“Where the Eff Have I Been” Part II… The Money Pit

So… we’re selling attempting to sell our house. Not the one we’re living in. The one we were living in before. We’ve been unable to sell it for about 2 years.

We had a tenant for about a year and a half. Honestly, they were great. They always paid their rent on time and kept the place up pretty well. We were still in the red about $200 a month between our mortgage and escrow payment and the rental income. But manageable. The last 6 months they were there, we agreed they would go to a month-to-month lease so we could put the house back on the market. And lo and behold, we got an offer on the house… An offer of about $30,000 less than what we were asking.

We went back and forth for weeks and finally came to an agreement, $115,000 with $5000 from us back at signing. So basically $110,000. On a house I paid $143,000 for. On a house that I still owe $104,000 to the bank on. With the realtor’s fees, lawyer and various incidentals, we’d be out of pocket about $1,500. We decided it was worth it to, as my realtor put it, “get the monkey off our backs.” So we took the offer, signed a contract and hoped for a closing date towards the end of August. Which would work out really well because the tenants gave their 30-day notice 2 days before we got the offer we eventually accepted.

Then the fun really started.

The buyers are getting an FHA loan through Wells Fargo. FHA loans apparently require you to jump through about 500 hoops before they will give you money. As the sellers, we had to jump through a bunch of hoops ourselves.

The first hoop… not too bad. Just had to make sure the siding and skirting was all in place and the front porch didn’t have any peeling paint. No biggie.

The second hoop… Here’s where the trouble started. The septic. The bank required the septic be pumped and inspected. So the guy pumps the tank ($280) and informs us that the tank is “crumbling” and needs to be replaced. $2500. No. Wait. $3000, the tank is oddly shaped and requires extra labor for installation.

About 2 hours after I got the call informing me just how much the septic would be to replace, I get a text from the tenant (who was just getting the last of his things out of the house and cleaning, because he’s nice)…

The hot water heater is leaking and flooding the room

Great. The Zen Master rushes over there with his wetvac and cleans up the mess and waits for the (after-hours) plumber. Hot water heater is done. Needs to be replaced. $1700. Closing is now set for 9/8.

Septic needs to be pumped again before the tank is replaced. Only $260 this time. Closing is now set for 9/15.

Inspection. Not bad.

Appraisal.

Tie downs under the house are insufficient. Additional tie downs needed. $400.

Structural Engineer required to inspect the house and determine that the ramps and porch that are added on are not “compromising the structural integrity of the home.”

At this point I have received several collection calls from the mortgage company wondering why I haven’t paid September’s mortgage payment. Since the closing has now been pushed to 10/8, I bit the bullet and paid September. $1100, that we were planning on putting towards closing.

House itself is fine. Ramps and porch need retrofits to meet specifications. This time the buyer handles it.

Septic. Again. Requiring a scoping to make sure the pipes are ok. Everything is good, Septic company send the invoice with their report to the bank. Nope. Need a letter on company letterhead stating the septic is permitted for a 3 bedroom house and it is in good condition and will be sound given good maintenance. Closing is now 10/16.

Guess what? Septic is not permitted. Permit was never obtained because it was “Grandfathered in.”

So now I’m waiting on our realtor to argue with the bank and plead with the zoning office to try and sort this out. Closing is… I don’t even know if there will be a closing now.

We have no way to pay the mortgage on both houses without a tenant. At this point, if we cannot straighten this thing with the septic out, I will seriously consider letting the house go into foreclosure.

And the worst part? The buyers. They’re a 50+ couple who’ve never owned a home before with a handicapped son. The house is handicapped accessible so it’s truly the perfect home for them. They’ve painted inside and out, pressure washed and stained the deck, and did all the retrofits under the ramps and front porch. They’ve put as much into this as we have and they deserve this home. It infuriates me that the bank is making it so hard for them to buy their first home, all because it was the banks themselves who fucked up the whole housing situation in the first place.

So that’s caused a little bit of stress this summer. Another reason I haven’t posted I guess.

Anybody happen to have about $100,000 laying around and feel like getting this house off our hands?

Didn’t think so.

A work in progress…

I am currently sitting in my room, at my desk, on my now working laptop.

It is SO nice to have an actual keyboard to type on.

But we’re still shifting. Trying to make this home fit us, to make this living situation work.

