Sat, Oct 30, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Just got the word that the underwriter finished my file tonight and everything’s a go. The final documentation I provided yesterday proved enough and all questions are answered. Since I’ve got the money for my place here, all that’s left is drawing the final docs and closing the deal. I’m not sure how long that will take — it could happen early in the week if everything goes well!

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

: MLS Playoffs: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

Well, so much for that. It’s the end of a troubled season for the Quakes. No miracle finish this time. They had a two goal lead coming in and played so well last weekend I thought they were going all the way to the Cup, but tonight they came out flat, gave up an early goal, then Brian Ching scored… in our own net! With the total goals tied, it looked like we were going into overtime, when a minute before the whistle somehow K.C. got a great goal from distance. The Quakes had chances but never looked themselves and never seemed to be trying that hard until the last quarter hour or so: the story of this season. For some unknown reason — overconfidence? apathy? — the Quakes did that all season long, not waking up until they were down a goal or two. This time it knocked us out of the playoffs and ended our season. Oddly, I’m not that depressed. In part that’s because it felt like a deserved loss. If we’d played like last week and lost I’d be upset, but in this case the better team won. Also, with the playoffs happening right in the middle of my move to Oregon, the Quakes advancing would have been a real distraction and in a way I’m almost relieved I don’t have to worry about it any more.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Fri, Oct 29, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Things had calmed for a bit and I thought we were through with the dramatics, but no, it was only the calm before the storm. Today everything happened and happened quickly. It began when I called the buyers of my place here to see if they could perhaps pay me a day or two earlier. The payment was scheduled for Nov. 5, but if they could pay earlier we could close earlier, which would help with the scheduling of my short prep trip to get the new house move-in ready. I’d hoped to close on the 8th and be in the house 8-10 and back here in California to move on the 11th. But the buyer here told me the parent company would issue a company check, not a cashier’s check, and there was no way to get it earlier. I pleaded but to no avail. Things were not looking good. If the payment was not a cashier’s check, we’d have to wait for it to clear before we could close escrow. That meant the house wouldn’t close until Nov. 9 or 10 at the earliest, ruining my prep trip plans. (The move itself is fairly concrete for Nov. 11-14.) Then things got a little worse when I spoke with the mortgage lady who intimated that docs couldn’t be drawn up until I had the money, which my real estate uncle said would really slow things down since the docs have to be signed both up in Oregon and down here by me. If we had to wait until the 9th or 10th for docs, we’d really be behind. We possibly wouldn’t close until the next week! This was frustrating news because up to now we’d been running on schedule and things seemed okay and I’d started making concrete plans. Now that all seemed in jeopardy. I started wondering if a prep trip was worth it, if I’d have to change the move dates, etc. I wondered if this tight schedule was really insane and if it was going to even work.

But literally minutes later everything turned. The mortgage lady talked with the underwriter who was going to try to get it ready for docs for Monday, and then the doorbell rang. To my surprise it was a rep from the company buying my place. He handed me a check! “It arrived just minutes after you called,” he said. “I knew you were in a hurry so I brought it right over.” The check was dated two days earlier and had been mailed to the local office. It was not a cashier’s check, but since it’s a full week earlier than scheduled, there’s time for it to clear. I rushed it over to the bank and deposited it.

Speaking of deposits, I had an interesting experience trying to open a new Bank of America checking account in Oregon. As I wrote I tried to do that last week. I had to do it over the phone because of a weird error on the website. They told me I’d receive my account info within five business days. Nothing had arrived, so I called today. Guess what? They had no record of me ever calling and opening an account! I finally went ahead and did it online again, and again I got the same error. The error was weird: it wouldn’t accept my credit card to fund the required opening balance because it said the name on the account must match exactly. Well, it wasn’t kidding. I finally got to work… by removing the period after my middle initial! I guess that was the hold-up all the time. Once the period was gone the name matched and the account process went through. Can anyone say lame?

Ordered a new washer, dryer, and refrigerator from Sears today. The big sale is over tomorrow, so I decided it was best to do it online and schedule the delivery for when I’m at the house during my prep trip. I would have preferred picking out the appliances in person, but saving a few hundred bucks seems worth it. Besides, all the stuff seems standard and I got the main features I wanted (i.e. water and ice on the fridge door). I did check with Consumer Reports and Kenmore is one of the top brands, so I feel good there. It’s a little strange ordering such items online and not being at the house to measure or prepare anything, but hopefully everything will work out. There were some odd questions like a 3-wire or 4-wire installation kit for the dryer: I held off ordering that hoping I can do it later when I find out what I need.

The bank had me running through hoops today. I didn’t get much packing or anything done. Apparently the underwriter came up with more questions, including providing evidence of my “undocumented” income. Now that’s just weird. If income’s undocumented, why do I have to document it? I had to go to one of my clients and get them to sign a letter saying they hire me for consulting work. I don’t know what that has to do with undocumented income, but apparently it satisfies the bank somehow. It’s weird, because the docs I already gave the bank show my “undocumented” income better anyway, but I guess it’s more difficult to decipher numbers than letters.

Got a few more evening calls from the mortgage lady with more questions from the underwriter. I again explained all my businesses, trying to keep things simple but accurate. It’s complicated having multiple sources of income. All the money ends up in the same pool so I don’t know what difference it makes, but what the underwriter wants the underwriter gets. I emailed a bunch more financial records to the mortgage lady during dinner. Hopefully that will be enough, but I’ll have to keep my cell phone handy tomorrow evening because I might get a call with more questions when the underwriter looks at it tomorrow. Sigh.

