Monday, July 30, 2012

The First Ever Jane’s Domain Trilogy. (Watch Your Back Star Wars!)

I hope I’m not sounding like a broken record here, but I thought I’d write one more blog about our house hunting/buying process. We’ll call it my trilogy, okay? 

Hey, it worked for Star Wars

Not that I’m comparing my little blog to Star Wars or anything.  I think Star Wars raked in a buck or two, while my little blog has raked in, well, nothin’.  Zip.  Zero. Bupkus.

Hmm. So, um, why am I writing this blog again??  Oh yeah, simply because I like to write.

Well, anyway, let’s see where I left off last time.  Ah yes – I was discussing proper footwear and the state of one’s pedicure when house hunting. 

So the other important thing I learned when house hunting is this: location, location, location.  

Never heard that one before, have you? 

Nah, I’m just kidding.  Everyone has heard that one.  Even newborns.  If they had the ability to speak seconds after their birth, those would be their first words.  (Kind of a scary thought for their moms, though, huh?)

But I digress. 

There were lots of steps in between removing my shoes at the entrance of a complete stranger’s home and guiltily peeking in their closets and cabinets to choosing a house and then finally moving into it.  Maybe I’ll write more about those steps at some point (which totally shoots my trilogy plan), but I’m going to go with the biggest lesson of all in the house buying process.  And that is:


Sorry for yelling, but it’s that important.  You need to hire professional movers even if it means you have to sit on your dirty carpet for two months after moving in because you have no extra money to buy that coveted leather sectional that would go perfectly in your brand new living room. 

I hired professional movers over 10 years ago when I moved into my townhouse and swore I would never personally carry boxes into a new abode again. 

So I stated this very opinion to my husband.  Rather emphatically, I might add.  He nodded.  He seemed to understand my viewpoint.  And then he proceeded to rent a truck from U-Haul.  He hired his football player son and his son’s football player friend to haul boxes from our old place, into the truck, out of the truck and into our new house.

Now, believe me, I’m not slamming their efforts in any way.  Those kids worked like machines most of the day and did an amazing job.  But it simply wasn’t enough.  Perhaps an additional strapping football player or two was needed for the job, but we were fresh out of available football players.  So it took several more car loads throughout the following week to get all our stuff from Point A to Point B. 

And we had a few casualties, of course.  A wine glass here and a decorative vase there.  Fortunately, no heirlooms were harmed during the moving process. 

But none of that was the major problem.

The major problem was that I had to haul boxes right along with my husband and the boys.  And that is precisely why I wanted to hire professional movers.  You are not required to lift a single box when you hire professional movers.  In fact, they frown upon such interference from an amateur such as myself.  And, frankly, I am more than happy to be an amateur in any heavy lifting situation.

Had we hired professional movers, I would have been cheerfully unwrapping the china while sweaty men with the couch strapped to their backs asked me precisely where I wanted it positioned in the living room.  And all I would’ve had to do was point. 

Instead, I was a hot, sweaty, stringy-haired mess.  By the end of the day, I was clutching my aching back with one hand and throwing boxes clearly marked “Upstairs Bedroom” into the entryway of the house with the other because I refused to make another trip upstairs.

And my aching back lasted for days.  Weeks, even.  Oh, who am I kidding?  My back is STILL aching.

Moreover, I had so many bruises on my arms and shins from carrying heavy boxes and, in my exhausted state, running into walls while I was carrying those heavy boxes, I looked as if I had gotten into a physical altercation with someone.  

If I had, it probably would have been my coworker who smirked at me and said, “All unpacked?!” the morning after we returned the U-Haul truck.  Fortunately for him I don’t resort to violence in such situations.  I just do the withering stare thing that is oh so painful for the recipient.  Not.

Alas, we didn’t have any time to unpack before we had to pack a weekender bag and head to Cape Cod to celebrate my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.  Originally, it seemed like an inconvenient time for a mini-vacation, but in the end it was good.  Good to spend time with family.   Good to have the chance to celebrate my folks' 60 years of wedded bliss.  And good to allow the healing process to begin on all those bruises.  (My almost 9-year-old niece, by the way, gleefully counted each and every bruise.  She probably would've played connect-the-bruises with a Sharpie if I'd let her.) 

And she drew today's blog illustration.  If you can't see it clearly, the heading reads: "Hint: Don't  look like this after moving." And I think - but I'm not positive - that her Aunt Jane caricature is missing her right foot. 

Hmm.  Perhaps I exaggerated the whole moving experience just a tiny bit?

