Wednesday, March 23, 2016

THE House

I fully intended to blog more this year.  I got my yearly Blogs2Print book, and was shocked at home tiny it was.  My goal was to get a bigger book next year... but here it is, the end of March, and I've only written once.  I'm hoping to catch up on that as the year goes on, and as my to-do list around the house starts to shrink... (yeah, right?).

So, where did I leave off?  Oh yes... the house.  Our new, big, beautiful, "forever home" house!  I've been meaning to write about it, but I know that the post is going to be long and I never seem to have enough time to myself.  Today though, I'm sitting in a coffee shop after dropping the kids off with a sitter for a few hours, so, I'm going to try to tackle it.  =)

To start at the beginning... Jacob got a new job across the river in Vancouver back in July 2015.  It is a good job, with a good salary.  However, living and working in two different states caused a few problems.  First, we were still paying income tax for our home state (if we lived in Washington, we would have avoided this) and second, it meant Jacob was driving 1.5-2 hours per day between home work and picking the kids up from daycare.  When he got the job, we talked about moving over the river, but I was still working in Portland and our daycare provider (who we love and cuts us a SUPER deal) was also in Portland--and completely out of the way of what would be our new commute.  Moving would mean that we'd either a) have to find--and pay twice as much for--a new daycare, or b) me quitting my job and staying home.

At that time, I was just a few months in to a new job that had the potential for some advancement opportunities.  I really liked the company that I was working for, and was scared of the emotional and financial strain of being a stay at home parent.  So, Jacob continued with the commute and we kept the status quot.

Fast forward to the middle of August... I applied for a promotion at my job, something that I REALLY thought that I was going to get.  Something that I felt that I'd been kind of groomed to take on.  They offered someone else the position.  No ill will from me, really.  They made the decision that they felt was best for their organization.  However, I was then faced with making a decision that was best for ME.  Since 2009, between two different organizations, I had basically been doing the same work.  After 6 years as a direct service workforce development coach (and another 4 years before that in other direct service social service roles) I was feeling pretty burnt out... especially after being turned down for promotion opportunities twice.

One day in August I was driving home from out of town.  It was a long drive and my mind started to wander.  I started to think about our current situation, our desire to move, and how we could make that possible.  I thought about my job situation and if I wanted to stay somewhere (that I liked) doing work that I didn't for who knows how long... again.  I didn't.  Jacob's new salary is equal to what both of us made combined the year before, and we lived quite comfortably then, so I didn't fear the finance issue too much.  But could I be a stay at home mom?  The more I thought about it, the more I felt a resounding HELL YES.  After years of doing the working mom thing (it was exhausting and really emotionally draining for both me AND Jacob) and realized that I was ready for a new challenge.

When I got home, I talked to Jacob about my thoughts and decisions.  Very shortly thereafter, we called our real estate agent.

After speaking with our agent (who helped us purchase our first home, and would be helping us sell it), reviewing the housing market, and looking at time lines, we decided to find a house first, and make a contingent offer before putting ours on the market.  We didn't want to be stuck without a place to live.  So, armed with a Washington agent referral, we started our hunt for new homes in Vancouver, WA.

We looked at a handful of homes, and they were nice, but nothing was really taking our breath away.  The one that we most liked already had an offer accepted before we left the viewing, so we had to move on.  Since we were driving back and forth after work hours (during rush hour) and on the weekends to view homes (usually with 2 kids in tow), our WA agent decided to check into a few homes on her own and then let us know if she thought we should see them, too.  She had a pretty good sense at that point of what we were looking for and what features we did and didn't like.

One house in particular had one photo on their listing.  The description sounded good, but the single photo (a bad one of the exterior) made us leery about it.  Our agent went out with the intention of taking a look and sending us some additional photos.  Later that evening, she sent us some images with her story... after being assured that the alarm had been turned off, she entered the home... to be greeted by a blaring alarm through the whole house.  She waited for the police to arrive, explained who she was, and then ran through the house taking quick photos, covering her ears, waiting for the alarm to get shut off! lol  Thankfully her aural discomfort was not for loss.  We liked the photos and her description and decided to take a look at it ourselves.

The house was HUGE.  Jacob and I kept looking at each other with a "what the hell will we do with all this space" expressions.  The asking price was a bit above our self-imposed budget.  That and the space abundance were holding us up at first.  But, after seeing other slightly smaller homes with postage stamp sized backyards, we decided to put in an offer.  (side note: when we looked at the house we "surprised" one of the residents who was hanging out in her bedroom upstairs and didn't know that someone was coming to take a look at the house.  We should have taken note about the communication struggles at that point).

We made an offer, contingent on the sale of our home, for slightly under their asking price.  The responded that they would not take anything under asking.  After assessing our finances and what the likely monthly payments would be, we decided to accept the counter offer and pay asking.  Then we called our Oregon agent and pulled the trigger to list our current home.

For the next two weeks we kept our house sparkling clean, and crossed our fingers that we would get an offer and not lose "our" house based on the contingency.

