Home Sweet Home

We have the keys.  The deed is recorded and the loan is funded. 

In my temporary insanity, I did not take the day off tomorrow (Friday).  What was I thinking?!  I want to be moving.  I want to be packing to get the hell out of here.  I want to be making progress towards Monday, when the movers come and shift us the big 5 minute transition from moldy, run-down rental to lovely, remodeled home.

Yeah.  I was REALLY thinking when I set that one up.  But tomorrow I won’t be waiting for news that the loan has funded or that we’re getting the keys.  We have the keys now and it’s ours – officially!

So I will go in and I will work my hardest to get things done before I leave at 5pm.  Midday, I’ll take my friend over to see the house and I’ll smile as I show off all the things that I really love about the place.  It’ll be fine because all the hard work paid off and I’m done.  Every little fret…  the tracking of my credit scores… the endless calls to the student loan servicers and the consolidation folks… the denial for first one debt consolidation loan and then the approval on the second.  It has all been worth the work.

My boys will have a home to grow up in.  We’ll have a mortgage payment that is ridiculously low (below rent for the size of home) for the entire life of the loan.  In fact, if all goes as I suspect, we’ll end up being able to pay it off in 2/3’s the time and retire without a house payment.  Plus we’ll have space for grandkids to come visit us.  I should point out that my kids are 9 and 5, so I’ve got a ways to go for that one.  Let’s get them through college first!

The hard work facing us now?  Get the rest of the rental packed up, clean it, and get the yard ready to go.  Then survive the month until they get it rented out again and we’re free.  I have little to no faith that they will return any portion of our security/cleaning deposit.  I have decided that I need to let it go and simply be surprised if anything good comes out of it.

Nothing else matters at this point, except to get my family into our beautiful new (to us) home.

I like the seller too.  He talked to us about the property tonight AND gave us a couple referrals for the landscaper and concrete/excavator that he uses.  We need a sprinkler system (we have irrigation water that is mind-bogglingly cheap) and sod, plus we need a patio poured.  I’ll be talking to them to get quotes; however, we may not be able to move forward with the project until next spring.  It all depends upon the cost.  It just doesn’t make sense to put in all the sod and then have to dig up a portion to do the patio.

To clarify, the yard is dirt, gravel and weeds, although the seller had the weeds chopped down (which we greatly appreciate).  Part of why we got the house for such a good price was because the yard was a wreck.  We’re going to change that and I actually appreciate that the seller didn’t do it.  This way we can make the yard into our space, designed around our family’s needs.

So what is the plan for the yard?

1.  Patio – either 10×10 or 12×12 (I lean to the latter for long-term investment, but budget may require us to go with the former).

2. Automatic sprinklers in front and back of house, plus sod in a portion of the yard and a cleared garden space in the rest.

3.  Low water plantings in the hottest sections and low-maintenance/weed resistant plantings that will bully the weeds into not growing, while adding some much needed greenery.

4.  Trees.  We need more trees on our 5th of an acre lot.  We have a couple but the hottest side of the house needs them.  This means getting things marked by utilities to prevent an issue both short and long term.

For now, I’ll talk to the contractors and get an idea of the cost for this project and discuss phasing it, if necessary.  I absolutely will not install an automatic sprinkler system on my own.  My honey and I have certain areas of skills and mechanical/physical adeptness does not fall into that skillset.

I’d like it done right. 

But sod, on the other hand.  Well, yeah, if necessary I can do that.  But depending upon the cost breakdown, it might not even be cost-effective for us to do it ourselves. 

As for my veggie/fruit garden, that will be in stages and it will be in raised boxes.  I may be able to put the boxes right in on top of the gravel that is already there, which will keep the gravel pathways.  Not sure… I have to look into it.  With the right plantings, I might be able to create a little oasis where I can sit and check out my garden (with the boys, of course).  I’d better start getting acclimated to the heat.  (bah)

It should be noted that we’ll have very little furniture.  I expect to become adept at cruising Craigslist and yard sales, looking for needed items.

And ShopKo is having a 40% off sale on window coverings, so until we can afford to spend more on those, we’ll at least have something to tide us over. 