So here’s a (very) rough floor plan-

A General Idea

A General Idea

This is not working too well.

The Family Room has been completely taken over by Princess Punk. It’s gross, the couch (that came with the house) is busted and itchy and the carpet (the only one in the house) is disgusting. Here’s the thing… She’s completely taken over My Mom’s space too. They were supposed to share, but… Have you ever shared anything with a 14-year-old? And both of the girls have wormed their way into my bedroom and latched their sharp little claws into my own space.

The room where the hot tub is was supposed to be my private space. It isn’t. It’s full of spiders and is smells funny from the spa chemicals. It’s fine for the 20-30 minutes I need to soak the worst of my aches out, but as a place for me to just hang out? Nope.

So here’s the current plan… TV and PS3 will move into what is now the living room and will become the family room. The Playwoom (yes I spelled that right) will move into what is now the family room and Princess Punk will move her art space in there as well. It’s much more appropriate (and sanity-inducing) for siblings to share space rather than a teenager share a space with her grandmother.

I’m still working out where I want to be, but honestly, if I can keep the girls out of my bedroom and get a more comfortable desk and chair, I’m fine here. All I want is a comfortable place to write, play CandyCrush and watch Netflix.

 

Just a little furniture moving...

Just a little furniture moving…

So, a small change should make a big difference-
And The Zen Master? He has the majority of the basement. Not too worried about him. Although he might need a door. Don’t want another generation walking into his office while he’s viewing “questionable material” on his computer…

Pros and Cons of living in VT… The Sequel

So… Almost 2 years ago, I wrote a post called, “The pros and cons of living in rural Vermont.”

Shit. I can’t believe I’ve been writing this blog for over 2 years…

Anyway, that post remains, to this day, the most viewed, searched, visited and commented-on post on my blog. I get at least 10 hits a week on that post and I continue to get occasional comments thanking me for my (weird) perspective on living here.

Reading it over again, I feel like it needed a little updating, especially since there are a few things to add and a few to remove.  Just to make sure people get the right idea…

Plus, I’m hoping, that on this second day of April, if I go over again why I like to live here, I might not be so grumpy about it being 29 degrees when I left my house this morning.

First of all… Some more stuff I’ve thought of-

 

Really? I never would have guessed.
Really? I never would have guessed.

 

Cost of living is HIGH. Income tax is a bitch, especially coming from FL where there was none. Sales tax is also pretty high, but only on certain things. Room and meal tax (i.e. hotels and restaurants) is about 9%. But no tax on clothes or groceries. And the property tax is painful. That depends more on the town you live in though since it’s mostly based on municipal and school costs which are town budget things. You can also get a break on taxes based on your income. The town I live in happens to be particularly high in the range, and even with the state subsidy, my escrow payment is a bit shocking. Great fresh food and dairy is readily available, but, since most of the farms here are small, localvore food is a bit pricey. “Buy Local” is all well and good, but only when you have a grocery budget that’ll cover it. And the worst? Fuel. If you’re looking into moving here, You need to look into houses that are well insulated and run efficient furnaces or are heated by alternative fuels or pellet stoves. I didn’t and as a result, in my poorly insulated double-wide with hot air heat, a crappy kerosene furnace and an uninsulated water heater, our average combined electric, kerosene (furnace) and propane (hot water and stove) was about $400/month. Seriously. In the new house? We’ve been there 2 months (give or take) and already used almost 200 gallons of heating oil. With fairly efficient baseboard hot water heat. Now, before you panic and start looking elsewhere, keep in mind, that my old house was pretty much worst case scenario and the new one, while completely different, isn’t a whole lot better. In our search for less claustrophobia inducing space, the new house is more than twice the square footage of the old one. BUT… built in 1949 with minimal energy-efficient improvements since then. We’ve had an energy audit and are waiting for the results, but I’m guessing, with some insulation blown into the walls, we’ll see a dramatic improvement. So it’s not all bad. But yeah, it’s definitely more expensive.

 

On the other hand, the average pay rate is higher and the quality of life is much better. My starting pay at my current job was about $7000/year more than the same level job I held in Florida. And I was paying $850/m rent in a shitty 1 bedroom apartment in a crappy neighborhood. I had a homeless lady camping out on my front porch. Seriously. She suffered from fecal incontinence. I had to bleach my entranceway when the police finally got her to move on. And since you have to run the AC year-round (as opposed to only running the heat in the winter-time here) my electric bills were always high. So overall, I think it’s probably somewhat comparable.

