Monday, February 2, 2015


Chatting with a work colleague today made me realize I hadn't updated in forever. We're still working on the house (we'll be working on the house for years), but we've almost fully completed the bathroom reno, and right before Christmas I got a little renovation too, I went in for my fluer-de-lis abdominoplasty - hello flat tummy! So here's some shots of before, during, and after on the bathroom, and an after shot of me - size 8 jeans, baby!

So we took out a nasty old toilet, and the vanity, and realized that the flooring was rotted away under the toilet, there had been an ongoing leak for years. We had to tear up two layers of linoleum, and all the sub-flooring. 

So that left this. 

Yikes, that's my basement down there! So then we had to replace the subfloor, and try and level it up.

Not fully level, nor is the room fully square - it makes things interesting. We had to of course pick a difficult tile to lay down and grout. It's not perfect, you can see one grout line that's bigger than the others because of the "not square" situation. 

But at least it's done and functional again. We need to replace the bottom row of wall tile (several were broken), and replace the bath/shower fixtures next.

Now my renovation - I had fleur-de-lis abdominplasty just before Christmas - it's basically a tummy tuck on steriods, they did from hip to hip, but also vertically from my sternum down to my groin, so they removed excess tissue from both directions, tightening horizontally and vertically. I go back for what should be my final check-in with the surgeon this afternoon, but here's a pic in my new jeans - size 8, baby! Haven't seen that since high school (2 sizes smaller than pre-op). 

Next up is painting the bedrooms and doing some wall work in the stairwells, next work on me will be arms and chest in October or so, after we get the state trust fund money back from the oil tank deal. Yay!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why Would Anybody Do That?!?!

When we were inspecting the house, we did realize we probably had hardwood floors under at least the living room carpet, but we hoped under all the carpet on the main floor. We had no idea what shape they'd be in, or how long the carpet had been down. We assumed the addition upstairs had just plywood or some other subfloor under the carpet, so we actually bought enough laminate and padding to do my office up there. Then we also had Home Depot come measure thinking we might want to have them install it in the sitting room upstairs and also in the den/living room addition downstairs.

Home Depot guy gets upstairs and pulls a bit of carpet back (with our permission) and says, "Um, do you know there's hardwood under here?" Oh, really?! So he measures downstairs in the den, and goes on his way.

Well, yesterday we went over to rip all the carpet up and see what we really had, and also had a representative from Mr. Sandless come out and measure and give us a quote on refinishing them.

For the love of all things holy, why on Earth would people put cheap-ass carpet over beautiful hardwood?! The upstairs is a gorgeous knotty pine

Downstairs is all oak

This is what we pulled out of the house (1,017 square feet according to the finisher)

Today I went back over and pulled up all the tack strips and padding staples upstairs, and all the nails in the stairwell. That's rough work! I'll have to attack downstairs tomorrow or Monday evening. Michael's job on his day off on Tuesday is getting the toilet out of the main bathroom and ripping up the rest of the flooring in there so we can put down the tile we picked out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Personal Discoveries

In the week before closing we had come over to the house to check on the paint fix that was required, and we met our left-side neighbors. They told us some details about the property that we didn't know. An elderly couple did live here, but he passed in 2006. She continued to live here until about 2008 when it just got to be too much, and she moved into an assisted living facility. After that, members of their church and their children would come mow the lawn and do basic maintenance, but the house was pretty much unoccupied since 2008.

Eventually it was sold to the investor that bought it earlier this year, and now to us. That explains quite a lot of things, but not some. You'd think after all that time they'd have cleared out all the personal belongings, or at least the investor would have, but no one did. There's clothing in the basement, various papers and receipts in the workshop, kitchen utensils in the drawers, it's crazy. We did write the offer for the house that any property on site as of that date would convey - there were some things we wanted, like a 50s Hot Point range in the basement, but it also came with a lot of just junk.

I cleaned out the main bathroom today, because we're going to rip out the vanity and toilet and replace them. There was a cabinet full of things, and even more under the sink.

Some are sad - like this cup of old fashioned hair curlers

The clearly very old, but broken hand-mirror

and the porcelain something - I'm not sure it's complete or exactly what it is.

It's odd for me to be cleaning up the remnants of the former owners life, but I am.

There's a Muppet on my Staircase!

One of the most hilariously late 60s/70s things we encountered in the house was the carpeting on the stairs, both going to the half story upstairs, and down into the basement.

