Good Bones Home

We bought our first home together because it has "good bones." Now we're trying to bring them out, one project at a time.

How not to move October 29, 2010

Filed under: Dumb things I've done,Home — Stephanie @ 4:40 pm

Tomorrow is our official “moving” day, fifteen days after buying the house. I consider myself somewhat of an expert on moving, having packed up my stuff every year except for one during the last ten years. And I can confidently say this move is my worst move ever.

I’ve sitting here on my lunch break trying to figure out where we went wrong this time, exhausted from lack of sleep and sore and tired from both running and packing.  I think I’ve picked out a few flaws, so allow me to give you a little lesson in what not to do.

Lesson 1:  Give yourself plenty of time

You have two to three times more stuff than you think.  Really.  Waiting until the last minute to box it all up will result in disaster.  If you can, start packing up stuff you don’t frequently use or need a month before the move, like holiday decorations, books, out of season clothes, and entertaining dishes.   Getting all of this stuff our of the way early leaves you with more time to pack the things that you really do need up until the last minute, like dishes, toiletries, and those last few clothes.  Having our house on the market really derailed this plan for us.  We didn’t want to turn our house into a maze of boxes so we chose the oh-so-effective strategy of denial.  And then when we did start packing, we immediately ran out of boxes.  Which is just another advantage of spacing our your packing…you aren’t rushed to accumulate more boxes and running into the liquor store just before closing three or four days in a row.  Not that I have personal experience with that or anything.

Lesson 2:  purge before you pack.

There’s no worse idea than packing up boxes and boxes of stuff that you don’t even want or need.   If you’re already following my first tip, you’ve got plenty of time to look at your belongings with a critical eye as you pack them.  Sacrifice one (or if you are lucky, more) of your moving boxes to the cause and start filling it up for a trip to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.  You’ll have less to unpack once you get into your new place and you can get a tax write-off to boot.  Since we didn’t follow my first lesson, we haven’t had time to sort through our stuff as we go, and are just pitching it willy-nilly into boxes with a “we’ll deal with it later” attitude.

Lesson 3:  label label label

This one is pretty self explanatory – after you pack a box, label it so you know what’s in it, and what room it goes into at the new place.  At the very least, come up with a marking scheme so you know whether the box should be unpacked immediately, within a few days, or within a few weeks.  Of you could use our method of not even sealing up half the boxes, moving them immediately to the new house, and hoping you can guess what’s inside when it comes time to unpack.

Lesson 4:  Just do it all in one (or two) days

We thought we were being smart by giving ourselves two weeks to slowly move some stuff over to the new place.  But looking back, I would not recommend this strategy.  We’re worn down from lack of sleep and spending every night this week packing up a carload of boxes, taking to the new house, and putting them where they belong.  If you are doing a long distance move, this option will be off the table (lucky you!)  But honestly, I wish we had just waited, boxed up/labeled everything, and moved it all in one fell swoop with the adrenaline of moving day (and a few strong friends) to help us.

Hopefully my advice can help some other poor soul about to embark on a move.  Got any tips you would add?


Shelving Smorgasbord October 26, 2010

Filed under: DIY,Home — Stephanie @ 3:40 pm

One thing our new house does not lack in is the shelving department.  When we went and looked at it, we counted seven different built in shelving units of various configurations.  After only two days of home ownership, three of them had already been demolished and sent to the garage to think about what they did (or wait for someone to bite on the free craigslist ads I placed.

First we have this beauty, mounted over the living room fireplace.

The previous owner kept this lovely display cabinet full of  ceramic dolls, based on one photo we saw in the listing.  We can’t look at it for too long because you get the feeling all the dolls are staring at you.  Add in the mirrored cardboard on the back and I couldn’t wait to start taking this one down.  And by taking this one down, I mean taking photos while Rich got to work.

Unfortunately our stepstool wasn’t quite high enough for Rich to see the top of the cabinet, but he came up with a pretty clever workaround using his beloved Sprint EVO.

It turned out the mountings were in pretty bad shape, so we had to wait for Rich’s friend Erik to show up with his Dremel (and bonus, the six or so inches of height he has on Rich).  I was off scrubbing the bathroom floors so I missed the exact process that led to the photo below, but I was thrilled to see it regardless.

I was less thrilled with the raw drywall, smoke staining, and damage that resulted from getting the cabinet off, but nothing a little spackle, primer, and paint can’t fix going forward.

