I know, it must be like two months at this point, I have no excuse. Things have been going on and I haven’t been telling you about them. I know this severely stunts your day.  Not only that, it’s August and work is slower than latex paint on a radiator (??), so why don’t I jot a few things down during the day?

Like I said, no excuse. I go through these phases.  So. To catch you up on the one or two mildly interesting things that are going on, I will combine them into one post with short descriptions. Please post questions in the comments.

First, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for the basement. Or the light at the end of the stage one tunnel at least. We have installed new floor in the living/kitchen area and thusly designated a living vs. kitchen area in the main room. All we have left to do is buy doors for the closet and laundry area, touch up paint in the bedroom, tile the bedroom floor and hallway and um yeah CLEAN.  Stage one complete, we rent it out to some poor homeless Howard University student content with no kitchen, stash away that money and then spend it all at Ikea for a proper kitchen area. Done and done.

Take heed, that is not wood or laminate wood floor but the inexpensive, resilient cousin, vinyl!

Take heed, that is not wood or laminate wood floor but the inexpensive, resilient cousin, vinyl!

The second thing that happened is that Javier’s face nearly exploded!

No more walks to Rock Creek Park for you mister!

No more walks to Rock Creek Park for you mister!

Fortunately some ice and 3/8 of a benadryl brought the swelling down. I would have liked to have a heart attack when I first noticed his face (the bloating came on rather suddenly after a walk) the poor lamb. My first thought was, “Oh my god, he got in a fight with the rat” and my second thought was, “Oh my god, he ate a hypodermic needle off the sidewalk.”

The third and somewhat less interesting thing is that we got tomatoes.  On the plants ok. My own tomatoes that I sowed into the earth with love finally came to fruition like seven months later.  And promptly got blossom end rot.  We’re watering less and crossing our fingers more that the next round takes a bit better.  Now if only I can get the peppers to bloom too.

The maters in happier times.

The 'maters in happier times.

Finally, I leave you with the happy news that we still have three dogs, which should come as no surprise to anyone. And as I like to fill this blog with as many cute pictures of chihuahuas as I can, I leave you with the following regal gentleman.

Yeah. Hes in the toy box.

Yeah. He's in the toy box.

I am totally kicking the ass of this homeownership thing.  I am primarily proudest of my ability to remain calm and not have the compulsion to constantly work on something.  The truth is, not only do I not have the energy, but I also don’t want to work on a bunch of stuff after a long day at work of working on a bunch of stuff. 

I come home in the evenings and I’m like a fifties housewife (only without the marriage, which was probably key in this metaphor).  Check it out, Monday night I got home after a glorious (horrible) 45 minute bus commute and immediately set to work planting more seeds, repotting two plants, installing a deadbolt on the front door, putting in a load of laundry and finally making dinner.  I don’t know how it happened, but I can promise you, this much productivity on a work day is not going to happen too often.

There is of course still this weird drive to “address” things.  If nothing else, I want them documented in a list somewhere of things that may or may not happen one day in either the near or very distant future.  The floors will be refinished. It will not be before we have a housewarming party.  The bathrooms will be painted.  It will be before we have a housewarming party.  And god save the household budget, if I don’t set it up soon my head may explode.  It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the family falls in line with my “Johnny Says Relax” attitude.  Or at least I can hope as much.

So here it is, we did it, finally, we own a home and we’re not even thirty yet, as my grandmother so astutely pointed out yesterday.  We have officially arrived as adults and now we can begin stressing out about mortgage payments, refinancing, neighborhood watch and whatever is wrong with the roof at this point in time.  I have to say I am feeling pretty good almost a week into it- the stressful part is not the moving and getting settled, it’s the constant fog of confusion before closing where you aren’t sure if the power of attorney has arrived at the title company four hours before the scheduled paper signing session.  Not that I’m keeping track of the heart attack causing periods of the last month (gift letter issues, miscalculation of closing costs vs. total money in bank accounts and last minute homeowners insurance changes, I’m looking at YOU).

The living room, after at least three sweeps and mops a piece.

