18 September 2007

Fresh Hell

Cameron and I are excited at the prospect of this:

Which makes life hell, because I love this:

And, there's so much more to it. I don't like to admit it, but I'm sentimental as hell, and I can't help it. The second photo is our first house together -- my first house. We've lived here twelve years, and during that time we transformed it from a virtually untouched, landscape overgrown, plumbing challenged, electrically underpowered rental home to our home. While we've done much of the work, we've had lots help and guidance from a few talented friends over the years. I suppose I'll post about that later, perhaps when we sell, because this post is already going to be too long.

Anyway, rewind to this spring. After several years of hemming and hawing about expanding or moving, looking for houses in Midtown that we could afford and never finding one that offered what we already had, or finding what we wanted well outside our price range, we decided to build in a new developement where our friends Becca and Petey built, in Hernando, MS. We worked on finding and then buying a lot. But, after a few months frustration we gave up on the idea of building our dream home because Perry Homes (the owner of all remaining lots) would not sell to us -- we wanted to use our own builder.

Back to square one, we resigned ourselves to adding a master suite to the home we already love -- next to the best neighbors in the world -- on our lovely street, knowing we'd basically be pissing away our half our equity to stay here. After a 900 s.f. addition, the house would be over 2,300 square feet. Most of the houses in our secluded neighborhood range between 1,400 and somewhere around 2,000 s.f. We could possibly get our investment back of it if we stayed here another ten years.

Labor Day weekend, however, we had five house guests. Seven people. One bathroom. I'm sure our guests were as miserable with the accommodations as we were. But, they're sweet and would never say that. We realized we were done.

Coincidentally, Becca (who is also our real estate agent), called on Labor Day and told us that INS had come in with a bus and arrested all of the illegal aliens working for Perry Homes, causing the builder of several incomplete homes in Deer Creek to go bankrupt. At least seven homes were in foreclosure and on the market for substantially less than appraisal. We made arrangements to go see what was available.

We looked at two of four unfinished homes. Two didn't even have brick yet so they were out of the question. The remaining two were further along in the building process. The first was over 3,000 s.f. and the second was 2,700. Inside, the first was only framed in. While it looked like it would be awesome upon completion, we really don't need a 4-bedroom, 3-bath house with a media room and smallish 2-car garage. The second, a 3 BR, 2 BA, was drywalled and needed counters, floor coverings (which for us would be scored, stained concrete -- so no covering at all), fixtures, siding on the eaves and gutters. This was the one, or so we thought.

After going through Petey's spreadsheet of the line item expenses from building her house, we figured it would be $30 to $35,000 to finish the house. Purchase price on the house we wanted was estimated at $185 to $195,000. So, a 2,700 square foot house for under $230K -- not bad at all. As we finished writing down the last line item Becca got a call saying the foreclosed houses had been sold at auction.


Over the next few days Becca and I made several calls to the uncooperative selling agents. They wouldn't return her calls. I finally got through to one of them. I realized, through our conversation, that the house, in fact, wasn't sold at auction. The bank had collected on the default insurance and had taken possession of the properties. So, we're on again -- until we started figuring out the process. We'd have to sell this house, put most of our belongings in storage, move into an apartment, get a construction loan, live in the apartment until the house was finished, then refinance the grand total, then move from the apartment and the storage space into the new house. Um, we really didn't want to move two or three times. But we were still considering it.

We drove back down to Hernando to look again before making an offer. We walked through two finished Perry Homes that I didn't like for several reasons, one of which was that I could hear traffic from I-55 while standing in the yard. A third finished home didn't have the features we liked architecturally, including arched doorways in the common areas even though it had a huge keeping room with a gas log fireplace, adjacent to the living room that also had a fireplace. I could have lived with the master bath's unimaginative glass-stall-next-to-tub layout. But, the laundry room was a disaster in bad planning. The Whirlpool Duets wouldn't fit because the cabinets were hung too low. And, even if the cabinets were raised the appliances would have had to sit at a 90° angle to one another, wasting at least 25% of the room's square footage. Then there was the .65 acre yard that went from level at the back door to almost as high as the house at the back. "What the hell do we do with that," I thought to myself for several minutes. Then I expressed my concerns to Cameron and Becca. She agreed that the back yard was an issue. Ultimately, we said "next."

Finally, we walked through a non-Perry home that was still available. It's the one pictured above. If we were going to do this I wanted a walk through shower. This house has it, with two shower heads and a bench. It has two very large walk-in closets between the master and the bath. The common areas are all open to each other and the guest rooms are on the opposite side of the house from the master. Everything is upgraded. Granite counters, stainless appliances, upgraded tile, hardwood floors. We're getting estimates to finish the expandable space which already includes plumbing accommodations for a third bath. The remaining space would be an office and a media room (with no windows). It'll be a perfect place to watch movies in surround sound without having to listen to idiots on their cell phones, or clueless fools rattling aluminum foil from the stash of hot wings they brought from home, or listening to loud conversations between patrons to one another during the show. When it's all said and done, the house is going to be around 2,600 square feet of very livable, peaceful space with a 2.5-car carriage load garage.

Here is where the hell begins.

We've been toiling diligently to get our house ready to show. The sign went out front on Thursday -- the day before Cameron's and my 15th Anniversary. We spent Friday evening with Becca, Petey, Petey's brother Danny, and his girlfriend, Patsy, at Memphis Botanic Garden's "Live at the Garden." Michael McDonald, who has always been one of my favorites, spent the evening doing more Motown covers than his own music. Great night, great weather there on "the Lawn" with my husband and friends. Awesome. Mr. McDonald's concert? Not so much.

The post honoring our commitment to each other is coming. Stay tuned...

Anyway, outside of the normal work for such an endeavor, like cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and decluttering, decluttering, decluttering, there are calls to the alarm monitors to establish a special password for agents, making accommodations for Doris, Billie and Edith, key copying, pruning, raking, weeding, abandoning the thought of a yard sale throughout this madness and making trips to Goodwill.

After two late nights in a row, painting, vacuuming and scrubbing, this morning started at 5:30. I let the dogs out and fed them, took out the trash, emptied the dishwasher, scrubbed the sink with Ajax, cleaned the toilet and sink. Cleaned Edith's cat box. By 6:00 I started outside, feeding the koi, quietly moving empty flower pots to the potting table and generally just picking up. Mowing started sometime around 7. Blowing followed. I cleaned the pool, added chlorine and reattached the fountain. Trimmed the taro in the pond. I called the office and told them that Becca was bringing her colleagues over around 11, that I was preparing the house and would be in around 9:30. I went back out, uprooted spent tomato plants, swept and weeded.

Then I came inside and started a load of whites. Put a tablecloth on the table and set it. Changed the water in the vase on the table. Threw away the spent flowers in the bathroom and cut a rose to replace them.

I suppose that until I look around and see that nothing needs to be done that this is what living in a house that's on the market will be like. It's sort of hell. Especially since Cameron is out of town. But, he gets home tomorrow. And, I suspect the first order of business will be spending time together, rather than working on the house. At least, that's what I want. And, I don't expect much resistance even though it will make Thursday a bit more hellish. Plus, I've taken tonight off to write this post.

Oh, and I forgot, Thursday is the day I have my second review at work.

I need another martini.

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