Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More updates

Mon morning the paint crew arrived and immediately got to work. I had a conversation with the foreman/owner about the paint colors, areas to be done, etc. Before I left the house, the team of 3 guys were already busy sanding the trim in the guest bedroom.

After I left the locksmith arrived to fix the deadbolt locks on the front door and back door. A key had broken off inside of the front door's lock, and despite completely removing the lock I could not get the broken key out. The locksmith was able to do so in a few seconds, according to Joe. I'm sure it was because of some special tool! The deadbolt on the back door would not engage/disengage smoothly. Sometimes it wouldn't lock at all. The locksmith was able to fix that as well.

Around 2pm the roof guys showed up. However, they realized they were missing the correct color shingles so they promised to return on Tues.

I took a little extra time during my lunch break for a trip to Target. I had a gift card I'd saved from Christmas, and decided I would use it to pick up some necessities and accessories. I got some hand towels, bathroom accessories, bed frame risers (to raise the height of a low bed), and a gorgeous beaded pillow for our bedroom. I'll need to try another Target to (hopefully) find the window valances and assorted decorative soaps.

When I got home Mon evening the guest bedroom was a lovely shade of 'Lighter Mint'. We had first selected 'Mint', but then decided that 'Lighter Mint' would give the room a more airy feeling. All the trim had been primed in that room too. Also a 2nd coat of 'Baked Clay' had been applied in the main floor hallway and some of the trim had been primed. The top layer of wallpaper had been removed from the dining room.

When I got home this evening I found the guest bedroom's trim was all painted white. That room was done. The trim in the main level hallway was all primed and most of it painted white. The trim in the upper level hallway had been primed and painted white, and the walls painted 'Safari Tan'. They'd started going down the stairway walls with the 'Safari Tan' but ran out of paint. Joe will need to grab another gallon tomorrow morning when Duron opens. The dining room's wallpaper backing had been removed, some drywall repairs done, and a coat of primer applied. I believe the painters will finish tomorrow. Hallelujah!

I had washed the linens for the guest bedroom, so I decided to stage the room tonight since there would be no more work going on in there. I elevated the bed using the bed frame risers, and then made the bed up with all the mix and match pillows. I added the two non-matching side tables I'd purchased last week at Ikea, as well as a little table with two painted chairs. It looks super!

The roof guys returned today to repair the roof leak, replace some shingles, replace the chimney pipe collars, and replace the skylight and seal. I didn't even realize they were replacing the skylight; I thought they were just replacing the seal. Guess that turned out to be a better value than I'd thought.

I am SO ready for a vacation. And payday.

Drag Queen name of the day: Candy Kane

Sunday, August 27, 2006


I was really starting to panic. We'd gotten 3 estimates for the painting needed in our house, and all 3 were too high. I was beginning to think I was going to have to take off a week of work and do nothing but paint, paint, paint.

Fri we had yet a 4th guy come to give an estimate. It wound up being slightly less than the others, but still more than we felt we wanted to pay. So Joe decided to call the guy back and try to negotiate with him. He seemed very nice when we was here so it was worth a try. Jackpot! He agreed to do the job for $600. less than his estimate! And the bonus to the jackpot is that he said his team would start on Mon!

But there was still painting to be done. There were 3 smaller, somewhat unrelated painting jobs that were not included in the estimate and Joe & I agreed to do them ourselves. Afterall, none of them involved painting trimwork. So Fri evening we took inventory of what paint we already had on hand and what we needed to buy. Sat morning we got the additional 6 gallons from the Duron store and then got to work.

We started with the stairwell that leads from the main floor to the lower level family room. I had 1/2 a gallon of offwhite paint left over from when I painted the ceiling of the office, so I figured that would do just fine. We painted the ceiling and walls going 1/2 way down the stairway, since the lower 1/2 is open on one side and paneled on the other. We had just enough paint to finish the job, and by just enough, I mean I was scraping the bottom of the can to complete the last few brush strokes!

Then we started on the 1/2 bath in the basement. It is the size of a full bath, but does not have the tub or shower stall so technically it is still a 1/2 bath. We never, ever use that bath so the first thing we had to do was clean the cobwebs out of the corners and spray some mildew remover on the part of the cinderblock wall that needed to be cleaned. After allowing that to dry we applied a coat of stain-blocker primer to the entire bathroom - cinderblock, wallboard, and never-painted-before wood.

While that was drying we did the same mildew removal treatment on some other parts of the cinderblock basement walls. Then we showered and raced to the theatre to see "Snakes on a Plane". This movie falls into Joe's made up film category: silly summer movies. It really should have been saved for the rental list, but Joe wanted to see it, and I was willing to see it with him.

