Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another Item Off the List: Painting the Hallway and Baseboards

After a long break from improving the house (aside from cleaning up the garage) we've finally painted the hallway and put in the baseboard.  Sure, those two things were done about a month apart, but still, Progress!

The Hallway is painted the same colors as the living room and kitchen: Subtle Oatland Taupe (walls) and Asisago (ceilings), although the color difference seems to be much more accentuated in the hallway.  I'm guessing this difference is due to the amount of light the hall gets, which is a lot less than the living room.

The baseboard, just put in last week, was a simple enough affair.  It even wraps around behind the washer/dryer (astonishing, I know).  Anyway, I think that all the improvements that we will be making from here on out will be yard/garage related, but if anything comes up we'll eventually get around to posting it here.

Monday, September 7, 2009


We haven't made a post in a while... because Ted asked me to marry him! It was a very sweet proposal at a nearby Italian restaurant and he gave me a nice engagement ring. The way he asked me was actually to check my email on my phone, and in it was a link to this blog with the title changed. :)

So the next project begins! We have been researching and visiting various venues to have a wedding ceremony and reception. We haven't made any final decisions or set a date yet, but we'll let you know as soon as we do!

Lindsay, Lauren, Randy, and Jeff threw us a little engagement party this past weekend. Check out the photos of the amazing cake Lindsay baked and decorated herself!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's Hot!

Summer is here, and we're not especially used to living in this heat! Okay, it's not that hot...but 85 degrees without air conditioning is pushing it just a little bit for us. We were spoiled from living 5 minutes from the beach the past 6-7 years (Santa Barbara and Ventura). But it's nice here in Camarillo, and we'll get used to being a few degrees warmer in the summer months.

Ted installed the new fans just in time before it started getting hot this summer. He is getting pretty good at electrical work, and I'm a good helper :). The fans we got are the brand Hunter, again another purchase from Costco. The panels are dual colors, one side birch and the other cherry. We went with the cherry for both of them. One is in the bedroom, and the other in the office. Take a look at the photos to see Ted hard at work.

In other news, we had to have the house termite tented last weekend per our new neighbors. So we had a mini-vacation staying with my family, going to the beach, hanging out with some good friends, and swimming with Buddy (their yellow lab) in the pool. The termite tenting was a bit of a pain because we had to bag up all of our food and stuff, but it was a good excuse to get away, and at least the house is bug free now.

We hope everyone is enjoying their summer, and we'll try and update again soon!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


So, we had a housewarming party.


First we would like to thank everyone that was able to make it to the housewarming; our friends from college, high school, friends from work, both old and current. It was great to see everyone, to get more potted plants and the wonderful gifts that were bestowed upon us.

Secondly, this means that, for real, most of the work is finished in the living room and kitchen. All the transitions, and even a new lighting fixture installed an hour before the party, are completed and looking good, allowing us for the first time to take an entire week off of working on the house. Not to say that won't stop me from seriously thinking about installing the new fans, but...

For the housewarming we had a selection of Kirkland Beers (pretty good actually) and 1984 Kenwood Cab donated by my Dad, George. This was the same kind of wine that Christina had on her 21st birthday and the cork was in better condition, meaning it tasted better to boot. Did I mention that it was a 6L bottle? Well, you'll see in the photos at the end of the post. We also had homemade potato salad, the Bacon Explosion, 3.5Lbs of bacon and sausage rolled up into a delicious log of cholesterol, and fish tacos courtesy of Christina's Dad Nick, who caught plenty of tuna and yellow tail on his week long fishing trip.

What else is there to say? Everyone got along well, the weather agreed, staying warm throughout the night, and the tiki torches gave off the appropriate glow needed for this type of backyard party, and as dinner wound down and people filtered out, well when the cat's away...

The mice play beer pong. Christina and I had a blast hosting this and hope that everyone who could make it enjoyed their time here too. Maybe since I have all this free time I can start getting to the How To's I've been meaning to do.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Little Things

We are finishing a few things here and there before our housewarming party this weekend. If we haven't told you about it, ask us and we'll let you know the details! The littlest things take forever to finish, because there are so many of them. For example, I never thought about floor transitions from room to room. Apparently they are supposed to match and provide a flat surface between one floor to the next. You mean we can't have people tripping from the tile kitchen to the laminate in the living room?

We finished all the baseboard moulding in the living room and painted the door frames the same color, white. Again, these are supposed to match. I know right? We also put the framing up above the cabinet doors in the kitchen. It still needs to be touched up with some paint. Another little project to add to the list!

Here are some photos. See you this weekend if you can make it!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lifehacker: Consumer Reports: Refresh your kitchen and bathroom

So I was perusing Lifehacker and I came across this post, originally from Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports suggests a few ways handy and not-so-handy types can make some big changes in two of the house's most prominent rooms without drawing up major plans or hiring a contractor for more than minor jobs. Consider a few of their kitchen suggestions:
A couple of their suggesstions are exactly what we have done (in the kitchen, a new lamintate countertop and the refresh/repaint of cabinet doors), and what we are considering doing (new vanities in the bathroom). I think it's a testament to the cost effectiveness of their approach that we've been able to do it in a pretty short period of time with relatively minor experience.

