The house that crack built…the final chapter…

So it was Valentine’s day and we were finally set for the closing the next day.  We went out to dinner and then we drove the car back downtown.  J ran upstairs to get the dog while I parked the car…in a spot across the street from our building where I always parked.  We took Sadie for a walk and then we went to bed.  I woke up the next morning at 5AM and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I was too nervous that something else was going to go wrong.  I puttered around the apartment, getting everything ready to take with us and killed as much time as I could. 

We had a plan.  At 8AM I was going to go get the car and bring it around to the driveway of the building.  We were going to pack up the car, pack up the dog, go to the walk-through, go to the closing (during which I would take Sadie to the park to play) and then go to the house.  We weren’t planning on moving in until the end of March, but we wanted to get the bare essentials set up, go grocery shopping and then we were going to have my parents over for dinner to show them the house.  It was a good plan. 

Too bad it didn’t happen that way. 

By 7:30, I was way too antsy so I decided to run down to get the car early.  I threw my coat on over my pajamas and figured I’d just get dressed when I came back up.  When I got downstairs, I noticed that a different car was parked in my spot.  I was so confused and I called J to ask him if he maybe had moved the car while I was sleeping.  In hindsight, I realize it was a stupid question, but at the time it seemed like the most logical answer.  He, of course, said he hadn’t moved the car and that he’d be right down. 

Now, please keep in mind that I was in my pajamas, standing the middle of the street, thinking someone stole the car.  J comes down and a man approached us, asking if we were looking for a black Infiniti.  Why, yes…yes we were.  He told us that a cop came by and gave us a ticket and then not even five minutes later they came to tow it away.  We were all…WTF? 

We saw a cop, so we thanked the guy and went running over to the cop.  He confirmed that yes, our car had been towed.  The parking regulations for that block…which had been the same for SIX YEARS had changed a few days before.  Instead of having to move your car at 8AM, you now had to move it at 7AM.  But only for the first three spots on the block.  They did change the time on the sign…one little teeny tiny number on a small sign.  But they didn’t post any kind of notice or anything.  I would think they would have…or should have…posted a big orange sign indicating the change.  But they didn’t.  Welcome to New York.

Ok…the car got towed…there was no point in arguing over why or what should have been done.  What was done was done.  So we jumped into a cab and headed up to the impound lot.  We arrived before the car did and it took three hours and $285 to get the car out.  When we finally got the car back it was late…11AM.  We were supposed to be at the walk-through at 12 and the closing at 1.  There was also bumper to bumper traffic on the highway and we knew there was no way to make it back to the apartment, pack the car and get up to the house on time.  We had no choice but to go straight from the impound lot to the walk-through…with me still in my pajamas…with no purse or wallet or anything.  Luckily, I didn’t have to sign anything or we would have been screwed. 

The walk-through was uneventful as was the closing itself…except for when our realtor got into it with our attorney and we had to break it up.  When the closing was over we headed back to the city to finally pack up the car and get the dog.  Now…we had run out of the house so quickly that morning that we didn’t pick up the dog’s food so she’d been grazing all day.  That wasn’t good, because Sadie gets car sick and we didn’t want her to eat before the car trip.  But since we couldn’t do anything about it and it was getting late, we packed the car, walked the dog and headed back up to the house.

While we were driving I called my parents and asked them to “stop by” and pick something up from me at our friend’s house.  We were planning to surprise them when they arrived.  They agreed…which was like the only thing that had gone right.  We were about five minutes from the house when my phone rang.  It was my office…informing me that they had fired someone earlier that day and they wanted to go over a few things with me before he actually left the office.  As I was talking to them, Sadie turned to J…and threw up all over him.  Twice. 

So I was on the phone and J was covered in dog vomit and I was trying to drive and talk and clean up at the same time.  And the smell was making me sick too.  Of course…that all happened five minutes from the house.  The dog couldn’t have waited just a few more minutes!   Luckily, I was able to get us to the house and get J stripped and his clothes right into the washer.  If that had happened on the way to the city he would have had to walk through the lobby like that. 

After all that was done, I had exactly one hour to go buy groceries, a card table, folding chairs, and an air mattress before my parents showed up.  I also had to call my dad and give away my secret because I needed his help in getting things ready and getting my mom to the house.  It was my parents’ anniversary and my mom decided that she just wanted to go home.  After he got over the initial shock of us purchasing a house without telling anyone, my dad agreed to pick up some take out for us for dinner.  I managed to get everything done and I was waiting when my mom pulled up…thinking she was just picking something up and would be gone in 30 seconds. 

