Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

When did they start doing that?

I've had a loan through Bank of America for 2 days, and they are already calling me trying to sell me death benefits that forgive the loan. If one of us were going to die.

I hope it doesn't mean they are such a pain in the ass to deal with we might expire in protest.

I've held loans with 4 or 5 different companies, and none of them have done that. And it's just weird.

Today's rant.

Snow making. That's right. I said it. Snow making.

Has anyone living in California noticed its only rained 3 days in the last year and a half? Yet the ski resorts are using a million of gallons of water per day to make snow. They estimate they will make snow for 300 hours to get a pack. About 12.5 days. Equaling 12.5 million gallons of water. That is about 37.5 acre feet of water. Lets all keep our fingers crossed it stays cold. We don't want that pack to melt.

Yet Southern California will soon be reduced to drinking toilet water. Farmers won't be allowed to grow anything (here), but at least we get to ski.

I can't even figure out how using that much water is economical. Surely growing things generate more revenue than skiing.

Before.

Well - the crap shack is ours.

I'm having stuff done on it today. So I wanted to start posting some "before pictures".

All the junk is pretty much gone as you can see in this post. I'm guessing Countrywide spent around 1500$-2000$, just removing the contents of the house.









Read more about this story here and here.

Jittery.

In California these days - when you see this...just about everyone freaks out.



This was apparently a controlled burn - but it seems like a lot of people didn't know about it. So emergency services were flooded with calls.

I think it's a precarious time to do controlled burns, personally. It isn't like California hasn't had these things get completely out of control. With the freakishly dry conditions, it wouldn't take much.

Monday, November 26, 2007

It will all be over tomorrow.

It goes against every fiber of your being to run into a burning building while everyone else is running out. That is basically what I am doing.

We sign in the morning.

Bank of America took our loan. 30 year fixed, non-owner occupied @ 6.625. A 90/10 loan. Our lender apparently paid down BofA to take it. I'm not sure how much it cost them. I know I got docs from BofA with a rate a full point higher than the rate my lender agreed to. My lender apparently paid that down too.

Some may think lenders are still just handing out money like candy. They aren't. You need smoking good credit. I would be amazed if you read many instances of people getting the deal we managed to get. For a while, at least.

The next part of this show should be interesting. You see... we've spent the last 5,6, 7 years begging contractors to come to jobs. One year - when I wanted to get the old house painted. I called 10 painters. 2 showed.

Now contractors are hungry. They need work.

Thankfully we've accumulated quite a few contractors we trust. It will be interesting to see what happens with the rest.

Read previous here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I (heart) Slingbox.

I've been meaning to write a review of our new Slingbox.



Normally I like to wait much longer to give feedback, because the factory air clouds my judgment - and products I thought were fantastic turn out to be annoying. Or somehow break six months down the line.

This might still happen. But what was so impressive about this bit of technology was the super easy installation. You just plug it in, and it found all the wireless networks without any configuration.

If you've spent any time putting something on a network, you will marvel at just what a good job the Slingbox people did.

Say for example, you are staying in a technology black hole - like I was recently. You can't understand how comforting it is to be able to connect to your home cable system and watch News, Cranky Geeks or Red Eye.

The only small drawback is being able to find a good connection from your wireless provider. Mine is Verizon. So, if you are in an area that has sparse coverage... for example - in a Starbucks 500 feet from a Verizon store (like we were), the video stream may get a little choppy.

Maybe I'm being bitchy in thinking that if I can see a Verizon store, I should be able to get more than one tick of a reception bar on my phone or wireless network. Just say'in.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More news about the mortgage fiasco.

Update: First - I'm super giddy that both the Captain Capitalism, and Infectious Greed guys linked me. I love reading their blogs. Thanks guys!

Second - In the mail today I got a loan confirmation from my lender under the original terms. So, I'm somewhat sure I now have a loan. I also got loan docs from Wells Fargo. Even though I'm positive my agent told me Bank of America took my loan. So maybe I have two loans?

