Adventures in Real Estate – The Continuing Saga (Part 3)

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If you haven’t read Adventures in Real Estate – The Continuing Saga (Part 1) and (Part 2), you might want to do that first. 

Hallelujah, we are in our new house!

Okay, so my Sweetie looks MUCH better than this on his bike.

On Monday morning (August 22), we woke up in the hotel room, and my Sweetie got ready for work.  We enjoyed the hotel’s complimentary breakfast together, and then the Bean and I waved goodbye to Daddy as he rode away on his motorcycle.  That left me on my own to get myself and the Bean dressed, pack up the room, and check out of the hotel.  Bringing all our stuff down to the car on my own was no picnic.  I tried to call for a bell hop (do they still call them that?) but no one answered the phone so I went down to the lobby, picked up a luggage cart and did it myself.  After much chaos (I locked us out of the room at one point – thank goodness the Bean was out with me), I pushed the luggage out to the car, with the Bean riding beside the suitcases.

I had been calling our mortgage broker every hour to see where we were at.  At about 10am, he reported that the funds had been transferred, and we just had to wait for the title recording.  We were expecting our moving van to arrive at the house around 11am.  I thought we were cutting it a little close.  I was right.

statue of a woman cryingFollowing our realtor’s instructions, I warned the moving crew that they needed to park on the road when they arrived at the house.  Until we had official possession, we were not to step foot on the property.  The movers arrived promptly at 11.  I called our mortgage broker.  The paperwork was on its way to the title office, but they weren’t expecting to have everything completed until 2:30 pm. The movers were being paid by the hour.  Oh CRAP!  He said he would see if the seller’s realtor would let us start moving in early.  They had our money – it was just a matter of finishing the paperwork.  No risk to them at all. I convinced the crew to take a lunch break for an hour to buy us some time.  I think it might have helped that it was obvious I’d just been crying and I had a baby with me.

In the meantime, our amazing mortgage broker was also arranging to rent a moving van and hire crew of his own.  The idea was that, if the other realtor was going to play hardball, our movers would transfer the load to another truck and their job would be done.  Then we wouldn’t be paying a crew by the hour while we waited.

Promptly at noon, I got another call from the mortgage broker – we were all clear to start moving in!  Many thanks go to the other realtor for giving us a break.  I related the good news to the crew and opened up the house.  I already had keys because we’d been getting the hardwood floors refinished.  Shortly after that, both our realtor and the mortgage broker showed up to help.  Our realtor is an amazing woman who has  grandchildren, and she and the Bean hit it off early in our relationship, so they spent the afternoon playing on the back porch.  I directed traffic and answered questions, and our mortgage broker started putting together furniture and helped with the unloading of the truck.  Have you ever met a mortgage broker who did that?  I’m just floored.

We plan to spend many evenings enjoying a glass of wine on the back porch.

I had arranged for a babysitter to come take care of Jenna for a few hours in the afternoon so I could start getting unpacked and run some errands.  What a lifesaver that was!  By the time I got home again, it was time to feed the Bean and get her to bed, after which I had dinner and then continued working until my Sweetie got home from work (approximately 9:30 pm). What a long day! We sat out on our back porch with a glass of wine for a while, and then collapsed into bed with boxes still piled everywhere.  We were home at last!

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Adventures in Real Estate – The Continuing Saga (Part 2)

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If you haven’t read Adventures in Real Estate – The Continuing Saga (Part 1), you might want to do that first.  This post was written on the same day, but the whole story was too long for one post. 

When we moved to the US, we were both assigned Tax ID numbers (ITIN) until we could get Social Security Numbers (SSN).  For Devin, the SSN happened quickly because he had a work visa and a job, and he no longer needed the ITIN – we forgot that he had even had one.  I, on the other hand, was not eligible for an SSN until we got our Green Cards earlier this year.  Since I wasn’t planning to get a job, I didn’t rush out to apply for my SSN right away.  The decision to buy a house happened quite suddenly, so when we started the process, I still didn’t have an SSN.  I was encouraged to get that completed, and they got on with the process of our house purchase.

wolf frustration

'nuff said

As it turns out, the FHA was suspicious of us because we both had an ITIN and an SSN, and since both numbers follow the same pattern, they thought we each had two SSNs and were trying to pull some sort of scam on the government.  They asked for clarification of various things, including the fact that I had both numbers – they never asked about Devin’s for some reason.  They made us prove (on three different occasions) that the money that we were using for our down payment hadn’t been given to us by someone else.  They scrutinized our bank statements from our US and Canadian bank accounts and demanded updated statements as time passed.  We signed a million pieces of paper, read and tried to digest reams of legalese, and still, they were not satisfied.  And apparently we didn’t even see the majority of the requirements, as the others were taken care of by the mortgage broker directly.