I ran outside and asked her to come in for a second.  She fought me on it, but eventually relented when I told her I just wanted her to see the house.  When she walked in and saw the dog and the empty house she was pretty confused, but really excited for us when she realized that we’d bought a house.  I think she still can’t believe that we were able to keep it a secret the whole time!

We had a nice dinner with my parents and then we spent our first night in our new house…sleeping on an air mattress on the living room floor. 

When we woke up the next morning there was no heat…the first of many calamities that have befallen us in this freaking house.  But we like the house and we’ve been fixing it up slowly but surely.  In the end, I think J made the right decision in upping our offer and all the disasters that happened along the road to the closing were worth it.  Also…they make for a good story.  Who else can say they attended their house closing wearing pajamas?  Not many people. 

If you are actually still reading…thank you!  This is a long post.  But I figured some of you would have killed me if I stopped in the middle and made you wait until next week for the end of the story. 

Random musings Friday will be back next week.  Have a great weekend everyone!

The saga of the house that crack built…

Yesterday, after reading about yet another thing that is wrong with my house, someone asked me how we ended up with the house that crack built.  I realized I never fully explained how we ended up there or the whole process of buying the house, which was…interesting. 

So, I’m going to tell you that story now.  It’s a long one, but it’s pretty entertaining…especially the day of our closing.  That was a day that will live on in our relationship history forever as the most ridiculous day on record.  But I’m totally getting ahead of myself.  To really tell the story right and for you to completely understand why we chose our house, I have to start at the beginning…

In 2005, J was living in the city and I was living in the suburbs and we were paying two separate rents even though we were together pretty much all the time.  Real estate prices had been going crazy up to that point, but were starting to come back down.  We decided that we wanted to start looking for a house so we could stop paying rent and finally just move in together.  We wanted to get away from the city so we settled on Connecticut, called a realtor and started our search. 

At first we didn’t know what kind of house we wanted, but we knew we wanted a water view, so our realtor took us to any house that had water near it.  Seriously…if there was a puddle in the driveway, she took us there.  We quickly ruled out a lot of things and we settled on what we wanted…a large-ish center hall colonial with a big backyard in one of a five different neighborhoods in Stamford, CT.  J also wanted that water view…which is pretty easy in Stamford since there are ponds and lakes and rivers everywhere. 

We had seen about 8 houses over three weeks and I didn’t like any of them.  It was a Saturday and we were almost done for the day, but a house had just come on the market and the realtor wanted to take a quick swing by.  She told me not to get my hopes up as she hadn’t seen it yet, but someone told her that I’d probably like it.  Well, that someone was right. 

As soon as we pulled into the driveway, I knew this was the house.  I mean, it was THE HOUSE…the dream house.  It was perfect…everything I pictured when I thought of a house in CT.  We went inside and I was madly in love.  If it had been up to me, I would have bought the house right then and there.  J wasn’t with me and I wanted him to see it right away.  The realtor agreed to meet us there the next day…which happened to be Mother’s Day…so J could see it. 

I have to say, J’s reaction was a little less enthusiastic than I’d been hoping for.  He liked the house, but he wasn’t having the same love affair with it that I was.  We spent a good hour there and J looked over everything from top to bottom and then sideways.  He looked under, over and behind everything.  He checked the outside, inside, basement, attic and yard.  By the time we left, I’m pretty sure he could have found his way around the house blindfolded.  In the end, he was sold…the house passed J’s rigorous inspection and we agreed to discuss it and call the realtor back.

We discussed it for a week…non-stop.  We went back to look at it three different times.  We researched the market and looked at comparables.  We talked to our realtor a lot.  There was one major stumbling block for us…the price.  It was out of our price range.  We tried to run the numbers every way we could, but they just didn’t add up for us.  The house was also very overpriced.  The asking price was on par with some of the very high-end, custom homes, but it was pretty standard with a lot of builder grade materials.  It would have needed a lot of upgrades that were definitely not in our budget. 

So we moved on and looked at pretty much every other house in the entire Stamford area.  We saw a couple of things that were ok, but nothing that we liked as much as THE HOUSE.  We looked for a year and I think in total I saw about 45 houses.  During that time, the sellers of THE HOUSE realized they needed to lower their price and they did a series of reductions.  Finally, in April of 2006 they came pretty close to a number that we felt was reasonable. 

We decided to make an offer. 

We went to look at he house again.  We did more research.  We looked at more comparables.  We made lists of pros and cons.  We picked a number and did all our paperwork and submitted an offer.  Then we crossed our fingers.

Our offer was low…very low…but we thought it was reasonable and we were confident we could negotiate a deal that would make everyone happy. 

We were very wrong. 

