and told us to bring that much money (in the form of a bank check) and our photo IDs, and be ready to sign papers at 1 PM.

Two hours.

Quarter million dollars in debt, here I come.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

24 Hours to Close

It's 1 PM, on November 29.

In 24 hours, we will be sitting in our lawyer's office, signing paperwork. We'll be closing on our new home, our first house.

It seems so incredibly unreal, at this point.

It's going to be hard to leave our current place behind. We fell in love with our apartment the first day we saw it. The carpets were torn out, the fridge was in the middle of the kitchen, but it instantly felt like home.

As we stayed, the town grew to become home, too. We buy books at the annual library sale. We go to the town's art show and vote for the best painting (trust me, competition is fierce among the retirees for this honor). We attend the fall festival, buying apple crisps and entering our names in raffles. We've gone hiking in the town's protected open spaces, I've gone running and biking on the back roads, and we've taken long walks on quiet side streets in the middle of snow storms.

We have a pizza place at the end of our street that gets business from us far more than they should. The Chinese Restaurant delivery guy could probably pick us out of a line up. Our favorite "nice" restaurant is a mile down Route 20. We can get to the movies in 5 minutes, walk to the library, and easily get to every major road.

We've been here seven years, and have the memories to match. Of course I'm glossing over some of the unpleasant aspects of where we live, but overall we've been content here.

And now it'll be time to build new memories, in a new place.

They say you have to be willing to sacrifice the merely good to experience the truly great. I guess we'll see.

Monday, November 28, 2005

2 Days To Close

Since the last post, I made the decision to try and have friends and family help us move. It seems to be working out okay, but the real test will be how we feel at the end of the day Saturday.

That's right, we're moving within the week. It's terrifying and exciting :).

Other things house-related in the last week:
  • We locked our interest rate
  • We opened a checking account at Wells Fargo (got us a reduced rate)
  • Our lenders had to inspect the house again due to the amount of rain we got recently
  • I called or contacted online various utility companies
  • We packed almost everything

And even though we're closing in like 36 hours, we don't have the amount we owe yet. Our lawyer said the closing would be at 1 PM but I've asked to move it up ... no answer yet.

Things left to do before we move?
  • Secure contract with oil delivery service
  • Get final amount owed for closing
  • Get cashier's check for that amount
  • Close!
  • Pack last-minute stuff
  • Move :)

After we move?
  • Change address everywhere (work, banks, etc)
  • Send out emails with changed address
  • Send out XMas cards with changed address
  • Make appointment with chimney inspector/cleaner
  • Register to vote in Brookfield

... and who knows what else.

I look most forward to waking up and making coffee, and drinking it while looking out at my very own back yard.

I can't wait.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Movers or Friends and Family?

Decisions, decisions.

Do I hire professional movers, or try to bribe friends and family into helping with pizza and beer?

As many times as this has been asked, you'd think there would be a clear heuristic for measuring this. As it turns out, the answer depends on who you ask.

First off, finding a reputable moving company isn't easy. Every moving company I have read up on has had at least one detractor, and the general consensus seems to be "find out who a friend used." That done, I ended up with the name of Phillip Massad, a mover in Worcester who has been in business since the fifties.

I called to get an estimate, and spoke to the president of the company for a while. He quoted an hourly rate and a number of hours, which I put together to get about $800. I was thinking the number of hours was a little excessive, but several coworkers who have used movers have said it's likely to be the real number.

On the other hand, I can go to Penske truck rental and get a truck for about $50 before mileage and fuel. If I spend a hundred dollars on those, we're talking about $150 for the actual truck. Add $50-$100 for beer and pizza, and we're still talking about a $500 difference.

So what is that $500 buying me? Is it worth it? Again, it depends on who you talk to.

Jess's mother: "Don't be silly. Between your dad and your brother, it won't take that long."
Seth at work: "Pay yourself and your friends for a day and a half of work, and see if it comes out to less than $500."
Colin at work: "It's not like you're buying a day of stress-free moving. You have to babysit them the entire time anyway."
Clint: "It's an easy call. Truck rental places are bullshit."

Here are some other data points.

Against the movers:
  • These movers can only move me Friday afternoon, and not Saturday. There's a nonzero chance the sellers will still be resident on Friday afternoon. There's even a chance they'll be moving at that time. That means moving into the basement on Friday and then carrying stuff up stairs the next day anyway (granted, I may be able to find other movers who can move me on Saturday).
  • I know my friends and coworkers won't steal my DVD player or TV. I'd be more paranoid around movers.

