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The landlord!!!

The numbers mentioned on the house were too high for the work required (which I am lowballing – couldn’t know how bad the damage is until we get it inspected, which we’re not doing for the price it’s offered at).

Beloved loved the apartment.  He hasn’t said that, but I know him.  He was grinning and nodding and his eyes were open wide.

We had our best laughs when I walked into the bathroom closet, and then around the corner.  The corner in the closet.  The bathroom closet.

We have yet to say “we’re sending a check tomorrow,” but he knows I’ve moved the money around, and he knows that I told the girls that while we won’t tell them it’s definite, the only remaining question is what room will function as what.

Unlike the house which is for sale, it is not touching the fence between it and the train tracks.  But yet, when I got off the T to meet Beloved at the apartment, it took me all of FOUR minutes to walk from the stop to the door step.  And in that four minutes, we said hello to representatives of three different families we know well.

And while we were on the balcony, deciding what kinds of chairs to put out there, we glanced across the street to see someone jumping up and down in their picture window, waving arms wildly.  Beloved said, “Is that [J’s friend]?” and I said, “No, I think it’s [J’s friend’s mom].”  Beloved said oh, and adult wouldn’t jump up and down like that.  I said oh yes she would! and then the jumper jumped straight out to her porch and said, “HI!!!  Move in!!  Move in!!  The neighbors are great!!!”  (It was the mom.  We volunteer together at the kids’ school.  I like her a lot.)

E keeps asking “Are we moving in?  Are we moving in?”  She’s annoying me.  But I don’t know why we aren’t just saying it out loud.  I guess because first I had to call the house person.  And then I had to turn on American Idol.

(Okay, we just told them – we’re dropping off the check tomorrow.)

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I was excited all day about bringing Beloved to see the apartment.  All day long.

At approximately 2:30, I received a call on my cell phone from the mortgage broker I had spoken with previously, “following up.”  It went like this:

  • I explained to her that I am afraid of being upside down, and that I don’t want to force myself into high payments considering that in this town, I will be squished into a small house in return.
  • She said the market isn’t as scary as the media makes it out to be.
  • I told her that I have been following my small and unique town’s market like a hawk since March of 2005, and that I do know that there’s a slow down (although nothing at ALL compared to the national picture), and that I’m very curious about this spring, b/c things are finally – after a dead dead winter – coming onto the market again, but turnovers have yet to be fast and prices are being lowered.
  • She said I clearly know waht I’m talking about, and that she’ll send me e-mails with “interesting products”
  • and I said thank you, I am interested in receiving them.

I got off the phone feeling okay.  I had made the decision to rent for another two years with some pain and discomfort.  But I have come around to accept it and be content.

Phew.

Then my work phone rang.  I recognized the number and felt a little worried – J’s best friend’s mom.  Is J okay?  She shouldn’t be there, did something happen?  Are the girls in a fight?  What’s going on.

“Hey, Z, don’t freak out, everything’s okay, but I just heard from that woman across the street, and they’re ready to sell.  She wants you to call her.”

FUCK!!!!

It’s an old house, having been owned for years and years by an old man.  He passed away last May, I think, and Beloved and I have been dreaming since.  The house is relatively small (1400 sf), and the kitchen is far from modern.  It has 3 bedrooms, but from the outside and the square footage listed with the assessor’s office, they’re very small bedrooms, and there is no space for an office/study.

But it has potential, and it is a single family (hard to come by in this town).  If we got it at a good price, we could fix it up in phases, and live there forever.

We’ve been waiting for this house to come on the market for 6 months.

And now, just as we decide to be renters for another 2 years — it comes on the market.

Or rather, not on the market.  But instead privately offered to US.

I’m calling the owner tonight.

WHY NOW???

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It was a busy weekend.