The living room, after at least three sweeps and mops a piece.

Thursday
Closing day started out just as any other: Matthew and I slept in… until like 7am!… as we had already gotten word on Wednesday night that the closing would need to be delayed a few hours due to problems with the P of A (see above) so we decided to make the most of our additional time during the day to mill around the apartment feeling anxious and not really packing anything.  James emailed at about 3:00 asking us to meet him at the house for the final walkthrough at 4:30 and off we went. It was raining pretty steadily but we had already packed/lost both umbrellas and had to concede to only wearing our hoodies.  We made it there early and decided to use the code (this is probably illegal in some way, but would not be in a matter of about 3 1/2 hours, so what the heck) to go on into what would very soon be our new home.  Nothing had collapsed/burned/exploded/been stolen so the walk through was quick and easy.  Matt and I stared with disdain at the mess that was the basement and crossed our fingers we could make it liveable and rentable in as few weeks as possible.  We headed out to the title company’s office for closing (which was again delayed by thirty minutes while they finished up the paperwork for us), making a quick stop at the liquor store so James could get us a celebratory bottle of rum and a six of Sam Adams seasonal.  I was feeling warm and excited by the time the paperwork was ready for the extensive signing session (incidentally, this was not as arduous as people had told me).  Happy surprise of the evening: our mortgage broker and close family (Matt’s) friend and his assistant came to the closing and we all got to meet face to face for the first time.  We headed over to the house immediately after (ok, we stopped for more alcohol and copied another set of the keys) to set straight to work on the carpets upstairs.  After about an hour of filthy, disgusting horrible work (albeit easy) we had several rolls of disgusting beige berber carpet sitting smelly, moldy and dusty, on our new front porch.

The dining room, which has not been cleaned as well as I would have liked but at least we aren't tracking filth through the house because of it.

The dining room, which has not been cleaned as well as I would have liked but at least we aren't tracking filth through the house because of it.

Friday
Matt insisted on setting the alarm for 6am even though his dad was not supposed to meet him until 7 and wouldn’t you know, Pete showed up at about 6:15, as Matt predicted.  I begrudgingly got up and started throwing toothbrushes, dog bowls, last nights pjs and various other miscellany into whatever bag or box I could find and the movers showed shortly after sunrise at about 7:20.  They were two very nice Latino men who got the whole job done in less than three hours (although at one point I doubted they would be able to fit all the CRAP plus the couch and our dressers into their truck but it all worked out anyway).  Meanwhile, Matthew and Pete headed to the house to get started on the basement with nothing but excellent results- it turns out there was not a burst pipe but a problem with leaky valves on every single toilet, sink and bathtub in the house. Ridiculous, but easy to tighten and easy to stop; we were relieved.  They continued on, handling various plumbing-related issues with only an impressive two trips to the Home Depot.  Regrettably, the rest of a the day is a blur.  I recall a trip to McDonalds and possibly Target. At one point there was a long walk to the nearest police station to request a guest parking permit since Pete had already gotten a $30 ticket (the circumstances surrounding the ticket were questionable).  I also made a trip to Washington Gas because PLEASE TURN ON OUR HEAT BECAUSE IT’S STILL REALLY COLD AT NIGHT OK.  We cleaned most of the afternoon in order to make the air quality in the bedroom at least moderately acceptable for sleep the first night.  This entailed about five rounds of sweeping and four of mopping as well as crawling around on hands and knees disinfecting the baseboards and corners.  That night we learned about the lightpost aimed directly at the bedroom window and vowed to buy curtains first thing tomorrow.

People pay money to reproduce that kind of exposed brick/plaster combination in their Italian restaurants.

People pay money to reproduce that kind of exposed brick/plaster combination in their Italian restaurants.

Saturday
Cleaning. Meeting with contractors about the basement remodel. Cleaning. Going to Target. Mopping. Going to Home Depot. Dusting. Unpacking. Sweeping. Going back to Target. Cleaning. Mopping. Dusting. Scrubbing. Cleaning. (The house was way dirtier than we noticed, to the point of disgusting.)

