Thursday, August 13, 2009

Carpets and Moms

Wow - so much has happened in just the week and a half since my last post.

We decided to go with Empire for our carpet. The guy who came out to our house was the typical sales guy. I almost wanted to show him the door just because he was so obnoxious. I hate how sales people feel the need to treat me as though I am not as intelligent or as knowledgeable as them. Granted, I am probably not as knowledgeable about their particular product as they are - which is why I called them out to my house in the first place. But please, treat me as a reasonably intelligent human being. I almost got into an argument with the guy over jingles - yes, jingles. He was essentially trying to intimate that Empire was the first company to ever use a jingle effectively. Ha!

It took him forever to finally bring the carpet samples in - which was an issue because the bank had turned off the power to the house, so we were using the remaining daylight. Fortunately the house gets pretty good natural light, so we were able to make the most of it. Once he finally brought the samples in, Aaron and I devised all kinds of tests to decide which one we liked the most. We took our shoes off and stepped on it. I did a little dance. In the end, the most effective test was the "elbow test" in which we laid on the floor with our elbows on the carpet. That eliminated a couple right away for being to scratchy. In the end, we chose a mid-level plush in a color called "Milky Way." Then the guy told us it would be $3,000. We said, "Thank you. We have to think about it and price it out at other stores." At which point he hammered us with how great the company is and how nobody could beat their price and service (installation and haul away are included in the price). We kept insisting that we were not going to enter into a contract at this time. How could I be prepared to enter into a contract when they don't post their prices online and I had no way of preparing myself for how much we were going to spend? So then he pulled the classic sales guy technique of "calling his manager" - of course, right in our earshot so we could hear him reacting with "surprise." After the phone call, the price dropped by $900. At which point, Aaron and I decided that we might as well go for it because it was a little cheaper than Home Depot and it could be done before we moved our furniture in. Sweet. One more thing taken care of.

Aaron's mom arrived on Tuesday to help us fix up the house. I have to admit, whatever daughter-in-law nerves I may have had were totally unfounded. She has been fantastic! On Tuesday night, we went out to dinner in Santa Monica and then drove out to the house so that she could see it and we could go over ideas. Almost every paint color idea she had corresponded or was better than the ideas I had! She knows all kinds of stuff about how to fix up houses - what are quick fixes, where you can save money, what would be cost effective and what would not. It's amazing!

Yesterday, I rode my bike to work, Aaron borrowed my car, and Aaron's mom borrowed his car. While we were at work, Aaron's mom packed up all my wine glasses and other breakables and took them up to the house where she got straight to work. Aaron and I joined her after work. She had already painted our entire master bedroom (not to mention gone to Home Depot and gotten a bunch of supplies and unpacked the breakables and put them in the kitchen for me). We then went to Home Depot and picked out our new stove and hood. We were looking at the microwave hoods, but the way the tile in our kitchen is, we determined it wouldn't work. After Home Depot, we went out for pizza and then went home and fell into bed exhausted.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I'm a homeowner!

Well, it is all done - at least, the paperwork and escrow and all that. Aaron and I are officially homeowners!!!

Now the real fun begins: fixing up the place. :)

We got our keys on Friday evening. I drove up at 5:15pm on a Friday night - great introduction to what my commute will be like. It took me a little over an hour to get there, which is about what I was expecting. Our agent had to be in Santa Clarita by 6:30, so he left the property open and the keys in the drawer next to the dishwasher - there's nothing inside the house for anyone to steal, and I got there only 15 minutes after he left, so everything was fine. Aaron joined me by 8pm. We wandered around the house, exploring everything and making notes of what exactly we need to do first.

Our next door neighbors had told us the AC didn't work in the front of the house - apparently the previous renters bought an AC unit for the front bedroom. When the next door neighbors inquired about why, the renters complained that the house was too hot and the AC didn't work at all in the front of the house. So that was one of the first things we checked out. I turned on the AC and went around to all the vents to make sure they were working properly. When I got to the living room, I noticed the two vents were closed - as was the vent in the front bedroom. Now, I never met the renters (who were running their Psychic business out of the house), so I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt - but if you go and BUY an AC unit without checking to see if there is a quick and inexpensive fix, then I'm going to call you a moron. Those people were morons when it came to the AC, not to mention, not very good psychics - Aaron and I opened the vents and they work fine. So that's good - one less thing we have to fix.

