Saturday, February 25, 2017

Comparing apples to oranges; home shopping


I am now working with a realtor, who helped to get me into this condo. I told her my list of criteria, understanding that no home will be perfect, that I am realistic, willing to do cosmetic improvements/upgrades, but want a sound home as I have to pay to get most items taken care of. I told her my budget, that I am already preapproved by a bank(but would most likely use another lender as their rates even at the first look around for comparison, showed them to be higher), told her of my transition to retirement and my new income on paper, including my second income stream, and that I will be getting (hopefully soon)additional employment with benefits. As other professionals have told me, she said that I've done my work, making her job easier.

I hate going with the first thing that I see, but as my Mom says, sometimes things are meant to be (or not). I have found 2 homes, and will see them on Monday (Realtor is booked this weekend).

Home # 1 that we are calling "The pink bath home"
1960, 3 bd/2 bath Ranch,1616 square feet,  unfinished basement with laundry on main level of home (separate room with window, scrub sink w/d and large cabinets above, which look to be what the original kitchen cabinets must have been-maple, and seem to be in great shape)
2 car garage with windowless door that has a large diamond shape (Architecural feature to be repainted to blend in or possibly replace door entirely if shot), .67 of an acre, level property
deck off of dining room (needs power washing and staining)-no issue, has sliders which I'd replace with French doors. Install retractable awning? install screened in porch? entry between living and dining room is very large, open. Not sure of dining to kitchen, which I assume is on the other side of the dining room
oil furnace, hot air system with central air, generator, wood fireplace
septic, I am unsure if there is city water or a well
wood floors in all rooms except tile baths, tile kitchen, tile laundry
from front entry hall, one steps down one step to level living/dining/kitchen floors, it appears that the opposite wing that leads to bedrooms and bathrooms is on the same level, meaning that the step down only impacts the living area, not the bedroom/bath area
taxes $4853
white vinyl siding
hand crank style, casement windows (appear to be Anderson)throughout except for laundry room, standard top over bottom window-fine, I may* choose to swap that window later, no rush
while there is a long planter box in front of the home with unknown plantings inside, there should be additional landscaping done along the other front side of the home-which I am willing to have done
the home was retrofitted for handycapped access: there is a mini ramp from front entry to the step down to the living area, which I would have removed, not an issue, the hall bath has grab bars all over and a roll in shower with movable, fitted seat-again I'd have that converted, not an issue, with either a tub or a large, tiled shower. Wall sink would be replaced with a vanity/sink. Fixtures are white, so easy.
there is paneling in the front entry, the living room,the dining room that I would either paint over or remove, hoping to find sheetrock/plaster underneath
Neutral paint (white in some areas, off white in others) throughout the home
large, double closet at front entry
the fireplace has a planter box on one side as you pass from entry to the living room, I'd like it removed, the fireplace has 3, thin,  staggered shelves on it, also remove and reface the entire fireplace, perhaps installing a gas (propane) insert-unsure on that
there are some ugly ceiling lights, I'd install pot lights, and swop out lights over dining table, assumed kitchen table area (I can't tell from photos if there is an eat in area in kitchen
the kitchen is newer, upgraded white (my preference) GE appliances, good cabinets, but looks like a cheap counter, I need to see it to be sure. I can live with it, upgrade later, focusing $ on other areas
install sink with vanity in master ensuite bathroom (has wall sink)white fixtures again and this is where the pink tile is , perhaps replace mirror/lights-from photos, it appears to be totally functional at this point
I'd install ceiling fans as well as a whole house fan, bathroom exhaust fans if needed

Home #2 that we are calling "the brick house"
house is listed $16,000 more than pink bath house
1967, 3 bed/2 bath, 1625 square feet, finished basement with laundry in garage
1 car heated (not needed for me, but OK) garage, .42 of an acre, level property with some chain link fencing (remove and repurpose for garden perhaps)
screened in porch off of family room
gas furnace w/ baseboards, central air, no generator, wood fireplace
city water/sewer
wooden parquet floors in living room, dining room and bedrooms, same tile in bathrooms, family room, entire finished basement, kitchen floor looks like vinyl
all floors are same level/no step downs
taxes $5432
front facade is redish brick, dark brownish painted shakes cover remaining 3 sides of home so more maintenance
While there are more, mature plantings/landscaping in the front yard, a lot of it is overgrown and would need to be cut back, replaced-something I'm willing to do, and not urgent
There is no closet (visible from photos), near the front entry. I assume* there is one closeby
This home needs a LOT of cosmetic upgrades, it's stuck in the 1980's:
Front screen or is it just metal scrolls door would be replaced with a glass and screen panel door, no issue
All of the ceiling fixtures need updating, not an issue
Ceiling fans in each bedroom are dated. Would try refurbishing with paint, and swopping out the light kit (if more cost effective to replacing totally). No issue
hall bath is a lovely mustardy yellow not harvest gold. It appears to be completely functional, just dated. Bath and toilet are yellow along with the tile, there is a single, white sink in a white vanity
Can't really see into the Master onsuite, appears to be a stall shower, toilet, sink. Can't tell colors, if there is tile or not
I'd install a whole house fan, bathroom exhaust fans if needed
I'd switch the fireplace to a gas burner, reface the fireplace as well
I'd replace the mirrored closet doors for wooden ones
The big $$ would be for the kitchen: it needs a total gut job. White limenate cabinets, very old appliances (I wonder if they even work but replacing appliances doesn't bother me), same tile that is all over the house. There is an eat in area, against the wall that separates the kitchen from dining room. Ideally, this wall would come down, opening up the floor plan. Rooms seem boxed off from one another.