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

Thu, Oct 28, 2004

: Primer

An interesting concept and I loved the low, low budget approach. It was reminiscent of Pi in that regard. It actually made everything seem more real. The premise is science fiction: a group of amateur inventors have created some sort of strange device in their garage. It doesn’t do exactly what they expected; there are some anomalous results. Further analysis reveals they’ve created a sort of time machine, and soon they are using it to gain an advantage in the stock market. They must be very careful about time paradoxes, however, or they’ll run into copies of themselves, and therein lies the story’s key plot twist. Soon the film gets extremely confusing as you can’t tell who is who, what happened, or the “real” sequence of events as time is all messed up. The director does an amazing job for such a complicated concept, but I must admit it’s a challenge to follow. Some might argue that’s good — we need more films that make us think — but others, and I tend to fall into this crowd, want films that actually make sense at the end of the day. This film works a little better than Donnie Darko in that regard, which is impressive as it’s far more complicated and has a fraction of the budget (it was made for about $7,000). It didn’t completely work for me, but a lot of that was not so much the director’s intention but a consequence of the non-existent budget. For instance, though there are many scenes involving doubles, we never actually see any of the duplicates in the same shot. In several scenes that would have made things clearer but I suspect the director didn’t have the budget to do that effect. Another thing that bothered me is that the film has a monotone feel: it’s basically the main two characters talking and arguing for the entire film. We go from scene to scene but it’s the same two characters talking. Most of what they’re talking about we don’t understand: it’s either scientific gibberish or talk about people and situations we haven’t followed yet. The result is that the film feels repetitive, claustrophobic, and boring. While it’s not enough to destroy the film, it does hurt it: I’d love to see a bigger budget (bigger, not big) remake of this with a few special effects to explain the story better, action scenes to introduce some variety to the shots, and a director actually able to do what he really wanted but couldn’t afford. What’s he’s created is a real gem, but it’s unfortunately the kind of obscure thing that very few people would find interesting. Most people would find the story incomprehensible (it’s not, just complex, ambiguous, and technical) and the movie-making static. Unlike El Mariachi where you couldn’t really tell it was low budget, this is a film where the low budget must be part of the criticism since a lot of what’s impressive about it is the fact that something so ambitious was done for so little. If you were told this film cost $10 million to make you’d be wondering who ran off with the other $9.9 mil. You’d be upset by many scenes that obviously needed special effects or clearer filmmaking. But knowing it was done for nothing makes the film better, since we’re aware that many of the film’s limitations are really limitations of budget and not necessarily the director’s intention. The bottom line is that this is a fascinating film, one worth seeing several times (it’s practically required).

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: House Buying Adventure

Today I got a call that the seller in Oregon had finally signed all the paperwork and so I had to go sign my version of that. While I was talking with the mortgage lady it came up there were a couple questions from the underwriter, so I had to do some further explanations of my business. Of course right as I tried to email that to her my wireless Internet stopped working: it’s been doing that off and on lately and driving me nuts! Of course it would do it right when I had a critical need, and instead of only being off for a few seconds, it wouldn’t come back up. I finally gave up and hooked up a wire. I need reliability right now. This is insane.

Anyway, I headed downtown to Santa Cruz to sign the paper and then the mortgage lady said that she’d gotten an email from the underwriter and they wanted one of my financial documents on my “company letterhead.” Since time was critical, I actually used the mortgage lady’s laptop and grabbed my logo off my webpage and pasted it into Excel and created a nice summary page of the numbers. The previous document had all my calculations and was quite confusing. This way I only included the conclusions, not how I got there.

After arriving home, there was a message from the mortgage lady that now they wanted another document on company letterhead, just like the other one, so I whipped it out and emailed it to her. Hopefully this fulfills everything. Supposedly we’re near to “drawing docs,” whatever that means. I guess that happens just before closing.

Another decision we’ll have to make soon is to decide if it’d be better to close here in California instead of up in Oregon. We originally were thinking up there, but now we’re thinking it might be better to do it here. Up there the schedule would be tight; here we’d have more flexibility.

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

Wed, Oct 27, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Today I drove to Fresno for an eye doctor appointment. I’d gotten new contacts a few weeks ago and this was the follow-up visit. One of the things I had planned to do was to visit my mom’s storage locker and inventory the contents. That didn’t go quite as well as planned. First, we had a lot of trouble finding the key. My mom had given me one three years ago, but I have no idea where it is now. She’d sent her key to friends in Fresno who were looking for some furniture a while back. She called them and they found the key and I made arrangements to meet them. Unfortunately, once I got to the locker, it was the wrong key! Fortunately I’d thought ahead and had my mother call the storage place to make sure I was an authorized user and I was able to get them to cut the lock for me. I bought a replacement lock and I’m keeping the key.

The stuff in storage presented another problem. It’s been in the locker for over three years and hadn’t been opened in almost all that time. Everything was coated with a thick layer of dust. I’m talking thick, folks. As in I was still sneezing ten minutes later! I took pictures but the bottom line is I couldn’t even get in there to do an inventory. For one, I didn’t want to get filthy, and for another, everything was piled and stacked so high I didn’t want to unpack and have to repack everything. Then there’s the fact that there’s a lot of stuff there! I didn’t see as much furniture as I was expecting: most of the stuff appears to be boxes. Supposedly there’s a sofa and recliner in there but I couldn’t see anything but boxes and dust. It’s going to be a mess getting that stuff out of there. So much more my idea of loading it onto the truck quickly: we’re going to have to dust and clean before we can do much moving. It’s not going to be fun.

Topic: [/travel]

Link

Tue, Oct 26, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

There’s been nothing much to report the last few days: I’ve been busy packing, carting stuff to the storage locker. I’m getting tired but there’s a long way to go and time is running out. At least the house is finally starting to look a little bare (only a little) and my storage locker is getting full. I’m making progress but there’s much to go.