 

 

Mmmmmaybe.
Mmmmmaybe.

 

On the previous post…

Availability of electronic communication is limited. High speed internet is not widely available and even cell phone converage is limited and in many places, completely unavailable. You know those sweet new 4G phones they’re advertising? Totally useless here. We’re lucky if we get in an area that has 3G service. I can’t tell you how much I love driving to Montpelier on route 12 which is windy, twisty, icy and frequently populated by moose (the animal kind) without the ability to call for help if I crash or something. (That was sarcastic if you couldn’t tell…)

That’s changed. A lot. There are still places in the state (mostly in the Northeast Kingdom) where you’re lucky to get one bar on your phone. But mostly, 4G is readily available, as is high-speed internet, and even my little podunk town has free wifi on Main St. Isn’t that adorable?

 

Weather? It’s a Bitch. As mentioned, April 2nd and 29 degrees this morning. Of course it’s 49 now, but really… To be fair, it’s been a crappy winter for most of the Northeast in general, but even in a regular year, the general population here is pissy and fed-up by March. There is a rather high rate of alcoholism here and it is directly related to the long, shitty winter. Really, there are studies out there. 

 

Given that, the general attitude around here is pretty laid-back. People move at a slower pace, just like the weather. To someone rather high-strung (ummm… that’d be me), this is both a blessing and a curse.

Clearly I'm not from here.

Clearly I’m not from here.

It’s definitely a good thing for me to slow down a bit, but the lackadaisical attitude by folks around here can be infuriating when I want to get something done. Like say some repairs in our new house. “Mudding” a dinner-plate sized hole in the wall just should not take 4 days. The guy would show up around 4, leave around 6 for 4 days. Granted, he had another job, and the completed job was excellent, but the pace at which it was done was making me absolutely fucking crazy crazier. Pinning down a time for him, or any of the other guys doing work on the house was just this side of impossible. The electrician? Did an excellent job. For an extremely reasonable price. And he actually did complete his work in a timely manner. But it was kinda difficult to plan around him needing to come in and rewire the basement when he called me the night before and told me, “Ya, so I’ll be thur ’round 8 in the morning.” Um… Ohkay? Despite all this, they were all honest and straightforward. the estimates they gave were (mostly) on target. One of the estimates was over and one was under so we came out even. Honestly, I couldn’t even get mad at the breezy, “So, we ended up cutting through that wire there. There wasn’t no sparks or nothin’ so I don’t think it was hooked up.” It was. I have no idea why they didn’t get electrocuted since the fuse hadn’t been switched off. But they didn’t seem to be concerned.

 

Additionally, while there may not be the variety of cultural enrichment here as there might be in a more populated state, there are some amazing crafters, artisans and local artists here. Go to any farmer’s market in the summer, and you’ll find amazing farm-fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, cider, organic beef and pork and course, maple syrup. In addition, you’ll also find breads, cakes and pies that would make the most hardcore Atkins dieter fall off the wagon. Hand-woven Alpaca scarves, sweaters and shawls. Hand-lathed wooden bowls. Jams, jellies, dressings, marinades, rubs and mixes made with the utmost care and worthy of the kitchens of any 4-star restaurant. Lotions and soaps, made from goats milk and lavender and lemongrass that would cost you $60 in any department store. Pottery and baskets and knives and batik printed dresses. Artisan beers, Ben&Jerry’s, Green Mountain Coffee… You can’t find this stuff, made with such care and attention to quality and detail anywhere but here. There’s a reason the “Made in Vermont” sticker gets misused by manufacturers. It’s because the stuff made here is good.

 

Ben&Jerry's... Suck it Florida.
Ben&Jerry’s… Suck it Florida.

