Sunday, January 29, 2006

We have a contract!

Well, I did it. I bought a house! After a lot of drama that included losing an opportunity to buy a house by one day and viewing about thirty or so houses in East Lake and Kirkwood, I happily settled on a house in Decatur. I looked at a lot of crap. Really. Some of those places were uninhabitable, expensive, and situated next door to a crack house. I was very discouraged. The farther I got away from the area I thought I really wanted to be in, the cheaper the houses were -- but also, they were much more inhabitable. So, farther away I went.

Aside from things like a decent yard size for the hounds and enough space for our stuff inside, I really hoped to get a fireplace and a front porch. I was looking in East Lake and Kirkwood because I thought I could afford a house like that -- but it turns out if I could afford it, the house was either microscopic, or uninhabitable. Crap.

We found a decent place off a section of Memorial Drive that wasn't all that great, but I decided that was fine -- and planned to put in an offer on Friday morning. Karen, my favorite realtor lady, called first thing Friday to let me know the house had gotten an offer Thursday and the owners accepted. Huh? The place was on the market for months and it gets an offer the day before I planned to offer on it? Crap. I was even more discouraged.

Karen and I planned to meet Friday at 1:30 p.m. to continue the search. In the meantime, I made a list of houses I wanted to preview from the street and decide if I wanted to bother going inside. I hadn't looked in the area north of Decatur Square because I didn't see anything I liked that I could afford. But, there was this one place on Sycamore that looked kinda boring and small, but it was worth a look. I headed for Decatur and got onto Sycamore, but couldn't find the place. I noticed a "for sale" sign on a side street and drove by. When I got to the driveway, I really liked the house. When I saw the price on the flyer, I was really excited. I liked this place, I could afford this place, and it was in a great location. I couldn't wait to meet up with Karen!

I had some time, so I went to some other places on my list and met Karen in the very cute neighborhood south of Decatur Square called Winnona Park. We both loved the hood, and the houses were nice, but I told Karen we should really go by this house off Sycamore. We went and we both fell in love. Really. Karen almost couldn't contain herself -- when you spend nine hours in one day with a person, you get an idea what they like, and Karen really had me pegged. She'd also spent time with Len a few weeks earlier and felt pretty confident he'd like the place too.

We looked at a couple other places, but that one was it. I decided to make an offer. We did all the necessary stuff and she faxed it to the listing agent, who happened to be the owner's sister. Karen called the agent to see where we stood and was told the sister was on her way to look at the offers. OFFERS? Karen asked. Yes, the house, out of the blue, got three offers that day. What? Karen said that, by law, that realtor cannot claim to have multiple offers unless she has multiple offers, so we were pretty confident she was telling the truth. Crap. I reconsidered my offer and made it full price (which was still very reasonable, considering the comparable houses in the neighborhood) and I upped my earnest money. Turns out all the offers were the same except mine featured more earnest money. I GOT IT!

It's .8 miles from the MARTA station, just over a mile to Decatur Square, 2 miles to Emory Law School, 1.5 miles to the Dekalb Farmer's Market, and there is a Pet Supermarket .5 miles away. The location is ideal! The house has a cute front porch with the same kind of tile as Suzy and Clark's front porch. The place is a 1947 bungalow, it has a fireplace, a decent sized yard for the hounds, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a newly remodeled kitchen -- but the kitchen is TINY. But, it works and is nice. I am very pleased.

Now, we just have to sell this place in Seattle. Know anybody?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Rude Awakening

Here it is, the day before I leave for Atlanta to buy a house and I thought I'd get some clothes together for the trip. I've been wearing old jeans and sweatshirts lately, and I've already packed a lot of my clothes in boxes for the move -- just left out what I think I'll need in the next few weeks for work and home. Well, I haven't worn a particular pair of jeans since November because they are cropped and it's been too cold. I thought I might take them to Atlanta since it's warmer there. I tried them on today, thinking since I've been a little lax in the weight maintenance department since my class reunion (see previous entry with pictures of pizza), I thought I might have to wear them a day to give them a little stretch -- you know what I mean. I can pull them up and button them, but these jeans will not be comfortable on a five-hour plane ride. Crap. What have I done? They were PERFECT in November. Sweats are a terrible invention. Glad I found out now and not two more months down the road. I gotta pull that scale outta the box it's packed in. Crap.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Gimme a Break

I am pooped.

I've spent the last two days painting and packing and cleaning and I am exhausted. Len is at the laundromat, laundering things like king-size comforters that are too large for our residential washing machine. I just completed all the touch-up painting in the house and right after I finally get to take my shower for the day, I'm going to caulk the tub and the kitchen sink.

I ordered a nice sign for our yard today, plus a metal frame like realtors use and a nifty plastic box for the flyers. Have I mentioned we are going to sell this place by owner? We are going to try anyway. Since we've only been here a year, we haven't built up much equity. If we used a realtor, just to break even, we would have to get $45,000 more than we paid for the place 14 months ago.

