Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The lamest blogger ever

This goes out to my father-in-law, who keeps checking for updates, God bless him.

My excuse? Well, that whole holiday thing - home to Missouri for four days, just in time to catch a blizzard. A lovely novelty when you know you will be leaving the cold and spending months shovelling snow and driving in slush. The house did NOT close over the holidays - finally funded on December 28, and registered on December 29. F. put the keys in my hand that morning, I handed her several bottles of wine. Could barely wait until the Husband got home, and then we rushed over and ran from room to room, talking about what we were going to do with every square inch, what would be in every closet, and how much money we were going to have to spend to hire professionals to help us.

I launched the next morning - hit Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore and Home Depot for paint samples, and slapped them up on the walls - I had very clear ideas about what I wanted, but had to get the Husband's buy-in, and he needed visuals. The area of greatest debate - the kitchen. The avocado green and harvest gold wallpaper of butterflies and daisies was going, but we were left with stark white cabinets, white appliances, a harvest gold banquette, and ivory tile backsplash with scattered butterflies. And the debate extended not just to WHAT color but how much - the cabinets had outer framing, and we were toying with the idea of painting the inner recessed area one color and the framing another - but could not agree on those colors. I put three colors on the cabinets for visual reference.

The Husband agreed with the living room choices - SW Sundew on most of the walls, Behr Pure Earth over the brick fireplace. He didn't like either color I'd picked for the guest bedroom, but graciously allowed me to paint it deep gold (BM Showtime). In return, I let him pick the deep blue of the master bedroom. I tried not to smirk when he went for the color I'd chosen for the kitchen cabinets - BM Nantucket Gray (which isn't gray at all but really green with gray notes), though we still debated how much cabinet to paint. He liked the color so much we decided to put it in the dining room as well. The biggest leap was getting him to agree to paint the panelling downstairs (the family room that would be his office). I didn't think I could live with the dark, cheap, laminated panelling - but it was glued, not nailed, to the drywall, so if we pulled it out, the drywall would come too. Too big a project right away. I did a test spot (BM Yarmouth Blue - we appear to following a nautical East Coast theme). He was still dubious. Must wear him down.

I wasn't scheduled to go back to work until January 7, but the Husband had to get back to his part-time day gig; optimistically we'd arranged for movers to come on January 9th - that gave us ten days to get the bulk of cosmetic updates done before the furniture arrived. Yes, we can! And did...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Time Ticks Away...

Everything seemed to be falling into place, with a tentative closing date of Thursday, Dec. 17. We'd hired a sewer lateral company (And I recommend them highly, Terra Nova Engineering), they were scheduled to come in and get the sewer done on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Then it all fell apart again. A rainstorm moved in, causing the sewer lateral work to get postponed to Dec. 17 - a closing still possible, if we can get the completion paperwork from them early enough in the day. But then a bigger hoop appears - F. gets notice from the underwriter on Wednesday that they would like all the Section 1 work called out in the termite inspection completed (more on that in a minute) and since the inspection mentioned missing window cranks on some of the casement windows, they would like all those replaced. Oh, and after all this work is done, could we please have an inspector look at it again? Are you serious? We're not going to get our loan if the windows are missing cranks??? Thursday closing out the window, I go home and alternate between blubbering and cursing like a sailor, and drink lots of wine. The powerlessness of this process is what drives me out of my tree. The Husband and the dogs give me wide berth.

The termite inspection does not just deal with termites, of course, it also includes water damage - and ours showed some dry rot in two or three places in the eves (near the wooden gutter), at the base of posts on the front porch, and in the door jamb of a side door. Not a lot of work, but finding someone to do it, and quickly, is the challenge - our loan rate has an expiration date. F. scrambles to find a handyman, ends up calling the selling agent, henceforth known as Champ. (We've learned that the seller owns a great deal of property in Richmond, Albany, and Berkeley - and Carmel. And Champ manages a great deal of it.) Champ tells us he can get the work done in the next 2-3 days. We love Champ. F. loves Champ. We start planning the gift basket we can give Champ at the end of this long nightmare.

So if the work can get done over the weekend, then perhaps F. can get an inspector in Monday or Tuesday, and we can get funded and recorded while we are home in Missouri for a few days - and we will be handed keys when we get back.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sorry for the Long Absence...

...but despair did indeed set in. Our second appraiser hailed from Discovery Bay, had never been to Richmond before; the day of the appraisal she complained to our agent F. that she had to appraise our place, a house in Oakland, and one in Walnut Creek, all in the same day, and had never worked in any of those three places. Not reassuring. F. did her best, sent many comps, more comps of comparable neighborhoods. The results came in on Dec. 1.: she appraised the house at $235K. $235K!!!! Pardon me, but if you show me a nice house in a nice neighborhood in the Bay Area that I can buy for $235K, I will buy it. I have never seen such a rare and wondrous beast

I mean, honestly, $235K? You should have seen the properties she used as comps in her appraisal - horrible! So now we have two supposedly equally qualified appraisers (both certified at the highest level); one who knows the area and appraised the property at $365K, and another from elsewhere who appraised it at $235K. I want to call the HUD office and scream, "Who is right???!" And isn't a $130K difference just a bit ridiculous? Have they made the system more flawed by insisting on random selection of appraisers?

