Archive for category About Me

House Hunting – Part 2

Continuing where the last entry left off, I put in an offer on a different home, although just across the street. Also a foreclosure, but this property is owned by a different bank. It’s been listed since October of 2013, and every 2 months they drop the listed price by about 10%. I had an idea of what I thought I would pay for this one, but my realtor convinced me to make an offer significantly lower. And I’m glad he did. I submitted my offer with the realtor after work on a Wednesday evening, I had a counter offer before noon the next day. Their counter was even below the price I originally had in mind, so I accepted! I know what you’re thinking, I thought it also: why not make a second offer and see what they say? But we’re only talking about $2,000 difference, and I didn’t want to get greedy and lose this house to the next person in line like I did the first one.

Then it was a waiting game to get my contract. I had to initial 12 pages of “addenda” to the offer, basically a bank novel to help me understand that “as-is” really means “as-is.” One week later, I had my contract and took it to the bank. I was already pre-approved for a mortgage several months before. I did this for 2 reasons: first of all, I wanted to know what dollar amount the bank would let me borrow for a home, because there is a very precise calculation they do comparing your debt to your income. Secondly, if I did find the right house, I would need a bank financing letter in order to submit an offer. Since I already did the first step, the bank took my contract and I signed the mortgage application. The funny part was when the banker (super nice guy, btw) says, “how much?” The look on his face was priceless. I had already explained to him in our first conversation that I was looking for a fixer-upper. Apparently he didn’t know just how much of a ‘fixer’ I was after. The look on his face said, “Are you sure you know what you are getting yourself into?” YEP! But I was prepared for that expression. I explained that I’ve tackled home improvement projects for the past several years, and have done woodworking for even longer. To convince him further (not that it was necessary, but I don’t shy away from showing my work) I brought along a small album of before and after photos including inside, outside, and a major bath redo. He seemed impressed, not so much by the work itself, but that he had no idea I was a DIY guy.

So now its just waiting on the bank to confirm all of my application details, hire an appraisal on the home, run a title search on the property, and then hopefully schedule the loan closing. On or before April 18, just over a month away! Being under contract is such a relief. I’ve been making an inventory of the things I will need. I can start picking up household items when I see them on sale or at yard sales this spring. I’m Craigslisting every day to find nice used appliances. And I can’t stop Pinteresting ideas for every room. Have you searched “Craftsman Bungalow” on Pinterest? You don’t know what love is until you do.

My little bungalow (yes, I am already calling it mine; I might also drive down the street at least every other day to see what the neighbors are up to and how the house looks as the snow continues to melt) – anyway, it has 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, kitchen, living room, dining room, and small laundry area at the back entrance. Also a 1 car garage with stone drive, back yard shed, and pretty good size yards in front and back. All the woodwork and dining room built-ins are painted, but they look original and otherwise in great shape. Hardwood floors under the old carpet, though needing refinished. The windows look original to the house, and badly need replaced. The roof also looks terrible; although there’s no water damage to the ceilings, it looks like just a matter of time until it fails. The bathroom is terrible; plywood on the floor, extremely soft all around the fixtures from lots of water damage. And the bath layout overall looks cramped, I’ve already been sketching ideas for moving either the vanity or the toilet. But I cannot wait to get started! And I do plan to document every room and the outside with lots of “before” pictures so I can enjoy looking back and seeing how much change I’ve created over the next few years.

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Head, Heart, and House Hunting

To recap the last couple years, off and on this blog has been a writing tool and way to journal about the home improvement and DIY projects I’ve tacked. However, these have not been on my own place. Most have documented the improvements to my mother’s home, so that she has a house to serve her long term needs and keeping in mind qualities that will need little maintenance in the future. But with my job now being full time and the desire to start roots here, I’ve been house hunting.

And so I should probably explain my choice of title. Because 4 months ago I was not even thinking about a house of my own. A spacious loft apartment, yes perhaps. But home ownership? Sure, I have the knowledge to do a lot of the work, but I thought that was years off. Now I’m not so sure. That’s why these last few months have also been head and heart “hunting.” Or maybe that’s just my way of saying, soul searching. Determining what I want in my future, and deciding that a fixer-upper house in a nice neighborhood is a plan that makes sense both in my head and heart, and in my budget. I think I’ve shown on paper that it will be a smart step for now and also for the years to come, and of course with my love of DIY, my heart was already into it.

What would I want in a house? Being single, I wanted something small and efficient. As a lover of all things old, I wanted a house with charm and character (“they don’t build em’ like this anymore”). And with a desire to do all things myself, I wanted a fixer upper (DIY or die trying). And I knew I was on a budget, looking at the middle to lower realm of the housing market in my area (including many foreclosures).

