October 30, 2017

New house, no problem! (?)

Making ourselves at home in our new home[Part 11]

Let the nesting and relaxation begin!!

Well, not quite.

For one thing, If You Give A Mouse a Cookie …..

We chose not to do work on the exterior or much of the interior – nothing that wasn’t critical to function was updated. I can learn to live with anything, after all! Which is plain truth but it turns out I underestimated how badly it would stand out like a sore thumb.

Never mind that, though. I can ignore the sore thumb(s).

You would think that all the new stuff would be amazing to use but if you’re a pessimist or a realist, you’d know that another way to describe new stuff is “things that haven’t broken you yet”.

(more…)

October 16, 2017

Earthquake and disaster preparedness

Earthquakes & fire: what supplies we need to stock up on I’ve written about being prepared for pet problems, considering a wide range of What Ifs and preparing for them, and financial preparedness in my In Case of Emergency series focused on getting a household in order for the worst possible scenarios. I started this post for a few reasons, but the disastrous wildfires in Santa Rosa no more than a couple hours away from us has made this even more compelling. One of our community members, DadsDollarsDebts was directly affected by the fire and had to escape with only minutes to get out, so I’m sharing this post earlier to join the Chain in hopes that we’ll motivate more people to get prepared, sooner.

This was a full to the brim month with oh, moving, and closing on our old place, and settling into the new place, and figuring out how to work everything.

(more…)

October 9, 2017

Moving day! And week 1 in our new place 

 

The worst of the renovations are DONE!

The numbers

  • This is Part 10 of an 11 part series
  • I’ve written 50 checks over the course of this project.
  • We made a huge mistake going with an amateur for a relatively minor garage maintenance detail that turned into complete pain. Wasted cost: $932
  • We went over schedule by 10 days as a result of the numerous work orders we added. There was a new one each week, though we intended not to have any at all.
  • The final costs are still trickling in but we went over budget around 3%.

Highlights from Moving Day

  • We thought we’d forego professional movers. That was a (very very very) stupid idea. Thankfully we recovered our senses in time and scheduled movers. We forgot to notify the HOA. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like anyone noticed. (I think.)
  • Guess which dingbat packed the car keys in one of twenty identical unlabeled boxes?
    Me. It was me.
    Thankfully I had kept four of the twenty boxes corralled away from the others, those were my “money and immediate need” boxes so the hunt was limited to those four in the end but STILL.
  • The dryer is GAS?? We have no gas line for the current location of the dryer! DAMMIT. ($250 to install a gas line. Laundry is critical.)
  • Seamus, they’re not stealing all our things, we’re just moving it. Don’t look so sad!
  • We planned to move 10 pieces of furniture, including mattresses, but we ended up filling an enormous moving van. Where did all this stuff come from and can I sell most of it, please?
  • My priorities according to my bag for the day with professional movers: internet router, Roku, checkbook and all the wallets with cash and credit cards, laptop, laptop charger, cell phone charger, the wrong car keys, home keys.
  • The first thing I did at the new place: set up the router. Internet is life.
  • I scheduled my first delivery to arrive at the new place on Moving Day. Naturally, they were more boxes.

Night 1: It’s a horribly late night. The adults are tired, the dog is tired, the toddler is keyed up to vomit-level excitement. By the time ze has had one book and the last of my patience has trickled out of the hourglass, it’s past ten. I throw the quilt over zir head like hooding a falcon, turn my back, and pat zir butt. Against all reason, it works and ze falls asleep without a fight.

Me? I keep waking up. Is it because I’m in a strange place? Is it because Seamus is sleeping at the foot of the bed instead of by my side? Is it because I’m half convinced that my nightmares are real? Is it because there isn’t all that racket outside that we normally hear from the nearby parking lot where drunks come to howl and young adults come to tussle?

Day 2: JuggerBaby doesn’t want to leave the house at ALL. Ze has full access to the huge tubs of toys and books we had in storage and there isn’t enough time to play with them. We spend HOURS indoors building massive towers, linking plastic people, laying out colorful accessories in patterns. Only twenty minutes was spent watching Moana.

A couple friends come over for brunch and to lend capable hands with unpacking. JuggerBaby gleefully nabs a new adult for more playtime.

Going outside to play is a non-starter, “I don’t want to go wif mama!” but Seamus desperately needs a walk and PiC is stuck with Bob going over some fine details so out come the big guns. That’s fine but I am going outside to walk Seamus and eat chips. The tears and rolling on the ground limply to avoid being hauled outside stopped immediately: “I want to eat schips too!”