On Sun we slept in (exhausted from that tremendous workload the day before) and then went to brunch at the Silver Diner with the Newlyweds. We all had breakfast foods and coffee and got caught up on the goings-on in each others lives. Then we went with them to the Container Store, since Michael had a gift card that was burning a hole in his pocket. We found a couple things we couldn't live without too, so it worked out well. Although, with the prices at that store, it makes me wonder how they stay in business. I mean, who would buy plastic storage bins for $12. at the Container Store when you can buy the exact same brand of plastic storage bins at Target for $6.99? People with gift cards I guess.

Since we were having such a good time with Michael and Jamie we invited them to help us use our gift card at Starbucks for a frappacino. It was nice and sunny so we drank them outside, then decided to go to Ayres variety store. We almost delayed our painting further by going to Target, but I started to worry we wouldn't finish. So instead we came home at 3:30 to finish our painting projects.

Joe started giving the basement walls a coat of the stain-blocker primer while I began painting the top coat in the 1/2 bath. 'Water green' is the color. When Joe came in to inspect my work he said he hoped the bath didn't end up looking like a mental institution. I must admit that the cinderblock walls painted that light green did bear a bit of resemblance. But since we already had the paint I continued slathering it on, undeterred. Besides, I justified, it will look much more quaint when its done and I've put rugs on the floor and accessorized the room with towels and vintage dishes full of decorative soaps.

After showers and some dinner we moved all the furniture out of the dining room, in preparation for the painters' arrival Mon morning at 8am. They will first have to remove the wallpaper above the chair rail and prime before they can apply the 'Interactive cream' paint. No, that's not a typo; the paint color really is called 'Interactive cream'. Jamie joked that it was the first day on the job for the new Paint Namer at Duron. Then I began to wonder if its really somebody's job to just sit around thinking of new paint color names. I wouldn't mind having that job.

I'm so relieved that we got our painting projects finished and are ready for the painters' arrival tomorrow. Now I only have to stress over finding someone to install the new vanity/sink/faucet we bought at Ikea for the upstairs bathroom, and finding someone cheap to clean up our neglected yard.

Drag Queen name of the day: Ella Vater

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The letter

Yesterday when I got home from work I looked through the mail as I always do when I get home. I was surprised to see a letter from Mrs. Daisey, the seller of the "water house". After my initial surprise, I realized that I wasn't really surprised. In fact, it almost seemed like I'd been waiting for word from her. Handwritten, this is what the letter said:

"Dear Mark and Joseph,

Thank you for your gracious letter. Sorry your contract did not survive, as I know you would have tended the house with lots of loving care.

I was beginning to think I was not going to get any offers, and suddenly 3 contracts came in Sat. I have many regrets about leaving my house as I have thoroughly enjoyed my 26 years here. I just thought I should down-size while I can make decisions on my own and get rid of a lot of stuff instead of leaving that job to my daughter. I am sure I can survive without all the stuff, but was sorry to part with it. Hope you enjoy your carnival glass bowl.

Good luck with your new job and hopefully you will find just the right house in Rehoboth.

Best Wishes,

Norma Daisey"

Now that's a classy lady. I was really touched that she took the time to sit down and hand-write this letter to us. She could have simply thought to herself "They were nice guys and I'm sorry they weren't the highest bidders," and gone on about her business.

Prior to getting her letter, I had been thinking about sending her a little note to say something like 'Congratulations on getting 3 contracts on your house. Although we are disappointed our contract wasn't the one selected, we wish you the best and are happy you got the most money for your home.' But before I could do so, her letter arrived. Now I'm wondering if I should still send the note, or, just try and move on. I must admit that I am more disappointed than I thought I would be about losing that house. I was really 'blue' all day on Mon. Hopefully some other property will come along that gets me excited again.

Drag Queen name of the day: Gerri Attrick

Real estate irony

Being the ever-optimist that he is, Joe keeps telling me about all the articles and new stories he reads/sees about the real estate market slowing down. Just what I want to hear while preparing to put our house on the market.

Then I started thinking about the real estate market at the beach, which does not have the insulation of the Washington DC area. Logic would have it that if the market is slowing down in DC, then it must REALLY be slowing down elsewhere.

To some extent that seems to be true. There are plenty of homes at the beach that have been for sale since we began looking back in April. Many have dropped in price, some by $25K, others by $100K. Then I began to think about my frustration with losing all the properties I actually like.

First it was the contemporary house that sat directly on Red Mill Pond. The entire back of the house was windows and sliding glass doors, which opened onto a 2 level deck, with stairs down to the dock. The lot was treed, and I just loved it. The price was quite reasonable too. The problem was that the house was too small. So I designed an addition that would add a large master bedroom overlooking the pond, and a master bath and walk-in closet on the main floor, and a guest bedroom and an office on the 2nd floor. But before we were even close to being ready to put our house on the market, the house was purchased. I felt validated when we drove by last weekend and saw that the new owners were adding on.

