Sunday, January 30, 2011

Get your sh*t together

House hunting round 2 began at 9am on Saturday. Dan and I met our agent, Raluca, at house #1, a house than Dan wanted to see because of the large lot. It was in a nice quiet cul-de-sac and looked nice from the outside. We knew it qualified for a renovation loan and the estimate in the listing was $2800. Not huge, and workable depending on what the renovations were. Inside: huge mess. We nixed it quickly.

House #2 was a brand new listing, on the market as of Thursday morning. The bedrooms were clustered and there was no space for a dishwasher without removing cabinets, which were sparse to begin with. There were multiple listings, and we had to get a preapproval with the listing lender. It was okay, but not feeling it to go through the hassle.

We got in the car to go to #3. It was literally 300 feet away on the other side of the street. I hadn't been super stoked about the pictures, but we looooooved the inside. It had nice spacious living spaces, and an enclosed Arizona room off the living room. Compared to the first house we put an offer on, which had similar square footage, it felt very homey. The house had new carpet and tile, as well as new paint, throughout the whole house. It had a bonus room off the garage/laundry room that we could use as a pantry or office. It also had a separated master bath - the tub and toilet were separate from the sink - just like we have now. We ranked it highly on our mental list and moved on.

Houses #4 and 5 were nice, but not it. They were near to each other, but just didn't have that instant attraction we had to house #3. Plus, they had HOA fees and were at the top of the budget. If you're going to be at the top of our budget, an HOA fee and a small kitchen and/or odd entry won't get ya far. Nix and ixnay.

So we discussed House #3 as we stood in the living room of House #5 and decided to submit an offer. House #3 was priced well below the area's market average of $60/square foot. Raluca called the listing agent, an investment company, and learned that there were two offers: one below list price, and one "very close." So we decided to go over, and ask for closing costs to be paid, making the bottom line $4K above listing price, yet well within feasible appraisal value. A fair and more than reasonable offer. And then we waited.

Raluca called me as I was on my way to Tucson later the same day. She told me that she'd gotten a contract signed by the investment company (!!!) but then (!), then, she'd gotten a call from the investor's wife saying she was part of the LLC and they were going through a divorce and she didn't agree and her soon-to-be husband's contract was void without her signature. What.the.fuck? In subsequent conversations, Raluca learned that the husband wanted to take our superior offer, and the wife wanted to take an asking-price cash offer. She pretty much wanted to have a quick deal and get out of their business partnership. And neither of them can sell without the consent of the other. Well, shit. So we're stuck in some couple's feud. I told Raluca to keep me posted.

Two hours later, Raluca called again. Evidently, Mr. and Mrs. Happily Ever After weren't able to come to an agreement and decided to pull the house - the house we wanted as OUR house - off the market. Pretty much the opposite of her goal of getting all assets off their books ASAP and moving on. We went from a 50/50 shot to a 0% shot in a snap. We're torn between hoping they resolve their feud and accepting our offer, and wondering if pursuing the deal is stupid, as we could pay for an inspection and appraisal only to have them get in another fight and then we're out $600, if not more. I seriously don't know what to do. We could really see ourselves living there. I guess we'll take it day by day and see what happens. I honestly don't know if we should cross our fingers this will work out, or move on and thank our lucky stars they didn't pull out 1 day before close. I asked Raluca to get a status update tomorrow, as the investors are supposed to meet with their lawyer regarding their LLC. I guess I just hope the lawyer will order them to commit to the highest offer (us) and wash their hands of each other.

Everything has always come so easy to us. This has truly been our first challenge. We're running out of market listings we agree on to see. We've put in notice with the apartment complex. We can go month-to-month, but it would increase our living costs by 50%. We're just hoping we find something in the next few weeks that will allow us to not have to extend our lease. Hopefully, the third time will be the charm, but I'm quickly learning that it's not nearly as easy as hoping.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Back to the drawing board

Well, the house went to auction. Apparently, the bank never even responded to the offers. Our agent confirmed that the house is on the auction website. I hope the bank gets like 50% of the asking price for being greedy and not accepting our 95% offer. Yes, I'm a bit bitter. I'll get over it though. I give it another hour or two until I'm excited about looking again.

