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Be It Ever So Humble ...

June 8th, 2009 at 09:06 pm

Since my last post, guess what DH & I did? We closed on our new house and moved!

For anyone who doesn't know the story, this has been a long time coming. We sold our house in the Seattle area over 3 years ago, and have been living in rentals both in Seattle and in Austin ever since, waiting for what felt like the right time in the market and the right house.

I can't tell you how nice it is to be back in a place that we own!

The first time we drove by the house it was literally one of those "Honey - Stop the Car!" moments that you hear about.


Is it possible to be in love with a room? If so, I may be in love with our new kitchen:


This picture is rather stark without any furniture or pictures, but I wanted to show the curved walk-throughs, which is one feature I really like. (I like soft curved things rather than just hard corners.)



These are old pictures that we took when househunting. I would have liked to have posted some newer ones, but my camera is still in a box. Smile

At one point in the process (just before signing off on our contract), DH started getting a bit of cold feet. There are homes in the same neighborhood that are built by lower quality builders that of course sell for less per square foot. DH started thinking we should go for "lowest cost per square foot" and get a bigger house, but at that point I really put my foot down and rather insisted that quality was much more important. It may be a "smaller" house (at least compared to the others), but I know we will save not only money but also time & aggravation in the long run. It's an Energy Star and green built certified home, so we will save on our energy bills. With the quality of the materials, we should end up needing to repair or replace things much later. I hope Ima Saver will be proud of me for insisting on quality! (I'm not saying it's the quality of a custom home that Ima's husband would build ... it's not, not by a long stretch!)

Closing was a dream. Took all of 30 minutes.

The first thing I did after getting home from the closing was file our property tax appeal. The deadline to file was June 1st so procrastination was not an option!

Moving was fine, but boy were DH & I tired by the time we were done! I have told DH in no uncertain terms that this is absolutely the LAST DIY move for us. Fortunately, there really wasn't a lot of furniture (just our bed and a couple chairs and a small dressers & side tables). If we ever move again, we will just have to hire movers. Honestly, I wouldn't mind if this were our last move EVER (until we move to the retirement center or wherever we end up in our old age).

We continue to stimulate the economy with house related purchases. In addition to the appliances blogged about previously (fridge, washer & dryer), we have purchased a carpet cleaner, a lawn mower, and garage floor liner. I've also ordered a shower caddy & a sofa.

Bless Discover's fraud department --- Usually I only buy gas on that card, so when the garage floor liner was purchased, they immediately called me about "suspicious activity." Nice to know someone's looking out for me!

We Are Switching to OTA ("Free") TV

May 10th, 2009 at 10:08 am

OTA = Over The Airwaves
This is the "free" TV that is available to anyone with an antenna. This is the type of TV anyone my age or older grew up watching.

A move is such a great way to re-evaluate lots of things in your life. In addition to evaluating what things we really want to keep (as in, "Do I really want to lug this ratty object to the new place, or is it time to ditch it?"), you also start evaluating services and weighing the costs vs. benefits.

When it came time to order utility hookups at our new house, I really started evaluating our "need" for cable TV. In our apartment, cable is included, so we have not been paying seperately for it for 1-1/2 years. When we lived in the Seattle area, we used to have a semi-expensive cable package, because that was the only way for DH to add channels from his native country. Since his country's channels are not available where we live now, he started looking for other ways to watch TV, and now subscribes to a service where he watches TV from his homeland over the internet.

Other than a bit of CNN & CNBC (with a smattering of Animal Planet), the only TV I watch is major networks. So I started thinking that cable was not really necessary. I did some research, and the more I learned the more I liked the idea of living without cable.

In addition to loving the idea of not having to pay a monthly cable bill on top of the $25 we're paying for DH's internet viewing, I really like the idea of better reception. I learned that picture quality is better if you DON'T have cable, and this will especially be true once the switch is made to digital TV (June 12).

DH has been patiently waiting to buy a big screen flat panel TV. I asked him to wait until we had our new house and prices have come down. Once we're in our place, I'll give him the green light to go ahead and buy his big toy. I'll have him get an integrated HDTV one; that means it will already have an HDTV tuner built in, so we won't have to buy a seperate tuner. All we need is an antenna.

I ordered this antenna today: [url]http://www.crutchfield.com/p_209TV55/Terk-TV55.html?o=v&search=antenna+indoor&searchdisplay=antenna%2bindoor&tp=1185[/url]
With shipping, it came to $68.

