Monday, February 26, 2007

Inspections and apples

The home inspection was today, and I'm happy to say there was very little that warranted fixing. There was a piece of siding in the back that had a crack in it; one of the air conditioning pipes on the HVAC unit needs a little more insulation; two electrical outlets in the garage need to be grounded; and two roof shingles are slightly lifted. Everything is very minor and asking the seller to repair should present no problems.

I am also thrilled to report that seeing the house again was a very positive experience. I found it to be even better than I remembered, and it reaffirmed that I made the right decision. I took lots more photos and you can see a few of them at Flickr. (You have to get past the old ones first to see the new ones.)

My backyard (pardon the glare from the window)

The inspector was a really nice fellow. He explained everything to me in detail, which I very much appreciated. And he enlightened me on why some electrical outlets are "right side up" while others are "upside down." He said many electricians use this as an idicator so you'll know which outlets are "switched"--e.g., connected to a light switch. I never knew that before! Of course, it's not true everywhere, but it is in this house, which is good to know!

Another thing I learned today pertains to something completely different: apples. Before I bit into my tasty Red Delicious at work this afternoon, I peeled off the sticker and announced to no one in particular, "My apple is from Washington." A coworker said there's no way it came from Washington since it's the dead of winter. He insisted it must be from Chile. Ever the faithful label-conscious consumer, I could not be conviced that the sticker was misleading. I even went to the Washington Apples website to confirm they are actually grown there. I found an email address and asked if my apple was indeed originated from Washington. Answer: Yes, as a matter of fact it did. And it was picked at least three months ago. So there! Um, wait a minute! Wha? Well, the harvesting season is August through November, and it is now February, so that would make my apple at least three months old. How on earth? The lady who wrote back to me from Washington Apples said, and I quote, "We store our apples in controlled atmosphere storage rooms and that extends their life." Amazing! It tasted pretty good to me--nice and crisp--but now I wonder what a truly fresh apple tastes like. Hmm.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

More pix of my house

A couple people have expressed an interest in seeing more photos of my house, so here you go!

My house in 1999:

My house in 2003:

My house in 2004:

My house in 2005:

Wake County has an online map thingie that lets you punch in any address and see aerial photos from the above years. There is one ground photo of each property as well--I was a little surprised to see that it had SNOW for 2004. At least it's pretty!

If you want to see some photos of the inside, they're at Flickr. I am embarrassed to say that when I first saw the house, I did not take any pictures of my own, so these are all from the listing. (Which I guess is actually a good thing, because it means at one point they were available for the world to see, so I'm not too worried about re-posting them.) The home inspection is tomorrow, and you can bet I will be Little Miss Shutterbug on speed. I will post a few more pictures, but I do want to be considerate since these people still live there.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Devastating North Raleigh Fire

I was sitting in my office Thursday when a fire truck raced down Six Forks Road, sirens blaring. This is not terribly uncommon, since there's a fire station about half a mile from our building. But then several minutes later, another truck sped by. And ten minutes later, another one. "What's going on?" I thought to myself. Or rather, thought to myself out loud, which prompted a coworker to look up the local headlines online. There was a fire in a North Raleigh townhouse subdivision. I had heard in the weather forecast earlier that there would be high winds and low humidity, which in California always meant prime wildfire conditions. But you don't hear about wildfires much here in North Carolina. Things are too lush. But somehow, a home had caught on fire, and because it was attached to many other homes, and it was windy, the fire spread quickly. In total, 27 homes were destroyed, and 11 damaged. The cause? "Carelessly discarded smoking material."

I will spare you a rant about the ills of smoking, however I must express my disdain for smokers who carelessly throw their still-on-fire butts out the car window, or onto the ground. Not only is this littering (a big pet peeve of mine to begin with) but it's also dangerous, as evidenced by this horrible fire. If 10,000 acres of brush burn because wind knocks down a power line, that's certainly a shame. And of course it is sad to think of the poor wild animals who perish in a fire of that size. But when you see the photos of people's homes completely burned to the ground, and you hear of their pets being burned alive (either because the family wasn't home at the time to rescue them, or they had to flee so quickly they didn't even have time to grab their pet) and it's all because of a stupid cigarette butt, that is really just appalling.

What's scary is that it could happen to anyone's home due to the carelessness of another human being. I could be so compulsive as to check 5 times that my curling iron is off, but someone else's absent-mindedness (or worse, complete disregard for others) could just basically ruin my life. And that's what happened to these poor people of Pine Knoll Townes.

Here's a link to some photos of the devastation. If you are compelled, help here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Oh my god, I just bought a house!

