House Dating

In case you haven’t seen my posts on the topic before, Tina and I are looking for a new home.  Cam’s getting to the age where he needs more space (and I would like an office that isn’t also a bedroom).  So we’ve spent the better part of a year fixing the things that needed fixing… and making the house a curb-appeal rockstar.

Meanwhile, we’re sorta’ looking, too (no, we’re not dumb enough to want to try to have two mortgages – no thank you).  But if we get an offer, we need to be prepared.  So we’ve keep a running list of a few potential properties that we’d like to go see in the event things work out for us.  A few days ago, things started to look like they would.

So we took 3 hours out of our realtor’s Fourth of July weekend to go house hunting yesterday.  I have to say that I’m pretty disappointed overall… and I think it has to do with some central tenants/laws/rules about selling homes that really closely pair with rules for dating.

1. Set expectations properly.  When you’re dating, especially online, the first thing most people show is their photo.  As a guy, I can tell you that if you are looking through a screen of women and all you see is a head, the first question you have is about the body.

Homes are the same.  If you show the inside, but no exterior shots – my first thought is that there’s something wrong with the outside.  Additionally, when you DO show photos of the outside, don’t take a photo from a weird angle to use some form of forced perspective to make it no longer appear that you have a 200′ vertical elevation drop from the street to your garage.  The minute I see that in real life, I’m not even going to look inside your home (which will become more important to you, the seller, in a minute).

Also – if you post a sign or have a request that I take of my shoes when entering, you’d better well have your place looking like a “no shoes” home.  By that, I mean:

  • you’d better not be a smoker and have cigarette butts outside or smoke smell inside
  • your floors had better be immaculately clean (my white socks will tell me the story in a minute)
  • you probably shouldn’t have a dog – especially one that requires food and water bowls in the kitchen AND in your master bathroom… and where you’ve picked up the slopped food around the bowls, too
All in all, if you ask me to remove my shoes, I will have enough respect for you to do it – even though I don’t know you.  But if you’ve wasted my time AND I’ve felt just a little weird walking bare or stocking-footed through your home, you can bet I’m not putting an offer on your place.
So, set expectations properly.
2.  Know your price range.  Look, I know that nobody wants to admit when someone is “out of their league” but the truth of the matter is that not everyone fits well with everyone else romantically.  Try as hard as you might, but Penny and Leonard just aren’t meant to be together long term (besides, Pria is a better match).  Granted, I have NOTHING against Penny.  She’s just not going to be able to hang with Leonard’s crowd (or vice versa for that matter – even though Leonard really wants to).
For houses, if you price your home based on what you feel it’s worth, and not based on what it’s actually worth given its location and condition, don’t expect to get what you want out of it.  Real estate is already incredibly volatile and fickle.  Our current home was headed on a 5+%/year increase trajectory at the point when we bought it.  Which means that today, I should be able to get 128% of what I paid for it.  Wanna’ guess if that’s what the housing market says it’s worth?  Of course it’s not.  The market took a header and down went my hopes of ever seeing the 100% increase prior owners of this same house did.
When you price your home and then scoff at the offers that come in, take a moment to think about whether the home is worth what you’re asking.  What makes it worth that?  Is it immaculate?  Does it have a big backyard with a fence?  Is it on a quiet street in a good neighborhood?  Does it still have any builder brass or builder slab fixtures?
I’m not going to pay for potential.  I’m going to pay for what is.
3.  The corollary to #2 is: Don’t believe your own hype.  Yes, I know you’re awesome and your mother thinks you’re awesome, too.  What does your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend think?  Would they start your personal ad with all caps: “STUNNING HOME (guy/girl) IN & IS PICTURE PERFECT”?
No?
Right.  Why?  Well, first, all caps is shouting.  But beyond that, people won’t describe themselves as perfect (and usually not stunning).  Which is why, in real estate, we have agents.  House Pimps.  They’re there to market the heck out of something that isn’t all that.  And, like lawyers, we tend to dislike all of them other than our own.  [Speaking of which, our agent is awesome.  If you ever need someone in Raleigh, let us know and we’ll connect you.]
But when you believe the House Pimp Hype, you’re forgetting that there’s a reason why you no longer want to live there.  Part of that forgetting allows you to move… the other part makes you want to sell for more than it’s worth (See #2 above).  More importantly, however, it creates a disconnect between reality and fantasy.  At the end of the day, I’m buying a house and I’m going to have to work to turn it into a home.  Drop your hype and figure out what it is about the house that lends itself to becoming a home.
The same, of course, is true for dating – you become a great catch when you realize what you have that’s useful to someone else.  But this is really the subject of a whole other post (and a book that I’m working on).