DH will be installing it in our attic. According to on-line reviews I read, it is fairly easy to install. (It's an indoor/outdoor antenna. I knew an outdoor antenna would not go over well with the neighbors.) I don't know if we will have to buy any hardware for mounting, or if we have all of the tools we need, but even if we do have to run to Home Depot and buy something small, I figure we'll come in at $75 or less total. With cable at $49+tax, we will have recouped the antenna cost in 1-1/2 months or less!

If anyone else is interested in making the switch to OTA TV (and with the digital conversion coming up, can you think of a better time?), these were the sites I found most helpful in researching:

[url]http://www.crutchfield.com/S-IOdgy2Geib8/learn/learningcenter/home/antenna.html[/url]

[url]http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx[/url]

Once we're settled in to our new place, I'll let you know how we like our "new" (actually retro) way of watching TV.

Appliances Ordered

May 4th, 2009 at 03:46 pm

We've ordered the appliances for our new house. We looked for appliances that were highly-rated by Consumer Reports, that were very energy-efficient, that fit nicely in their designated spaces, and that had features we liked. We chose "mid-range" items ... neither super expensive nor super cheap. Then we looked for the best deals we could find.

Got our washer & dryer (Fisher & Paykel) from the "Dent & Scratch" section of a discount appliance warehouse. They are new, but have some cosmetic damage ... Who cares?

Got our fridge (Kenmore Elite) from Sears last night ... they had one of their quarterly "VIP Evenings" where all Kenmore & Kenmore Elite appliances are 20% off and then 10% additional off of that ... so, 28% off.

This means we've purchased 3 BIG items in the last week. I certainly hope the ripple effects of our personal economic stimulus spending spree will reach you wherever you are. Smile

As I know most of you are, we're pretty studious shoppers when it comes to major purchases; we put a lot of time & energy in to it. So if feels good to be done. We now have all of the "necessary" items for the house. We haven't purchased any furniture yet, but we've yet to find any screaming deals, and we can get by with what we have for the time being.

Sorry I've not been around. I've been getting lots of overtime at work (for which I am very grateful), still have my volunteer work to keep up on, and have the upcoming move.

One of these days I will update my badly outdated sidebar! Cheers.

Home Inspection Done

April 20th, 2009 at 05:39 pm

House passed with flying colors! Just a few minor things to address ... no deal breakers.

Moving van is booked.
Got issues of Consumer Reports from the library that pertain to Washers & Fridges.

I must unearth my "moving bible" (29 Days to a Smooth Move)

Family members from around the globe have started discussing dates to come check out the new pad! Thank goodness for the hot summers here ... I think most will want to hold off until fall or winter. That will give us time to hunt & gather a few home furnishings. (Will start prowling Craigslist once some higher priority tasks are taken care of.)

If I NEVER move again it will fine with me!

56%

April 19th, 2009 at 08:26 pm

56% ...

Based on a rough estimate of what settlement costs will be, our new house will wind up costing us 56% of what we netted on the sale of our former house (after paying agent commissions, sales tax, escrow, etc.)

The 2 houses are amazingly comparable in terms of size, quality, neighborhood (once you get past the whole Pacific Northwest vs. Texas business ... lol), etc.

As our friend Tripods68 would say: "It's a beautiful thing"

Mutual Acceptance

April 17th, 2009 at 06:29 pm

Guess who just bought a house, and will be closing end of May?

It's in Austin.

It's been a long road getting this far!

The House We Did Not Buy

March 2nd, 2009 at 03:28 pm

The bank owned house that both DH & I really liked has sold ... to another couple. While we were pondering how much to offer (and deciding if we really did want to make an offer), we found out that another couple was planning to put in an offer, and that they brought the same things to the table that we do (cash buyers, able to close quickly). We decided to back off because we refuse to get involved in anything that hints of a bidding war. We're waiting to find out what the house sold for ... that knowledge will be useful when we do finally make an offer, especially if it is in the same neighborhood. And even if we don't end up buying in the same neighborhood, we will at least learn how much "wiggle room" there is in that one particular bank's list prices. We were pleasantly surprised at how quickly the process moved from first offer to mutual acceptance ... sounds like banks at least that one particular bank has sped up it's processing of offers.

As DH said, we keep finding better and better houses at better and better deals, so ... onward!


