Archive for June, 2009

Animal prints are my favorite neutral, I have learned this from my nanny. When all else fails, just slap some leopard or zebra print fabric on it. It’s the goat cheese of decorating! So far, I have not grown tired of it. It always transitions wonderfully into any new space and it takes to any color. But, I am not in love with just any animal print. I am super picky, it has to be just so. This means no leopard print on a hot pink background. I have found 2 rooms with  zebra rugs that I really like. The first is a Shelly Riehl David room that I found on hgtv.com a million years ago. I knew when I saw it, I wanted a room like this one day. Yeah, it’s a little too Z Gallerie but I still like it, mix it with some great architectural pieces and you have an OTT but very livable room. The couch is perfect, low backed, elegant. It is very bold for a room that really lacks color. The walls are a blue-ish tinged white like Olympic Paint in Windswept. Of course there are things I would change about this room, I never look at one and think it is perfect. I just really appreciate how the zebra rug ties this entire room together. This room is very polished and slightly beachy.shellyriehldavidlivingroom

The second zebra rug that I admire was found on sohaute.typepad.com. It’s a living room that is quirky, fun, but it also has some great architectural pieces. It’s a bit more cheeky than the above room, younger and looks more like a guy could live there too. I love the ceiling details. If the room was gutted it would still look great. I am a sucker for antlers/horns. I am sure I am attracted to the room because of that alone. I am not wild about the furniture, too dumpy and the table looks like it belongs at a Head Start getting some animal crackers crushed all over it. However, I was won over by the black and white rugs. They look so nice layered, something I usually don’t like but this works. But, once again this is a pale room something creamy like Olympic Paint in Queen Anne’s Lace. It’s tied together by the graphic rugs.


I am now on the search for a zebra print rug, well, if I don’t upholstery the couch in zebra. A real zebra rug is costly, about $2, 000 to $2,500 and I am sure poached or something brutal like that. A zebra print printed on cowhide goes for under $400. (Honestly, I would rather purchase one of these to reupholster the Eames lounger). The printed rugs on fiber like wool are hit or miss. So many are awful, have borders, look like flea market crap. (That’s the problem with animal print, the reality is that it is a very “cheap” look often associated with strippers, hookers, people trying to be “classy” so it is a bit like carrying a knock-off Louis Vouitton at times. I realize this but I still like some chintz and a touch of drag queen aesthetic in my life. I don’t care, I know I’m far from classy. ) Sometimes overstock.com has some nice ones, smaller than what I really want but still like under $200. They are square, not very wild looking. If I was going to go with a square rug, I’d rather do the black and white stripe thing because that could still go with a zebra couch or chair. Ikea (my least favorite place on Earth) has the Stockholm Rand rug that is about 8′ by 11′ for $299. (I know this is the rug that is under the zebra rug in the picture above). I can’t believe I am thinking about rugs when I know that I’ve got to get this place liveable first!



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Driving around town, typically on my way to and from a hardware store,  I’ve noticed a lot of realty agencies with signed posted advertising seminars about the $8000 first time home buyer credit.  Here’s what you need to know, in a line or two:  (disclaimer- I’m not a lawyer, but I can read)

1.  If you haven’t owned or bought a home in 3 years you are eligible.  The benefit is 10% the cost of the home, or $8,000, whichever is smaller.

2.  To get the credit you only have to file IRS form 5405 with your 1040.  It comes as a tax refund check/deposit.

BUT DAVE,  Can I use it for my down payment?

While some states have had bridge loan programs in place to provide you with those funds upfront, most states have not.  Recently, ML-09-15 has provided guidelines to private lenders and nonprofits for how to provide people with the credit as a low interest rate bridge loan.  For 48 hours.  Then the FHA revoked it.  For a month or so, then reissued it. But good luck with that- I certainly found no takers. Any bank or brokerage that wanted to do that would have to set up a program to make it work, write up all the paperwork, then immediately stop providing the credit when it is phased out in November 2009.  Banks and brokerages just don’t seem to move that fast- my limited experience has shown them to be mostly an old fashioned, offline business.  So I had to do the good old fashioned stupid things like live on rice and beans for months so that I could then get paid back.

