Sorry we’re not talking…

Sorry we're not talking much about the house stuff at the moment; as we enter the actual offer stage, it seems prudent to keep things private for a bit. I'm having a hard time with it -- I'm so used to total transparency. I'm just going to post a lot of photos in the interim, I suspect. One quick realty note -- we're using Redfin for the purchase, and so far so good. It should make us several thousand dollars over using a traditional realtor to buy. Will let you know if we run into problems.

We tried to get Kavi to hold up a sign for her uncle Ryan's birthday. Not much luck!

Here's the finished Around the Rosy blanket for Ursula. I'm pretty happy with how it came out. Not sure I would have had the patience to do the full-size one right now! (Simone, how's yours going?)

And some roses from the garden. The advantage of having ten rosebushes is that I can go up and gather a handful of roses every morning now -- and the bushes still look lovely and full. It's helps that they're not hybrid teas, of course -- lots more blossoms on each bush. Although I think next time, I do want a bit more variety in my rose types; eight David Austin's is a bit monotonous in blossom form.

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Okay, we haven’t even…

Okay, we haven't even had a property inspection done yet, and I can already say that I love our inspector, Mark Wilczak. Not only has he been super-flexible about scheduling inspections, putting up with us scheduling and rescheduling things, but he's already spent at least an hour on phone and e-mail with me, talking me through some of the expected issues/costs of dealing with old Victorians vs. Gundersons, handling historic boards, removing lead paint in windows, etc. and so on.

We haven't paid him anything yet, and he's been a prince -- and more than that, I feel very confident at this point that the man knows what he's talking about and is going to do a really thorough inspection for us -- while at the same time, giving us guidance on which repairs are actually critical (health hazards and the like), which are long-term issues, and which are really going to up to us to decide if we care about. Love Mark!

It's also just very nice to have an expert who is clearly on our side, and isn't motivated in any way by which house we make an offer on, or whether we go through the process quickly for a sale. So far, our lawyer also seems like she's going to be similarly competent and on our side, although we haven't had as much interaction with her yet.

I spent a little while this morning waffling about whether, as many people buy kamagra by phone seem to think, we should put a high priority on a block which has very outgoing neighbors and lots of kids already. But, as Kirsten pointed out when I called and chatted with her this morning, odds are that within three months of living in ANY house, I will have shown up on ALL my neighbors' doors within a three block radius, WITH a plate of food, AND introduced myself, AND met every single kid around (especially the ones old enough to babysit). Meeting nice folks with small kids shouldn't be a problem. I tend to be a hub. Now, if Kevin had ended up with someone just as introverted as he is...but luckily for him, he didn't. :-)

We're still waiting to get our inspection report, which we expected to have yesterday; I called our realtor this morning to see if he can find out what's up with that. He didn't get the impression during the inspection that they'd found any major issues, which is great, but we'd feel better if we had that in writing before we went forward with an offer. And so we wait.

In the meantime, I really am going to start churning through e-mail today. Vacation is lovely, but it's hard to relax while you have an over-full inbox sulking in a corner. My powers of ignoring have been almost entirely used up at this point. Poor inbox.

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Hey, folks. We’re in a…

Hey, folks. We're in a holding pattern -- crunching numbers on the various houses (added a few more, like this one back into the mix, because we're not at all sure that either of the primary houses we like will come down enough in price to be affordable for us) -- while we wait for the results of yesterday evening's inspection.

Trying to figure out what's a feasible offer for the two houses we like best, based on our budget and anticipated repair/maintenance/tax costs. Reading a ton of research about old houses and maintenance issues. (That part is not so much fun. Ah well.) Found a lawyer and an inspector. E-mailed a Redfin agent to hopefully represent us for the purchase. (We considered representing ourselves, but decided we weren't quite comfortable with our competence in that regard.) Wondering if it's at all plausible that on the Mad Hatter house, the utilities are only an average of $400/month for electric and gas, as they claim. (Various friends had been telling us to estimate closer to $1000/month.)

Mostly, we're biding our time here today, trying to be patient as we wait for our buyers to send us the inspection report and their response to it. This is a miserable process, but with any luck, we won't have to do it again for at least twenty to thirty years. If ever.

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Well, apparently I can…

Well, apparently I can tell my brain we're taking a break from house stuff all I want -- it doesn't listen. I just woke up from a dream in which I'd moved our furniture into two rooms of the Victorian, and all of my friends were standing around saying how great it looked in there! Hilarious. :-)

We have our inspection set for Monday at 5 p.m.; assuming all goes well, we're going to just pay up front to inspect the Mad Hatter on Wednesday, starting at 9 a.m. I have to admit, it feels a little weird saying that, since so very many of my friends seems to strongly prefer the Beautiful Gunderson, but ah well. We may end up there yet. We'll see what the inspection reveals.

Kevin and I did end up playing Agricola last night; two rounds of it. We might well play again this afternoon, because I still feel like I'm learning the somewhat complicated rules, and I want to play until I have a good sense of the game in my head. He won both times, but not by too much, so I'm not utterly discouraged yet. (As opposed to when we play chess, which we haven't done in at least a decade because he's just so much better than me that it's not funny.) It was fun, and I'd recommend the game. But I'm not sure it beats out either Settlers of Catan or War of the Rings. :-)

If Kavi allows it, I might try playing a solo game this morning while Kevin is sleeping. Hone my Agricola skills, and then I will stomp him, haha!

