Some udpates

December 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted and things have been unsurprisingly busy. I thought I’d write a quick little post to update you on the latest goings-on:

These aren't in the running anymore, but aren't they pretty? We were considering them in September but we ultimately decided against.

We’re house hunting again! Originally we had been planning to wait until after the new year to start looking again in earnest, but about ten days ago our realtor pointed out that we didn’t have to wait quite that long: if we found a house last week we could still ask for a 45-day closing which would put us past the FHA-mandated milestone that Blake work at Amazon for six months. I still feel kind of sad about the last house, and in fact I couldn’t even bring myself to check and see if it’s still available. Whether it is or not is moot, though — our house preferences have changed while we’ve lived down here in the heart of downtown. It’s been such a neat experience, and it’s made us both want to be far closer to the city than we would have been with the house we almost got. So instead of looking at the suburbs, now we’re only considering houses that are actually in the city of Seattle (or very close to its borders).

What’s even more exciting, though, is that just recently we found a house that we both love. It’s a small amount more than we wanted to pay, but we’re in a unique position to wait until the price drops and/or the owner (which is a bank) is more open to price negotiation. (It seems unwise to give more detail on our strategy in such a public place, so I won’t.) We’re still looking at other homes, though, because it’s not exactly prudent to get your heart set on one house  — it makes negotiations a lot harder.  But this house has definitely raised the bar on what we’re willing to drive out and look at. It’ll probably be a while before we make an offer on anything, but I’ll definitely keep you posted when/if we start exchanging signed papers.

Nano cozed in the corner

Nano cozed in the corner

In other news, we’re getting Nano fixed today. Though we had originally been advised that it’s best to wait a year before spaying, our vet gave us a compelling reason to do it ASAP: if girl dogs are prevented from having their first heat, there’s some huge correlation with the prevention of mammary cancer. (Like, a correlation over 50%.) That was enough for me and so Nano’s becoming a little bit less girly. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s much change in her personality afterwards. When she comes home this afternoon she will have a big cone around her head and I’m sure she will look very sad and pathetic. Consequently, I’ll be sure to take loads of pictures and put them on the internet.

In the meantime, please enjoy this video of her playing an excellent round of fetch on the stairs. She’s the best fetcher I’ve ever owned!

We’ve had an interesting development with our noisy neighbors saga. Since Thanksgiving the music has been back — sometimes at night, sometimes late, and always loud. Sometimes really loud. Even though we are perfectly within our rights to complain to the management again, I really didn’t want to be that person who’s just complaining all the time, so I waited a couple days. But after a few nights of lying awake to the bass percussion at 3 a.m., I vowed to complain again. And so I did: I marched down to the leasing office and very nicely told them the times and dates that these inconsiderate and rude people had continued to disturb us at unreasonable hours despite the management warning them once already. The nice office manager said she’d speak with them again and off I went.

Pico in coat and booties

During the Thanksgiving snow we had, the tea garden (where we walk the dogs) was covered with ice and snow and salt. Both Pico and Nano would occasionally step on sharp salt and then cry for a minute or so, so we bought them adorably ridiculous booties. (The booties lasted about twenty feet before they came off.) It makes a great photo, though.

Later in the afternoon I had a package, so I stopped by the office to pick it up. And guess what happened? The office manager said that she’d spoken to the offending neighbors but that they were most definitely not playing music — in fact, the resident’s elderly mother was visiting and had made them go to bed at 8 p.m. for the last several days! However, they directed her to their next-door neighbors who, according to them, play loud music all the time. Well, as you may recall, we had quite a bit of difficulty initially determining who was playing the music. (Though we were pretty confident by the time I wrote the last post about it.) The apartment they had reported was one of the ones we initially suspected, so we found the story entirely believable. Once I told the office manager she arranged to speak with the noisy folks and we haven’t had a single problem since. (This was about ten days ago.) On rare occasions I’ve heard it loud during the day, but mostly they’ve been quiet as a mouse down there. And happy as I am to have a nice ending to this story, I do still wish the noisy people had actually seen my note! But alas, it was on the door of someone who was already being quiet. Ah, the injustice of it all.

In other other news, our Christmas plans are very peaceful this year. We considered trying to visit Blake’s family in Houston or Dad and Sylvia in Georgia, but flights to both were inordinately expensive. ($600+ per person!) So we decided instead to just stay here in our tiny apartment and have a cozy first married Christmas here in Seattle. We even have reservations for dinner at the Melting Pot! I’ve also gotten all my Christmas gifts in the mail way early this year, and it’s nice to be ahead of the game.