In the meantime, I’ll keep looking at ways to trim our budget.  With irrigation water being so cheap (annual cost is $25 per year), it doesn’t make sense to NOT have a food garden.  The rest will be tabled, if the cost is too high, and I’ll keep looking for ways to make it happen when the time is right. 

That’s the thing about it being OUR home.  We have a lot of time to be patient.

signing off for some much needed rest,


Wicked happy!

We got the clear to close today!  The file went to underwriting on Monday morning.  Typically the underwriter would come back with conditions, which would have to be provided and reviewed before the clear to close would come but we had such a clear file we got the clear to close on the first try!!! 

I just about hyperventilated at work when I got the news.  This is huge!  So instead of worrying that we wouldn’t make it for the 6/29 closing date, we’re closing two days early on 6/27.  I cannot begin to express how happy I am right now.  I’ve worked really hard the last 4 months, paying down debt, consolidating my student loans and my credit card debt, and getting the Income-Based Repayment set up.  Half the time I was taking actions based on the blind faith that all of it would come together, which it did.

The hardest part was the worry that it wouldn’t be enough.  I achieved the credit scores and had to ask both my honey’s parents and my mum for help to bridge the numbers needed for the earnest money and the reserves.  In the end, it was a team effort with all of us – our real estate agent, our loan officer, my mum, and my honey’s parents working with me to get through it.

The smile on my honey’s face was totally worth it!  He will have a quiet office for studying, music, and his development work.  No more trying to keep the kids out of his hair while he’s working on his math studies!

My boys will get to pick out their rooms and I will get the remaining room for my office/studio. 

There’s a lot of work to be done.  We have packing and cleaning here, plus utilities, pest treatment and weed-wacking at the new place.  We have over a month to do the move, though, and that is a relief compared to prior years’ frantic moves.  I want as much of our security/cleaning deposit back as is reasonably possible.  Between the deposit return and the amount we’ll get back at closing, we’ll have the new fridge and window coverings taken care of… maybe even the moving truck. 

Boy.  I really cannot believe how this has all gone through so well.  We did the house showing on Mother’s Day.  What a lovely present!

Time for winding down and prep for bed.  I need lots of rest to make it through the next two days of work.  This weekend is going to be big for packing and cleaning.  My honey is giving our notice to our property management company tomorrow.  That is the best possible news of all!!


Have I mentioned my lack of patience?

Confirmed with the loan officer that my mortgage application went to the underwriter this morning.  There are so many people doing refi’s and purchases right now, that we might not hear back on conditions until Thursday or Friday.  This is a huge test of what little patience I have left.  I’d love to be mellow about it all, but we’re to the point where we refer to the house as “our house.”  It’s not a matter of being over-confident, rather it’s a case of watching the market and knowing that there just isn’t another option out there as good as what we’ve found.  There are alternatives that might work well enough, but either they are too small and we’d be wanting to upgrade within 5 years or they are too expensive and we might not be able to stretch our budget to accommodate the payment amount (which would then lead us to sit things out until something better came on the market).

Essentially we’ve found the house the best fits our family and our needs, so alternatives are only poor seconds.  Combine that with excellent credit scores and a lot of preparation and you get our confidence that all will work out for us.

I hope so because we are “all in” – to put it into poker parlance.  At least it’s nice to know that we have an alternative finance option (FHA), so even if the conventional loan product were to fall apart, we’d be solid for the back-up.  I just really, really like how low our monthly payment will be with the conventional loan product!  (less than $85 per month above what we’re paying for rent!!)

I read over our lease this evening, so we could be fully prepared to give notice and deal with the hassles that will entail.  We discussed the issue of the leasing agent showing this place while we’re living in it and decided that a storage unit will be a must.  It’s just too hard to get things cleaned up and packed AND have it in condition to show to potential renters.  I hate to be pessimistic, but I suspect they will have a harder time renting it out this round…  The carpet is long past its lifespan.  The windows need to be replaced.  The heating and cooling are just hanging in there.  The kitchen is rough and the ceiling has splitting plaster in one section.  The roof is beyond needing to be replaced.  The siding is in bad shape.

