When hubby gets back, we will need to move to split the drive between his new job in Huntsville and my current job in the Galleria area. I think we’ve decided on the Tomball area because it will put me close to 249 to the beltway down to the Galleria and he won’t be too far from 45. Only my Houston-area readers will know what I’m talking about, but that is OK. We spend a lot of time on the phone on weekends, since the time difference makes it hard to talk during weekdays, and we end up talking about our future plans most of the time. Today we spent about 3 hours on the phone, and at least half of that was looking at homes online. We have an idea of what we can afford, and know some of the things we want and some of the must-haves, so we’ve been making some plans.
There are a lot of questions we have though, and a lot of things that could affect h0w quickly we get to move into our new home. For example, ,we don’t know if we’ll need to sell or rent out our current home before being able to get a loan on the next house. Sometimes if you have a lot of loans it is hard to get another. We still have a lot of student loans so we might have trouble getting a loan for the next house while we still have to pay on the loan of our current house. What that might mean for us is we might have to move into a rental property while we sell or rent our own house prior to trying to buy the next house. I dread that, but maybe it won’t be as bad as I’m thinking. We probably won’t be able to get an apartment with two big dogs, but maybe we can negotiate a short term lease on a rental house. We’ll need to pack up all our stuff and store it somewhere and just keep the essentials out in that transitional period. We would either have to keep all our stuff boxed up in a spare bedroom, or maybe a cheap storage unit could be helpful in this case. We’re thinking if we can afford to keep our house and rent it out that would be better as far as keeping it as an investment and having that stream of income. We’re only now starting to think about how to be really responsible financially and most of the advice we’ve seen is have investments and several streams of income.
I saw in this interesting article that storage unit companies are doing well in these times of economic downturn. I guess it makes sense. People are downgrading their home space and need a place to keep all their stuff. Well, in our case we’ll only be downgrading temporarily until we are able to move into the nicer house that we want, but it would be due to financial reasons of having to take care of the loan on our current house first. I also read that about 1 in every 10 households have a storage unit and they just keep their stuff there that they don’t normally use. I find that silly, but I guess laziness keeps people from cleaning those things out. I hope we won’t be in that situation. I hope/plan to go through our stuff as we’re packing up to move and get rid of/sell the stuff we will not need. I know we’ve accumulated a lot over the last 6 years of living in this house.
♥♥ Deanna. Miranda
I’ve been traveling a bit for work this summer and I think my AC has been slowly dying but I haven’t been around to notice. I was out of town the last week of June, and when I came back it felt a bit warm in the house, but it was just hot outside so I figured it was alright. The next day the AC seemed to work fine, which was good because it was an especially hot day. The following day, Sunday, it didn’t work at all. I guess whatever was wrong with it, it finally gave out after Saturday’s high temperatures. I woke up and it was stuffy and hot in the house, and the thermostat said 83. The temperatures slowly continued to climb as the AC continued to refuse to kick on. I called my AC guy who replaced the coil in our attic last year to come help. Yes, we’ve been having issues with the AC for a while, but it is an old unit so what can we expect. He tried his best to get it to kick on, but the compressor was just fried. I spent two night sleeping in the hot until it was replaced. Yep, I had to replace my outdoor unit. When he told me the compressor died and it would have to be replaced, I got super nervous. I expected this to be very costly. He said we might as well replace the entire outdoor unit since just replacing the compressor costs almost as much so we might as well get a new model. But he’s a good guy and since hubby is deployed he gave us a great deal. He told me to get a second estimate just so I knew we were making the right decision, and it turns out he quoted me a thousand dollars less than the other estimate! So I was super excited. The whole thing cost me less than $2500, cause I went with the cheapest model (no sense in paying for a high-efficiency model since we plan on moving when hubby gets back anyway). So phew, after a couple of miserable days, all is well in the house of Julie. I had my ceiling fan and a box fan to keep me cool for those two nights, but it really just moved around the hot air and made my allergies awful. Poor dogs were really uncomfortable too but they were patient with me. I don’t think the cat even noticed anything wrong, since she likes to hide in the hottest places anyway. So, it ended up not being a super awful scary amount, though obviously not in our budget, and it will be a selling point so hopefully this will help us sell quickly and be able to afford the type of house we want. I think I handled it all pretty well, though I tell ya it is frustrating having to deal with things like this on your own.
