Back to being a homeowner!

Or maybe it’s being a “home slave?” Anyway, the close happened Friday morning with little fanfare. I presented myself to the title company office at 8 AM, signed a whack of papers, and was out of there by 8:45. That includes some chit-chat time, and a few minutes of education on how property taxes work here. (VERY different from Cook County/Chicago, so I’ll have a new learning experience over the next year.)

I didn’t actually get the keys until about 3 PM. I met my real estate agent at the house and we took some photos of me with a Sold sign for kicks. I also brought Hannah dog with me so she could check out the house and yard. (Hannah was also included in the photos, of course!) After the agent left, I started walking the (now empty of staging furniture) house with the idea of measuring windows and rooms. But then the neighbors started arriving.

The sellers used to live in the house, but now live across the street. The story pieced together by the real estate agent and I through some sleuthing through public records is that the husband’s mother lived in the house they now occupy. She died last fall, and the couple decided to move across the street to her house and sell the one they had been living in. So the former occupants of my home currently live across the street.

The husband arrived at the house just a few minutes after the real estate agent left. He met Hannah and noted that he and his wife used to have a German Shepherd Dog that had died a few years ago, and the yard was great for a dog. (Dog lovers, phew!) We had a nice chat for about 30 minutes about careers, hobbies, and the property. It will be good to have such easy access to information about the house, although I hope he and his wife won’t get too upset when I start making the property over to my own tastes. (There’s too much grass! I don’t like lawns.)

I also met the neighbors who live on one side, and was given some brief info about the man who lives on the other side of the house. The seller/neighbor also offered to introduce me to others on the block.

It seems like the block is a nice community, and I’m looking forward to moving in. For now, though, I’m still occupying the rental house. The electrician should be at the new house tomorrow to start the rewiring work. I’m also having the termite treatment done before I move.

I’m so excited and happy about the house and I find myself wishing I didn’t have to share it with a housemate. But I need to be practical and get that extra income. For at least two weeks, though, I expect to just occupy the house by myself and enjoy my last solitary time.

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If I had a windfall…

Over on the Grumpy Rumblings blog nicoleandmaggie have regular posts about money. The last two weeks there have been some particularly resonant posts. In one, readers were asked what they would do with a windfall, and in the other they were asked whether their parents struggled financially when they were growing up. I feel that these two posts can be closely related to each other. After all, most of us learn about money from our parents, even if that is only indirectly.

Growing up, money wasn’t something we had in great supply, but we weren’t poor. Both of my parents worked, but as far as I can recall my mother worked mostly part-time jobs (one memorable job was crossing-guard) until I was in high school. At that time mom got a full-time job doing phone work and data entry that she really enjoyed. My father was a foreman at a paint factory and worked the night shift most of the time. He said it was because he was paid extra for that shift, but my parent’s marriage wasn’t great and I’m sure he was glad to be away from the family stress, too.

We lived in a house in the suburbs. It wasn’t a prestigious suburb and we lived on the less desirable side of town. Sister and I were sent to private, Catholic school from Grade 1 through Grade 12, but private high school was outside my parent’s means. We went on vacations every year that usually involved camping using one of a series of campers my parent’s bought used. We didn’t get a “new” car that hadn’t been previously owned until I was 15. (And that car was hard for me to learn driving on it because it was a manual transmission!)

It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started to understand we weren’t as well off as many of my schoolmates. Wearing uniforms every day really helped equalize things in grade school, but when I was getting clothes and shoes for high school it was always at Kmart and never at the nicer stores. As soon as I was old enough to work (15 with a work permit) I got a job. After that I was expected to pay for my own clothing and fill the tank for the “beater” car my dad bought so I could get to and from work. When I was 17 my parents separated. It took three years for the divorce to become final and much more was revealed to me about my parent’s finances during that time.

I think my mother was the more frugal and cautious person who managed our money very well during most of my childhood. Dad seemed interested in money-making schemes that involved more risk, such as flipping houses. (He failed miserably at it and never paid back all the money he borrowed from me to get started in it.) Mom’s frugal habits could be over the top, but she did teach me practical habits about running a household on a budget. Overall, I don’t think I saw much struggling going on around money, but that doesn’t mean we had a lot of it, either.

Mom now has very little income and is very reliant on stepfather for her support. I’m not sure what my father and stepmother’s financial situation is, but they seem to be able to take care of themselves. We never talk about money, though. The crappy things dad did during the divorce make money talk something to avoid.

As for what to do with a windfall, well, there are only a few times I felt like I had a personal savings windfall or one I received in some other fashion. The first time I recall getting what seemed like a generous sum of money out of the blue was after my parents separated. Since I was still a minor at 17, dad had to provide some money for child support. The amount he had to fork over seemed very generous and mom gave me the green light to purchase luxuries like clothing from trendy stores. I had a blast buying funky tights, skirts, and tops to wear in my last months of high school. (Think Cyndi Lauper “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” fashion.) As I recall, dad only paid that generous child support a couple of times and then stopped the payments a few months before I turned 18, but I still enjoyed those one or two brief splurges.