  1. E had a friend sleep over on Friday night.  It went well.  It is a friend who I have had some issues with before – her behavior, her negativity, her influence on E.  There was none of that this weekend.  She was flexible, fun, and really pleasant to have around.  It was very nice.  She’s the daughter of a friend, so it was good that it went well.
  2. Both girls had basketball games on Saturday a.m.  Beloved took J to her early game (where she scored a basket, and was very proud, because it was against the Tall Team).  E and her friend walked to theirs alone.  No.  I did not go. There are only two teams in their age bracket (b/c it’s 6-8th grades, and 7th and 8th graders can play for the school teams, and usually choose that over the town team).  Every week, the two teams play each other.  It’s very casual, not competitive, and frankly — boring.  E doesn’t care if I’m there or not, just enjoys running around with her friends.  If I am there, she spends more of her energy monitoring my conversations with other parents (to be sure I don’t say her name …. even if I say “Oh, E is due for a teeth cleaning” or “E’s birthday is in September” she hears her name and has a fit) than she does playing the game.
  3. My parents came in at noon on Saturday.  Mom was having some back pain, so they were a little slow-moving, which was fine with us.
  4. E went to a movie with friends.
  5. J had a girl scout meeting – where she baked bread.
  6. Me, Beloved, Mom and Dad went to see a three bedroom apartment that is for rent. It was pretty nice, but short a bathroom and probably one room.  I also was totally put off by the other occupant of the 2 family house, which may or may not be the owner’s mother-in-law.  Things were a little fuzzy. I think that the space issues could have worked out, but the downstairs person was the deal killer.
  7. Once we collected the girls back at home, we all went out to dinner.  At your typical chain steak-house, which is the sort of place we always go with my parents.  They don’t like my favorite places, they find them “weird” – but I’ll take a steak any day.  J had salmon, and E ate a 1/2 rack of baby back ribs.  The food was pretty good.  My dad got all sappy on me when I offered to pick up the tab …. something about being so proud that I am now in a position where I can do that, but that he won’t let me until I’m “caught up.”  I don’t know waht that means.  Do I have to catch up with HIM?  Catch up with my bills?  Pay off all my school loans?  Whatever he meant – thanks for dinner, dad.
  8. Then, this morning, we cursed the time change as Beloved trudged off to a Sunday morning meeting and my parents and I left two sleeping children to go and see my office.  My parents were duly impressed.  They liked my view, the name plaque on my door, and the building at large.  I think my air-conditioning-fixing dad was a bit proud of his eldest child.  He couldn’t have said so more times.  Mom was just happy to see all the pictures of E and J around the room (and both her nephews, as well).  I think she was reassured that my job does not mean that I’ve forgotten that I still have 2 kids.
  9. We then came home and I dragged the girls out of bed at ELEVEN AM!!!  Shit!!  I know it only felt like 10 them.  And 10 is a normal weekend wake up time for them.  But today it was ELEVEN.  Which does mean that now, at 11:28 p.m., I can hear E tossing and turning and sighing heavy, frustrated, insomniatic sighs.
  10. My dad made waffles.  I don’t know what he did, but the house still smells like syrup.  What the fuck?  We had pancakes yesterday, and the house didn’t smell like syrup all day.  I think it’s because despite the real Vermont maple syrup that we stay stocked in, Dad brought his Aunt Jemima’s, and those artificial flavorings have chemically attached themselves to the paint.  Even Beloved’s stir fry couldn’t rid us of the smell.
  11. I did 8 loads of laundry.
  12. Mom, Dad and I went to 4 open houses.  As in – homes for SALE.  There were several nice ones.  I am not going to push to buy right now.  Even though our jumbo mortgage limit in the Boston area was raised to the point that I likely can buy a few of them.  I’m just not willing to do so just to find myself upside down in a year or so, wanting to move b/c my condo is too small for 2 teenagers and all their friends that they keep dragging home.  I’m resigned to be a renter for a couple more years.  Just not here.  It’s too small.
  13. Then they left.  My parents.  And I was going to go with E to a play, but I was quite frankly exhausted, so I bowed out, and spent some time organizing my ridiculous amounts of clothing, hanging out with J and Beloved, and resting for a minute, because I knew I had to …
  14. Go to the “let’s talk about our 6th graders” meeting that was scheduled for tonight.  Ugh.  That was stressful.  It was about relationships and dating.  About whether or not kids have sex in high school, whether there’s kissing in 6th grade, and whether kids are “grinding” on the dance floor at their little dances this year.   This requires a post of its own.  Because from that discussion came at home discussions, and things just went spiraling off into weirdness (as J called it, until I told her it was NOT weird, it was normal, because it all happens to everyone, and if it didn’t, then there would be no people).  Oh yeah, we had a sex talk, baby.  Replete with erections and ejaculations and the difference between semen and urine.  Beloved was dragged into it, and was stellar.  I shall try to remember to post more about this tomorrow.
  15. It’s a little more stressful that next time, I somehow ended up the chair of the meeting.  Ugh.  We will be talking about Freedom for 6th graders.
  16. Then E caught me snooping around on her phone.  I tried to turn the volume down, and was looking at who she called and who called her, and she came out of her room.  I had time to hide the phone in a towel, and she said, “I’m looking for a book.”  And Beloved told her to go to bed.  But then she found her book and said, “oh, I should put my phone in my purse.  Oh.  Where’s my phone?  I thought I put it right there.”  Dammit.  She totally heard me before I turned the volume down.  All I could was laugh and say, “fine, it’s right here, you snot, stop erasing your text messages.”  She laughed at me and said, “mom! They were all to you!!”  But she didn’t erase her call log, and there’s no denying that a certain boy has been calling her almost daily.  The calls are quick.  Not long.  She tells me that they involve questions about homework and such.  Hmmmm.