We get on the phone with our mortgage broker and F. Can we go back to the first loan of $300K? And can we tell the selling agent the second appraisal, and tell him $300K is all we can offer? F. gets on the phone immediately - and the selling agent is once again a champ. He tells her he will do his best to get this deal done. Calls back several hours later, and says they will accept $300K, but we have to cover closing costs, and no new roof. It will mean more money upfront from us, but we'll save overall. Here goes again.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

We're Waiting Experts...Not

Our mortgage broker told us last Monday that the new appraiser (hired by the underwriter's intermediary - the number of parties involved in a loan gets pretty confusing) would call to set up payment first, then schedule an appointment at the house with F. I'm delighted when they call on Tuesday, thought maybe we'd have to wait until after Thanksgiving. I give payment information, the appraiser calls the house and speaks to the Husband, who connects her with F. Turns out the appraiser lives in Discovery Bay, not familiar with Richmond at all. F. sends her comps from the previous appraiser; Appraiser 2 asks about similar areas, and F. tells her about Richmond Annex, sends more comps. They schedule an appointment for the day before Thanksgiving.

F. discovers there is no lockbox on the door the night before the appointment; calls the selling agent to ask how to get in, he says, "Use the key from the lockbox." Uh-oh. He arrives, discovers someone has cut off the lokbox, gone inside and stolen the washer and dryer, and the hood over the stove (?!!!). How is this possible? I tell others about this, start hearing horror stories of fully-staged houses in Piedmont, San Francisco, Walnut Creek being emptied by thieves. Feel slightly better that this is not a Richmond-centric crime.

The selling agent is a champ, gets a new hood up before the appraiser arrives on Wed. Appraiser 2 likes the neighborhood, likes the house; complains to F. about the new rules on appraising, and that she gets called to appraise neighborhoods she has no familiarity with (like Richmond - and her next stops are Oakland and Walnut Creek, never appraised in either area). We're hopeful that she will appraise at our offer level, but then the underwriter has to accept it, so there's no predicting success. Appraiser 2 tells F. she will turn in her appraisal by Monday, and we should hear from the underwriter by Wed. Just trying not to despair.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Moving Along at a Fast Clip, And Then...

Things were going along so well, you knew it couldn't last. We shared the inspection report with the sellers, and to our complete surprise, they agreed to replace the roof. No negotiation, no splitting of costs, they would simply handle it. We sent them an offer addendum, and they signed it without hesitation.

Some of the remodeling quotes we've received have caused us to clutch our hearts (and my inner calculator starts ratcheting up). Replace all the windows with new vinyl (not paintable fiberglass)? $10,000. Sewer lateral? $4,100. Put in wood floors in the living and dining rooms and front hall? $7,000 for 500 square feet. (That last quote was from the champagne of wood floor companies - we will now be looking into the beer price range).

The mortgage broker let us know that the underwriter asked for a little clarification from the appraiser, wanted to know why he had gone so high (just over our $360K offer). He provided, they approved the loan and the broker requested the "loan docs." The underwriter did mention that the appraisal had to go through a "desk review," but suggested that this was a formality, no reason we couldn't move ahead. I was beginning to think that maybe we could close by Nov. 30.

Then on Friday, it all caved in. We got an email from our broker saying that the desk review appraisal had come in much lower than our offer - just $300K, in fact. He was flabbergasted, our agent was flabbergasted, even the rep for the underwriter was flabbergasted. The desk review is just what it sounds like - some person in suburban Los Angeles looks at the appraiser's reports, pulls their own comparative prices (and in this case, they pulled short sales and foreclosures from around Richmond, although this property is neither). Does not visit the property, doesn't know the neighborhood - but makes the final decision on appraised value. No appeal.

So our loan went up in smoke. We are scrambling to restructure our loan and work with another lender - conventional, not FHA - and of course pay for another appraisal. We let the selling agent know, he was very understanding, and shocked at the low appraisal. I am now back to work on my house ulcer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who's Afraid of a Little Inspection??

The inspector did his look-see (several hours worth) on Friday, sent his report today. Luckily he walked me, my brother and F. through the highlights on Friday (The Husband is away in the homelands of the Midwest, being a good son and making his wife proud.). The two big issues: the house needs a new roof - and gutters, and eave works; and a new circuit board - there are several old fuse boxes in the house, all with larger fuses than they were designed to handle, but still not enough to power modern appliances. There are wooden (wooden!) gutters on the lower level of the house, and the inspector illustrated the need for new ones by taking his poking tool and reaching up to poke a hole in the gutter over the garage - with no apparent effort. Yikes.

The inspector waxed rhapsodically about the state-of-the-art furnace, installed in 2006, with 97% efficiency rating and sparkling new ductwork. His enthusiasm was infectious, but our spirits dimmed a bit when he told us there was absolutely no insulation in the attic, and several upstairs windows did not close all the way. So much for furnace efficiency! Quirks all over the house, including a panic switch in the second bedroom; when switched, it rings a very loud alarm bell outside. Say wha???

F., my brother, our friend who stopped by, all tried to persuade me to keep the giant banquette and matching mod lighting fixture in the kitchen. I agreed to consider it, but the butterflies have GOT to go.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hurtling Forward

After months of frustration and rejection (that I internalized completely - why wouldn't someone want a nice responsible couple like the Husband and I to buy their house?), it's a little unnerving how quickly everything starts rolling once the offer is accepted.

Appointments this Friday for property, roof and pest inspections; sewer lateral repair will come drop their video in the pipes to take a peek, and the wood floor guy coming by to take a look and give us an estimate.

F. and the Husband met the loan appraiser at the house today; he gave the place a big thumbs up, told them no worries on the appraised value. F. told me later that the Husband walked around with a clipboard, inspecting doors and windows (once a cop, always a cop). Sure enough, he called later and said the sliding glass door in back needed to be replaced, and we needed to put burglar bars on the laundry room window, because it was tucked away where no neighbors could see it. I am now in the process of tracking down window replacement quotes. I see my future - and it's all home improvement. But I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to choosing our own colors for the walls. Farewell, apartment white walls!!