My lender claimed they couldn't sell my loan to anyone for less than 15%, and the only reason Bank of America bought the loan was because my lender called in some favors. If Wells Fargo has also decided to take my loan - it would mean that whole favor thing was bullshit. Surely they wouldn't lie to me. (rolling eyes)


--

Today would have been the day I closed on our house.

On Monday things blew out of control to epic proportions. To recap:

Two days before we were to sign papers (last week) my lender called me to say our county had been declared a declining market. I would need to put down 15%, and not the 10% we had both agreed to.

They did everything in their power to try and make me agree to the new terms. I did everything in my power to say no, and get them agree to the terms initially agreed upon.

By Monday it looked like the deal was falling apart. I just wasn't going to pay the extra 5%. Especially when they changed the rules 2 days before I was suppose to sign papers. That seemed like a bait an switch to me. And I told them so.

The other thing that was pissing me off was the amount of time my credit had been run for this house. Seven times!

  • Once by Countrywide to pre-approve me to even start the process;(because this was a Countrywide owned property)
  • Twice by my lender;
  • and four more times by the companies my lender tried to shop my loan to.

I was pissed.

Since they were running my credit steadily for more than a month, rather than over a short amount of time - I told them I thought they were trying to damage my ability to gain credit from other sources. So, if they didn't agree to the terms set out in the good faith agreement they had sent me one day before they changed the rules - I was backing out of the deal.

On Wednesday my real estate agent called to tell me Bank of America agreed to the terms. So, my lender was able to sell my loan to them. I don't know if I believe them. My loan docs are suppose to be in on Monday. But if they do agree to the terms - I managed to get a pretty good deal. A 90/10 loan. 30 year fixed at 6.625 interest on a non owner occupied property. From what I read.. this is not something easy to get. Things could still completely fall apart.

Just to put that in perspective. Countrywide offered me 12% interest. I told them to pound sand.

I still don't know exactly what caused the loan company to move so much. If anyone has any insight, I'd love to hear it.

Honestly - I wish one of these guys who talk about the mortgage market all the time would read this post and weigh in. So I'm gratuitously linking them. A girl can hope... right? Paul Kedrosky and Captain Capitalism.

(More real estate related posts here, here, and here.

Do you brine?

I must admit - a couple of years ago when my husband ran across the fad of turkey brining, I was not amused.

I'm a bit of a germaphobe when it comes to poultry. I know the irrationality comes from a story I was told in school, and has only been heightened by news stories of salmonella. Or whatever. See, I'm not even sure what bacteria it is.. but I'm still a germaphobe. Turkeys are messy.

The first year I placated him. Declared it a pain in the ass, and decided I would never do it again.

Not only do you have a turkey with all that weird bacteria, now you have to get rid of several gallons of water the turkey has been sitting in.

Three years later, I'm still placating him - and I've decided it is totally worth the effort. Even if you think you've never had a dry turkey. It will knock your socks off how moist the bird will come out if you take the time to brine it.

My recommendation - buy a cheap trash can with a lid. Jumbo zip lock bags.

1 cup of sea salt, and 2 cups of brown sugar per gallon of water.
Make sure to dissolve the salt and sugar in boiling water with whatever spices you like.

Let it cool before adding to the rest of the water and turkey. Let it soak for 12 hours or so.

The rest? Magic!



Sunday, November 18, 2007

Today I was a hippy.

Most of my regular readers probably know - I don't give a shit about saving the earth. But I do care about delicious home grown tomatoes! Which is why I found myself at a worm farm this afternoon. Our city gives us deals on "green" things. Like compost bins, and worm bins. They also tell you where the local worm farms are.

So, Mr S. and I make an appointment with the worm farmer, and we drive to the next city over to get them.

I shit you not.. this was the most high end place to buy worms on earth. I expected it to be some trailer on the edge of town. But it wasn't. It was some guys house. But the house backed up to a country club. They had to be million dollar homes. I mean... look at the neighbors gate.



I never did see the farm, or the farmer. He left the worms in a cooler in the garage, and we just left our money. But, I was entertained by the whole process.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The modern Ghost town.

Don't be alarmed. This isn't going to be a real estate blog. I'll be getting back into technology and robots soon. Real estate is just a dominating thing in my life at the moment.