The $8,000 should not be what drives you into your real estate market.  In the wrong market, you can lose a lot more than that, even according to the county assessor the house I am beating down the door to buy lost more than that last year.  If there’s ever been a “wrong” market this is it- we didn’t have to lure people into the market in 2005, did we?

I’d tell you to be very wary of scammers preying on people who have trouble dealing with the complexity of the first time buyer’s credit, but I think if you can read, you don’t need to hear it.

The real question is, why should I have to educate myself on a financial product this complex, and why is the average person completely willing to sign their name on a document that statistically speaking, they can’t even read?

Lessons learned:

  • Get your info from FHA.gov.  Read it and know it.
  • Follow rates on sites like bankrate.com or finance.yahoo.com during the weeks you’re in the process so you know when the rate you get handed is dramatically above market rates.
  • When you’re a first time buyer, you’re likely to get handed to the junior agents and brokers at the companies you deal with.  They’ll do that because you’re going to ask tons of questions(you better!) and take up tons of their time.  Then those junior agents will “run it” just to see if something is acceptable- and fail, rinse and repeat.  Rather than read the FHA site to get the up to date info.  I had to tell my broker on numerous occasions how the 203(k) program works- it’s all on the site, but like I said, its an old-fashioned business.  The rules changed so fast that twitter was actually the only way to effectively keep up with it.  The business of home lending has apparently made a lot of pretty dramatic changes in the last 6-10 months alone- so read up!
  • The only advocate you have in this transaction is you. You’re most likely negotiating price on a home by going from a buying Realtor to a listing agent, both of whom get paid based on the sales price of the house.  With the ratio of listing to selling prices any more, that’s very likely to bury you in a sale on a house that won’t appraise for what you’re trying to buy it for, and waste a lot of everybody’s time.
  • Use the web to research your market: There are a lot of great sites that aggregate and manage all of the data that has to be considered in judging a good deal from a bad one.  We preferred to start with a house that was a great deal at list, and then work down.  I discovered and used the following sites extensively in trying to make a decision about what property to purchase:
  1. zillow.com
  2. eppraisal.com
  3. my county assessors page/parcel search
  4. hotpads.com
  5. the regional MLS/pub page
  6. redfin.com (Seattle area only)

In the process, I became a boring old guy who writes blogs about…mortgages.


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I’m at full fledged panic mode now. We are supposed to close in two days but we haven’t heard from anybody. I feel like this entire process has taken a million years. I mean I guess 60 days is normal , especially these days, but still I feel like we’ve been worried senseless about getting this house for sometime. The current place we are living in will not let us go month to month rent like they said they would and last Friday, I pretty much received an eviction letter telling us to be out by the end of this month. Naturally, this freaks me out because I have never been told to leave a place. (BTW, our property management team sucks and I pretty much hate their guts and I hope it takes at least 6 months for this place to get rented.) And we haven’t officially “purchased” the home and this new home is not move in ready. Like it isn’t safe, see David’s previous post. So we need this process to hurry up. Sooner is better than later. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.


The kitchen

Anyways, I thought that I would share my first impression of a few rooms on the first floor of the house just in case something doesn’t work out, then you guys can make me feel better if I have to start all over.


The kitchen and its wonderful wallpaper.

Above is the kitchen. Notice the most amazing mod felt wallpaper ever. Too bad I can’t use it or salvage it. It is just too nasty. Notice the mess in the middle of the floor. It is a pretty big kitchen, well at least according to us but we couldn’t walk through it. And please take the time to stare in disbelief of the blue faux fur covered cabinets. I know that releasing this pic will cause all of America to do the same to their own. Also, take a look at the 2 mini fridges stacked upon each other. It is filled with Ensure and Natural Light Beer.


