Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Move: Part 2

If you're just joining me, I'd encourage you to read the post below first.  That way you're caught up and aren't jumping into the story part way.

So here we were, selling our house and getting ready to move with no place to move to.  We knew we were heading north, closer to my wife's family and her work, but we had no house at all.  Sometime near the end of June, my mother-in-law was having lunch with a friend when a mutual acquaintance walked into the restaurant.  The lady struck up a conversation with my MIL and her friend and was talking about how she and her husband were going to move the following year because their place was just too big for them now.  Her husband's health made it difficult for him to keep the place up and there was just too much house.  She proceeded to give more details about the house and property and my MIL said, "Well my daughter and son-in-law might be interested in that!"  Fourth of July weekend rolls around and we head to the in-laws for the usual celebrations. 

We were sitting down to lunch on Sunday and the phone rang.  It was the lady from the restaurant wanting to know if we'd like to see the house.  Evidently, my MIL had talked a bit more to her and found that the couple would be willing to move earlier than planned if they got a good offer.  My MIL had evidently told the lady that we'd be in town over the fourth.  So after lunch, we all piled into the van and headed down the road to see this place.

The couple that owned the house were very nice, answered all our questions, and let us look as much as we wanted.  They didn't have a realtor but were willing to work with us if we wanted to make an offer.  Frankly, it was the first house that even remotely met our requirements.  It's 45 minutes for my wife to get to work on very good roads, and only five miles from my wife's parents.  It's got two very usable acres.  By that I mean the house isn't smack-dab in the middle... there's plenty of 'yard' for pasture, etc.  It has a huge pole barn (56x65).  The house itself has four bedrooms, three full baths and an incredible amount of closet and storage space for a house built in 1911.  We were pretty sure this was it.  We knew that it would need some serious updating, but the house and property were great.

So I met with our realtor and worked out an offer.  Because the owners didn't have a realtor of their own, my realtor and I were going to have to present the offer to the couple ourselves.  That was a little odd for me, but we did it.  They wanted the night to think things over and would get back to us the next day.  Well, later that evening we got a call saying they'd accepted our offer.  We had a house!

Now the fun begins.

If you haven't purchased a house since the market tanked, you may not know what a miserable experience it's become.  I'll try not to bog you down will all the gory details but I'll highlight just a few things that made me just about insane.

First, we applied for a USDA Rural loan.  This is a government loan designed to get people to move to the country.  You have to qualify in terms of income - not having too much(we just made it), and the property itself has to be in an approved area (something to do with population).  We qualified on both counts and proceeded with the loan.  I went to meet the loan officer one day and sign papers, my wife stopped by later after work.  There are a lot of papers.  Additionally, there are all the forms you have to provide showing all your assets and income, etc.  After that day, I continued to get a phone call or email about every other day from the loan officer stating that she needed another form or wanted me to sign something else.  What made this all difficult was that I didn't have my own computer or printer.  It was in storage now because by this time we'd moved to Sheridan and were living with my sister-in-law.  She didn't have a scanner, so I'd have to go over the my wife's folks' house to scan and send.  The mortgage company was about a half-hour away.  It got to the point with all the asking for paperwork that I began to say that I would draw the line at blood and tissue samples.  They could not have that!

One fine day during all of this, I took the kids to a bookstore just for something to do.  Now, I have to admit that all of this paperwork, the phone calls, inspections, appraisal, etc.... it was really making me crazy.  My stress levels were very high and I wasn't handling it well.  So we're at the bookstore and I'm feeling stressed that morning anyway when the cell phone rings.  It's my loan officer telling me very matter-of-factly (and rather quickly without much explanation), now that we're several weeks into the loan process, that there is a new rule that just came into effect in the previous few weeks.  It says you can't get the USDA loan if there's a barn on the property and we'd have to apply for a different loan.  WHAT?  Who buys property in the country that doesn't have a barn on it?  I about came unglued.  I didn't yell or get crazy, but I very politely told her that I couldn't talk about it right then and I'd have to call her back, goodbye. And I hung up.  I was beside myself.  The mortgage company looked into the rule a little more and found that it actually said that if there's a barn, the door to said barn cannot be bigger than 20' high.  This is an effort to keep farmers from buying property on the loan and using the barn to store their tractors with which they make their living.  Basically, the loan isn't to help people make money, but to buy a place to live. 

The owner of the house went out and measure the barn door (12') and my realtor wrote a letter confirming this and we were good to go... or so we thought.

Our loan finally went from underwriting to the USDA for approval and funding.  Then my wife got a phone call from the loan officer (she decided it would be better for my wife to tell me about this one).  The USDA looked at our loan application and asked if we'd been turned down for a conventional loan.  Well no, we hadn't.  Hadn't even applied for one.  Well they can't have this USDA loan unless they've been denied a conventional loan.  NOW we had to apply for a different loan.  What made me crazy is that underwriting should have caught that in the first place.  The loan applications have a checklist of things to make sure of before you even apply.  "Has applied for an been denied conventional loan." This happened about a week before we were due to close on the house.  A new loan was applied for and granted.  But our closing was going to be late, making both us and the owners nervous.

It all came out ok in the end, though and we were able to close.  We would have to wait 15 days to take possession, but it would be ok.