On Saturday, we drove out to a family friend's place. She's giving us a washer and dryer and may have some other furniture to sell us. We took a look at the washer and dryer - the dryer is very old, but it works and that's what matters. This will give us time to figure out exactly what type of appliances we want to get and enable us to save up for them. After that, we went back to the house and wandered around a little more.

Sunday was a very tiring day for me. Aaron and I went to Home Depot and spent about 2 hours and $150 there. I started to get a little whiny after an hour and a half. Who knew Home Depot would have so many fans blowing stuff into my face?! I wanted to claw my eyes out by the time we finished there. But after Home Depot, we decided to have our first meal in our house together. So we stopped at In-N-Out and then brought it back and had a picnic on the empty floor of our family room (or as my dad likes to call it, the "Seance Room").

We finally got the sprinklers in the front yard to work. I bought a garden hose and mobile sprinkler for the back yard. So we watered the lawn for a bit and raked the jacaranda flowers off the patio. We also bought timers for some lamps in the house so that it looks like someone is there even before we actually move in. We bought a really cool light sensor for the front porch that is supposed to turn the light on at dusk and off at dawn - I thought that was particularly clever. :)

Next step is figuring out carpeting. We looked at Home Depot and found some carpet that we actually like, but it will take 3 weeks for delivery/installation. On Wednesday, we have a free in-home consultation from Empire (you know the jingle!). So I guess it will come down to cost v. speed v. quality. We're still open to any other suggestions, so let me know if you have any recommendations!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

So close!

Yesterday Aaron and I signed our lives away - I mean, we signed all the loan documents and (hopefully) all of the rest of the documents necessary to complete the purchase of our first home! According to the escrow people, and our mortgage broker, all we need to do is sit back and wait for the keys - which should hopefully be delivered to us by Friday.

For those of you who have never purchased a home before - or for those of you who haven't done it in a long time, here is what we went through yesterday: We had to drive to Pasadena to be there by 4:30 (i.e. in rush hour traffic) to sign the documents. We got to the building where the escrow company was and had to sit in the lobby/hallway whilst we waited for the notary to come get us. The notary finally came and got us and proceeded to show us to "Signing Room #1." Signing Room #1 was empty except for some documents. It was just us and the notary inside this room signing a big huge packet of papers that we had never seen before. Here is my issue - I really wish they had emailed me the documents for my review over the weekend. That way, we could have had our questions answered before going in to sign. Instead, whenever we had questions, we had to call our escrow agent - who was downstairs doing other work - or our mortgage broker, who fortunately is a friend of ours, so we had her cell phone number to call after 5pm. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who will just sign and not think twice about what they are signing . . . I am not one of those people.

This morning we had to go to the bank to wire transfer the remaining deposit/down payment and our portion of the closing costs. I looked at our copy of the documents to verify the amount we had to transfer and I could not find the correct number anywhere. The stack of papers we were given to take home with us did not have the same numbers as the stack of papers we signed yesterday. I have now requested copies of everything that we actually signed yesterday. Fortunately, the correct number was less than what was listed in the papers that we took home. But, I was livid - who does that? I used to work in a law office where I had people signing documents all the time. You ALWAYS give them the exact same paperwork as that which they are signing! It would have been best to just copy it after we signed it. But I understood that we were coming late in the day, so it wasn't necessarily practical to wait for them to make copies. Now I wish I had insisted on it!

I'm really hoping this is all over and done with by Friday. I just want to have the keys so that we can really get started on all the fixing up that needs to get done before we move in. Before you get too excited/concerned, really the only necessary things are: painting, re-carpeting the bedrooms, cleaning and re-keying the place. I think Aaron is also going to try to get the place wired for internet and other things prior to moving all our stuff in as well.

We seem to have lucked out on many of the items that we were going to have to purchase. A family friend is giving us a washer and dryer, and another friend of ours is letting us use his fridge on a "long term loan" basis - i.e. his current apartment does not have the space for it, so we will keep it for him and get to use it in the meantime. So the only appliance that we have to purchase is the stove - somehow I don't think anyone is just going to give us a stove. But this means that we may be able to get a better quality stove than we would otherwise have purchased.