So now the search continues. Dan and I will re-evaluate the favorites on our list and we'll probably go looking on Friday after work. None of the pictures of them are as appealing as those of that house, but I'm hoping we'll be pleasantly surprised by them in person. And hey, bonus, most of the houses on our list are $10-25K less than this one was, so "yay!" for lower mortgage payments. Thanks everyone for crossing your fingers for us :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another annoying thing well-meaning people say

"Whatever will be, will be"
"If it's meant to be, it will be"
"Que sera sera"

I have a feeling people are going to disagree with me on this one, but I kinda don't care. I'm ready to throat punch the next person that says any of those phrases to me. Yes, I know the people that have said them over the last week mean only the best, and are just trying to reassure me and probably keep me from feeling crushed if this house doesn't work out to be ours. But it doesn't make "if it's meant to be, it will be" any less annoying.

First, it's not going to make me want it any less. We want this house. Obviously. Or we wouldn't have put an offer in on it. We liked it from the start, looking past the imperfections and necessary repairs to see our potential home. We spent the weekend talking about how we'd decorate it. We're not delusional - we know there are a lot of steps between making an offer and moving in. But we love the house, and want it, and it was fun to talk about what we would do with it. The things we dreamt up aren't any different from what we'd probably do to any other house - we just have this one in mind in terms of visual reference. Someone telling me that there may be another plan out there in the universe for us isn't going to change the fact that I want this house.

Maybe people are trying to keep me from being disappointed if this house doesn't work out. I appreciate it, but I'll still be disappointed. It's a great house, and it's going to be a bummer if I pick up the phone and hear my agent say "you didn't get it." Yes, I'll wonder if we should have increased our offer - no matter how confident I am that we did the absolute right thing for us. But I assure you, I'll get over it. We'll find another house. We may like it more than this one, or we may like it less. But we will find another one we will be happy with. My disappointment won't last forever. I'm not going to cry or throw a fit, but I'll be miffed for an evening and then I'll wake up ready to resume the house hunt.

And I'm sure there may be people who read this and are thinking "oh crap, I said that to her." I'm not upset with anyone. I appreciate that you're trying to make me feel reassured and like everything will work out. I know things will work out. Right now, I'm just tired of the implication that this is all out of my hands and in the hands of someone or something else. I'm disliking the lack of control in this situation, and "whatever will be, will be" only heightens my awareness of that fact.

BTW, we're supposed to hear who "wins" the house by the end of the day. It's 4:33pm. They're really pushing my patience. I just want to know so we can move on to either another round of showings or an inspection period.!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fingers and toes are crossed... UPDATE

Well, here's the update on the house situation. We put in an offer on house #3! After looking over the list of other available homes to see on Saturday, Dan and I decided we didn't like the specs or photos of anything as much as we liked house #3. Not to mention, it's in a great neighborhood and would be by far the best investment in the long term. So, we got together with our agent (whom I work with, which is super convenient) and submitted our offer. We feel pretty confident that it's a fair offer, and hopefully they'll take it over the risk of taking the house to auction. The situation on that, by the way, is that they scheduled it to go but hadn't yet committed it for auction and so we had until tomorrow to go for it.

So the wait is on. We requested a response by today at 5pm, and I'm already anxious. Because I work with our agent, she keeps me up to date and I know that the offer has been received and so now we just wait for them to either accept or counter. We're pretty confident they won't counter - we offered full asking price less closing costs, which is pretty standard in today's market. Because the home is owned by Fannie Mae and therefore is sold as is, there are no major things we can ask to be repaired. We just have to hope nothing major comes up in the inspection, and if there is, we decide what we are willing to deal with or pull out. I feel like I say "if" a lot lately.

