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Adventures in Home Ownership: the backyard neighbor

Last week I alluded to an issue that happened the morning after the blizzard. Now it’s your lucky day to read all about it.

Before the snow had even stopped falling Saturday morning there was a knock on the door. It was about 9am and we were already hard at work. It was the neighbor whose property runs along the back of our property. At some point in the night, actually it was around 4am because I was I almost jumped out of my skin, I heard a crash. At the time I was scared that the roof was getting blown off in the 80+ mph winds. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, and instead a large branch, one of a fork had fallen off of our tree and toppled backwards knocking over a four foot section of the neighbor’s fence and was blocking their driveway. Thankfully there wasn’t any real damage to speak of, but nonetheless she was over at 9am to get us to pay for it. She wanted us to call a tree service out right then to clear her driveway for her, and she wanted us to fix the fence and remove all the wood from her yard. She wouldn’t leave without exchanging cell phone numbers, which she was lucky was possible, because we had no pens/pencils/paper (we were snowed in with some work supplies and a bit of food/clothes. Pens and paper did not make the cut! And with all the power outages around we were lucky we hadn’t lost power so our cell phones were still working. Regardless the numbers were exchanged not without her saying, “welcome to the neighborhood, I’m sure we will love you, but you’ve got to pay.” oh joy.

After all of the events of the day before, and sleeping in a new unfamiliar place I was just about at the end of my rope. A bit clueless about what even to do, Bryan went looking to borrow a chainsaw from a neighbor(to save the expense of a tree service) while my in-laws suggested we call the insurance company and file a claim. Before I could even do that, the neighbor had called me back saying her plowers had come by and chopped it up, so it wouldn’t be as expensive as a tree service, but we still needed to fix the fence and remove the wood (Those plowers came by twice before our street was even cleared). She would send us a bill for the plowers. I told her of course we would cover whatever was our responsibility and called the insurance company.

Thankfully since the tree was healthy, and it fell during a blizzard, it isn’t something we have to cover. (Not that it would have made our insurance go up, it just wasn’t something I wanted to deal with right off the bat.) My lovely insurance company took care of that and sent a nice letter to the neighbors stating just that. And they had me call her back and say I started a claim, here was the adjuster’s number and extension, and here was the claim number. I wasn’t to tell her the company wasn’t paying (this call would get to her long before the letter), and I also wasn’t to set foot on her property to help. My insurance company said if she’s walking around while it’s still snowy and windy to get us to pay for a branch that fell across her driveway when the streets are still legally closed then she could be litigious, and we didn’t want to do anything (like try and move the wood for her) that could end with us getting sued for crushing her precious begonias. ha.

So I called her and let her know and haven’t heard from her since. I’m glad that we don’t have to deal with it, and I’m also really glad it didn’t fall on her house (not possible, her house is 50+ feet away) because then I would have felt guilty, but having someone over during a snow storm to tell me I’m going to pay for something (that is not actually my responsibility, if her tree fell on my house my insurance would cover it) doesn’t exactly bring about the best ‘cheery neighbor’ vibes.

Ah well, she said she’s selling and moving to Florida soon.

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The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Astray

So in my last recap of these last two weeks of no internet to update all you lovely people back home I covered the actual buying of the house. And I also told you what our plans for the weekend Winter Storm Nemo/ Blizzard Charlotte hit.

Family room before purchase

Family room before purchase

To refresh your memory:

  • Paint family room, the family room came with lovely pale pink walls and a singular wooden wall, and slanted ceiling that was also wood. Originally we thought these were some sort of horizontal paneling, thankfully it turned out to be real wood, tongue and groove, similar to a ship lap wall.
  • Paint Guest room. We have three guest bedrooms in our house. Two are going to be used as such, and one will be my art studio. The rooms are nicely sized and have a lot of closet space, but the largest one was burn-your-eyes-out pink when we bought. Both of our father’s made jokey comments we would have to paint those walls before they slept there.
  • Clean. This house already being older, and having been rented for the last two years by people who were anything but fastidious.
  • Move.