Then we saw a ranch style house that sat directly on Red Mill Pond. It didn't have the lovely deck or stairs leading to the dock, but it did have a dock. The problem with that house was that it also was too small. It was also a modular home, built elsewhere as 2 pieces that are assembled on site. It had absolutely no drywall - just that horrible, dated patterned paneling that is oh so reminiscent of a trailer. The entire house was so dated there really wasn't anything worth saving or remodeling. I really wanted to have a bulldozer level the thing, have the debris hauled away, and build a nice house on that great lot. But Joe wanted to buy an existing house and wasn't excited (like me) about designing a house to be built. I checked today and found that this house has also been purchased.

Then there were the "water house" and the "pool house", which were my top 2 favorites. You already know what happened to the "water house", but we've also found out that the "pool house" is being auctioned on Sat. At first I was excited by the possibility of getting the "pool house" at a great price at auction. But then I found out you must have a check for 10% of the purchase price that day, you have to add an additional 5% to the purchase price to pay the auction company who will in turn give part of that to your realtor, and you must settle on the property within 30 days. We don't have 10% of the price in cash, and we can not settle within 30 days, since we don't even have our house on the market yet, much less have a buyer for it who is ready to go to settlement soon. So in effect, the "pool house" is gone now too.

How ironic that in a "slow market", all 4 of the properties I have been interested in have sold. Meanwhile, Joe is concerned that our house might not sell or that we might not get a good price for our house - which in all honesty is far nicer than most houses we've seen at the beach in the same price range. Joe would like me to join him on an endless discussion of contingencies. I got frustrated with this last night and told him it was just too exhausting for me, and that I felt like we knew what we needed to do. If circumstances change and our house doesn't sell or we don't get offers for the right price, we would discuss it THEN - not now. He thinks I'm being short-sighted, but I just can't worry myself to death planning for a myriad of contingencies that may never even happen. We know each other well enough to trust that when the chips are down, we will be on the same page. That's always been the way its worked in the past. We're just connected that way.

Drag Queen name of the day: Gladys Canby

Monday, August 21, 2006

Family time

Last Thurs I got an email from my cousin Hilleary who lives in CA, indicating he was currently on vacation on the east coast visiting his family. He wanted to know if I was available to get together over the weekend. (Read here for an introduction to Hilleary.)

I excitedly responded to him indicating we would be in town over the weekend, and that I would very much like to see him. He wrote back on Fri and said that he and his 3 sons were staying at his parents’ house, and would like to get together on Sun afternoon. He also said his sister Jeni and her 2 sons were vacationing in Ocean City, but were interested in joining us Sun afternoon on their way home. I was surprised but happy to hear that our visit would now include 7 relatives I’d not seen in 13 years.

Jeni and her sons Andy and Tristin showed up first. I easily recognized Jeni, since adults’ appearances don’t change that drastically in 13 years. But Andy and Tristin were only 6 and 3 years old the last time I saw them, so I wouldn’t have known them if I’d seen them without Jeni.

Similarly when Hilleary showed up, I recognized him easily but would have never known his sons Oli (Oliver), Ben, and Tito (Theo). The last time I saw them Oli and Ben were 4 and 1 year old, and Tito wasn’t even conceived.

We ordered food and I tried to engage everyone with questions. I asked the boys their ages, their grade in school, and about their hobbies. I got the latest scoop on many of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins’ kids from Jeni and Hilleary. We also talked a good bit about the family’s inhumane treatment of those who decide to leave or are kicked out of the JW religion. I was encouraged to hear that Jeni & Hilleary’s non-JW dad, whom I always knew to be quiet and stoic, was incensed at some recent developments.

We visited for nearly 3 hours, and I couldn’t believe how quickly the time had flown by when Hilleary noticed the time and suggested they get going soon in order to not be late for their dinner appointment. We took some photos outside and then said our goodbyes before my ‘family’ returned to MD. It really meant a lot to me that they took time from their vacations to get reacquainted with me. Hilleary suggested we do it again next year when he returns to the east coast for vacation.

When I got back home I returned a call from my aunt Mary and we agreed to have dinner together. As usual, we had a fun time, which really helped keep my mind off the disappointment of losing the “water house”.

Drag Queen name of the day: Rosie Cheeks

Friday's dilemma

On Wed the floor guys came to install our new 'floating' kitchen floor. Everything went well until they accidentally severed an electrical line, causing some of the lights to go out. But after a quick trip to Home Depot for parts, the guys repaired the line and left. The new floor looks great!

On Thurs the countertop guys came to install the new granite countertops, new stainless steel sink and faucet. It took them less time than I thought it would, and Joe was even able to get a plumber to come out immediately after the countertop guys were done to reconnect the dishwasher, garbage disposal, and drain. Everything turned out great!

