Thursday, February 28, 2013

Anorexic piggy bank

I was just about to go into the conference room at work to do some audio recording for a project that I'm working on, but it's occupied. Oh well, time to blog.

Today I meet with my lender to sign the papers and give her a check. All my spreadsheets of 'if I borrow this much then I'll have to pay this each month for 30 years' and W2s and tax returns will be coming with me.

I think I've grown numb to that future monthly housing cost. The mortgage payment will be less than what I'm paying for rent so that's not a big deal. But add on the property taxes, PMI, and home insurance... ugh.

To put it in perspective, when I was paying a mortgage, taxes, and all that crap in New Jersey for my 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath townhouse with a whole 8'x10' plot of grass in the backyard, that was about $1600. But I was also making about $20K more than I do now.

Anorexic piggy bank

Anyway, the point of that little story is that it costs less to live down here. But it doesn't make parting with money any easier.

I think of ways that I can stretch my dollar further. I can kiss my monthly massages goodbye. And hopefully I can reduce my auto costs because I'll be living 2 miles from work as opposed to 17. And I can get rid of cable.

I'm even thinking of the pleasure I'll get from cooking more meals in my BRAND NEW KITCHEN! Maybe I'll even start my own garden.

Oh I have big plans with my little house. I'm being fiscally responsible and already dreaming about the many savings accounts I can have: one for emergency savings, one for vacation, one for home improvements. Because there will be more home improvements!

Have you seen this bathroom?

I see a new vanity and toilet, bead-board wainscoting and most definitely some new paint. And that stained glass window sticker has to go. Maybe that floor, too. But that's on the To Do list. Maybe later this year. 

I've been inspired by this blog site, Our Vintage Home Love. I hope to be able to show you some of my before and afters. 

After I'm able to pay for it. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Take my money

I got the estimate from the contractor for all the renovation work that needs to be done. Both what is required, and what I want to do with my kitchen.

This just got ten times more real. 

So on Thursday I meet with my lender and sign the loan papers. Good thing that this is all being rolled into my mortgage. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kitchen Dreaming

Let's talk kitchens. Because that is the main visible change that I will be doing to the home as part of my renovation.

Currently it's a mess.
There is a lot of unused space. 

The outlets are not properly grounded.
And there is this crazy access to get into the hallway that is practically unusable.

My vision is to add a wall where that access to the hallway is, creating a U-shaped kitchen.

Last week my contractors came to the house with the home inspection report in hand. They went around the property and did their assessment on the 'must fix' items that are going to be required by HUD in order to grant me my loan.

Then we talked about the kitchen. I told them of my ideas. They gave me some measurements and said my homework was to plan it out and get some estimates so I can get a better sense of what my kitchen budget was going to me.

So I went off to Home Depot and Lowes with measurements in hand and ideas in my head.

My original idea of white cabinets and dark countertop to tie in the existing white appliances was changed when I spoke with Brenda, the kitchen designer at Home Depot. She said there were a lot of shades of white, and considering the current appliances were from different manufactures their whites might not be the same shade. So trying to match different white appliances to another white cabinet might not bring the effect I was hoping for.

So that brought to thinking about painted cabinets. They would allow the white appliance to pop without having them try and be matchy-matchy. And if/when I make the upgrade to stainless one day, they will still match the style.

I loved that idea. And since my goal was to create a casual, comfortable kitchen, not a stuffy, pretentious one, color in the cabinets were the way to go.

Here is one option that I liked. Martha Stewart's Ocean Floor cabinets with Juniper Trail quartz counters.

The effect could be something like this...

Or maybe even a sunny yellow?

I'll leave the costs for all this in another post. *Sigh*

Home Inspection

Things have been moving along. I've been tackling this whole process like any project manager should. I have all my necessary items to make decisions in one place, I've been in touch with my lender, Realtor, home inspector and contractor. And all this BEFORE the deal is final.

The home inspection happened last week. I called him Monday morning to arrange a time for him to come out to the property and he was there that afternoon. How's that for quick service. 

Chris, my home inspector was wonderful. A great recommendation. He was through in his inspection and explained issues to me with patience. I asked him, "so should I be running from this house"?

His answer was no. As an older home it will have somethings to attend to, but overall it was a good house. 

There are some cracks in the brick siding, but many have shown earlier repair. This is likely due to settling of the house and repaired areas do not show indication of further cracking. I could bring in an engineer to pay closer inspection to the foundation, but his recommendation was wait and see. Pay attention to the cracks and if I notice any of then getting larger or wider, then bring in the pros. 

