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Archive for July, 2014

Reached July debt goal!

July 28th, 2014 at 07:40 pm

We have now reached our lowest level of debt that we'll have for a long time!

AS's student loan hit, with $137 going to principal. That means $932 went toward debt in July, exceeding the $900 goal.

Debt snapshot at this nice low point:
US Mortgage: $151,955
UK Mortgage 1: $52,239
UK Mortgage 2: $11,013
UK Mortgage 3: $11,595
Total home debt $226,802

AS Student loan $7,382
NT Student loan $3,206
Total student loan debt $10,588

TOTAL HOUSEHOLD DEBT $237,390

It's gonna be a crazy debt ride for the next couple months (or years), but I know I can pull out my bag of tricks and get us to a decent place soon.

Feeling like we have options is a relief

July 27th, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I've been in a terrible mental place ever since our realtor told us we absolutely wouldn't break even on the mortgage if we sold this place. The thought of having to take out some sort of loan just to get out from under this place, on top of all the other nasty financial surprises that have come up during this process, was just one too many bumps in the road for my psyche to really take.

I kept trying to stay positive and focus on the staging and selling, but at the back of my mind was the feeling that we'd be much worse off financially if we DID sell than if we didn't.

I tried working the extra loan payment into our proposed budget and it made me feel even worse. Yes, we'd be able to cover the expected bills, but there would be nothing left for UNexpected expenses. So anything unexpected that happened would result in debt. We wouldn't be able to do a single thing to the new place beyond the absolutely essential. It was exactly where I DIDN'T want us to be, which is why we'd ended up making a lowball offer in the first place. (Thank goodness we did, because if we'd made the higher offer and all this came up, we'd probably have had to back out of this deal and lose our earnest money.)

I finally broke it down to AS and NT, because I didn't want them to think I was stressing over nothing. There are things we'll be able to do to bring our housing costs to a reasonable level eventually, but initially there's just no getting around it: They're crazy high.

Finally AS proposed something I hadn't directly thought of myself: What if we took the condo off the market for the time being? Next year her future income will be more solidified, NT and I will probably both be making more money at our positions, and we won't have his tuition, AS's medical procedure or my tooth implant to pay for. Plus, the condo mortgage would be about $3K lower and the housing market might be a bit stronger.

It immediately appealed to me. Financially it would make so much more sense than selling at a loss, kicking out our upper-unit renters and moving into the new place.

The only things I didn't like about it: constantly worrying about keeping all our renovations pristine during the long and dirty winter months, knowing we would have to start the staging/listing process all over again in the spring, and just basically feeling stuck.

For a second I thought "What if we move into the basement of the new place?" It's got a largish living area, a kitchen space and a 3/4 bath. But I quickly recognized that just wouldn't work for five people and a cat for six months or more, so I dismissed it immediately. (It would be really cheap for us because both units' rental almost cover the housing expenses. But it would make us crazy.)

But that crazy impractical idea did lead to another: What if we do sell the condo this year, but instead of kicking out the renters, we rent an apartment for six months or so?

I did some math, and if we could find a place for $1200 or less, it would basically be the same cost as staying in the condo. I looked around and there are lots of options well within that price range; don't know about month-to-month or 6-month options, but I bet they're there. Heck, we could probably get the seller's agent to find us a place, since he's angling to be our property manager on the new place and/or help the current renters find a new place when we kick them out.

We talked over all the ideas, and agreed that while they all have pros and cons, they are all doable and shouldn't be taken off the table. So for the time being we're keeping the place on the market, but we might not take any super lowball offer that comes along; we now realize that staying here would be smarter financially than doing that.

If the WV money comes in we could probably take a lowball offer, pay off some of the loans that are making housing costs so high, and move into the duplex right away. But if we don't, it's good to know we have other options besides just moving into the duplex and being really really house-poor for an indefinite period of time.

Feedback from 2nd showing

July 24th, 2014 at 06:31 pm

Sigh.

Interior -- General Condition? Good
Exterior -- General Condition? Good
Curb appeal (lot/landscaping)? Good
Staging (cosmetics, updating)? Excellent
Appropriately Priced?
If no, what would be appropriate? No Response
This buyer is considering
another showing of this property? No
General comments/suggestions:
It showed very nicely my buyer liked it but preferred the view on the other side of the building. Two other units we saw. No where's near the condition of this one but she knows she can fix the interiors. Thank u so much for the showing.

More positive stuff

July 24th, 2014 at 02:40 pm

No further interest in our condo from buyers, but there are other positive things happening, so I'm trying to focus on those.

- The HUD finally signed off on everything, so we are officially cleared for the mortgage, and our closing next week is assured. I was starting to sweat the closing date a bit since other people were dragging their feet on providing info, but it all worked out. So glad we started the process ASAP!

- I'd set aside $300 to get our stuff out of storage and into the basement of the new home once we close, and found a mover to do it for $302.50. I didn't do an exhaustive search, but I checked two others and the rates were higher, so I'm cool with this and glad it's close to what I budgeted.

- Tomorrow I find out details of the contractor position that will replace me so I can move into writing. I wonder if I could have a higher paycheck as early as Aug. 15! Still haven't had time to discuss money with anyone, so I'm not sure how much I'll get.

- AS is getting $300 for the small writing job she's doing for my company, and she's heard back from another prospect who sounds like they're going to start sending her work immediately. It would be awesome if we could stockpile some money, or at least be sure it was coming, before her last regular paycheck!