On top of all this, during this time, our dog Toby died.  He was staying with my in-laws while we were living with my wife's sister.  He was doing ok, but had to stay in a kennel most of the time unless we went over and took him out.  Before our move to our new town, I'd noticed that he was acting funny.  There was a day or two where he would hardly walk and wasn't eating.  He just wasn't himself.  The vet thought it might be a sore back so we gave him some pain medicine.  He improved very quickly and seemed to be fine.  Nevertheless, I prayed that God would keep him alive during all the coming weeks at least until we got settled into our new home.  A few weeks after we'd left our old house, Toby had another "spell" and I took him to the vet here.  We had an MRI done and discovered that he had a tumor on his spleen.  This isn't unusual in an older Golden Retriever and Toby was nine years old.  It was really a life threatening situation as the tumor could burst at any time and he would die rather painfully and in considerable distress.  So we decided that we'd have surgery to remove the tumor.  The operation went well and they removed not one but two tumors.  One the size of a grapefruit, the other the size of a baseball!  I got to see Toby after the surgery when he was awake.  He got up and came to see me as if to say, "Ok, dad, let's go home now."  He needed to spend the night though, and so we left him there.  A few hours later, however, the doctor called and said that Toby's heart, somewhat enlarged anyway, was having difficulty pumping.  They thought that it was the size of his heart, coupled with the loss of blood and the shock of surgery.  They were doing chest compressions but they couldn't get him back.

That was the hardest day of the summer.  We had to wait to tell the kids because we were with family and it wasn't a good time.  I felt such a sense of loss and disappointment.  I had to drive and get away for awhile to compose myself.  He was such a good dog.  We had him cremated and will bury the ashes on our property sometime this spring.

Well, congratulations, you made it to the end.  My next post will be about what happened after the closing until the day we were able to move in.  The story isn't over yet!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Update: The Move

It's time.  I've been away too long and it's time to catch  up.  So here it is.  I'm going to spend a post or three bringing you up to speed on my life the past eight months.

It begins with 'the move'.  Our house had been on the market a year and a half.  I was going nutty.  I was in the process of deciding whether or not to put out a garden (since I hadn't the previous summer and lived to regret it) when, lo and behold, we got an acceptable offer on our house.  It really happened pretty quickly.  But we'd gotten a couple of less than acceptable offers before, so I was afraid to hope too much.  Suddenly there was this offer contract with four names on it, and we'd sold our house.  What followed was pretty typical... inspections, appraisal, insurance people stopping by.  We had a couple of things to address from the inspection, but other than that, all was set and we were good to go.  The buyers agreed to give us 14 days after closing to move.

I'd been packing things all along.  We'd staged our house to sell it, and in doing so, we'd put a lot of things away and packed them up.  Little did we know it'd be more than a year before we'd see them again.  But now, packing began in earnest.  I did a lot of it myself because my wife was working.  Someone with more foresight would have taken the time to go through stuff and get rid of things BEFORE you pack it so you don't have to move as much.  Not me.  I didn't trust myself to get rid of things that my wife may or nay not want later, nor did I want to take the time.  I was moving!

Our first snag, however, was that we didn't have a new home to move to.  We'd looked and looked.  By this time we were getting less and less picky and looking at just about anything that might have possibly worked for us.  But everything we looked at had something significant wrong with it that made us decide against it.  Either it was too small, too expensive, had some serious structural issue, didn't have enough property, had crazy high taxes, wasn't in a good location.... we just couldn't find "the place".

Fortunately, my wife's sister came to our rescue. She lives in the town we were moving to and said we could move in with her until we found a place.  Her home is a large building 'downtown' in which she has her art studio and a large upstairs apartment.  It was plenty big enough for us to live with her and make do.  So the arrangements were made to store our belonging and keep up the search.  This really was a blessing because it meant we didn't have to rent a house and end up moving twice.  The apartment worked out really well.  Wife and I had a bedroom to ourselves, the boys slept on a king sized bed in another room, while our daughter took a cot in the same room.  My sister-in-law voluntarily slept on an air mattress in yet another room.  We paid her something to help with utilities, but she never asked for it.  Plus, she was able to eat with us on several occasions, which was a better meal than she would have fixed for herself!

Our belonging were to be stored in a warehouse in five large crates.  U-haul has a business called U-box.  You can get as many crates as you need (but the truck can only haul five at a time).  The truck delivers them, you fill them up, lock them up, and the truck comes and hauls them either to the warehouse or your new home.  In our case, they went to the warehouse for storage.  When we were ready for them, they delivered them to the house and we unloaded.  It was pretty amazing really. 

Each crate could only hold 1500 pounds.  Well, who knows how much their stuff weighs?  The tow-motor that loads and unloads the crate had a scale on it and if the crate were overweight, you had to unpack and reload to fix the problem.  The crates were delivered on a Thursday or Friday and I began to load.  Then Saturday morning, some family and friends came by to help finish the job.  The truck was scheduled to return the following Monday to pick them up.  We left for our new hometown that day with the crates sitting in our driveway.  I would have to return on Monday to be there just in case we had weight problems to deal with. 

Remember how I said I hadn't gotten rid of much before packing? Yeah, that was my problem. Five crates weren't big enough.  The were essentially quite full and I still had some stuff in the garage.  Plan B:  Rent a U-haul truck to drive back on Monday, load everything up, wait for the crates to go, then drive back to the new hometown and store the rest in a storage facility up here.  As is usual with me, I overestimated on the size of the truck, but not by too much.  My father-in-law came with me to help load up.  I was pretty proud of myself, driving that big-ol' truck on the highway... I was pretty nervous.  Of course, it would be one of the hottest days of the summer.  But by dinnertime that evening, we were back and unloaded and the U-haul was back at the rental place.  Oh, and the crates were all fine, none were overweight!  I can't tell you how relieved I was.  We had successfully left our old house and with two days to spare before the new owners really took possession.