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

Sun, Oct 24, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

I’m feeling better this morning. I got up early and made two runs to the storage locker, taking over 26 boxes of books. That finally made a slight dent. I now have two bookcases completely empty, and two others with only one shelf left. That just leaves two full bookcases and one partially full. If I can get in two or even three runs tomorrow before the big storm Tuesday, I should have made some good progress. If I can get the heavy but easy stuff — books, DVDs, videos, CDs — out of here, then I can begin on the more awkward things that take more time to pack. Of course the reason I wanted to get started early today is that I knew my afternoon would be wiped out: I am heading to San Jose for the Earthquakes big playoff match against the Wizards!

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

: MLS Playoffs: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Can you say wonderful? How about awesome, amazing, superb? The fourth place Quakes played like a dream today, with the first place Wiz hardly having a chance the whole game. We were aggressive, dominating all over the pitch. K.C. didn’t want to place defense all night but was forced to as we created chance after chance (we outshot them 15-4 in the final analysis). Onstad only had to make one save all night, at the end of the game, while K.C.’s keeper, Bo, made a number of saves, a couple of them quite spectacular. The most impressive was a tip-over of a cracking volley by Brian Ching in the first half. San Jose opened the scoring on a great end-line run by Dwayne DeRosario. Somehow his shot/cross ended up in the goal from an impossible angle. Supposedly there was a slight deflection from the K.C. defender, but I couldn’t really see it on the replay. If there was it, it was so slight I’m not sure it would have made that much of a difference. I think it was just a great goal. DeRo had a fantastic chance for a second moments later when he was one-on-one with the K.C. keeper, but Bo tipped the ball off the post and the Wizards were able to scramble the ball away. In the second half, San Jose came out blazing with more of the same: solid defense and aggressive tackling, quick passing, and more goal chances. The second goal came on a corner — San Jose’s ninth! — when Goose’s curling ball found Waibel on the far post to thigh the ball into the net. What an important goal! In this first playoff round it’s total goals in two games that win, so taking a two goal lead to Kansas City is huge. K.C. will have to beat us by three goals to advance to the Conference Final. I’m sure our players are supremely confident they can do that. It won’t be easy as K.C. will be desperate to score, but if they push forward too much we’ll have opportunities to score ourselves, and with our speed I think we’ll do it. That game is next weekend with the Conference Final (against the winner of the L.A.-Colorado series) the weekend after that. Awesome game, great play, dream result. Final: 2-0 Earthquakes.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Sat, Oct 23, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Oh my, the challenge of this move thing really hit home today as I began packing up my books. I packed a dozen boxes and lugged them to the storage locker. When I got I repeated the process, then sat back, tired, and realized with great depression that I hadn’t made a dent. Of the seven 68” bookcases in my living room I had only started on three of them and they still looked completely full! I have too many books. I have no idea how many I have, though I guesstimated once and came up with around 3,000. It could be more or less, though. Normally that’s a good thing, but when I have to lift them all, it’s a bit depressing. It’s frustrating that I’ve done all this work and you can’t even tell. It makes the mountain remaining seem even more daunting. Worse, it’s been raining lately and sprinkled a bit today — I moved boxes anyway — but that makes me worry that I could lose days in the future if the weather doesn’t co-operate. With so much to do in such a short time, I could run short if I don’t get moving. I hate leaving such a mountain of stuff to the last minute.

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

Fri, Oct 22, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

I woke up today trying not to think and worry about the inspection happening; instead I focused on packing. It worked, for when the phone call came I almost wasn’t expecting it. Good news: the house passed inspection. Sure, there are problems, but all minor, mostly preventative maintenance stuff. Most of it isn’t even of immediate concern, but things I’ll work on next spring (i.e. painting, etc.). So now there’s no reason for this not to go through, as long as all the paperwork gets completed and the sale of my place here goes smoothly. The timing is still tight: I’d ideally like to have things happen earlier and close around the first instead of the fifth, just to have everything well and done and make scheduling the move easier.

I bought a hand truck. Rather than rent one from U-Haul during the move, I just bought one for $40. It’s a useful thing and it will help me while I move stuff to the storage locker. This one’s convertible from upright to a flatbed which is excellent.

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

Thu, Oct 21, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Started packing today, filling up my new storage unit with stuff. I also went ahead and opened a bank account in Oregon. Had a trouble doing it over the web and had to do it over the phone instead. The lame site wouldn’t accept my credit card because it said my name wasn’t my name! Worse, the site was basically locked at that step and wouldn’t let me go forward or backward, so I was completely stuck. But at least that’s one more task done.

I just got a call from the bank: my loan has been approved! So now we just need to dot a few more i’s and check off a few more to-do items, then this will actually happen. Wow, I’m almost starting to believe it!

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

Wed, Oct 20, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

I spoke with the people purchasing my place and explained my concerns over the unsecured installment payment. They seemed to think it wasn’t a big deal either way, they’re a $100 million company and they pay their debts, etc. We didn’t exactly come up with a new contract, but at least it seemed like securing the loan was a possibility. If they’d balked at that it would have seemed fishy to me. I still haven’t decided if it’s really necessary; if it’s easy to do I’d prefer it secured, but if it jeopardizes the purchase or creates massive paperwork headaches I don’t want to go that route. That’s probably not intelligent of me but I’m a trusting person.

In other news, we’ve got our inspection of the new house scheduled for Friday. I don’t like doing it this late in the process — if we find a major problem now I’ll lose money and effort I’ve spent in this process so far, but of course I do need to know if there are any issues with the home. Despite my nerves, I’m moving ahead. I’ve started telling clients about the move, and today I rented a storage locker and will begin packing tomorrow.