Thankfully we bought all the paint necessary for the family room and guest room Tuesday. My father-in-law worked as a painter in college, and had volunteered to paint whatever we wanted this weekend. The joke was to paint the pink bedroom first so he wouldn’t have to sleep in it, but since we were sealing the wood walls in the family room to prevent wood oils from seeping through (and that takes forever to dry) the family room got paint first, which in turn meant pops got to sleep in the pink bedroom after all.

Much brighter in person guest room

Much brighter in person guest room

In our earlier discussions of cleaning, and especially after some later walk-throughs of the house we decided having a carpet steam cleaner would definitely be the way to go. All of the bedrooms are carpeted and they looked bad. So bad I was convinced we would have to replace them. The same Tuesday we bought the paint we stumbled upon a row of carpet cleaners you could purchase. One seemed reasonably priced at 120, and with thousands of reviews, it still got 4.7 out of 5 stars. Then we checked out the price to rent. 30 dollars for 24 hours. Unsure about what to do, we left the store to think about it. Wednesday night Bryan decided we might as well just buy it, if it didn’t work well we could return it. I wasn’t too sure since I knew we would be spending a ton of money, but agreed and we took it home. If we had just rented it we would have done no carpet cleaning because we were planning on going Friday after closing. If we had the foresight to rent it on Thursday night it would have been Monday before we could return it, and that would have been $120 dollars worth of renting. We bought it, and my mother-in-law worked it like a champ. All the carpets in the house were steam cleaned, twice! And all of them were clean enough after steaming I could now lay (face!) down and breathe easy knowing that they were clean.

The view of our street, our house is behind those trees on the right

The view of our street, our house is behind those trees on the right

So not only did we make money on the steam-cleaner (we have since used it again when the cat knocked over a full cup of coffee on the dining room chairs and the color wouldn’t come out, and Bryan dropped melted chocolate on our light colored family room rug which would have been another 30 dollar rental we didn’t have to make) we saved buying new carpets, since even my mother-in-laws fancy Dyson didn’t make a dent in the dirt on the carpets. Wohoo to one $120 dollar machine and a $9 dollar gallon of carpet cleaner saving us thousands of dollars! If you need a carpet cleaner I highly recommend the Hoover Steam Vac Spin Scrub The link says it’s 179, but Home Depot sold it for 120. Maybe it was a special, I don’t know, but even at $180 it’s worth it. We must have put 24+ hours on it with no problems. And no, I’m not getting reimbursed for saying this,

I just really really love my steam cleaner!

Anyway, back to how our plans changed…..we were snowed in. The roads were closed, Connecticut was in a state of emergency, and we were not even plowed out until 5pm on Sunday. That meant that the four of us were trapped in a house for 52 hours. No internet, no tv, so we did they only thing we could do to not get insane cabin fever. We worked. Pops painted like a champ, he did the entire family room, and the guest room before Saturday night. Momma tackled the kitchen while I scrubbed the bathrooms from ceiling to floor.

Bathroom with fuzzy wall paper

Bathroom with fuzzy wall paper

I scrubbed the floors, and Bry ran around doing everything else. Changing burned out light bulbs, switching light fixtures around, refilling the steam vac for his mom, helping paint, and shoveling. Lots and lots and lots of shoveling. There was a nice layer of thick wet snow that fell first, 6 inches of it, plus a super fine powdery foot+ of snow on top.

Needless to say we were busy, but by Saturday night we were still snowed in, no telling when we would get out and we had pretty much finished our house related goals for the weekend.

So we started peeling the fuzzy, pastel wallpaper from the bathroom (yes it really was pastel shades of the Florida-elderly decorating scheme, and yes it really had a fuzzy, not quite velvety texture to it). My father-in-law fixed some bubbling parts in the walls where moisture had gotten in once-upon-a-time, and I ripped up the bright blue shag carpet.

wallpaper detail

wallpaper detail

The guys then tackled the carpet pad, and the tack-less strips, and us girls continued to get all the wall paper off the

walls in the powder room (several layers with paint in between yippee!). To accomplish this we had to take out the light fixtures, the mirror, and the toilet. But we got it all done (men moved the toilet).