The only other thing I could throw in? Paint your ugly tile instead of replacing it.

Flooring Q&A from my Aunt Vicky

So last night before we posted out our latest blog report I got an email from my Aunt Vicky (out in Nashville) asking about flooring. As I went through her questions I realized the answers I were giving would, well, make a great blog post. So here we go:

Q: How are things going with the house? How are you and Christina?

A: We're doing really well, and really excited about having the house coming along as well as it has. (Sweet, that was a softball question)

Q: How much trouble was it to install?

A: Relatively easy, but you really need at least 2 people. Takes probably 20 man hours for the 360 square feet we had. (Thanks again Jeff)

Q: How easy does it cut?

A: Very easily with a miter saw. I picked one up for $140 and I love it. A table saw would be nice for ripping long pieces of laminate (for edges and corners of rooms), but a circular saw will get the job done. (I bought a Hitachi 10” miter saw. It really is great)

Q: How hard are the last pieces to install?

A: Surprisingly easy, but we got lucky. Our room was just wide enough to fit almost an exactly even number of planks.

Q: If you install it over linoleum, do you think you still have to put the barrier liner down? What type of tape did you use to hold that together?

A: I would say yes to the barrier/underlayment. It helps the feel. Costs ~ $0.25/square foot, and goes down in long strips running side-by-side. Ours included an adhesive strip along one edge that sticks each row to the others; for end-by-end joints we used Duct Tape (yellow to be exact).

Q: How long did it take you to do the whole floor?

A: Most of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday eve. At least an hour per 15 feet.

Q: If you have half the floor done, can you move furniture on it at that point or does the whole floor need to be down before putting furniture back on it?

A: I would say depends on the furniture. Lighter chairs and table? I would say yes. Piano, I'm thinking no, at least until you have a good 10 or 15 feet wide done. You still want the floor to have some movement while you piece it together. We had a couch on our partial floor as we finished and had no problems.

Well, that's a good start on my questions :)

Yes it was.

So, now that you've all had a chance to read that, how about it? Send in your own
questions and Christina and I would love to answer them (and questions make it so easy to distill all this info in our heads into little discrete bits of knowledge).

Also, you may notice the baseboard in that photo up top; that's right, just tonight we have finished the baseboards in the living room. That included 1 day for cutting and painting, a day for nailing and caulking, and the final day for patching and final paint (it's nice to break it up).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cabinets, Yard Work, and Baseboard Moulding

Hi there! Long time no blog? We are so close to finishing the kitchen. We sanded, primed, and painted the cabinet doors (yes, all 13 of them). A big thanks to Ted's mom and sister for helping with the cabinets and the drawer!

The yard has finally gotten some much needed TLC. Ted and Diana filled up the entire landscaping trash can with pine needles and random garbage that the previous owners left behind. They found various treasures in the shed that were soon discarded. Ted sprayed some weed killer and put some grass fertilizer so hopefully our lawn will be healthy once again.

Our latest task was figuring out what to do about baseboard molding. The old ones were about 2" tall, and there were barely any pieces that matched each other. We went with a little over 3" tall baseboards with a little groove in them. The MDF boards come pre-primed, and Ted painted them white. He was able to use his new nail gun to put all of the molding up in the living room and dining room. I followed him and added some caulking to secure the tops and joints to the walls. The finishing nails are a little tricky to push all the way into the board, but I got them in with a little tapping tool and hammer.

This week we're planning on touching up the baseboard paint, putting in some more transitions (Ted already put one in between the kitchen tile and laminate), and hanging up a few more photos.

We've had a few friends over here and there and it seems like we didn't totally screw up the place (shout outs to Lauren, Lindsay, Natalie, Jeff, Randy, Sam, Travis, Billy, Justin, Julianne, Kathy, and all of the fam for visiting)! Here are some photos, so you can see for yourself.

Big Post incoming soon

Hey everyone,

sorry about the lack of updates, that's just how this week has been. But fear not! The updates will be coming. What we did this week:
Finished the cabinet doors including installation
Hosted my little sister and mom over for a few nights
Additional kitchen painting
Baseboard cutting, painting, and application
Start of Lawn Care

Hopefully I'll be able to get a real post up here soon. In the meantime:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Another weekend of work

Blogging? What's that?

Ever since phase 1 (it's now official name) completed, we've been busy with small work and a little thing called not blogging.

So, that being said, here's what we've been doing:
replacing and cleaning up outlets
touching up paint
curtain rods and curtains
(laundry! no quarters! it's great)
cleaning up the office
adding office furniture
arranging furniture
building a table leaf

So, what's the story so far? Basically after getting all of the big points finished up (the paint, the floor, the kitchen), we're left with little bits and pieces to do, little projects that are high on details and low on effort (but they still take a lot of time).

We're still working on the layout of furniture in the main room but we've got a nice clear path to finishing things up; paint the cabinet doors, arrange the furniture, put in new baseboards, hang some art......and then the lawn. Awesome.