The Seattle market is still pretty good, but I'm afraid it's not that good. Our starting price will be about $30,000 over what we paid -- in case someone comes with a buyer's agent we have to pay. Without an agent on either side, I think we'd be happy to get $5000 or so over what we paid last year -- that will help take care of the excise tax here in Seattle. I'll take pictures for the flyer later and will post a PDF for your viewing pleasure.

In the meantime, I've been back in the kitchen, making pizza -- we've had it a lot lately since I've been trying to perfect the crust. Len doesn't want pizza out any more since he says mine is so much better than we can get elsewhere. High praise! I include here a couple pictures of my latest creation -- whole, and a slice so you can see the crust is crisp enough to stand on its own. I rock!

Saturday, January 21, 2006


It's been an entire week since my last post, but since there has been so much activity in this house I have loads to say today. Actually, I think I'll let my pictures speak for me.

Our floors in the bedrooms desperately needed refinishing before we put the place on the market, so we had to bite the bullet and pay the $2500 to have the work done. Monday morning, two mysterious Russian men came to the house to begin work. I never got their names and one of the men never said a word to me. The younger guy did all the talking -- which is not saying much. A few months ago, I pulled up carpet in our bedroom to reveal that the previous owners had left terrible stains and paint on the floors before covering them with the carpet. I really looked forward to seeing what -- if anything -- could be done to make the floors like new again.

These two guys set to work and, except for all the noise, never bothered me. The dogs handled it all pretty well and stayed with me in the basement all week. Maggie didn't like the noise much, as it threatened her beauty rest, but none of them seemed scared or worried about all the activity going on above us. The two mysterious Russians sanded the floors, stained them, and slathered three coats of poly over them in four days. Tonight, Len and I get to move from the basement back into our bedroom.

In the meantime, the house is a wreck, with the contents of both bedrooms and the three affected closets piled high in our living room. I just noticed last night that you can see the piles through our front window. The piles of stuff, and the fact that folks are still coming by to buy things Len posted on Craig's List must make our neighbors really wonder what the heck we are doing over here. When we put out the "For Sale" sign in the yard this week, the neighbors will understand -- and probably be a little grateful to see us strange folk go!

The Russians finished the last coat on Thursday morning and now, two days later, the stench from the coating has all but gone away. At one point it was so strong upstairs that my throat hurt from breathing in the fumes. That's when the hounds and I went for a walk in the neighborhood for some wet, fresh air. In any case, the floors are complete, and they are magnificent. I can still see a couple spots where the stains were too deep to sand off, but I think that's only because I know where to look. The floors look new. The stain is nearly identical to the color in the rest of the house, too, so the floors don't look out of place. We are very pleased with the results.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Four Lenders Are Competing for Your Business

Yep, you got that right: Four lenders are competing for my business. FOUR. At least that was the message I got when I applied for a mortgage pre-qualification letter from the Three of said lenders have already contacted me in hopes to earn my business. Well, for once I'm in the financial driver's seat.

Lucky for me, my credit is excellent. Who knew? We learned last year when we bought this house in Seattle that someone had stolen my identity several months earlier and had taken out a phone in Detroit in my name. They racked up more than $1,000 in calls in one month and then skipped. When I found out, I called the phone company and sent them information showing I didn't live in Detroit at the time -- actually, I've never lived there -- and, voila, my credit was cleared of that blemish. It doesn't even show as a warning on my report. I'm very grateful to be married to such a good solid guy as Len -- I'm sure it's his influence that has made me so straight-laced and credit-worthy.

So far, it looks like the best rate I can get is 5.75%, but I haven't done any real research -- one point can mean a lot, so I'm not choosing the first good-looking loan that comes my way. I think I'll make them woo me before I decide.

Week after next, I'm returning to Atlanta for the big house-hunting trip. I have found several places that look wonderful on-line. But, I need to see them in person before making the big decision. My plan is to make an offer (or two) while I am there and hopefully come back with a contract in hand. I've learned my lesson and will be very aggressive in my offer -- how LOW can they go? There are something like 75,000 homes available in Atlanta right now. It's definitely a buyer's market.

Here in 98105, there are just 5 houses in the range in which we plan to list our house. That's very good news, especially since I personally would not look twice at any of those houses if mine was available. I really think we'll sell our house quickly for a price close to what we hope to get. Fingers are crossed. Toes, too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Boxed In

Where is the camera when I need it? We had a bit of sunshine today (23 days of rain and counting), so I decided to scooter. The sunshine fooled me into thinking it was warmer than it was -- the moisture in the air cuts to the bone. Still, I wanted to soak in as many rays as possible, so I drove around a while thinking of ways to be productive. We needed clean newsprint for packing material, so I went to our neighborhood moving store and bought a 25 lb box. It was about 3 feet wide, 1 foot deep and 6 inches thick. I bought it before thinking it might be difficult to take home on the scooter. Turns out it was no problem! I laid it longways and tall on the tiny back rack and took a bungee to it. I wasn't winning any fuel-efficiency awards with that as a windblock, but it was secure and I was able to get it home easily and safely on the back of my ride. I couldn't find the camera to take a picture of this feat of genius for this blog entry. Bummer.