Sunday saw pops Spackle-ing and painting the half bath wall, and the painting of trim by us all. The plywood sub-floor of the family room also was met with some paint, so at least we have a habitable floor while we decide what we actually want. I miss the pretty color of the wood floor, but I’m happy to not have unfinished dust traveling around my house excessively.

late at night wallpaper peeling

late at night wallpaper peeling

With that the streets were plowed and we could get out, go back to the rental, have a dinner of Chinese food, hot showers, and warm beds.Β We never got around to moving on Saturday (obviously) but we got so much more done than we were planning on (carpets cleaned (except the blue shag), shag ripped out, wallpaper removed, half bath repainted. It felt great! But I wish some more people than just the four of us had seen it in it’s ‘ugly’ state so they could appreciate it better now. Ah well, that’s what pictures ‘are kind of’ for! Though since we were busy, and didn’t have a camera with us (except on phones) we didn’t really take blog worthy photos of the details of the awfulness we fixed. So you’ll just have to use your imagination. Stay tuned for the next post (coming after I’ve actually gotten some work done today to have more pics!)

We were very blessed to have Bry’s parents with us for the weekend. They gave up warm beds to help us get a lot done and really enjoyed themselves in spite of being snowed in and having a lot to do. To top it all off they were a huge calming presence when the first homeowners issue happened, less than 24 hours after we had signed the papers. (don’t worry that post is coming as well!)

I Always Seem To…

do crazy things in big storms. Hurricane Sandy? Drove the one and only Abby to Nashville.

Winter Storm Nemo/Blizzard Charlotte? Bought a house. Oh, but it wasn’t nearly as easy at that made it sound. Let’s start by pretending there wasn’t a title issue, furnace issue, or an impending blizzard during the last week before we bought a house. Let’s pretend there was no stress involved with packing, getting ready to move Saturday, or if my in-laws would make it to Ct, or get stranded somewhere along the way. Because it was going to get a lot worse before it got better.

So, it’s Friday morning and we excitedly get up, and go to the house for the final walk-through there’s about an inch of snow on the ground. Everything looks great. We excitedly/nervously head to the lawyer’s office to sign papers. There are three inches of snow on the ground. We shake hands all around and get to reviewing the HUD. On the HUD the seller’s contribution to closing is off by 4,000 dollars. (Originally we had asked for closing assistance to the tune of 4,000, then after the inspection rather than fix some items the sellers offered another credit towards closing. The addendum apparently confused the highly educated lawyers so they changed the seller’s contribution to only the repair money.)

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, just a simple call to the mortgage company to get things squared away. (Luckily our loan originator had already run the numbers and worked out it was ok for the sellers to do that) However, now it was 11:30 and the offices were closing at 12:15 because of the massive blizzard that was pounding the shoreline of Ct. The lawyers called and were told the closing wasn’t happening today, and it wouldn’t even happen Monday. I couldn’t help but think that all of our things, including clothes we would need for the next week were already packed. I could not even comprehend this not working out today, and having to go home and unpack things to make it another week while all the dumb paperwork got sorted out. (Don’t read this as my realtor slacking, she called repeatedly trying to see the HUD so she could double-check the numbers and the lawyer’s office was behind and couldn’t get them to her. Lesson: never use this office again)

I valiantly (it was a major effort) stayed tearless, even though I wanted to burst into tears, especially since my in-laws, rather than risk getting stuck in the snow had left as soon as my mother-in-law got off work (night nurse) and were already in our rental. And I’d worked my tail off the last two weeks packing everything, and just that morning had packed up the rest of our clothes/kitchen necessities, so we could move straight into our new house, and stop parking on the street, or living under a very loud bachelor. Our goal had literally been to be out of the rental before we had to shovel our car out of the plowed in shoulder again. (this is blatant foreshadowing!)