I called a place in McMinnville that offers Wi-Band — wireless broadband Internet — but unfortunately it won’t work in Lafayette. They might eventually get it there, but I’m not crazy about the whopping $300 install fee (cost per month is $50, about the same as everything else). So I called up Comcast cable and it seems I can get setup with broadband pretty easy from them, so that’s what I’ll do. The one feature of Wi-Band that I really liked is that it’s synchronous, meaning that upload and download speeds are the same. DSL and cablemodem are asynchronous, so uploads a tenth of the speed of the download. For my business, that’s a disadvantage, though not that big a deal. As long as I can have fast, reliable Internet service, that’s the most important thing.

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

Tue, Oct 19, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Of course everything in this house-buying process is nerve-wracking and terrifying. There are so many possible mistakes to make. It’s a huge commitment, the financial burdens are immense, and it seems like every day there’s a twist that could ruin all the careful planning. One of these occurred to me over the weekend when I suddenly realized that I might have made a mistake. You see, when I negotiated the sale of my place here, the company buying it told me that due to cash flow issues they couldn’t come up with the full price in 30 days. At first I thought the deal was over and I wouldn’t be able to buy the house in Oregon. Then I realized that as long as I had enough cash in 30 days to cover the down payment and moving expenses, we could still make the deal work. So we agreed on a split payment deal where the buyer pays me some money in 30 days and the balance in 90. That sounded good to me until someone pointed out that there ought to be an interest penalty or something if they didn’t pay me that second installment on time. That’s when I realized that there’d be little to stop the company from delaying that payment or even paying it at all: it’d cost a fortune for me to take them to court to force payment and by that time I’d already be moved to Oregon in my new place and I’d have relinguished all rights to my current place. This made me nervous, so nervous that I actually visited a lawyer to get some advice. He agreed with my thinking: I basically am extending the company an unsecured loan. He advised I talk to them about securing the loan, perhaps attaching it to the property in some way so that they couldn’t sell it without paying me off first. So that’s the plan there.

I’d originally planned to open a storage locker today and start packing, but it was pouring rain so I scrapped that idea.

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

Mon, Oct 18, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Some crazy stuff happened today. At least it seemed crazy at the time, though in retrospect it wasn’t as bad as I thought live. The main things I knew waking up was that I had a major deadline with my magazine — I had to get the cover art FedExed to the printers today — and I we’d scheduled a mortgage meeting in the afternoon. The former I’d worked on over the weekend, so it was no problem, but I was a little nervous and unsure of what to expect about the latter meeting.

In the morning I ran into a fascinating chicken-and-the-egg dilemma. I asked my local bank branch about opening a checking account in Oregon since that’s one of the things on my to-do list. To my surprise, they cannot open an account there for me here: I have to do that up there. That creates a problem because I need to put the money from the sale of my place here into that account… at least that would be much easier than moving money around later. I really wanted to have that account all set up with a check card so I could use it on my trip to Oregon to prep the new house for move-in. It’s also supposed to be a free account with my mortgage and I’d get payments automatically debited. But if the bank here can’t create that account, that makes things awkward. There’s a chance I can open the account online or over the phone; I’ll have to explore those two options.

The afternoon meeting proved anti-climactic. We just filled out a lot of forms for the new loan (remember, we switched loan programs last week). There was a bit of a scare earlier when I showed up at the Scotts Valley bank to meet the mortgage lady for our trip to San Jose for the meeting and she wasn’t there: I suddenly panicked and thought maybe I’d misunderstood and we were to meet at the Santa Cruz branch. I didn’t know her cell number and she didn’t know mine so I was unsure how we were going to connect. Fortunately, she was just a few minutes late and showed up and we made it to the meeting successfully. The loan process at the meeting was fairly routine, a few basic forms (I mostly signed my name) and a few questions. This is a loan only for first-time home buyers, but since I technically don’t own real estate (I pay rent for the land on my current place), I qualify. The loan guy said the bank would have all my material before we even got back to Santa Cruz, so things are moving.

Topic: [/house purchase]

Link

Sat, Oct 16, 2004

: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Dallas Burn

I normally don’t write about non-local games, but this one was crucial as the playoffs were on the line. First a word about Major League Soccer. I’m a huge MLS fan. I love this league even better than the world leagues. There’s something special about having our own league here, about being able to go to a game and meet these players in person, even if the quality of play isn’t always world class. I think the current playoff structure in MLS is stupid with eight out of ten teams making the playoffs — it makes the regular season games meaningless and explains why so many of those games aren’t as exciting as they should be. I sure hope that next year they reduce the playoffs to six teams. Since it will be a twelve-team league that means only half make the playoffs which would be appropriate. Then we’d see teams battling in every single game since all games matter. But with all that good stuff said about MLS, sometimes they do some bonehead stuff. Like not having this game, easily the most important game of the season for the Dallas Burn and San Jose Earthquakes, on television. I pay for the soccer package on DirecTV and this game wasn’t on that, let alone on local TV. That’s just ridiculous. How can this be considered a “major league” sport if it doesn’t put crucial playoff games on TV??? MLS, fix it! Since this wasn’t on TV I had to listen to it on Internet radio. At least that worked, but it’s not as good as being able to see the goals

Now, about this game. The Quakes were in the driver’s seat: a win or a tie and they advance while the Burn had to absolutely win. But when the Burn scored early (twelve minutes in) my palms began to sweat. Then the Quakes came back big time: two goals in two minutes, one from Ching and one from Ramiro Corrales. Now the Quakes were really in the driver’s seat because Dallas would have to score two more goals to advance. Then in the second half the Burn scored — I have no idea how since the radio makes it hard to visualize — and now the margin was the slimmest. The slightest mistake as the Burn assaulted the Quakes’ back line could allow a goal and eliminate last year’s champions from the playoffs! My palms were sweating and I couldn’t breathe for the final fifteen minutes. Every time the Burn got the ball in the Quakes’ penalty area I was nervous. In the final minutes Ching hit the crossbar, almost guaranteeing a San Jose Victory. But Dallas had their own heart-in-mouth moment in injury time when a Cory Gibbs header skimmed the Quakes’ crossbar. It was that close. But the final whistle blew with no change in the scoreline: the draw means that the Earthquakes are in the playoffs! Whew. This team sure likes drama. Final: 2-2 tie, Quakes advance.