Ok, I'm off to examine those documents with a fine tooth comb - at least they didn't try to charge me an "email fee" like some of our other friends who just bought a house experienced.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

House Update

1 month later and here's where we are at:

We had the inspection and appraisal. All went fairly well. The biggest issue was that the heating and ac were not turning on. However, the inspector said the systems were pretty good systems and fairly new, so he thought it might just be a breaker issue. You should see how big the final inspection report was! It's basically an entire book in and of itself.

The appraisal was fine - in fact, our appraiser had been out to the same house a couple years ago and appraised it at $600,000! hahahahaha . . . oh the bubble days. *sigh* But the final appraisal did come in about $30K more than what we are paying for it. So I guess that's good . . . on paper. It still makes no difference in what our monthly payments will be or how much it will be worth when we sell it. But at least we can feel like we're getting a good deal out of it.

We have been told that our loan has been approved - even though they seem to want more documentation each day. They even had to call our employers to get a verbal verification of employment. Then someone else from the bank will call back later to verify that it was verified - this is after giving them essentially 6 months worth of paystubs and getting letters regarding our employment. I'm surprised we haven't had to give a DNA sample yet!

Then there's the escrow company and the 50 pages we had to sign for them. We had to initial that we initialed documents - I guess to show that we saw them . . . again?

Oh, and we've finally found a homeowner's insurance company. Initially we contacted the company that does our car insurance. But they basically told us that they would be too expensive for us since we're buying in "an area like Van Nuys." They suggested we go to another company at least until we get the place fixed up.

Last week, Aaron had an electrician come out and look at the wiring. He got the ac and heat to work, so that's good. In addition, the electricity in the garage now works. Aaron verifided that the dishwasher was working - so that's one less appliance we have to purchase. :)

I think that's it. As of right now, we are set to close July 30. I have a feeling it may get delayed a little, but it should definitely be in August sometime. Then we just have to change the carpet, paint, and do a little gardening before we can have a housewarming party!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Home buying

Aaron and I made an offer on a house last Saturday night. They countered our offer on Monday, and we countered their counter on Tuesday. They accepted Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday we had to sign a new purchase agreement reflecting the new terms. Yesterday we had our inspection. Escrow is set to close on or before July 30 (apparently foreclosures require a longer escrow period). Once we receive the inspection report and officially secure our financing, our contingencies will be met and then we just wait until the seller (i.e. the bank) gets everything sorted.

Here are the details: It's a 3 bed, 2 bath house, 1,900 square feet.

It's in the Lake Balboa part of Van Nuys (which is the nicer part). It's on a cute little street with lots of cute little houses (very little "manionising" in the area). Our house is on the corner of a pretty busy street, which gave us (mostly me) some pause, but I think with landscaping we can minimize the noise. The house itself is pretty quiet, but you can definitely hear the street noise in the backyard.

On Monday night when we were considering the counter offer, we drove out there and walked around the neighborhood. So we know it's safe to walk around at night. We also met a couple of the neighbors. One of whom was outside working on some new windows for his house. He said he'd been there 7 years and absolutely loved it. Apparently the neighbors next door to our potential house have been there since the 1950's and there are plenty of other residents who have been there for a long time as well. It was really nice talking to the neighbors that clinched it for us. I know I want to be in a neighborhood where neighbors talk to each other, and you get that community feel. And you can tell just by walking around that the neighbors really care for their houses (there is the occasional exception, but it's pretty rare).

Because it's a foreclosure, we definitely have a lot of work ahead of us to fix it up and make it nice. But it's not nearly as bad as some of the other houses we saw (there was one condo we went in where I had to pull my shirt over my nose because the stench was so bad). This one is relatively clean and definitely liveable while we are fixing it - and most of the fixes are just cosmetic repairs. I think the biggest thing we'll need to work on is the yard. The front yard has working sprinklers, so it could be that we'll just need to water and the grass will grow back. The back yard has sprinklers, but they don't work - and I don't think anyone has used them in a very long while. Aaron's mom loves landscaping and decorating, though, so we'll definitely be calling on her to help us make our place amazing. :)