We chose to live here because of the location and because it was in rough shape that meant lesser paranoia with the kids.  Now I look at it and just shake my head.  I think my biggest worry is that they will attempt to pin the condition of the place on us – much like they did with the slow drain (years of build-up caused it to get too slow).  They charged us to clean it out, even though we hadn’t even been here a year and there was no way we’d caused it.  This was on the heels of our paying the water costs to bring the lawn back because the water was turned off for 2 weeks in July before we moved in.

We’ll do our best and I will cheer when we are in our new home, away from the craziness of dealing with the property management company and an owner who has greatly neglected this property.  I’m also looking forward to having space.  It’s going to take us a long time to put in organization and to get the feel for our new home, but we’ll have all the time we need, without the pressure of a lease or the sense that one wrong misstep could have someone penalizing us for it.  Certainly, we’ll have to be responsible for everything on our own home but that also represents the freedom to actually do what needs to be done.  We have a clause in our lease that we are NOT to repair things, rather we have to contact the property management company.  That would be fine if 1) they took care of the things we reported and 2) they didn’t charge us for the repairs that were not caused by us.

I hope that our closing date holds firm.  June 29th is so close and it would give us the breathing space we need to get this place cleared out before they start showing it.  If we edge into July, it could be all the worse for us and the departure from the lease.

Anyway, as soon as we get the thumbs up and final conditions from the underwriter, my honey will contact the property management company and I’ll set up the storage unit.  It will be worth the peace of mind to get things out of here and get the cleaning done.

Have I mentioned how much moving sucks?


This will feel good

Things are progressing on the mortgage loan process.  I had to do an online home buyer’s class tonight – 2 hours, 7 quizzes.  It was very reinforcing about all of the steps I’ve taken the last 4-5 months to improve our financial picture.  I needed the reinforcement because it looked like the loan approval might fall through due to my stupid graduate school reporting me as still attending when I actually graduated 2 months ago.  Even with the “ghost” payment for the one loan that didn’t make it into my consolidation (and hence, my IBR), I’m still coming up as an “approve” in the FNMA automated underwriting system.  On paper I look perfect – prime scores, DTI meeting the requirements, and solid employment history – but the loan officer kept warning me that it’s a tougher risk model and even those who look good on paper sometimes don’t come through as approved.

I was suitably worried.

Anyway, tonight I sat down with an amortization schedule for my debt consolidation loan that is really making all of this possible.  First year I’ll see over $4000 in debt retired.  Second year, even more.  That will feel SO good!  I’ve done this before, many years ago, when I was in my 20’s and I was successful with it.  Now, you might ask – well, moonfire, why did you get in debt again 20 years later?  Very good question and I can answer – 2 of us in school, with 2 young children (lots of convenience foods – expensive) AND one under-employed/underpaid and one of us either working PT or not at all due to school load.

We were fine for our regular budget.  It was the unexpected things that took a toll…  and medical… and (frankly) some poor decisions that we made for the right reasons, but had bad consequences.

Now here we are: I’ve got the dream job and a salary that reflects my abilities and provides for my family’s needs.  My honey is heading back to school after a break looking for a job that never materialized.

And I’m done with school.

Oh yeah… feel that happy glow!

Things still aren’t all peaches and happiness.  My honey is in school, so that’s a given.  Even more, we still need to retire a huge chunk of debt so we’ll see more and more breathing space in our budget.  I’ve decided that we’ll put any tax refund this next year into savings for our emergency fund AND I’m going to add to it each pay day, even if it’s a minimal amount.

2011 was a time of change.  2012 is a time of accomplishment.  2013 should be a time of peace.

That’s my hope anyway.


Trying to find a balance…

I had a moment the other evening where I felt totally at sea.  I guess I’m still trying to figure out how to adjust to my new, non-academic life.  I write this even as my honey is next to me on the bed, studying calculus.  Maybe that’s part of it.  He’s doing his thing, with the structure that comes from being in class (time-tables, etc) and I’m on the “outside” looking in.

