Sunday, June 16, 2013

Casa Jill - Part I

Back in mid-May, our baby girl (who is 23...but it wouldn't matter if she was 63...she's still "baby girl" to us) bought a house.  She had a lot of help from a wonderful real estate agent (Kelly) and from a terrific mortgage lender (Laurie) and her parents, but she went from "I'm not paying apartment rent or coming home" to making us share her vision and realization that this might make sense in a low mortgage interest rate environment...well, to the point of actually owning the house, and it seems to have worked out okay.

Actually, way better than "okay" but whatever.

Before I continue this story, however, I have to tell you that the particular house she ended up purchasing is strongly believed to be by the parties involved as a "God thing" as it is referred to down South when something flies out of nowhere to bless us.  She was looking at foreclosures and had decided on an amount of money to borrow that made sense in her budget...not really thinking about things like resale value or how awful it might actually be to live in said house while major renovation was going on.  No...she got online and started finding HUD houses and had a list of three or four that she wanted Kelly to show her.  And she did.

But as they were going through the various neighborhoods, Kelly told her that she wanted to show her a house in a neighborhood of garden homes that had recently sold to see if that area would be to Jill's liking as the houses were fairly new and the resale value would probably hold should Jill decide to up and move in five years to somewhere fabulous.  They went inside and Jill loved it...but knew that it was beyond the price range that she had set for herself.  They went back out to the car, and pulled up the next place to go and found that the most remarkable thing had just happened.

A house in the neighborhood had just been listed on the website.  A foreclosure in the neighborhood with a similar floor plan to the one she had just viewed.

Of course, they went to see it, she fell in love with it, they bid on it, she won, and Laurie "made it happen" in the world of finance.

How awesome is that?  Answer?  Very.

Especially if you know that the paperwork for a HUD house is akin to the Miss America pageant in that those people are looking for perfection.  I do feel bad for the people who lost the house because she won it...because they probably didn't check a box on the form correctly and they rebid it to give them time to fix it...except that she swooped in and got the house by bidding more.  We didn't even get excited about it until the house actually closed, because Kelly had prepared us that anything could go wrong between winning the bid and closing...and she didn't want us to be a hot mess over it.  Laurie did a superhuman feat of getting the loan through the process in time to jump through every hoop that HUD laid out for us...and on time which totally rocked, by the way.

(So, if you are in the Montgomery, AL area and need a great realtor and mortgage lender...I can totally hook you up.)

The house is also down the street from the parents of ex-boyfriend #4, and Jill adored them.  So, she has someone in the neighborhood to borrow a cup of sugar from if it ever comes to that.  And the week before she closed on the house, a friend she graduated with and went to University of Alabama with is coming home to work in Montgomery and was looking for somewhere to live.  So, now, she has a roommate.  She moved in yesterday.  Not that they have a kitchen that is operational right now, cable, or living room furniture, but that will be rectified in the next 72 hours.

I hope.

And if God wasn't giving her any more affirmation that this is the right move, Jill passed her test and "grill" (where they question you about everything situationally) and got promoted last week at work.  It comes with a nice raise in pay.  Rock. On.

When she got the house, there was a lot of work to do, but nothing that required subcontractors and weeks of demolition.  Just some painting, replacing two rotten boards on the eave of the house and perhaps a little cosmetic work here and there.  It would take two weeks...tops.  Absolutely no later than the end of June.

Yeah, right.

I am married to a contractor...and you should know that many contractors are optimists.  Although Big Dave is honest about what he thinks will go down, he also is really, really prone to getting the whole "So, how long will this take?" thing really, really wrong.  That's because almost 100% of the time, someone wants to change something "while you're at it..." or the color that they picked from World o'Paint looks like something Linda Blair shot out once it gets on the wall.  Because the trick, you see, is getting the contractor there in the first place.  Once he IS there, nearly 100% of all homeowners will find eighteen other things that they want done or they'll choose to just "go for it" and get into something that they had absolutely no intention of doing when they called him in the first place.  Like scraping their popcorn ceilings off and painting them smooth, or knocking out a wall in the kitchen or painting the entire house instead of the bathroom that they called him to do.  This will wreak havoc with his scheduling...which is done normally six weeks out.

And the word "no?"  Hardly ever used.  Unless, of course, you want to do something stupid that he won't want to deal with and then that word will fly all kind of all out.

And people wonder why contractors can't get it done on time?  This is why.  I live it every day.  Not that he's complaining about the additional work...he's just trying hard not to disappoint everybody and ruin his chances of getting work from them (or a referral) in the future.

