Monday, July 11, 2011

House Hunt (the Hunt Begins!)

So far Texas has been treating us well (other than the noisy train next to our apartment).

Since we signed all the paperwork and no longer own a house in California (as of mid-March), and we decided we can't get away from this train fast enough, we jumped right in to trying to decide where to live.

The city we're in is quite large, and rather sprawling. We figured that we would get a better feel for the neighborhoods, and how they relate to the places we work, and what our commutes might be like, if we drove around a bit.

We figured the best way to decide where to live, and to get familiar with the area at the same time would be to visit open houses.

Now, open houses are not really our favorite thing.

It kind of seems like agents only hold open houses to try to meet house hunters who do not already have an agent. They're not really there to sell the property - they're there to get a captive audience of people who have enough money to buy a house.

I suppose that touring open houses was educational. We definitely learned about the areas. And freeways. And we saw some cool houses. And one house that was infested with bugs (yuck yuck yuck - not enough yucks in the world).

Certainly we viewed homes, and made copious notes on the handouts, and discussed them later, and discarded most of the homes for one reason or another.

  • Too far away from work - the commute would be a nightmare.
  • Too many bugs and we can't get it out of our minds (yes, this was the infested house).
  • The backyard is too small.
  • The floorplan is odd.
  • Too old.
  • It's pretty new but the brass fixtures, decor, and popcorn ceilings make it feel older than it is.
  • Too big and smells like cat piss every time we open a new door (this house had beautiful wood floors, but all we could think about was how expensive it would be to rip all the flooring out to get rid of the smell).
  • Too many bedrooms (yes this was actually a problem).

We also saw some great things in houses, that we would love to be able to incorporate in our own home.

  • Solar screens (a great, eco-friendly, external addition to windows that can make a HUGE difference in how hot a house is).
  • Tiling the wall under a breakfast bar, so when you pull yourself up to the counter and kick the wall dirty shoes/feet don't leave scuff marks.
  • A rope light on a motion-activated switch, installed ankle-level on a stairway so when you stumble around at night it will turn on automatically and you have dim light.
  • Extenders for light switches, so toddlers can turn lights on and off.

Finally we felt we had exhausted the possibilities of open houses, and contacted a Realtor who had helped us when we came out on our whirlwind 4-day tour to find a place to live.

We had compiled a list of houses we wanted to see, so our first day out with her we checked out 5 houses, in varying directions. A couple of homes north of our current apartment. A couple not far away from our place. And one that was south.

Funny how it happened - particularly after the months of house hunting we did in California - but we really liked one of the houses we had picked out to see with the Realtor. We couldn't quite believe our luck of finding a house we liked after only one trip out.

We made an offer. We countered a few times. We came to an agreement. And now we're under contract!

The inspection found a few issues (of course - if a house didn't have issues I would be suspicious) but nothing major - a bunch of deferred maintenence, a broken window. Maybe some water damage from an old leak.

But the house is generally sound. The roof was replaced in 2009 after a hailstorm. So that is a HUGE benefit to us. The same hailstorm probably caused the broken window (it seemed to take the seller by surprise that it was broken). But even though it's a small break (literally a small corner of a pane), we asked for it to be replaced. Also two windowsills where the brick veneer has holes in the cracked mortar. In lieu of a fix we asked for money off the sale price of the house.

And now we wait. The seller is considering our requests, and will hopefully sign off on it soon.

We may be able to move in to our new home in mid-July, just around splorp!'s birthday.


Friday, July 8, 2011

House Hunt (Redux)

continued from:
part 1 here
part 2 here
part 3 here
part 4 here
part 5 here
part 6 here

So we're pretty much caught up to current. If you want to find out why we're in Texas now, instead of California, you can go read it using the links above.

But maybe you can't quite figure out why we're house hunting again so soon after the frustration of house hunting in California.

Now that we finally sold the place in California, and we're no longer paying both a mortgage and rent, why would we put ourselves through the frustration of house hunting again? Wouldn't we want to take a break, and relax a bit after the hustle-bustle of packing up our house and road-tripping 1500 miles?

Well, we wanted to wait. Really we did.

Our apartment here costs significantly less than any of our apartments ever did in California (except splorp!'s bachelor apartment). And if we could stay here we could save a lot of money over the next several months, and add to our down payment.

splorp! was even doing the math, saying our payment could be much lower than in California, and we could actually get a 15 year loan instead, and be in good shape.

So, yeah, waiting a while and socking away the money was the plan.

And mentally, it would be nice to take a break from house hunting. The first time around was just so stressful, it would be nice if we could consider taking some time to relax.

But we can't relax when we're home.

It's because of that train. You know, the one that is right next to us:

The train we hate
The Train We Hate

Living next to it sucks. A lot.

It's an extremely busy cargo line. And while we are not exposed to train whistles (fortunately we're far enough from a crossing that there is no clanging bells or flashing lights, either) we are constantly shaken awake by the train going by at night.

And the frustrating part? People keep telling us, "Oh, I lived by a train. You get used to it after a while and you don't even hear it anymore."

That's ... nice. We appreciate that they're trying to make us feel better about a poor situation.

But what everyone seems to miss is that we don't have a problem with hearing the train. We FEEL it.

It vibrates the walls, the windows, everything. It happens all day long and all night long. It's just not restful.

And so (with money in the bank) we find ourselves in the enviable position of being home buyers in a buyer's market. And after owning a home once, we know what we want, and have the money in the bank to afford to be picky.