- I spoke with our contractor to see if he handles electrical work (there is some wiring that needs to be fixed as soon as we close on the new place) and he said yes. I'm glad we have someone who is reliable and reasonably priced that we can call on from now on!

- Our DVR has been messing up more and more lately, so we've agreed to get rid of it in a couple weeks (as soon as we can get out there to drop off the box). That will save at least $18 per month, and every dollar is sorely needed, so I'm happy about that!

- My friend's finances are going great, and she has offered free babysitting as payment. Being that we pay $60 a pop for 4 hours of babysitting on a date night, this is no small payment! Not that we have money for a date, but maybe we could take her up on it and just go for a walk together or something.

Already updates

July 22nd, 2014 at 07:43 pm

We already got some feedback from one of the realtors (she's with the same company as ours so maybe they try and make sure to do that?). All good except the fact we don't have a downtown view. Still, it was comforting to think that we've done all we could in terms of staging.

Here it is in full:
Interior -- General Condition? Excellent
Exterior -- General Condition? Excellent
Curb appeal (lot/landscaping)? Excellent
Staging (cosmetics, updating)? Excellent
Appropriately Priced? Yes
This buyer is considering another showing of this property? No
General comments/suggestions: Condo was in perfect showing condition. Well done considering there are 2 cribs! My buyer is still looking. She has decided she prefers the units with DT views. Thanks for the showing. Cute unit.

So, there you have it. There are basically two places with downtown views; neither looks as nice on the inside but it seems like that's the deciding factor for people. We can only hope they sell and no more come on the market until ours gets some interest.

Answers to questions on last post:
- Realtor does seem to be pushing it, since she had a showing before it was on the market! They're not allowed to do open houses in our building though.
- I've got plenty of PTO so taking time for moving won't be a problem.
- AS decided to leave her job back in May or so. She gave them a ton of notice because she felt loyal. Reasons? Way too much work for way way too little money, and a new corrosive co-worker who is making the entire atmosphere toxic. A drastic lessening in diversity (AS is the only holdout in what used to be a very diverse staff, and she's the only one bringing diverse authors to the table too). She's paid at least $10K less than people IN HER OFFICE of the same rank who haven't been there as long. She still doesn't have her own office, as does everyone of her level. She has to share one with the eccentric founder who comes in and out without notice.

Various hopeful/positive updates

July 22nd, 2014 at 01:44 pm

Our home was listed Friday night, and it's been worryingly quiet since then. But today, two showings scheduled! I know it can mean absolutely nothing, but I feel encouraged that someone at least wants to look at the place. Fingers crossed!

One is during our usual dinnertime, so I'm going to pick up something cheap and microwavable at Target for the kids, nuke it in the party room of our building, and then us adults can eat later than usual.

***

My boss has suddenly gotten more urgent in his talk of transitioning me to a writer position! This is good news, but first we need a quality proofer/editor who's willing to take on a part-time, contractor, on-location gig. Got some feelers out! We'll see how easy it is to find that. I've got an email in to a friend who would be a GREAT candidate, but we'll see if she's interested.

Whenever that happens, there should be an immediate boost in pay; how much I'm not sure, but any bit will help at this point.

***

AS is getting some promising leads for freelance/contract work, so it looks like that may be the direction she takes after her full-time gig ends. She's already working on an article for my company! I'm hoping we can stockpile some freelance income before she leaves at the end of August, since we'll have to replace her take-home pay as well as get her some health insurance.

***

NT's transition to a new role at his job has already begun; no word on a raise yet, but he's definitely expecting one and will ask if they don't bring it up.

***

A friend asked me to help with her budget, so I got her set up on (a simplified version of) my system. It's been about a week, and so far we've messaged every day to update the spreadsheets, talk about strategies for not overdrawing and for paying down debt, etc. She says it's stressful to see how tight things are but really empowering to see that she can take actions to change it. I'm trying not to get too excited, but I'm hoping this will be a permanent change for the better for her!

***

Small positive snowflakes/money matters:

- NT's UK rental income went up a bit as promised, so we'll save a little faster for those renovations.

- Chase SW refunded our $99 annual fee even though the card was open more than 90 days before I canceled it. Got the check in the mail yesterday!

- Was thinking we'd have to pay for our own dinner at our friends' post-wedding celebration last night (since it wasn't a traditional reception), but it was on them. Feels like a bonus that it didn't have to come out of my carefully hoarded spending money!

- I noticed that on AS's $1400 medical bill, there was no line about it being sent to the insurance company. Hoping it was an oversight and that insurance will cover some of that bill! I already have a plan to pay that off this fall, so it would be great if that money could go toward home expenses instead!

July 2014 net worth update

July 16th, 2014 at 09:01 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($27,368)
#2: 19,653 pounds ($31,445)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $31,196
NT's Roth IRA: $7,373
AS's 401(k): $13,484
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $19,796
CJ's 401(k): $73,696
CJ's Roth IRA: $7,373
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $145,000
House down payment fund (shared): $27,836
---
Total Assets: $617,372

Total Debt: $237,527

Current Estimated Net Worth: $379,845

June 2014 estimate: $375,997

Change in net worth: +$3,848

Summary: An OK growth month. We would have gone up about $450 more had we made our Roth IRA contributions, but those are on hold until December (we'll do make-up contributions for all the months we miss between now and then).