Of course now, I'm thinking of all the things we somehow didn't think of before, like the fact that we currently own zero appliances. That's a bit of a big one. The good thing is, if we close based on my realtor's projected timeline, we'll have 5 weeks between closing and the end of the apartment lease to get things in order. Not to mention, we have to paint because two of the bedrooms currently look they got vomited on by a Crayola box. No joke. The master is purple and orange (like the Phoenix Suns) and one of the spare bedrooms is bright blue and Christmas frosting green. Yuck. Oddly enough, the entire rest of the house is white, save for bedroom #3, which is a calm, sensible taupe. Go figure.

So please cross your fingers for us!

We spent the weekend being bums, for the most part. We did venture out to buy Dan cowboy boots that he's been wanting. He got a gift certificate from my mom for Christmas and he was excited to finally go pick them out. Then we had dinner and talked about our ideas for our - hopefully - new home. Yesterday we went to Scott and Melissa's. Dan got tattooed while I entertained the kiddos with their new belated Christmas gifts. I played about 4 games of Monopoly with Dawson, and Kadence loved her new baby doll stroller. She probably did 3,475 laps around the living room with her Build-a-Bear, giggling away the entire time. Oh, and the Sing-a-Ma-Jig I was soooo excited to give her? She couldn't have cared less. Bummer.

Your fingers are still crossed, right? :)

UPDATE: After sitting on the market for freaking 150 days, suddenly there's a multiple offer situation, with a deadline of tomorrow at 8am for our best possible offer. Dan and I talked it over and decided we'd already given it. It's hard to think with your brain and not with your heart. I don't want to lose this house, but I did all the math and figured out what each $1K increase in purchase price means for monthly expenses and we decided we're not willing to go higher, considering that this house is already going to cost us some change just to get it move-in ready. Now the waiting is even worse. I'm trying to prepare myself for the worst, yet remain optimistic that hopefully, our offer is still strongest. Cross your fingers tighter, please.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The hunt begins

Yesterday was our first round of house-hunting. I think it went well. We have a "no," a "pretty much a no," and a "heck yes! but probably no." But more on that.

The first house we saw was a 3 bed, 2 bath in Glendale. The pictures online were good, but they were NOT representative of the house itself. Someone got creative with angles or Photoshop, people. The layout and the structure was good, but it was so dirty and destroyed that it was hard to imagine how it could be our home without a lot of work. And there'd be hours and hours of cleaning before we even got to the "lot of work." We're willing to put in some elbow grease, but not that much. Note to people who are leaving their house: it's not necessarily to rough it up before you go. Also, if your 10-year-old son is as tall as me, as indicated by the marks on the exterior kitchen wall, you're feeding him too much processed hormone-y meat, and I'm just plain scared. That is all.

The second house was one that Dan had picked to see. It's a short sale, which has me hesitant. I want out of the apartment ASAP, and I find it hard to believe that we can't find something we'd like just as much that wouldn't require us to go through a process that I hear makes people say "I'd rather pull my own eyelashes out." But he was all jazzed about its big driveway, so we went. The house was cute, and in a cul-de-sac, which is nice. The living area was spacious, and the eat-in kitchen was modern and has a ton of counter space. The backyard had a covered patio, and the house is getting a brand new roof thanks to recent hail damage. The downside: the bedrooms were clumped together and the master bath was tiny. Like "hey, we have a failry big closet, let's make a tiny bathroom in it" tiny. Nothing redeeming enough to endure a short sale.

The last house was one we weren't sure we'd get to see. It's in a beautiful neighborhood. There were people walking down the street with dogs and there were kids on bikes. Nice area, and super convenient to all the things I have here in Ahwatukee. We walked in and instantly loved it. Fireplace, all tile floors, wood flooring in the bedroom, split floor plan, a ton of kitchen counter space, really nice master bath with double sinks. Great foundations. The listing says "as is" and there are some obvious things we'd have to deal with - the guest bath would need tile replaced, we'd need some drywall work done, and the master bedroom would need a new door to the patio. The counters in the kitchen are also an ugly pink, but they have a lot of potential. None of this is stuff we wouldn't be willing to do, and quite honestly, with my husband being the fixture snob that he is, we'd plan to work with the bathrooms before we ever even moved in. Yes, my husband is the guy who replaces toilets before he even puts his clothes in the closets. The kitchen is something we plan to eventually upgrade unless we're lucky enough to find a home with an amazing kitchen in our budget, which isn't likely.

