Long time coming

MY house!

It’s been a while since the last post, but for an extremely good reason. I bought a house this summer (imagine someone mentally jumping up and down for joy and grinning like a fool). At 64 years old, it’s the first home I’ve owned. And I love it. It’s got an upstairs, and a basement, and a whole floor in between, with two bathrooms. The downstairs bathroom is right outside my bedroom door, which is absolutely wonderful. The porch goes from one side to the other, and there’s a small back porch as well. The yard is 1 1/2 lots. It’s 99 years old and has aged gracefully. It gets a birthday party next year. Anything that has been prayed for, wished for, dreamed of for as long as this house has been deserves a party for turning 100.

We celebrated our first Christmas in our own home quite simply. A thrift store tree that came with three sets of lights (with the middle ones being out), crocheted ornaments and a dodecahedron near the top. It’s a little sparse, but it’s our first Christmas in our own home and I love it. It’s a very special feeling to wake up Christmas morning and actually live in your Christmas present.

Fig and Pan died this summer, both from old age. They did get to spend some time in the house, however. Remy, Daisy and Riley are all doing great, and love having windows they can sit in when it’s warm. They’ll get a catio when it warms back up.

Wild pear tree

All the plants in the previous post are dormant and look quite deceased in their pots covered with snow, but I wanted to wait until next spring to decide where to plant them. I need to know what’s currently underground before I dig up something nice. I know there’s tulips here and there, but anything else will be a happy surprise. This will be the first time I can plant things and not have to worry about getting permission or leaving them behind when I move. There’s a lovely wild pear tree in the back yard. It doesn’t have edible fruit, but it looks SO good when it blooms.

Buying a house with a VA loan seems at first like a great thing, which it is, but until you actually do it you have no idea what all it involves. It requires a home appraisal by a VA-approved appraiser. It has to pass specific requirements: it has to be worth what you’re going to pay for it, and it has to be safe, structurally sound and free of any health hazards. Even though I was more than willing to buy a fixer-upper, it was a no-go with the VA.

This meant putting all the houses we’d looked at previously to the side, and finding another one. Almost all of the houses in our budget range wouldn’t have met VA approval, and the ones that did were priced too high. As first-time buyers with no one to help, I was getting to think it would never happen. But, when we were looking at one house (just from the outside – this was my first time looking at houses, and I had no idea about using a realtor or even what to do to buy a house) we happened to meet the best realtor in Michigan. He asked if we were interested, and if we had an agent. Yes, and no. So, he started helping us find houses we liked, the VA would approve, and we could afford. Not an easy task with the VA reqs. It seems houses that don’t need to have repairs don’t go cheap, and houses that go cheap need repairs. But after looking at almost 100 houses, we finally found one that I fell in love with before even walking in the door. Mike talked and worked with the sellers a lot, until they, the loan company, the VA and I were all satisfied.

4th of July
Happy short people christening the front porch with frosty drips.

The house has lots of toasty insulation. I was worried about how good it was going to be in the winter, but it’s keeping us nice and warm without having to turn the furnace up high. The neighborhood is quiet, even on July 4 and New Year’s eve. In six months, I don’t think the number of times I’ve heard a siren would take five fingers. When it’s warm, there’s lots of fireflies and very few mosquitoes. The roof doesn’t leak, the windows all work, and I no longer have to walk two blocks in the snow to check the mail. Life is good.

Welcome Back

Welcome back to you, and to me. It’s been way too long since I posted anything here. No excuse except a hosed brain from many, many things over many, many years.

I haven’t really been up to much. Trying to keep my head on straight, focus on good things, buying a house…

Yep, I’m buying a house. It’s been an actual dream of mine since I was a kid – to live in a place I could fix up any way I wanted, could ban anything resembling white/ecru/eggshell/beige from all walls, plant anything I want and never wonder if the next renter would tear it up, and no one except myself would be responsible for having to move. Again. No one selling a house out from under me. No one raising the rent to an impossible level. No landlords moving into dementia and demanding rent payments several times a month when you show them the canceled check and receipt. No one upstairs making noise that you can’t tell to sit still.

There’s been a few surprises along the way. First, that I was pre-approved for a loan. I thought my credit was too low. But, one evening, I decided to give it a whack & see what happened. After all, the only thing they could do is say no, right? But lo and behold, I got pre-approved. In about 20 minutes. Who’da thunk it?

So, I went back through all the houses I’ve bookmarked over the last five years, deleting the solds, sorting the decents, drooling over the wonderfuls, and figuring I’d end up in one of the fixers.

The first bit of reality was a foreclosed house with a bank that didn’t like VA loans. Good neighborhood, not too much that needed repair, nice size. Ah, well, eh?

What followed was more searching and driving to check out one house after another until one afternoon, we stopped at a house to have a walk-around, and happened to meet a realtor just finishing up a viewing. We chatted a minute, then followed him in to actually see the house. We ended by exchanging a card for an email address and shaking hands. Before anyone jumps up and says, “You didn’t have a realtor yet?” No, we didn’t. Having never been witness to an actual house-buying, I didn’t have much idea about the order all this was supposed to work in. But we got one that day. We started looking at houses from the inside, not just through windows and online photos.

So, along the way, offers were made, turned down, VA appraisal reqs were discovered, houses that wouldn’t meet those reqs said goodbye to, as were houses that didn’t meet my own requirements. It was sad. Until the price of one of the first houses we looked at dropped $2k. The realtor said he thought the owner would come down further, since the house had been listed for almost a year. Nothing wrong with it, lot & a half; it just hadn’t had any takers.

So, after the realtor talked several times with the owner and got them to drop another $11k and pay partial closing costs, we passed documents back and forth over the interwebs, got an actual loan approval, passed the VA appraisal & pest inspection with flying colors, we got a closing date. Less than two weeks from now. Yeesh!

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Hope y’all’re doing good too.

Here yesterday, gone today

Until last night, this was the view of the east side of the house I’m staying at.

hanging gutter

As you can see, the ice has done a job on the gutters. Luckily, this is the only one with serious problems so far; some others have been bending, but still hanging in there (pun intended).

Last night, though, things changed a bit. The temps are a tad warmer and the snow & ice on the roof is a tad slidier. Around 10 p.m., there was a very loud whump that shook the house. This is what caused the commotion – the ice and snow finally let loose, finally knocking the gutter to the ground. It’s crumpled in the corner by the house.

downed gutter

At least the snow on the top floor should drop easier now.

So far, we’ve had about 15 inches of snow. With Monday being forecast at 50F with showers during the week, who knows how much will last and how much will end up as ice covering the ground. This is on the deck.

snow depth 12-19-16

A Michigan magic bbq mushroom. It grew a little more before it died a quick death by snow shovel yesterday.

bbq mushroom

Even with the gutter falling, there’s still a lot of snow & ice up there. Even though I lived in Michigan until I was 10, I never knew snow could deform like this. It almost makes being cold worth it.

needs to fall snow bump

BUT, not everything is snowy here. Cold, yes. Here’s a shot of five of the feral cats who share our home, staying warm together under a lamp. This is a major step for the top left girl; she’s usually camped outside somewhere on her own.

cuddling cats

Before I leave you to go get some more wood for the fires, here’s a view of melting icycles. Merry almost Christmas!