Next month, expect way bigger debt but also way bigger home value!

I included U.S. savings for a home in our assets, since the money will go toward our down payment on the new home, which will become an asset. I did not include our UK savings, because the UK flat's value listed above is contingent upon the renovations that will wipe out our UK savings.

I'll update the Individual Net Worth page shortly, breaking it out by person.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions or flat value, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update (unless I happen to get some info by chance). UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.60 for every British pound.

The floor guy finished in ONE DAY!

July 16th, 2014 at 07:20 pm

We came home expecting paper and equipment and half-done floors, but instead we opened the door to a gleaming dream home! I called the guy and asked if he had more to do (he said it would take at least 2 days), and he said nope, he managed to finish all in one day!

There is a definite LINE between the living areas and the bedrooms, so clearly the bedrooms need to be done. But I've asked my realtor if we can just say in the MLS listing notes that the bedrooms will be done exactly like the main floors as soon as we move out. Would be so much easier (and delay the expense) if we could do it that way. So we'll see what she thinks.

The even better news is that this portion cost $1400. We had $2500 budgeted, but we now reckon the bedrooms will only cost about $800, so we'll actually come in about $300 under budget! That's awesome because we needed money for movers to bring our stuff from storage to the basement of the new home once we close.

We can't move our stuff back into the main areas until Saturday since the floors need to cure, so I've asked the realtor if we can list on Friday and be available for viewings on Saturday. I hope that works out.

We're all crammed into our bedrooms for the next two days, but it'll be worth it to make sure the finish on the floors is perfect.

I think my running tally of expenses is pretty accurate, and so far we've spent $8002 (including renting storage and moving van). With $800 for the rest of the floors and $300 to hire movers, we're on track to go just about $100 over budget. I'm sure there are a few piddly things we need to get, but considering our original budget was $13,500, I'm feeling pretty good about an estimated $9102!

Be the hero

July 16th, 2014 at 03:31 pm

Forgive the following little dime-store self-analyzing (not to mention self-aggrandizing) session. I just needed to work something out of my system and get to a happy place.

All of the wrangling that's been going on as a result of the home purchase and attempt to sell the condo is starting to take its toll on me. I've even started resenting a bit how our friends who are moving in are so blissfully happy about moving while I stress and sweat over getting this mortgage deal done and condo reno funded, are going out to eat and drink constantly while we scrimp and break our backs and watch the summer slip by, and who are planning to move in at their leisure in August, when we agreed rent is due Sept. 1. (They couldn't get out of their August rent at the old place and can't afford to pay two rents that month.)

Everything is so easy and there's only upside, whereas I feel like I'm panicking several times a week, constantly getting hit with more financial blows, like $7K in PMI added to the mortgage, potentially $10K-$15K to lose when (if) we sell the condo, and dealing with agents and brokers who, while not bad people, seem to always be asking for more, taking time and money and peace of mind at every turn.

(Granted, our friends have helped a ton: They loaned us $5K to help make the down payment and have said we can pay it back whenever. My friend's lawyering and photography skills have saved us tons of money and/or uncertainty while wading through negotiations and getting the condo staged and photographed. And my other friend helped get the first huge load of things into storage.)

But despite all that help, I started to feel resentful because I felt my share of the stress and work was so high, and I wasn't getting to feel any of the joy of moving into the new home. And I was starting to get a bit worried. Resentment is not a good place to start a new cooperative living situation from. So today I did a little soul searching while I was working, and I decided that the only thing I can change is how *I* choose to view this situation.

So I decided not to externalize my stress, nor resent those who aren't as stressed. I'm doing that by viewing myself as the hero in this situation, vs. the martyr (or victim).

I mean think about it. My friends killed their credit when they walked away from their underwater condo years ago. They've been renting a nice place since then, but starting to feel unmoored, like they wanted a "real" home again, but would not be able to qualify for a new home purchase at least for a while. They wanted kids and were planning to have one with a friend a few years ago, but that fell through; they are our kids' godparents and would love to have more of a role in their lives.

Then we gave them this opportunity: a chance to at least have a rent-controlled space, with the possibility of buying their share if things go well. A chance to see their goddaughters every day and help raise them. A sense of home and a project that we can work on together.

So I may be going through some fiscal pain and anxiety/fear now, but the end result is not just about getting a new home. I hereby declare myself a hero. Heroes have to overcome difficulties, and bear burdens for others, but they don't resent the people they help. I can be this person and kill the seeds of resentment before they grow.

Onward and (hopefully) upward

July 16th, 2014 at 10:37 am

Last night we had to move all the furniture out of our living, dining and hall/foyer areas to clear the floor for refinishing. It wasn't too bad: the dining room table fit on the kitchen island (upside down), the floor lamp and TV table on the balcony, TV on the built-in by the window, couch and rocker in our room, dining room chairs divided between our room and the kids', foyer cabinet in the front hall closet.

Today the floor guy is working on it. Not sure but I think it will take 2 days. I do know he says the floors will be ready for foot traffic by Friday, so that's when our realtor will list our place.

We have $2500 set aside for floors. I didn't get an exact quote from him on how much it will cost to do this; I know his usual rate is $3 per square foot. Our entire condo is 963 or so, but he's not doing the bathroom, kitchen, balcony, closets or (for now) bedrooms. I haven't thought to measure the remaining areas to see how much it is.