A bedroom under all the mess.

We have what I believe is supposed to be a bedroom. It is literally stacked to the ceiling with stuff including: a red faux fur 8-track mini bar, a king sized mattress, bed, fuzzy couch, and a rack of elk antlers. We also noticed that there were new cabinets and counter tops, sinks, etc. as if a renovation was going to happen.


Powder room

This is the half bath/powder room. It needs some love and a sink that is not just leaned up against the wall. Please take the time to appreciate the faux fur red door. All the doors in the house take on this theme. If you think you can handle anymore of a first impression, please continue the tour to the upstairs. I save the best for last, friends.


The porno room

This is the bedroom, a peek into the world upstairs in this house. She is huge. She was his girlfriend when he was 16, rumor has it. What is in the middle of the clutter? Well, a pimp blue faux fur king sized water bed, stacked with pounds and pounds of polyester suits and blankets. Look no light fixtures! And the sticky remains on the ceiling of what used to hold the mirrors.

This has been a look into what I first saw when I walked into the house. I will keep the silver foiled wallpaper bathroom a mystery. I will not show you the scary basement or the other bedrooms that are piled sky high. Either talk some sense into me or encourage me. I’m an anxious wreck right now.


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Since we’ve been “closing” on this house for nearly 60 days now, we’ve had a lot of time to draw up a detailed list of what we’re going to be doing for ourselves in the house, in addition to the work that contractors will be doing.  Since the losers down at our property management office have just evicted us as of July 31st, it looks like I had better get going if or when our mortgage brokerage is able to close the loan.

  • Destroy the deck: Should be fun.  I’m renting a 30 yard dumpster.  Gonna be a day or two with a sawzall and a spartanbar.  Possible a sledgehammer- if only because I can listen to that song while I use it.  Can’t wait to get the new deck put in and start enjoying the tiny Olympic mountain view.  (You have no idea how exciting a view is unless you have spent 20 years in a place without mountains or ocean.)

    The deck stringers are rotten at the base.

    The deck stringers are rotten at the base.

  • Tear out the entire basement:
    The paneling is so ugly I would have ripped it out anyways.

    The paneling is so ugly I would have ripped it out anyways.

    super nasty mold issues in the basement from years of neglected downspouts. All the drywall has to go, and the ceiling is a funny paperboard with a fake pine paneling veneer.  I plan on leaving the built-ins where I can because they’re anchored to the framing.  That’s assuming I am even able to keep the framing on the floating wall.  It’s amazing how little damage actually happened, when you consider that no water/drain management was happening for at least 10 years.  I chalk that one up to well thought design, and living at the top of a hill.  I’ll tear out 100% of the drywall/paperboard, then scrub everything down with a 10:1 bleach solution.  This is the part where I get to wear a breather and a hazmat suit all day.

