Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Oh yeah, the condo?

Let's just say it's priced to sell now. I'm dumping it. Fast as I can. The price hit rock bottom and it's got every incentive on it known to man. So it turned out to not really be an "investment" when I bought it. Oh well. At least it was shelter and warmth for several years.

Now I will proceed to rant just a little bit about the rental house. First and foremost, it stunk and was filthy when we moved in. There was this strange phenomenon going on with the walls, mostly in the kitchen and bathrooms, where there was sticky dark carmelly colored shit on the walls. It looked as though someone shook the hell out of a can of coke and then opened it a little bit while shaking it furiously and letting the pop just land all over everything. But it wasn't Coke. After cleaning this up several times, and seeing it reappear, I discovered it was the nasty tar and garbage hiding in the vents from years of people smoking here in this house. The rooms that produce moisture are the ones that get the gook on the walls.

The carpeting upstairs literally changed color as it was being shampooed the first and second times. No lie. It was so coated in a layer of dirt that it looked like a dull pale yellow. After two passes with a professional carpet cleaner, it looked bright orangey yellow. Somewhere I have pictures of it after it dried and showed the before and after in two places because I was so honestly amazed.

This house is not built to house furniture. Ridiculous, I know, but still the truth. It is a bungalow built in the thirties or forties, and not only can you not get a full sized couch in the house through either door, but you cannot get a queen sized box spring up the stairs either. Or even a love seat. We took our queen size mattress up there and then our plans were twarted when we couldn't get the box spring up. So we have been sleeping ghetto-style on a mattress lying on the floor because you can't get furniture up to the bedrooms. The front door leads into a super tiny square foyer. If you turn right you are in the living room. If you step into the living room to close the front door so you can go left, you will be in the kitchen. And if you walk in and look straight in front of you, there is a little coat closet.

The mortician people couldn't even use a gurney to take Grandma away. I won't discuss how they did it. But there was no way to get a gurney into the house. They had to approach the family and explain the problem to get permission for what they felt was their only option.

The stairs leading to the basement will soon fall apart. They have shifted and warped so badly that the cheif reason I wanted to bother fixing the archaic washing machine was so we didn't risk killing the delivery man if he fell through them on the way down with the new appliance. I don't know how much new stairs cost, but I'd rather never have to know.

The basement leaks. So badly, that on occasion, you can see the water running in a small winding stream from two corners to a center drain. Thankfully, we've never seen fish. But this is significant because we didn't know the basement leaked until we put many of our most prized possessions down there, and began using the laundry room as a laundry room. But not only does the basement leak, the house is laden with mold. Put the two together. The first horrible spring thaw that occurred simultaneous with a four day rain period left us to find moldy, rotten, ruined clothing that had to be discarded, as well as many cardboard boxes that had sucked up the water and made everything inside them wet. And the clothing was down there for about 8 days. That's all it took.

The windows leak. Both air and water. The worst of them has a gap about an eighth of an inch, and you can see clear outside through it. Three other windows don't have the huge gaps, but if you stand in front of them, inside the house, your hair will blow from the wind. So, of course, the gas bill is outrageous. We just had one of the warmest Novembers in history. Our gas bill was still off the charts. Because whether it's 50 degrees outside or 10 below zero, the furnace works overtime and hardly ever shuts off. The bill due January 18th? $355. Just for gas. And, the upstairs windows are the worst, so we use electric powered ceramic heaters up there. So the electric bill is also ridiculous.

The water bill? Just as bad. Every single toilet and faucet is wacky here. Especially the tub faucet on the main floor. The last water bill I paid on January 4th was $273. And only one person has been living here, really, and with no working washing machine for just over three months. (Aaron has tried to fix it. We've ordered parts for it twice and replaced them, but have concluded it needs a whole new motor. Given that he's only in Michigan on weekends, that's hard to deal with properly right now.)

The carpeting in the living room and hallway was disintegrating. Literally. It was flat as a pancake. The padding was nothing but dust, and it had a nice farm of mold underneath it. Vacuuming brought bits of nylon carpet backing up on occasion. It was so gross that we eventually ripped it up and got rid of it. The dust in the house improved slightly afterwards.

However, this was another point of contention with the master executor. Despite asking her permission to fix the place up a bit before we changed anything, she's decided that the carpet removal is now suddenly a pain in her keister because she claims that at least she could have shampooed the old stuff and made it look clean. She fails to remember past conversations. I did shampoo that carpeting. And it continued to fall apart. Carpeting is just not meant to last forty years.