On Fri our beach realtor Lee Ann called me at 4:45 to tell me that she'd been contacted by the listing agent for the "water house". The listing agent said she was getting a contract that afternoon and wanted to know if we wanted to submit an offer too. I told Lee Ann we'd talk about it and get back to her. Joe & I had said before we didn't want to get into a bidding war because even if we got the house we wouldn't be getting as good a deal as when we were the only offer. But the "water house" was our favorite and we didn't want to lose it. What a dilemma! Lee Ann called back to say that the offer was submitted with a 24-hour turn around, leaving the seller only 24 hours to respond. This made us think again.

If the person submitting the offer was only giving the seller 24 hours to respond, they were likely offering a very low price and didn't want the seller to have time to get more offers. With this knowledge and the knowledge that the "water house" was truly our favorite AND the best overall investment, we thought perhaps we should go ahead and make an offer.

We went to our friend Dick & Dick's house for dinner and after only a few minutes, my phone rang again. It was Lee Ann, wanting to know if we'd made a decision. We told her that we thought we'd make an offer, contingent on the sale of our house. She discouraged us from doing so, indicating that the other offer already on the table had no contingencies, and that most sellers wouldn't consider a contingent contract if they also had a contract without contingencies. So we told her we wouldn't make the offer, since we were not willing to remove the contingency of selling our house. While I had that conversation in the other room, Joe explained that we'd normally not answer the phone at someone else's house, but then explained what was going on. One of the Dicks is a realtor and suggested we not let the contingency discourage us. He suggested we write a letter to the seller, telling them how much we loved and wanted the house, and have it included with our offer to soften the contingency. I thought it was a great idea.

When we returned home at 11:00 we talked about it for a while, and decided we were going to fight for that house! I wrote a great letter, explaining to the seller how much we liked the different features of the house and how we could really see ourselves living there. Since we'd met the seller on 3 occasions, I tried to include as much about her as possible without sounding like a stalker. Then we hopped in the car at 12:30am and drove to the beach, arriving just before 3:00am. We left Lee Ann a message indicating our desire to submit an offer, and explained about the letter.

The next morning we met Lee Ann at her office to sign the paperwork and hand over a check. She told us that the seller had countered the first offer, but we were still able to submit one too. Lee Ann thought the letter was a terrific addition. Here's what it said:
"Dear Mrs. Daisey,

We are Mark and Joe, the two guys that Lee Ann Wilkinson has brought to see your home two times. However, weÂ’ve driven by your house many times, and even shown it to friends and family several times. We really want it to be our house!

Obviously we were stunned by the gorgeous views from nearly every room in the house. But even more than that, it is obvious to us that you and Mr. Daisey took great pride in your home and maintained it beautifully. It is a wonderful, solid home with a great floor plan that works perfectly. If we recall correctly, you designed the house yourself. We think its perfect, and if you accept our offer, we will maintain its current floor plan and soul, only making some updates here and there.

We particularly love the open, spacious kitchen. ThereÂ’s lots of counter space that we can picture ourselves using when our extended family comes Thanksgiving. And we can imagine ourselves eating breakfast each morning in the breakfast nook while gazing out at the water, probably the same way you have done for years.

Mark works for a company that produces internet conferences and Joe will be starting a new job with the State of DelawareÂ’s department of Children, Youth, and Families. As much as we love it, we are unable to offer you the full list price for your home. But please know that we are making our very best offer; what we feel we can afford. Coincidentally, Lee Ann told us that the house 2 doors down sold for the same price that we are able to offer you. We sincerely hope you will find this offer sufficient.

In addition, we ask your indulgence with a contingency for the sale of our current home. It is located in a very desirable area where homes frequently sell quickly. Just this week we had a new ‘floating’ floor and granite countertops installed in the kitchen, which are sure to further enhance our home’s beauty and desirability. Our realtor is convinced our house will sell quickly when it goes on the market.

We look forward to bringing that carnival glass bowl we purchased at your yard sale back to your home, along with the other carnival glass pieces weÂ’ve collected over the years if you accept our sincere offer.

Best wishes to you as you prepare to start a new chapter in your life in Georgetown!


Mark and Joe"

After faxing our offer, Lee Ann took us to see 3 more properties that were new on the market, just in case. The first was a beautiful old house in Lewes that was lovingly restored by its current owners. It had all new plumbing and electrical wiring, back yard garden to die for, along with a carriage house. The drawbacks were no garage or driveway, and all the rooms in the house seemed too small. Next we went to a house on Lewes beach. It had a 4-car garage, and breath-taking views of the bay from the top floor living room, dining room, and kitchen. There is protected state land in front and behind the house so the views will never be interrupted. Its drawbacks were the budget-buster pricetag and the fact that the neighboring houses were summer cottages so there would be no neighbors and we'd feel isolated. The third house was a colonial in the desirable Country Club Estates neighborhood in downtown Rehoboth. The house backed to Silver Lake, had lots of decking and a hot tub, good space inside, and was only 3.5 blocks to the boardwalk! The drawbacks were no garage or covered parking, very outdated decor including wallpaper everywhere, and a general 'suburban' feeling to the house.

