Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Dreaded Chore of Packing

Today let's talk about packing.  I don't mind the first few days of packing but by the second half of the project, I am just done.  When we moved last time we didn't have a ton of time to pack, so pretty much everything got put where it would fit when I had a box to put it in.  As a result, it took forever to find some things.  I guess one advantage was that we unpacked pretty quick because we could not find out can opener.  Despite that, I decided that this time I wanted to be a lot more organized.

Like most things, I think packing goes a lot smoother if you have a plan.  The very best place to start, in my opinion, is figuring out who will do what.  I know some people have movers come and pack everything up but we certainly could not afford that.  Plus, I am too much of a control freak for that.  Unless you live by yourself, you have other people in your home who can help with the packing process.  If those people are small, they probably won't be much help but I bet you can get them to at least pack some of their toys or something.

In my home, it is me, Alex (boyfriend), and Scout (dog).  Despite the fact that we constantly ask Scout to help around the house, he does not have opposable thumbs and therefore thinks he does not have to contribute.  We are still working on that attitude, but progress is slow.

So that leaves me and Alex.  This will be our 3.5th move in the four years we have been dating (moved him into my Westport apartment, moved both of us to the Waldo house, moved both of us into an apartment, moving both of us into the new house).  So we are old pros at this.  Thing is though, Alex doesn't much care for packing and is pretty good at procrastinating.  Rather than let these facts frustrate me and make an already unpleasant process more unpleasant, this time around, I chose to adjust my expectations.  We made a deal before any packing took place that I would pack everything but his closet if he would be in charge of making sure I had enough boxes.  This worked out really well for us (and Alex got some help from my mom who found lots of good boxes).  Before you get started, figure out what works for you and it will be much less stress later on.

When it comes to packing, my style is pack early and pack often.  Since packing isn't really something I enjoy, I like to spread it out so I don't get burned out.  Plus, we tend to be busy, so I want to make sure everything gets done before moving day.

Generally, I start with d├ęcor.  You don't need pictures on the wall or other sit around stuff.  Then I move on to other stuff we can live without until we move.  All of my craft stuff got packed up first because I would be too busy with the move to do any new projects.  Another tip is to always pack like things together--this will make it so much easier when you are looking for your can opener post move.  Use fabric from your stash and plastic grocery bags as box filler.

The way in which I was most organized for this move was in labeling the boxes.  Each room got a color of duct tape assigned to it.  After I packed and sealed each box, I took a piece of paper and wrote what was in the box and put the correct color of duct tape on it.  I also wrote on the tape which room it went into just in case.  That way it was super easy to know which box went where in the new house.  We ended up putting everything in the garage and then took boxes upstairs as we were ready to unpack them.  If you have other people putting boxes into rooms, I would say the duct tape is a must, but since it was just us and we were moving slow, we probably would have been okay with just labeling.

Another tip is use what you have.  Use bags and suitcases to hold stuff.  Depending on how you are moving you can also pack stuff in drawers.

To pack our hanging clothes, I used drawstring trash bags.  It made everything super quick.  I just bunched some clothes together (still hanging up) and slipped them in a trash bag. Then I tied up the drawstring and was able to carry four or five times as many clothes in one trip.

After you figure out a system, the rest really is just grunt work.  I packed box after box and had no idea how we had so much stuff in such a tiny space.  But it all got done eventually.  My rule is that if people are going to help us move, everything has to be packed before they get there.  Anything that is not packed is not going to get moved.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone asks you to help them move and then when you show you, you end up sitting around for hours while they finish packing.

Once everything was packed, it was time to move from point A to point B.  But that is a post for another day.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Adventures in Home Buying Part IV

Last post in my Adventures in Home Buying mini-series!

After the offer was accepted we had a certain amount of time (I think it was ten days) to set up inspections.  We had a whole house inspection as well as Radon testing and a termite inspection.  The whole house inspection was recommended for us because it was our first home and we didn't really know what to look for and also weren't really in a position to deal with any big surprises.  You can Google Radon if you want but it is a gas that leaches into the house from the ground and can apparently give you cancer.  Some people we talked to thought it was no big deal but we went with it anyway.

Alex wasn't able to take off work for the inspection so I had his dad come with me because he is a former building inspector so he knows his stuff.  The sellers weren't there, so it was me and Alex's dad plus someone from our realtor's office (he could not be there himself because he was moving that day) and the inspectors.  One guy did the termites and the other guy had set up the Radon tester and then did the whole house inspection.  Mostly I just stood around and took pictures for my own planning purposes why the professionals did their thing.

The house inspector did this whole huge and detailed report with a bunch of pictures.  He pretty much looked at everything and then some.  He gave me a preliminary report on the spot and by the end of the day the whole detailed report was online for me to look at.