Downstairs in the family room, we have this stylish shelving unit.

Oh yes, that is also a wallpapered door and ceiling.  But that’s a topic for another day.  If you’re thinking this looks like something you would see in a school or a doctor’s office, bingo.  The previous owner saw ran his psychology practice out of the home, and this was his office.   And next door in the mudroom/waiting room, there’s a similar set!

Luckily these were a lot easier to take down, all we had to do was lift the shelves off, and then unfasten the rails from the walls.  Of course, the installation involved a combination of nails and screws, some of which were so old they stripped as soon as we tried to take them out, but we still got them down in record time, taking a little of the wallpaper with it.

That wallpaper knows its days are numbered, obviously.

Overall the process took about an hour, we sent both the display cabinet and the shelving to good new homes through the magic of craigslist, and our house is looking a little more open and has a few less surfaces to dust going forward.  The rest of the shelving units (mostly in the bedrooms) are on the list for demolition as well, but they got a brief reprieve because there is only so much demo we can manage in one weekend.



Home sweet home. October 19, 2010

Filed under: Home — Stephanie @ 9:32 pm

I know I left you hanging, but without dragging it out any more, I’ll tell you which one of these homes we picked.

The first one.

To review:

What we liked:

  • Location
  • Size – at 2300 sq ft it was the biggest house we had seen.
  • Lot – it was on nearly an acre, very private and wooded
  • Hardwoods throughout two levels, with ceramic tile on the lowest level
  • Split level lay0ut
  • Four bedrooms
  • 2.5 bathrooms
  • Two car garage
  • Huge deck out back
  • Two fireplaces

What we didn’t:

  • The house had been vacant for two years, and showed the dirt, dust, and dead bugs you would expect
  • Deck had some rotting wood that might make it a problem.
  • High taxes.  All the taxes in this school district are on the high side, but this house was the highest we had seen.

Ultimately we decided a little cleaning was nothing we couldn’t handle, and we could always rebuild/repair the deck.  The taxes were harder, but we plan on having a few kids and definitely using the public school system, and the security of not having to move to get into a good district was well worth it.

So we put in an offer, the sellers counter-offered, and we counter-offered back.  It was accepted!  And so in the span of one day, we became potential homeowners.

Our inspection went off with no red flags, and after jumping through a few dozen hoops with Well’s Fargo (seriously, never try and get a mortgage when you are going to own two homes, unless you have a huge savings cushion), we became homeowners on Friday, October 15th, 2010.

The only key we got at closing.

We are still recovering from a weekend spent cleaning, demoing built-in shelving, making six trips to Home Depot, and cleaning some more.  We are planning on making the big official move in eleven days.  I can’t wait.

Car full of cleaning supplies, round one.

I’m hoping to give you the grand tour of the place – we aren’t planning on doing many projects before we officially move in, since money is going to be tight until we are back down to owning one house.  But until that point, I’ve got plenty to show you.

Here’s a little sneak peak:

Clockwise from top left:  Bird decals that are all over the windows, curtain tie-back, light switch in living room, master bedroom lighting, built in mosaic tissue dispenser.


House Hunters, the finale. October 11, 2010

Filed under: Home — Stephanie @ 8:56 pm

After our marathon evening of house hunting, Rich and I were both still strongly considering the last house we had looked at. I wanted to see some more options before we moved forward with anything though. So a few days later, we arranged to see three more houses, two of which were in the same neighborhood as our front runner.

The first house we saw was not in this neighborhood. It was actually pretty close to the very first house we had looked at, walking distance to our favorite downtown area.  The listing for this house crossed my path several times without catching my attention, because it had only exterior photos, and the blurb made the sellers sound very desperate.  But after it came up for the third or fourth time, I decided it was worth a look.

What we liked:

  • Location
  • Size – at 2300 sq ft it was the biggest house we had seen.
  • Lot – it was on nearly an acre, very private and wooded
  • Hardwoods throughout two levels, with ceramic tile on the lowest level
  • Split level lay0ut
  • Four bedrooms
  • 2.5 bathrooms
  • Two car garage
  • Huge deck out back
  • Two fireplaces

    What we didn’t:

    • The house had been vacant for two years, and showed the dirt, dust, and dead bugs you would expect
    • Deck had some rotting wood that might make it a problem.
    • High taxes.  All the taxes in this school district are on the high side, but this house was the highest we had seen.