Literally minutes after saying goodbye to Lee Ann, she called us back to say that the first person had submitted a second offer that was higher than ours. She wanted to know if we were set in our price or if we would consider paying more. Although we weren't happy that the other person had more money on the table, we were encouraged by the fact that the seller was considering our contingent offer. We discussed it for a few minutes and called Lee Ann back to say we would consider a counter offer from the seller. And then we waited.

Sun morning we left the beach and shortly after arriving home we got the call from Lee Ann. She said a third person submitted an offer late Sat evening, for more than the first two offers, and had no contingencies, so the seller accepted it. The "water house" was gone. The listing agent told Lee Ann that the seller was disappointed that Joe & I weren't the highest bidders because she thought we wanted the house the most, undoubtedly because of the letter.

Although disappointed by the news, I didn't linger on it because I was preparing for what I knew would be a joyful occasion: a reunion with my cousins.

Drag Queen name of the day: Kelly Green

Monday, August 14, 2006

Wacky weekend

After Joe's phone call with Harvey and our visit from Betsy we decided to go eat dinner at the Taco House and let all the news sink in.

Initially we had not planned to go to the beach this past weekend. We'd been up there the last 4 weekends in a row, and I figured this weekend we could stay home and do some of the fix up projects to ready our house for listing. But with Friday's weather being so absolutely gorgeous and the weekend forecast for more of the same, we decided it would be a downright shame not to go to the beach.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day Joe's brother Frank called and asked if he and his friend Liz could go to the beach with us for his birthday. Joe explained that we were still undecided about going, but he would let him know later. When Joe talked to me about this I was NOT excited.

I do not dislike Frank, but Frank is not a person I would choose to be friends with. We really don't have much in common. He drinks too much on a consistent basis (read: alcoholic), he smokes the worst smelling cigarettes in the world, he can't keep a job, he can't support himself financially, and he always thinks of himself first and maybe others second. Oh, and did I mention he owes us several thousand dollars which he promised to pay back 6 years ago? But he's Joe's brother so of course I am polite and friendly to him.

Then there's Liz. Liz and Frank used to be romantically attached like 18 years ago. Frank has made it abundantly clear that he is not romantically interested in her anymore, but she continues to live in an alternate reality where they were still 'together'.

When Liz's parents died she and her brother inherited their parents' money and house on waterfront property. The brother was a good steward of his money and land, but Liz squandered hers. Despite having once been a licensed attorney, she stopped working for over 10 years and took long vacations all over the world. It took several years but she finally blew threw the money and was unable to pay the taxes on the family house and land. Eventually she lost them both and would have become homeless if Frank hadn't taken her in. She now has an entry level job with the Federal government and rents a basement room in a crime-ridden, drug dealing area. Since she and her brother are estranged and Frank has been the only friend she's had (apparently), she has adopted Frank's family and invites herself to Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter every year. Once again, I do not dislike Liz, but she is not a person I would choose as a friend. We really don't have much in common.

Perhaps now it is more clear why I was less than enthusiastic about the idea of Frank and Liz coming to the beach with us for the weekend.

I suggested to Joe that he tell them we were going to be tied up most of the day Sat with our realtor. I suggested they drive up for the day on Sun, since its only 2.5-3 hours away. I suggested they come a different weekend when we wouldn't be in and out so much, hoping they'd eventually forget about coming.

So after dinner at the Taco House we tossed a few things into a suitcase, put Jordan in the back seat and headed to the beach with the top down. We never heard back from Frank that night.

Sat morning we didn't hear from Frank by the time we were ready to go to the beach so Joe called his cell phone to see if they were coming or not. Frank said they were just leaving Dover.

"What are you doing in Dover?" Joe asked. Apparently it was a story too long to tell between cell towers, but we would eventually hear all about it.

We went to the beach and it couldn't have been more beautiful. It was about 80 degrees, breezy and sunny. Perfect beach weather! I hated to leave, but since we had an appointment with Lee Ann the realtor that afternoon, we had to come back. Oh, and Frank & Liz were coming.

Several calls for directions later, Frank, Liz, and Joe's mom arrived. We let them in and explained that we were quickly showering and leaving to meet the realtor. I drew them a quick map to get the to historic Lewes and we were out the door.