♥♥ Jessica. OnlyTess
We’re currently trying to refinance our home loan and I’m remembering how overwhelming all this paperwork is. And the real estate lingo is different too so I gotta relearn all this stuff to make sense of what we’re doing. We’re only trying to refi our large mortgage so our second mortgage has to agree to subordinate for this to work. Also I hope my main mortgage company agrees to return my escrow amount to me early instead of after the loan gets closed out so we have less to have to pay up front. (We need to pay into the new loan’s escrow account at closing). If what we hope to do works out, which will depend on the appraisal we have scheduled this weekend, we’ll be saving about $220 a month and will try to invest that so we can build up our savings. Our mortgage guy told us we’re not where we should be in our savings based on our age. Boo. Gotta catch up! One interesting thing that annoyed the crap out of me during this process so far is that I learned that hubby’s credit score is higher than mine! No fair! Really though that’s because of all his student loans for law school. Since they are getting paid on time (cause I’m the one making sure it happens!) he gets to benefit, not me. Poop! How unfair is that? That earned him a dirty look. Oh well, we’re both really good with our credit and both have really high scores so we’re getting a pretty good rate out of all of this Wish us luck that things all come together so we can make this work out.
♥♥ none yet
When we first moved into our house, wow more than five years ago now, we were excited about making it more “ours” and making some changes to the place. We had a lot of mismatched furniture that was ours or given to us by family and we set about trying to arrange everything and decorate so the house looked nice. We also bought some items that we needed and didn’t already have, such as the dining room set. Over time we replaced some of the older pieces that were higher priority with newer items, such as our living room TV and stand.
Of course we also had some more involved projects than just moving furniture around. We had some specific renovations planned pretty quickly after moving in. One of these was to replace all the floors on the first level. I wasn’t a fan of that carpet and I thought the downstairs needed to be more presentable. So we put in laminate floors in the dining room/entry and in the living room. In the kitchen we put in a nicer laminate tile. My husband did most of the work on those projects because he’s pretty handy and also it saved us a lot of money to do it ourselves. I learned about some interesting tools during that project, such as the Dremel and Rotozip cutting tools. We also hung a few large pictures and some cabinets so I got to use a level a lot. Yes, I was the little helper who handed her husband tools and did very simple projects that I could do without hurting myself or messing things up haha.
Soon after that we got busy with our lives here and the projects and house changes stopped. Well, except for the unexpected but necessary ones due to storms or toilet flooding, etc. We kind of lost our momentum once we got comfortable in our surroundings. I guess things didn’t stick out so much as needing to be done. I do want to replace the carpet upstairs though at some point, but it doesn’t seem a priority since we mostly entertain guests downstairs, unless the guests are family staying overnight and then we don’t have to worry about impressing them as much.
I do enjoy watching HGTV though and every now and then some of those really cool design shows make me want to make a few changes here and there, but it doesn’t last long. It is still fun to watch the show and see what new ideas these experts have and what new useful tools they have. Like I recently learned about a laser level where it projects onto the wall a straight line so you can use it to guide things like a large picture hanging. That would have been super helpful to us. It is not easy to line up nails to hang a large picture.
It is also cool on the shows when they can do a quick computerized image of the house and the planned renovations. It gives the people a visual on what they can expect and I think that is so helpful. I saw this article about a cellphone app or computer software that does something similar. How cool is it to be able to get a quick idea of what your ideas will look like in practice! We might have to look into getting such neat tools and programs to help us out if we go on a house repair spree.
Our HOA has always been obnoxiously annoying with sending everyone “your lawn needs to be mowed” and “your flower beds need to be weeded” nastygrams but lately it has become ridiculous and a problem for us. Usually they send you a first notice and then when you mow they leave you alone for a while until the next rainy season that results in the grass geting too tall for their liking, which usually corresponds with times hubby is away (or lazy) since I don’t do the yard work.