After some quick rounds of negotiation, seller-to-realtor-to-realtor-to-buyer and back again, we agreed on a selling price and a closing date. As of March 21, I will be a homeowner!!! I was a homeowner once before, but it was only a condo. Same financial responsibility of a mortgage, but it was basically a glorified apartment. This, my friends, is a HOUSE. Holy cow. On one level, it seems like a natural evolution, and there's unabated excitement. On another level, there's awe: lil' ol' me will own a whole big house with a front yard, backyard, driveway, and garage. I can, like, plant trees and flowers and build a deck and shop at--gasp--Home Depot. Wow. I'm trying to ascertain if there's any anxiety or trepidation far, so good. Bring it on!

Now, to begin the packing.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Home buying update

I have purposely not updated my blog for a while now because the details of the ongoing homebuying saga would, no doubt, bore even the most intrepid reader. Anyone who's bought a home knows the tale: the fun of looking at your options, the thrill of finding something you love, the anxiety negotiation, and either the joy of finalizing the sale, or the disappointment of it falling through. If I had blogged while it was all going on, the entries would have sounded urgent and stressed, when, really, it's not life and death for crying out loud. It is a big decision, but recent events in the lives of people I know have helped me put it in perspective. So, here's the nutshell version, which is all it's worthy of receiving.

I made an offer on the end unit townhouse in Morrisville. The seller was basically unwilling to budge on the sale price, and even asked for a 60-day close, which complicates things needlessly. So I walked away. The seller came running after me, with the offer of a 30-day close. I took one more look at the place, and after much hand-wringing, ended up deciding I could do better.

Yesterday I knew I made the right decision, because I saw a house in North Raleigh and fell in love with it.

The curb appeal is sharp. When you walk in the front door, you instantly feel cheered by the brightness and the rich colors.

This place has everything I could want--hardwoods in the foyer, living, and dining rooms; 42" maple cabinets and dark gray countertops in the kitchen; smooth ceilings; decent-sized, fenced backyard (ideal for the dog I've been contemplating); two-car garage; and little touches like arched doorways, an attractive wallpaper border in the kitchen and breakfast area, and cabinets in the laundry room. There is nothing I would change, except eventually doing some landscaping in the backyard, which is currently just grass. The location is about 15 minutes from work, so that's a huge plus. The more I think about this place, the more excited I am about living there! I just made an offer, so I'm hoping to hear back from my realtor today. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Narrowing down the search

Yesterday was a marathon of househunting. My realtor took me around to many neighborhoods in Apex, Cary, and Morrisville. Almost everything we saw was nice. Of course, some were nicer than others, but none of them were stinkers, which makes picking one that much harder. About 90% of what we looked at were townhouses, because even though I would prefer a single-family home, with my tastes and budget, a townhouse is my best bet. The same amount of money can buy you either a 14-year-old 1500 sq. ft. house with formica countertops, dated cabinets, and seen-better-days carpet, or a 2-year-old 1900 sq. ft. townhome with hardwood floors, solid surface counters, and 42" cabinets. This is basically what the market here has to offer in my price range. So of course I'd choose the townhouse in a heartbeat. As much as I may think I want a house, if I'm not willing to compromise on the "extras" to get in one, I must not want it that badly!

Today my realtor took me to look at a couple more townhouses in Cary, one of which was particularly nice, with a huge kitchen, very tasteful paint colors, and some hardwoods. Despite her hearty endorsement and the pressure of "This won't stay on the market more than a day," I didn't feel compelled to call off the search quite yet. We also saw a couple units in North Raleigh, which is closer to work. One is in a "planned unit development" called Bedford, which means the subdivision has a mixture of condos, townhomes, and houses ranging from below $200k all the way up to 7 and $800k. The unit was attractive enough, with nice upgrades, but it was kind of dark. There is an end unit in that complex with a lot more windows that I would have liked to see but we didn't have an appointment. The last townhouse was literally right up against Umstead State Park, which of course means a nice view. But it lacked a fireplace and had zero walk-in closets, which are two huge oversights if you ask me.