Or maybe it’s just that I’m used to that structure in my own world, where the timing was dictated externally and I just went along with it.  Yesterday, in day 2 of our staff retreat, my boss mentioned that our department is now in its “adulthood” and we’re ready to make more mature decisions/strategies.  Perhaps that’s what being out of school is really all about: adulthood – setting my own time-table and boundaries – creating my own sense of structure in how I handle things?

I don’t know.  It’s much easier to throw in 100% and have the structure set for you.

I think things are further complicated by the fact that mentally I want the household to be on the same page.  I can’t get there with my honey in school.  His routine is almost the antithesis of what ours needs to be and in trying to find a balance between the two, I’m struggling.

We have 3 or more years of this left due to a combination of factors.  I’m not sure how I’ll find my footing in the middle of facing that length of time.  It makes me grit my teeth to contemplate it.  Someone at my old job told me that my stress level would drop once I was out of school.  I responded that the thing causing me a lot of stress isn’t MY being in school, it’s my honey’s being in school.  I think she doubted me on that one, but now that I ponder that conversation again, I think that I was totally on to something.

I’ve been considering what I will do to survive this next few years and believe me, it will be about survival, because I’m worn out already and we’ve got a hellish long way to go.  Some how, some way, I’ve got to be ok with this.  I’ve got to find ways to be supportive.  I’ve got to help the kids survive it too, because the cost is there for all three of us.

I don’t need to go back to school myself.  I don’t really think that I could.  So now it’s time to establish our routine – our structure.  I’m starting tomorrow.  The kids need it.  I need it.  What it will look like is pretty much up in the air, but it’s up to me to figure it out.


Ahhhh, sleep…

Got home from work last night and I was totally wiped out.  My sleep has been spotty and poor for months, even when I was sick, so I think I just finally hit the wall last night.  My honey and the boys were off to an overnight camping trip with grandpa, leaving me with a quiet house.  I ate a tiny bit of dinner, fumed over the once again unhelpful and error-containing final 3rd grade report card for my oldest and then finally decided to do the one thing I wanted more than anything – early to bed.

I took my sleeping pills at 6:30 and was out completely by 7pm.  When I had my usual middle of the night wake-up call (thank you small bladder), it was 3am!  I got 8 hours of sleep!!!

I puttered on the computer for about an hour, drank some juice, and then slept on and off until 8am.  What bliss!!  Thank you Father and Son camping trip for making this sleep catch-up possible.  I’ve been puttering about on the computer for a bit this morning – quietly uninterrupted – and now it’s time for a shower so I can get moving for the day.  Today is a Mie Mie kids day and I want the house tidied up as much as possible.

I could write more I suppose, but I’m getting that antsy feeling that indicates it’s time to get moving.  I’m sure I’ll have better things to update later.  I will add one note:  When we’re in the bigger house with adequate storage I’m going to make home-made laundry soap.  I’ve been reading some blogs that use it and I’m really tired of how much laundry soap costs.  If I could cut another $10 per month off our budget, I’d be a really happy woman.  I’ll also be switching over to my gramma’s cleaning solution – vinegar and water in a spritz bottle.  One blogger suggested adding a tiny bit of lavender essential oil to improve the odor.  I’ll have to do some investigating about that.  I like Meyer’s cleaners – especially the lemon verbena and the basil.  It doesn’t look like you can get the grapefruit kind anymore (which I totally loved).  Since we’ll eventually be growing some of our own herbs, I wonder how hard it is to make essential oils?

Hmmm… house that is clean and smells like an herb garden?  That sounds lovely!

Ok.  Shower time.  Then cleaning and picking up the kid-crew.  And packing.  oy.  I hate packing and unpacking.  If all goes well with the purchase of this home, it will be a long, long, long time until I have to do that again!  Oh.  One more thing.  Credit scores are up to the point where we qualify for the down payment assistance program.  So no matter what, we’re good to go with the house!  AND just in case this one falls through, I did find an alternate that could work… not as well of course, but it’s not a totally miserable second option.  🙂

moonfire heading off into the wilds of packing, cleaning and kid-entertainment