4.  Don’t waste my time.  Actually, all of these rules come together to support this final rule.  If you waste my time, you’re never going to get my interest.  If I have to figure out the “real you” in dating or the “real deal” on the house, that’s wasting my time.  And given the amount of technology at our disposal these days to find out a lot of the story early on in the “relationship”, don’t be surprised that if you try to fool me to get me close and when I am and see you for what you are … that I run.

Yesterday, we saw the 200′ vertical drop house in person.  Photos made it look great, but there was no way that we would ever make it up and onto the street in a Raleigh winter with a little ice or freezing rain.  So we didn’t bother to even look inside the house.  There was no way to fix this issue.

Some people probably don’t care about things like that (heck, the house isn’t brand new, so theoretically, several people haven’t been bothered by it).  But deceiving me enough to drive out to BFE to see it in person just pissed me off.  So I cancelled my showing slot.  Which, if you’re like me, meant that you had been forced out of your house during my slot and now have nothing to show for it.

On the flip side… don’t make a showing appointment with me and then cancel mid-way through the time.  I’ve had to pack Cam into the car… maybe even wake him from a nap a little early.  All told, a huge inconvenience.  I’ve been completely honest in my listing and photos so there’s nothing unexpected about what you’ll see when you arrive.  So don’t bail on me now.  Because, as with dating, I can find out who you are (or who your House Pimp is)… and I can promise that if you call back later, I won’t be pleasant to deal with.  🙂

Painting

Some people really hate painting. No, I don’t mean portraits, landscapes or still lifes. I’m talking about walls, ceilings, siding, decks, etc. I, on the other hand, find it fairly relaxing given the right circumstances.

And by right circumstances, I mean that I’m in a properly ventilated place (don’t like the smell, really), properly air conditioned place (don’t like being overheated) and properly clean place (dang I hate “gunk” getting on my nice newly painted surface). Oh… did I mention that I want it prepped for me, too, so that I don’t have to tape any and all surfaces that I’m not painting?

Hmmm… sounds like I really don’t like painting after all. But that’s not true. I really do find it relaxing, and quite satisfying. As my career is in the realm of grey-areas – places where you never really know if you have “finished” or have “done a good job” (because in my world, if I do a good job, you NEVER find out as nothing ever happens as a result that can’t be resolved with the language in the contract), painting is a way for me to have a task that I can FINISH. A task that, once completed, can be looked at with admiration. A task which someone with almost no skill in the task can review and say “wow… that looks good.”

With the house, we had to paint the kitchen first. That meant stripping the ugly wallpaper. I tried just about every “easy” method first. Water alone… wait… try to pull? Nope, that didn’t work. Hot steam? Nope (see pic).

Next up was going to be chemicals. Remember though, that I don’t like weird smells (maybe that’s part of my picky eating problem… hmmm… will have to consider later). So I got a “scorer”… a tool that you run over the wall repeatedly that punches small holes in the wall paper without destroying the underlying drywall. Then you wet down the surface with the chemical and wait. But I decided to try plain water first. Voila! And I was able to strip the wallpaper with relative ease (ok, Tina helped some, too). Painting was then a pretty quick activity… and now we have a blue kitchen.

The other day, I decided that our front stoop looked pretty bad. We have neighborhood standards for things looking nice out front. So I sanded the heck out of it, painted it white… even broke out my mad military school skills and shined the brass numbers to a glisten. And I was happy. Except that I stopped at about head-height and really needed to paint the entire front porch area. Oops. I guess I’ll come back to that later.

Two days ago, I thought the mailbox needed help, too. THREE HOURS later, in the dark (cuz I had to start after I got home from work), I was putting the numbers back on the post. I didn’t get to see my handiwork until yesterday morning… when I noticed that a bird had already christened the new paint job. Maybe I need to install those little spikey things.

HomeOwner

Well… we did it! We finally bought a house. And in the last few weeks, I have actually cataloged ALL of my books.

This might seem trivial to most people, but I needed library-quality software to accomplish the task… and Delicious Monster did the trick. Granted, I’m still waiting to get the barcode scanner (which would’ve made the initial upload faster), but overall it’s a really cool tool.

Boxing 20 boxes of books and hauling these heavy suckers up into the attic, however, was no easy task. My back hurts, I have trouble breathing from the stuff in the attic, and Tina’s afraid that the stuff is going to tumble down on top of us. But it’s all up there. And anytime I need to go get one, the boxes (thanks to my extreme anal retentiveness) are numbered so I can go right to the box that contains the book I’m seeking.