We met Lee Ann at the "water house" for a 2nd look. I'm glad we went, as there were several positive things about the property I had not noticed the first time. Despite the current owners furniture and belongings, I really felt 'at home' there and I knew it was the house for us. However, Lee Ann discouraged us from making a low offer with a contingency on selling our house. I didn't realize it but when a seller accepts a contingent offer, there is a 72-hour period during which they can solicit and accept other offers! Lee Ann said that just because there had been no other offers yet didn't mean there weren't any other buyers considering making an offer like us. So we decided to trust in the Universe that the house was meant for us and wait until we had an offer on our house. Then we could make our offer without any contingency.

Afterward we met up with Frank, Liz, and Evelyn for an early dinner. We all had entrees and desserts, and of course Frank had 2 bottles of beer and an after dinner Frangelico and coffee. When the bill came and Evelyn and Liz had contributed, Liz handed the folder to Frank. He looked at her for a moment and said "I thought I wasn't paying since it is my birthday." After an awkward silence Liz responded "You want me to pay? I already gave you a gift." After another awkward silence Joe broke in and said "We'll pay for Frank." With tip the bill came to $140. Evelyn gave $20. and Liz gave $20. Joe & I paid $100. I immediately thought of saying something wicked sarcastic to Liz and Evelyn, like 'I hope you both can still afford to pay your electric bill after such an expensive lunch', but of course common decency and my love for Evelyn kept me in check. They could have at least offered to pitch in a few extra bucks for Frank. But rather, they didn't even cover their own cost once the tip was included. I mentally filed this away and later I told Joe that we were not going out to eat with them any more this weekend.

Sun Joe made breakfast for everyone, and Frank & Liz went to the beach. It was so gorgeous I would have liked to have gone too, but Evelyn didn't want to go and Joe didn't want to leave her at home alone, so I preferred to skip the beach with them than to go with Frank & Liz. We drove around a little and showed Evelyn some of the houses we had gone into. We stopped for lunch and eventually wound up back at the house. Frank & Liz were eating hoagies on the screened porch, which was just fine with me. At least I didn't have to pay for them. We hung out for a little while and the 3 of them left at 5pm. Joe & I cleaned the bathrooms, kitchen, vacuumed, and stripped the beds (since they didn't bother to), packed our stuff and got on the road at 7:20. It was a lovely ride home with the top down and the wind blowing over us.

When we got home at 10:15 we realized we had no toilet paper in the house! We got back in the car and picked up some stuff we needed for the week, and then had a snack of corn dogs (oh how white trash) at 11:00. The title of this entry warned you it was a wacky weekend!!!

Drag Queen name of the day: Crystal Clear

Friday's news

I left work early Fri because our realtor was scheduled to come at 4pm. We asked her to assess our house and tell us what she thought a reasonable asking price would be. But just before she arrived the phone rang. When I answered it the caller asked to speak to Joe, so I gave him the phone.

It was Harvey, the guy Joe's been waiting and waiting to hear from regarding his new job! They had occasionally exchanged emails over the last 2+ months, mostly because Joe was looking for some kind of word regarding the additional approvals Harvey was seeking in order to pay Joe what he'd asked for.

As I heard Joe begin to speak with Harvey, Betsy knocked on the door. We selected Betsy as our realtor because she is a neighborhood specialist. She lists and sells lots of homes in our zip code and, more specifically, in our neighborhood. She also has the reputation for pricing houses accurately, leading to fewer days on the market (DOM). Since our home is in a sought-after community and we are hoping to have in on the market for as few days as possible, Betsy sounded like the perfect fit.

She showed us a binder she'd made with market analysis, listing and sales prices, this year versus last year, comps and more. She also described the marketing and advertising she does for her listings, both online and in local print. She described the 'realtor caravan' on the Tues before the house goes onto the market and the open house process. It was exactly what we wanted to hear. Six years ago when we'd put our former house on the market with a more 'reactive' realtor we were disappointed at the level of exposure and activity the house received. Betsy had it covered.

Next we went for a walk around the house, where Betsy pointed out things that needed to change and I carried a legal pad and quickly scribbled them down. There were very few surprises, likely due to my disproportionate interest in watching TV shows like "Sell This House" and "Design to Sell". We told her about several things (new kitchen floor, granite counters, etc) that were already scheduled and just waiting for installation. Betsy had a few ideas I hadn't thought of so I made sure to take particular note of them. Later Joe & I reviewed the list and felt pretty fortunate. It was less extensive than the list we had 6 years ago.

Betsy was optimistic about the size, condition, and desirability of our house. Then came the million dollar question: What would be her suggested list price? She said she really wanted to think more about our house, and then come back when the new kitchen, etc was done, and then she'd be able to more accurately assess its value and suggest a list price. However, she gave us a range with a $50K spread, and the price I had thought we could get was exactly in the middle of that range. That was good news.