I think those are all the major updates for now. I’ll let you know if anything interesting happens. =)

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Good news and bad

October 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Blake and the dogsWell, things have been pretty busy around here. And not really in a good way, either. Let’s jump right into the bad news: we’re not getting the house. Our beautiful, wonderful house that we had been hoping for and planning on for quite a while now. It turns out that due to some recent changes in the government guidelines for FHA loans, Blake has to have this job and salary for six months before we’re eligible for a home loan. The thing that’s made it so unpleasant is that we didn’t find out until very late in the financing process — after we had turned in all the forms and paperwork and the lender spoke to his underwriter and said we were good to go.

I’m pretty devastated about it to say the least. After our lender told us, we talked to a couple other lenders who confirmed that this wasn’t a judgment call but instead something mandated by the laws pertaining to FHA loans. Unfortunately, for each of these other lenders we couldn’t find out immediately — the guys selling the loans assured us everything would be fine each time, then we’d turn in our paperwork with much hurried emails and faxes and optimism only to be told several days later that the FHA guidelines had recently changed and gee, they were sorry. So for the last three weeks we’ve been yo-yo-ing between sadness and then hopeful optimism as each new lender initially sounded positive and then later dashed our hopes upon the rocks. Also I had a terrible cold for about half of October, and generally speaking this wasn’t my favorite month ever.

It’s not like it’s the end of the world, I know. I mean, if our biggest problem in life is that we can’t get this beautiful house right now, then life is very good indeed. But all that work! Ever since we got to Seattle I’ve been working 40-50 hours per week on home-buying — searching for houses online, spending days and days checking each one out with the realtor, dealing with the lender, tracking down all the documentation, etc. It’s been a huge undertaking and all that work is now effectively wasted. Not all of it, I guess — I think I’ll be much more efficient now in the upcoming round of househunting and lender-hunting — but it’s still a tremendous loss for that reason alone. (Needless to say, we won’t be going with that lender again. If they had told us this before several weeks had passed, I wouldn’t be nearly so sad.)

To make matters worse, we didn’t really know that there were no other options until this past Thursday. (Til then we thought another lender would work out fine.) And on this coming Thursday, our free corporate housing from Amazon expires! (We were originally supposed to close on the house on 10/27.) So Thursday night I was pretty sad indeed — faced with the prospect of finding an apartment and new storage for our stuff in less than a week. But we’re working on it.

…which brings us to the good news. After spending all day Friday and most of Saturday looking at apartments, I was able to get us into a spacious 665-square-foot apartment in downtown Seattle: Uwajimaya Village Apartments. The reason that this news is particularly good is its location — it is about 50 feet from the building where Blake works! Not only that, Uwajimaya Village Apartments is named for a very interesting Asian market called Uwajimaya which is right downstairs from the apartments themselves. Uwajimaya is so interesting, in fact, that it deserves a post all its own which I’ll probably do once we’re all moved in over there and I’ve taken some photos.

So what’s our plan for a house? Well, we can’t get a home loan until Blake’s six-month anniversary of February 2. So in January or so I’ll start house-hunting again and see what’s available. Maybe, just maybe, this home will still be on the market. It doesn’t seem likely. Nor does it seem likely that its sellers will be too inclined to give us a good deal, since we’d have to go through making a whole new offer, negotiations, and etc. Although this situation was not of our making at all, I get the impression the seller’s realtor doesn’t think too highly of us. (Just as we were waiting to hear back from the final lender we spoke with last week, the seller’s realtor was getting antsy and threatened to put the house back on the market anyway. She also called us on the phone — which is apparently considered inappropriate and unprofessional since she should instead have been calling our realtor — and whined to us for a while about how time was getting short and she was concerned. We assured her that we were concerned too because we wanted the house and we’d be glad to let her know when we heard something.) So it’s possible we’d still get this house, but I am in no way planning on it.

So we have a nine-month lease at Uwajimaya that won’t be too hard to break when we find a house we like. And if we decide we want to build, we’ll have from February til July for that to happen. And if we start shopping in January, we can have all our ducks in a row for February to get the home loan and make things happen.