I need to see the actual homes, and get a sense of condition, clarify things such as city water vs well, determine location of oil tank (big issue if it's buried), when was septic last cleaned, when were fireplaces last cleaned and inspected, ask about oil and gas bills (helps determine if there is impending need for replacement/additional insulation), 200 amp electrical service or not, condition of cellar-any signs of dampness etc.

Scarey going into this alone, even though I am an adult. This would be the second home I've ever purchased. Hard to find ranches here as due to the high cost of land, builders are naturally investing in larger homes (My EX was a builder when we first married so I understand this). Location of both homes is in the same, general area on the western side of the city. One negative is that I strongly suspect that due to distance from closest bus stop, DS would no longer be able to use the ADA paratransit system. I'd have to contact the bus company to be sure. Not a deal breaker, we can hire a private driver, taxi, ubber etc as needed and have the resources to do so.

My current lease is up at the end of May. With my upcoming rent check, I will be reaching out to my current LL and inquiring about releasing, as an option and also about their flexability, should I end up buying a home, aka: if I need an extra month here, are they amenable? If they come back that they wish to put this place up for sale, then I feel there is no question, I am buying as my next move.

I need unbiased pairs of eyes looking at the above. Thoughts?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Avoiding food waste: ideas?

Last night was taco night. Unfortunately, the open package of tortillas turned out to be stale/dried out, so I assume that at some point, they weren't closed properly. Luckily, I already had a back up package, which will be once again reached for as tacos will be a repeat offering tonight.

So, what to do with these crisp, dried edged tortillas that are stuck together and rip when trying to separate? Ideas wanted! TIA

Getting the taxes done


Weekly allergy shot will take me in close proximity of where my CPA works out of her home, so I am combining daily errands and dropping off my documentation for my, as well as DS #2's taxes. Not due for another 7 weeks or so, but wish to get this addressed and out of the way.

I will be keeping a keen eye out as regards my income, and how this will impact my 2017 taxes, moving forward. My retirement is in the works with the state, actual date of receipt is unknown at this point; I await further communication from the state on this. Once I have actual figures, my CPA will run a tax obligation projection, and is willing to update it again once I have a new, full-time position.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


 The offer for this freebie protein shake came to me through a Facebook site feed. A week later, this coupon arrived.
I also have a discount program for my RX eye drops. Part of their program sends information and gives me a copay card to offset the cost of the drops I also use. I was stunned when they sent me this $16 coupon for a similar brand of OTC drops that this manufacturer makes, I currently am using a Bausch and Lomb product but wouldn't hesitate to try this one, especially at this cost!

I also recently tried "Pinch me" and got these 2 items sent to me for free: kitty food, which one of my pets can eat, and a mini bottle of body wash.

Pantry/freezer challenge: pintos

Feeling under the weather, as my Grandmother would say, I am cooking in spurts, relying heavily upon my Crock Pots. Today's CP is filled with a lb of pintos,

 to be used along with marked down, ground beef from the freezer for a taco filling,

 as well as homemade refried beans (trying to make for the first time). Update: the texture was more lumpy than what is found commercially, but not every recipe should be like what is made by manufacturer's. Next time, I'll try running this through a food processor to see if we prefer that method, no one found the texture to be off. We spread the "bean paste" as we call it, onto the tortilla before filling it.

Tacos on soft tortillas with choice of lettuce, tomato, shredded cheese, salsa/hot sauce and a side dish of frozen corn. Keeping it simple.

A few deals

 As I was out and about, and we were down to our last dozen of eggs (we use a lot!), I stopped in at CVS for (limit 2) large eggs @ 99 cents.
 Over to Aldi's for DD's milk
 Finally, Dollar tree for cheap eggs (medium size works fine in baking, cooking, BTW)
4 more jars of mushrooms from Holland, pesto from Italy to try, salad (I thought they both were, but no problem)olives and whole olives from Spain, gummies for DS. Yes, I read labels and feel fine buying Europeen products, knowing that often, their food regulations are more stringent than our's.

Saw my rhumatologist

at 8 a.m. this morning, after she phoned me last night, in response to an email that I had sent via the patient portal. She appoligized that it took her 2 days to get back to me (website clearly gives them 3), but she was away. No worries, we spoke about what has been killing me (high pain tolerance so if it hurts . . .it's not good).


While my left hip has plagued me off/on for years, like 23, the right only ached a bit. I've been in agony since Saturday.  Officially, the new RX's I've been on for a month have done nothing for me, the fact that I have new inflammation is an indicator. Now, MD is appealing to get me on the RX that the former rhumatologist wanted me on, but wouldn't fight ins, over. Grr . . he's no longer my MD, for this as well as additional issues.

Treatment today was a cortizone shot, I've had them at least 6 times in the left hip. Icing with a huge cold pack that I got from one of my shoulder surgeries and hoping to nap, I haven't slept well for days.

We continue to work through our second insurance deductible, with our obligation being 10% of in plan services. We have about $850 to use up before ins has to pick up all of the tab. Waiting to get there for nonurgent services such as a medical eye appointment for one son.