The houses here? Much, much larger than in California, and for much less money.

We're already in contract on a much nicer house, with more square footage, more bedrooms, a bigger backyard, only 15 years old, in a much nicer neighborhood ... for $100,000 less than we paid in California.

No that was not a typo. Yes, I really did mean to type $100k. Less.

I think I like it in Texas.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Job

continued from:
part 1 here
part 2 here
part 3 here
part 4 here
part 5 here

After getting the job offer, I started work at my new job the following Monday, and I have been really enjoying it.

The pay is great - more than I was making in California - and it comes with some excellent perks.

No health insurance, but they offer instead up to $300 per month to reimburse for health insurance, so I can purchase my own coverage. OR I can get reimbursed for the insurance I get through splorp!'s company.

WOW.

That's like an extra $3600 per year! And because we would have been paying out for my insurance through splorp!'s work anyway - it really is like a bonus.

PLUS! There's a fantastic policy of paid time off. Everyone is eligible for up to 4 weeks PTO per year, right away. Not the standard "more vacation time with more years of service" like you find most places. No! Right away you start earning the max.

And! Because the office is in the middle of a busy downtown district and there's no on-site parking, there's a parking pass provided to me, that I get to use any time. So I could visit downtown on the weekends with friends and have parking.

Even better! On Fridays the company brings in a couple bottles of wine and some snacks, and we have a little in-office "happy hour" starting at 4:30.

There's a very nice kitchen area with a working dishwasher, and real plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware. Even the wine glasses and champagne glasses are real! No plastic stuff.

I just can't get over it - I found a job that I really like, and the people are really great, and the pay is good.

And then!

Our house in California sold!

And it took less than 60 days from listing date until closing. And we were no longer paying a mortgage plus apartment rent.

Another w00t!

So there it is: how we ended up in Texas.

It took splorp!'s job to get us here, and because I like my job so much we're enjoying it here.

And up next: house hunting in Texas.

(to be continued)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Unemployed


continued from:
part 1 here
part 2 here
part 3 here
part 4 here

My parents stayed for a couple of days. On Thursday they hit the road to head back home and visit some sights in Texas along the way.

Feeling lousy (cause my parents just left me in Texas, miles away from any family), and being unemployed (for the first time since I was 17) I had a bit of time on my hands. So I hit the computer and started job hunting.

Firing off a resume, I hit the jackpot pretty much right away.

I got an email back later that day, with the note "You have a very interesting resume. Can you come in for an interview on Monday?"

Let me just pause for a moment and say "Woo-hoo!" A job interview already! This is pratically a miracle to me!

So I had my interview on Monday Feb 21, and it was great. The manager told me he was confident enough to invite me back to meet with the COO and the rest of the marketing staff, and he would check some schedules and get back to me. And the next day he did! We set up the second interview for Thursday the 24th.

The second interview went very well. They let me know they had another candidate to interview on Friday, but that they wanted to fill the position in the next week or so, and I would have an answer soon.

In the meantime, I lined up an interview with a second company. That interview was scheduled to happen on Monday the 28th.

Holy cow! Interviews at 2 companies in less than 2 weeks. Wow!

So my interview with the second company went pretty well. I was now in my new home in Texas only 2 weeks, and had interviewed at two companies. Pretty cool.

And then! And then on Tuesday March 1st, the first company called me back and offered me a position!

w00t!

(to be continued)

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Standing On The Corner Song

(continued from part 1 here and part 2 here and part 3 here)

Our road trip to Texas went fairly well. It took 3 days.

splorp! drove the truck, and he had Harley the bird with him. My dad drove his SUV, and kept pace with the truck. My mom and I had the dog, and we were going to be on our own, so we could stop whenever we wanted, and could let the dog out.

We packed the truck on Friday February 11th, and set out early Saturday morning (Feb 12th). By Saturday night we made it to Flagstaff, Arizona. Sunday night (Feb 13th) we made it to New Mexico. Then Monday (Feb 14th) we drove into our new home in Texas.

The only excitement was on the second day of travel (Sunday) when my mom and I were stopped by three very gracious men before we pulled away from a rest stop. They let us know we had a flat tire. Then they proceeded to change the tire for the donut spare (in record time!) and Mom and I soon found that it's difficult to find a tire store open on a Sunday. Funny how that works.

We did finally find a mega store that had an open tire center, and 2 hours later they had removed a chunk of wood from my tire and patched me up, and we were on our way again.

Where did this happen? Winslow, Arizona. Yes, that Winslow, Az - the one with the Eagles song. And all that went through my head was "Oh, I'm a-standin' on a corner in Winslow Arizona/ got a flat tire on my mind/ ..."

Anyway, the rest of our trip was quite uneventful, and we arrived at our new apartment around 5pm on Monday the 14th. Happy Valentine's Day! You just drove 8 hours! What do you want to do now? Unpack? Ok!

We got the dog settled in a bathroom and shut him in, and proceeded to unpack the truck and get settled for the night. And that was when we discovered the "fantastic deal" on our apartment was due to it being right next to extremely busy train tracks.

Our new home next to the train tracks

Our New Home Next To the Train Tracks

And we were less than 500 feet from the tracks. Separated by a wooden fence and a parking lot. But so close that the (frequent) trains rattled the windows, vibrated the walls, and woke us up in the middle of the night. Frequently.