No.  No, I didn't.  



Friday, July 20, 2012

More About Jane’s New Domain (And Vince’s, Too)

So I was writing about our new home.  And the agonizingly slow process that is begun when one decides to purchase a new home. 

What I’ve definitely learned is that I could never be one of those house flippers – you know, the people who buy a house, move in and make some improvements, and then sell it for a profit before moving on to the next house. 

I don’t care if the profit was utterly ginormous, I couldn’t do it.  Moving for the first time in ten years was painful enough and I couldn’t imagine moving willy-nilly in and out of houses like that without the aid of heavy-duty prescription tranquilizers.

I suppose those flipper people are wired differently than I am and probably don’t hang on to possessions like I do.  Take, for instance, my grandfather’s big chipped coffee cup.  It shows a cartoon drawing of a man in a hillbilly hat peering out of an outhouse while his wife yells out the window of their log cabin, “Paw, yer coffee’s ready!”
It’s embarrassing, really, to have a chipped coffee cup such as this.  And yet it’s the only thing of my grandfather’s that I possess – and, even though Grandpa died when I was nine, I can clearly remember him drinking his afternoon tea from this cup.  So I couldn’t possibly get rid of it.

Thus, we moved last month and Grandpa’s cup came with.  Never mind that I have no clue what box it is stashed in. Eventually, I’m sure, I’ll unearth it.

Getting that goofy coffee cup into our new place seemed like a herculean task, though.  I mean, besides the physical move.  For instance, there were times during the whole house hunting process that I just wasn’t sure we were ever going to find the right house or move into it. 

The pre-approval process alone was enough to give me pause.  Having complete strangers digging into my personal financial information was a little disconcerting.  And, of course, that was nothing compared to the final approval process! 

I kept hearing, “Too bad you didn’t buy a house five years ago – we would’ve given you a loan on your handshake!”  Ha ha.  Sadly, that is probably true.  I’m guessing all those handshakers who ended up foreclosing on their homes these past few years are the reason I had to jump through even more hoops.  

I knew it was going to be tough when I had to justify and explain a deposit of forty-seven dollars and fifty-three cents to my checking account.  Like I can remember every nickel that goes in and out of my account!  Well, okay, so I actually DO know every nickel that goes in and out of my account, but in this particular instance I had two deposits that totaled forty-seven dollars and fifty-three cents – so it was a little harder to unravel the mystery.

But once we were preapproved and we knew what our price range was, finding houses to look at was the next step.  We started out looking at homes from the northeast side of Columbus all the way to the northwest side.  Believe me, that covers a LOT of real estate! We knew we had to narrow down our search to a more targeted area when on any given day we had to slog through over 500 listings. 

Yeah, not real interested in that. 

Since we liked the suburb where we lived, we decided to stick close to home.  And when the pickings were slim, we’d add a surrounding suburb or two just so we could add a few more possibilities.

Eventually we started looking through actual houses instead of merely driving by them.  Since we had our realtor in tow and he had keys, we didn’t risk any Peeping Tom or Thomasina charges.  But I learned a few things from visiting all these houses:

Like, for instance, wear slip on shoes.  People trying to sell their houses leave signs requesting that visitors remove their footwear before traipsing through their home.  Apparently they don’t want people tracking dirt on their hardwood floors and on their carpeting.  Interestingly, half the houses we looked at already had dirty carpeting. And the dirtier the carpet the bigger the sign asking people to remove their shoes.  Huh. Does not compute…but whatever.

Oh, and by the way, if you wear socks with your slip on shoes, make sure they match and/or don’t have holes in the toe.  Your realtor won’t admit it, but he’ll judge. 

Conversely, if you’re barefoot under those slip-on shoes, make sure your pedicure isn’t from the last calendar year. I mean, ewwww.  Now that I’m thinking about it, this is a good rule to follow in general and not so much just for house hunting.

Of course, it’s more difficult to keep those tootsies in tip top shape when you’re spending every waking moment in front of the computer searching for the perfect home, and my feet rather resembled those of Cro-Magnon Man – with a bit of leftover chipped burgundy polish on the odd toenail or two. 

But I think we will go with the old adage here, “Do as I say, not as I do.” 

Our new kitchen. Big enough that more than one person can stand in it at one time!

Our new living room. LOTS of windows. So...lots of great light...but also lots of windows to clean. 
There were other things I learned about house hunting, but I spent so much time on proper footwear and foot maintenance that the other lessons will have to wait for another day.  Besides, I want to leave room for another picture or two of our new home.