My champion realtor got on the phone and called our loan guy. 20130222-093936.jpgHe started working on his end, and to hear him tell it, got the entire office in New Britain working on our mortgage to push it through before they closed. We narrowly got the approval and signed ALL of the papers in ten minutes (thanking the Lord all the while that it was working out, and that our realtor reviewed the papers with us prior to the closing so we knew what we were signing). I couldn’t believe it. We were actually purchasing a house. The thought I expected to have while siting around this table were more about ‘I can’t believe we are doing this!”, “this feels like a bigger commitment than getting married!” (really it did, my marriage is for keeps, we both know that, and we both work towards that, the house? It’s totally a one-sided thing, it’s scarier! Though now, it’s definitely not scary, we are old pros now, two weeks and all that πŸ™‚ )

Next it was back to the rental to pick up Bry’s parents and our supplies before heading on to the house. Our house! Unbelievable. The roads were already bad, we slid past our (new) road in attempt to stop and had to pull a U-ie (spell check!) to get down the road. Instead of the 1-2 inches we had been told to expect by all of the weather sources,Β  we had 4+ inches and it wasn’t slowing down. The drive was a bit scary with cars slipping all over the place and the sky eerily dark (at 1PM!)

20130222-093956.jpg

Mid Afternoon Friday (snow still falling) looking into our backyard

The original plan was to paint the family room (pinkish walls and wooden ceiling/one wall) and paint the guest bedroom. Clean the house. Move our belongings in on Saturday and be completely out of the rental. With 4-5 inches falling every hour during the worst of the storm, and winds at 60 mph, the roads were legally shut at 4 o’clock, and after the scary drive around 1 there was no way we were leaving the house Friday.

Hence the end of our carefully laden plans, and getting thrown headfirst into God’s plan for the weekend, which was infinitely better.

Blog absence

Hello all, just want to apologies for my woeful lack of posts in the last two weeks. In between the drama of pre-closing, the impending blizzard, moving, no working Internet at the house (typing long entries on a cell phone just is too time consuming especially when ones house is filled to the brim with boxes), work, and trying to find some time to relax with my husband as well I’m sure you can understand my long silence. Rest assured my new modem is coming either tonight or tomorrow and shortly there after there will be blog posts galore πŸ™‚ hope you all are well!
How long did it take you to settle back into life with boxes unpacked after your last move?

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My kitchen will look nice! I’m determined

Reasons this week is a great one.

It’s 7:00 am on a Tuesday morning. The fans and ceiling light fixtures are shaking as I walk into the kitchen to get my coffee. That’s because the upstairs neighbor is working out again.Β  Along with the shaking lights the thudding thumping bass is perfect medicine for the killer migraine I’ve had all night. Thankfully the ibuprofen and the coffeepot are some of the few things not packed up. And that reminds me what makes this week a great one, even if my day starts out with music from upstairs so loud I feel like if I knew the words I’d be comfortable enough to sing along. Because this week we move, into our very own home.

Both our car and our scooters get to park in a garage (No more parking on the street.)Β  No more throwing money away (though I’m sure we will feel like we are spending money on the house non-stop). We will have two guestrooms, and none of them will be entered by walking through the the master!

Don’t get me wrong our new house has it’s own set of quirks, but it’s ours.

In other good news the packing is coming along great. The basement is done, the guest bedroom, front room (with all the books), the dinning room (and all the china), the kitchen (a few plates, glasses, silverware, and pans are left out), the master bedroom (just the bedding is left), the bathroom, and some miscellaneous decorations.

It’s definitely been hectic and crazy busy, and there are so many boxes in my front room it’s reminiscent to the first week in this house after we were married, but at least this time things are clearly labelled and I have an idea of what’s what!

Bryan’s parents are coming up this weekend to help us move, get some painting done and clean up the house. It will be nice to have the company and show some loved ones our house, as not very many people have seen it.

I have big plans to take before and after pics so all of you back home have a general idea of what our house is like, since it’s not really feasible to have a housewarming party πŸ™‚

Oh bliss, the upstairs neighbor left for work, now in the silence I can watch the snow fall and finish my coffee. Have a blessed day!

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