 

I must again stress the safety of this state. Although Gov. Shumlin’s State of the State address this year was devoted in it’s entirety to the growing epidemic of opiate addiction, there is still SO much less violence. Top news story here today (courtesy of WCAX)

Fire damages Burlington apartment house

Posted: Apr 02, 2014 12:05 PM EDT

Updated: Apr 02, 2014 12:05 PM EDT

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Fire damaged an apartment house in downtown Burlington early Wednesday morning. Crews were called to the building at the corner of Pearl Street and North Winooski Avenue at about 3:40 a.m. They found flames coming from the top floor. All five residents of the building got out safely and no one was hurt. Most of the damage appears to have been contained to the upper two floors. “Well right now it’s hard to say; we’re still investigating. At this point, there’s not a lot of structural damage except for the third floor. Second floor has a fair amount of fire damage, water damage everywhere,” said Joe Keenan, the assistant fire marshal in Burlington. Seven firefighters had been on route to Boston to attend the funeral of a fallen firefighter when the second alarm forced then to turn around and respond to the scene. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

As opposed to Tampa(tbo.com)

Car of Pinellas man, 84, stolen hours after he was attacked

The 84-year-old Pinellas Park man who was attacked, beaten and stabbed Tuesday told police his attackers wanted to steal his car. Later that night, someone stole Charlie Clark’s Ford from the front of his condominium building on the 5000 block of 76th Avenue, Pinellas Park police said. The vehicle, which was taken between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., was recovered Wednesday morning in St. Petersburg, police said. Police said they are looking for a suspect. Before 10 a.m. Tuesday, Clark sustained serious injuries when three teens — two males and a female — attacked him as he returned to his condo from a store, police said. Clark told police he thought the trio was trying to steal his car. He said he had just exited his vehicle in a parking lot when one of the attackers grabbed him from behind. As he struggled to break free, Clark said, he knocked one of three to the ground while struggling with another. During the struggle, Clark said the attackers didn’t make any demands, but he was stabbed at least twice with a knife that police recovered at the scene. A witness came to Clark’s aid, and the suspects fled on bicycles, police said. After the attack, Clark was taken to a hospital, treated and released. Investigators released surveillance videos from a nearby store that shows three people on bicycles shortly after the attack. Police said they want to talk with them. Police described two of the suspects in the attack as black males, one in his late teens with dark skin and average height and weight, and the other in his early to mid-teens. The female suspect was described as Hispanic in her early teens, with a heavier build and red-brown hair, wearing a gray hoodie.
 
 
 
I can’t think of a more convincing reason to live here, instead of there. I’m still grateful to have the chance to raise my kids here.

 

 

 

Finding the new normal

M74~Normal-People-PostersRelatively speaking of course. I mean… Seriously, I could never have described myself as “normal.” What is normal anyway? Is anyone really normal?

I digress.

Things are starting to settle in. 90% of our crap is moved in. The other 10% are the various odds and ends that you end up throwing into one big box because you’re just so damned tired of packing already. Stuff that you pack because you probably don’t need it, but you might.

Although 90% of our stuff is moved, I’d estimate that only about 60% is actually in the place it’s supposed to be. And because this is a big new house with a big new family configuration, figuring out exactly where exactly those places are is… Challenging. My new kitchen? Great. With about a million cupboards, drawers, pantries and cubbies in which to stow our myriad of dishes, pots, pans, utensils and multiple kitchen appliances. Who the hell uses a yogurt maker anyway? Trying to suss out where to put all our stuff so that I can actually use the kitchen efficiently is becoming a headache. At least once, every time I cook something, I find myself saying, “Now why the fuck did we put that there?” The pantry is built-in, massive and deep. As in, God help you if you need a can that migrated to the back wall deep. So we’re trying to figure out how to utilize all the space so we won’t have to put a miner’s light on The Peach and send her into the void just cuz we want some mac n’ cheese.

My Mom’s space is crowded, but seems mostly moved in. Unfortunately, the act of moving combined with increased Peach-care has left her too tired to use it most of the time. We’re trying to get to get the chaos down to a moderate level so we can work out a childcare schedule that doesn’t completely suck every ounce of energy out of her. There’s no reason she should end up watching The Peach any more than she did before she was living with us. Since The Peach is now a F5 tornado with the tendency to speed through the house, naked and screeching, I think it’s wise to work that out soon before My Mom completely loses her shit.