  • Paint the entire interior: We’re trying to do the whole thing with mistints.  It’s eco-friendly, since Lowe’s procedures for paint disposal include dumping it down the throats of the whitest baby seals, and then strangling fish with the labels.  Oh, and it’s half the cost.  If you’re really looking for mistints though, go to Wal-Mart.  Those morons screw up more colors than they sell.  But I hesitate to buy theirs, because they screw up so bad sometimes that the paint is mixed wrong.  Lowe’s also has a “contractor paint” that’s only $76 for a 5 gal. bucket.  Since we get tired of colors quickly, not a big deal if it doesn’t hold up for 15 years.  The current paint on the walls has been there at least 50 YEARS, literally.  Victoria is in charge of color choice- not looking forward to having to paint all these ceilings though.  The whole place needs primed because of a heavy smoker- or a lot of incense. Hard to tell with this house!
  • Refinish the floors: I’ve never done this before, but it can’t be that complicated.  At least youtube makes it look easy.  Victoria hopes that I screw one room up so she can have a white painted floor.  I’m pretty sure I can do that.  This will be costly, but floor guys charge a ton for it.  The sander rental is about $35/day, plus the pads, stain, and coating.  I’m planning on almost $1000 for the project because its at least 1500 sq. ft. of quartersawn white oak floor.  I hope I come in way under, but the chemicals are expensive and it’s difficult for me to judge their actual rate of coverage.  They are made of ground up eagle shells and powdered rhino horns, hence the $60/gal pricetag for Varathane products.
  • Remove the awesome wallpaper: It’s a real shame that it’s got to go, because it’s so nice.  But the house really needs a thorough cleanup, and I want to check for mold issues and unseen plaster cracking.  We’re hoping we can salvage and frame some of it.  It’s that cool- wait till we get in an produce the photo gallery.  Hoping it comes off easily and without the rental of a steamer.
  • Defuzz the cabinets and doors: The doors and cabinets are both faux fur covered.  Wow.  I am hoping that the stuff I grabbed is a representative sample- the blue fur was attached to masonite and then glued on.  That means the work will just be me and a contractor pad of rough sanding pads.  I’ll try the chemical approach, but without knowing what the adhesive is, I can’t speculate on what solvent I might need.
  • Plaster repair: Plaster’s not rocket science, but the estimates were really high for the cost of getting it done.  I’m guessing thats because of the time required to let it dry a few times.  The house has been through 3-5 major earthquakes in its life, so it’s actually held up really well.  Still, if I’m gonna paint throughout, I should go ahead and take care of this.  The texture will be imperfect, but it’s an old house.  There’s a big bucket of joint compound waiting for me.  I have not seen behind the wallpaper yet, but I haven’t noticed any sagging plaster yet.  I’m sure it’s here, just haven’t found it.  I think I can handle fixing it, though.  Once again, youtube to the rescue.
  • Downspouts: Seriously, how can someone be so lazy as to not put a $3 elbow on the end of their downspouts?  I know that life is complex, and that there might be a good reason.  I’m hoping I can manage almost all of the issues with just that kind of work.  There’s some pooling around a window from one though, and I’m concerned that it might be more complicated to solve, or require a trencher.  The lack of downspouts on the East side of the house has starting a nice garden of bulb flowers that I have to dig up completely.  Worst case scenario on this side is building a french drain to the back yard.  I would like a way to route the water from this drain pipe down the hill and into the church behind us, so that when it rains every morning, it hoses whoever it is that shows up to play the Star Spangled Banner on the pipe organ of doom every morning at 8AM.
  • Replace Lighting Fixtures: The current combination of bare lightbulbs and Huskies Tiffany swag lamps just isn’t cutting it for Victoria.  We’ve apparently got pretty cheap taste in lighting, if retail is any judge.  We plan on putting the cheapest stuff in everywhere but the dining room, and then buying a nice sputnik.
  • Silicone all over the place: Lots of leaking places around the outside could just a blob, or a whole tube.  Oh and that one BB whole right in the middle of a $1500 window.  Damned kids- I am keeping that frisbee.
  • Find a new front door, or Repair the one in place: That decision is really going to depend on the condition we find the door in after we get all of the crap off of it.  I’d prefer to refinish the door, and install new hardware.  But the thing has a funny opening that’s either a small speakeasy or a large peephole, and I predict finding a match could be complicated.
  • Remove Tree on the front of the house: I hate it that I have to remove such a nice old tree, but it’s cracked the foundation.  The realtor and the contractors told me I could sell it to a nursery because its a 75 year old dwarf red Japanese maple.  The nurseries thought it was hilarious that they might pay me to pick up a 700lb. root ball.  Lesson learned: just because someone is “experienced” does not mean that they always know what they’re talking about.
  • Install a railing to the basement: Never done this before, but it’s apparently a codes requirement.  I have no idea how much codes involvement to expect with this project, because I don’t understand the level of involvement to expect from the FHA.  Not hard to do, but I will be trying hard to find a second hand rail.  Railing can be so expensive, even for the simplest ugliest thing.
  • Install a new mailbox: we like the kind that mounts on the porch wall.
  • New house numbers: Home Depot has these great brushed nickel deco/early 20th century modern numbers.
  • Run CAT5e: This will depend on where the TV and the computer and cable modem go.  The house is super dense, and even 802.11n will have a hard time providing the bandwidth we need across the house.  We use a PS3 as an HTPC- it connects to our desktop as a media server.  That’s gotta be a pretty robust connection to stream video.
  • Seal and paint the porch: Hoping to use a terra cotta colored porch paint.  Once again, moisture proofing is the priority because of the Pacific Northwestern climate’s 180 rainy days a year.
  • Tile the kitchen:  We are going to try and work with our 50’s countertop and fixtures and go with a black and white checkered kitchen floor.  We like Marmoleum, but at 5-20% of the cost, vinyl composition tile is a much more attractive option.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to what will be my last weekend as a free man.