It was several years later that I received my next windfall of cash. I had completed undergrad, was working full-time, and had moved to my first apartment. My grandmother died and left a little money for sister and I in CDs that we were able to cash in when they matured. The first round of money was around $2,000. While I could have used the money to pay down student loans or start a retirement account, I instead decided to use it on a two-week vacation in Europe with some college friends. I don’t regret it one bit. The next CD that matured was around $800, I think, and I used most of it to buy a TV and VCR.

In the years that followed I never had windfalls, but I supported myself, paid my bills, and succeeded in paying off my student loans at 31. I was married by then and had found that living with a financially stable partner really helped me be more financially successful, too. My (now ex-) husband was nothing like my father; the ex was conservative with his money and was a great saver. We built up quite a bit of wealth together as DINKs, and I miss having such a high degree of financial security.

I learned good money habits from my marriage and have been able to take care of myself quite well, but I’d likely have a much higher net worth if I had never divorced. I can see how that could work the other way around, though, if my spouse had poor money skills.

 

House update and thoughts

Well, after what seemed like a whirlwind of activity to get all the inspections done, and to complete the massive amount of paperwork involved in getting a mortgage these days, I’m sort of on hold right now. Next Friday the bank’s appraisal report will be complete, and that is the last hurdle before close. I’m hoping to close on July 15 and start moving in some things that same weekend.

The general home inspection wasn’t very satisfying for me. The selling agent had scheduled a broker open house the same day, and despite having accepting my offer she decided to continue with it. So we had other agents wandering in and out of the house while the inspector was there and I didn’t feel like I could really poke around at stuff myself.

But the pest and electrical inspectors were scheduled at the same time, and being there for the full inspection process was a very enlightening experience. As a long-time homeowner, I’m familiar with some of the more typical trouble spots in a home, so I wanted to poke around a bit on my own. The general infrastructure and types of risks are different here (such as crawl spaces instead of basements, and termite concerns, for example), and I was glad to get a chance to ask questions of the specialists as they did their work.

In general, the house is in good shape. But it is still a 1941-built house, so it’s not up to standard code in some ways. The knob and tube wiring is a problem. My insurance company insists that it be replaced, and the sellers don’t want to do that before the sale. They have committed to a credit at close that would cover the vast majority of the replacement cost, but it is a pain nonetheless to think about having major electrical repairs done after close and before I can truly move in. I don’t want to pay rent for another full month if I don’t need more than an extra day or two to complete the move.

The pest inspector also found termites in the soil under the house. I guess this is pretty common around here and the structure itself is OK, but there will be the cost of a termite treatment in the crawl space and the need to vacate the house for a few hours. Again, this would be nice to complete before moving in, but there’s that pesky time factor to deal with. Also, the credit the sellers are giving won’t cover this cost at all.

Some minor plumbing items must be addressed: a small leak in the bathtub drain needs fixing(it was pure luck that I was running the tub tab while the pest inspector was in the crawl space near that area!); a P-trap must be added under the laundry sink, and; a water line run to the refrigerator. (The sellers had remodeled the kitchen and added a nice refrigerator with an ice maker and filtered water dispenser, but didn’t have a water line installed to the refrigerator. I’m thinking they didn’t want to pay the expense since the fridge is on a wall opposite the kitchen sink.) With the exception of the leak, the plumbing work could likely be put off for a few months, but if I’m going to pay someone to go down into the crawl space to fix a leak, I figure I should also get the water line to the refrigerator done, too.

I’m also considering buying a one-year home warranty to cover the major mechanicals (heating/cooling system) and home appliances. The kitchen appliances are new, but the washer/dryer unit is old and the combination heating/cooling system is old, too. If I end up needing to replace any of the older appliances or systems, I’m sure the warranty won’t cover the full cost, but if it covers enough to pay for itself, at least, it may be worth the gamble.

Before the winter I also may need to get some grading work done to make sure heavy rains won’t lead to water in the crawl space. But that’s all I should need to do from a major system/infrastructure perspective on the house.

Moving expenses should be pretty low, at least. I can shift quite a bit of the smaller stuff through multiple car loads, and I have friends with pick up trucks that can help carry small loads, too. I’m sure one small cube truck and two strong guys can move the rest of my belongings.

I will want to get some sort of window treatments in the large bedroom right away, but can take my time with getting them for the living room. The smaller bedroom and kitchen already have blinds in place and they will work just fine for now.

Getting a housemate right away is important, and that will be the next big thing to tackle. Overall, though, I think I’m covering my bases pretty well.

Is there anything I’m overlooking? Does anyone have experience with home warranties to share?