Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The HElliotts Buy a House

As promised, here is the whole story. If you're looking for the really fun part of the story, scroll down to "The HElliotts move in."

The Search
First off, we started looking for houses the beginning of October, not really knowing what we were looking for, other than 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, fenced in backyard, and a good location between our jobs.

In case you haven't looked, there are a million of these houses.

We immediately found our dream home on the Multiple Listing Site (MLS). Perfection. Move-in ready, but still enough to be done that we could put our own finishing touches on it. Our real estate agent (Carol Hyatt - she was great - let me know if you'd like her contact information) takes us straight there on Day 1. It took about 5-10 minutes for us to learn our lesson about getting our hopes up looking at houses online. The realtor who took the pictures of that house should consider becoming a professional photographer for Southern Living.

Then Carol had some in mind that we had totally dismissed because they looked cookie-cutter. They turned out to be incredible. We loved them, one in particular that stayed in the #1 or #2 spot throughout our search, but they were a little further away than we wanted and the school system was a little questionable. Nevertheless, this opened our eyes to a whole new type of house to start looking for.

So we looked.
And we looked.
And we put in offers.
And we kept looking.

Then I finally caved on my no-split-level rule mid-November, and that's when we found it online. It was a foreclosure and the bank was accepting bids until 5:00 the next day. Carol got us in to look at it first thing the next morning and it was perfect! It was older, so in some ways, it was a little more spacy, though it's nothing huge. Either the previous owners or the bank, or both, did a lot of work to update the whole house. It had so much of what we had been looking for all along.

Carol got our bid in by 5:00 and let us know the next day we had won it! We were so relieved because we had already talked to the apartment complex about breaking our lease and being out by the end of December and it was sounding like we were on track.

The Contract
It mostly sounded that way because we didn't understand any of the legal jargon the broker was using to talk about the contract we were still trying to finalize. All we knew was that the contract stated we'd close no later than January 5, but earlier if "everyone was ready" - and we were READY.

But the contract wasn't. Apparently with foreclosures every single, tiny, itty, bitty detail has to be perfect. And that took a few weeks. By the time we had it finalized, the new latest close date on the contract was in early February. We kept thinking the whole time that we were going to lose the house for some reason. To the point that we didn't sound too excited about it when we told some of our friends and family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

By mid-December we realized with bank holidays and whatever other kind of vacation time people have, we'd probably not be out by the end of the month. The people running the apartments were great and gave us a month extension without a penalty. Things were floating along pretty well.
The inspection was fine. Mostly minor issues. Then the mortgage company had their assessment which made the seller fix some of the major issues (like the broken water-heater). Yay! That's less we have to deal with, except it was January and the bank had to go through the bidding process and whatever else to hire a contractor and then the contractor has to go out and do the work. 

And then a miracle happened! Everything fell into place and we scheduled our closing date for...
Monday, January 27.

The HElliotts Move In
That's right people. We closed the day before Snowmageddon 2014 struck Birmingham. We had a tight moving schedule set in place which would be nuts, but it had us living in the house by Thursday of that week and all of our stuff out of the apartment by Friday (the last day of the month and our deadline with the apartments). Yes, we were down to the wire.

So Monday we danced circles down the aisles of Home Depot getting a few items we knew we needed for the house to make it liveable. We already bought a refrigerator the day before, to be delivered Wednesday or Thursday. It was glorious.

And then there was Tuesday. Scott took our baby (ok, toddler) to daycare and loaded the minivan to the max with the first of at least 2 loads he was supposed to take that day. In the meantime I'm at work feeling giddy about the "dusting" of snow we were supposed to get later that day. I knew the view from work would be gorgeous.

And it dusted. I gave a group of adults from Columbiana an introduction to the museum, looking out the window and noticing the snow starting to pile up slightly on the pavement thinking to myself, "Hmm, that's interesting." You see, snow doesn't usually stick to the pavement this deep in the south.

When I got back to my desk I got a phone call from Scott saying he already couldn't drive back up the hill to the apartment because it was too slick. Two seconds later, we were told we could leave work. And, as everyone knows, it was too late by that point. 