We spent the evening digesting all of the information we had gotten and came up with the list of things we wanted the seller to fix.  We ended up deciding we wanted them to address an issue in the attic, termites in the backyard (luckily no damage to the house yet), some grading issues and Radon (it tested like four times the recommended amount).

After a little bit of negotiating, we got to a final agreement.  We told them what we wanted them to do and then they got bids on the work and came back to us with a counter offer.  Looking back the only thing I would change is that I would not have had them do the grading--they did a shabby job and we could have done it much better ourselves.

We then had a bit of a lull because we set our closing date for closer to the expiration of our lease.  We got the financing squared away and then the weekend before we closed we had our final walk through.  The sellers had basically moved out by then so it was kind of neat to see the house empty and waiting for our stuff. 

Closing was pretty uneventful.  The sellers closed earlier in the day and my closing was closer to lunch because I had a hearing in the morning that I needed to go to for work.  Other than the title company not having any outside signage so it was a little hard to find, everything went smooth.  Whenever I am signing something my lawyer instincts kick in and I like to actually read over it so I have a general idea of what I am agreeing to.  Then we got the keys but had to wait a couple of hours for the money to clear before we could actually go in. 

It was super fun to walk into our house for the first time when it was really ours.  We took some cleaning stuff with us because the sellers left it kind of a mess and packed up the dog and just chilled for a few hours.  We opened a bottle of champagne and just soaked it all in.  Then the hard work began...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Adventures in Home Buying Part III

{{I started typing this up forever ago and then we moved so I was swamped.  Sorry!}}

Okay, we're back now and ready to go find a house.  Our realtor set us up on his company's website where we had access to all MLS listings.  I did a lot of online looking and probably reviewed a couple hundred houses.  I was able to mark the ones I liked so we could go look at them. 
We looked at houses over two weekends.  The first weekend we looked at 9 or 10 in the area I really wanted to buy in.  Of those, we kept two on the list of places we would consider.  I will be honest, I was pretty disappointed.  This first set was in the area I wanted but not really the house that I wanted.  The next weekend, we looked at probably 16-18 places in the other area we were considering.  It was right after it was in the news that interest rates were going back up, so some of the places that were available on Thursday when I sent the realtor the list of places we wanted to see already had offers on them when we looked on Saturday.  The second set were the house I wanted but my second choice of area.

How did we pick the house we ended up buying out of all the others?  To be honest, it was the first (and only) house that I got excited about.  It was the only house we looked at that I could really picture us living in and being happy in.  There were other houses that I thought would be fine and other houses that I thought we could live in after 50 projects were done, but this one just gave me that "this could be our new home" feeling.  That's a lot of help, right?  The funny thing is that I think a lot of people make big decisions this way. 

We looked at a few more houses that day after we saw the one we really liked.  We also went to a couple of open houses with my parents the next day but by the end of the weekend we were ready to pull the trigger.

Putting in our offer was quite the experience, so bear with me.  We set up a meeting with our realtor for Monday after work to do the offer paperwork.  Mid-morning, Alex sent me a text saying his buddy had asked him to play softball that night.  I told Alex that if he could get our meeting moved to make it all work, go for it.  The meeting got moved up and we both left work early to be there.  We talked to the realtor about what we wanted to spend on the house and he suggested offering an initial amount that was lower than I thought we would offer, but since he knew what he was doing and we did not, we went with it.  He gave the sellers a deadline of like 10:00 p.m. that night to respond.

Alex ended up having to leave early to get to his game on time.  He was walking out the door when I got home and since we couldn't take the dog to the fields, I stayed home.  I was super nervous all night waiting to hear back. 

Around 8:30 or 9:00ish I think our realtor calls and says that the sellers got another offer at the same time as ours.  The other offer was higher but they wanted to give us a chance to counter.  And we needed to do it within the next half hour.  I call Alex and he doesn't answer so I text him and wait five minutes.  I call him again and he still does not answer.  I leave a message telling him to call me back ASAP.  I was pretty much freaking out because I knew that even if I did not want to, I would resent the heck out of him if we missed out on the house we both loved because he was playing softball. I also knew that even though the house would be in my name I couldn't pull the trigger without him saying okay.  Then I decided to just blow up his phone and called him over and over again until he answered.

25 minutes after I called him the first time, he finally called me back.  We agreed on a counter and let our realtor know who passed it onto the sellers.  A couple long hours later they accepted.  It was stressful.  My advise is that if you are putting an offer in on a house and you have another individual whose input you need, don't be in a different place from them while you are waiting on a response.  Its not a good idea.

Okay friends, one more post on the process then I will finally get around to posting pictures of the new house :)