Anyway.. before the drama with the house - Mr. S. and I had planned to drive to a Restoration Hardware warehouse sale. If you've ever seen the stuff in the catalog, you know that stuff is off the chart expensive. Since they were offering steep discounts, we thought we'd at least go and see what they had to offer.

Oddly, last week I'd gotten into a conversation with a gentleman about a town that was on the way to the warehouse sale. Everyone seems to know about this town because it is getting hit really hard by the mortgage meltdown. It is rumored to be 46% in foreclosure. How can that be possible you ask?

Because, they started building houses out there, and essentially created a new town. I don't think anything existed there more than 3 years ago. The rumor goes...neighbors don't even know who lives there anymore. People pack up in the middle of the night, and just leave.

Personally.. I was very curious to see what something like that looked like, and since it was on the way to the warehouse sale - Mr S. and I drove through.

It honestly was the craziest thing I'd ever seen.

I thought it was just a development of about 500 houses. It's not! There must be like 3000 houses out there. They created at least two schools for the town. It has its own parks. It really is a town. In the middle of nowhere! You have to drive 10 miles to even shop. And these houses are freaking McMansions. I'd estimate about 3000 to 4000 square feet. On postage stamp sized lots. With for sale signs on every block.



I don't even know what will happen to the town. But it is the weirdest thing ever.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Maybe I am.. maybe I'm not.

Readers...I'm sorry posting has been light this week. I've been very stressed out.

I don't even know how to describe what has happened this week. Let's just say I've learned a lot about the mortgage industry. Whatever you think you knew - toss that all out. It is now a market of fear and over-reactions. Guaranteed to make you eat your stomach lining.

Everything was going swimmingly on the house. Until this week. Two days before signing, my lender informed us there was a new rule in place. Instead of putting 10% down, the lender wanted 15%.

This was not a shady lender. I've used them twice before. It's a big reputable company. But because of the market, all the lenders started implementing some new rules. Which would have been fine if I would have known earlier in the process. Like for example when the lender first knew. Instead they decided to send me a good faith estimate with the original 10% down even after they knew about the rule.

Which pissed me off. Mr S. and I were going to exit the deal. I mean... do they think people are just going to just say "okay" to something like that? Two days before signing? And I wasn't just playing chess with the lender - I meant it. I'd resolved myself to having the winter of naps. That house is going to be a lot of work.

And let me just say - it wasn't the people who put down less than 20% on houses that fucked up the mortgage market. It was the people who got crazy teaser interest rates. When their loans adjusted to the prevailing interest rate, they couldn't afford to make the payments. If they had gotten a loan with a realistic interest rate in the beginning - many people would not have been able to afford houses. But there wouldn't be as many defaults either.

For example when we bought our first starter home, it was really common to only put 10% down. There was a very low default rate, until people got into creative financing. But I'm getting off track.

Anyway - when I made it clear to my agent/friend we were going to exit the market, and wait for the mortgage companies to figure out how to do business. Everything blew up. I'm not sure what the back story is yet - but I've never seen a bigger reversal by a giant company in my life. The mortgage agent called me back and was so far up my ass I felt really uncomfortable. To the point of telling me that if we didn't close on time, they were going to pay all the fee's incurred in that. Paying to have couriers drive to my husbands job. Just really crazy groveling.

It made it even weirder that I didn't even make a big deal about anything. We just figured we didn't want to chase a house. If we could buy it under the terms we agreed on, fine. If not.. we'd wait until another point. Its freaky to get your way, when your not trying to.

I can only guess the lender did something illegal in sending out the good faith agreement. If the deal closes I'll be able to find out. Right now, everyone is in protection mode.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In the end.



Some of you might remember I was talking about buying a house before we left for bitchopalooza. (Read here) We are in the end stages, so I guess we are.

When we started looking at the house, we knew that both owners had died. Their kids came in and looted the place. Taking only valuables, leaving only trash. The kids let the bank foreclose. Which really is the only reason I could bring myself to buy this house. Morally, the bank is a nameless faceless entity.

The story of the family we've found out is pretty sad. As if whats above isn't sad enough.