Then we had the toilet in our bathroom decide to not really flush. And the toilet downstairs run constantly. Oh, and the heating system had a bad blower wheel which wasn’t covered under the home warranty purchased at the time of sale because it was improperly maintained. But hey… the joys of homeownership.

Next up? Fixing the automated sprinkler system that the prior owners said didn’t work (but we’re pretty sure they are idiots)… reseeding the lawn (cuz’ they didn’t do any yardwork either)… and cleaning the carpets (because they let their two full-sized goldens run rampant through the house).

God I love my house.

Not much to really talk about these days.

Job hunting is always a trip. I wonder why people post jobs that a)don’t exist or b)don’t have all the NECESSARY qualifications listed.

The house is still for sale. I’ve had a LOT of showings. I just keep waiting for a real buyer.

So I’m innocently sitting at my computer the other day and I get an e-mail from Tina. It is a challenge to me to take a “political candidate” test to see who matches up with my personal beliefs. [Quick background note: Tina’s pretty far Republican. I’m not. She’s also politically inclined. I’m not.]

She taunts me with the idea that Joe Lieberman is actually in the top three of her list. She’s doing this to prove to me that I don’t know what the various candidates really stand for – and she’s right. My test is abysmal. Al Sharpton is the 100% match with my views. Scary. I guess I’ll be voting “independent” come November.

In other news, we’re going on a double-date with Carmen tomorrow night. She’s taking US out with the gift certificate we got her as a Christmas present. That’s pretty good return on investment – get to hang out with our friends AND get dinner for free. Cha-ching!

Oh, and house sale news… apparently the person who wants my house is a total home buying newbie. She’s completely skittish and doesn’t really want to negotiate. But what she has been told to get is $3,000 in closing costs. After about 5 back & forth offers and counteroffers, I finally gave an ultimatum tonight. I’m tired of dealing with this. If she doesn’t want the house, that’s fine. I’m tired of playing around with her. She is either going to have to pay for it or go find someplace for free (which is apparently what she feels she deserves as a new home buyer). Hehe.

And I got another job offer. In yet another town somewhere other than Raleigh. This is getting out of hand. Why can’t someone let me stay here?

Not much happened today except that I made 100 phone calls for HOBY. Each school in North Carolina is invited to send one student to participate in this leadership weekend. But we don’t hear from all of them, so we try to followup with them to see if they’re going to send anyone. Thus the calls.

It took me three hours or so to do it. My fingers were sore from the dialing. And I got pretty tired of asking to speak with the guidance counselor, too.

And when I wasn’t on the phone with a school, I was receiving calls about jobs and about selling my house. You’d better make an offer fast, or the house is going to be gone. 🙂

Life can be incredibly unfair at times.

I’m hunting for a new job. I’ve had interviews all over the country – Atlanta, Los Angeles, Nashville, Washington DC, San Antonio, New York and I’ve got another one in Detroit tomorrow. Until yesterday, the jobs I get aren’t ones I want… the jobs I want aren’t ones I get. But all that changed in an instant when I got the job offer of my dreams at a salary higher than I’ve ever been offered before. But I can’t take it because even at that salary, I can’t afford to live in the location of the job. They’re not willing to let me telecommute (which is something that’s possible given what I do), so I’m stuck, because while it APPEARS to be a lot of money, it’s really less than what I made here. How’s that for bad karma?

Oh well… I keep looking. Maybe something new will come along.

But we finally made it out of the neighborhood yesterday. And as suspected, only my neighborhood still had ice on the streets. The people who live on the road that connects my neighborhood to the main city street have parked their vehicles on the street. They apparently don’t care that as a result, the street scrapers can’t get by and clear MY block.

But folks are still getting into accidents out there, sliding around on the pavement. I just don’t get it. You’d think that even if people were totally unfamiliar with icy roads, it would only take ONE ice storm for them to learn that cars don’t have traction on ice. Even four-wheel drive vehicles don’t have traction when there’s NO tractable surface available for ANY of the wheels to touch.

Unfortunately, they don’t. So people die. Sad, really.

Anyways, I have another house showing today. Maybe these people will buy it – no train, ya’ know.

I’m trapped in my house. It’s been snowing (with a coating of freezing rain for good measure) for the last two days. So I can’t go anywhere.

Lucky for me, I’ve got friends nearby. And of course, there’s Allie.

First, she needed a bath today. I’ve been avoiding this because I don’t like having to clean her, then clean the tub and then clean myself – all because SHE needed a bath. I really wish she’d grow out that dew paw and make it an opposable thumb. Perhaps she could bathe herself. Then again, she could just become a cat. Either way, I could stop trying to cajole her into the bathtub for something NEITHER of us likes to deal with.