    Still, we were intrigued by the potential of this house, there were a lot of room for upgrades and improvements.  We headed back to the  neighborhood we had previously looked at homes in, to look at two other homes for sale in our price range.

    The first was the strangest experience we had while house hunting.  We knew the house was a short sale, but expected the owners were still living there, as they had requested two hours notice before the showing.  But when we arrived there we discovered there was no key in the lockbox (although the front door was left open) and the electricity had been turned off.  The house was still furnished for the most part, but it was very obvious it was no longer regularly occupied.

    We couldn’t see much of the inside since it was already dusk, but it was an almost identical floor plan to the other home we had looked at in this neighborhood so we still checked it out.

    What we liked:

    • Over 1800 sqft
    • Split level layout
    • Awesome screened porch
    • Unfinished basement
    • Great front porch
    • Extra bathroom

    What we didn’t

    • Carpet on upper and lower levels
    • Short sale status
    • Basement smelled musty
    • Weren’t really able to check things out in detail

    We had one more house to see, a few blocks away in the same neighborhood.  This one, to our relief, had electricity, so it already had a leg up on the previous house.  It was another similarly laid out split level home.

    What we liked:

    • Great screened porch off back of house
    • Office/potential fourth bedroom space on lower level
    • Hardwoods on main floor

    What we didn’t:

    • Carpets on upper and lower level
    • No garage
    • Floor plan made fencing challenging
    • Felt smaller than the other similar homes we had seen (possibly because it was the only occupied home of the three)
    • Highest price out of the three we had seen

    After checking out this one, we stood around chatting with our agent in the driveway.  I admitted I was really interested in one home out of the eight we had seen so far.  But, and I quote, I wanted to see “about a hundred more” before I would feel comfortable making an offer.  I mean, our current house wasn’t even on the market!  Why would we rush?  Famous. Last. Words.





    House Hunters, part 2. October 8, 2010

    Filed under: Home — Stephanie @ 8:34 pm

    Right after our first house hunting experience, I went away for the weekend with my girlfriends. I innocently suggested that Rich research some open houses and if I got back in time on Sunday, we could check them out.

    He correctly interpreted my suggestion as an order, rather than a request, and found his way to an open house that afternoon.  Which he promptly fell in love with.  He managed to convince the realtor to hold it open until I arrived home, delayed by pouring rain, and we went and checked it out.

    What we liked:

    • Colonial architecture
    • Wide open kitchen/dining room
    • Sunroom at the back of the house
    • Separate master bath
    • Finished basement
    • Great schools
    • hardwoods throughout

    What we didn’t:

    • On a semi-busy road.

    Yup, looking back I can’t remember any other huge dealbreakers for this house.  We liked it a lot, and went home considering it very seriously.  We thought about the fact that there were traffic lights relatively close on either side so the traffic wouldn’t be flying by.  But when I tried to picture future kids riding their bikes on that road, I couldn’t do it.  And the house was on the smaller side, so it probably wouldn’t have been a forever home, so that busy road could have come back to bite us in resale.  After a day, I had given up on it.  But while we were still considering it, I told Rich I wasn’t going to put in an offer on the second house we saw.  He immediately scheduled three more houses for Monday night.

    House one was the biggest house we had seen so far, at almost 1900 sqft.  It was advertised as a four bedroom, but one of those bedroom was right off the kitchen and honestly better suited as a family room.

    What we liked:

    • More space
    • Amazing upgraded kitchen with stainless appliances and granite counters.
    • Two car garage
    • Corner lot
    • Hardwoods throughout

    What we didn’t:

    • The weird addition billed as a bedroom, complete with jacuzzi tub
    • The musty mildewy basement
    • One of the roads was busy, although the other was much quieter

    The basement was a dealbreaker for me.  I had no desire to deal with all the headaches that come from trying to manage moisture in a basement.  We headed over to home two, where we found yet another property on a busy road!   Other than that it was adorable, well cared for, and although on the small side, had a great usable layout.

    What we liked:

    • Finished basement
    • Huge screened porch
    • Great layout
    • Updated kitchen
    • Already fenced backyard
    • Hardwoods throughout

    What we didn’t

    • Yet another busy road
    • Actually smaller than our minimum of 1500 sqft

    We were feeling a little discouraged that nothing we were seeing that night was jumping out at us, but we headed to house number three.  Where Rich promptly fell in love again.  I’m glad the man is not so fickle when it comes to relationships.

