Sunday, October 30, 2011

And the verdict is...Genius

I just got back from another whirlwind trip to the USA to inspect my new old house. It is exactly what I expected and what I was hoping for. It needs work but not too much. The major working parts are functioning and aside from a few nonlevel floors, it is perfect. I love it.

I met with contractors, picked out appliances, tile, flooring, and paint, signed a bunch of checks to leave with my father in law and am now happily home in NZ waiting for the work to begin. Project number one is to take down some old rotten trees that are dangerously close to falling on the house. The tree guy that I hired suspiciously doubled the price as soon as I left town....not a great beginning.

I hope my father in law is honing his negotiating skills or my newly acquired geniusness will be in jeopardy.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ahem, scratch that, reverse it. We bought a house.

Well, exactly 6 days after blogging about how happy I was to NOT own a house, I bought a house. Off the Internet. Without ever seeing the inside of it. The crazier thing is....I've done this before.

It is hard to believe, especially since my college roommates used to accuse me of being middle aged when I was 19. I never did anything "crazy" or unplanned.  I analyzed everything to death or thought about things for weeks on end before making a decision. I would start searching online for airline tickets months before a vacation just to be sure I didn't miss a good deal. I subscribed to consumer reports as a teenager.  I had to compare every price, option, amenity, feature. I NEEDED to know that the decision I made was the best option. It was frustrating to be me.  There were times I drove myself crazy.

Then I met my husband. I'm not sure that he has ever planned anything in his life. He is very spontaneous and loves adventure, bargains be damned.  We were engaged after knowing each other 4 months and married just one year after our first date. I still managed to over analyze every big purchase and career decision, but then I started to see the benefits of his way.

Flash forward to 2005. Whilst on vacation is Costa Rica, we bought a house near a lake with the most beautiful view we had ever seen. The realtor didn't have the key and we never went inside. We bought it anyway. It was fantastic. We gutted it and made it ours and enjoyed it until our move to NZ.  It turned out ok, right?  Sadly we had to sell it since it was too risky to own a house in a foreign country that still had squatter's rights.

 Now that we were truly homeless (government-provided housing in NZ excluded) we got the itch to own something. We needed a home base,  just for our mental well being. Yeah, it's probably not the wisest financial decision, but we rarely make decisions based on money, so we decided to jump back into home ownership. If you've read my previous post, you know that my house hunting trip tot he USA back in July didn't work out. I dragged my poor Realtor, Jeff Miller of Remax,  to every house in our price range in Polk County, NC.  That poor man.  I knew what I wanted and was not going to settle for anything less than exactly what I wanted for exactly what I could afford. So, I fell in love with a totally inappropriate 2 bedroom cottage that was over priced by roughly $100,000.  We contemplated buying it anyway, but in the end it just too stupid.

Defeated, I went to my friend Kristen's house to complain about the housing market and let our boys hang out. Kristen has two boys who Ewan adores. They hung out often when we lived in Tryon. As I was bitching, I asked her what was up with the house across the street.  This magnificent house had been under renovations since I'd been visiting Tryon - roughly 15 years! The owners would do a bit of work, rent it out, do a bit more work and then nothing. This seemed to go on forever. The house just was not getting finished. I had wanted to buy it 3 years ago when the last tenant moved out and serious renovations started. A new roof was put on, new windows installed, the beginnings of a nice kitchen.  I would walk past it when I took Ewan to play with Sam and wonder why they just didn't sell it and give someone else the chance to bring it back to its former glory.

The house was built in 1885 and sat majestically on a hill overlooking the foothills. In the 126 years since, a neighborhood has grown around it and blocked most of the view, but it still sits on a slight hill overlooking a quaint tree-lined street. There is one of those old timey stone walls in the front, the kind that you wonder how they ever stayed put with no concrete or mortar to hold the stones in place. I told Kristen many times that if that house ever went on the market, I'd buy it instantly. And that's just what I did.

A few weeks after I returned to NZ, my favorite house in Tryon, NC, went on the market. Unbelievable.  The only drawback was that I found out at 4pm on Friday and bids on the house were due by noon on Monday; and I was on the other side of the world with a major time difference. It was impossible to arrange for inspectors to check it out. My only hope was that my in-laws would be able to walk through it and tell me if it were a lost cause.

Well, the inside needed work. It had been vacant for a while and renovations had been started but not finished. The power was turned off and there was no running water, but the structure looked solid. It had 2 working fireplaces and all of the bedrooms were finished. New roof, new windows, and no termites. We decided to gamble.  Since it was in foreclosure and bank owned, we had only two working days to get our ducks in a row. We had to somehow come up with 10% cash to put down and prove that we could come up with the remaining $$ within 10 days. Let's just say I called in a lot of favors that weekend, even calling my financial planner at home on a Sunday! Miraculously, she answered and offered to help us any way she could. (Raymond James of Landrum, SC-if anyone is looking)

Thank goodness I have a scanner, VOIP, fax and plenty of computer ink here. I didn't get much sleep in those four days, since I had to make my calls when the east coast was awake (midnight to 2pm) but it was worth it. We managed to squeak by with the winning bid.  My dream house is mine!!! I only hope the inside is as beautiful as the outside.

 My new, old house.
 Cute stone wall with stairs leading to front door.
 Almost finished kitchen with granite counters. mmmmmm.
 I LOVE pocket doors. These lead from the formal dining room to the living room. Cool right?

So, I am either a lucky girl or the biggest idiot in the world, but I bought a 126-year-old abandoned house off the Internet without looking at it - and paid cash.  Please stay tuned for an update. I head to NC mid-October to see it and have it inspected!!  Wish me luck.