But the real reason that this aunt is so crazy lately is, on top of her private issues with her boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend, depending on the moment's status, and her financial concerns, she's been browbeat lately by some of her other siblings to get going on this house matter. I can't necessarily blame them either. Their mother died more than two years ago, and they haven't even been allowed to get their childhood boxes of crap from the attic until recently. So everyone has a valid point of view, and I am not criticizing anyone. This whole situation is difficult for everyone involved.

So overall, I feel really bad for her. She's in a rough spot in life, and I hate to see anyone in one of those. I've had my share. I'm having somewhat of one now, but nothing I can't handle smoothly. (The thing I've learned is, once you have dealt with some really bad stuff? The typical stuff becomes easier.)

I do hope and pray that the uncle comes through and buys the place. We've said all along that we'll stay here and keep the house maintained and financed until either three months after the condo sells at a decent price, when we build a new house, or, when his aunt decides to fix it up and get it on the market. We have discussed this often over the past year and honestly had hoped the two would happen simultaneously so we knew that we weren't sticking her in the eye when we left.

But we never thought we'd be invaded the way we were! And I can't let that happen again. That would have been cause to at least consider helping a bit more with the fix up effort to get it on the market. But the concerns raised about our potential child staying here? That's what sent us over the edge, and we'll truly be completely vacated from the house with it fully cleaned and ready in less than six weeks from the moment the appraiser walked in the door.

Overall, living here was not smart financially. Our original plan was smart. The plan to grab a tiny apartment with our one dog and live there for $700 per month until the condo sold. That was a good plan. When we agreed to live here instead, to help the aunt out instead of giving that money to an apartment complex, it ended up costing us roughly $1000/mo minimum to live here once we realized how high the utilities were and were asked to take on property taxes and different things not included in the original plan. Nevermind the cost of landscaping, new bushes, and other things we did to help out the effort.... That stuff, including paint and sweat equity, isn't even included in the rough estimate of what bills cost.

And speaking of the situation.... I just got a call from the aunt right now informing me that she'll be over this evening. Great! There go my plans. I can't wait until this is overwith.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The housing situation....

I have three posts in the "edit" stage that, when I finish, will be posted with back-dates from when I started them. It's coming.

But for now, I will fast forward and just speak in terms of the housing situation.

I think I've mentioned before that I own a condo that is for sale. Yes, I believe I even referred to it here in this blog as the "condo-that-will-never-sell." Now this condo is nice. Really nice. It's only 10 years old, and when I bought it in February of 2001, I still gutted it and redid it anyway, just because I didn't like the carpeting or the builder's grade eggshell paint. And, I wanted ceramic tile in the foyer and the kitchen. And.. Well, I could go on and on, but it doesn't matter. The bottom line is I put my heart and soul into the thing, and it's immaculate. So I had a nice (reasonable) idea of the profit I expected from it.

Reasonble, if the market were normal... But of course it's not. The whole complex is laden with units priced below market value, including, unfortunately, some foreclosures. Even though they are icky inside, they are priced low enough that someone could feasibly put in some sweat equity and have one looking as good as mine does in a few months or so. So my target market is someone who wants a turn-key home, in that general price range and style home. And it's not a very populated target market, because you can get so much more for that money right now.

Now the same exact week that we became seriously committed to taking in this child, we got a phone call late the day after Christmas giving us only a matter of hours worth of notice that an appraiser was coming to inspect the rental house. An uncle was intending to buy it. Before the first of the year, actually. I knew that was pretty ridiculous, but whatever.

To welcome an appraiser when you are the seller typically mandates that you put your home in show condition. This is not easy to do when you have pets, and you live life on the run in a constant state of "busy." I can welcome regular guests in the house with no notice, but an appraiser?

Now the youngest of the five heirs left to inherit the house, or the proceeds from the house, is the executor. She is currently in a very bad situation. She saved for years and years and years, bought a home on her own, fell in love with a guy who also had a home, and the put both homes up for sale while buying a third very large home with a bridge loan. In the midst of all that, the real estate market took a nosedive. And there they were. Both of their homes did sell, but not right away. When they did sell, it was not at a hugely attractive price. During some of this time she ended up without work for awhile. That didn't help the situation... Her cohabitating boyfriend, who runs his own flooring company, started working serious hours.