Point is, we love it. We'd seriously put and offer in like right now. Of course, everyone is all "look more!" Well, Dan and I operate the same way, which is great for us as a married couple. You see, we don't have to look at every house on the market in our price range to pick a favorite. We know what we like when we see it and can say "yep, I'm happy with that." I did it with my wedding dress, the frame on my Sistine Chapel print (we looked for 3 hours and ended up getting the one I first pointed out), our wedding venue, etc. We don't need to shop by elimination. It's just not our style. So to those of you who are reading thinking, "that's only 3 houses! You can't put an offer in on the first day!" Oh yes, I can.

However - and this is a big "however" - the listing also says "auction." The realtor said that usually with auction properties, the MLS states where and when the auction will be, and this info was missing. So there's a small possibility that this was added prematurely and that the house is still available to the general buying public. The realtor is going to call today to see what's up. So we may still have a shot at this house, though it's probably not likely, and we're realistic about that. If we don't have a chance, this house will at least be a standard against which we measure others. It's got everything we hope to find.

We're seeing between 6 and 8 more houses this weekend. I'm very excited, because at least I've seen that there is at least one house out there in our budget that we can love. It's going to be a long Saturday, but we're both really hopeful.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The one where I talk about trying to conceive

In the 8 months that Dan and I have been trying to add to our family, we've told some people about our endeavor. This may or may not have been a mistake. I don't really think so, because it's been great having the support of friends, but it also opens us up to people's opinions. Which, if you haven't heard, are like assholes. It also opens you up to the suggestions and comments of people who just don't know better. That's fine, people aren't educated in conception most of the time, and I know a lot more than I sometimes wish I did.

Let's cover what I do know.

- I know it can take a healthy couple 12 months to be successful at conception. A full year. Heartbreaking when you're wanting something so badly, but at the same time, completely normal. Also, allow me to preface the rest of this post now that I understand that we have not been trying for a long time. It feels long, because we want it, but I understand that it's not.

- I know that there's only a 20% chance in a given cycle that conception will occur. That's for a healthy couple with perfect timing. Let's do math. There's an EIGHTY percent chance we won't get lucky in any given month. What does this mean? Getting pregnant is difficult.

- I know that "perfect timing" means insemination must occur in a - at most - 4 day fertile window beginning 3 days before ovulation and ending the day after.

- I know when I ovulate. This is helpful because I'm not constantly wasting pregnancy tests because I think I'm late. It's also mostly helpful because I know my plumbing works at the basic functional level.

- I know that 28 day cycles with ovulation on day 14 is more often than not a myth. Trust me, this was the biggest thing to shock me when I started reading up on fertility and conception. I'm pretty sure we were all taught this little formula in 8th grade health class and it's simply not true. If you're a "textbook" cycler, spare telling me so.

If you want to put all these concepts together to see just how miraculous it is that any of us are here, go to Youtube and search for "The Great Sperm Race." Wait, make popcorn first. Then go to Youtube. You're welcome.

I also know that people just don't know what to say at times, or they say the oddest things. While trying to be helpful and supportive, people's "advice" is often misguided.


"It'll happen when it's meant to" or "Maybe it's just not the right time." I really dislike these statements. Conception has nothing to do with all being right in the world. Obviously, or my cousin wouldn't have 4 kids by 3 baby daddies. Her life is chaos, and there was surely never a right time for her to have children, and yet she has them. I know some people are also delving into the religious aspect of this one, indicating a certain deity's plan. While comforting for a believer, it's just aggravating for me.

"Just get drunk and have sex." Yeeeeah, no. If that were true, I'd have about 8 babies by now. If you know what I know (above) about timing and all that good stuff, it's all just coincidence that you or your friend went out drinking and came home and drunkenly seduced your husband and your kid was born 9 months later. In fact, all of it is chance when you think about it. Who's to say what worked in a given cycle when there's an 80% percent chance against you every month? People who never had to really try for a baby say this a lot. My cousin also probably says this.