Topic: [/soccer]

Link

Fri, Oct 15, 2004

: Team America: World Police

Time again for a needed break and stress relief. This looked like a cool Thunderbirds spoof, but coming from the creators of the semi-funny South Park I wasn’t sure. Well, this film definitely had its crudity and foul language, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the South Park movie. That’s because it’s actually funny most of the time; even the dirty stuff was funny because it was parodying the original “tame” marionette show. The story itself is a jab against the USA being the world’s police force. For instance, Team America goes in and destroys Paris in the process of stopping a handful of terrorists. But what I really liked was the poke in the eye to Hollywood, where all the liberal actors (a group hilariously known as the Film Actors Guild… I’ll let you figure out the acronym) ban together to protest against Team America and violence, then end up helping the bad guy and getting slaughtered in the process. We actually get see marionettes of Helen Hunt, Michael Moore, Sean Penn, and many others get destroyed. It was very fun.

The marionette work was very impressive. At the same time it was both cheesy (no attempt is made to hide the strings) and sophisticated (the puppets eyes and faces were amazing and actually conveyed real emotions), a tough thing to do. The bottom line is this a fun film. It’s hilarious, crude, and definitely socially unacceptable, which gives it a good rating in my book.

Topic: [/movie]

Link

: House Buying Adventure

I spent the morning trying to get homeowners insurance. Now this is where I get annoyed at the world. From articles I read my new home is considered a modular or pre-fabricated home. It is not a mobile (manufactured) home which sit on a permanent metal sheath and have wheels for transport. My new home was simply built in a factory (actually better than a site-built since it’s not sitting in the elements during construction) and transported to the site on flat-bed trucks and assembled there on a real concrete foundation. To me this is a real house: it has real 2x6 construction, real walls with drywall, etc. Unless you’re a contractor, you’d never know by looking that it’s manufactured. My current place is definitely a trailer: it’s above ground on wheels, has a hitch in front, and the walls are paper thin (literally only 3” thick). Yet for reasons of stupidity or politics, the two homes are both considered “manufactured” and exactly the same for purposes of mortgage loans and homeowners insurance! It is really annoying. Many homeowners policies don’t cover manufactured homes and most insurance companies charge a premium for them, as I discovered today. I finally found one that wasn’t charging me two to three times the typical rate (it’s still about 40% higher), but it took some research. What’s annoying is they are grouping me in with trailers and mobile homes when this place is definitely unlike those. My insurance is higher because I’m grouped in with trailers that blow over in wind storms! That’s really stupid but unless I want to start my own lobbyist group and fight huge corporations, there’s not a lot I can do to change those technicalities.

Got some encouraging news from the bank. We’re moving forward with the new loan, so that’s good. It’s still too early to tell if there are some obstacles ahead but we’ll know soon. Even better news came from the bank’s appraisal department. Because the appraiser is going to Hawaii next week for vacation, he got out to the house yesterday and turned in his report today — wicked fast! Normally it can take two or three weeks, apparently. Best of all, he appraised the house at more than what I’m paying! That’s really good news on many levels: it means it’s a good house, I’m getting a great deal, and it helps my LTV ratio. (That’s loan-to-value, a bank term expressing the ratio of my loan to the value of the property. Since my value just went up, that means my loan is for a smaller percentage of the value, so in a sense it’s like I’m borrowing less. You see, I’m learning a lot about these things!) Anyway, I feel much less depressed today. Depending on what happens with the loan meeting on Monday, I think I’ll start packing on Tuesday. My plan is to box up 85% of my belongings and put them in a storage unit. The only stuff I’ll keep out will be stuff I’m using on a daily basis (TV, computer, bed, furniture, some kitchen stuff) and things I plan to sell at a moving sale. That way when it comes time to bring the moving truck, I’ll be 85% packed. But for that to happen I’ve got to get started. I’ve got a small car, which means I can only move a few boxes at a time, and a lot of small stuff (tons of books) which takes a while to pack. I’d also like to sort through stuff and throw stuff away if I can. Usually when I move I run out of time and have to just throw everything in boxes for sorting later. I’ve still got boxes I haven’t unpacked from my last move eight years ago!

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Thu, Oct 14, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Now it sounds like there may be some issues with the loan (someone is “worried” about something, all very vague, could be something, could be nothing), and my uncle (my Realtor) is concerned because we still haven’t gotten signatures from the bank selling the property, only their fax that said they accepted the contract. In other words, I don’t officially have a contract yet. It’s most likely just bureaucracy and bank carelessness, but it’s frustrating because we can’t move ahead with the inspection and other details until we’ve got signatures.

