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:

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House photo tour!

September 15, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Aw, it's beautiful. :D

Yesterday afternoon I went out to the house for the home inspection. It took just under two hours, and during that time I made sure to get lots of photos. The inspection went well — a few issues worth noting, but nothing too bad. Though once he started pointing out imperfections — dings, scrapes, small dents, etc. — I noticed that there were actually quite a lot of them. About the worst of it is that the furnace hasn’t been serviced during its four-year lifespan, so we’ll have to pay a couple hundred dollars for that. And there are a lot of minor problems: leaky faucet in the kitchen if you move it around, broken spring in one of the windows, a hole in the carpet in a closet in the guest room, bathtub needs re-caulking, etc. All of it could be fixed by a few trips to Home Depot and maybe a couple hundred bucks, so it definitely wasn’t enough to affect the sale. One thing was creepy, though: the front door, master bedroom door, and master bath door all had doorframe damage because they had been kicked in! (According to the inspector, that’s very easy to diagnose: vertical cracks emanating from the latch area of the doorframe.) It makes me wonder what was going on in this home before they got foreclosed upon. Maybe I’ll ask the neighbors. (The damage is minor and we almost certainly won’t get it fixed.)

The front door. The yard's a bit overgrown, but not for long. There are flowers along the front walk! (I think they're pansies, but I know Mom can tell me for sure.)

Lots of people have asked me if the sellers will be paying to fix these items before the sale, and the answer is no. I’m not sure if it’s because the house is owned by a bank or what, but they made it very clear up front that the house was being sold as-is and with no repairs whatsoever. (That was one of the few places in their contract that actually used caps — “NO REPAIRS OF ANY KIND”!) They invited us to inspect it to our heart’s content and then make a go/no-go decision based on that.

Lots of people have also asked me when we’ll be able to occupy the house. Apparently there are a kajillion steps that must be accomplished before that can happen, and mostly the lender will be doing that stuff (I believe) and we’ll be waiting to hear how it went from him or her. The closing date on the contract says October 27, but based on various factors I’m told we may actually get in closer to the middle of the month. Which would be great. =) The neighborhood has kids in it, so maybe we’ll get a bunch of trick-or-treaters!

(Side story: almost every Halloween since I finished college I’ve carved a pumpkin and bought candy and waited to hear a knock from adorable neighborhood kids. Do you know how many trick-or-treaters I’ve gotten in that time? Total? Two! After several years I learned to buy candy that I dislike so that when no trick-or-treaters came I wouldn’t have to reap the terrible delicious consequences all by myself. Instead I brought the candy to work and let weak-willed coworkers do the reaping.)

Anyway, on with the photos!

Looking down the street. (That's our realtor's BMW parked on the street.) In this area it's pretty uncommon to see streets this wide -- most neighborhoods are really cramped with streets as tiny as they can get away with.

The stove in the kitchen. Someday I'd like to have a gas stove, but for now this pretty glass-top is a nice substitute. Apparently it would cost about $1000 to run gas to the stove (not to mention the cost of a new oven), so I don't expect us to get one anytime soon.

The island in the kitchen. Yup, that's granite tile on the countertops. (Close-up below.)

The kitchen sink

The granite tile countertops

Looking at the breakfast nook from the living room. Yo can see the edge of the kitchen island peeking out from behind the wall on the left.

The living room. Virtually every house here has that recessed pocket above the fireplace for a TV. I don't really understand it -- I wouldn't want a TV that high -- but it's apparently the thing to do here. (Even newly-built homes have it.) There's also coax in the right corner. The lightswitch panel to the left of the fireplace turns on the fire and the blower fan.

The other end of the living room. Beyond the stairs in the backround is the light from the front door (which was open when this photo was taken). Down the hall to the left is the french-door room (see below) and the entrance to the garage.

We've been calling this the French-door room, but we're thinking of making it a library. (Our office will be upstairs.) Feel free to make other suggestions for this room! It's right next to the living room.

Inside the French-door room. It's pretty, isn't it?

The half bath is downstairs right near the front door. Neither of us really likes these pedestal sinks very much, but we only have one and it's not near any of the bedrooms, so it's not really a big deal.

Looking down over the stairs. The light down there is from the open front door (to the left), and the dark doorway is the half bath.