Against DIY:
  • The move is likely to be split into two days, and finding good help for both days will be hard.
  • I may not be able to find as much help as I want, meaning hard work for those who do volunteer.
To be honest, at this point I am hovering on the edge of accepting DIY. It's just hard to give away five hundred bucks a few weeks before Christmas. Then again, that could be our Christmas presents to each other ... heh.

I don't know. I'm going to talk to Jess tonight, maybe see if the sellers have a better move timeline yet, and decide. Maybe there are other moving companies I can get information on, who can move on Saturday.

The longer I wait, the more likely I won't have a choice anyway....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Two Weeks To Closing

Our apartment is beginning to look like it's packed. There's still plenty to do in the next two weeks (mainly the bedroom and kitchen), but it has that "empty" look to it. Very minimalist; I've told Jess I'd like to keep this look as we go forward :).

As far as the new house goes, we're a little lost as to our moving options. We have to make some decisions, and fast -- as in, today/tomorrow. Our friends are likely going to need to stay in the house for a couple days after closing, which complicates matters. We can move in on closing day, but we'll be sharing the space with them for a couple days. That's fine; it's a minor annoyance at worst. But it's not ideal. So knowing that, what do we do when it comes to the move? Options:

  • Move all our stuff on closing day, live with them or in a hotel for a couple nights. Sub-options?
  1. Do it ourselves
  2. Hire movers for manual labor
  3. Rent a pod
  • Keep the truck longer than one day, move out closing day but don't move in until they are gone. Live in a hotel for a couple nights, store the truck at their place.
  • Ask our landlady to rent the place for one extra week, live there until they are gone, move then. She may refuse unless it's two weeks, which she might buy into.
No matter what, the move is going to cost us money. The "hire movers" option will add a few hundred bucks to the price, but will it be worth it? We don't move often, so part of me says "yes," especially if we're moving at a weird time and can't count on a large turnout of helpers....

We'll be deciding soon. Time is running out :).

Friday, November 11, 2005

More on fundamentalists destroying science

You can read a "scientific discussion" about Intelligent Design here. If nothing else, you may find the summary very interesting, where Dr. Forrest talks about this whole movement as a front for some conservative religious organizations.

These people are not just trying to get a voice heard in Kansas. They are looking to discredit the entire scientific method. They won't stop with Kansas, and they won't stop with discrediting evolution. They will eventually come for geology, astrophysics, and who knows what else if we let them.

There's no doubt we're in the midst of a cultural war here. It's being fought over gay marriage, obscenity, reproduction rights, and public education standards. And their soldiers may not bring much in the way of book smarts to the table, but we should all know better than to write off the power of unreasonable belief brought into focus by the lens of a shared persecution complex.

A recent Rolling Stone article talked about this whole issue, and how both sides are dancing around the core argument of science versus religion, reason versus faith. Nobody wants to come out and say this is an us-versus-them war over "god." But it is, and we all know it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Future is Scary. The Future is Now.

I constantly tell people who aren't necessarily "into" science just how cool the world is at this point in history. I talk about how close we are to things which we were calling fiction just a couple decades back, and ask how awesome some of what we take for granted would be if people from the last century were to see it.

Microwave ovens. Cell phones. Computers. The Internet. Organ transplants. Nuclear power. Cruise missiles. Space rockets! I could go on and on.

I am thrilled with the prospect of seeing where our future takes us.

At the same time, I am terrified of what certain people with loud voices are doing to our nation's culture.

When a state rules that science isn't science, just to appease some vocal fundamentalists, we're in trouble. Here's a nice essay about it, written by someone who is much nicer and smarter than I. We are in trouble, folks. Our shaky science education is only getting weaker with these sorts of decisions.

What's scarier to me is that people who aren't scientifically minded don't see a problem with this decision. They don't think it violates the church/state separation (which many of "us" think it does, as ID is just creationism with a search-replace applied), and they don't think it weakens science. They certainly don't feel it's dangerous, or that it's going to make our nation weaker in the future.