More bad news. Apparently the bank’s just uncovered a technicality that means I can’t qualify for the loan I’d been trying to get, which means we must now switch trains and find an entirely new loan. I’m really depressed now because all my financial calculations were based on the current loan’s rates and payments, and a new loan means going through all that again. The previous loan had low initial interest-only payments for five years and then went to an annual adjustable, which suited my plans perfectly. Now we’re looking at a 30-year fixed which has the same payments always, but means my initial payments will be much higher. Either is doable but being self-employed I really preferred the lower rates as my income can fluctuate. This turns all my calculations and plans on their head. I’m really depressed and wondering if this is worth the hassle. I hate involving emotions because than my decision-making is suspect, but I can’t help but be emotionally involved. I feel there’s this huge mile-long “To Do” list on my head in order to move my life to Oregon, yet I can’t get started on it. According to our original schedule I’d be in Oregon exactly 30 days from now — not a lot of time to pack up my life, especially considering I need to continue working in the meantime.

I just found out this new loan is a special first-time buyer loan and thus the interest rate is much lower than I expected (lower than regular 30-year fixed loans). That’s better. My monthly payments will still be higher than before, but not as bad as I was thinking, and that negative’s offset by the fact that I’d have a really low rate fixed for the next 30 years. Unfortunately there’s still a question or two about this new loan: we’re not sure if self-employeds qualify and there might be another complication or two. I guess we won’t know for a day or so.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Wed, Oct 13, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

I was up late last night and up early this morning working on mortgage stuff. Made some progress. Due to an odd set of circumstances (it was owner financed but payment was made via a bank) I never received a title on my current place and now the old owner can’t be found, but I did manage to get a report from the bank that shows I paid off the balance, so hopefully that’s proof enough that I own my place. I vaguely knew about that situation but of course I wasn’t planning on moving until next summer so I thought I’d have time to figure it out by then. Now I’m forced to do everything in a rush, which actually isn’t that bad of a thing because otherwise I’d probably put it off forever. Anyway, I’m well on my way to getting the rest of the list of documentation taken care of. A few of the things are items the bank and others must do (such as an appraisal of the property), so no worries there. Speaking of the appraisal, the mortgage lady had hoped that they might not need a walk-through appraisal (which takes longer) but word today is that they will. It’s been scheduled for tomorrow, though, which is quick. We haven’t even done our own inspection yet! I think that inspection will happen later this week; since this property further south than my Realtor’s normal inspector goes, Phil is trying to find a good local person.

The inspection makes me a little nervous. It’s not that I expect anything to be wrong, but simply because I’ve already invested so much into this purchase and if anything goes wrong now, I’m in a quandary. Since it’s a bank sale at the other end they have said they won’t fix anything and I suspect that means they won’t drop the price unless it was something so huge as to significantly effect the appraisal value. So say we discover an issue with the plumbing, something in the neighborhood of a few grand to fix. Do I eat that and go ahead or lose the inspection and other fees and tremendous amount of time invested in the purchase so far? Of course I’d be tempted to say I’ll take the house no matter what the condition simply because I’m now emotionally committed, but rationally that’s not always a good decision. Hopefully the inspection and appraisal go smoothly (the house is only ten years old, after all) and this will be all moot. But meantime, I can’t help but look at all the possibilities. Time is running out and I really need to start packing if I’m going to complete this move in the time allotted, but I don’t want to jinx things by starting too early. The waiting and unknown is driving me crazy. At this point I am starting to think I’m moving, but stuff could still derail the process. It’s frustrating. But I mustn’t let myself get down. We’ve made a ton of progress (it’s been less than two weeks since I first saw the house) and actually we’re going faster than scheduled. But the unknowns are making it difficult for me to concentrate on regular work. I feel like I can’t plan ahead. I have to make two schedules, one if I move and an alternate in case something falls through.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Tue, Oct 12, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Today sounded simple enough: the contract was to arrive from Oregon by noon and I’d take it to the bank and meet the mortgage lady who’d make copies for me and her and then I’d overnight back to Oregon. But of course nothing can be simple, right? It started with phone calls: it was time to officially pick the mortgage I wanted and that involved some last minute calculating to decide if a lower interest rate with higher fees was better or vice versa. Fortunately rates dropped this morning so I got locked in at a great rate. There were more calls: reminders, questions, and slight changes in plans. Then mid-morning, as I waited for FedEx, my electricity went off. After ten minutes, I found a neighbor who had electricity and realized it was just my place. I played around the breakers and got it back on (they didn’t seem to be tripped but turning them off and then back on worked). I’ve no idea what made it shut off — I wasn’t doing anything unusual and I hadn’t just turned anything on. The electric outage caused complications, however, because my cordless phones were dead and the Internet went offline for some reason. Then I couldn’t print. My printer would print half the page and just stop. Here I was five minutes from meeting the mortgage lady at the bank and my printer’s refusing to cooperate! I tried three times, then switched to a different printer, finally getting some output to take to the bank. Crazy stuff.

After a long day, more news. The mortgage sent me a list of 14 items of documentation I need to get her: mostly routine stuff like a copy of my driver’s license, P&L statement from my business, tax returns, bank statements, etc. That’s going to be fun. I hate paperwork. Sigh. I’m glad one only buys a few houses in life.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Mon, Oct 11, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Wasn’t expecting any house news today as it’s a holiday, but lo and behold I get a call that the bank selling the house has accepted! So now we can begin the buying process for real. I spent some time last weekend reading about mortgages online, so at least now I’ve got so I understand the basic concepts, advantages and disadvantages of different types of loans. Going with an adjustable is a bit of a risk considering the low interest rates now, but the monthly payments are so it seems like the way to go. I was on the phone for over an hour with my mortgage rep going over options and giving her more information. Tomorrow we should be ready to file once I get the contract from Oregon.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Sat, Oct 09, 2004

: MLS: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Terrific game, though the Quakes didn’t get the win they needed and deserved. Even though half the team was missing (national team call-ups for Onstad, DeRossario, Donovan; injuries for Goose; suspension for Dayak) the others really worked hard and put forth a great effort. Conway had little to do in goal because the team pressed forward so much and everyone worked hard on defense. The guys created tons of chances, hit the woodwork three or four times and forced K.C.’s keeper make a half dozen excellent saves. There were a couple goal-mouth clearances and a missed penalty kick call as well. All this made for an exciting game with a big crowd (over 25,000), but unfortunately there were no goals. The result means San Jose have a must win-or-tie next weekend against Dallas in Dallas to make the playoffs. While I’m confident they can do it, it’s not a good situation for the defending champs.

