Monday, April 30, 2007

It's officially official...

Yes, we got the keys and began moving in earlier last week. But today, we turned over the keys to the condo and unloaded the last remaining items into and out of the cars. A long, tiring weekend of moving is over. Now, the long, tiring process of sorting everything is on.

The good news? I have Internet access when I asked for it, as AT&T somehow managed to NOT screw up the transfer of my phone and Internet service. I simply am stunned. Of course, I'll probably get quadruple charged on the next bill. :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Two cool discoveries!

So, the previous owners left what I hoped they'd leave (without me asking directly for it). There was a HUGE aquarium in the garage. Didn't see it very well during inspections and such, because there was a bunch of stuff out there in the way. But, they left it behind. It's dirty, but today I wanted to begin to see if it passed a few tests before getting ready to move it inside into the basement. It appears, based on research and the dimensions, to be about 125 gallons. That's so freakin' awesome...

Test #1: Fill with water, check for obvious leaks.


I figured I would fill it first to check that it holds up before scrubbing it down. It took about 20-30 minutes using the hose (somewhat slower water pressure, mind you), but it filled and didn't leak. Of course, the pressure could cause a crack or rupture, and I'll return tomorrow to find it shattered all over the garage floor (and water everywhere), but if that's the case, at least it will do it out in the garage instead of all over the basement carpet. :)

Also, it appears that there will be no problem cleaning the thing.

But, I'm going to have to bribe about 4-5 strong friends to help me carry it into the house. I could barely lift one end myself of the tank ONLY. Yikes. :)

I'm really excited about this thing, obviously. :) You know how many fish I can put in a 125-gallon tank? You know how many tetras that is? That's like 100 tetras or more. :) Just imagine that...

Also, I discovered a crawlspace under the former back porch (now the kitchen)...I don't know how I missed this, or the inspector missed it or ANYONE missed it. Actually, I do know how...the hinged "access panel" is camoflaged quite nicely, plus, it's blocked by the door as you open it. Anyway, it's insulated and carpeted over the concrete, and it's pretty damned huge. Since the attic and basement are finished, I was growing concerned over storage space. But this should do the trick.

Furthermore, around the corner where the panel is located, there is ANOTHER fish tank...what looks like a 10-gallon. That will come in handy as a quarantine tank for the huge tank--assuming it is in OK shape. But also, there was a long wooden flower box that apparently once was on the front limestone "brackets" doesn't look too spectacular, honestly, but I didn't look that closely at it. I'll have to check it out more closely later.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The house is ours!

I'm going tonight to change locks and take a real assessment of what needs to be done, and what needs to be done first. :)

Meanwhile, the previous rant was partially for naught, as it didn't turn out to be as bad as we thought. Granted, the costs WOULD have blindsided me, but they weren't terrible.

For now woohoo! :)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Maybe I'm an idiot...

...but I'm surprised today to find out that, despite everything I've read and everything that any realtor, lawyer, mortgage person, friend, family member, etc. has ever said to us...

Oh, the seller pays closing costs (beyond the realtor's commissions). WHAT?! I thought all that crap was paid by the buyer? Why are we paying out our freakin' nose for the house we're buying, but now it appears we might pay out the nose for the condo we're selling? None of this makes sense...and I'm seriously, seriously pissed off.

Especially since everyone working for us that we're also PAYING (at a discount, but still) never said ANYTHING about seller's closing costs. Nevermind that they all KNOW that we've never sold anything before, so they could have mentioned the closing costs and stuff.

Suffice to say, I'm pretty pissed off right now. I don't like to be blindsided, especially when I've done everything in my power to make it clear I don't want to be blindsided by ANYTHING serious.

So, we'll have to come up with extra money...thankfully, we're not dumb about the price we're paying or anything like that, so we should be able to swallow the unanticipated might just mean that we'll have to hold off on the much-needed roof for a little bit. And that's not great, by any stretch of the imagination.

Monday, April 16, 2007

This time next week...

...barring any screwups, we'll have control of our new house.

So, in honor of the occasion, I actually did some packing tonight. I'll tell you, it's a good thing HGTV blew through here in February, because it really forced us to clear out most of our crap way in advance of moving. So now, because I packed up and buried most of my junk in the closet or in storage, it's boxed and pretty much ready to roll once we get the new keys. If anything, THAT alone may have made being on HGTV worth the while. Aside from the whole fixing up the condo for sale, of course. :)

Well, at any rate, I know that my captive audience is patiently awaiting pictures of the new house, but I'll keep the suspense on until we get the keys...the listing photos really don't do the place justice. You can wait a little more than a week, can't you?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Happy Friday the 13th...or something

We're now 10 days away from ownership, barring any problems at closing. And, of course, I'm itching to get in there again--this time courtesy of a demolition salvage truck I saw on the way to work this morning. I thought, "Wait a minute, I didn't even think about that as an option for getting some of the furniture and architectural elements for the house, if I need them. I'm going to check that out."