He also vaguely said that he'd "give us a good deal" because we had to wait so long for him to fit us into the schedule. No idea what that means either.

I know it sounds shockingly lazy of me, but the truth is, this is the guy my realtor uses for all the units she fixes up, we've seen the work he's done on them and he's very good, and he's familiar with the buildings, the front-desk attendants and the rules. There's just no way I'm going out of that comfort zone to bring in an unknown contractor, so price is really irrelevant. The only thing it will really affect is whether we can afford to get the bedrooms done too, or if we see if someone can just buff and polish them for a lower rate. (They're not nearly as scratched and damaged as the main living area floors.)

I am just trying to cross off tasks and keep things moving, without obsessing or stressing too much. Things will happen, we will survive, eventually (hopefully) our lives will settle down again.

The project I've taken on to distract myself -- helping my friend fix her finances -- is going really well! I've got her started on my spreadsheets and she's excited to see how she can arrange and adjust things to make sure she stays on budget. Right now her account is in overdraft and she's bleeding NSF fees as automatic bill payments post, but tomorrow is her payday and I hope to help her ensure that she never pays another NSF after that.

Frugal fail

July 15th, 2014 at 12:10 pm

So I've been really really trying not to spend any of my fun money lately, so I have something saved for our slew of visitors starting in about a month.

I went a little crazy this past weekend. Friday I bought Chipotle for the family for dinner ($21.60), Sunday I spent $34 on drinks and food at a festival and $8 on a temporary tattoo for AA, and yesterday I bought a box of wine for $16.53. Phew!

I'm trying to get back on the frugal wagon. At least buying food while at work hasn't been a temptation -- until today, when I forgot my lunch while dropping the kids at daycare. (At least I Facebooked the daycare lady so she'd put it in her fridge and I can have it tomorrow!)

I had $6 cash in my wallet, so I thought I'd try and be strategic and keep breakfast and lunch under that. I stopped at a convenience store and bought a container of cereal ($1.50) and a pack of peanut butter crackers (55 cents). I had 2 cents in my purse and took three from the take-a-penny tray, so I only spent $2.02 on breakfast!

For lunch I figured I'd feast on Taco Bell for about the same price (2 bean burritos at 99 cents each). Unfortunately, the nearest location has closed! I had a new co-worker tagging along and didn't want to drag her around looking for another $2 lunch option, so I went to Au Bon Pain right next door. My sandwich was $6.97 and I only had $4 left in cash, so had to use my card. (Sandwich tasted meh, but much healthier than Taco Bell would have been.) Oh well. I did find a penny on the way back to work!

I still have $900 of fun money that will have accumulated if I don't spend any more between now and the end of August. Of course I *will* spend some, but hopefully I can keep it to a minimum and still have a lot left for hanging out with our visitors.

The closest to a relaxing night I've had in a while

July 14th, 2014 at 09:18 pm

Well, the showing didn't work out today; the person decided to go with another place with the city skyline view. At least that's another condo off the market and I haven't seen any new ones pop up yet.

I called the floor guy and he's going to do our main living area floors starting Wednesday. Could be a two-day job. We need to figure out where to stash our furniture. It'll be like tetris, but we don't have to do it until tomorrow.

And, our realtor isn't going to officially put our place on the market until the floors are done, since everything will be in disarray and the floors won't be walkable while the guy is working on it.

So that means we can relax somewhat tonight. I'm still going to tidy up everything in the morning to keep in practice for when we may have viewers at any time while we're gone. But we can leave blankets on the sofa (the new cover is white and we don't want kids/cat/us messing it up), which saves a bit of hassle.

So how do I relax? I started helping a friend with her budget. Wink I made copies of my main spreadsheet and started inputting her numbers. Even though it's going to be a hard road, it was nice to be doing something that felt simple and straightforward compared with the madness we've got going on right now.

Had a good moment at work when a VP walked by and said my boss was singing my praises about a quick-turn project I did for him Friday. I haven't felt as focused at work, but I think I'm focusing on the right things, mainly getting extra work to prove to my boss that making me a writer is the right thing to do. Smile Could really use a nice raise starting in August or September.

I managed to connect AS to a writer in my company who gave her a freelance assignment. We don't know how much it pays, but I think any money AS makes I'm going to try and stash as a hedge against September-December, when things will be super tight and she won't have a guaranteed income. (Starting in January it won't be as big a deal because NT's and my income will cover the budget, but those three months, we really need to replace her paycheck income to make the budget work.)

Any raises NT and I get next month, I'm going to stash the extra to help get out of this mortgage (hopefully); our realtor says we can list at $155K, but that we may have to take less. And then she reminded us that we need to pay 6% commission, plus about $2K for something else I can't remember. So it sounds like we're definitely not going to break even on the mortgage (currently at $152K, pays off $480 per month) and are going to have to cover the shortfall somehow.

But, that's something I can worry about another day. Tonight is (sort of) a "night off."

LOTS of pics (part 2 of 2)

July 13th, 2014 at 08:02 pm

Before-and-afters, continued.

BALCONY
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(The main differences are the closet door was replaced and the floor scrubbed. You can't tell from this pic, but the floor was FILTHY. I scrubbed it for about an hour today.)

KITCHEN
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DINING AREA, VIEW FROM LIVING AREA
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LIVING AREA, VIEW FROM DINING AREA
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LOTS of pics (part 1 of 2)

July 13th, 2014 at 07:32 pm

You ready? Smile We're done! I know it looks a bit blank-slate, but we didn't have much money for staging so we just focused on decluttering and updating what we could.