This summer has been pretty wet so the grass and weeds have been growing back really fast. Hubby usually mows every other weekend but lately he’s been having to mow almost every weekend to keep up. Anyway they must do their neighborhood inspections at the end of the week since we usually get a letter from them a day after the lawn is freshly mowed and edged. Recently we got a second and third notice and even got one nasty letter saying if we cannot comply they will take legal action and hire someone to do it and blah blah blah. This is general form language but sounds nasty. Their recurring “violation” notice reads that we need to weed the flower beds. Well, we do pull weeds from our flower beds when we see them (I actually do that to maintain my pretty flowers I recently planted). After we got a third notice of weeds, we realized there has to be some error since we have no weeds but instead have pretty flowers! So we decided that whoever does the inspections must be a moron.
We’ve tried calling but the phone number doesn’t seem to work. We also mailed a letter explaining that our flower beds are not full of weeds since we recently planted roses and petunias and they have been in bloom until the rains started knocking their petals off. We also let them know that regardless of whether the grass and weeds were indeed tall on the day of inspection, each “offense” should be considered a first since we indeed do mow. Otherwise, the lawn and weeds would be taller each time they inspected, and not just a little tall. They’ve not responded so we even emailed the HOA manager a copy of the letter we sent and attached photos pointing to each flower and stating what it is.
Here are the photos, where are these weeds they keep yelling at us about?
Now we have learned this past week that the HOA manager for our neighborhood has quit and “moved onto greener pastures” so we’re waiting to see who the new manager will be so we can forward this complaint to them. Hopefully the new manager will have half a brain since the previous one had zero brain in her head. Yes I can’t stand her because twice before she sent us nastygrams and it turned out she wasn’t reading the address right and the letter was meant for another house. Yea, that’s the smarty pants we got to put up with. If we had to deal with that I’m certain other letter were sent to the wrong places too. So, maybe these nasty “weed your flower bed” letters aren’t meant for us after all?
A few years ago we bought this awesome device we learned about called an iRobot Roomba. We named her Rosie, yes after the Jetsons’ maid. She was great because I just had to click the power button and walk away (or leave for the day) and she would wander around the house and vacuum. I say was because she’s no longer operational. She just spins in a circle and says “uh oh” and beeps a number of times to tell us her sensors are dirty, but I’ve taken the thing apart and cleaned it and it still won’t work. So I think Rosie is broken. This is unfortunate because lazy me now has to do all the vacuuming. With 3 furry babies walking around the house, the vacuuming is not an easy task. We specifically bought the pet version of the Roomba for this reason. She wasn’t cheap either. So we haven’t been able to repair or replace her yet. Hopefully soon though we’ll either figure out where to send her or buy a newer model. I can’t describe how much easier my life was when Rosie did all the work for me.
Of course since it has been a few years, there might be other models or designs out there we could try. We might even look into a Vax vacuum cleaner or something similar locally. But I did like that I didn’t have to do anything other than switch Rosie on and she would propel herself around the house. That is so much easier than pushing a heavy vacuum all around. Man is that a workout!
But I tell you the design engineers that came up with vacuum cleaners and that keep coming up with more innovative designs are quite amazing. We’ve certainly come a long way from the first vacuum cleaners, and interestingly enough there’s actually a museum dedicated to vacuum cleaners according to this article I found. The invention of the bagless cleaner is awesome because I just empty it out and don’t have to worry about buying replacements. But saving me from having to do the work is even more awesome in my mind. Hopefully we’ll have another Rosie in our future soon.
♥♥ none yet
When we first moved to Texas we had to set up everything in our new house, including electricity. Moving from northern California, I only knew of one option for electricity: PG&E. But here in Texas there are a ton of options, which is super awesome for us as consumers. Being able to compare electricity prices is quite nice and unexpected, but it makes so much sense in a capitalist society. When these companies compete for our business, the consumer benefits.