Scott and I decided he would go ahead and go down to the house to turn some of the faucets on so that none of the pipes would bust that night since the house was no longer winterized. It took him several hours to get from there to the daycare at our church, but his saving grace was everything in the back weighing him down which kept him from slipping on the roads. It took me 10 hours to join him and baby girl at the church where we slept for the night.

Wednesday afternoon we made it back to the apartment, but couldn't do much else besides box things up. Thursday we made it down to the house and the refrigerator was delivered. That's when we found out that we didn't have the right connection for the ice-maker. No big deal, we could live without ice for a while. Friday, all of the large furniture was moved and we slept our first night in the house. It was utter chaos. The nursery was the first thing set up and was good to go for little buddy, but nothing else was where it was supposed to be and we still had TONS more stuff to move. The apartment management gave us an extension through Sunday.

Also on Friday night - I realized I had forgotten to call the utilities to switch them over to our name because of the insanity earlier in the week. The power company wasn't a problem. The gas company is apparently good for nothing from Friday night until Monday morning. With the snow and everything they were able to come out and shut the gas off, but turning it on during a weekend is unheard of.

So we had to boil water for baby girl's baths. Monday morning we put in a request for someone to turn our gas on. They get there Tuesday only to decide that our one gas appliance, the brand new gas water heater, is not up to code and they tagged it unsafe and would not light the pilot. One of the major issues was that the exhaust came out of the side of the house and could build up carbon monoxide under the overhang of the roof right next to baby girl's window. Huh. NOPE. The only option would be to build a long pipe in the front of the house to make the exhaust come out on the roof instead. Once again....NOPE.

Long story short, we got a free electric water-heater from the power company and the contractor who installed the gas water heater bought it back which paid for the installation of the electric water heater, which, lucky for us, was a little cheaper than usual because there was already an electric hook-up for one.

In the meantime, we were getting some plumbing issues fixed. One day, while the plumber was at the house working on minor issues we knew about from the inspection, we asked about connecting the icemaker to the sink (where the current tubing was attached). Apparently the pipes under the sink were so corroded it would cost us tons of money to replace a bunch of pipes to make it possible.

Whelp. We've both lived without automatic ice before and we were happy to do so again to save a few hundred dollars. The next day my mom turns on the self-cleaning option on the oven (because it was seriously awful in there). That night I come home hearing some sort of soft "shhhhhh" kind of noise behind the stove. In the meantime, we were worried about another leak from the guest bathroom because the garage had water coming down into it and it didn't start until after baby girl's bath.

Finally mom and I pull out the oven to see what was going on and find that the plastic line for the icemaker that was threaded through the cabinets, behind the stove, to the refrigerator had been melted and was lightly spraying water all into the cabinets and the back of the stove. And that was the night I learned where the water shut-off for the house is.

Luckily, we found out the next day from the plumber that there is actually a separate line to the refrigerator for ice coming directly from the water supply line (not the sink one that we melted), which made that project much cheaper.

During this same time, Scott was trying to hook up our washer and dryer. Scott is pretty handy and when he saw the hose from the previous owner's washer was still attached, he knew he could take it off. Then when he saw that that connection was too corroded, he bought the parts to fix it. But when he saw that the pipe attached to that was too corroded, he had to call the plumber and they had to cut into the sheetrock to replace all the nasty corroded pipes. 

And then we noticed that the dryer vent was also in the sheetrock. Huh. Interesting.

Luckily, Scott has a handy friend who had the tools and equipment to install a new vent and came over the next weekend to do that.

There are a few other projects we have in front of us that we plan to work on soon, but have spent the last couple of months emptying boxes and enjoying the house just being livable. We had no idea that in the end, the contract was the easiest part of all of this.

So that's our fun first house story! We're still finding little pain in the butt things along the way, but nothing serious that we can't fix with one of the upcoming projects we have planned anyways. Are we the only ones who've felt like we moved into a money-pit? I'd love to hear some other stories! 

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