KIDS' ROOM
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OUR ROOM
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FRONT HALL
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BATHROOM:
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Almost there ...

July 12th, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Worked hard tonight. Kind of keyed up but trying to start to get sleepy because we have another busy day tomorrow.

I hope to have before-and-after shots to share with you tomorrow!

Progress, and ... a too-good-to-be-true possibility?

July 11th, 2014 at 10:04 pm

OK, the promissory note is almost sorted out, so we should be able to send to HUD Monday. They need about a week to review.

I found out, or rather probably was told and totally forgot, that the mortgage will actually be $7K more than I thought because of prepaying mortgage insurance. I don't get it, because it's not going to be $7K a year, but it's not worth worrying about. It brings the all-told price a bit above what it was listed for, but in light of the $85K more appraisal, it still feels like a good deal.

Today we made a lot of progress. NT put handles on most of the kitchen cabinets and AS painted the other closet door and the kids' room. Together they painted the bathroom; it will need one more coat but it's getting there. I did two coats in the kitchen and I think it's only going to need some slight touch-ups. AS put runners on the rocking chair so we can pull up the carpet squares.

Tomorrow morning NT will finish up the painting while we have the girls at swim class. Then it's haircuts and grocery shopping. Saturday evening/night we'll box up more stuff and move furniture into the hall for putting into the storage space. We'll use a carshare pickup truck for Sunday morning since we don't need a full moving van for this haul.

Now for the too-good-to-be-true part. Our realtor called tonight. She wanted to know if she could bring someone by to look at the place Monday, even though it's not officially on the market!

She has friends moving into town, and they've lived in this building before, so they're considering living here again. She said they'd understand if everything wasn't quite done; they've bought a place in really rough shape before and fixed it up, so they're not going to be turned off by imperfect staging.

So, um, wow! She's showing them the other 2-bedrooms as well, so I'm not getting my hopes up too much. But I've got my fingers crossed that our great layout and view will stand out in comparison to the others.

NT pointed out that if they made an offer that same day, we might have time to give the renters 45 days notice for a Sept. 1 move-in to the new place! That's far-fetched, but also exciting to contemplate!

Progress for today

July 10th, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for the sympathy on my last post. It did help to blog and get some encouragement. Smile

Progress made today:
- Received promissory note. Need to haggle over a few details; hope to do that tomorrow and hopefully have the note ready by early next week to send to HUD, who needs up to a week to review.
- Decided on our bathroom color, a nearly white cool light blue.
- Taped bathroom and kitchen and applied primer.
- NT measured cabinets for where he needs to drill holes for handles.
- AS and NT each painted a door of the closet, leaving just one more.
- Got some staging accessories in the mail: shower curtain, throw pillow covers, table runner, cabinet handles.

It looks like a wreck, with all the patchy primer on the walls and newspapers lying around and everything, but we made progress. We may be able to finish the bulk of painting tomorrow. AS will tackle the girls' room and I'll try to finish at least one coat on the kitchen and bathroom. (We were running out of primer so we'll need at least two coats to cover the vivid colors.) Maybe NT can do the last closet door too. He will definitely drill all the holes for the cabinet handles.

Then, Saturday will be just boxing up stuff for storage, and doing finishing touches on painting etc.

Sunday we move some stuff out and probably get our real estate photos done.

So glad we're almost to the listing stage! I found a few more 2-bedroom listings; there are 4 active ones total right now. There's a high-end, 16th floor one listed at $175K, one that's about on par with ours on the 9th floor for $150K, and the two I mentioned before (2nd floor one, $145K, and 11th floor but crazy colors/flooring, $155K). We'll be watching closely to see if any of them sells, but I don't find the "rival" condos daunting or underpriced, so I'm hoping we're in a good position. If nothing else, we're the highest-floor 2-bedroom in our complex right now!

Starting to buckle under the strain

July 10th, 2014 at 09:24 am

I'm having a little bit of a panic attack this morning. I'll be OK soon, I know. I don't have much to do at work to distract me at the moment so I thought blogging would help calm me down.

The contractors are nearly done; they may have finished up the last little bits already. I left a check on the kitchen counter and borrowed $2K from our reserve line to cover the check; I'll pay it back on the 15th.

We're happy overall with their work. Some of the choices were not the ideal we had in mind, but we gave them free rein to choose materials and asked them to work quickly and cheaply, and we can live with it all, so we're OK with it. At least the one expensive thing they did, the kitchen backsplash, looks aMAZING. I think it'll be a big selling point. The kitchen counters and floors are nice, and the regrouting has just made the bathroom look brand new.

The mirror they installed in the bathroom is kinda blah, but I like the light fixtures. The bedroom closet doors are good, but they're positioned so that you can't open the drawers in the closet. So we'll probably just try to remove the drawers.

The closet doors need to be painted, so that's another item to add to the list. Also, it's going to be a bit tricky to paint the wall behind the mirror and light fixture they installed. Just need to tape carefully and use a small brush to get under the edges so you can't see the different color of the wall behind it.

It does make me wonder if we'll really finish everything by Sunday afternoon. Ah well, we'll just do our best. If it takes a few more days, so be it.