The loudest person whining right now is his daughter.  She doesn't understand why the two weeks has morphed into four on a best case scenario.  Why he can't just spend a few days straight getting it all done in spite of the fact that there are things like drywall (that takes days) and tile (also days) involved here.  That one can only paint for so long before one cannot possibly paint any longer.  Could be that she's getting a new tile floor in her kitchen, breakfast area, pantry, foyer, and around her fireplace.  Not to mention the new backsplash, the sheetrock repair of the wall that had the desk removed to "open up the space" or the closet enlargement in her roommate's bedroom.  Add new fixtures in some places, hanging stuff, and refilling nail holes from the previous owner who apparently had a love for hanging stuff just took a wee bit longer.

I'm just hoping that it doesn't morph into six...because I'm thinking right now that this is a distinct possibility.  The last two weeks will be spent doing the outside of the house including painting and landscaping.  She won't whine about that...she just wants everything on the inside ready.

Worst. Nonpaying. Client. Ever.

Okay, FINE, that is title should actually go to ME last March while Big Dave was trying to get ten years of home repairs ready in ten days because Jill invited some of my friends out here for my 50th birthday party.  Bless his heart, he was painting ceiling trim on the porch two hours before the guests arrived.

She has learned some valuable lessons, though, along the way.  Which is good.  Things like these:

1. Yard sales totally rock.

Yes.  In her 23 years of life, Jill was blissfully ignorant about yard sales.  To her...Saturday mornings were for sleeping in.  Now, she tracks down yard sales like a bloodhound.  She's bought two light fixtures (that are going to used in her master bathroom - for $5 each - or $10), a ceiling fan $10, and a tan corduroy chair and a half (known as "Big Roy") for $10, and a beautiful decorative pillow and quilt for $10 (which also had some other stuff thrown in for that price as well because it was a friend who was merciful's yard sale and she was pleased that her stuff was going to a good home.)

2. So do estate sales on Day 2.

Jill and I meandered through our first estate sale along with what seemed like a hundred other people.  We bought four brand new napkins for her table, a couple of Pyrex dishes, and a stool that matches her walls for $10.50.  I won't tell you that this process is easy...because there's always the temptation to stop and look with fascination on other people's really, really bad purchasing decisions made over a lifetime.

Which is excellent incentive to get my house relieved of stuff like this.  Like pronto.

3. You don't tug on Superman's cape, spit into the wind, pull the mask off the Lone Ranger or shop without a coupon at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Kohl's or Kirkland's because to do so is idiotic.

Ever.  Even at 20%'ll still pay more at all of these places than at WalMart.  Of course, I'd rather clean out the grandcats' litterbox than go in I keep a ready stash of BB&B and Kohl's coupons before I ever consider darkening their door.  As for Kirkland's...they have a little app you can get on your phone that has a little game that lets you spin for your percentage off.  The best we've done is 10%.  But having the tax paid versus not having the tax paid?  I'll take "spinning for 10%, Alex."  Just saying.

4. The big box home improvement stores really aren't so bad.  

The people at Home Depot are apparently trained to spot the truly clueless...and if you just take them up on their offer to help'll find the toilet seats in less than five minutes instead of careening up and down the aisles for forty-five minutes by your lonesome.

To say that my experience in finding what I need in this store is akin to a man of retirement age buying his wife something in Victoria's probably the best comparison I can come up with at 6:52 a.m.  I have learned that the giant signs that mark the aisles are indeed helpful, but that one can go in there for two things and be gone for an hour and a half without proper assistance.  I know this because I've done it.  I can also guarantee that if you go in there for two things, one will be on one side of the store, and the other will be on the opposite side.  Just because.

I've also come to realize that they sell Gatorade (I almost passed out the week after surgery trying to find some spray paint) should you find yourself feeling parched and a pretty decent bathroom on the end of the store where they keep the lumber.  Be forewarned that this is on the opposite side of the garden center...a distance of about a mile and a half when you have to go.  Or so it seems.  And yes, you will be asked if you need help at least eight times from Point A to Point B.  At least that was my experience.

Every so often, you'll get a chatty helper at Home Depot who wants to tell you what tile to pick and where the clearance rugs are...and that's helpful...but a wee bit time consuming.  Like thirty minutes time consuming. He did try to help us, though, bless his heart.

Oh, and get the carts that are metal instead of the plastic ones so that you won't want to crash your cart into a wall of granite samples to "make the clicking go away before you lose your mind."  Didn't do that...but certainly contemplated it.

At Lowe's, you have the opportunity to put all of your purchases on a little key thingy that makes it easier to remember what paint color you bought two years ago...or to return stuff.  I'm not entirely sold on Lowe's...but they do whip Home Depot's backside on the home decor aisle with the curtains.  We were able to beat out a lady from Georgia to get six panels for Jill's living room for $8 each, and then felt bad because we also had other curtains she wanted but ended up returning them when they didn't work out.  Jill was pleased that she had chosen the same curtains that the other (wee bit snotty) girl wanted and felt that this was confirmation of her excellent choice in parking those bad boys in her buggy.