At the top of the stairs, the master bedroom is ahead on the left with the bonus room on the right. This bonus room is nice and big and will be our office.

Inside the office ("bonus room"). I love the double doors! We'll have room for the big desks we want and all my computers.

Inside the master bedroom. The left doorway leads to the hallway. Through the right door you can see straight through the master bath and into the walk-in closet (which has its own window).

The master bath. Opposite the sinks there's a bathtub (see below) and on the right edge of this photo you can see the shower.

The bathtub. I really can't imagine a scenario in which we'll have the blinds on that window open! The toilet is just on the other side of the wall with the bathtub faucet, and it's open to the rest of the bathroom. We might try to put a curtain or door there in the future.

Standing in the doorway to the master bedroom looking out into the hallway. The doorframe just peeking in from the left is the office.

The laundry room.

The guest bathroom.

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 2

The backyard. Directly behind the house there's a drainage pond that is beautifully overgrown with trees and other plants, and it really makes for a nice backdrop.

Giant slug! He was crawling on this dandelion in the backyard. This photo doesn't do him justice, though -- that was seriously a huge dandelion. This guy was like 2.5 inces long. The realtor and inspector laughed at me and said you just get those in Washington sometimes. Yipes.

They accepted our offer!

September 13, 2010 at 11:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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They accepted our offer on the house! I guess we’ll have a lot of stuff to do now, but I’m not sure exactly what all that will be. Yay! I guess we’re moving to Everett! (Better and more photos coming later.)

Yay!

Yay!

No house news yet, but here are some photos of Nano

September 12, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Just a quick update. The seller’s realtor told us that she’d have to get approval to evaluate our latest counter-offer, and apparently that didn’t happen Friday. We expect to hear from them tomorrow (Monday). Hopefully nobody fell in love with the house and made a million-dollar offer over the weekend.

Also, we did some neat stuff in the last week or so and I have some neat photos, so hopefully I’ll get my laptop back from the expensive laptop-repair place later this week. Then I can write posts of normal length with neat photos instead of these dinky ones I’m writing from my phone.

At this moment Nano is sitting between my legs on the couch waving her little paws around in a dreamy stupor while she sleeps. It’s pretty cute. Also, here are a couple cute Nano photos from my phone. Enjoy!

House negotiations: final offer

September 9, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Yesterday we went back and forth with the bank (who is selling the house) with some offers and counteroffers. There were four volleys yesterday, and this afternoon we got their response. It’s getting exciting, because the difference between our offer and their counter is less than 5K. So our realtor suggested we counter and say, “This is our final offer.” Eep! I know it’s a small difference in amounts now and if they decided to be jerks then we’d walk away, but it still makes me nervous to say that it’s final. But I’m sure everything will be fine. And if not, then walking away is okay too. It just makes me nervous!

It's go time.

It's go time.

More information on the house offer

September 7, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve had several people ask me about this, so I thought I’d just go ahead and make another post:

Yes, we submitted the offer today. The house is bank owned, and our realtor said that it would be surprising if we got a reply before Thursday. “Do you think there’s a chance they’ll accept our first offer?” I asked him, and he said almost certainly not. Even if we were to offer what they’re asking (instead of something several thousand dollars less), apparently they virtually always come back with a bunch of addenda which all cost extra. Ah, well. If we’re going to do a couple back-and-forth negotiations, I guess we could be looking at at least a week and maybe almost two before we know something solid.

In the meantime, although we have a pre-approval letter, we’re going to compare our options and talk to some different lenders to make sure we’re getting the best interest rate on the home loan.

We’re also really hoping that our offer scares off the other potential buyers. If the house were owned by some random guy and the other potential buyers (PBs) were also interested in making an offer, we would likely get into a bidding war with the PBs. Since the house is bank owned, however, apparently they handle it differently. They don’t want to waste time with a bidding war and instead will tell both PBs (us and them) to declare their “best and final” offer and then they’ll take the highest one. No bidding, no back and forth — just one big number. And since it’s a house we like a lot, that number would require lots of agonizing followed by lots of paying or lots of regret. (Or, if we’re smart, lots of satisfaction in knowing that we bid exactly what the house was worth to us.) I’d just rather have it for less than what it’s worth to us. =) Otherwise I guess it’s more house shopping for me. But so far there’s no sign of other buyers, so hopefully we won’t even have to worry about that.