The fact is that it cripples science. We already were doing a half-ass job at telling kids what science really was. We need to overhaul the entire system of teaching kids about science, so they understand the scientific method much earlier in life. What I learned in "History of Science" at WPI should have been taught to me during my freshman year of high school.
An introduction to the methods and source material historians use to study science. Topics covered will range from early Greek science to Newton and the Scientific Revolution in the 17th-century. Suggested background: elementary knowledge of science.
And not just to me, but to all the people who never went further than high school. The people who are currently voting to put anti-science candidates on school boards everywhere.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

House Appraisal in, Lawyers still panic

First off, we got the appraisal in on the new house, finally. It came in at 6K over our purchase price, which is a very validating thing to find out. I had built up all these nightmare scenarios where we were going to have problems due to a low appraisal, and none of them are there. In fact, we are getting a little bit of a deal, which is nice (and kind of expected, since the sellers discounted from their expected price since we are bypassing the realtor).

On the other hand, I swear that working with lawyers is bad for the soul.

In an abstract way, I understand my lawyer's goal. His office watches out for the money we've already put it into the house, so that if anything goes wrong we pay as little as possible as a result. They make sure we, the sellers, and the lenders are all obeying the law.

What I don't get are the repeated requests for extensions on our contract. Basically as of the 1st we needed to have a commitment letter from our lender -- and we did. But our lawyers asked for a week extension on that so they could review the terms of the letter. Fine.

Now, after a week, they ask for another week, because not all the terms have been satisfied. For example, they have not seen the septic system inspection form. Since our getting the loan hinges on that form, they "seriously advise" that we allow them to hold off on saying the commitment letter portion of the contract is fulfilled until they have a chance to review that inspection document.

Part of this makes sense: if the septic inspection form is bad, and we've signed off on the commitment letter, we lose our deposit (of $500). So they want to make sure the form is good.

What doesn't make sense is not once did they tell us, up until the week extension was about to expire, that they wanted to do this. We could have had the septic inspection form in their hands on October 31st! But they never said they needed it, until it was almost too late.

It's frustrating, because now we look like idiots. Our lawyer has to call their lawyer (the sellers) and request an extension. Their lawyer calls them, passes it along, advises they accept, and of course they do. Then we call our friends and apologize to them, and reassure them that yes, we are buying the house, and our lawyers are paranoid. They agree, we laugh it off, and then we repeat the whole scenario a week later ... over a form we could have already had, if they had just asked for it.

And, for what it's worth, this law office came highly recommended.

On the plus side, it's ramping up to fireplace weather pretty damn quick. I'm looking forward to it. Big time.

Movie & TV Reviews

Instead of talking about important stuff, how about I talk about pure entertainment for a bit?

Some super-brief reviews:

Sin City (Movie)
I finally saw this recently, and I fell in love with it in the first five minutes and never stopped smiling. I had no idea how cool they were going to make this, and it fills a small part of my heart with joy that they pulled it off so well.

I feel like I need to watch it again sometime, or read a plot summary, because I was so busy ooh-aahing that I feel like some of the puzzle pieces of the chronology just didn't mesh in my head. Oh well.

Anyway, it's a damn shame I didn't see this in the theater.

Samurai Jack - Season 2
I just finished watching these yesterday, and they also put a huge stupid smile on my face. I didn't truly appreciate the genius that was Jack until I watched it with my brother-in-law and the kids. The universal smiles and laughter that went with every moment showed me just how brilliantly they had succeeded at targeting this stuff. It helped me enjoy it more, because as I watched I could see the moments that would make a kid laugh, and appreciate it in a new light.

Star Wars Episode III
This was the first DVD I've watched since I upgraded to HDTV that made me wish that I had a bigger screen, "for real." The movie is what it is -- and it's been discussed to death -- but if nothing else it's a showcase of special effects technologies. Of course, it's a showcase that begs to be appreciated by a high-end system. I kept wanting to turn the volume up and make the picture bigger. I'm very glad I saw this in the theater instead of waiting.

HBO's Rome
On the TV front, my new addiction is Rome. HBO turns their TV-making expertise on the story of ancient Rome, retelling the history of Julius Caesar and company in their usual high-end way. It's a consistent joy to watch, excellently written, acted, and produced. It's the new high point of my TV week.

And that's all I've got for now. I'll likely post again later with a house update, but this one is entertainment :).

Monday, November 07, 2005

House Buying Non-News

I don't think the phrase "no news is good news" was coined by a person with a signing date looming on the purchase of their house.