The Zen Master is slowly taking over the basement. We’ve been married 3 and a half years now, and I still cannot even venture a guess at how his brain works about some things. He seems to have a system going down there, but it looks like he’s just moving things around randomly. The stuff that isn’t random is peculiar. Since the laundry room is in the basement, he’s now taken over the entirety of the chore. It used to be Princess Punk’s job to fold, but now he does that too. And then puts the neatly (sort of) folded clothes in neatly labeled drawers for each of us. In the basement. 2 floors down from my dresser. When I asked him about it, he said, “People can just come get their clothes when they want to put them away so I don’t run out of baskets cuz they’re sitting there with clean clothes in them.” “People” in this statement would be referring to ME.  3 points babe.

Legos are AWESOME. Laundry Baskets are AWESOME. Legos and laundry baskets are AWESOME!

Legos are AWESOME. Laundry Baskets are AWESOME. Legos and laundry baskets are AWESOME!

The Peach? LOVING IT. Although, she’s so enthusiastic about everything, it may just be everyday life in general that is making her so cheerfully gleeful. I gotta say, I never get tired of coming home to, “Mommy home!!! Hooowaaayyy!!!” That statement is however, frequently followed by a hem tug and, “Mom. Mom! I hungwy. Go get me to eat.” With a subsequent “Peeeeeeeeze?” if I’m very lucky. She has a “big-girl-bed” now. It’s actually quite pretty, honey oak and solid wood. Cheap too. Thank you Random-Asian-Laborer who makes less in a month than I do in a half-hour. I feel shitty about buying that stuff because I know it promotes unfair labor practices. But I still do and hope that maybe those underpaid workers will figure out us fat-assed Americans have been taking advantage of their cheap labor and revolt, cause a paradigm shift in the world economy and subsequently establish us as a utopian Roddenberry-esque world. Anyway. Where was I? Right… The Peach’s new bed. Twin-size and tucked under the window in her new room, she has slept in it since we put it together (about a week and a half) and, for the past 3 nights, has not only slept alone, but has fallen asleep alone after a bedtime story and a tuck in. She is enjoying having her own room and actually stays quietly in bed for a little while in the morning after she wakes up. Amazingly, I got to sleep until 7:30 on Saturday until I woke up to, “Moooom. Mommy… Geh UP Mom.” And, when I appeared bleary-eyed in her doorway, “Mom, I pee in the bed, look…” We need to find her some better diapers.

Princess Punk has claimed her space and it already looks like her closet, backpack and desk simultaneously exploded in the middle of her bedroom. And she HAS unpacked already. But she’s happy. And she’s able to walk to school and she absolutely Can. Not. Wait. until the weather improves so she can use our amazing backyard and POOL. Oh, and she’s already planning the 8th grade graduation party. We’re trying to navigate rules and chores and guidelines in the new house. It was apparently her belief that in the new house, there were no established rules so she could do whatever she wanted. Which she learned (the hard, “you’re grounded,” way) that this was, in fact, not the case. But the adults in the house are also adjusting to new disciplines and structures since the way we did things before doesn’t always translate to our current situation.

BTW, she did a drawing on her ipad that was so good (as her drawings frequently are), I went to Snapfish and got it put on canvases and it now hangs in our new living room.

My girl is talented. Nuff Said.

My girl is talented. Nuff Said.

As for me? Still don’t have my own space worked out. The bedroom is nice, but I can’t sit in bed comfortably with the new mattress and therefore, have no place to type. Hence the no posting for a while. The 3-season porch where my space will be is currently crammed with boxes and freezing cold. There is a hot tub on the way (YAY!). It’s small, plug-and-play and one of the most energy-efficient on the market. It’s also going to be a tax-write-off since I’ll be using it as therapy for chronic pain (actually suggested by my physical therapist). There’s a small, disconnected gas stove out there that we’ll need to hook back up, and that, combined with the heat from the tub and some plastic sheeting on the windows should make it comfortable enough to sit in even if the hot tub is not in use. So I’ll be putting a chair out there and some speakers so I can blog and listen to my audiobooks and chill out to my heart’s content. Definitely looking forward to that.

Nice, right?

Nice, right?

And our bedroom is nice. Oddly shaped because of the way the roof and dormer windows are, but big enough to fit our furniture nicely. Plus, some built-in drawers to put linens and towels in since our bathroom is the size of a closet and doesn’t even have space for a trash can let alone shelves or even a towel rack.
 

So settling in. Moving things along. And finding a new, often better, happier way to be a family.