I can't even begin to think how bad of an idea it is for us to temporarily keep our trash in the basement.

I can't even begin to think how bad of an idea it is for us to temporarily keep our trash in the basement.

Sunday
Matt scheduled cable installation for that morning but obviously there was a hangup and they couldn’t do it.  According to the tech that came out, his ladder wouldn’t reach to our roof (apparently we have the largest two-story attached row house in the entire city) and someone would be out later that day.  As you could probably guess, as is the case with every cable company in the whole world, they didn’t show and rescheduled for the following day.  We made significant progress on unpacking and finally started to feel somewhat comfortable about the level of cleanliness in the upstairs.  The size of the kitchen was made apparent by the cursing as I attempted to cram pots, pans, coffepots and pantry items into five cupboards.

While the paint colors may be considered "creative" they're going. Seriously.

While the paint colors may be considered "creative" they're going. Seriously.

Monday
Another day off for both of us and we were very close to being ready for Matt’s sister and her boyfriend to come over that evening.  We had decided to hire the Italian dude to do our basement, and more importantly address the leaky gutter/roof/window problem.  Dave the Contractor worked steadily for 9 hours yesterday and I paid him $450 to come back and finish tiling our shower and putting on a ceiling and etc. etc.  The cable guys also finally showed and after using the same ladder the first guy should have used and something like 500 hours of work, they finished installation around 7:00pm (I estimate they arrived at about 2:30).  We vacuumed (yes, we got to that point) mopped and generally narrowed our stuff down to about 6 boxes just in time for the Brinks guy to show up and the cable dudes to leave.

Our refridgerator is housed in it's own little cubby, which used to be the door to the dining room!

Our refridgerator is housed in it's own little cubby, which used to be the door to the dining room!

Tuesday
After a sleepless night worrying about paying rent (I will summarize our landlord experience in a separate post once the ordeal is over) Brinks, cable and Dave the Contractor, I settled in on the couch for an unproductive day of finally blogging updates for my friends and family on what has happened over the past few days and wondering if Matt could leave work early enough for it to make sense for me to go into the office.  Dave came down a couple of hours ago and while the gutter is fixed and the roof looks good, there still seems to be some sort of water leak up there as there is a slow and constant drip (which is no longer going in the window, but is still a problem) and he’s leaving to go to Lowe’s for more materials.  At least the shower is tiled.

I’m watching last night’s (I assume) Colbert Report and sitting with the dogs listening to sirens and children (why aren’t they in school??) and trying to think of something productive to do next.  Twiddling my thumbs is not going so great actually, but there will be things to do, an unending list of things to do. Once we have money again. If ever.

The rest of the photo tour of the house is here.

A number of interesting, but only if you were really wondering, things have happened since we last spoke.  I will outline them here, if you are good.

  • We had the FHA appraiser through and it went well.  Conservative appraisal, but I’m told this is not surprising as FHA is usually conservative and they are also realistic with the market.  We think that if we had the same person come in three years from now, it would be much higher, even if the house were in the exact same condition.  Regardless, the appraisal is above what we’re paying, so we’re all good.
  • The city appraiser (or however you classify this person- the non-FHA dude?) is apparently an idiot.  And so is the other agent, possibly.  Some how PEPCO turned off the electric between the time we had the inspection and the following week when the regular appraiser was in.  This was apparently and oversight (what else is new, PEPCO) and no one’s fault but the elecctric company’s.  Except then there is the issue of the water, which WASA says has not been turned off and is active since the 3rd.  The appraiser claims there is no water and he can’t do his inspection.  Well sir, did you try turning it on at the main valve?  I know I’m new at this, but even I am aware of the existence of the little lever that is currently preventing the busted pipe in the basement from spewing expensive H2O throughout the house.  Seriously?  Seriously?
  • Finally, the tidal wave of paperwork has moved into a steady trickle (just like the faucet in the bathroom upstairs!) which has me exponentially less freaked out.  We should find out from the broker what bank we are going with (and the interest rate!) later today and I got confirmation my bonus check will be deposited in time for closing.  AND we have a bunch of people coming to check out the apartment in the next few days.  Sigh of relief, drinks all around!