And that is what happened on yet another weekend where Zuska brought her work computer home just to leave in her bag all.  weekend.  long.

Fortunately, there are no deadlines until Wednesday.

I don’t blow off deadlines.

Really.

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still working on the housing quest.

The news from the mortgage broker was 1/2 good and 1/2 bad.  I have cleared up my credit mess sufficiently so that I can borrow pretty much as much money as I want ($4800/mo payments, she said), and qualify for the best interest rates.

That, I must say, took a lot of work.  I am proud of my diligent efforts to clean up the mess created by divorce and single motherhood in one of the most expensive parts of the country.  I am not proud that I had the mess, but I know that many, many women go through similar things when they make the transition from stay-at-home mom to divorced single mother of small children.  So rather than dwelling on the mess, I will dwell on the cleaning of the mess.  And I will be proud.

The problem that remains:  I chose yet another “most expensive parts of the country” and it is difficult to get even a 2 bedroom condo for less than $417,000, let alone a 3 or 4 bedroom house.  Or condo.

Who cares, you may ask?  Since I stated above that I could, in fact, get approval for a $650,000 mortgage?  What’s up with the $417,000?

Jumbo mortgage, baby.

Can’t get one of those puppies with less than 20% down.

On the house I want, that 20% = $150,000.

Which I do not have.

I could likely find a lender, says the broker, who would take 10%.

Nope.  Don’t have that, either.

But due to the current mess-o-rama, nothing less will do.

Which is really okay, and likely the more responsible thing to do.  You know, wait until I have a down-payment before I buy a house.  Have some real equity in the place from day one, rather than bills that keep me stuck to my job, regardless of whether things go south on that front (which there is no sign of happening thus far).

My biggest worry is that we’re going to miss out on this current dip in home prices. That by the time we accumulate $70,000+, the homes we want will end up being over a million again, instead of the 3/4ths that they’re currently at.

I read this article today, though, that made me feel more optimistic that our timing is fine, and perhaps even fortuitous. If things bottom out in the middle of next year, then perhaps by then – considering what we save and the lower still prices – we’ll be ready to buy before the uphill climb begins again.

________________________________

In the meantime, we need to move.  That means a bigger rental.

After visiting condos for sale, visiting apartments is ridiculously depressing.

painted 2×4’s subbing as kitchen shelves; moldy bathtubs; fucking coin-op laundry machines …. they’re just horrible.  Horrible.

rental agents are assholes, and I hate them all.

I also resent the fact that my quest to own a place is going to be set back by quite a few thousand dollars because of first/last/security and potentially (although I’m doing all in my power to avoid it) a broker’s fee, which equals a month’s rent.

Now, the financial aspect was cleaned up a bit today with the news that my tax refund is pretty freaking big (for me).  I feared that I owed.

But I still have to figure out how to find a good deal, and how to rid myself of the gnatty presence of the rental agents and their stupid fees.

I may have an inside beat on a very good apartment – one with real cabinets, one with laundry in the unit (no fucking quarters needed), one with a deck, and one with a ton of space.  But it is far from a sure thing (current occupants have to move out, and not just have everyone in the neighborhood talk about how they’re going to).

But I think that’s what I need.  An inside connection.  A way to just sidle up to an owner and neatly close their gap in rents collected without the headache of advertising for and vetting prospective renters.

And we may – just may – be moving within the next few (yeah, that’s 3) months.

Phew.  I can’t wait to stretch.

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I spoke with a mortgage broker today. I did not look forward to this. I had to worry about all my negatives:

  • I have school debt
  • I was divorced ….
  • which led to problems:
  • Excessive debt;
  • Consolidation of credit cards;
  • Low(ish) credit score;
  • low credit limits on the credit cards I have

This is balanced out by good things:

  • I paid off all my consumer debt with a modest inheritance;
  • I have paid every single bill on time for the past “verylongtime” (in zuska-language);
  • I have very little debt right now [only school loans – no car; no credit card debt]
  • I have been monitoring my credit score like a jilted, obsessed lover for 2 solid calendar years – I have disputed entries, I have done all I can.
  • Oh yeah [editing to add] – I have a more-than-decent income {guffaw}

My score, as investigated by the mortgage broker, is higher than when I look it up myself. I’m talking 40 points higher.