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The pug room

For some reason I am super siked about finishing the living room. This is the largest room in the house and it is sure to see the quickest and biggest improvement. It has tall molded ceiling, a fireplace, and nice built-ins and 2 large windows. It has the potential to be super elegant. It has the potential to have a couch with plastic wrapped on it 🙂 I don’t know why I want a formal, stuffy living room. We have a “formal” living room now and we rarely ever use it, but geez, it looks good.

Of course I love this 1st room just because there is a pug in it. Other than the dapper smushed face dog, I was attracted to this hilariously, stuffy, and formal room because I like the gray shade and the mantel is lovely. (We are shopping for a mantel since the current one is not up to codes, well, it doesn’t exist). The gray walls are very nice but I have decided to use this shade in the dining nook and maybe my “boudoir”. I also like the dark floors. David and I throw this back and forth. The current hardwoods that are in need of refinishing are the original white oak with a natural finish and this is what was typical of the time. The dark is elegant but will it be too dated since it seems to be what people go for now? I don’t know but we will know more once we actually see the floors! Currently they are covered with somebody else’s junk and 2 rooms are carpeted. If there is severe staining, water damage that refinishing can’t get rid of, then we will go darker.


Brocade Home formal living room

I like this Brocade Home living room even if it is staged. I occasionally like things in Brocade. I don’t like everything because it just reminds me of a single middle aged female’s home. She has to have a great job to afford the stuff, established,  and she can’t be married because the stuff is just way too femme. No guy could put up with it!  This room is a bit more masculine because of the dark floors and dark upholstery. I like this room but once again because I like the mantel, trim, etc. I could live without the random number 8 and the funky low chandelier. But, I do like the atmosphere of this room. It’s polished a bit feminine and masculine.

I like these rooms but I know that mine will be a bit more livable and it won’t have a pug, but a buttermilk French bulldog. It will be stuffy but it will be funkier and more fun than these magazine homes.


My 1st time in the living room.

This is a picture of me taken by the real estate agent on her phone since the batteries went dead in my camera as soon as a walked in the door, I tell you the house is haunted 🙂 I mean check out that blurry pic. It’s spirits. You see David was not there through the 1st walk through. This was the cleanest room in the house, see, it already was being used as “formal”. As you see a new light fixture is needed, the color needs to be lighter, the built-ins need some help. Carpet is down but underneath is the original white oak. The windows could use some fancy trim. I can’t wait to see what we end up with!