So things are good. Everything’s fine. It’s been kind of a sucky month, but not really. Not in the grand scheme of things. In the grand scheme of things we’re fine and happy. To end this on a high note, please enjoy this video of Nano:

The house we aren’t getting

August 18, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The house we're not getting

The house we're not getting

I’ve been doing a lot of house hunting lately. Our apartment downtown is great, but it has some drawbacks: it’s very small (about 680 square feet), parking is sometimes frustrating (the Scion xB that parks next to us sometimes doesn’t leave enough room for our rental car between it and a big concrete column), we have to take an elevator up and down — which is slow (there doesn’t seem to be a way to take the stairs to the parking deck below the building), and we miss our stuff. I want to be able to print things out on my printer and store paperwork in my file cabinet and choose what to wear from more than the few articles of clothing we brought in our luggage.

So, as I said, I’m doing a lot of house hunting. In doing so, last week I found this beautiful house you see before you. I immediately fell in love with it from its photos, and when we went to check it out in person it did not disappoint. (It turns out I am nearly always disappointed when I actually go see a house in person.)

The kitchen we're not getting

The kitchen we're not getting

The kitchen was beautiful, the tile was beautiful, the yard was beautiful, the street was beautiful, the floorplan was great, the neighborhood was nice, and everything seemed well-made and well-kept. I was really excited. A few days later we went back out with Blake so he could see it too (and meet the realtor), and he too was very happy with it. We hadn’t looked at many houses yet, so we weren’t exactly ready to make an offer, but it was so great and we had found it after such a short amount of looking.

For days, I’d look at other houses’ listings online and immediately turn them down because this spiffy place was better for the same price. I imagined us walking down to the green area in the center of the neighborhood with Pico and Nano and having them poop on its beautiful landscaping. (Don’t worry, I pick up after my dogs!) There was only one hitch: it had a homeowner’s association (HOA). And not just any HOA — one with sizable monthly dues and an iron-fisted regime that had quite a lot of limitations.

The dining room we're getting. Just kidding, we're not getting this one either.

The dining room we're getting. Just kidding, we're not getting it.

Also, we’ve always wanted to live in the next house for a while and then, several years down the road, buy another house and rent the old one out for a steady income. This HOA, however, has restrictions: only a certain percentage of the houses in the neighborhood can be rented, and each renter would have to be approved by the HOA as well. So hypothetically we could get a renter for a while and then not be able to rent again for a few years, during which time we’d just be paying house payments and taking a loss. But even despite these drawbacks, we were considering it. We both loved the house, and the HOA dues did at least go to making the neighborhood look beautiful and all the landscaping for the front yard. We were torn, but there was no hurry: we’d just begun to really look around, so we could browse for a while and see if there was anything we liked more.

Well, then yesterday we got some bad news: someone had made an offer on the house. In retrospect we should have expected it — surely everybody else could see what we saw in this house. Our realtor had told the seller’s realtor that we had some interest, so the seller’s realtor had informed us in hopes of getting a bidding war going.

Not this either

Not this either

I was planning to see some houses in Lynnwood (a Seattle suburb) with the realtor today, Wednesday, and we thought that perhaps Lynnwood would have a multitude of houses of similar quality and price. So he bought us some time to look today and then re-evaluate our position once we had the new information.

Sadly, none of the homes we saw today had quite the same charm. Which brought us to a difficult decision: a house we loved at a high price with a bossy HOA and possible problems renting in the future? Or should we stay the course, keep looking, and hope something else appears that we like more?

In some ways, it was an easy decision. But at the same time, it’s also been haunting me since we made it this afternoon.

Of course, by now you know that we passed on it. It was a lot of extra money per month — if we were willing to pay the total amount as a house payment, we could actually get a house that costs $50,000 more! And we’re selfish individualists. We would chafe under their rules and restrictions about what you could and couldn’t do on your own property. And it even runs counter to our longer-term plans to rent the place. Good reasons, all. But gosh, it was great! The street was lined with beautiful little trees and the houses had gables and bay windows and old-fashioned alleys and cute porches. It was like something out of Pleasantville or Leave It to Beaver. I know, I know, I’m sure it was only able to achieve that look through some esthetically-minded Orwellian dictatorship, but just because I can’t have my cake and eat it too… well, it doesn’t mean I can’t want to both have it and eat it.

So we passed. We both feel it’s the right decision, but it still pains me to have made it.

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