This weekend my agent friend who lives across the street called me to say there was a giant truck at the house, and they were removing all the garbage. She was pretty animated because the large truck was full, and they were pouring crap out on the lawn. Somewhat of a spectacle. So Mr S. and I rushed over.





This is when all the neighbors started sizing us up. Doing essentially what neighbors do. They were all very kind. But - the dead people house is making their property values tank, and besides.. its just a sad situation. I think they just wanted some reassurance things were going to be fine.

At any rate.. the neighbors gave us the story of the owners. BTW - No matter what you think your neighbors know about you.. chances are they know a lot.

This is how the story goes.

Apparently the wife had some kind of MS type illness. The husband had been taking care of her for a long time. One night they'd gone out to dinner in town for their anniversary, and the wife choked to death. He died about three weeks later.

Sad, right?

Some people say eyes are the window to peoples souls. I think their homes are the windows to their souls. It's the place they can really be themselves, and protect themselves from the outside world. This is one of the things I find fascinating about houses. You can tell so much about people. More than what they would reveal to you in real life.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Snakes on a plane.

I mean bunnies!



We wound up taking Paisley and Saffron with us. Saffron traveled well. Paisley was her normal pain in the ass self.

She went off her kibble 3 days in. Which was a calculated risk. There was an equal chance she would have done that if we left her at home, and we weren't sure our bunny sitter would be able to deal with the allergy issue.

Since it comes on so fast, we figured it was better to have her with us so we could monitor her. Thankfully she wanted hay and carrot tops, or else we would have had to see the vet while we were there.

We were fabulously happy with our sitter though. The cameras went down 2 days into the trip. For some reason that happened the last time we went out of town too. Don'tcha just love technology? Totally different brand of security cameras. So we couldn't see how the bunnies were faring.

At any rate - 3 days in, the sitter actually called us to inform us the camera lights had changed somehow. She medicated Jane for her glaucoma.

Even though I felt very neurotic about how the bunnies were doing, the sitter was so sharp - I just let her do her job and not annoy the hell out of her with my stupid worrying. See.. I can be normal when I have to.

I of course also gave her a big tip. She did a great job just making me feel reassured the bunnies were in good hands. That woman is a saint. I bet you need to have a very calm personality to take care of peoples pets.

On a side note.. I think the bunnies are capable of missing us. Sometimes I wonder how much I read into their personalities. When we got home Kirby ran right up to the cage door, and when I stuck my face in she started kissing and kissing me. It was so cute and sweet.

Oh yeah! Continental Airlines continues to get major props for how they handle people bringing pets onto the flight. They are always super nice and professional.

Sometimes I think I'm a nature photographer.

This is the last of the country shots. I'm already bored with all this stuff anyway.



Thursday, November 08, 2007

Reflection.

Kitchen Nightmares.

Readers.

One of the biggest problems with my trip to bitcholooza was my MIL's cooking. She insisted on cooking every meal.

There is nothing that woman can't cook to death. Even worse! She thinks she's a fabulous cook. So, I have to lie and tell her I like everything. Which I really hate doing. She does bake well - but holy fuck can that woman make everything else taste like sweaty gym socks.

Another example of her weirdness - Mr S. and I bought some bottled water to drink instead of her tap water. Which of course made her become all offended. It wasn't like we complained about the water... we just went out and bought some.

When she figured out what we had done - I found Mr S. getting grilled about it. He finally had to tell her we liked bottled water. But that didn't stop her from trying to push her water on us. Finally, one night we relented to drink her water. She seemed so proud she'd managed to stop us from consuming that evil bottled water. What does it even matter to her?

Another sucky thing? Mr S. and I had originally wanted to have a nice dinner out in bitchopoolza. Even if you know the trip is going to suck, you can resolve yourself in enjoying the local cuisine. Right? I fell in love with Cuban coffee this way. Every state I've visited has some item I have to go back and enjoy.

But, this was not to be the case here. I don't think Mr S's mom eats out at all. We would have been happy of she would have come. But nooooooo. I couldn't even go to visit a Ruby Tuesday. One was right in bitchopoolza. They advertise for them here, but they don't have any within a four hour drive. I don't know if they are good or not, but they look good on TV.