Someday ze will realize I play on zir food motivation like a fiddle.

But today is not that day.

Night 2: Ze is in bed and back to the usual antics. I want water! I want mama stay ‘ere! I need potty. I want lamby!

I put my foot down and threaten a walkout if I hear one more word. I hear no more words. I crawl back to my bed, PiC stays up many more hours working on who knows what. Half our house still looks like the Monster of Storage exploded in it so it could be anything.

I feel dislocated.

Day 3: I still feel dislocated this morning. It’s not a fun feeling. Boxes boxes everywhere … We’ve been unpacking 3-6 boxes a day and we’re making progress but there are definitely chokepoints in that progress.  To make the best use of our closets, we have to spend a bunch on shelving that’s me-friendly, and that whole organization scheme takes brainpower.

Night 3: They were not kidding about these WhisperSense fans. You can hardly hear them but so powerful.

We eat take out again for dinner because I can’t find my kitchen for all the boxes. It’s somewhere over there. By the door. Honest.

Day 4: My love for unfilled drawers is slowing down progress. The promise of an empty set of drawers, the luxury of not having to cram all cabinets chock full is distracting.

Seamus is urging me to the door. I think he thinks we forgot to go home. He’s extra confused when I take him back “home” with me for a walk and to pick up more things.  He eagerly sniffs everything and marks his favorite spots, outside but inside the place echoes, and we leave again. I can almost hear him: why do we keep leaving? This is where we stay! He’s still pretty sure we’ve made a mistake. Especially because our neighbor is his favorite buddy to play with.

Night 4: A thunderstorm hits us right when I start reheating leftovers for dinner. Spooked by the startlingly nearby lightning strikes, I turn off our appliances but was in the middle of a 3 hour roasting session so I risk leaving that on. Convection ovens are weird and I’m trying to get used to it.

Day 5: Seamus and I explore the neighborhood properly today, ranging far and wide in search of a park. Google Maps lied. There’s a stand of trees up that one street, not a park! We are miffed.

I note on my way back that of the surrounding streets, our street is the most depressing to walk. It’s rundown, unkempt, and feels unfriendly. The people are surly, no friendly or acknowledging nods from anyone, the idiot across the street backed into my car and acted like I was the jerk.

People walk through here with their kids and dogs often but they’re just passing through. Now I get what Bob meant when he commented that we’d have to work to build new community. In our previous place, we didn’t socialize much with the neighbors but still naturally had brief hellos with people who were out walking their dogs. I’m not one to want to stop and chat every afternoon with people anyway, but I’m not sure how I feel about this right now.

Night 5: That pork shoulder roast was inspired. Served with sautéed Chinese broccoli and asparagus and rice, we ate very well tonight. I haven’t totally lost my touch! Whew.

Day 6: Oh crap, I forgot to set up our Skybell. This is my attempt at being fancy and techy but I’m not sure if this was a big mistake. A 2-minute setup turned into 15, then 20, then just as despair set in, it finally detected my home wifi network. SUCCESS.

My office is a shambles, I’m keeping the door shut because each of those boxes requires more brainpower than we have right now. My plan: take out the easy boxes first – those solutions are obvious. Books on bookshelves, clothes in closet. After we knock down those easy wins, then tackle those more difficult boxes that require some thinking, one at a time. Also it’s clear that I’m about to run out of shelf space already. Too many books and comics, crap.

Night 6: I still have no idea how to work this thermostat. HELP. Also WHY does the showerhead keep rotating to the right? Stay put, darn you!

Day 7: Another day, another thing that needs fixing. The seal on the shower fell off so it’s leaking onto the floor. To cope with my feelings, I start doing laundry and don’t stop for days.

Night 7: JuggerBaby remains confused, “May I take this toy home?” You are home, darlin’. It’s an adjustment for all of us. But I do love my kitchen. It’s tailored to my workflow even though it was pretty speculative at the time we designed it, and they doubted me but I stood firm. Now that I’m in there, my assumptions were validated!

So far, so good?

An unforeseen problem with being in a bigger space is that JB no longer wants to go outside.  Ze used to LOVE going outside but now that there aren’t any restrictions on running or jumping, and the hallway doubles as a fantastic runway for a toddler’s trample, outside has no allure.