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If you know me, even a little bit, you know that I love figs. I try every fig fragrance, body, bath product that I can get my hands on. A fig tree produces the most comforting odor to me. A fig of any variety is my favorite treat. David and I have been snacking on super sweet and ambrosia like Black Mission figs and gorgonzola all week. We get so excited when they are in season, first we eat them raw until we get spoiled and then we ponder of all the possibilities from dinner to dessert. While we were taking our evening walk last night, and while we were spying on the house we are buying, we strolled past a huge tree. As always, David asked, “What is this?” and before I came back with my “Why would you think I would know, stop asking me everything“, I saw the big, flat leaves. This was a fig and for once I had an answer to David’s question. But, I think he was figuring it out. I forgot about how smooth the bark is, what a pretty color combination it is. I was puzzled because I have never seen a fig tree so tall. It reached into the sky, taller than the houses. (I guess I’ve always seen them trimmed). But, to my amazement it was bearing so much fruit! We both became so giddy, happy to see this huge tree less than a block from the house. We were excited for so many reasons, from the thought of stripping the tree bare in the middle of the night with so many figs we couldn’t’ carry them all or eat them all to the basic fact that we can grow one of these in our own yard.


The tree

It reminded us that we don’t rent anymore. We can grow things, we can grow delicious things. How I want to get a cutting of this tree and grow my own! The smell of the leaves, the feel of the bark, the taste of the fruit, it just makes me happy. When we visited Portland, OR before we moved here, we were touring North Alberta and it was October and there was a fig tree bearing fruit. It was a beautiful sight. After that, David and I would talk about owning a craftsman with a fig tree in the yard. Well, I guess we can do that now. And we can have grapes, kiwis, so many things. The property does have a cherry tree and an overgrown lilac. There is also a Japanese maple blocking the house and it has to be trimmed because it is way too close and we don’t want it to cause in structural damage. I just hope that once we destroy the blackberry bramble (AKA the backyard) that we will find an orchard of fruiting fig tree.

IMG_2392Me guarding the tree that I hope will be apart of my garden.


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I usually know exactly what I want, especially when it comes to color. But, choosing exterior colors for this house has been very difficult for me. I want something dark and menacing since I have always dreamed of having the spooky and creepy house on the block. David and I have always wanted the Addam’s Family house.

Addams family home

Addams family home

Something that people see and say “you know that place is haunted” or “Billy, just leave your frisbee”! I have always wanted that hill top manor, menacing with a black wrought iron fence. Well, the house we are purchasing is creepy but not like the Addam’s Family home. This home has housed and catered to mental illness for so long. The exterior and location isn’t very menacing and it currently sports two different shades, a somber gray on the front and sides and a warm dull brown in the back. I then started to think of houses in town that I like. I am constantly attracted to the same combo of dried grass clipping green or chick yellow with a popping red door. This is the “happy” family home. I always think of them as rich and happy and they never fight because people with white picket fences are always happy. I thought this combo would really improve the resale value of the home because it always tricks people. So, we told the painter we wanted a dried fennel shade or a grass clipping green, we’d paint the door a regal red. Well, the more I think about that, the more boring it becomes. When I drive around town and I see the bright chartreuse homes with tomato red trim, I think, “man, somebody cool lives there”. I realize that this is our house and we can do what we want because most exterior paint jobs last about 5 years. The next owner can paint it a boring cream.woulddoexterior I can do what I want. So we started throwing around brighter greens with eggplant or dark chocolate trim. I knew the trim was going to be dark, I must add some menacing element to this house. Screw white trim, too safe and predictable. I want my house to be something my mother would never do. There are no rules in the neighborhood. I might as well do what is fun. But, I’m torn. Really. Between practical me and artsy me.

The final set of color choices.

The final set of color choices.

We are leaning toward choice number one right now.  The red on the door should be the color of an oriental poppy, and the garage door should be a California poppy.  We like this color combination because it’s tame enough to alleviate our anxiety about resale, but with the added bright colors we can gain some eccentricity.  If we do choose to flip the house, we could simply repaint the doors in something pedestrian, like taupe.  We’re hardly experts, but we predict that the bottom option would have the highest curb appeal- it was our safe bet.  With number one we plan on planting poppies, coral roses- a hot garden.  In the back we plan on planting mostly white, night blooming plants.  It’s a nice compromise between being a wimp and going neon.

-Victoria & David

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