Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sweet Dreams

Butterface and I are spending our first night together at Highlands.

We have little to say other than, it has been an exhausting year and an exhausting day.  May you rest well and wake with energy for the new year.

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall. 
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.   
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord ʼs great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.   
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:19‭-‬23 NIV

Posted by Fenchurch.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Let It Snow

After the first real snow storm.

Trillian (serious): We have ice dams.
Fenchurch (also serious): This is bad, right?
Trillian: Very.
Fenchurch (attempting upbeat): There's a reason that floor is in bad shape.  Do we have tarps or something to protect the floor while we figure it out?
Trillian (practical): A bucket.  A tarp isn't going to let the floor dry out.
Fenchurch (helpfully): Home Depot gives a very small discount on 20+ buckets.
Trillian (still practical): We need to figure out where the leak is coming from.
Fenchurch (stating the obvious): Presumably from the edge of the rubber roof.
Trillian (STILL practical): Zaphod can go up and look.

Before the second real snow storm.

Zaphod (after being on roof) : ...They cut the downspout off, and put trim right under it - but never bothered to plug it up.  They even put rubber roofing below to hold the water in and channel it into the wall.
Fenchurch (impressed): Wow.  What they did, they did well.
Zaphod (sincere, maybe): Very thoughtful of them to think of everything except to plug the freaking hole.
Fenchurch (curious) : What did you do?
Zaphod (explaining) :  Drilled with 2 inch hole saw, and inserted about 8" pipe.
Foam and caulking will have to work 'til spring.

During the second real snow storm.
 (curious): Hi Trillian.  Is the ceiling leaking?
No response.

Fenchurch (extra curious): Hi Zaphod.  Is the roof leaking?
No response.

Fenchurch (resigned to blissful ignorance): Come on, Butterface.  Dinner time!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Key to a Good Plan

Zaphod and I had a plan for today - to associate every light and outlet in the main house to its appropriate circuit breaker or fuse.

While I was waiting for Zaphod to set up the Canon so we could make notes on printed floor plans, I sorted through a pile of keys looking for one that matched a rarely used exterior door.  (Butterface and I are still coming to an understanding about who gets to pee in the house and who has to go outside.  A more accessible door might strengthen my case.)

I called to Zaphod that I was giving up - I didn't think the key was there.  He replied that he couldn't figure out how to make the printer work.

"I'm good with keys.  Why don't I do that and you figure out how to print this?"

5 minutes later he handed me the key I wanted and I handed him a printed floor plan.

6 hours later...we were slowed by numerous debates with Benji-Mouse and Frankie about which order their Christmas Lego kits should be built in [all the good Star Wars guys first? or some of the good guys and then some of the bad guys?].  Also there was a  joint attack on Zaphod: both Frogstar and Butterface escaped their respective holding pens and made their way to the basement where Frogstar loaded up his diaper and Butterface unloaded on the basement floor.  (I'm not the only one interested in making the "outside" process easier.)

6 hours later, we had identified almost every circuit in the main house.

Posted by Fenchurch.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Blue Like Shag

Everyone's got an opinion about what should be changed at Highlands (not a lot of love lost on the wood paneling in the family room) and what should be kept as it is (the peacock wallpaper.  I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't love the peacock wallpaper).

Lots of people have also claimed to like this blue shag carpet, but I *think* they were joking.  Regardless, after filling three vacuum bags with blue fiber and dust, I decided the shag was going to defy cleaning and the best course of action was complete removal.

Zaphod found a lose corner and left me and Trillian to complete the task.  Trillian demonstrated an amazing aptitude for pulling up tack-track in long strips (while it just splintered for me), and Butterface was there to  to greypervise the work.

Many staples and nails later, we are left with this.  Trillian and I agree - without the carpet, the wallpaper is almost bearable.  

Note: we did this on Christmas Eve and I only just found time today to report.  
Merry Christmas!!

Posted by Fenchurch.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Two Sleeps 'Till Christmas

Because we didn't get our keys until a few weeks ago and because most of our stuff is in boxes, we have done only token decorating.  After a hard year all around, it's a glimmer of Christmas hope for 2017.

Posted by Fenchurch.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

House Shopping - Epilogue

Today, almost five weeks after getting the keys to Highlands, I took the day off work to meet with the Slateman and a home efficiency adviser.  Also the plumbers were coming back.

(Among the things I've learned in these five brief weeks is that the adage "the only thing two plumbers/electricians/roofers will agree on is that the third plumber/electrician/roofer is wrong" is very very true.)

We had a list of questions to ask the Slateman.  Should we re-build a "missing" brick column in the basement?  Could we tidy up an exposed interior brick wall?  And most importantly, could my newly delivered wall oven potentially be built into a brick wall in the kitchen that we hope to renovate some day?

Oh right - and then there is the little matter of the front chimney.  I don't know much about masonry, but I'm pretty sure that the grey stuff you usually see between bricks is important.
(Photo courtesy of Zaphod who got up on the cold slate roof (unasked) and then messaged me to say "I did this for YOU, Fenchurch.")

After we had concluded our discussion about the priority of the work that needed to be done, the Slateman told us that he was on his way to install some snow guards.  He mentioned the street.

"What's the house number, if you don't mind me asking?" 

And sure enough - it was the first house we had looked at.  We asked him to congratulate the new owners for us.  "And if they decide they don't want those lion drawer pulls," I added, "I'll be happy to take them."

Of course, the conversation then turned to the second house on our shopping list which has also been sold since we first looked at it and where, as it turns out, the Slateman has also been called on to do work.  Again, we asked him to give the new owners our best as they definitely have their work cut out for them.

"You'll have to let us know in a year whether we made the right choice." I commented.  The Slateman indicated that he already knew - and that we had.  Time will tell.