At this point, the Realtor is relieved my Type A-ness is coming towards a more relaxed middle ground and she can focus more on her work and less on my sudden questions over text message.  And I can start packing these infernal boxes…

Everyone knows that generally speaking, paying a mortgage makes so much more sense than paying rent.  For one thing, sometimes the monthly payment is less for more square footage.  For another thing, even if it’s about the same price per month, the money is going to come back to you in resale in a mortgage.  When the landlords decided to raise the rent after Matt moved in, our discussion on this point became much more thorough. We decided it was time to “keep an eye out” for the right thing.  And maybe in, you know, about 3, 4 5 months we’d find something in our price range to buy.

Shortly thereafter, Matt ended up waiting on a real estate agent at his restaurant and we had instant access to any property we wanted to see.  And we visited a few in the neighborhood, all the while I nagged Matt, “She does realize that we aren’t going to buy anything any time soon right?  I just don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”  It turns out her job is to work with people who are “just looking” and trying to “get a feel for what’s out there” until she encourages them enough to think that they could buy something and fix it up.  Still, I was pretty sure we needed to learn how to pay our credit card bills on time before we started thinking about getting a friggin’ mortgage!

And then last Monday happened.

Last Monday.  Just a few short weeks after we’d looked at our first property.  2 months, maybe a bit more, since we’d started talking about it in the first place.

I’m signed up to get updates from a few realtors and this place popped up on the market that day.  Well below our price range and in the most up-and-comingest part of our up-and-coming current neighborhood.  In fact, less than half a block from my current high end condo building I was renting from.  We were familiar with the neighborhood and the unwieldiness of the home prices in the blocks around us.

Great opportunity for today’s investor or first-time buyer interested in 203K financing. Property needs total renovation. Roof was replaced. Make an offer on this conveniently located property.

Uh huh.  How bad, exactly, is the fire damage/crumbling foundation/termite nest?  I emailed the listing realtor and didn’t hear back, so on his way to work later that afternoon, Matt called our agent and asked if she could take me over (I was off all last week for the holiday).  Take pictures, I was commanded and off we went.

shit hole dining room

I thought I might die.  The place was a complete Shithole.  The Shithole has feces, bits of gunk and crap, leaves, actual soil, leaves, clothing, cans, and various other bits of disgusting pieces of shit littered throughout the place.  I did not wish to touch a single thing in the house, but fully understood the unbelievable price.  I snapped tons of pictures.  The moment I got home I called my dad and told him to check his email. What did he think?  Not the worst renovation he’s ever seen, but definitely near the top.  But can we handle it?  Well… you get some of the big stuff taken care of by the experts, I think you could handle it maybe…  Matt and I agreed.  It had strong possibilities, and with a promised 300% return on our investment, how could we not consider it?  Despite it being a Shithole.

The Shithole is the definition of investment, sweat equity, climbing the property ladder, and various other titles of shows on HGTV.  We were doubtful and intrigued and cocky but realistic.  We slept on it and then invited Matt’s dad (professional plumber) over to check the place out.

"The plumbing is the least of your concerns."

"The plumbing is the least of your concerns."

He concurred. The place was a Shithole.  But he didn’t notice any horrendous problems one could cope with.  Except the roof, which during my dark tour the first time around, I did not notice the significant water damage on the south corner of the house.  Oops.  This would be a problem, but hopefully not something our 203K financing couldn’t cover for us to make the place livable.

So we made an offer.  Just like that.  We made an offer on our first house yesterday.  We slept on it one more night of course, and discussed how much we would offer (I suggested $20,000, but evidently this isn’t enough) and what our contingencies should be.  (We ended up offering about 11% less than the asking price, plus the seller had to clean out the debris and contingent upon a satisfactory inspection).  The next day we met the real estate agent at Matt’s restaurant and signed the papers.  Our 14 day clock starts now.