When we first moved we chose the company that was displaying the cheapest rate at the time, Gexa Energy. A year or so later Reliant came to us with a smaller rate and stole us away. We’ve been signing contracts with them to lock in a low rate. And what was funny was Gexa called us to ask why we left and when we told them the rate Reliant gave us they said well we can’t go that low. Ha! So we got a great deal. Since then TXU has tried to get us to switch but Reliant still has a lower rate. Also, part of our contract specifies that 20% of the power we get is generated by wind energy, so I’m happy to be promoting some greener options.
Electricity prices vary based on location and depend on the type of fuel used and marked price of that fuel, per this Wikipedia article. There’s a great local resource for Houston area residents called Houston Consumer Choice that provide a comparison of the power companies and prices to help in the selection process. Resources like this are great because they help us as consumers make educated decisions about the providers we select.
Most of the internal doors in our house are the thin easy to break down variety. Hubby is concerned with security, especially when he’s away for army stuff, so we have been installing safety measures. All the bedrooms have locking doorknobs and our master bedroom actually has a deadbolt since the door has latching problems and otherwise is too easy to push open.
I realize it sounds weird to say our master bedroom door has a deadbolt but for whatever reason the doors that came with our house are cheap and don’t always work right. We had to install a deadbolt on the internal garage door as well because of latching issues. Once on a particularly windy day we got a call from our alarm company that the alarm was set off. Well, the wind was so strong that it pushed that internal door open and set off the alarm. So we installed a deadbolt to keep the door always latched. We figured the same idea would work in our bedroom.
We’ve also discussed the possibility of replacing those doors someday with more sturdy and stronger doors. I found this interesting article called How to Replace an Interior Door that has some good tips and ideas. It does sound pretty complex since it would require modifying the new doors purchased to fit the size of the frame and it would also involve chiseling out hinge areas. That leaves a possibility of messing up and having to buy a new door to work with, and they are not cheap. But it is an idea to discuss for future home improvement projects.
♥♥ none yet
So it seems like every spring we try to pretty up our yard only to have to repeat the process again. Last year we planted azaleas and replaced one dead palm tree. They all died. This year we made an attempt at finding stronger plants that might survive my lack of green thumb and unpredictable weather in the Houston area. Houston tends to stay pretty humid, but since we live west of Houston, our area actually ends up being pretty dry at times. Especially with the drought last summer. So I couldn’t water the azalea plants enough and they still died. Here’s what we did this year – we planted two Julia Child yellow roses and one knockout pinkish rose in the front yard where the azaleas were. Then we replaced the dead palm with a bird of paradise. I don’t know why we had two palms die in the same spot, maybe the the other two palms were not giving enough sun to the replaced third one and that’s why it died. (The first time it died because we had an extra cold winter – actually all 3 palms froze but two of them made a recovery). We also planted a lot of bedding flowers to make the general area look nicer and I put some in planters. Here are some photos
♥♥ Angelica. Deanna
I’m hosting a girls movie night in a few weeks and it got me thinking about my seating options. We have a decent amount of couch space, as long as people don’t hog half the couch to their lazy stretched out selves. We have a recliner chair, a (pull out bed) couch that should seat 3 comfortably (maybe more if all the smaller people sit on the couch), a love seat that has two separated reclining seats with an arm rest in the middle where you can put food, and a round piece that connects the couch part to the love seat part (that is where the dog sits). For just the two of us and the dog, that is plenty of space. We usually just sit on the couch but sometimes use the love seat if we want to recline while watching a long movie. The couch is nice, but it is old. It shows wear and has doggie slobber stains all over the arm rests. I know, animals are gross. But I figure we can at least fit 7 or 8 people comfortably and the others that might show up will need separate chairs or maybe pillows if they will sit on the floor.
Someday we will get around to replacing our couch. I think we might look into a corner sofa from Fashion4Home or some other place. I like the corner couches because they are larger and have more space to lay down. I’m such a couch potato. We do spend a lot of time in front of that TV.
I’ve also been looking at some ideas for a future purchase, and I noticed that ehow has some really awesome articles. There’s an article with tips you can bring to the store with you to help you make decisions. There’s also another article that talks about things to look for to make sure you are getting a quality couch. It is pretty amazing how many good tips are out there if you know where to look.
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