    What we liked:

    • Quiet neighborhood
    • Hardwood floors on two levels
    • Two separate “living” spaces (living room and family room)
    • Separate good sized laundry room
    • Biggest house we had seen yet
    • Split level layout
    • Two levels of walk up attic storage

    What we didn’t

    • Carpet on lowest level
    • At the top end of our budget
    • Only one full bath

    We left this house very interested, but still wanting to see more.  I was starting to realize just what items off of our original must have list were important, like square footage and location, and what we could think about compromising on.

    How many houses did you look at before you found “the one”?


    House Hunters October 6, 2010

    Filed under: Home — Stephanie @ 4:52 pm

    I’ve alluded to the fact that we are about to purchase a new house, but I was a little brief with details while we were going through the mortgage approval process (and oh, what a trip that was). Thankfully, things are squared away, and we are now nine days away from closing! So I wanted to take a little trip back in time and talk about why we decided to take this step now, and how we ended up choosing the home we did.

    Rich and I have been living together in a row home he bought about a year before we started dating. Before he bought it, he had actually rented it for six years. So when we moved in together, it made sense to just live there, since I was a renter, and the mortgage on the place was far lower than what it would cost to rent something comparable. But although the house was a decent temporary location, both of us knew it wasn’t the type of place we wanted to be in long term. We dreamed of a yard that was attached to the house, instead of across an alley. We longed for the days when we didn’t share walls with anyone we weren’t related to. We had been talking for a while about moving in 2011, maybe putting the house on the market in the spring and moving at some point during the summer.

    So just in preparation, we started paying more attention to the housing market.  We watched home values and interest rates both falling.  And we started thinking, why not now?  Sure, we might have to pinch pennies for a little while to make it work, but buying a house when the interest rates are so low could enable us to save tens of thousands over the course of owning a home.  And the ultra low home values meant we could get more house for our budget, and possibly find something that we could stay in for the next 20 to 30 years.  We decided it didn’t hurt to look.


    We took the oldest house hunting advice in the book and made a list of our must haves/like to haves for a potential new home.

    Must have:

    • Single family home
    • Yard that can be potentially fenced (or is already fenced).
    • At least three bedrooms
    • At least two bathrooms
    • Good school district
    • Dishwasher
    • Outdoor living space of some sort (porch/deck/patio)
    • Didn’t add more than ten minutes to our current commutes, which are both around 30 minutes.
    • At least 1500 sqft.
    • Central AC.

    Nice to have

    • Hardwood floors (but at the least, must be able to remove all the carpet ASAP.  We have a cat with…let’s call it…a litterbox aversion).
    • Four bedrooms
    • Two and a half baths
    • Two car garage
    • Walking distance to restaurants/shopping

    So with that list in hand, we set off to look at our very first house.  I picked it out online because it had a great location, walking distance to a downtown area we adore.

    What we liked:

    • charming colonial architecture
    • the amazing location
    • great school district
    • hardwood floors throughout
    • cozy and great layout

    What we didn’t:

    • only one full bathroom
    • yard was unfence-able based on the driveway layout
    • no dishwasher or space for one
    • no outdoor living area
    • at the very top of our price range

    We crossed this one off the list, but now we had the house hunting bug bad.

    What made you decide to buy a house?


    For Sale: An Update September 29, 2010

    Filed under: Home — Stephanie @ 1:51 pm

    One month in, selling our house has been, to put it mildly, super depressing. We listed it for sale on August 29th. During that time, we’ve had one showing. ONE. And that includes the zero people that came to our open house this weekend.

    Not our actual house (source)

    I had mentally prepared myself for the fact that it might take a while to sell the house. We went into this whole buying and selling adventure knowing that we could end up carrying two mortgages, living on a very tight budget for a while. And I thought I was ok with that. But, here’s what I wasn’t prepared for – that no one would even look at our house. It’s impossible to sell a house without anyone looking at it.

    So here we are, 2.5 weeks away from closing on our new place to become the proud owners of two houses. Two mortgages, two electric bills, two water bills, one giant headache.

    I know I should be glad that this is even an option for us, that we have the money for a down payment without selling, which enabled us to put in an offer on this new place, our planned forever home. But I’m just getting more and more stressed as we creep closer to the real estate wasteland that is the holiday season. We’ve already cut the price once and I fear another price drop will just identify us as the desparate sellers we are.

    Anyway if you have any good house selling vibes to spare, send them our way, will you?