As time got tighter for us, and the termination of our lease loomed closer, they still didn’t let up.  This repair has to be completed before we can close…that statement has to be updated…this inane question needs to be answered…you know that money that you originally transferred from your Canadian accounts into savings and have given us statements for? – we want you to prove that you moved it to your checking account in order to pay the down payment (this one came to us while the movers were loading our apartment into a truck).  We were infuriated and more than a little scared.  WHAT WAS GOING ON?

It wasn’t until our stuff had left for the warehouse that we finally found out about the fraud investigation.  By then, they had decided that all was well, but it was too late to get the official document saying so, and to register us as the owners on title that day.   So, we bought some clothes, checked into a hotel, and spent the weekend on forced vacation.

Luckily, our mortgage broker and realtor are kind people, and have been doing everything they can to support us through this process.  We have made some good friends as a result.  We also are grateful for our wonderful friends who have been taking care of Mario in their home.  Sakari is at her usual vacation kennel, and will be happy to move into a house with a yard when we pick her up on Tuesday.

photo of sign for Hope, BC

I hope.

By the time I am able to upload this, I hope we will be settling into our new house.  Today we talked through plans F & G (since we’d already discarded plans A – E due to all the delays), just in case they find some other ridiculous reason to disrupt our lives.  We have some options, though none are ideal, and all will be difficult.  We hope we don’t have to use plans F & G.

…to be continued.

Adventures in Real Estate – The Continuing Saga (Part 1)

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I’ve chosen to leave this post in its present tense even though I wrote it a week ago (on August 21) because I wanted to preserve the feelings I was experiencing at the time.  Sorry if it’s a little confusing.

moving truck speeding away

With all our belongings driving away in the moving truck, I felt a little lost.

Wow, what a weekend.  We’ve been officially homeless for two days now.  We were supposed to complete the purchase of our house on Wednesday of last week, and by Friday afternoon, when all our belongings had been packed and loaded into a moving truck, we still didn’t have a home to move into.  I sent the truck and its crew back to the warehouse with all our possessions, sat down on the floor of our empty apartment, and cried.

This is not the first time we’ve bought a house.  In fact, this is real estate purchase number three for us.  We bought our first home together when we got married.  It was a leasehold townhouse in a less-than-desirable complex, but it was $63,000 and it was all ours – well at least the inside of the townhouse was all ours…some construction company owned the actual building and grounds.

The process of selling our townhouse was challenging, because it was a leasehold – not many banks will finance a leasehold mortgage, and when we bought it, we assumed the existing mortgage.  When we sold, it took a while to find a buyer who could get a leasehold mortgage.  But when we found that buyer, the rest of the process was pretty darn smooth.  Finding a house to buy was also fairly easy, and the timing worked out perfectly.  Our second purchase was a single-family detached home a few blocks away from the townhouse.  It was on a cul-de-sac in a family neighbourhood, and was where we planned on raising our family.

Then, we gave up our 5 bedroom house on a 7000 square foot lot (in its increasingly gang-infested, no longer family-oriented neighbourhood) to move to California (from British Columbia, in case you don’t already know).  Gone was our good credit rating; gone was our relationship with our bank; gone was our ability to buy a house.  We figured it would take a while to build up the necessary credit and down payment to buy, so we rented, and then rented again.

Ten months after the move into our second apartment in Marin County, our lease was coming due.  Sixty days before our lease was due, the property manager of the apartment complex sent us our options for renewing.  If we jumped at the chance to renew, our rent increase would only be $500 per month!  ONLY an additional $500 per month more to rent the same 850 square foot, 2-bedroom apartment with lots of stairs up to the front door and very little storage for another seven to twelve months!  What a deal!  How could we possibly pass it up?  When we didn’t respond right away, they sent us our next option – an increase of $800 per month – we still had a chance to renew!

We decided we needed to see if buying was an option yet.  Sure enough, based on our credit rating (which we’d been working to build) and Devin’s salary, we were pre-approved for a much more expensive mortgage than we needed.  The house-hunting started immediately, and within a week of the first outing with our realtor, we’d made an offer and it was accepted.  So far, so good!

The sellers turned out to be amazing.  They fixed all of the major concerns brought up by the inspectors, and most of the minor ones.  The hot tub broke down after we’d made our offer, and when the repair guy told them it was too old to be worth fixing, they arranged to pay for a replacement hot tub for us.  They left us their outdoor furniture, a bunch of tools and gardening books, the entertainment system they had wired into the covered deck, a bar (also on the deck), and various small items and cleaning supplies.