I found that homes meeting this criteria fell into 2 main categories. Either they had owners who slapped on inexpensive and crappily done “improvements” (I’m talking cheap quality, glue down flooring, flimsy paneled walls, cardboard cabinets, and plastic baseboard); or, they had gone without maintenance so long that the original character wasn’t worth saving (holes in the roof, holes in the exterior walls, windows falling out, floors falling in). I finally told my realtor; I want as authentic to the original home as possible, but in the best possible condition. And small, but in a nice neighborhood. And less than $50k. I think he was about to give up on me.

And then I found the right street. An older neighborhood of mostly large, character-rich and wonderfully loved and maintained homes. Lining the last 2 blocks are several little bungalows, all very similar in size and style. And several of them for sale. And of those, a few right in my price range!

I know they say don’t buy the first home you look at, but it was love at first sight. Craftsman built ins, small and efficient, needing DIY TLC, beautiful woodwork, stained glass details, great foundation and decent roof. So I made an offer and waited. And that funny positive feeling that said, “this is the one?” Wrong. I waited about 2 weeks, only to find out my offer was rejected, and the home was now under contract. Well shoot.

Ok, what about the second home you look at? And right across the street from the one that I was unsuccessful with? I looked at it, very similar in size but different in the types of work it needed. Roof is sagging, windows not in great shape, but the same built ins and a better layout! And a few of the neighboring houses have recently seen very nice renovations. Let’s put an offer on that one!

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Something to Reveal

Wow; WordPress had to send me an e-mail reminding me to renew my blog subscription and domain name. That “reveals” to me how long it has been since I last updated this blog. No, I’m not proud of the 6 month hiatus. But I am proud of what I’ve been doing in this time.

This past summer and fall, the house painting project got 90% complete; but a job and the cold weather set in before I could finish. I still have the north gable and trim, as well as the east fascia boards that are primed but not yet painted. I want to use the first few warm Spring weekends to finish painting those areas. Priming and painting the front door a spicy Fireweed red should be another short weekend project. The house currently does not have shutters, but I have envisioned adding a contrasting color by introducing shutters since day 3 (days 1 and 2 were spent bringing the bathroom and kitchen up to speed in this former beat-up rental home).

I have already revealed that I enjoy hunting for old furniture at yard sales and auctions, but I’ve been really good. There have been a few items that have tempted me, but I already have several sets of chairs and a big chest of drawers waiting for a new life, not to mention 3 dining chairs to refinish and reupholster to complete my dining room set.

And the windows. That was probably one of the lengthier projects I have ever undertaken… and technically, not yet finished because I am still without woodwork. Only now I am without woodwork with new windows that are air-tight, water-tight, and so much nicer looking on the outside and soon on the inside. I’m re-using as much of the old woodwork as possible, using mis-matched pieces on the windows where the trim will be painted, and sanding down to bare wood for the windows that will have stained trim. But trimming out each window is a lengthy job; creating a new window sill (So exciting to be getting window sills! The old windows were trimmed without this much-needed ledge); lining the inside of the window opening with 1/2″ thick lumber; and finding the best pieces of used molding to complete the inside trim. To this point (4 windows of 12 total), I have been able to use entirely all salvaged board and trim.

So if you read the title, you might be wondering what I have to reveal. Well, the first hint is that I am going to have to change this blog’s tagline. I am no longer unemployed. It just so happens that I was selected as the Interim Program Manager for my hometown’s Main Street organization! You can read all about it from either our town newspaper, or our town’s online newspaper. From the first week, I have been excited for the challenges and rewards each day brings! I have so many ideas for Van Wert, specifically the downtown, and with my long-time passion for historic preservation, I know I can make a positive impact on this community through Main Street.

What does this mean? Well, firstly I am employed. And it’s more than just a temporary job. It’s an experience job, and so far I love it! The people, the multitude of tasks each day, the office, and the entire downtown district. I am still getting to know the business owners and learning about their businesses, in hopes that I can be as beneficial as possible to them. Fortunate for me, the guy I replaced was very willing to come in periodically and walk me through different responsibilities and answer the multitude of questions I need answered. No, its not as a designer; but I truly enjoy working where I can make a positive impact in people’s lives, and I get to spend my evenings and weekends doing design and construction, my other passion.

So what are my other goals for this Spring and ultimately this year? I’d like to find a nice screened storm door for the front so that I can enjoy the Spring and Summer breeze.

I have been thinking about how nice it would be to have a small gabled awning over the back door, not only to help protect the door from the elements, but to keep myself dry when I stand bumbling for the house key in the rain. And I think it would help give the side door a friendlier look. Something similar to this:

Or this one.

Similar to how ours would look, as I could easily move the light from the its current position beside the door to above. Also, our utility room window is just about the same distance the left of the door.

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