But I really have to answer some e-mails first. I've essentially ignored them all except for super-urgent house stuff since Kriti. Just couldn't make myself even look at them. I think I've been in rather desperate need of a vacation, and when my brain saw an opportunity to shut down, it took it. My brain is unruly.

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We’ve hit a pausing…

We've hit a pausing place in the condo process -- waiting for inspection. It'll be Monday at 5 p.m. If all goes well with that, then on Wednesday at 9 a.m., we'll get the Mad Hatter house inspected. Kevin and I are agreed that IF it's in sound shape, AND they give us the price we want, it's just a much better deal than the Beautiful Gunderson, and while we're not going to be major renovators anytime soon, we think we can deal with an exterior paint job and a bathroom remodel this year before the baby comes.

I sort of want to spend all my time looking at furnishings and paint samples and the like, but it also seems sort of foolish when we don't know yet which house we're getting or what our budget will be afterwards. So in fact, I think we're going to take a little break from house stuff for a few days, try to clear our minds.

This afternoon, Kevin and I spent a while watching a video tutorial for Agricola, a game Kevin picked up for us a while back. It looks like it's going to be lots of fun to play -- and apparently it's a good two person (or even one person) game that also expands well up to five, which is great, and hard to find! We were going to play this afternoon, but a realtor neighbor stopped by, and we ended up talking for a while asking her lots of questions, and then Kavi woke up from her nap, so we put off actually playing. But maybe this evening after she goes to sleep, or tomorrow afternoon during her nap!

In the garden, the first of my roses has started opening -- Rainbow Knockout. It's a little pinker than I anticipated -- but that's why I planted ten different roses this summer, so I could see them all in person and start deciding which ones I really really want at my house. :-) I think roses look best when you have at least three bushes clustered together; that also lets you cut a bunch for the house without leaving your poor bush denuded. But doing that does eat up garden space, so you have to choose which roses you include carefully! I like that Rainbow Knockout opens early, and I think it's supposed to bloom a lot and be very hardy, but it may just be pinker than I'm interested in. We'll see.

I'm pretty sure about including Christopher Marlowe (David Austin English), which I just adore. It might be the only repeat in my garden this year from last year, because I couldn't bear to not have it. Other strong contenders from my previous summer gardens include Dark Lady (David Austin English, has a great, strong scent), Granada (grandiflora or hybrid tea), Disneyland (floribunda), Joseph's Coat (climber), and Happy Chappy (shrub rose). One thing is clear already -- I really like color-changing pink-orange-gold roses. :-)

Christopher Marlowe:

Dark Lady:



Joseph's Coat:

Happy Chappy:

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Okay, we have a…

Okay, we have a tentative plan:

  • Ask painters for estimates on exterior of Mad Hatter house

  • Ask contractor for estimate on bathroom of Mad Hatter house (Coffman & Wicklow estimate $25K - $40K for master bath renovation, oof! Does that seem reasonable? Or is it that high just because they specialize in fancy restoration work?)

  • Pay inspector to do thorough inspection of Mad Hatter house and barn (found what seems like a great inspector through recs: Mark @ Secure Choice -- tons of experience living in Oak Park and inspecting big old houses, yay! Not cheap, but knows his stuff.)

  • If sound, make quite low offer on house, factoring in cost of paint / bathroom + inevitable overruns

  • See if we can get it for cheap

  • If not, switch to Beautiful Gunderson and make quite low offer there as well

  • Bargain until satisfied or at our limit

  • If both fail to come through at a budget we can live with, look to other houses that are less inherently beautiful, but which are clearly large enough for us, and which we can potentially work with over time to make beautiful.

  • Finish process before our own closing, hopefully!

In the meantime, I've been looking at design ideas online. Fancy wallpaper is insanely expensive, it turns out -- I have new appreciation for the lovely wallpaper in the Victorian's dining room, which I think is a high-end one, which means it costs a good $1000 to wallpaper that room -- and they only went halfway down the walls! It would be $2000 to wallpaper an entire reasonable-sized room in something like one of these lovelies...

Bird and Bramble:

Rook and Holly:

Click on either image to see a large selection of Voysey designs -- which do you like best? Or do you just think wallpaper is appalling? :-)

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So we looked at the…

So we looked at the Beautiful Gunderson again today. Kevin's leaning towards making an offer on this one; I'm leaning towards the Mad Hatter. They'd cost us about the same initially, we think. The Gunderson is notably smaller, but still notably bigger than our current place (three more rooms). The Mad Hatter is going to require more maintenance costs on an annual basis, and holds a bit more potential for disaster, Kevin thinks.