Even though we have so many things to fix, still, having only one residence to worry about is a major relief. We’re still learning our way around the neighborhood and settling in but I appreciate not having to be on guard against sadistic jerks who would make threats against dogs and children.

:: What do you do to feel at home in a new place? How long does it take you to get settled?

Before: Background, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

Next on our Home Buying Adventure: Part 11

October 4, 2017

Selling our home in California: Part 4

The end and saying good-bye

We did our final walkthrough to make sure that we weren’t leaving any trash (or treasures!) behind. The keys were left on the counter, all the utilities were cancelled, and the check was ready to be picked up from the title company.

Then we had a few moments to look around the empty place.

In this home we shared huge milestones.

We lived together for the first time;
We adopted our first dog (Doggle!) together (and redecorated the entire place for him);
He proposed to me there;
We got married;
We “adopted” our second dog together (Seamus remains the perfect dog);
We negotiated several raises and promotions between our two careers;
and had JuggerBaby whose every first of life was there: first solid food, first nanny then first daycare, first steps, first words, first swear word (oops), first friends we made as a family because they had kids.

In this home, we grew together as a couple and as a family.

We learned to fight and make up in person, instead of long distance, which tops the list because if you don’t learn how to disagree civilly and communicate about your problems, thar be a tough road ahead of ye, matey;
We learned how to budget together, and over several years, combined our finances;
We supported each other through two toxic management situations at our respective workplaces;
We grieved the loss of my parent, and celebrated becoming parents ourselves;
He supported my leap from a large established company to a smaller riskier workplace in search of better work-life balance;
He supported my foray into investment property without even batting an eye;
He came around to the idea of aiming for early retirement;
I came around to the idea that spending some money for fun isn’t inviting the Financial Rapture.

SO MANY EMOTIONS!

:: Do you have emotional attachments to certain places, like HOME?

September 25, 2017

Selling our home in California: Part 3

We left off at having a ratified contract because that’s all the fun I could handle and holding my breath for 30 days was enough distraction.

But I can never resist a “what will you do with that money” question.

I have a spreadsheet gaming out every sale price scenario and therefore decided where any money will go long before we even listed the place. I’ll fiddle with some of the details still but the broad strokes are right.

Note that in the interest of not tempting fate, I started my possible sale price scenarios at the lowest possible price, well below the current comps, and ran it in $25,000 increments until I went over the current comps.

In order of priority, this is how I’m planning to distribute that money:

SALE: 
5%, broker and sales fees
28%, pay off the remaining balance of our loan
18%, repay personal loans
18%, repay our savings account
25%, pay down our new loan
4%, invest
1%, long term disability insurance
1%, charity

Repaying loans: The very first thing I’m going to do is pay off all the personal loans. I practically have my pen in my hand to write the check right now, I’m itching to get that crossed off the list.

Taxes: I’m not leaving anything for taxes, you’ll note, because we qualify for the federal capital gains exclusion and our end gain (Amount realized from the sale – the cost basis) won’t be over the $500k limit, more’s the pity, and it should be reasonable to expect that we shouldn’t have CA state taxes, too.

Charity: Our planned giving should be higher but until I’ve safely refilled all our coffers and figured out our new cash flow, that will need to wait. Remember to make sure your own oxygen mask is secured before helping anyone else!

The new mortgage: I have always planned to pay down the new loan, and recast it for lower monthly payments, but a new player stepped onto the stage a couple weeks ago. They offered a refinance with no closing costs and a drop of our current interest rate by .25%. It’s just a matter of when I feel like I can take that extra task on – let’s say two months after we’re moved in, I’ll dig into that.

Either way, my first step is dump cash into the loan once we receive the funding. Option 1 after that is refinancing with the other lender which has been kind of ehhh in the past but a lower rate without fees is attractive. Option 2 is to convince Chase to match the lower rate with no closing fees offer.

Whichever route works out, as long as the rate goes down and I drop that cash in the loan, we could reduce our monthly nut by about $1000. Then we’d only have doubled our housing costs, not tripled them. I AM going to miss some of the amenities we’ll be walking away from.

I’m tempted to peel off a little of that cash to treat ourselves to little things but it’s really not necessary. The real reward will be living at the address of Not Utter Chaos!

Plus, and this wasn’t planned, I have a special little box of a couple adorable things I splurged on at SDCC which includes a surprise for JuggerBaby from zir uncle. Unpacking will be a little less awful when we run into those treats.