We did NOT get an offer in time.  We prepared paperwork asking for an extension.  Three days after the contingency period ended, we got an offer.  As we had not heard anything back yet regarding our extension request, our agent contacted the sellers and asked to proceed.

They increased the asking price for the home by 10k.  And sure, we could proceed if we were willing to pay that.  Our agent was flabbergasted.  Our offer was the only offer that they'd received on the house.  Why would they UP the price??  Jacob and I had already offered 15k over our "budget", tacking on another 10k made me very nervous... especially since we were going to be on one income after we moved.  After some talk via agents, they lowered it to 5k.  We told them that we could not do that, and that we would have to pass (at this point we were just pissed and thinking about principal rather than dollar signs).

Our agent then took us to view about 6 other homes.  They all sucked in comparison to THE house.  I had gone and gotten attached to that house... something that I told myself not to do.  So much for that.  We had already accepted the offer on our current house, so not only we were in the position that we didn't want to be (on a time line for finding a place or we'd be homeless), but I loved a house that was above our budget... which is the exact same thing that happened to us with our first home purchase.

We decided to take the 5k offer and wrote the sellers a letter pretty much asking them not to be jerks to a young family that really loved their home (a home that they had only been in for about 2 years).  The deal was done and the inspection process started... on both homes.

Our to-be home passed inspections with flying colors.  The inspector even called me to tell me how gorgeous the house was.  The inspection on our current home was not so good.  There were wiring issues, and dry rot, some chimney structural concerns and (the one that grossed me out the most), rats.  Rats??  Rats.  Apparently we had rodents living under our house.  Which surprised me completely.  In the 5 years that we lived there, we saw a mouse... once.  No other signs of any other varmints.  So then negotiations for repairs starts.  Back and forth.  We'll fix this, but not this.  Finally we agreed on the terms.  And then the repairs started.

I feel like I should note at this point that during this whole process I was recovering from pneumonia.  During the initial offer/up the price portion, I was actually e-signing documents from my ICU hospital bed.  The inspections and repairs I was at home on bed rest.

Anyway, we got the repairs done, and the inspector came out to take a look.  They weren't done to his satisfaction.  So we had to get more contractors in to do more things.  Silver lining, because the repairs weren't done on time, we had to extend the closing date on our current home.  Which actually meant that we could make a smooth, single day move from one house to the other... without that, we would have been "homeless" for three days between the two closing dates.

Finally everything was done, movers were booked, boxes were packed, and it was time to sign closing documents.  Our house was sold!  A couple days later we went in to sign for our new home.  It was done!

We thought.

Fast forward to later on signing day... our agent calls us with some bad news.  One of the sellers is out of the country and can't sign his portion of the documents.  Let me note that throughout the whole negotiation process we had to wait, several times, for the husband, a musician to be in town to sign documents.  He was traveling constantly.  Problem is, they didn't tell anyone, THEIR agent included, that he was going to be out of the country during the closing time period.  Again, our agent was livid and so confused.  The wife went in and signed her portion of the documents, and then paperwork was started to give her the proper power of attorney rights to sign for her husband.  Problem is though that this was going to push the closing date out.  And the problem with that is that the movers had already been scheduled and we needed to be out of our old house!

After more conversation via agents, we finally got paperwork that would make us no-charge "renters" of the home before closing was official, which would allow us to move in as scheduled.  On moving day, I drove up to the new house to get the keys while Jacob stayed behind to help direct the movers.  I prayed that nothing would go wrong.  Our agent was there with the keys, and copies of all relevant documents... in case the alarm went off on us or there were any other concerns on our legitimacy to be there (she, as well, was having some trust issues at that point).  She told me then that she'd made a bit of no-no, but that it had worked out in our favor...

Apparently the sellers had wanted to charge us rent for being there before closing.  Our agent sent a text message blasting the sellers and stating that the issue was their fault and not ours, and that they were being greedy and difficult.  Fortunately/Unfortunately, she accidentally sent it to the sellers directly rather than the agent.  They didn't respond, but we received the keys and rental agreement with no further financial discussion.

We got everything moved out/moved in that day.  Aside from waiting for either a) international power of attorney paperwork to get processed or b) the husband to get back in town to sign papers so that would could finally close, we thought that things were done and over with.

But then we realized that we didn't have a mail box key.

Via agents, we heard from the seller that they expected us to change the lock and get our own key like they had.  I called the post office to inquire about this... $40, we needed to provide home purchase paperwork, and it could take a couple weeks.  Plus, we were RENTERS at that point and didn't have the authority to change the locks anyway.  It took us about a week to convince the sellers to give us the damn mailbox key!  I couldn't believe it.  Absolutely ridiculous.  I had to buy a new Halloween costume last minute because my costume for my office party was in the box.  It's petty, I know, but still soo soo annoying!

We closed on the house on Sam's birthday, October 30th.  Four days after we moved in.  After getting the mail situation figured out, I was so glad to be over with it and move on to the fun stuff.  So far we have replaced some flooring, painted some walls, bought some furniture and changed the locks.  ;)

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