So I did...and holy crap, I can't believe the prices. Maybe I'm ignorant to what these types of things really cost, but jeez, the prices for some of this stuff seems ridiculous--I might as well find a carpenter or tradesman to build me a new version of whatever it is at that price for some of this stuff...then again, I only saw prices on the salvage sites. I did not see what prices are like at demolition sales--where you go to a house about to be knocked down and they sell you pieces of the house that you simply disassemble and take home. I don't know if that's truly honestly a "cheap" alternative or not. Or how much of a pain it is to do that...aside from the whole disassembling thing. I know I can build, but I don't know if I can take apart. :)

So now I'm thinking, maybe demolition/salvage isn't necessarily a good source for this stuff, unless I want to pay out the nose. But I don't know what other "secret" sources are out there...I guess I'll have to tool around on the Internet for a while, or maybe visit some estate sales or check out some antique shops. We shall see...I can't expect to fix the roof, replace some windows, buy a new washer and dryer (even if we get certified and get the appliance voucher) AND spend all this money on something like a vintage sideboard (which is what I'm really craving for the dining room) for the prices I've seen for sideboards. But we'll see. Maybe I'll win the lottery. Oh, wait, I have to PLAY the lottery to win? Darn...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Should have done it myself...

The thing I've learned, quite quickly, is that, as usual, probably I would have had less stress through this whole house purchase ordeal if I could have just done it all myself. All the haggling, negotiating, communicating, etc. It's like playing telephone. If I have something to talk about, I have to tell my realtor/lawyer/etc., who then tells their realtor/lawyer/etc., who then tells them. By then, everything's screwed up.

Of course, we should have learned that when we bought the condo several years ago, but I don't remember all the miscommunication that has seemed to make this transaction pure hell. Of course, I say all this now, and we haven't even closed yet. Hopefully the "worst" is behind us and the closing goes well. I mean, I know it will all work it always seems to do. But still, for as stress-free as our condo sale went, the home purchase took the cake on stressful.

This much I know...tomorrow, we're locking our interest rate, and then hopefully we'll be good to go from there. Then, it's packing time! Not too many days left for that, that's for sure.

In the meantime, I can dream about layouts and possibilities for the new house...oh, I can't even begin a list of everything *I'd* like to do with this house. Maybe in the coming days I will formulate a list'll keep all of us entertained. :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Good timing/bad timing...

Looks like we got pretty lucky with the sale of our condo...
But, it also looks like we might have gotten our "dream" bungalow for cheaper had we decided to hold out...

Home prices set for first drop in 40 years

I'm comfortable, though, with what we're about to pay for this home. In a year, others might get comparables nearby for cheaper, but you know what? That's OK with me, because I got a house I wanted at the price I am happy with.

So is the glass half-empty or half-full? I'd say, based on the top 100 markets, that it's half-full. Even with the above forecast for the country, Chicago prices are expected to rise 2.2%. So I'm glad we did what we did.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Waxing poetic on Chicago bungalows

It's 13 days until we have the keys to our new house--a Chicago bungalow.

Solid brick. 1.5 stories. Full basement. Beautiful woodwork. A perfect, functional, beautiful-in-its-own-way home for living and, even, raising a family.

I grew up on the Southwest Side of Chicago. A significantly wide portion of the Bungalow Belt passed just southwest of my neighborhood. I played Little League in a Bungalow Belt park. I went to grammar school on the very edge of the Belt--often even daydreamed out the windows looking out at the bungalow or two across the street. I passed through the heart of the Southwest Side's portion of the Belt pretty much every day through high school. And even though my parents' house was likely built just before the bungalow boom (I'm pretty sure it was), there are two bungalows right across the street, two next door and another two doors to the other side.

Most importantly, my grandparents, whom I loved dearly, lived in a Chicago bungalow minutes from my house, on a block that was, literally, ALL Chicago bungalows. They were in the Belt. They had a brick Chicago bungalow with, what seems rare to me, a full-width wooden front porch--it's an original feature too, as the roof/attic covers the porch. I absolutely loved their bungalow...I've driven by it every now and then since they passed away in the 1990s, and I can see what disrepair the place has fallen into, and it really does depress me sometimes. Part of me wishes I could buy the place and "preserve" or "restore" it. But another part of me fears what I would find inside. How it would be carved up, run down--or, well-taken care of, but with a design or something I didn't like at all. Either way, if I ever knew the place was for sale, it would be a vicious struggle for me to not buy it, somehow.

Obviously, my love for bungalows is only fueled by the great times I had at my grandparents' house. But, I love the look as well. I love the individuality, and the snobbiness I get to feel when I hear someone say, "What do you mean individuality? They're all cookie-cutter--they're the same!" Oh, don't get me started. To know the reasons that is so not true makes me feel good...

Also, really, to know a good part of the history behind the bungalow, and to be thrilled to discover a new version of one that I'd not seen before--that's also part of the fun.

My wife worried that I would be lazy and not fix up a house if we bought a "fixer-upper." This one is not a bad fixer-upper, but it does need work. Some things, the roof for example, will be contracted out. Other things, such as basement work, will be done by us, most likely. But my wife's worries about work getting done will likely turn more to budget worries. I think she underestimated my desire to restore our place to glory.

She's created a monster.

Through this blog, this monster hopes to share our trip. I will share photos, when possible, stories, and all that as well. If I find a contractor or product I like, I will glorify that. If I find a contractor or product I don't, well, you'll hear about that as well. It's free speech, and as long as I lay out the facts, that's what matters most. You can form your own opinions. I also plan to share any information about the house I think might be interesting...I want to find out about this house's history...and as I find out about it, I'll share the more cool things.

But I look at this blog as a record. We now own a piece of Chicago history, and I'm ready to add to that history. In reality, the title of this blog is perfect. I may not be a builder, and the bungalow I will be building may not be "better" to some.

But, now, my family history becomes intertwined with the history of an 83-year-old "landmark" of sorts. My family is part of the bungalow. It's like Daniel Burnham says up above--our sons and grandsons will do things that will stagger us.

So, I say, I'm ready to write a good story. My grandparents are waiting, after all.