Our friends (the lawyer/photographer and his partner) who are moving in with us are getting officially married in a week or so. We knew they were planning it but had let it fall off the radar. They're doing it on the anniversary of their original ceremony (which they did before marriage was legal for them), so it's on a Monday evening. Probably only one of us will make it and we'll join them for dinner to celebrate afterward.

I did have my "mysterious" news from yesterday turn out to be good news -- I get to do another writing assignment probably starting this month. This one will be a test of how well I can write catchy, cool, brief little messages. Hopefully I can pull it off; I'd like to demonstrate I have range. However, as you all know by now, brevity is not my strong suit. Smile

So, all of that is why I'm feeling a bit stressed and discombobulated right now. Just have to buckle down today and get as much done as I can. Tonight's possible tasks to check off:
- Put two test colors on the bathroom wall and check them against the accessories we ordered to see which looks better. Tape it off to prepare for painting.
- Tape off the kitchen to prepare for painting.
- Paint one or two of the bedroom closet doors so they can dry and we can do the next one (there are three that overlap somewhat).
- Put padding on the rocking chair runners and pull up the carpet squares in the living room.
- Box up more stuff that we can put into storage on Sunday.
- Apply primer on the bathroom and kitchen walls.

Good news bad news mysterious news good news

July 9th, 2014 at 01:37 pm

What a confusing couple of hours! I was checking our main credit card's last statement to try and see when the next period closes, and I noticed our interest rate on purchases is 0%. I called customer service to make sure that was the case; yep! We're apparently in an introductory period and there's 0% interest until Oct. 31. This means we can make minimum payments for the next few months without incurring interest. Woo hoo! Oh, and looking at my budget I realized that since we put off haircuts for a week, our December appointment will be moved to January. I'm counting that as an $80 surplus (which I'm sure will be eaten up by something, but at least I have it)!

Then I got my carshare invoice and was shocked to see we were charged $55 for miles when we took it for a day trip a few weeks ago. I thought mileage was unlimited when you had a 24-hour reservation, but I checked the site and you only get the first 100 miles free! Darn. We'd paid for the initial rental out of spending money, but I'm going to try and cover this extra charge with our carshare line item. We'd already used up our July budget, so this wiped out most of August's. We're going to have to try and minimize carshare usage for the next couple months. We already have at least 2 trips planned, and the weddings and showers will probably require a few too. So we'll just have to try and use the bus/bike whenever possible, but some of the trips may be out of range of anything but carshare. Darn.

Then my boss comes by and says he wants me to talk to him tomorrow. I hate when you can't tell if it's good or bad, but my hope (and strong suspicion) is that he's going to give me a writing assignment or discuss the transition further. Fingers crossed! If it's something bad, it can't be terrible or he would have just confronted me right there, probably, so I'm not too worried.

Then my old boss came by randomly and said he's going to try and get me an office with a door! At first I thought I'd get a window office but it sounds like it'll be one of the interior ones. Still, a door! Awesome!

We are wiped out!

July 9th, 2014 at 09:47 am

Not just energy-wise, but also in terms of money.

Finally heard from the broker about what I need to bring to closing. Seller is covering $9K of closing costs, but our homeowner's insurance on the new place was much more than broker thought it would be (since we don't have auto insurance that we can bundle), so closing costs ran more than that. An estimated $1,836 more (broker is confident that he's within $100 of the final number).

We had a $1450 budget surplus through December, so that's gone, and we had about $300 more in savings than we thought we'd need to bring for closing. I also have cellphones as a $50 monthly line item when it's really more like $40 per month, so I changed that to $40 through the end of the year. So we can cover the additional closing costs, but that does it for us.

(Of course we do have about $17K in UK savings, but trying to pretend it doesn't exist. We also still have variable line items of groceries and spending money that could be reduced if necessary, but I don't want to touch them except as a last resort.)

Nothing else can be taken from our budget, so the only way to free up any money this year will be by increasing our income.

We don't have any definites in that area, but several promising possibilities:
- I may get a raise in August (probable)
- NT may get a raise in August or September (less certain judging from how his work has jerked him around in the past, though we think they've been scared straight by his co-worker quitting)
- AS may make more money once she leaves her current job at the end of August (very possible, since her salary compared with her experience and talents is woefully low)
- The WV money may come in (no idea how likely that is)
- NT may get a bonus in December (very likely; the only thing we don't know is how much, as it varies depending on company performance)

So, we're wiped out. But next year's budget is looking very good, so even if none of the above extra income materializes, we just have to scrape by for the next 6 months!

Progress

July 8th, 2014 at 09:26 pm

No progress on the mortgage side; I'll just get that out of the way. Still waiting for promissory note and 401(k) statement.

The contractors are trucking along at an amazing clip! The tile backsplash has been installed and grouted. The minor paint flaws have all been fixed. The shower has been regrouted and all the gross discoloration is completely gone, replaced by bright clean grout. The balcony closet door has been replaced.

The main guy thinks it can be mostly finished tomorrow! That would be stunning; he still has to replace the kitchen flooring, fix a hole in the kitchen wall, install bedroom closet doors, remove and replace the mirror and light fixture in the bathroom (and fix any damage that causes to the wall), grout all the rest of the bathroom tile, and replace the sink top.

I may have to take a reserve line loan to pay the second half of the contractor fees; we're down to $300 in the checking account until payday on Tuesday. I never expected them to finish before payday since everyone says renovations always take longer than expected! I'll be happy to pay a few bucks in reserve line fees in return for getting the renos finished so fast.