Along the roofline of the porch there is some rotten wood cladding. That is the only area of the roof that touches wood.

The rest of the report contained electrical and insulation stuff.  

And here is what made working with Chris even better. 

The original contract I had with his was to do the home inspection and then to be the HUD 203k Consultant to help with the (somewhat) complicated process that takes place for the 203k loan that I am applying for. I payed him in full for both services. 

Within 10 minutes of us leaving the property, he had contacted my lender. During that conversation he realized that my loan would be a Streamlined 203k loan and would not require the services of a HUD 203k Consultant. He called me to let me know that he would be refunding the cost of the Consulting fees and within 20 minutes after that he texted me a photo of the deposit slip of the refunded money back into my checking account. 

At the end of the week I had my detailed home inspection report which he also forwarded to my contractor so they can begin preparing the items that will need to be on my renovation list. 

It is very easy for me to recommend:
Chris Ferguson of Ferguson and Company

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

House ninja

Wanna know how fast I move?

Offer signed last night. Home inspector coming this afternoon.

Like a f'ing NINJA!

Home Sweet Home, Y'all

4am again. This is becoming a habit.

Well after my offer, a counter offer and a counter-counter offer, the contract is signed. One set of anxieties are over and an entirely new set of anxieties can take its place.

The house.

It is a tiny little brick bungalow. Two bedrooms, one bath. Eat in kitchen. The closets are bigger than I expected. I can stand inside each one and spin around like a maniac. There's a laundry/mud room that provides access to the fenced-in backyard.

If anyone who has been to my parent's home in New Jersey, mine is similar in layout and square footage to the first floor.

The layout of this kitchen is weird. There is this circular path around the kitchen, living room and hallway, but there is a strange configurations of cabinets that partially block the passage into the hallway.

None of this is anywhere to scale. 

There is also a peninsula that comes very close to the large frige across from it. The frige pushes out way farther than the cabinets which makes for another awkward space to get into the kitchen area.  

The good thing about the loan that I'm applying for is that I can incorporate renovation costs into my total borrowing amount. So barring any significant repairs that stem from my home inspection, I will invest in changing my kitchen.  

I would remove the peninsula and wall off the entry to the hallway and make a more functional u-shaped kitchen work area. Sink (in blue) on the outer wall with the dishwasher to the left. The range on the right and the fridge across from the sink. A perfect triangular workstation. 

Oh Pinterest how I love you. 

I'm looking at white shaker cabinets, with some glass front ones just because, and a white subway tile backsplash.

For the countertops, I'm thinking dark. Black would make a nice contrast. I am not a granite freak. Instead I would prefer quartz, formica or even a recycled glass countertop.

All my years of watching HGTV may have spoiled me. They make it look all so easy. But I will try to have a more realistic view.

The next step of this home buying process is to get in my home inspector. There are specific things that the home has to have before my lender will give me the money. It has to not fall down on my head and there needs to be energy reducing things going on.

Then I need to give that list to my contractor so he can take that, and all my renovation ideas, and provide a detailed estimate on all the work that will be done.

That will go back to my lender, they will finally perform an appraisal on the property as is and after renovation, and make the decision if they will lend me what I'm asking for.

All that needs to happen before March 9, the end of my due diligence period. Suddenly that seems like it's tomorrow. And its freaking me out.

Closing is set for March 29.

Too. Many. Things. Happening.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Crunching numbers

There are times where I am spontaneous and just go with the flow. Trust in the Universe and let things sort themselves out.

This is not one of those times. As my Realtor provided me comps of other homes in the neighborhood which sold within the last 10 months I pulled out my maps, spreadsheets and went to work. I was trying to decide what to put as an offer price for my home.

I compared how close the houses were to the park or the crappy side of the main road, if the kitchen and baths were updated, and how much per square foot the comps were and how much did that differ from what mine was.

Then came a balancing act. If I offer this for the sale price, and I guesstimate what the renovations will cost, what will I need for closing? What should I ask for the seller to contribute towards closing?

It didn't help that my mortgage lender wasn't as responsive as I would have liked in providing me some different pricing scenarios.

But finally this morning my Realtor submitted my offer to the seller.

And now I wait.