In the course of the inspections and repairs, we got to know the sellers quite well and we all became very fond of each other.  They were selling because they planned to travel in their 5th-wheel for a while before settling in Palm Springs for their retirement.  The house had been a part of their family since it was built in 1955, and they wanted to be sure that it went to a family that they felt a connection to.  We fit the bill, apparently.  Before their belongings got packed by the movers, they hosted a meet-and-greet so we could get to know the neighbours.  What a beautiful gift that was!  On the day before they vacated the house, the five of us went out to dinner and vowed to keep in touch.  We told them the house would always be theirs whenever they were in town, and they shouldn’t hesitate to come stay with us.  They invited us down to visit them in Palm Springs after they buy a new house.  They call us “the kids”, and have confused their friends who thought they were talking about their own kids.

With everything going right with the pre-approval, a wonderful realtor, a resourceful mortgage broker, and kind, generous sellers, we expected things to go well.  Now, to give you some background on the situation, it is important to know that we didn’t put a large down payment on the house.  We were applying for an FHA loan, which is similar to a CMHC mortgage, for my Canadian readers.  We were warned ahead of time that all the I’s would need to be dotted and all the T’s crossed, because the FHA is very picky.  Okay, fine – we can handle that.  What we weren’t expecting was to be investigated for fraud!

To be continued…

Happy Birthday Captain!

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How do I even start to talk about my Dad?  He is such an amazing man, in so many different ways. Today was his birthday – one day after mine. It’s always been very special to me that we almost share a birthday. I’m a Daddy’s girl, and maybe our birthdays are part of the reason why.

We went to Hawaii with Mom and Dad in November of 2009. It was a vacation to remember!

My Dad calls me Number One. The nickname has two meanings: I am the eldest child in my family – literally, the number one (first) child. It’s also a little inside reference to Star Trek. When we moved back to Canada from Botswana in 1986, we had a TV for the first time – I was 10. One of the channels that we could capture with our rabbit ears aired Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it quickly became a family favourite. (Actually, I’m not sure if Mom ever liked it.) In the show, Captain Picard refers to his second-in-command, Commander Riker, as Number One. For some reason, the name stuck on me, and I love it.

Dad is the second-youngest of six children, and the youngest boy in his family. He is definitely the family entertainer. At any family gathering, Dad will take out his guitar and we’ll have a sing-a-long. I think newcomers to the family find this tradition a little disconcerting when they first start attending our gatherings. But most learn to tolerate it and some even seem to like it. I think singing together is one of the best parts of family gatherings. With many songs and hymns, we actually break out into four-part harmony. It’s pretty impressive and Dad is usually the instigator.

Dad’s guitar is full of many wonderful memories. As I was growing up, he and Mom would sing duets at various missionary gatherings, Dad usually singing the melody, with Mom in an alto harmony. As a child, I fell in love with the music of Gordon Lightfoot, the Carpenters, The Mamas and the Papas, Stevie Wonder, and many others – not because we listened to their albums a lot, but because my Dad was always singing the songs. I learned to love singing because my Dad loves singing. One of my favourite childhood photos shows me standing on a chair beside Dad at a microphone. He’s playing his guitar, and we’re singing a duet together. Opportunities to perform duets with my father don’t come around anymore. Hmmm, maybe we should remedy that.

Another defining characteristic of my father is his ability to make something amazing out of bits of wood, an old sliding glass door, a salad bowl, or a run-down basement. He is a true MacGyver. Recently, he renovated his basement, but instead of just throwing some paint on the walls and updating the bathroom, he tore down walls and created new ones, got a hole cut through the foundation for an extra window, and re-invented storage spaces. He turned a two-bedroom, one bath (shower but no tub) basement suite into a three-bedroom, two bath suite with a full-sized tub in the main bathroom. It looks incredible, and he did most of it with recycled or second-hand materials. He really should get a feature story in a home-renovation magazine. He’s also a handy guy to have around when you’ve just bought a 55-year-old house that desperately needs a facelift. We’re flying him down in September.

Me and Dad at my triathlon in June. It was awesome having him there to cheer for me on Father's Day.