I’m not really sure why a bank owns the house. I don’t think it was a foreclosure because that’s usually specified in the MLS listing. Also, the house is in great shape and has new carpet, which I guess is uncommon in foreclosures. I’ll ask our realtor if he knows when I get a chance.

That’s all the house news for now. I dropped my laptop off at a licensed Lenovo repair place this afternoon, and they expect to give me a diagnosis and estimate on the de-coffee-ing tomorrow. Hopefully it costs less than a new laptop!

Update: Phones and houses and ill health and coffee

September 6, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’m typing this post on my new iPhone. My old G1 Android phone had long been having problems, but I was really having trouble deciding what to get to replace it. The new Android phones were unsatisfactory to me for a number of reasons not worth enumerating here, and most of my old complaints about the iPhone still applied. However, with the addition of multitasking in iOS4, the bulk of my iPhone complaints now have to do with “artificial” limitations imposed by Apple for marketing or other reasons. So when Blake suggested getting an iPhone and jailbreaking it, the idea was much more palatable. (Jailbreaking basically means using free software to bypass Apple’s restrictions on the phone. Apple hates it when people do this and is trying to prevent it like crazy.) So as soon as jailbreaking software is released for the newest version of the operating system, that’s what I’m doing. Hopefully this will only take a few weeks.

The other reason I’m typing this on my phone is because I dumped a whole travel cup full of coffee right on top of my laptop. I couldn’t have covered it more thoroughly if I’d tried. After hours of cleaning out the insides with Q-tips and a toothbrush, it was able to boot back up into Windows. There are a variety of problems, though — sticky keys (despite cleaning), coffee damage inside the screen, and some problems with internal components that cause it to run extremely slowly and sometimes crash the OS spontaneously. We suspect some of the memory was damaged, but I’ll call Lenovo tomorrow and hopefully figure out what needs to be replaced and for how much. It’s sad and I miss my laptop. =(

For some more bad news, two weeks ago Blake tripped over a weirdly uneven curb, rolled his ankle, and has been having some problems with it since then. It’s nothing too serious — he saw a doctor on Friday who said it was a bad sprain but should fully recover with rest. If it bothers him he elevates it with ice, but most of the time it’s just annoying for him and otherwise not too bad.

So here’s some happy news: we picked a house! We’re in the midst of the paperwork and headaches involved with making the actual offer, but it seems likely that we’ll end up getting the house. It’s surprising that it worked out this way — on Thursday the realtor told us that someone else was making an offer on it and did we want to make a competing offer? We were waiting to hear back from Amazon on getting an extension for our stuff in storage so that we’d be able to keep it there while we built a house, so we sadly told him that no, we wouldn’t make an offer. Only I had seen the house at his point, but we’d had plans for Blake to see it on Sunday. Plans that wouldn’t happen now since someone else would be buying it. So a day passed and our realtor mentioned that the offer hadn’t come in but was expected at any time. We again chose not to take action and another day went by. Then on Saturday he said again that the offer hadn’t come in and did we still want Blake to see it on Sunday?

So we said sure. We were both concerned about the distance from Seattle — the house is in Everett almost 30 minutes away — but Blake knew I thought it looked promising and we decided it was worthwhile for him to see it anyway. And… he thought it was great! In fact, he liked it as much as our first-choice house which would have to be built — but this one was already done and we could move into it in a month or so (instead of the six months it would take to have our first choice built). So… we still had a hard decision. We loved the house and the neighborhood and the area. But we were concerned about the distance (even though Blake could take the train to and from work and count travel time as work time). On the other hand, there haven’t been too many houses we like this much, and with the end of the summer there are fewer and fewer new houses appearing on the market.

So we agonized about it yesterday. There are other people interested in the house, so we couldn’t wait and see if we like other houses better. (I’ve looked at probably 70 houses and haven’t found much.) Finally we decided that it was unlikely that we’d find something else that we liked as much until many months had gone by — maybe even til next May when school is out and people start selling houses again. And if we rented for a year in anticipation of that, we’d almost certainly lose the great interest rates available now.

So we decided to make an offer. Once things are more certain I’ll post a gazillion photos of the house. Hopefully we won’t get into a bidding war with anybody. Cross your fingers!

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