Which is potentially higher enough for me to make a semi-decent offer on my condo. Potentially. Not definitely. I will know tomorrow (deep breaths, Z; deep breaths.) Pessimism reigns.

Figuring things out with my mom: We need 1650 square feet. That’s how much it takes for us to have enough space.

Yet 3 bedrooms are 1500; and 4 (or 5) bedrooms are 2000.

There’s rarely anything in the middle.

_______________________________________

I am 100% obsessed.

It is now official.

I am obsessed with the local real estate market.

I am obsessed with owning a home.

[and with E having her own room]

Wish me luck, as the spring selling/buying season rolls along.

I need it.

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Of course, Beloved and I made up last night, said our sorries and talked about ways to make our arguments a bit less … argue-ey.  I suppose we should be grateful that we argue over dusting, and not over the biggies – like money or whether or not to have another kid or stuff like that.

The girls are home.  J is sleeping on me right now.  Which is probably the first time she has done this is 5 years or something.  She left with a new cold a week ago, and it’s still got her feeling like shit today.

Since we were given stories of midnight bed times, trips to water parks, and frozen pizza for both lunch and dinner days in a row – I shouldn’t be surprised that her cold has lingered.

Grrr.  argh.

I went to two open houses today.  Both condos close to home and in the girls’ school district.  One is likely out of my price range, and of course perfect.  The other is probably right in our range, and itty bitty.  For us.

The perfect one was really close to perfect.  It was around 1900 square feet (1200 more than we have now), and on top of three bedrooms, has a study and what I keep calling a “family room.”  Eat in kitchen and a dining room.  Two full baths.

The works.

It’s also 3 doors down from the high school.  Which, in just over 2 years, will be extremely convenient and hopefully will preclude E from ever being late to school.

Did I really just say “just over 2 years”?  Is that right?  Next winter, she’s in 7th, and the next, 8th.  Which is pre-high school.

So, yeah.  Just over 2 years.  Or rather “less than 3 years.”

Anyway, it’s a bit high for us.  I think if the seller is inflexible, then we’re just gonna have to walk away.  If we find that offers are accepted, we will be a little thinly stretched for the rest of this year, but will be fine next year.  An August or September closing date would make it all easier.

No work would be required upon walking in the door, but we eventually have some projects already in mind in order to increase the flow of the rooms.  We would have an office.  And a dining room.  And a laundry room.  And a gas stove.  And a screened porch – perfect for the kitty litter and a summer-time table big enough to hold a bottle of wine and two glasses.  And a park across the street where the kids could (and likely would anyway) congregate with their friends.  And E (and eventually J) would have no reason to be late coming home from the dances, and I could watch them for their entire walk home to be sure that they weren’t sneaking smooches or trips behind the gym for any inappropriate activity.

he he he.

That alone makes the stretching worth it – doesn’t it?

They likely won’t mind the spy opportunities, since it will be balanced out by the fact that they will have their own suite on their own floor with their 2 bedrooms, their own bathroom, and my laundry room – that’s it.

Which is really hysterical to me, because when I was 9, I moved to my parents’ downstairs, and soon after, my dad redid the whole downstairs, and it became a place for just me and my sister – our two bedrooms, a bathroom, and my mom’s laundry room.

It would be very funny if my girls got the same.  Only theirs wouldn’t be a basement, but a lovely second story in a beautiful building overlooking (out very pretty bay windows) the park.  And their bedrooms would be bigger.  A little ridiculously big.  I think bigger than mine and Beloved’s, but ours is fancier and is right next to our own study and library, respectively.  So there.

The other condo is less exciting and more settling, and I don’t think we need to think about it too much until we see what the spring brings to the market.

Both of them, though, are in ideal locations.  With friends and parks and walking distance to present and future schools.  Oh, and also my train.  And still Beloved’s work.  Probably closer for all of us.

Delicious.

Time to shake the dreams out of my head, and go watch the Oscars.  We saw less contenders this year than we have in the past, which is sad.  I tried so hard to see Juno with a friend, and if Beloved and I hadn’t caught J’s cold before she left for the Middle of the county, we likely would have seen There Will Be Blood.  But as it stands, we’re stuck having seen only Michael Clayton and No Country for Old Men.

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