Over the weekend we packed our living room and a good chunk of our kitchen. We actually probably only spent 3-4 hours of real time packing, but it felt like more. It was important, though, because it reminded me that while packing is a pain in the ass, it's not the end of the world. We will be able to pack our house before we move, and we won't have so many boxes we need a convoy of trucks to move them.

We haven't heard anything new about the appraisal, so we're still kind of nervous about that. I faxed our loan rep a new copy of my 401K statement, so that should definitely satisfy that part of the commitment letter requirements. I re-read the letter today and saw that they need the septic system inspection documentation, so I'm asking the sellers for that info and will pass it along as soon as we get it. This is a non-issue as the system passed inspection just a couple weeks ago. It's just more paperwork.

I don't think I mentioned in here that I exercised and sold some stock options to make sure we had the funds to clear closing and moving costs. I was hoping to hold onto those for a little while yet, but I had some options which were actually profitable (though not by much) and decided to pull the trigger. Nice to have that money available.

Funny that at one point in my life I thought my stock options would buy our first house, straight out. Now I'm lucky I can scrounge up some that will pay my closing costs.

Well, funny is an odd word for that, really.

Double Standards

Folks, this is the sort of news you can't make up. People wouldn't believe it.

An excerpt of the linked story?
Two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders who allegedly were having sex with each other in a bathroom stall at a Tampa, Fla., nightclub were arrested and charged early Sunday following a run-in with patrons and police.
As Howard Stern would say, "Hey now!"

Now, out of respect for our male readers, I'll pause a moment to let the visual sink in and fade.

Still with me? Ok.

I'll close with a brief social commentary. Picture the same story, except with the folks involved being Panthers players, and not cheerleaders. Two guys caught in a stall, practicing their snap count, let's say ....

Try and imagine the impact of that story, and compare it to the impact of the one I linked. Equality? Yeah.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ongoing drama with house

Just an update about the little things that can mess up the process of buying a home.

At this point we're waiting for an appraisal from a third party vendor who will appraise the home and determine its value. Wells Fargo will feed this into their system, compared with my other information, and determine if the loan-to-value ratio is acceptable for my loan.

In other words, it's the last thing that can go wrong. If that number comes in too low, we have some major issues to work out. So we're very nervous about this going well, even though I keep hearing it's no big deal.

The appraisal was done Wednesday. I deliberately sat on my hands yesterday but sent the loan officer a request for information today to find out where we stood. She responded and was kind enough to copy the information she received on my file. I've included it her verbatim because it's just too funny to leave out.


There's some sort of karmic payback here, a software developer suffering angst over a software problem. Either that or the appraiser is just using this as an excuse, part of a grand tradition of blaming the software for your problems.

Either way, we're held up for another couple days, which is frustrating. We wanted this off our heads before the weekend, and it won't be.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Free Business Idea

Imagine a company which combines web-based workflow software with a secure data repository, on top of top-of-the-line storage. Now tailor that software to the real estate market.

Basically a ton of information is being passed around between myself, the sellers, our attorneys, the lender, and my insurance company. It all seems so incredibly inefficient.

What if all the information, whenever it was acquired by any entity in the transaction, was uploaded into a central repository. The uploader could associate various entities with the document, giving them read permission on the data. You'd couple this with CAS (Content Addressable Storage) for privacy and security reasons, obviously. You'd also want this on top of hierarchical storage.

Whenever a document is uploaded, all associated entities are notified and allowed to download the document. A project timeline is maintained, showing the time and date when all documents were uploaded and downloaded, and by whom. Parties involved in the transaction may place deadlines for certain documents (and when you upload a document you may assign it to an outstanding deadline) and the system may be configured to send warnings when deadlines are approaching.

You tie it into fax systems, email, web, everything (yeah right, but hey, we're dreaming, right?).

This would be SO MUCH EASIER than the bullshit I had to deal with yesterday. The lawyer says the lenders haven't sent the commitment letter. The lenders say the lawyers haven't sent the P&S agreement. Both of them say they've sent what is required of them but haven't received what they require. And instead of dealing with each other, they both work through me.

What am I paying you people for? Christ. This isn't rocket science, and you certainly don't need me playing referee....

If I die of a heart attack at the tender age of 32, it's because of this shit.

(Worth noting; I work for a company that makes the software and the hardware that could make this work. Funny, that.)