Read Part 1 and Part 2

:: Do you treat yourself after finishing massive projects or do you just take satisfaction in a job well done? 

 

September 18, 2017

Living spaces: how much and what do you need?

[Part 9] Once upon a time, and as recently as this spring, I wanted a house with at least five rooms: three bedrooms, an office, and a library. Maybe four bedrooms. Wide spaces, with room to stretch your arms out wide and wiggle your fingers. Then to race the dog down the hallway and see who successfully skids to a stop before slamming into a wall. Dreams of a country girl.

Thus I confess, occasionally I get bitten by the jealousy bug when friends buy a 5-7 bedroom colossus on a 10,000 square foot lot for much less than our down payment.

But the reality of our lifestyle (low-key, low-energy, focused on financial freedom) doesn’t line up with the commitment of such mansion style living. And just as important, the reality of where we’ve chosen to make our lives means that we’d pay dearly and be mortgaged forever and a day if we were so very expansive when we finally found our next home.

On the lower end, the average price per square foot ranges from $500-700 hereabouts. On the higher end, I’ve seen $900-1000 per square foot.

At these prices, we would be giving up our dream of being financially free for a house.

Now, if ever there was a hermit who could flog down that cost per hour-lived-in, I’m your daisy. It took me two and a half years of working solo before I even considered it might be a good idea to see people occasionally. Maybe. (No.)

Thankfully, sense and a bit of luck prevailed – we didn’t paying our maximum bid on the purchase, but we surely paid enough that I’m simmering some ideas on bringing down the principal, stat!

Even at that cost, we didn’t get the sprawling ranch home with a moat, and carriage house (and murder holes) I fancied.

We’ve maybe 1400 square feet. It makes up 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a wee sma office. I have and would give up a lot for the balance of comfort and safety (physical or financial) of my family but if either of us ever have any choice in the matter, two bathrooms is a must. No coveted laundry room, unfortunately, nor my wished-for piano or library.

In short, it is enough room to live in, grow a little, host a friend or three temporarily, and grow old together without fighting over whose turn it is to clean the sixth bathroom.

We have a lovely bit of yard where I can have micro container garden adventures, and Seamus can sun his bones. We splurged on the Fancy Stove for my cookery and a bench for my bath because it’s every day now that I’m too tired to shower. PiC got to pick all the design and color elements so that this is a home he’d be proud of, though it was never designed with showings in mind. That’s why, though I’m proud of the work we did, I won’t be sharing pictures. We were making our home, not a showcase.

I have mild pangs of regret thinking we should have held out for something a touch bigger, a few more amenities, a few less compromises. But PiC is confident this is what we need and I trust his judgment too. Besides, what a wreck I’d be if I had to build my dream library during this very small window of time we had to work on the house!

Anyway this is all luxury, in the end. I grew up poor in Southern California so space to myself still feels like an amazing thing. A whole house for just my family is like the icing on the icing on the cake.

  • Age 1, our family of four shared a 2 bedroom house with four other families.
  • Age 3-12, our family of four shared a 600 square foot, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment on and off with single family members. We had one room, they had the other.
  • Age 13-17, our family of four lived in a 1300 square foot house with three dogs.
  • Age 17-now, our family of four, then three, then two, were in a 1500 square foot house with three, then two, then one dog(s).

Now we’re a family of three humans and large dog going from 1000 square feet to 1400 square feet, with enough room to comfortably lodge our rather frequent visitors.

PiC’s probably right, this is the right place for us. We were told to only list three Must Haves and we ended up getting 15 of our 20.

We can make this work!

:: What’s your living space minimum/ maximum? What are your dealbreaker amenities? 

Before: Background, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

Next on our Home Buying Adventure: Part 10, Part 11

September 11, 2017

Selling our home in California: Part 2

Preparing the place

It takes me an hour, after several weeks of packing and shoving things into temporary storage, to hide away all proof we actually live here.

I could maintain a show ready house at all times if I got rid of a full storage unit of furniture, books, toys, comic books, records and junk, and I spent 2 hours tidying and cleaning every day.

No, thank you.

I fully intend to get rid of a good portion of that stuff once we’re moved. But as much as it’s nice that the floors are gleaming and all surfaces are clear, the result doesn’t bring me nearly as much joy as spending the time on something else instead. Like cooking for my family!