Anyhow, you'd think that this aunt, being the executor, would be very keen on fixing up the Grandmother's home and getting it on the market for as high a price as possible... But initially that wasn't true because, I believe in my heart, she just wasn't handling her grief very well over her mother's death. I can understand this totally. They weren't just mother and daughter. They were best friends and daily companions. So after talks of us renting the place instead of renting an apartment while the condo was on the market, all the things mentioned about how she would come work on the yard and fix things up, and come work on going through her mother's stuff, etc. never happened. In two year's time, she's been to the house three times, and that's including last week, which I'll get to shortly.

So despite the logic that she'd want the place to sell, and quickly, for top dollar, that was never the case. She didn't want to come around the house at all. We got keys from her at a local pub the night we moved in, and Grandma's teeth were even still on the sink. The house had sat empty for several months, with a visitor only once a week to deal with the cat who then lived all alone, and all the years of neglected dust threw my allergies for a serious loop. I couldn't breathe right for months when we moved in. Initially, we confined ourselves to the living room and downstairs bathroom. For everything. A bed on the floor, and piles of necessary clothing. Because there was no way to move into any of the bedrooms. I had to pack up much of Grandma's personal stuff just because it was so in the way that we couldn't move.

The aunt also made many comments about how she hoped someone in the family would step forward and buy the house. The reasons I wouldn't buy this house would be worthy of a post all their own. And perhaps someday I'll put that together. But anyway, I digress. The point was that the aunt did not want to part with the house, or even prepare the house for sale.

But even with wanting the house to stay in the family, why would she agree to an appraiser coming with no notice whatsoever to us so we could spit-shine the place? Why wasn't she interested in having notice enough to come here herself and do some spit-shining? Particularly when the uncle who wants to buy the place is the nut of the family, which I mean in a very endearing way, who is constantly chasing a get-rich-quick scheme and calls himself an inventor of sorts. Most recently, he's been trying to lift a movie production company off the ground.

I believe it's because she and the boyfriend have had a falling out of sorts. They went from making wedding plans to him moving out. And I agree, based on the facts, that he's likely been in the midst of some sort of nervous breakdown or mid-life crisis. I realize those terms are cliche. But suffice to say, it's a mental event. No doubt. And I feel terrible for him. But I feel even worse for her. And she struggles now because she doesn't want to turn her back on him when he needs her the most if this is all temporary, but yet, it appears to be getting more and more permanent. She does not make enough to pay the bills in their household. Now, to make matters worse, he's not getting much business. So there isn't much money. Money needed to pay for the bills in the house they live in that is entirely financially upside down.

A few things have slipped out of her mouth. Some pertaining to how if this uncle did buy the house, it would be here for anyone in the family to stay at. Some speaking of how she'd leave certain belongings here just in case he needed them if he moved in. And best of all... Grandma's bed is still up and in it's normal place. The aunt slept in the bed the very night after Grandma passed in that bed. And has often spoke of having the best night's sleep ever. Yet, she was terribly worried about preserving the spare twin mattress in the basement in case the uncle buys the house and moves in, because he doesn't necessarily have a bed to bring from out of state where he lives now. Why wouldn't he take the bed that is standing and fully ready to receive a tired body?

Likely because she'll be sleeping in it. The boyfriend has been pushing her to just sign the house over to him. She's openly admitted she's considering it. And there is no doubt she'd move in here in a New York minute.

So why hasn't she already? Mostly because her dogs can't come. We have two dogs, which are the limit for the city, and our dogs aren't necessarily going to take kindly to a couple labs in their turf. The dogs can't be separated because we already have three areas of animal zones. Our cats are upstairs, the dogs remain on the main floor, and Grandma's nasty cat who won't be civil to others lives down in the basement by choice.

So, it's no wonder that she was okay with an appraiser coming with no notice and likely lowballing the value of the house. The distant uncle purchasing the house would be the best thing that ever happened to her. She wouldn't have the full responsibility of fixing the place up, and she'd have an immediate place to go without appearing inappropriate to the rest of the family.

We told her the truth. We couldn't receive the appraiser because we were scheduled to be in Lansing at that time to meet with the Department of Human Services about this child we wish to take in. It turned into a big thing. Needless to say, we postponed Lansing, and spent an entire night spit-shining the house. When the came at 9 the next morning, we had intentions to go to sleep aftewards. But those plans were thwarted too, when the aunt decided to stay after the appraiser guy left. She not only decided to stay, she stayed from a bit before 9 am until a bit after 5 pm. We were exhausted. I got nearly no sleep at all for three days straight with everything that happened in that time. Then on her way out, she announced she'd be back the next day around 5:30. We were irritated, but we made the best of it. I even made dinner. Enough to feed her too. And she called around 6 to say she'd be over later in the evening. She showed up at 9 and stayed until after midnight.