The most magnificent thing about my Dad, though, is his love for his family. Anytime I needed a playmate, or a tutor, or a basketball coach, or a reading partner, he was there. Anytime I needed some discipline or a gentle reminder, he was there. Anytime I was confused about God, or boys, or friends, or anything, I could talk to him…well, at least until I was 16 or so. He included me in his world of building and fixing things, and was very much involved in my world of school and friends.  On Father’s Day I participated in a triathlon, and my Dad was my helper and cheerleader, even in the cold, damp weather.  He nurtures, encourages, challenges, and adores all of his girls (including my Mom).

This post doesn’t even scratch the surface of the wonderful man who is my father. He is honorable, trust-worthy, loving, kind, humble, confident, and handy. He is strong, sensitive, thoughtful, patient, idealistic, smart, and spiritual. As most teenagers do with their fathers, we had a rough spot in our relationship – that pesky teenage rebellion stage that is so painful when you’re going through it. But those times taught me so much about who I am, and who he is. I feel so fortunate to have him as my father. He is a great example of what it means to love unconditionally.

So Daddy, Happy Birthday! I hope my humble words have begun to express how much I love, respect and admire you. You amaze me.

Love from your No. 1

Cream cheese – the food of the gods?

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image courtesy of zazzle.com

Yesterday, I was having a lonely, bored day.  The Bean’s therapy was cancelled, none of the friends I contacted were available to get together, and I was a little down.  I took the Bean to the park, hoping to strike up a conversation with another Mom, and my wish was granted.  We made a couple of new friends, and my day got better…until our Realtor called with news of even more delays and ridiculous requirements from our Lender.  Grrrr!

I got the Bean down for a nap and took one myself.  Two hours later (yes, it was wonderful), we woke up feeling refreshed and hungry.  Yay! Snack time!  I got the graham crackers down for my daughter and decided to have one as well.  But my graham cracker needed something – hmmm, cream cheese!  After we finished the last few graham crackers in the box, I went on a hunt for other things to smear cream cheese on.  As it turns out:

  • baked tortilla chips with cream cheese – YUMMY!  I was dabbing my cream cheese-coated knife into the bottom of the bag to gather up the small chip bits that were left.
  • fig newtons with cream cheese – not as good as I was hoping.
  • toddler biscuits with cream cheese – better than toddler biscuits without cream cheese, but still bleh.
  • carrot sticks with cream cheese – not great.

I had to add the carrots in there for the sake of experimentation, and also so I could say I had some veggies in my snack.  Cream cheese – the food of the gods?  Maybe just the food of bored Mommies, but try it with the chips!

On the Kindle: The Imaginings by Paul Dail

I came across this book because my brother-in-law knows the author and was recommending the book on his Facebook page.   The initial release of The Imaginings was on Kindle only, and at such a great price that I had no excuse not to buy it and check it out.  It’s a story in the “Horror” genre, so at first I was a little worried I wouldn’t like it.  I LOVE thriller novels – Dean Koontz is one of my favourite authors.  But I don’t do well with gory scenes and lots of ugliness.  And in fact, near the beginning of the story, there IS a scene in a tree that almost made me stop reading.  But I kept going and I’m so glad I did.

The Imaginings is the story of a young man, David, whose life is changed forever when a demon starts to terrorize and pursue him.  His wife is killed when their house burns down in a blaze (started by the demon), and David escapes with major burns on his body.  He is drawn towards a cabin, where, chased by the demon, he brings terror to the family who has just moved in.  David saves their young daughter’s life by offering himself freely to the demon in exchange for her freedom.  The story follows him as he flees and seems to escape the demon.  But strange things start happening around David, and he starts to black out.  People he is connected with are murdering others, and he starts to suspect he had something to do with it.  Meanwhile, Jeannie is being cared for in a group home because she refuses to talk.  She has a supernatural connection to David and knows she has to confront him.

I won’t say much more about the story, because the best part about this book is the journey.  There are so many little “ah ha” moments, and the ending has a neat little twist that had me ruminating for days after finishing the book.  If they ever made a movie out of it, though, I don’t think I’d be able to watch it.  One of the beautiful things about reading is that you can censor your own imagination.  The plot of this novel is so engaging, that I didn’t want to stop, so I glossed over any scenes that dipped too far into the horror side of things.

This is Paul Dail’s first novel, and I wish him great success.  I have such great respect for those who have the imagination and drive to write novel-length projects, and this one is first-rate.  In an email to Paul early in my reading of the novel, I told him that his story reminded me of Dean Koontz’s style.  After finishing, I need to amend my statement – Imaginings was as enjoyable to me as any Dean Koontz novel I’ve ever read, but Paul Dail has a style all his own.  I look forward to reading his next novel, and I hope the sales go through the roof!

You can buy the book on Amazon, and you can also check out Paul’s website for more information