There was one funny bit toward the end of the game. The ball was out for a K.C. goal kick but there were two balls on the field. Ching was near one he threw it out. It hit the advertising board and came right back. He then kicked it out and it hit Bo and came back again! It was like the ball wouldn’t get off the field. The crowd was laughing — it was a nice tension release. Fun moment. Final: 0-0 draw.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Fri, Oct 08, 2004

: Taxi

After a week of acid stomach during the house situation, I needed a break and a really stupid movie seemed to fit the bill. I got exactly what I wanted in this “idiot cop is helped by streetwise female taxi driver” flick. It’s not great, not terrible, not much of anything. There are a few laughs, a few jokes that fail miserably, a few moments that actually work, but overall this definite B-movie territory. Still, if you’re in the right mood (as I was), it’s amusing and certainly non-threatening. The lead guy (Kattan from Saturday Night Live) does a decent job but is annoying; Queen Latifa rules, though. She’s a real star.

Topic: [/movie]

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: House Buying Adventure

The Waiting Game. Late today I got word from my Realtor uncle that the bank selling the house notified him that the bank officer in charge of looking at our offer was not in today, so there’s no progress to report. With Monday being a holiday, it’ll probably be Tuesday before anything happens.

Meantime, I used the delay to figure out my finances better. Being self-employed, I often pay myself by paying a personal expense from the business account. But I don’t track that well or officially break it out as salary, which is not a good habit. It turns out I pay myself more than I thought. That’s awesome for the mortgage loan, which is a relief. Hopefully that process will go smoothly. There are so many potential hang-ups in this house-buying thing that I can feel my stomach eating itself out of nerves. I can’t move forward until I know something more definitive, can’t stay the same because there’s a lot to do if I’m moving so soon. Frustrating.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Thu, Oct 07, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

More twists in the tale. My uncle called and said he’d finally gotten a hold of the other Realtor who had no explanation for our rejection. But even stranger, the bank had now suddenly lowered the list price on the house! We’ve decided to make a full price offer and are sending that in this morning. The funny part about that is the new lower price was less than the offer I had planned to make! Here’s hoping everything goes well and we get an acceptance this time. Now that we’ve got a sale on my place here, there really is no reason why they shouldn’t accept, unless they get a better offer. But why would they lower the price if other offers were coming in? It’s very strange, but as long as I can get the house, I won’t care.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Wed, Oct 06, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

After the high of yesterday’s “sale,” today ended on a strange note. I got a call from my uncle who was puzzled as can be: our offer had been rejected! The weird thing was that there was no counter-offer and no explanation. Of course we were dealing with a bank and they don’t always do things the normal way. My uncle couldn’t get a hold of the Realtor selling the place so we had no information. We assume this rejection means our offer was too low, but who knows. We’ve decided to make a higher offer in the morning.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Tue, Oct 05, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Day dawns with faxes, pages of them. I sign and initial in dozens of places, and fax back the stack of papers. It’s our offer on the house. My uncle submits it immediately. The seller is a bank so he’s worried it could take time to get a response. I’m nervous all day. This is exciting, terrifying, and I can hardly eat.

I stop by BofA with my $200 check for the loan app. I visit a local storage facility to make sure they have storage units available and confirm prices. My plan is to rent one and begin packing and moving my zillions of books and junk as soon as I can so that the move itself will be half done by the time it’s time to rent the U-Haul.

This afternoon I called the people who offered to buy my place. This was another nerve-wracking experience. Would the offer still be available? I had a letter from them, but that was from August. When the rep came over at five, I explained to him what was going on. I didn’t mention we’d already made an offer in Oregon, but implied I was interested and wanted to see if the sale offer was still open. I explained I was working with BofA on the mortgage loan. Because my income is modest and I’m self-employed, I needed a hefty down payment on the new place to get the loan. I also was going to have substantial moving expenses (including needing to purchase a fridge and washer and dryer for the new place) for which I would need cash. So I countered their offer by raising it by $10K. Timing was another crucial aspect of this, because I needed the cash in 30 days to complete escrow. That’s when things began to go south and I felt my dream come crashing around me. The rep explained that he was in the middle of four similar transactions right now and didn’t “need” mine; his plate was full. There was no way he could come up with all that cash in thirty days. Maybe 90 days, but not thirty. For a moment I thought all was lost. But I hinted that maybe I didn’t need all the money at once and the guy began sketching out ideas, playing with numbers. It looked like we could maybe figure out a multi-part payment plan that could work. The only remaining question was the final amount. Now the park I’m in has rent control, but the rep explained that since they, as a company, were not considered a tenant, rent control doesn’t apply to them. So my landlord charges them a whopping two grand a month “storage.” We agreed to deduct that amount, minus the rent they would normally pay anyway, from the purchase price I’d asked for. So the bottom line is I almost got my asking price! Then another twist: the guy whipped out a contract, filled it out, and had me sign right then. I had thought this was just a preliminary meeting, but suddenly I’d sold my house! (I did make him include verbiage that the sale was contingent upon me getting the property in Oregon.) He gave me a check for $1,000, so-called “earnest money” in real estate parlance.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Mon, Oct 04, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

Today’s my birthday but that is far at the back of my mind. Instead I am nervous as I go to Bank of America and begin talks about a mortgage loan. Since BofA has my business checking account and there’s a branch in McMinnville just up the road from my new place, it makes sense to go there for my loan. The first gal I talked with was really nice, but apparently manufactured homes are not something she can deal with, so she telephones another gal who handles those types of loans. After a few minutes going over the basic idea, she promises to call me that afternoon.