15 minutes after submitting our offer, we had an answer.  No.  But not just no.  We were told that we were completely ridiculous…that our offer was insulting…that we were out of our minds…that we had no concept of the real estate market in Stamford…that there would be no negotiating. 

Did I mention the seller was a total douche…an investment banker who thought he was brilliant and knew everything?  He didn’t have a realtor…he was selling the house on his own because realtors didn’t know anything and he could do a better job.  Also…his ties were arranged in his closet in perfect rainbow-colored order and they were all perfectly line up and even.  Total douche. 

We tried to explain how we’d arrived at our number.  We showed him our research, our comparables, our list of needed repairs and upgrades.  He didn’t want to hear it.  We either paid his price or we could go fly a kite.  We chose the kite. 

I was really upset.  I seriously loved that house.  I was also sick of looking at houses.  I’d seen so many and I spent so much time driving to CT and back.  I needed a break.  So we put our house hunt on hold…

Oh…did I mention that THE HOUSE sat on the market…empty…until 2008 and then sold for $150,000 less than what we’d offered?  I still chuckle when I think about it.

To be continued tomorrow…

It is kind of bulky…

I love my house.  It’s about 80 years old and has things like original woodwork and recessed shelving and gorgeous wood floors.  It has a ton of charm and character.  Unfortunately, it also has things like drafty windows, cracked plaster and uneven door frames.  Oh, and I forgot to mention the outdated heating and electrical systems, the shoddy plumbing…the list goes on.

Luckily, J is very handy and he’s taught me well.  I now know how to wire electrical outlets, re-caulk leaking windows, repair a leaking gas pipe, pressure test gas lines, replace a faulty circuit breaker, assemble new heating ducts, hang sheet rock and finish off walls.  Pretty soon we are going to be re-doing both of our bathrooms, so I’m going to learn about plumbing too.  Just call me Mike Holmes!

Our most recent project was doing and oil to natural gas conversion and replacing our old, gigantic, inefficient furnace with a new, smaller, sleeker, high-efficiency model.  J did the majority of the work himself…no easy feat since he had never done anything like that before and the installation instructions were written for a contractor and made no sense to us civilians.  It took almost a month to get the whole system up and running, but J did a spectacular job and everything is working just fine.

So J is handy and he really enjoys doing all these projects himself and I like helping him and it’s all good.  The problem is that there are some jobs that are better left to the professionals and J has a really hard time letting them take over.  Case in point…our oil tank. 

Since we have done a natural gas conversion, the oil tank is totally useless and has to be removed.  New York State has several laws about the removal of oil tanks and they require that a licensed tank removal company come in and do the job under the supervision of an inspector from the city fire department.   They don’t suggest it or recommend it…they REQUIRE it.  Of course, J has other ideas.

He has, in fact, hired a license tank removal company to come here tomorrow to do this work.  They will come, remove the cinderblock wall in front of the tank, disassemble the tank, pull it out of the basement, load it onto their truck and haul it away.  Well…I should say, that’s what they would normally do…in someone else’s house.  Here, the will not have to remove the wall…J took a sledge-hammer to that last week.  They won’t have to disassemble the tank…that all happened earlier this evening.  Then J got the crazy idea that he and I should move the tank into the garage to “make it easier for the guys tomorrow.”

Something you should know about me…I am not coordinated in any way and if there is a possibility of injury, I will pull it off.  Also, I have very little in the way of upper body strength.  So I say to J, “oh, if we put it in the garage are they going to charge us less?”  “No,” he says.  So why are we going to kill ourselves dragging this thing across the basement and into the garage?  But J was determined and I know better than to try to reason with him when he’s like that.  It’s entirely useless…like trying to reason with one of the dogs.  He drives me crazy when he gets like that so I’ve learned to just sit back and watch the show.

He stood there staring at the tank for a while.  He pushed it a little, pulled it a little.  He measured the tank and the doorways.  He pushed it again.  He tried to get a hand truck underneath it…which was kind of like trying to move an elephant on a skateboard.  I stood back want watched all this trying not to laugh about my elephant analogy and knowing full well that there was no way we were getting that thing out tonight.  I knew J would eventually reach the same conclusion.

Finally, he turned and looked at me and said, “It is kind of bulky, isn’t it?”  Um, I guess that’s one way to describe it!  At that point, I couldn’t help it and I burst into hysterical laughter.  Shortly after that he threw in the towel and conceded that it was probably better to let the professionals handle it. 

Oh…I got another item checked off my list.  My calendar is up to date and I’ve got birthday cards written out for almost everyone through the end of March.  Two more to go and another one will be done!  Yay me!