(Oh, I used the term "buggy"...for those of you not in the South...I meant "cart.")

5. You really have to haunt T.J. Maxx, Stein Mart, Marshall's and Ross for Less if you want to find a deal..or you can just pray about it.  Both seem to work.

You may have a great day and find everything you need...but I'd be willing to bet that this will not be the case.  You are far more likely to find one thing you need in one place and something else in another one...and they'll end up matching.  We went to T.J. Maxx and purchased a floor rug and a few days later, a runner that matched was there for $24.99.  So, we bought both.  I've also purchased no fewer than three soap dishes for the garden tub...and returned two.  The one she liked best was $1.99.  Rock. On.

I think that most of us feel like we are wasting time if we go into a store like that and don't find anything.  I disagree.  I think sometimes not finding something just means that the timing isn't quite right.  And every time you go in to look pick up another idea or tiny piece of the whole puzzle.  I have a friend who prays for God to direct her to the stores and to the items that she needs to buy and over time, she has learned to trust this.  She'll walk right in to a store and find "the deal" that she can't pass up.  I know this...because I've watched her do it.

I am not going to pretend that I have a whole lot of time or even a whole lot of skill at this particular endeavor.  But I will tell you that I don't have a lot of money, so I have to spend time instead.  Kind of like planning a wedding with a skinny flower budget.  If you don't have a lot of'd better have a lot of lights.  Or something like that.

6. It helps if your Daddy is a contractor.  But because your Daddy is a contractor, expect him to finish on the later end of things rather than the sooner end.  Because that's how a contractor rolls.  

Yes, Jill has saved thousands of dollars in labor costs having her Daddy paint, tile and fix things in her house, but because she's paying him in hugs and appreciation, she'll come behind people that are paying with actual dollars.  So, telling her that mid-June was the earliest that the house would be ready...was not terribly off.  Yes, she can move in her bedroom and can use the bathroom.  A kitchen?  Um.  No.  That'll be another week.

Or two.

His best guess was originally the end of June to have the house habitable.  Looks like that's closer to reality.  But it is mid-June and she's moved in...or will be tomorrow.  But since she's set a July 14th Housewarming Party...I'm fairly certain that he will be finishing the outside of the house on July 13th.  Or the morning of the 14th.  One or the other.

Bless his heart.

7. Yes, you can wait to purchase what you want.  

One of the biggest temptations for someone like me who likes to get things done is to just move along and try to get things worked out if the cost is reasonable.  But this isn't my house.  This is HER house.  And it takes some gargantuan self control to not want to make it all show-worthy immediately.

Not that I have any money for this, mind you.  We are doing what we have out of money that was budgeted specifically for the basics she needs to update the house.  Then she found furniture...and we are very, very fortunate that a friend is letting us pay her over time.  We also needed to upgrade our refrigerator, so we hammered out a deal on that one and Jill is getting our old one.  It's all she needs and better than what she could have bought.  Now I'm set for another ten years or so...except I'll be eating beans and rice for the next three months while I pay this sucker off.

Not only from a financial perspective do I not want to buy everything.  But more importantly...I don't want to take away her appreciation for everything she has in her house.  So, I've focused on a few finding a slipcover for Big Roy, and alerting her to bargains when I see them.  I buy things and then I take them back if they don't suit...or she does.  I do get a few things for her that she'll pay me for that I know she needs or think she'll like because when you are shopping on a clearance'd better go ahead and pick up what you see or it will be gone before you can get back there to show it to her in person.  But other than this practice...I'm staying out of it...unless she specifically asks my opinion.

Which she does...because she totally rocks.

She is also blessed to have a decorator friend of Big Dave's helping her and some really great family friends who know what to do to pull it all together.  And trust me...they'll hear from us.  But right now, she is just enjoying all of the possibilities since there's no reason to limit herself to one or two choices while she is trying to organize her closet and use the new drawer space that she hasn't had in the past.  She is used to hanging everything up...and now she'll be separating seasons and moving things to drawers so it doesn't look like Ann Taylor Loft and Express threw up in her closet.

Because that's pretty much what it looks like right now.

Sweaters and tank tops all co-existing.  So. Not. Good.

But she's learning to wait until she finds the perfect piece.  To wait until she sees exactly what is in her mind's eye.  Until she has a great coupon.  And money.  Let's not forget that.  I think it is great fun to pull your house together over time...and to do it yourself.  I don't want to deny her that pleasure in any way.

So, the baby girl is pulling it together...and we are ready for it to be all done so that we can enjoy dropping by when invited to say hello or to just have a movie night.  She wants to host Thanksgiving at her house this year.  I just might agree to that.

Wish us well as we get through these last few weeks.  I hope that we keep the drama to a minimum as well as the costs.  I'm not entirely sure we'll pull that off...but here's hoping.

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