When Betsy left Joe told me that it was Harvey who had called, and that he confirmed Joe's job status/offer and salary. Wow, what a relief! He also wanted Joe to select a start date so Joe looked at the calendar, considered what we were going to be doing with the house, etc and agreed to start work on Sept 18.

Initially Joe will stay at our beach house and I will remain here while the house is on the market. We'll see each other (either here or in DE) on weekends. Once we have an acceptable offer on our house here, we will immediately put an offer on the house in DE we affectionately refer to as the "water house". Hopefully both offers and resultant settlements will go smoothly and we will move to our new house. We're excited!!!

Drag Queen name of the day: Beverly Hills

Monday, August 07, 2006

Don't ask

Apparently it doesn't matter if you don't tell, and if others violate the law and ask.


Very disappointing.

Drag Queen name of the day: Diane DaMeecha

Doing it ourselves... sort of

Last Tues I called the contractor who gave us estimates for several home improvements. I let him know we were ready to begin getting some of the projects started and asked him to come by when he could to review the project list again and prioritize it. He said he was available that evening so we arranged for him to come over.

From our conversation I understood he was going to bring us some samples of flooring and countertops for our kitchen, but when he arrived he did not have any samples. Instead, he suggested we go to home improvement stores, flooring stores, and granite suppliers and write down the materials we were interested in. Then he could tailor the earlier estimate using the cost of the materials we selected.

So Wed evening Joe & I went to a carpet and flooring store and looked at 'floating' laminate floor samples. We were pretty sure we wanted a 'floating' floor because our current kitchen floor has multiple uneven layers of tile that we do not want to have to pay to be removed. A slate, stone, or ceramic tile floor would require the removal of the old floor. A 'floating' floor can be installed over top of what is there. We found a laminate we liked and got a price on the materials; less than we expected. The David the salesman told us that this particular brand of floor was professionally installed by an employee of the manufacturer, NOT a local flooring contractor, and that it had a great warranty. When we got an estimate for the materials and installation, it was still less than we expected, based on the estimate we'd gotten from our contractor guy. We decided to think about it.

Thurs evening we went to a granite outlet and looked at granite slabs. After getting price information, we had Monica give us an estimate based on the countertop measurements and drawing I'd brought with us. It was less than we expected, based on the estimate from our contractor guy. This made us seriously question our contractor guy's pricing and ability to provide estimates. We took Monica's printed estimate and told her we'd sleep on it.

On Fri afternoon we went to another granite outlet and got another estimate. It was closer to Monica's estimate than to our contractor guy's estimate. So we decided the contractor guy was history. We could do better by doing it ourselves. We went back to the carpet and flooring place and told David we wanted to move forward with his material and installation estimate. He agreed to come to the house that evening to take the actual measurements. Then we called Monica and told her we wanted to move forward with the granite countertops, new stainless steel sink and faucet she'd quoted for us. Tomorrow we are taking a check to David's store and signing the contract. On Wed Monica is sending the person to take the actual countertop measurements. In less than 2 weeks we'll have a beautiful new 'floating' floor that looks like a cross between travertine and light slate, and we'll have beautiful new granite counters and a new stainless steel sink and faucet.

Drag Queen name of the day: Paige Turner

Tuesday news

Last Tues I got an email from our realtor, Lee Ann. She wrote that she'd gotten a call from the listing agent for the 'water house', which is our #1 choice. The listing agent told Lee Ann that she was expecting an offer on the house, and wanted to know if we wanted to make an offer too.

Not good news. When I read it, my heart sank. The worst position in which to be in real estate is competing for a property. We don't simply want to get the house we like the best, we want to get it for a good price. When there are multiple buyers competing for the same house, the seller is the only one who gets a good price.

I called Joe to let him know about Lee Ann's email. We discussed it at length, and decided not to submit an offer at that time. First, Joe is still waiting on his official letter from the State regarding his new job, and second, we didn't want to be in a competition situation. And I guess, really, in my heart of hearts, as much as I really like the 'water house', I felt like it wouldn't be the end of the world if we didn't get it. We're very fortunate; there are other houses we like and could picture ourselves living in, too. So we decided to weather the storm. I wrote back to Lee Ann and explained our reasons for not making an offer, and asked her to keep us informed.

Joe & I were both busy on Wed, Thurs, and Fri so we didn't feel tortured by waiting to hear from Lee Ann. Finally on Sat I called her to get a status on the deal. Apparently Lee Ann had been busy too, as she had not talked again with the listing agent and did not know what had happened. She said she'd check and call me back. A little while later she reported that the 'water house' was still available! I asked how much the offer was for, and what was the reason for the rejected offer. She wasn't able to tell me, since she hadn't spoken directly with the listing agent. The receptionist simply confirmed for her that the property was still active. So, that left the rest of Sat, all day Sun, and most of today for Joe & me to hypothesize on what had happened.