It's gold, and green, and brown, and beige, and about 2 inches long shag carpet. It's just...special.

God only knows what's living or growing in that. Honestly, I assumed it would just be basic stairs, nothing fancy or finished, since that's what the basement stairs looked like (this is a photo of the stairs going up top).

Well, last night we ripped off the carpet going upstairs, resulting in this dead muppet pile. (Ignore the bright green muppet looking thing, that's one of Jack's dog toys.

But what we found underneath was this:

Holy crap! Why would someone DO that?!?!

We need to pull up the staples and nails, and little tufts of remaining carpet, but all these are going to need is a light sanding and a good clear varnish on top (along with painting the risers along with the walls, it's closed in on both sides).

We know there's real hardwoods under the carpet in the original house, that's coming up next. 

The perfect house

It was in an "edge" neighborhood of Winston-Salem, just above a moderately sketchy area (where the bomb shelter that we rented for me the first year I was in NC was located), and starting to move out towards the city limits where lots got bigger and houses were nicer. It was a HUD home, meaning it had been foreclosed on and the government now owned it.It was also (allegedly) eligible for a special type of FHA loan that allowed purchase and renovation funds to be borrowed together with just 3.5% down. Well, on a very modestly priced property even with $25-$30K in renovation funds that was something I could probably swing - and this property just spoke to me, even more so after we did a drive by.

I started things backwards, in looking for a lender that did that type of loan. Quicken Loans advertised that they did FHA loans so I contacted them, but soon found out they didn't do the special programs. They did, however, pre-approve me for a reasonable loan amount if we wanted to go that route. Tucking that in the back of my mind, I found a local lender that did do the special programs, and asked her for a referral to a real estate agent where I was introduced to Karen Lawson at RE/MAX. We set up an appointment to view that home, and I also found two others in the area that were well within our pre-approved amount from Quicken, and we went and took a look.

I did fall in love with the HUD house, it had amazing hardwood floors on a split-level plan, the yard was already fenced in, but it did have it's issues - it was missing copper piping, and would need some renovation work.

We looked at a second home which we ruled out in about the first five minutes. The front yard was a big hill, so very unusable and would be very hard to mow it was so steep. There was some sort of infrared light/camera setup in the front window looking down the driveway to the street that in all seriousness looked like a sniper's perch. The back sunroom was almost certainly not permitted, which would cause all kinds of loan complications.

So we moved on to house number three. This one Michael said no to at first based on the listing photograph, because it's an older brick home with an addition off the side that was done in what looked like stark white vinyl siding.

As the loan broker said, "What's with the double wide off the side of it?" But, it was sitting on 3.3 acres of land, so he was willing to go look, and I'm glad we did. The main house is a gorgeous 1949 brick bungalow, originally 2 bedroom 1 bath with a basement. At some point in the late 70s or 80s someone added on a "den" or "family room" and a 2-car garage, which is what looked like the ugly addition. They also bumped upstairs to a half story, adding a "head and shoulders" space that has one bedroom, and what they can loosely claim as a second bedroom by virtue of the space having a closet, and a door at the bottom of the staircase. It's really a sitting area.

We fell in love. The kitchen is done in 70s-tastic avocado appliances, laminate counter tops and backsplash,  and dark wood cabinets. It reminds Michael of his childhood home. There's a fireplace, the rounded front door has character, there's all sorts of treasures in the basement and large out-building workshop, plus it's on LAND. About 1.3 acres of it is clear, with very large mature trees, and the rest is wooded, running all the way down to a creek.

We knew that night we had to have it. We couldn't find out a whole lot about previous owners, only that it had belonged to an estate, who sold it to an "investor" very cheaply, possibly as a short sale. That investor had done nothing to improve the property, if he styles himself as a flipper, he wasn't doing it on this one, but he was asking about 175% of his purchase price. We put in an offer contingent on loan approval and inspections, a must on something this old, and dove right in. He met us halfway on the offer, so we went ahead and ordered up all the inspections.

To me, as a real estate newbie, this is where it got scary. I was spending not insignificant amounts of money to just decide if I wanted to buy the place or not. $595 for the inspection, $225 for the septic inspection, $40 for a guy to come check the well, $80 for well water testing, it all adds up to real money. The inspection found some issues, which didn't surprise us, but nothing that we felt we couldn't overcome after move-in, nothing was critical in his opinion to be necessary before that.