I managed to do take out on paper plates (the imagined “easy” way to do it) exactly once during the show season. The very next day I couldn’t bear it and whipped up a nutritionally balanced and even good-lookin meal. That’s where the satisfaction’s at!

Decisions with the California timeline

Our market in the Bay Area has cooled from a white hot frenzy to just a frenzy. The spring and summer were literally unbelievable. Homes were selling a couple days after being listed, even before the scheduled open houses!

Our sale period going into the fall, delayed from the original plan to list in the summer because there was a good solid chance I’d be checking myself into an institution otherwise, meant that we expected a slightly more sedate pace.

Even the slightly more sedate pace meant a great deal of planning for a ton of activity in a short ten day window, though.

First, identify all repairs needed. You wouldn’t think it was necessary given how much some of the literal teardowns were going for but again, we missed that period.

Second, gather all ye olde paperwork. We had seller disclosures to fill out, HOA documentation to hunt down, and a stack of papers to sign.

Third, this is where the timing gets tense – in the same week, and in this order: get the repairs done, the photographer in to take photos for the listing, decide on a listing price and dates and times of your open houses, write the MLS listing and post it, get the inspection done (why? See here), have the place deep cleaned and from there on keep your home spic and span because interested buyers may schedule a visit any time after you’ve listed.

*deep breath*

We listed on Monday, had a broker tour and inspection on Tuesday, and open house on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

Offers were due by Wednesday, 9 calendar days after listing.

You wouldn’t think that we would have time to take a breath, much less be worried, with such a compressed timeline. But I’m a pro at multi-tasking so not only was I keeping our home show-ready, my family fed, my work done, I was also being a Nervous Nelly and officially a wreck by Wednesday morning. I was convinced that my timing, and the horrible political situation, combined to mean that we didn’t have any motivated buyers and our pricing strategy was going to come back and bite us.

Thank everything (and everyone rooting for us) that I was wrong on that score.

The negotiation

We had some very solid offers. In keeping with the cooler market, though, no all cash offers for us.

We had a handful of offers, two stood out as good offers. They were good for different reasons and also not good for different reasons. Our strategy, after discussing all factors: price, contingencies, strength of the likely loan applicant, the lender’s experience with this area (because we’ve had some regional difficulties that have tanked loans in the past), was to ask the second highest offer (B) to beat the highest priced (A) offer.

I know that seems counter-intuitive but this is why it made sense: A’s lending situation seemed iffy. Asking someone to adjust their lending situation isn’t an easy ask, though, and the agent was also insisting that we do some unnecessary work, citing (wrongly) mandatory regulations which we already met. B’s offer was weaker because it had more contingencies and a lower price, but those are things the buyer can personally  choose to change if they really wanted to. Offer B also wasn’t wrongly insisting that we fix things that aren’t actually problematic, and their preapproval was with a reliable lender we’ve already worked with in the past.

Our other approach was to have our agent initiate a conversation instead of just writing a counter and sending it without comment. This allowed us to informally negotiate and come to an amicable agreement quickly and easily.

B’s agent and our agent hashed out the details and our agent came back to us with a much cleaner proposal. The follow-up matched the money A was offering, didn’t come with extra work, and conceded the appraisal contingencies. Given the pre-approval with a reliable lender, keeping only the loan contingency worked for us so we wrote up the official counteroffer and by the next morning, we had a ratified contract.

You wouldn’t think a “small” thing like asking for one repair would be a dealbreaker but in this market, it can be. With all the plates that we’re spinning, I don’t want to take on even half another thing to worry about, and their request wasn’t a small thing.

Now, what’s next? 30 days until closing.

We have to be appraised, their loan has to be approved, we have to finish work on our new place, and we have to move by the date that we close escrow.

There’s going to be a lot of breath-holding while all this is happening, you already know that. Even though this seems like a good buyer and loan situation, anything can happen and that little catastrophizing prepper voice of mine won’t stop reminding me of that until the money is in our hands. Thankfully it’ll be evened out with keeping busy and reminding myself that it’s just a tense time but worrying over it won’t help anything.

I haven’t even touched on how much I hate change, so this entire process has had all my switches flipped to “NOOOO” for weeks. That’s probably why the catastrophizing voice gets so loud these days.

Read Part 1 and Part 3!

:: Have you ever had to sell a home before? What’s your least favorite thing about moving? Most  favorite?

This website and its content are copyright of A Gai Shan Life  | © A Gai Shan Life 2017. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red