The second and third floors of the Gunderson are mostly generic, except for a small bay window in one room and a nice little tandem office, which I forgot to photograph, but there's a bit of it here. The basement has been redone in a well thought-out but again, mostly generic sort of way. The first floor is the one that's been gorgeously redone in Craftsman style, built-ins, stained glass, etc. If we bought this one, I'd ideally like to slowly redo (i.e., over thirty years or so, with probably nothing much happening the first three years or so) the other floors to reflect more of the Craftsman style throughout. Rather random set of photos I took here:

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Going to take a second…

Going to take a second look at the Beautiful Gunderson, the house Kevin slightly prefers, and which will be much less work. Here's hoping I decide I love it. That would potentially (if they come down a good chunk from their asking price) make our decision and lives much simpler.

Just to clarify, both this house and the Mad Hatter would end up (we think) about the same in initial cost, but the Mad Hatter would eat up another $5-$10K annually in taxes and maintenance, so that's why the luxuries and such might need to be cut to afford it.

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Am I crazy? I look at…

Am I crazy? I look at all these perfectly lovely houses that we could just move into. In fine shape, ready to go, even with nice Victorian exteriors. Yet so many of them just look soulless to me. They're old, but they've been renovated over and over again, and now they basically look all the same. Plus maybe a 70s kitchen. And Kevin points out that we can strip the paint off the woodwork and refinish it, that we can add crown moldings to the ceilings, and stained glass to the windows. Heck, I can take a stained glass class, learn how to do it properly, and make some new stained glass for our house myself. I'd get to customize it too, which ought to be a plus. If what I want is beyond my skills, I could get a piece custom made -- maybe a knight on his charger to hang in the dining room, or inset in the front door?

Those houses are more reasonably priced and not in need of nearly so much work -- the Mad Hatter house is desperately overdue for a paint job, for example, which may be a $15K fix, but might be $30K instead, or more, and its garage is an old barn, which may just fall down at some point if not properly supported, and we have NO IDEA how much that would cost, and the master bath is a relic of the seventies, a totally incongruous sauna thing that requires steps to climb into it, so we'd really like to change that out as well. The other houses are move-in-ready. But they're also lacking in the kinds of things that I don't think I can just add back in. Generally no built-ins -- like these original china cabinets in the Mad Hatter dining room, for example. I suppose I could get a woodworker to come and add such a thing, but I have no idea what that would cost, especially if I wanted it to look reasonably true to period. And while I can add stained glass, I can't add bay windows -- or not without a major structural remodel, which I know there's no way we'd actually do.

Am I nuts, to think that those sorts of original details are worth an extra $50K, or more? Am I crazy, given how busy my life already is, to take on a house that is going to be a serious of never-ending projects, in order to rehabilitate it to its former glory? I feel like an idiot, because if I had never looked at this house, I might have been reasonably content with one of the other PERFECTLY NICE HOUSES that we can more easily afford. But now I've seen it, and the beautifully finished Wesley Victorian that got away, and I just am having a hard time believing I could love one of these modernized houses nearly as much, or believing that I really could renovate them back into what I think they want to be.

Kirsten asked me to take better photos of the Mad Hatter house -- I know it's hard to tell from their images why I think it's so lovely. If we go back, I will. But you have to look past all the frou-frou Victorian style they used; they've got layers of swag curtains and the like, all of which we'd strip out. The Victorian style I love is closer to early Victorian, I think it's called, or Gothic Victorian, or possibly a mix of both. Here are a few photos from around the web, to suggest the kind of look I'd be hoping for. The bedroom is my favorite; the two baths are just a bit more stripped down than I'd like.

These rooms have neither built-ins nor bay windows, so maybe I should just calm the hell down. Maybe I could do exactly what I want in one of the less expensive Victorians. I just don't know. Argh.

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So, we accepted the…

So, we accepted the offer on our place. It's definitely lower than we think it's worth, but it's also worth quite a lot to us not to have to wait six months to a year, dealing with showings and the like. I know we're very lucky to have it sold so quickly in this market. There's still tons of details to go through, inspection, etc., and Kevin tells me that something like one in three home sales fall through, but it's at least theoretically a relief to have it done.

I should be happy. But we took another look at the Mad Hatter house today, and honestly, I'm just feeling kind of sick to my stomach. I really love it. I walk in, and it feels like home, like the kind of house you can grow old in. Gorgeous first floor with living, dining, kitchen, and family room all in beautiful condition, fabulous master suite, bedroom for each kid + study for each of us + playroom, 3.5 baths total. 5200 square feet. Everything we want, and then some. Just lovely.

But it is at the very top edge of our budget, we think, what with all the renovation work that'll be needed. And if something goes majorly wrong in the next few decades, some unexpected $50 - $100K repair, we'll be in serious trouble. If we buy more modestly, we'd have more leeway for unexpected disasters. It makes Kevin really uncomfortable to ride that close to the financial edge, and I hate to ask him to do that. And my financial judgement has historically not been so good; I've always tended to live just within my means, not even thinking about saving for a rainy day. I don't trust my judgement on this. We should probably buy a less expensive house.

And yet.

We're going to try to get some estimates on what it'll actually cost to repaint the exterior, and get a thorough inspection, and get an estimate on a fairly necessary master bath remodel. If those numbers add up low, and if the owners are willing to go for a low offer, maybe we can do this reasonably. We'll see. I just don't know.

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