And as my soon-to-be former LandLady remarked "All of these houses sold and renovated means good things for your neighborhood."

Posted by Fenchurch.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

House Shopping - Part 2

Recap: I decided to shop for houses that would accommodate me and my friends with their 3 boys.

I'm not sure what my real estate agent thought when we walked into the second house on my shopping list.  It was beautiful on the outside and absolutely decrepit on the inside.  Peeling paint, collapsing ceilings, not a functioning appliance or fixture in the place.  But you could tell that it had once been proud and grand.  Zaphod, Trillian and I wandered through, commenting on wood work and scraps of wallpaper.  But we agreed with very little discussion that the amount of money required to restore that house to anything like its original glory was more than we would ever have and more than I would ever get back if I sold the property.

We moved on to house candidate 3.  It had an official in-law apartment for guests or rental.  Zaphod liked the brick structure and slate roof.  Trillian and I admired the high ceilings of the double parlour and the perfectly balanced swinging door between the pantry and dining room.  There were lots of doors which meant that the main house could easily be subdivided into family space and single-with-dog space.  The house clearly had stories to tell about previous renovations; the front retained much of its original 1837 character while the kitchen and family room had a certain 50s appeal.  The upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms had a range of bright pink paint and blue shag carpet, but underneath were hardwood floors and there were a lot of closets and built in shelving.  Despite drafts and cracked windows and peeling paint, the house had clearly been well maintained even though it had been vacant for several years.

After this, I went on my own to see a two family with a "difficult tenant" upstairs, a  fully furnished B 'n B, and a variety of single family homes with recently (sloppily) painted interiors.

Of the options, Highlands (as I began to call it) was clearly our best option.

According to the experts (and anyone who's ever done it), buying a house is one of the most stressful things you can do in life.  I think I was reasonably calm, except for the appraisal process.

Zaphod and Trillian thought we had a reasonable chance of restoring Highlands to a beautiful condition but I wanted to see it one more time before making a final decision and putting in an offer.  So I contacted my real estate agent's partner.  (My agent was out of town.)  I met the partner at Highlands and as we walked through together, I asked her what she thought a reasonable price for the house would be.  She told me and then asked me about my financing.  None of her business, I suppose, in retrospect.  But I answered the question and she told me with conviction "you'll never get financing for this house".  I assured her I had spoken to the mortgage officer and wasn't getting an FHA mortgage so I didn't think there was anything about the property that would be a problem.  The partner inquired again about my expected down payment and interest rate and after I told her she again insisted "you will never get financing for this house".

I think I cried on my way home.  This woman was an experienced professional and I didn't understand why she wouldn't be more supportive of my desire to spend LOTS of money with her partner - unless she was right and the house wouldn't pass an appraisal and it was all just a waste of time.  I went straight to bed when I got home and woke up to discover that through my own fault or her nosiness, my dog had gotten out of the apartment and relieved herself inappropriately in our neighbor's space.  Kind of like the canine version of insult to injury.

By the time my agent came back to town, I had spoken to the bank again and been reassured that there was no obvious reason why I would be denied a loan.  I picked a price and made an offer.  There was a counter offer.  And a counter-counter.  And an agreement.   And a very detailed inspection.  And then the appraisal was scheduled.  And Zaphod and Trillian made plans to move.  (The offer was made in mid August.)

But then the appraiser refused the job because he was sent to appraise a one family home and the in-law apartment made it two family.  And the appraisal was rescheduled.  But the new appraiser changed her mind because there weren't comparable properties in the neighborhood.  The closing date was postponed by 4 weeks.  Zaphod and Trillian put their things in storage.  The bank made calls and the second appraiser was convinced to take the job again.  Only to turn around 3 1/2 weeks later and once again refuse to complete the appraisal.

And that's when I got very, very angry.

There were many calls to the bank.  The closing was extended again.  And the fourth appraiser completed the paperwork in time for me to close three months after the original offer was made.

I took the day off work, arrived at the lawyer's office for 9 am and left not long after with a fistful of keys.

Highlands was ours.

Posted by Fenchurch.

Monday, December 19, 2016

House Shopping - Part 1

I think it's important to start this story by saying, I didn't *need* a house.  Looking at houses was just something to do to make the weekends more interesting. 

This summer was my second summer in Maine and my 10th (ish?) summer living in a furnished apartment.  I was starting to feel like I should buy my own place so I could be annoyed at myself instead of a landlord for things like poorly cleaned carpets and unlit exterior walkways.  And since I did the tourist thing last summer, I wanted this summer to be a bit more educational.  It seemed reasonable to start window shopping locally to at least get an idea of property prices and the home buying process and what I actually like in houses.  When you don't *have* to buy, you have the luxury of shopping for what you want.  If you know what you want, that is.

I browsed through the local Zillow listings and found a big old fixer-upper that appealed to me.  A Bangor friend recommended an agent.  A visit was arranged.  And as I wandered through room after room of this three story house, I thought... you could house a lot of people in a place like this.  Or a lot of greyhounds, which is, I confess, an idea which appealed to me. 

As it happened, my freshman year college roommate was in town with her husband that weekend.  He's what you might call "competent with tools" and he has the resume and photos to prove it.  They had just finished several years of challenging church ministry and were looking for a change of pace and a new home for their 3 boys. 

"Come with me to look at this humongous house," I said.  "I could fill it with dogs and let it fall down around my ears, or you could all move in and help me fix the place up."

They came.  We opened doors.  We tapped on walls.  We looked for the source of water stains. We tilted our heads at the interesting renovation choices of the previous owners. We discussed at length. And we finally decided against this particular house.  (I gave up these drawer pulls.  Sad, but true.)

But we agreed to pursue the general idea of joint living, so I called my agent, and the next weekend we were out tapping on walls again.

To be continued...