As if this weren't all enough to be seriously annoyed with and ready to move out and be done with this situation, there is some icing for this cake.

First of all, we have another uncle. One who lives close by. He wanted some sort of things from the attic. The executor told him he could come while she was here and get his stuff. He was rude, basically accused me of moving something of his that he later found in the basement, and even had the balls to go through my closet after I told him it was my closet and contained only my clothing. And just before that happened, I had emerged from a quick shower up to my bedroom. I was fully clothed, but still... Both doors to my bedroom were closed and the aunt and local uncle just opened them up and walked on in.

Next we have a conversation with the executor. The same one who asked us to rent this house instead of renting an apartment, then stalled and cancelled meetings with us for several weeks, allegedly because she was having second thoughts since she didn't want any of her other siblings in the house without her until everything was divided and taken care of. So she asked us to not let anyone in the house unless she was home. Pretty cool position to be in, huh? When other family members came to the house, we'd have to pretend were weren't home or go outside and cut them off at the pass, suggesting we all go out and spend some time together. The same one who waited until we were in the house for several months to ask us if we'd also pay the property taxes while we were here. And then to ask if we'd pay the property insurance too. Anyhow... Back to the conversation.

She had three complaints. Yes, complaints. First, she claimed that she wasn't informed or asked before my little sister stayed with us for three weeks in this home. First and foremost, I did discuss this with her. She doesn't remember. But there were witnesses. And it was three weeks. And my sister contributed to this house in a serious way. She should have been glad my sister stayed here.

Next she compained about the two foster cats we have. Legitimate. I truly didn't talk to her about it before taking them in. This is the family who takes in anything with four legs and fur, but somehow these cats were a problem. That is her perogative. I apologized for the lack of disclosure and discussion on the cats. And I truly meant it. Had I realized it was something she'd have wanted to be bothered with, I'd have surely discussed it with her.

Last, she wigged about the future foster child joining us. And her complaint kept oddly going back to how she wants everyone in the family to have a home in this house for as long as it's in the family. (Somehow this child's presence hinders that?) Then she continued asking questions all pertaining to whether she would really be a foster child, or if we'd consider adopting her right off the bat. All i could think at the time was, what would be the difference? But later it hit me. There was a difference. When you have a foster child in Michigan, all adult inhabitants of the house have to go through the same type of background screening and criminal checks. But if you adopt, you don't have to worry about that. So possibly, there are skeletons in her closet.

So when you put all of this together.... The spontaneous appraisal, the rudeness and expectation that we put our life on hold at the drop of a hat, the uncle going through my closet, the overall interruption occurring during the first and only week we've both had off since long before our wedding, and the foster child becoming an issue, we were clearly out of here.

So we went house shopping for something we could buy and manage to afford while we still have the condo. We met with a mortgage broker and our realtors just a couple days after this whole aunt fiasco happened.

We put a bid on a house last Friday. They countered this morning, we countered back, and they accepted. Verbally, at least. The written one is coming. Our inspection will take place Thursday. Our last mortgage broker meeting will be Monday, and we close January 30 or 31.

As expected, we haven't heard any more regarding the uncle buying the rental house. And we are slightly worried about sticking his aunt with the responsibilities of the house if she doesn't have a buyer. But we can't make that our problem anymore. Not when worrying about her and trying to hold the fort and make improvements on her behalf only lead to her disrupting our lives and walking all over us. I'm no longer happy that I replaced things like the 1923 thermostat and painted the downstairs bathroom. The paint I bought for the upstairs bathroom? It's going with me. I'm all done here. We may finish fixing the washing machine, but that will be it. In three weeks, we'll be in our own home again.

A Meme from CJ

I am the one who gets everything done and keeps our life together.
I admit I am frustrated at the workload.
I have chosen to marry the man I truly love.
I may never forgive my grandmother for hurting my mother and my sisters and me.
When I check inside my mailbox I hope for good things.
I believe in miracles and signs from God.
I pay attention to others' needs.
I want to be remembered for being an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things with what she had to work with.
I have never been unfaithful to anyone.
I am still learning to love myself despite imperfections.
I am scared of making mistakes right now.
I hope that I get a job offer this week!!!