So, I started packing some more -- anything to get out of finishing the painting of that basement. Most of the knickknacks and pottery are now safely snuggled in together in several boxes marked "FRAGILE." Tomorrow, I paint.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Jumping Jesus on a Pogo Stick

Moving is a drag.

We're well into the pack and purge part of the move and it seems we have a never-ending supply of crap. We've gotten rid of chairs, a dresser, bicycle stuff, rugs, and other things I'd long-forgotten we owned and there is still so much we can get rid of. The crazy thing is we have carted some of this stuff what seems like 100,000 miles on various moves -- some has never been unpacked.

The ideal is to have only the good stuff shipped back. Anything good -- but we don't want -- will be given to GoodWill. Anything that is truly crap that no one will want is headed for the dump! But, I keep finding things that I don't really love and that are no longer my taste, but the item reminds me of some part of my life that I want to hang on to. Argh! I'm my own worst enemy!

The hounds know something is up, I think. Maggie has begun to follow me around -- very unusual -- and Scully and Daisy are even more needy. Especially Daisy. Devon is as oblivious as ever.

On a very positive note: Devon has made his weight goal! I should have mentioned this weeks ago -- but he's down to 12 slim pounds from 14.5! Good work, Little D! You get a Bravo! sticker!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hood Canal

Len and I went to a friend's cabin at Hood Canal for New Year's Eve (that's me pictured on their deck that overlooks the canal). Our friends Jeff and Steph are just wonderful people -- and I'm not saying this on the off chance that they actually find this blog and read this entry! Really, though, they are just terrific people. Truth is, if we were going to stay here, I could see us becoming very close. Jeff works for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- and it's so cool when he calls us, because the caller id on the phone says "Bill and Melinda." Steph is a vet. For the first time that day, we heard her stories from the time she was a large animal vet. Very fun stories about her shoving her hand... well, you get the idea...

The day before, we went to a party on Bainbridge Island celebrating the New Year and to say goodbye to yet another of Len's co-workers, Thomas. Thomas (he's German, so it's pronounced TOE-mas) is leaving the company to be VP of Clinical for a pharmaceutical company outside of Philadelphia. Congrats, Thomas!

Len's law school applications are complete, so now we wait. We've begun to pack our things and we have big boxes filled with our carefully packed stuff in the dining room and in the living room. Len is going to Atlanta this weekend for a work-related project, so he'll check out a few houses while he is there. It's starting to feel very real.

Len has been so successful selling our crap on Craig's List and on eBay, that I decided to try to sell a few things. I'll leave the cash in my PayPal account and use it to buy stuff later -- when I won't have extra money to spend. My first eight auctions ended tonight and I am happy to say I'm $435 richer tonight! Wahoo!

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year, New Life. Right?

I guess I can say it now.

Last year sucked. But, it was really cool, too.

We moved to Seattle in January. We loaded the four dogs into our wagon and drove from Atlanta to Seattle in three days. It was a hard drive that should have taken two more days than it did, but we wanted to get the hounds on solid ground as quickly as possible. I have very little memory of that journey -- except that Wyoming was most unimpressive.

After the move, we settled in to our new life on the West Coast. At first it was ideal. Everything was a new adventure. Len started riding really, really long distances with a bike club. He traveled alone over the mountains and through the deserts of Washington State on his bicycle. I joined a couple knitting groups. I settled in to working from home. This town is really beautiful and vibrant and exciting and interesting. It was fun.

And, then, it wasn't fun any more.

Len's job wasn't working out as he hoped and, in fact, it became pretty clear early on that the company probably wouldn't last long. It was difficult to develop roots in a place that I knew wouldn't be home for long.

I got really lonely. I'd find myself crying in the car on the way to the grocery store. I didn't want poor Len to know how I was feeling, but it was getting harder and harder each day. Then, one day he said he wasn't happy, that things weren't going well for him at work and that maybe this move was a mistake -- which I firmly believe it was not a mistake, but rather an adventure. But, finally! I could say something about how I was feeling. So, we discussed and considered and thought things through. When Len asked me how I'd feel if he went to law school, I was thrilled!

So, now we had a plan.

I started to enjoy Seattle again, knowing I wouldn't live here forever. We've been to Museum of Flight, we've gone to some of the surrounding islands and communities. We saw salmon jumping at Ballard Locks. When Suzy and Clark were here we did wine country and when Betsy was here we went to the mountain town where Twin Peaks was filmed. I've seen the Space Needle more times than I remember. I've ridden my bicycle all over this town. Now that I have a scooter, I've scooted everywhere.

We've met some fabulous people, too.

Okay, so the year hasn't outright sucked -- it's been pretty good, after all. We had a great adventure. I'm truly glad we did this. But, I can't wait to get the hell home.