We're going at a good clip too, considering we're working around kids and full-time jobs. We've done two coats of paint in the grownup bedroom, moved all the kids' toys to their room, replaced a dimmer switch with a regular one, and decluttered/boxed up some more stuff.

What we still need to do:
- Paint kids' room
- Tape and paint kitchen
- Tape and paint bathroom
- Put handles on kitchen cabinets
- Replace toilet seat
- Install curtain rod and hang curtain in kids' room
- Clean all kitchen appliances thoroughly
- Move more stuff into storage
- Call the floor guy to schedule his part of the work
- Staging, and assessing whether we need any more staging elements (we're thinking nightstands in our bedroom, but we'll see) -- this includes adding protective runners to metal rocking chair, replacing brown couch cover with white, and adding art to walls and other finishing touches
- Get real estate pics taken
- Fill out paperwork to list our place

I can't tell if it's feasible to get it all done by Sunday afternoon. Part of me thinks it is, but I also realize it's a ton of work. And sometimes a single task will end up being dozens of little tasks.

Our realtor emailed to say that a couple of the really low-priced condos have been sold. That's good news because there aren't any crazy-low 2-bedroom units on the market right now. I checked out the "competition" after her email and I'm feeling pretty good. There's a 2-bedroom listed for a price we'd be happy with -- $154900, so about $3K more than we owe on our mortgage. The condo is decorated in gaudy greens and blues and has a strange tile floor. It's got a city skyline view unlike ours, but it's on the 11th floor vs. the 18th. I'm interested to see if/when it sells and for how much. I hope our neutral mostly gray palette and parquet flooring is more appealing to buyers. The only other 2-bedroom I could find currently listed is on the 2nd floor, with a view of a concrete wall. It's listed at $149900. Heck, that would only be losing a couple grand for us, and I feel we have more selling points. But again, it remains to be seen what they actually sell for. The 2nd-floor one has been on the market for months.

Hoping for mortgage news tomorrow and more successful renovation progress!

2 million views!

July 6th, 2014 at 09:03 pm

I just noticed my blog views have passed the 2 million mark! Thank you to everyone who follows my journey, challenges and encourages me. Smile

I also noticed my big picture goals are a bit out of date; a lot has happened since I set them, and they need to be adjusted.

Feeling a bit better

July 6th, 2014 at 06:32 pm

It's been a pretty productive weekend. First, NT and AS and a friend moved a ton of stuff to the storage space Saturday morning. It's a bit cluttered and we have a few more things to move out, but it looks a ton roomier in here. We're beginning to see the airy, spacious condo we fell in love with, so we hope someone else will fall in love with it too.

We also got a new light fixture for the dining room and one for the kitchen. We boxed up the light fixture that didn't work and will print out a label tonight to ship it tomorrow. I haven't totaled everything up for the weekend but I believe it was $40 for the dining room one, $85 for the kitchen one and $25 for bulbs. The U-Haul was $33 and the 2nd half of the storage rental fee was $116. We should get about $55 of Amazon credit once we return the other fixture.

We put primer on the one wall of the bedroom that's painted a darker color, and we taped all the edges in our room and the kids' room.

I confirmed with the contractor that they intend to fix the few little flaws I noticed in the work so far.

We got a few little snowflakes in the mail: checks from Naked Juice for a class action settlement. NT got $8.57 and AS and I each got $2.85. $14.27 total. Not much, but we'll take it and use it to pad the budget.

Light at the end of the tunnel! Here's the rough outline of what still needs to happen and when:
- Monday: contractors put in tile backsplash for the sink and stainless steel oven backsplash; fix minor flaws; take down oven hood. We might paint the grownup bedroom.
- Tuesday-Friday: contractors replace balcony door, replace bedroom closet doors, replace kitchen floor, regrout bathroom tiles, take down bathroom cabinet and replace bathroom mirror, replace sink top. Depending on when they finish all of that, we may prime and paint the bathroom and kitchen during the week. We may also try to clean all the appliances (including self-cleaning the oven).
- Saturday: we paint kids' room and move some more stuff into storage. We replace towel racks and shower rod/curtain in the bathroom. Finish any other painting and cleaning we didn't do before. Hang new curtains in kids' room; decide if we need new curtains for main living area.
- Whenever we're ready: tidy everything away, put the white couch cover on, add staging finishing touches and have our friend take real estate photos. Get the listing ready with our realtor.
- Following Tuesday: floor guy sands and refinishes floors in the main living area. Depending on how the bedrooms look by comparison, we may have him come back in and do those.

On the mortgage front, we're just waiting for the last 401(k) statement to post (should be tomorrow or Tuesday) and for the seller's agent to send over the promissory note for our (and the HUD's) approval. And to find out from the broker exactly how much we need to bring to closing.

July 31 we close on the new home. Shortly thereafter we move our stuff out of storage and into the new home's basement.

Things are really moving now

July 4th, 2014 at 09:13 pm

We settled the promissory note issue. We offered a straight 10-year loan option with one year interest-only and the rest principal + interest. They get to raise the interest rate twice, at the 2-year and 5-year mark. Accepted, thank goodness. Now we just need to see the actual promissory note and pass it along to my broker. That and one more 401(k) statement should be all he needs.

