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Apr. 12th, 2005

renovation, home, house

Photos of the house!

Front view of Germantown house
Front view of Germantown house,
originally uploaded by Kate O'.

I took all these "before" pictures over a month ago, but I didn't want to post them until the deal was final. Now I can share!

For anyone who hasn't heard the backstory on this house, here's the deal: we're told it was built sometime in the 1850s, and that it's believed to be the oldest house in Germantown, which is one of Nashville's historic neighborhoods. It was originally a cottage for immigrant workers, like several other homes from that period which have survived in this neighborhood.

In the 150 years it's been around, many people have presumably owned this house and tried to improve on it, but the additions and changes have been inconsistent and haphazard. This house is just begging for someone to come in and clean it the hell up.

So! Our plan, in the short term, is to clean it the hell up and make the place liveable. We're calling that the "shack makeover" stage, and it's been in full swing since Saturday.

Then, in six months to a year, we'll begin investigating financing to do a major, MAJOR renovation, which will probably include leveling the back half of the house (the addition to the original house) and rebuilding, but taking it another floor higher (so that the profile will go up from front to back instead of down as it does now), opening up some of the original walls for a more loft-like interior space, adding a front porch overhang (as it clearly used to have one, and should), replacing the wood lintels above the windows with stone, as well as thoroughly redoing the kitchen (and maybe even converting the kitchen fireplace into a pizza oven), possibly adding a rooftop deck (the inspector said we have a great view of downtown from our roof), and generally making the whole house much, much cooler.

In the next few days, I'll start taking the "during" pictures. It'll probably be several years before I can take anything called "after" pictures. ;-)

Apr. 8th, 2005

hand on head - b&w

It's done!

We signed the papers, we got the keys, we went there and smooched in every room -- the place is officially ours. Yay, like nothing I could do justice to in print!

Zola was divine. The perfect celebration, and the best food I've eaten since our road trip passed through New Orleans six years ago, and funnily enough, that restaurant was called Nola. Zola, Nola, whatever, it's fantastic food.

I can hardly believe it's all for real. We bought a house! In a cool neighborhood! And we get to fix it up and move in, like, soon!


Mar. 30th, 2005

bananas, monkey, searchmonkey

We're not there yet, but...

If nothing else, I feel as if I did all I could.

Karsten and I scrambled all morning to pull together quotes on renovations. We went by the house and snuck around the back to measure the broken window, and then went to Home Depot for a quote. Got a carpet quote, a paint quote, a door quote. Lots of quotes.

Then, after much stressful phone tag and several stressful conversations with the mortgage rep, I pulled together a proposal letter that I faxed over to her at 4:30 PM along with the quotes. The idea was to have the appraiser review them and determine a post-renovation value so they know how much to figure for the loan.

The renovation grand total? $1640. Yes, that's sixteen hundred forty dollars. One thousand six hundred forty dollars. For a "renovation."

It's so absurd I could barely stand it.

And apparently, it served its purpose, because the mortgage rep called me, confused.

Yes, I patiently explained, there's a lot more we could do to the house, definitely, but not without living in it and understanding the long-term renovation strategy. (Whatever we include in the list, we're obligated to do. I sure wasn't going to list anything we're not definite about.) But these were truly the only things we'd determined to be necessary for us to make it inhabitable.

So why is her appraiser is telling her there's $10,000 worth of work to be done to raise the condition from "poor" to "average"?

I couldn't begin to guess. Is he skittish with older houses?

No, she says. We've done historic homes before. We've done renovations. That shouldn't be a problem. And he says the value is there, she tells me. He says the house will be worth well more than the purchase price when it's fixed up -- that's it's worth well more than that now, she adds.

Anyway, several phone calls later, between mortgage rep and buyer, between buyer and buyer's agent, between buyer's agent and seller's agent, between buyer's agent and mortgage rep, we finally think we may have the answer, if the underwriter will agree. The bank can give us 90 days to finish our renovations, bring the appraiser back to get our "average" condition, and then close on conventional terms. Everyone seems pleased with this scenario.

Let's hope it actually works.

Mar. 27th, 2005

bananas, monkey, searchmonkey

Stop the insanity!

Our downstairs neighbors apparently treated themselves to a karaoke machine for Easter. We had errands to run before lunch, but ever since we've been back, there's been a steady stream of poorly sung sappy pop crap ("You Were Always On My Mind" followed by "Amazed" and then "I Do (Cherish You)") seeping up through the floor with enough reverb to sound like a cheap Spanish-language radio ad. And sometimes the vocals are even in the right key.

Karsten wondered aloud what kind of sins he committed in his previous lives to deserve this punishment.

Four days until we close! Unfortunately, we can't move out of this place right away -- too much work to do in the new place. But at least we can spend most of our time over there fixing stuff up. Neither of us has ever looked forward to weeks of guaranteed hard work nearly as much as this.

Mar. 22nd, 2005

hand on head - b&w

The countdown to closing has begun! Fingers are officially crossed!

Wow, this is cool. I found an article online from the Nashville Business Journal from August of 1998 making a big deal about a new home sale in Germantown.

Compare it with this article from the Tennessean from just a few weeks ago.

I'm so psyched about our house, and I'm trying not to be psyched yet in case something bad happens and keeps everything from going through. Please please please please please, universe, don't let this get messed up. We're nearing the home stretch (ha! pun intended) -- nine days until we're supposed to close on our house!

Mar. 16th, 2005

shadows, barbra getting groomed, bonnie grooming

Life is surreal. ("How real is it?")

First, sincere thanks to everyone who commented on my last post to express their sympathy for the loss of Karsten's mother. I have let him know that so many of you gave condolences, and he's very thankful, as am I.