We did also order up an inspection of the underground heating oil tank. For one, they don't do that anymore, tanks are above ground or in the basement. We needed to know if it was functional, because someone had also installed electric baseboard heaters, which are just money guzzlers.

The environmental specialist came out and checked the contents of the tank - said we had 5 inches of oil and no water, which was good, but he found petroleum in the soil starting at about 7 feet underground, or about 2 feet below the tank. Given that there was no water in the tank, it's likely there's a pinhole leak in there somewhere, we just don't know how long it's been leaking, and how far spread the contamination is. Quote to dig up the tank and dig out 56 tons of earth to clean it up? $13K - ACK! The state of North Carolina does have a ground fuel storage tank trust fund, so about $9.500 of that would be reimbursable to whomever paid for the cleanup - something we wanted the seller to handle. He's an investor, he can carry the float on that, since the trust fund is taking about 8 months to turn claims around these days.

The septic guy opened it up, took one look at the old octagonal tank and said it needed to be replaced. $2,000 and a runaround on a permit from the county for $170.

The well thankfully was operational, and the water samples came back clean, so no leaching down to the water table from the oil tank at least.

Oh, and the furnace needed about $500 worth of work to clean out one of the pipes to the flue, and replace the limiter which wasn't doing it's job.

This is all adding up to real cash money. So we asked for the seller to fix it all, knowing that rare would be the case that you'd get that. He offered $2500 at closing for repairs, which made me laugh out loud, and so we countered with having him take care of the environmental issue and replace the oil tank with a new above ground tank. We would handle the septic and furnace. He's the "investor" he can float it. He balked and hemmed and hawed, and seriously dude.

We finally agreed to go back up in purchase price and he paid for the septic/furnace at close, we get to float the environmental. I'm annoyed, but I had access to funds to do it, and we will get all but about $3500 of it back by the end of summer, so whatever, the cash outlays plus what we paid are still well under what this house's potential value is.

We finally got it all arranged, after a last minute instance by the FHA to have external paint surfaces scraped and repainted, and we closed on Friday, November 14. It's mine! Mine! all mine!

Now, to clean it out and fix it up.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Post Sleep-Study and New Dog!

I've been so lazy about posting here, my two or three regular readers must be so disappointed in me :)

The sleep study wasn't bad, they let me take my usual sleep cocktail of drugs, but I looked like something out of a horror show all hooked up.

But,the good news is no apnea. Apparently I do have restless legs, but nobody wants to do anything about it for now.

We got a dog - Michael and I are not allowed to go to Petsmart together anymore. He's awesome. Meet Jack the American Staffordshire mix, who's about 8 months old now, and 65 pounds. He's my exercise buddy, my favorite route is about 3.5 miles long, and we do it after work. Other exciting things coming, but that's another post!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sleep Studies

As part of getting myself back together after coming off all of the IVF hormones, my doc wants me to go have a sleep study. Ugh. I know my sleep is screwed up, if I am not medicated I'll get to sleep OK, but wake up anywhere from 6 to 12 or more times a night, often feeling the need to get up and go pee. Sometimes I'll stay awake for 20-30 minutes after doing so. When Michael's alarm goes off at 4 or 5 am, I can't get back to sleep until he's actually left the house. This, of course, is generally not normal. With some whopping medication, I can sleep through the night with maybe just one wake-up, usually when his alarm goes off. For good or bad, I'm often sleepy enough still that I often forget about conversations we have as he's kissing me goodbye for the day. I love my sleep drugs, pry them from my hands while I kick and scream.

But, they want to figure out why I'm having trouble sleeping, in case the root cause is something other than the depression and anxiety that I've struggled with since the nightmare. I got scheduled for Friday night, August 15. Allegedly, unless the doctor sends orders not to, I'll be able to take my sleep meds while I'm there. Thankfully, since getting up to pee a dozen times while wired up for a sleep study would basically be impossible, or require a bedpan.

I've been asked about sleep apnea several times. I used to snore like a freight train, and when I was heavy I probably had some form of it, but M says that I rarely snore any more, only when I'm both congested and lying on my back, which I think just about anyone would snore under those conditions.

I honestly don't know what I hope the outcome is. I'd like to be able to sleep like a normal person without drugs? But honestly I've forgotten what that's like. We'll see if this illuminates anything.