I'm still waiting to hear from him how much extra we need to bring to closing because of the higher-than-expected home insurance. Hoping it's only about $1000 more but I can't remember if he was expecting the bill to be $1500 or $2500. It ended up being closer to $3500, so we may need to bring $2000 to closing. I know we can find a way, but I'd just like to find out for sure how much it will be.

The contractors have worked 3 days so far, and they have the kitchen and bathroom cabinets all painted and put back up. They also replaced the countertops in the kitchen. It looks pretty good; there are a couple of flaws I'm hoping they can fix. Next is the backsplash, which they'll do on Monday. I don't think anything will take as long as the cabinets did, because they needed to be taken down, painted twice, then hung back up.

We got a new light fixture for the dining room but it doesn't look right. The base of it doesn't cover the hole left by the old fixture. We're returning it and should get most of the money back (we just need to pay shipping). May just go to Ikea to see if we can find something, rather than waiting to have something shipped from Amazon again.

We packed and packed the past few days. Boxed up all our books, AS's sewing supplies, and about half the stuff we took out of the kitchen when prepping it for reno. (We put back only what we use frequently.) Also a bunch of kids' clothes that don't fit them yet, and toys they don't play with too often. All our DVDs except a couple of kids' movies, all of NT's CDs. Tomorrow morning he needs to box up his LP records. We'll be moving all the big pieces of furniture (bookcases etc.) to the storage unit along with all the boxes of stuff.

Right now it looks insane, but I know it will look better soon.

We ordered a few more things on Amazon for staging: shower curtain, towels, a little decorative jar for the bathroom to match. Curtains for the kids' room. Table runner for the dining room table, handles for the kitchen cabinets. Throw pillow covers for the couch.

So far we've spent a little over $4,000, including the storage unit rental. We expect to spend another $5,000 or so ($2400 for the other half of the contractor bill, $2500 for the floors, a hundred or so for more light fixtures, moving van, etc.) We may go over a bit if we also need to get curtains (AS thinks the current ones are too dark and don't go with the new gray wall color, but we're going to wait and see all the other changes before we decide).

I thought it would feel good to have things moving, but it's very unsettling and a bit stressful. All I do is focus on the flaws of the condo and worry that it won't sell quickly. We would hate to have to live here over the winter, knowing we own our new place but can't afford to kick out the renters. On the other hand, we're glad we have that option, because carrying two mortgages while waiting for this place to sell would have been a thousand times more stressful. This way, if the place just doesn't sell, we can do more renos, or drop the price, eventually, but first we can see if it sells for what we want it to. Meanwhile it will only cost us $100 per month over our normal housing expenses to keep the house as long as it's fully rented.

I hope I feel better tomorrow when all the boxes and empty shelving units are out of the condo and we can clean up and declutter and start to see how it might look eventually.

Updates on life

July 2nd, 2014 at 09:46 am

I had another procedure for my dental implant today. It was only half an hour and they didn't give me a bunch of written instructions or any special painkillers, so recovery should be fine. I probably could have gone back to work but I'd taken the day off to recover, so I'm taking advantage and staying home. There was some Vicodin left over from a past thing so I took one when the pain kicked in; I'm a wuss! But ibuprofen should be fine to manage the pain after that.

The contractors have been working on our kitchen and bathroom since yesterday morning, so I'm holed up in the bedroom. I've got laptop, phone, TV and a microwave, and books in case I get in a reading mood, so I'm set.

The contractors are working on painting the cabinetry first. When we got home yesterday they'd taken all the doors off in the kitchen and on the bathroom vanity and had done a first coat on everything. Today they're doing a second coat and then putting the doors back on. I think the white is going to look wonderful. I'm pleased so far; they seem to be productive and skilled.

A friend of a friend will be dropping off boxes and packing materials in a little while. We've managed to gather other free boxes and hope that we won't have to buy much. NT is going to pick some up from another friend of a friend. Social networking can come in really handy sometimes!

Today through Friday, we'll box things up and maybe paint the bedrooms. Saturday we use a moving van and bring a bunch of stuff to our storage space. The contractors should be able to finish up the kitchen, bath and door installations in the next week or two.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the seller of the new place is upset about the 10-year balloon that the HUD stipulated on the promissory note they'll be giving us. I'm afraid it might be grounds to back out of the agreement, so I came up with a new loan idea that fits HUD's requirement (they just don't want a balloon before 10 years) and will hopefully make the seller happy: a 10-year loan where we pay interest only for the first year, then principal + interest for 9 years. They get to raise interest at the 2-year mark and again at the 5-year mark.

I hope this pacifies them. Fingers crossed!

July debt progress

July 1st, 2014 at 01:43 pm

All the mortgage payments hit:
US: $479 to principal
UK #1: $220
UK #2: $46
UK #3: $50

So that's $795 down, $105 to go on the July debt goal.

A few snowflakes hit today:
-Deposited the $250 from the WV deal.
-Transferred $9 of Pinecone payments to our account. Usually NT keeps Pinecone money since he does the surveys, but he said I could have this $9 for the budget!
-Checked savings and logged about $19 of interest.

Forgot to deposit the kids' piggy bank money; will probably do it tomorrow.

NT's paycheck hit, thank goodness!

Just got a weird email forwarded from the seller's agent about the secondary loan; they're freaking out about it being a 10-year balloon (per HUD stipulations) vs. 5-year. I hope this doesn't turn into a big deal. I wish I could show them this blog so they'll feel confident I tend to pay down debt way ahead of time!