Anyways, for those of you who KNOW Allie, she’s very fond of the outdoors. This is evidenced by the fact that every time it even appears that I’m going to go outside, she runs to the door nearest myself (even if it’s an interior door), sits as close to the door as possible… and waits. But it’s not just any wait, it’s a sit and a scoot closer to the door. A pant and then another scoot closer to the door.

I think she believes that the closer she IS to the door, the closer she is to getting THROUGH the door. Unfortunately for her, she’s pretty opaque and isn’t able to go through the door. But I’m a reasonable guy (and I’ve got a fenced-in backyard), so I’ll let her go out there whenever she really wants to go.

Today was no different and when she asked to go out, I let her (yes, AFTER she was dried off from her bath). But not before turning on the outside light so I could watch her slip-slide her way across the yard to do her business. Hehehe… she loves to play in the snow and she can’t tell that it’s got an ice coating. It just looks white to her, I suppose.

So she falls on her ass several times and I’m laughing at her. Of course, with her super-hearing, she can tell, so she comes running back to the glass door because of the noises she hears me making. Not having any traction, she slides into the door. Hehehehe!

OK, I’ll move away from the door so she can go potty (that’s her code word for “go-ing” and if you ever meet her and tell her to “go potty”, she will almost immediately – so use this doggie kryptonite sparingly and remember that she’s probably at your house and not mine). She still enjoyed running around the yard, breaking the ice with her paws. I love my dog.

Since I’m in the house all day, there are a limited amount of things I can do inside (especially now that I took my train down). I can hunt for jobs, surf the web/send e-mail, play with Allie, clean the house (yeah, right) or eat. Care to guess what I did the most of today? Let’s just say that I’m not going to be using the new body-fat calculator this week.

So I’m blending into my couch, chomping on potato chips, watching TV and surfing the web. But did you know the mail was actually delivered today? Those folks are nuts. I did get my Duke-Valpo basketball tickets in the mail (anyone looking for men’s BB tix?). Woo hoo! I’m going to get to watch MY almamater get their collective butts handed to them as a tolken scrub team to keep Duke warm between real games. Tina, as a Duke alum, thinks it’s fun. She can’t wait to go to the game – just so I can be humiliated and she gets to sit in a real seat in Cameron (for those in the know, Duke students almost NEVER actually get a seat – they STAND for the entire game).

Anyways, the TV weatherpeople say that the weather tomorrow isn’t going to be much better than today. So my guess is that I’ll be stuck indoors for another day. Such is my life. But I’m running out of potato chips. If you have some of the new lower-fat Ruffles (have rrrrrrridges), please mail them to me. With the mailman coming by even in this crap, I have a reasonable chance of getting them sooner than me actually getting to a grocery store.

Oh, and just a quick advertisement. Kathy C got me hooked on a game called Bejeweled for the PalmOS. If you have a Palm device, I highly recommend this game. Totally addictive and cheaper than crack.

Good night!

I’m a negotiator. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

Most people would argue that what you do isn’t who you are… but such is not true for me.

I seek out things to negotiate, arguments that need settling, prices that need shaving. I’ll negotiate with you, with your boss or your mom. It’s sort of like arguing for sport. Only I get paid for it. Yep, I’m a professional.

But that’s not the point of this. I, like every other blogger, am a frustrated writer. I would love to write a novel, a short story, a screenplay, a poem. Something that would get published somewhere and by someone who would send me a check for doing it. Since that’s not happening for a career, I can resort to Blogspot.

So let’s start with today. I woke up at 10:30am today – realized that I didn’t have much to do and headed down to the couch to check e-mail and flip on the TV. I’m trying to sell my house and my realtor likes to e-mail me the comments she receives from people who view my house.

The comments today are “Price is great. Backyard is great. Will keep it on our list”. She then
asked about the train set.”

For those of you not in the know, my house has a train. And not just any old train, this is a lego train. It runs on a lego track which sits on glass shelves that are installed around the edge of my kitchen at ceiling height. Pretty useless, but cool. A great conversation starter.

As you might imagine, however, the train isn’t really popular with people who want to buy my house. So there’s been an ongoing discussion on how to market the house with the train. Long story short, we have said that the train is “negotiable” – loosely translated it means “we know you won’t want it, but we’re too lazy to remove it now.”

But this new realtor of mine thinks it’s time for it to go. So I spent the better part of three hours removing the train and patching the holes in the ceiling… all while watching “Bands Reunited” on VH1.

Now my ceiling looks empty. Barren, even. Oh well… perhaps I should increase the price of the house to compensate.