Had the offer been for such a low price that the seller rejected it? But offers that are too low are usually countered by the seller. Had the counter-offer been rejected by the potential buyer? Maybe it wasn't the price. Maybe the offer had come with some undesirable contingency. What could it be? How would we know what to do?

So this morning I emailed Lee Ann and asked her to get the details on the offer. Several hours later she replied: no offer had been made. However, the potential buyer whom the listing agent thought was going to submit an offer on Tues came back on Sat with a contractor to see the house again. It appears that the other person is interested enough to bring/pay a contractor to see the house and give them information or an estimate on either adding on or just updating it.

Once again, not good news. Joe & I were hoping to wait a few more weeks to make our offer. A few more weeks would give more time for his letter to arrive, more time for our own home improvement projects to be completed, more time for us to actually get our house on the market, and most importantly, a few more weeks would put us at the end of the summer; a real motivating factor for sellers in beach communities. No one in a beach community wants their house to still be unsold when Labor Day arrives.

So, tonight we discussed this latest information over dinner, as well as 101 different strategies and back-up plans. Our plan is to continue to wait it out. We do not want to be in a competition over this house, even if it is our #1 choice, because we want to get a good deal. We don't want to put in an offer yet, knowing there is someone else out there that might take this as a bidding game. So we'll wait. We know the other party brought a contractor to see the house on Sat, so my guess is that if they plan to move forward, they will submit an offer sometime this week. If they don't submit an offer this week, they probably got negative info from the contractor about the renovations/updates they were planning, and decided not to move forward. We can certainly wait the rest of this week to see what happens. If the listing agent does get an offer from them, I think she will call Lee Ann again to see if we want to submit an offer too. At that point we'll know an offer has been made, and we'll have to wait and see if it is accepted or not.

If the house sells, then it wasn't meant to be for us. If it doesn't sell, then we may be able to stick with our plan to make a low offer around Labor Day. Hearing myself say that reminded me of the tarot card reading Wendy did for me just over a week ago. She interpreted my cards to say that I needed to relax, go with the flow, and trust in the process. Not that I really make decisions based on this reading, but my inner voice is telling me not to get worked up over this, and it reminds me that there is at least 1 other house we like a great deal. It doesn't have that spectacular water view or dock, but it does have a heated in-ground pool and costs $211,000 less.

So now we try not to go crazy as we wait.

Drag Queen name of the day: Hazel Eyes

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Beach Birthday Weekend #2

...because really - 1 beach birthday weekend simply isn't enough.

Last weekend we went to the beach with yet more friends celebrating birthdays. As stated earlier, Joe's birthday was 7/20. His best gal-pal Wendy's birthday was 7/21, and Jamie (from the Newlyweds) also shares 7/21 as his birthday. So Wendy and both of the Newlyweds joined us for a celebratory weekend at the beach.

On Sat morning Joe made his famous blueberry pancake breakfast (for details see last weekend's menu in the blog entry called "Happy Birthday Joe"). Shortly after 11am we decided it was too hot to go to the beach, so we went to the world's best dollar store, and then to some outlet stores, topped off by lunch at the Dirty Finger restaurant. (Its not really called the Dirty Finger, but for an explanation read last weekend's blog entry.) After the heat of the day had passed, we went to the beach. It wasn't as breezy as I like it, but it was a pretty day and we enjoyed it.

After showers, cocktails, and a quick trip to the grocery store, we all participated in preparing dinner: Salmon fajitas and corn on the cob. Of course we had enough food for twice as many people, so we saved the left-overs and had them the next day. Wendy is very into astrology so she agreed to do Michael & Jamie's charts. I would have liked her to do my chart too, but she needs to know the exact time of your birth, and I don't know when I was born. Then we had a carrot cake birthday cake, baked by Michael and sang 'Happy Birthday'.

Sunday's breakfast was a repeat (for me) of last Sunday's breakfast. (You know where to find the details if you're so inclined.) Then Wendy did tarot card readings on Michael, Jamie, Joe and me. It was very entertaining. My reading was all about change, trusting in the process, going with the flow, with the assurance that everything will work out for the best. I attributed most of this info to pertain to our pending move to DE. One of my cards indicated a woman older than me who speaks bluntly, without much tact, would be very instrumental in facilitating the change. This prediction was a perfect description of our realtor!

After the readings Wendy, Joe, and Michael took naps while Jamie and I went to the pool. Then we cleaned up the house, packed, and headed back home. The traffic was great and we got home in the usual amount of time. It was a fun weekend!

Drag Queen name of the day: Patty Cake