We're back in Nashville and a little too worn out to unpack yet. But unpack we must so that we can pack back up again tomorrow or Friday and drive up to northwest Indiana. We still don't know anything about the funeral arrangements, but I'm figuring we'll probably just head up there sometime tomorrow anyway.

Oh, also, we have a house. Well, actually, we have two houses. Well, actually, we have contracts on two houses. And we'll have to decide which one to keep and which contract to get out of. We already had a contract on a house in Germantown (I never posted an update to say that our offer was accepted, but it was), but we haven't done the inspection yet and we have some concerns that that one might be a tad too ambitious for us. In other words, it needs a hell of a lot of work.

But yesterday morning, while we were in Miami and before Karsten got The Phone Call, our agent called to tell us she'd found a house she thought was really right for us. It's just a few houses down a perpendicular street from the house we've bid on in two separate listings, so you can stand on the sidewalk in front of this house and turn to the left, and you'll be looking at the house we really wanted. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. (Probably a little bit of both, I know.)

Anyway, I ducked out of the conference and went up to our room to check out the listing online, and unfortunately, the MLS listing didn't have a picture, but our agent was so enthusiastic and the seller was already getting offers so we went ahead and bid on it -- quite literally "sight unseen." We joked that at least it would be a good story if it came through. She called this morning to let us know our offer was accepted (we must be getting better at this whole bidding for hot properties thing) so, like I said, we now have two houses to pick from. (Of course, by the time we got the news about the second house this morning, houses were the last thing on either of our minds, but still.)

We drove by the "new" house on the way back from the airport tonight, and it looks good. Not breathtaking or anything, but good. We have an appointment to check it out tomorrow morning, so we'll try to decide then which one to buy.

And after that, we'll probably head back home and pack for the funeral. Life is feeling really surreal right now.

Mar. 6th, 2005

hand on head - b&w

I don't want to jinx it, but this might just be the one.

I haven't been posting much about all the househunting we're doing because it would be a bit tedious: all the visiting prospective homes, making offers, getting excited about the possibilities, being outbid, feeling disappointed, bidding again, getting hopes up again, being outbid again, walking away, going back for second and third and fourth visits, et cetera ad nauseum.

Suffice to say we've been at it since, what, early October? And we've been actively looking almost all that time. (On the bright side, the

Yesterday we went back to look at a place for a fourth visit, and made our first offer on it. Clearly, we've had some reservations about it, but after a lot of talking about what could happen there, I do think we're ready for the work it would entail.

It's believed to be the oldest house in the historic Germantown neighborhood of Nashville, which is an area expected to flourish in the next few years. Most of the older homes in Germantown have been restored and purchased by well-to-do urban professionals including music business people, government officials, and so on. There's a huge loft project expected to open next year a few blocks over from this house, and when it opens, I'm expecting things to really take off in that area.

So we made a fairly decent offer on the place -- still a bit on the low side for the seller, but good enough, I hope, to be acceptable -- and we're waiting to hear back.

If it's accepted, we're supposed to close at the end of this month. Then we'll be spending April putting a better face on the house, painting the interiors, and basically making it liveable so we can sit and wait out the lofts before we decide whether to do major reconstruction on the place.

I don't have my hopes up -- we've been through too many ups and downs over the past few months for me to get excited before we know if our offer has been accepted -- but I do want this to happen. I can see that it could turn into something really cool.

Jan. 29th, 2005

hand on head - b&w

Outbid on the house

We heard back a few days ago that a serious renovator had outbid us, but the seller wanted to keep ours as a backup offer. This renovator was going to be doing his own inspection, so we'd know in a few days whether he'd be backing out.

Jenkins insisted that there was still a chance that he'd do just that, at which I wondered aloud if we'd want it when he was turning it down. She reassured me that his decision was going to be based on whether he could turn a quick buck on it, not whether he could -- as we would -- live in it for a few years, fixing it up gradually while building equity.

Anyway, he decided to proceed. And Jenkins says the sale is pending already so he must be paying cash.

So, to recap:

Within one day of its listing on the market, we got to see and bid on a house that ended up generating dozens of offers in a few short days. And ours was the second-best, beat out only by someone who clearly does this for a living and makes a great deal of money at it. That tells me a lot about the savviness of our agent. At least we're finally working with the right person. The right house is sure to come sooner or later.

Jan. 26th, 2005

hand on head - b&w

Wish us luck!

We made an offer on another house yesterday morning. It's going to be a tough one and may even turn into a bidding war. If that happens, we'll step out. We already raised our offer yesterday afternoon to meet their asking price, but that's as far as we want to go. It's a great house (well, it will be after someone gives it the renovation it deserves), and Karsten and I are very hopeful, but we don't want to get carried away and bid too much since it needs a lot of work.

But if you can spare any good luck wishes, we'd love to have 'em!

Jan. 13th, 2005

hand on head - b&w

State of the Kate

It has been brought to my attention by multiple people that I haven't been posting. Thank you, multiple people, for missing me. :-)

I've been trying to keep focused on work while I'm at work, and to stay productive when I'm at home. One of my goals this year was to cut down on LJ and email use, after all, and I'm doing it. I set up a series of filtered friends lists that capture varying degrees of keeping up: the narrowest includes just a few close friends about whom I always want to know the latest. And the rest are increasingly broad. When I find myself with a little bit of time, I hit the personal friends list and read up. I try to comment, if I have enough time. If I have more time, I'll hit the next broadest list, and so on. It seems to be working. I just haven't been good so far at keeping my own journal updated within the pinched time constraints.

Anyway, here's what's going on in my offline worldCollapse )

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