Most annoying? I was up for less than a minute one morning, and she'd already shoved breakfast in front of me. Who eats breakfast within minutes of getting up? I want some f-ing coffee and some space.

To my horror things didn't get better when we were able to escape and eat a meal with Mr S.'s dad. I found myself eating boxed potatoes at a really pricey restaurant. Over a hundred dollars pricey. Boxed potatoes people! I mean... if there is one thing the Midwest should have is fresh potatoes. Right? Wigged me out.

This trip was the first time I'd ever flown anywhere and came back weighing less than when I went. And I was looking forward to deep fried everything. A Midwest staple apparently.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's for the greater good.

I'm home now.

As we were flying somewhere over nothingness - that place where there are more stars in the sky than lights on the ground, I began to yearn for light pollution. A sign of all those things that generally annoy me. Crouds, lines, traffic.

Once we hit a mountain range - which I assume was somewhere over Utah, I could see the vivid sprawl of lights and cities. Civilization.

I became happy.

You see, I've just spent a week in a place where people yearn for nothing to ever change. They stay in the same jobs pretty much all their lives. They detest that new 5 story building going up on the other side of town. They have the same friends since childhood.

When the kids do come back from their exciting jobs in other states, the people who've remained have that wistful look in their eye that says "if I'd only done something different with my life".

But generally they are the type of folk who like their routine lives.. and never would have strayed far from the place they were born anyway.

I have some pictures.. but I'm not going to post many. The place was a picturesque postcard around ever corner, and how much of that can you see before you get bored.

We got lucky that there were still leaves on the trees. We didn't get the pique leaf colors, but I was just happy we had sun until 2 hours before we hopped our plane to leave. All the other times I've visited everything is just grey. Grey sky, grey everything.

Apparently today it was suppose to sleet and snow. How great was that timing?

I also have some rants.. obviously. But I'll have to save that for tomorrow. I'm sleep deprived.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Scenery.

It is super hard to write at the moment. Just know - the urge to say fuck has passed. I've died inside.. but - I don't need to say fuck at the moment. Lets go to a happy place. Shall we?

ROFL gang.

Lamest gang tag ever.



Friday, November 02, 2007

I've reached the land of tweed and churches.



I'd like to start out saying I don't have a problem with religion. But - you've read my blog. Right? You don't know how bunched up I am not being able to say the word "fuck".

In California.. it seems everyone cusses. So, I'm not usually being inappropriate. Here - definitely inappropriate.

There is a church every 35 feet. I also hope I will find something besides churches to take photos of. Right now the church house ratio is about 50/50.

Anyway. The flight was uneventful. Nice in fact. We did a nonstop, non red-eye. Loved it. I just wanted to get the good stuff out of the way first.

Oh - there was one notable thing. We didn't have time to eat anything before getting on the plane. So we wound up eating the on flight meal. I got what I thought was a chicken Caesar salad. But it wasn't. It had some oily weird Greek dressing.

Is it really a good idea to feed people a ton of oil on a plane? The amount of people using the restrooms already seem non-stop. Just say'in.

Mr S.'s mom is already making me insane. She is so damn chipper. Non stop chipper. Super annoying chipper.

This is the thing... I don't talk to anyone for a half an hour in the morning when I get up. After about a half cup of coffee, I'm fine. Not 30 seconds after I got up this morning Mr. S's mom is already talking my ear off. She says "Have I told you today how happy I am to see you"? I try as hard as possible to squash my sarcasm, and muster a polite. " I just got up 30 seconds ago... so, I don't think so". I know, that was still slightly sarcastic. But what am I going to do?

We've finally escaped to a Starbucks. Mostly to get away from the incessant "what can I get you?"s. Mostly, I just want her to calm down and let me breath for a second. I don't need to be constantly fussed over.

Mr S. has so far talked her down from making me overcooked food. Which she is dying to do. So far she has offered eggplant. She might as well said liver. How many people really like eggplant anyway. And baked french toast. What the hell is that?

It only gets better from here. I was woke up at 6:00am here time (3:00am our time) b/c someone was putting up a roof on a neighbor's house. So I'm running on almost no sleep.
 
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