"Well if your mom/sister/aunt had no problems having kids, you won't either." Fertility isn't like eye color. My mom's ability to have kids has no bearing on mine.

"Stop thinking about it and it'll happen." Yes, it's true that stress can affect fertility. Allow me to tell you why. Stress can delay ovulation. Your body will withhold from ovulating because it feels that the elevated stress makes your body a less than ideal home for a fetus. Illness and travel have the same effect. If you don't ovulate, you can't get pregnant. Once you ovulate, however, your chances of conception and implantation occuring are no less than an unstressed person. Secondly, if you can tell me how to stop thinking about it, I would. Gladly. Baby rabies isn't fun.

Side note: telling a couple to "just start the adoption process and it'll happen hahaha!!" is even more obnoxious. Just don't do that. For the reasons above and also because if they're at the point where adoption is up for discussion (which they may not have shared with you), they've probably exhausted every option, along with a lot of money and time and emotion, to get pregnant. While some couples opt for adoption quickly, others don't, and they spend thousands of dollars on hormones, testing, and procedures before coming to the realization that it just isn't going to happen. Either way, there's a lot of emotion wrapped up in the decision, so joking about it is just lame.

"Well, maybe you're pregnant right now and you don't even know it!" Ummmm, if it's before I'm late, I can't argue with you on that one, because I could be. But this one is especially fun when I've just started a new cycle, and I'm sad, and get I tempted to show you my stock of tampons as evidence. When I say "no, really, I'm sure I'm not," just take my word for it.

"You should do _______. It worked for ______." Again, someone else's ability to get pregnant has nothing to do with my own. What "worked" for one person won't necessarily work for me. In the end, the only thing that works is sperm meeting egg and embryo snuggling in and growing. End of story. And even if something does "work," think of trying to conceive the same way you'd think about weight loss. The same thing doesn't work for everyone.

I'm not trying to rant and rave at anyone who's made the above statements. I probably made them myself before I knew some of the things I know. I'm just in need of a good vent. I understand that people just say things because they're excited for us, just like people asked how wedding planning was going and then how married life is. I get that. I guess I just felt a need to let out what frustrates me about this.

Eight months have probably made me a little jaded. The intial "squeeeeeeee!! We're gonna have a baby!" from the first cycle has turned into "I hope this is it" ::sigh:: As we approach the one year mark and possibly having to face testing, I understand the need for more compassion and thought in my comments to others. You never know what they're wanting and waiting for. I guess I just hope that with my little vent, others will have some compassion and thought as well.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A potpourri, if you will, of randomness

I apparently suck at this whole blogging thing. Or maybe life really is just that mundane that I don't have much to write about. It's probably a mixture of both, if we're honest with ourselves.

So here's what's going on this week:

- After like 3 weeks of not being serious about the South Beach diet (during which I gained 2.5lbs) during the holidays and the wedding and all that jazz, I'm back to Phase 1 and serious again. My blood pressure medicine dosage was increased (bummer), so I gotta support its efforts.

- I'm super excited about how my sister's bridal shower planning is coming along. Salt designed the cutest invitation based on napkins I found and my sister loved it! The candy for the candy bar (which I'm so stoked about, it's ridiculous) will be here today. I have a few small other projects (like homemade tissue poms! Suggestions welcome, people...) to work on, but I think it's going to be awesome.

- Tawny Kitaen is following me on Twitter. I win at life. However, Dan doesn't know who Tawny Kitaen is, so now I feel old, and therefore FAIL. It's a draw.

- Dan and I got our preapproval for a house done this week and we get to see our first round of potential houses.... tomorrow!! So excited! I was looking at a website and saw a really cute, great-sized house with an amazing remodeled kitchen and showed it to Dan. He wanted to put an offer in then and there. Unfortunately, we discovered in talking to a realtor that the listing was out-dated and it's actually under contract, so no dice. But we have a list of 7 or 8 we want to see and we're headed out to start the search tomorrow. Dan told me to notify the apartment complex that we won't be renewing our lease at the end of March. Yay and Eek!