To be continued…

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jane's NEW Domain

So I think life has settled down just a smidge and I may actually have time to write some blogs again. Wonder if anyone out there is still interested in reading them, though?

Oh well, even if there aren’t, I’ve missed writing, so I suppose I can attempt to entertain myself. Which means I’d better step it up since I’m a tough audience. “Okay, Jane – write something funny. Go!” 

(Aaaannnnd now I’m talkin’ to myself. Yeah, I’ve gotta admit, I’m scaring myself just a little bit.)

Okay, so the reason I haven’t written any blogs for the past several months is that for the past several months we’ve been house hunting. And house buying. And packing, moving and unpacking. And even more (grumble, grumble) unpacking. Yes, we have a lot of stuff. I mean, we have so much stuff, I’m not sure we’ll ever truly be unpacked.

Cripes, if I’d had any idea at the beginning of the process how much time would be involved in this little endeavor, I might have elected to stay crammed in our townhome and bagged the whole idea of moving. I could’ve just started pitching things in the middle of the night so Vince wouldn’t notice. On the other hand, it might have been tough to pretend that I hadn’t thrown out his leather recliner – the one I was always bumping into in our small living room, but the one that he relaxed in every evening.

So we opted to go house shopping. Only the process is a little different than, say, buying a new pair of shoes. I mean, when you go shoe shopping, you can look in the window or wander through the shoe department and see if there are any shoes that appeal to you. You can try them on. Walk around the aisles a bit and see if they are comfy. And you can even return them if you get them home and decide they really do pinch a little too much or they simply don’t match the outfit you bought them for.

Try doing that when house shopping. Oh sure, you can drive by a house that’s on the market to see if it’s located in a neighborhood you might like. And you can decide if the outside of the house looks appealing to you.

 But if you start peering in the windows to see if the interior layout fits your needs, well, let’s just say that getting arrested for being a Peeping Thomasina probably wouldn’t sit too well with your potential new neighbors.

Nor is it likely that the current owners will allow you to take the house for a test drive, as it were. Like if you could walk in, kick off your shoes and curl up on the couch in the sunroom with a frosty beverage to see if the evening light coming through the windows was pleasing or inadequate. Or if you could take a quick shower to see if the water pressure in the house was sufficient to meet your needs for the next thirty years or so.

But noooo. Instead, you have to take a leap of faith that your screening abilities are good enough to weed out the bad houses. Because the return policy is pretty harsh. I mean, like, there IS no return policy. You buy it, it’s yours.

That’s pretty daunting.

I don’t know about other people, but my first step was not to contact a real estate agent. I needed to do some pre-realtor research. I needed to see what was out there and at what price points to see if we should even be in the house-hunting market or if we needed to wait a little longer.

So I spent nearly every waking hour in front of the computer seeking houses for sale. I perused thousands of homes, most of which were accompanied by twenty-three photos. Each. So multiply “thousands” by “twenty-three” {carry the one…} and, wow, can you believe I looked at a gazillion photos?

Twenty-three photos, by the way, must be a magic number in the real estate industry. Perhaps someone scientifically determined that twenty photos are not enough for a potential buyer to determine if they actually want to see the property, but twenty-five photos would cause sensory overload such that the potential buyer would be put off and cause them to move on? I don’t know.

But I did appreciate the photos. And the pre-realtor research. Because when we finally met with our realtor, I felt a little more comfortable with the market and the process. Plus, (and I might sound a little smug here), I practically knew about new houses coming on the market before he did.

Oh, and a side note to realtors: You really don’t need to spend hours agonizing over the precise wording to entice potential buyers to visit your listing. They’re probably not going to read it. Or, if they do – and they’re anything like me – they’ll snort and mumble aloud, “’Relax in your tranquil retreat,’ my foot! I can see the neighbor’s jungle gym right outside the dining room window there and I KNOW that’s going to make me neither relaxed nor tranquil!”

Ah, but as a fellow wordsmith, I appreciated the effort. It can’t be easy to describe some of these properties to make them sound appealing. I’d have given up in a fit of giggles after writing, “Move-in ready!” when I know full well that few potential homeowners would be interested in keeping the do-it-yourself wall paneling in the living room. Or after writing “many upgrades” when all the owner did was slap a coat of ivory paint on the kitchen wall to cover up fifteen years of grubby fingerprints.

But anyway, I think I’ll write more about Jane’s New Domain tomorrow and I’ll post another picture or two of our beautiful new home. I’m kind of tired right now. And I have more boxes to unpack.

Grumble, grumble.