Friday, February 08, 2013

A contender

I've been laying here, eyes open, since 4 am. My dog just grunts and stirs then finds a new position curled next to my leg. I have been either staring at the ceiling or browsing the home decorating section of Pinterest on my phone.

My mind will not shut off.

The house hunt yesterday proved successful. The house in Trinity Park proved to need a lot more love and money than I was able to provide.

A second home in Northgate Park had much more square footage and potential, but an add on had a lot of visible damage and no telling what was not visible.

But the third, also in Northgate Park, was just right.
Brick bungalow in Northgate Park, Durham.

It's true that you can feel when the house is a right fit. As soon as we walked inside we had a really positive vibe.

The house appeared to be in very good shape. The two bedrooms were a decent size but the closets were so much larger than expected. The bathroom vanity and toilet seemed very low to the ground, but it was clean and also a good size for the home.

The kitchen was workable, but that would be my main project. I would reconfigure the workspace and cut off a narrow passage to the hall and add counter and cabinet space to open it to the eat in dining area.

There was a large laundry/pantry/mudroom off the kitchen and leading to the fenced in backyard with carport and shed. It even came with a doggie door!

Now comes the hard part, what I hate the most. Deciding on an offer price. I hate the process of negotiation. It stresses me out.

Is it priced right? Too high? What is a good offer? Do I ask for closing costs?
Then because I'm doing a 203k loan, I have to include the cost of my renovations into my borrowing amount. I have a specific total borrowing g amount that I want to stay under. So can I purchase the home, plus make the renovations all under that amount? If I put more for down payment will I stretch my cash reserves too thin?

All. The. Stress.

Plus add to finding a home inspector, a general contractor to write up the proposal for the renovations and being realistic as to what I am capable of doing myself.

I am excited. And nervous. And cautious. Oh, and excited.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Diamond in the rough

I'm seeing 4 homes today, all within 2 miles from Downtown Durham where I work. I hope one of these home are a fit because I could then (theoretically) bike to work. Think of all the gas savings!

There is one in particular that I am smitten with. I haven't been inside...yet.

From the outside, it isn't much to look at. It's a tiny little cottage: 2 bedrooms, one bath and a whopping total of 886 square feet built in 1944. But look at that cute porch!

But what it does have going for it is its location, Trinity Park. The neighborhood is charming. Full of little cottages and bungalows all with their own charm. There are no cookie-cutter homes here.

I have been doing some neighborhood reconnaissance. I've been driving by before and after work to get a feel of the neighborhood and to peek at would-be neighbors. The other day I took a walk there during my lunch break and had a change to talk to the mailman. I asked his opinion of the neighborhood.

He said it was a great place. Very diverse -- families, professors from Duke University, students. Once they get here, they don't leave. Even in the (nicely maintained) apartment buildings on the street behind the property - they don't move out.

All this is very encouraging. You gota trust the mailman who's been on the route for four years.

But then some of the interior photos caught my eye.
Hardwoods in the living room
Love that arch into the kitchen!

There is some serious potential there. I can't wait to get inside. I am so hoping that I love it. And even more hoping that the home is not suffering from major structural damage.

What I find most romantic about this house and this location is that it's right out of one of my most favorite movies, Bull Durham. My home could be one that Crash walked passed to get to Annie's from the ball park.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

House Hunting

Well, hello 2013. Nice to see you. We had that Mayan 'end of the world as we know it' scare last month, you know.

Aside from the number of things that changed in 2012 (new job, got rid of Charles for good, all expense paid conference in Las Vegas) I'm now ready to concentrate on a new project. Buying a house.

It's time. I've been in North Carolina almost 3 years. And as much as I really love my apartment and where I'm living, I'm ready to make an investment and purchase a home.

I already pre-qualified for a mortgage. One of those sweet FHA loans at 3.25% and I only have to put 3.5% down.

I've decided to look in Durham.
Given my desire to keep my monthly housing costs around the $900 mark, that leaves limited options. There are townhomes that are 15 - 30 years old in the area that I'm looking in. The subdivisions are nice and have walking trails and close access to a gorgeous shopping mall. It's less than 20 minutes to work, but that's on secondary roads with lots of lights.

Or I can cross my fingers and find a detached home downtown, next to Duke University.

The homes here are absolutely charming. Little bungalows with tons of character. Neighborhoods to keep an eye on: Trinity Park and Northgate Park.

However to get into one that I can afford, I"ll be looking at a fixer-upper. But I think I'm up for the challenge.