I waited on pins and needles all afternoon for her call, even left her a message. She finally called a couple hours late, having gotten tied up with a loan in a crisis. We went over my numbers and figured out which loan would work for me. Then she ran my credit report and called me back. There were some problems, but overall she felt the loan was doable. She put together a pre-approval letter which we sent to my uncle in Oregon so he could put together an offer.

I was on the phone for two hours until late tonight, giving the mortgage lady all my financial details. It was wild: every asset was computed, every liability figured out. I thought the next part of the process was she’d submit the loan to the bank but apparently that’s not how it works: she waits until we actually get an offer accepted on the house before she submits the loan, that way I don’t have to pay the $200 loan application fee unless I can actually get the house. That worries me a little because it could take time to get an offer accepted, and if there are any problems or delays with the loan process, the purchase time could extend out of my short window and I wouldn’t be able to do the move. I can’t have the move disrupting my business.

Topic: [/event]

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Sun, Oct 03, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

I spent a lot of time online today checking out the McMinnville area, making sure I can get broadband Internet, checking prices on moving trucks, doing mortgage loan calculations, trying to figure out a budget for the move, the timing of things, and monthly mortage payments. I found a huge number of fantastic moving sites on the Web: neat city comparison tools (shows you the differences between two places with everything from the cost of living to the weather), loan calculators, moving checklists, moving tips, articles on how to have a garage sale, and more. Very cool stuff. My head is about to explode.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Sat, Oct 02, 2004

: House Buying Adventure

My emotions are in a turmoil. Am I really doing this? Leaving my home of 17 years and moving? The whole twelve-hour drive home I pondered questions, analyzed and weighed the pros and cons. The only real negatives of moving were the hassles and expense, moving away from friends and community, losing a few design and consulting clients, and leaving my beloved San Jose Earthquakes soccer team. Countering that was a house that would cost half a million in the Bay Area. I’d have to stay in my trailer another ten years just to save up the down payment on a place like that. It really is a no-brainer. If I can get the timing to work, it’s something I want to do.

Topic: [/house purchase]

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Fri, Oct 01, 2004

: Oregon Trip

Was up in Oregon this past week for a quick visit and some house shopping, as I’m toying with the idea of moving up there. I got to test out my new Nikon D70 digital SLR and got some terrific pictures, if I do say so myself. I’ve put together some picture galleries if you’d like to see some of the photos.

Topic: [/travel]

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: House Buying Adventure

Went house shopping in Oregon today.

First, some history. I’ve been living in Scotts Valley, California in a tiny 450 square foot trailer which I bought in 1996. It’s a small mobile home park where I don’t own the land but pay rent for my space. It’s ridiculously cheap living for the Bay Area, but the trailer is very small and it’s gotten smaller when I began working from home and spending 24-7 there. This summer when I checked with a company about upgrading to a larger home (which turned out to be California-style expensive), they countered by offering to buy my home. They would replace my trailer with a large double-wide and resell the property for three times what they were offering me. The amount for my trailer was about four times what I paid and got me thinking, so I called up my Uncle Phil who’s a Realtor in Oregon. A few minutes of checking showed there were many properties up there in my price range. While in California my old home would barely qualify me for the down payment on a dog house, in Oregon it could buy me a three bedroom home. Since I went to high school in Oregon and love the area, the idea of moving back up there was appealing. Though I love this area, California is an expensive place to live, and all I really need is a broadband Internet connection to do my businesses.

My original plan was to move next summer. Since I was visiting Oregon this fall, I’d look at some places just to get a feel for what my money could buy up there. We started that process today. The very first home showed promise: nice size, good neighborhood, decent area, but it needed some improvements to be move-in ready and I felt the highway going through town (Forest Grove) was too trafficky. The houses we looked at were impressive, but of course each had a few drawbacks. Either the price was steep, the location awkward, the layout of the house wrong, or the condition was poor. In the afternoon we headed down toward McMinnville, a university town about halfway between Portland and Salem. Just a few miles north is the little town (3K people) of Lafayette. It’s a cute little town with one main street (the highway). I immediately liked the area, which is wine country with vineyards everywhere, similar to where I am now in the Santa Cruz mountains. Here we found a huge home (1800 sq. ft.) at a terrific price. On paper it sounded great so I was skeptical, but when we saw the corner lot it looked great with a nice yard. Inside, it was all on one level, ranch-style, with a huge great room with vaulted ceiling, wonderful kitchen with tons of cabinets and built-ins, and everything else I could want. It even had a fenced-in back yard and detached two-car garage. I could find very little I didn’t like, especially at the price. Then my uncle revealed it was a manufactured home. I was astonished: it appeared to be a normal house, though it did have siding. But unlike my trailer, this was not a mobile home: it just meant it was built off-site and assembled at this location. It also was not above ground but on its own concrete foundation. So it’s really a normal house just pre-built.

We continued looking, but I kept coming back to that house. It was huge, giving me the space I crave. It had all the features I wanted. The location was excellent, the price superb. I hadn’t plan to move now, but when I thought about it, the timing was right: I had the next issue of the magazine to do in October, during escrow, and if we closed early enough, I could move in November and be ready to resume business as usual in December. It would be tight but was theoretically feasible. And since I had already seen the difficulty of finding a home with all the features I wanted at a good price, I figured waiting would probably mean I’d end up having to compromise. Why not do it now and get the home I really wanted?

Topic: [/travel]

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