Wish Me Luck

February 10th, 2009 at 06:57 pm

okay ... Lots going on:

- House: We are getting extremely close to making an offer on a house. We have 2 in our cross hairs. The one we are most interested in is a bank-owned foreclosure. Might happen this weekend. DH is due to leave on a long business trip, so all the paperwork and details and negotiating will be left to me. Nothing new there. Smile

- New Little Side Business: As of this evening it's officially up but not yet running. Had to spend a little moolah today to get the ball rolling. DH is freaking out ... I must work hard to make sure I can at the very least recoup what I spent. (Don't worry. It's not enough to hurt us even if I fall flat on my face, but you wouldn't know that from the way DH is acting.)

- Stock Trade: We made our first trade. Bought an individual stock that we sold for an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny profit a few days later. Trust me, it was just beginner's luck! Interesting experience. DH got all worked up over the whole business. Been watching a couple stocks since then, but I'm thinking more seriously about becoming a buy & hold stock investor. We're really not "day trader" types and besides I think it would give DH high blood pressure.

- Volunteer Work: It's almost a full-time job right now. I have realized that my unpaid, volunteer work (due to level of responsibility and job title) would look better on my resume than my paid job. Right now is an important turning point for the organization I volunteer with, so everyone is working overtime and the number one gal is doing nothing but eat and sleep and work.

It would be nice if I could have just one or two of these developments going on right now, and save the others for later, but this is life and I am coping as best I can.

Easier Said Than Done

January 12th, 2009 at 08:33 am

"Never fall in love with a house" --- I've said it myself, and I firmly believe it, but it definitely is easier said than done sometimes!

On Sunday we visited a couple open houses. One of the houses ... *sigh* ...

Ideal location.
Seems to be very solidly constructed.
Wonderful floor plan.
Reasonably priced.
Great lot size w/ pretty territorial view.
DH & I both like it a lot.

It's a bit older (about 25 years), which is both a positive and negative.
Positives =
- At that age, you can really get a sense of how well built it is, because it is holding up extremely well. In fact, my DH has a very strong preference for new houses, and for him to like an "older" house it has to be very well-maintained and have a sense of solidness.
- Also, my preferred mix of furniture (2nd hand Craigslist & garage sale finds), some antiques, and some new will not look at all out of place. (Some houses are so shiny and new that you just know garage sale furniture will look odd.)
- Also a positive in my eyes is that fact that it is a tad bit out of date, which turns some buyers off and therefore keeps the price at a more reasonable level. A specific example is that it has laminate kitchen counters, and I know there are plenty of buyers out there who won't consider a house with anything less than granite. Me? I couldn't care less about things like that because they are merely cosmetic.
Negative = It is not going to be as energy-efficient as a newer house.

The other negative on the house (nothing to do with its age) is that it is a bit larger than our ideal house size.

I put a call in to the listing agent first thing this morning to get some additional information, but she has not called back, so I'm starting to wonder if the house sold. The open house was swamped, like nothing I have ever seen, and certainly not in this down market.

I must stay cool and remember this is a business transaction .....
I must stay cool and remember this is a business transaction .....
I must stay cool and remember this is a business transaction .....

Came Close to Making an Offer

January 10th, 2009 at 08:43 pm

We've had a couple of days of marathon house-hunting. Came pretty close to making an offer on one house, but didn't. Went so far as to bring blank contract papers home with us. Of the *gazillion* (only a slight exaggeration) houses we have looked at, it is the one we have liked the most ... and we both like it equally. Very pretty house, nice size, perfect number of rooms. It is also a pretty good deal. Problem is, we're only lukewarm on the area (DH kind of likes it, I kind of don't). That's why we decided to hold off.

We had put our Austin househunting on hold when we were leaning towards San Diego (which is still a possibility BTW), and so when we started looking around here again after many months off we were pleasantly surprised to see that the builders have started taking serious price cuts. The "Oh ... the Austin market isn't affected by the national housing downturn and won't be" arrogance that we had run in to previously is GONE. Another thing that we are noticing is that some builders are starting to build NICE, smaller houses, which is a change here in the "Everything is bigger in" state and one that we welcome.

The other housing market tidbit is anecdotal evidence that the housing market bailout may be working in some instances. Months ago, we looked at a short sale home. At that time, the owners had moved out. We contacted the listing agent and found out that after receiving several lowball offers, the bank decided to work with the owners and they have moved back in to the house.

I'm tired. For me personally, househunting gets exhausting because it is so intense. Do you guys feel the same way? The last 2 nights we were so tired we did not want to cook and ended up going out to dinner. Thank goodness for the Olive Garden gift card we got for Christmas and the BOGO coupon to IHOP ... And to Ms. Koppur who gave me the idea of IHOP for dinner! (We learned that IHOP for dinner is great because there is hardly anyone there.)