So I've narrowed the search down to two townhouses, one in Apex, about a mile from where I currently live, and one in Morrisville, which is about 20 minutes north. Both have nice views in the back--trees and water--and both have gas fireplaces and a neighborhood pool. Here's how they compare otherwise:

I'm leaning towards the Morrisville unit (referred to as "the drummer boy place" because we had to stand outside for about five minutes waiting for the owner's son to stop pounding his drums long enough to hear us ringing the doorbell). But I'm concerned about the commute conditions, so I'm going to get up early tomorrow morning and drive up to the townhouse, leave it when I would normally leave for work, and time it. I really hope I'm pleasantly surprised!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Superbowl and househunting

So yeah, that post-Superbowl post never made it to the blog. The commercials were underwhelming this year. The only ones that stick out in my mind are the GM one with the robot that dreams of what his life would be like if he lost his job on the assembly line, and the one with the lions talking about carne asada. Although, I have to admit that while looking over the list of all the ads at You Tube, I'm reminded of a couple more that were enjoyable, such as the Bud Light one with the gorillas, and the Bud Light one with the couple who picks up an ax murderer. The one for Emerald nuts with Robert Goulet was so random it made me laugh. But the jungle-themed CareerBuilder ads paled in comparison to the older chimp ones. One thing that was kinda cool: one of the Doritos commercials was created by a Cary resident, and it was filmed in one of the local shopping centers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So I've begun the househunting in earnest. I've seen two properties so far, one that was disappointing, and one that was spectacular. What's odd is that they were priced exactly the same! The disappointing one was a single-family home in North Raleigh, in a neighborhood with narrow streets, which bug me. I like things to feel a little more open. The photos online of the house's interior had me excited, but apparently they were taken with a wide-angle lens that made everything appear twice as big as it actually was. Now, I don't need oodles of space, but I also don't like things to feel cramped. Even though this wasn't the house for me, it helped me to hone my list of requirements. Monday I saw a gorgeous and humongous three-level townhouse in Holly Springs. At 2400 square feet, it is way more than I could ever need, but man, did it feel spacious. And it is brand new construction so everything was immaculate. There were upgrades throughout: hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, Corian countertops, maple cabinets, a deck on every level, backing up to a hill with trees.

Just everything I could ever want. Except for the following: a) it's a townhouse instead of a house, which means a high HOA fee and shared walls; b) it's at the tippy top of my budget (and non-negotiable since it's new construction) which means I'd be living to pay my mortgage; c) although it's barely a couple miles from where I currently live in Apex, the address is technically Holly Springs, which is a less desirable town (important for resale value); and d) the street is called Butterbiggins Lane. Call me shallow if you want, but I want to live on a street that doesn't sound quite so silly. So, the search continues. Tomorrow I'm looking at a bunch more townhouses, because that seems to be all that's on the market currently in my price range. All the good houses are selling super quick right now!

Oh, and you may have noticed I finally moved over to the "new" Blogger. I waited as long as I could, but they finally forced me. Everything seems to be fine--hopefully they have straightened out the glitches that early converters reported.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Clever commercial

Today is the Super Bowl, which, for me, means great commercials. Yeah, the game is entertaining enough, but since I don't follow football (or any sports, actually), it's secondary to the 30- and 60-second advertisements that are usually a cut above your average spot. I anticipate my next post being about my favorite Superbowl commercials. (And, by the way, how great is it that they will undoubtedly be available on You Tube immediately after the game, for my linking convenience and your viewing pleasure?)

But right now I wanted to post a link to a different kind of commercial. I read about it first on David Pogue's blog. Apparently it was created solely for You Tube and internet viewing and was never intended to be aired on TV. I didn't find it to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it is definitely original. If you have two minutes to spare, check it out.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

More Wintry Weather

The Triangle takes the threat of snow seriously. The forecast called for a "wintry mix" all day, and by last night all the school systems in the area declared they would be closed. So it was kind of funny when I woke up this morning and the ground was bone dry! I went into work an hour early so that I could get there before the snow started falling, and on the way the flurries started. It was so cool to see the snow blowing around on the road. At first I was puzzled by these strange lines that I noticed on the ground, but then I realized it must be that brine mixture that I heard about on the news.

I also passed by a snow plow sitting on the side of the road, and the local CBS affiliate's van pulled over with a reporter broadcasting live. I felt a swell of pride that lil' ol' Raleigh was so prepared for our version of "the worst," even if it never came.

By 9:30 the snow was coming down pretty good, but I doubt the plow ever had to spring into action. There was decent accumulation on the vegetation, but not much on the street.

I know this is a very trite observation, but falling snow is so beautiful. For so many people, it's as normal as rain, but it's still a new experience for me so I get excited by it. Days like today I am grateful for my desk near the window. (Most days I am just freezing.)

The snow stopped around noon, and it turned to rain. We were supposed to get freezing rain, but I don't think that ever came to be. My drive home was a breeze; wet ground but very light traffic. It's supposed to be warm enough tonight not to freeze, and tomorrow is supposed to be dry. This is my kind of weather! Snowy for one day--enough to be pretty and novel--and then back to normal.