And now, because I haven't done it in a few weeks, I present to you....

Meal Plan Monday!

Monday: Dan and I discovered the sirloin salad at Native New Yorker and now he craves it al the time, so we went and split one. Soooo good!

Tuesday: Pot roast. Yummy yum yum. Potatoes for Dan, brocolli for me. Plus I'm going to bake some chicken to put in our salads the rest of the week.

Wednesday: Some kind of chicken. Haven't decided yet, but probably baked with a really delicious rub and served with zucchini and squash

Thursday: Pot roast taco salads with black beans and cilantro rice for Dan

Friday: Turkey chili - it's easy and will get us through the weekend as leftovers.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back to reality, one Kingston stronger

Hooooooey! It has been a looooong couple of weeks, let me tell ya. I don't think Dan and I have even gotten 24 hours to ourselves since about December 22nd. Between a pre-Christmas visit from our friend Daniel, celebrating Christmas, and the arrival of friends and family for David and Alex's wedding, things have been go-go-go for about three weeks. Not to mention, year end close at work happened last week. Looking back on it all makes my head spin, quite honestly.

Obviously, Christmas was great. My company is pretty awesome and gives us the following week off as a perk of the job. Oh, how I needed it. I was getting pretty stabby. I came back to Phoenix on December 28th, after spending the three days following Christmas helping my sister nail down some wedding arrangements. On the 29th, Daniel arrived, and on the 30th, David and Alex got into town. From then until just yesterday, we've seen them all but one day. We all spent New Year's Eve together, circled around a bonfire in my in-laws' back yard. There have been family dinners, friend dinners, tuxedo pick-ups, bachelor party (yes, I went to David's, not Alex's) and then the obvious rehearsal dinner and wedding.

Speaking of the wedding, it was beautiful. David and Alex did a first-look before the wedding ceremony, along with all the family and bridal party photos. After a sweet ceremony that had most everyone in tears, the new Mr. and Mrs. Kingston did their bride and groom photos all around their mountainous , just in time for a gorgeous pink and firey orange sunset. Their pictures are breath-taking, people. The photographers put up sneak peaks about half-way through the reception and I am in awe. And totally jealous. The wedding was fun - we danced all night with friends, and hung out by the many fireplaces with glasses of wine.

On Saturday, we had a BBQ at my in-laws' house to celebrate the new couple. Four of my father-in-law's five siblings, along with their mother, made the trip to Phoenix from all over the country and they joined us and a houseful of friends for Daniel's world famous carne asada. We stayed up late, drinking David's favorite Kiltlifter beer and chatting fireside. Yesterday, Dan and I went home to relax for a bit before heading back for Chinese food and one last night with David and Alex.

And just like that, everyone is gone. Daniel flew back to Hawaii this morning, David and Alex started their 3-day long road trip back to Baltimore. I feel like I have nothing to do when I get home tonight. I'm not used to it. The concept of coming home and cooking and having dinner with only Dan for the first time since before Christmas is completely foreign. I haven't even been in a grocery store in three weeks. This is going to be a week of detox, that's for sure.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Let's start the new year off with some giving

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2011! And also, happy birthday to my awesome sister, La Hermana, Megan! I can't believe she turns 26 today. Have a great birthday, sister!

So, let's start the year off with some giving, shall we? I don't mean a giveaway, but something even better. We are all so blessed, and there are others who need blessings of their own. Kristen of We Are That Family is heading up numerous collection drives from January through May to take much-needed items to Africa in June. The collection drives are broken out by month, and January's collection is prenatal items and pregnancy tests. The goal is to support pregnant moms-to-be and help bring babies safely into the world by supplying things like pregnancy tests, prenatal vitamins, widwife support and supplies for exams, births. I am actually the contact person for this collection drive, and I'm proud to be a part of such a special project. You can check out the details of the collection here. Please check it out.