Anyway, it's been a while since we've posted because the big news is starting to slow. We'll keep things updated, I've got some before and after posts to make, but expect news to trickle down. We've been in the house for 4 weeks now and we've got quite a while ahead of us, so don't take this as the end. I haven't even shown you what I plan to do with the lavender bush out front.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Flooring is Complete!

After a trip to Home Depot to purchase the last of the underlayment, Ted cutting the hardest pieces on the last wall, and hammering everything in - we are finished! It took about 20 man hours total but it was worth it. It's so wonderful to walk in our living room on something that isn't old gross carpet or dusty concrete. And it looks pretty nice too. Tomorrow we'll probably move our furniture into the living room and get things organized. The next step will be the baseboards. But first, a much needed break!

Flooring Update

We are about 2/3s done with the hardwood laminate flooring. A big thanks to Jeff for helping us out tonight. It's amazing how much a difference a few panels makes versus only having the dusty concrete. Just a few more days and we will have a livable living and dining room.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting near the end of Phase 1; woot!

We're getting there. Can you feel it? The excitement? I sure can.

It's been a mix of getting things done quickly and starting things slowly; we're a bit behind schedule, a bit overbudget (neither of those are surprising), but it's satisfying to see our initial list of changes starting to come to a close. Sure I've still got some outlets to change and little paint touch up here and there, but that's minor in the grand scheme of things.

We're now all finished with painting the living room (no more ceiling painting for a while!) and we've started to put the laminate in. That photo there, by the way, shows the small portion of the flooring that we've finished (yay photo angle trickery) not the whole room.

Putting the floor in hasn't been that bad; we cleaned the concrete underneath, left a little note commemorating our little adventure here, put down the underlayment, and started cutting and laying down the laminate. It goes in pretty easily but still requires some tapping with a special block and a mallet to get all of the wood to fit together (it's a tongue-and-groove joint). We also ended up cutting some of the starting pieces into 2/3 - 1/3 parts (i.e. 1 row full, 1 row 2/3 length, 1 row 1/3 length, rinse, repeat) using my new miter saw to do the job. I won't bore with the gory details, for now, but it comes together well enough and we're to the point where the next move involves...the circular saw! Duh duh duh!

Anyway, with the painting done and the floor coming along it's really starting to look nice, and we can't wait to get the rest of the work done and have as many of you over here as we can. Goodnight!

PS: make certain to watch the slideshow to look at my witty comments.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Plans for this weekend

We've taken a couple of days off this week from (ahem) hardcore painting to simpler things like setting up the office and not painting. It's been nice to take a break but we're back at it, finishing up the painting in the living room and prepping for the floor installation. Jeff and Lauren came by today to bring us food (In and Awesome Out) and take a look at the progress of the house (thanks again guys).

So as to work, Christina went about putting finishing touches and a second coat on the wall/ceiling intersection while I removed the old baseboard, cleaned up, and went to Lowe's (which isn't very convenient anymore since it's in Ventura). I also finished up the remainder of the ceiling, to which I say thank God. Painting large ceilings was bulking up my shoulders to the point I can hardly lift my arms over my head without my shoulder bumping my ear, but I digress.

We're looking at another hour of paint touchup and then flooring cleaning, prep, and a Costco run for 19 boxes of Brazillian cherrywood. Tomorrow should be interesting; we'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Carpet!

We finally had the carpet installed yesterday after two weeks of it being on back order. No more icky old blue stuff with who knows what on it. We can actually walk bare foot in the bedrooms without cringing, yes! We are currently unpacking and getting settled in the bedroom and office. We have a curtain over the sliding door in the bedroom and our Ikea desks are all set up - they are nice and big. This weekend: finishing painting the living room and starting on the hardwood laminate, and then we can finally relax a bit (aka save money before we move onto lighting fixtures and the bathrooms).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The floggings shall continue until moral improves!

This past Memorial Day weekend was, as some might say, action packed. We got to see our friends Sean and Chayna get married (and Christina was a bridesmaid), I got to hang out with Billy and Justin, and we got some painting and Ikea'ing done.

Billy helped me finish painting the ceiling in the kitchen (finally done) and then he and Justin and I did the normal thing we do when we're together: Walker Texas Ranger and Commando (greatest Arnold movie ever). All the while Christina was getting her bridesmaid on and helping Chayna prepare for her wedding (which was a lot of fun).

Sunday after the wedding Billy, Christina, and I went to Ikea in sunny Carson, CA and spent the better part of 3 hours shopping and packing cars, eventually leading to the realization that the Fit is not as big inside as I thought. We ended up strapping some desktops to the roof of my car and slowly made it back to Camarillo. But enough about my weekend.

Billy and I threw together the new kitchen island and shelf and called it a day. The next day Billy said farewell, headed back up to Woodland, and Christina and I continued working; her sanding the walls of the living room and I repairing a couple of sprinkler heads in the backyard (tenatively repaired...pending further testing). We have since painted the bulk of the living room walls and ceiling. Now it's filling in the wall/ceiling borders and applying second coats as needed.

On a final note, the carpet is coming in tomorrow! Finally we can walk on something a) not blue and b) with a pad not composed of what feels like newspaper and sawdust. We'll keep you all posted.

Oh yah, we also got our washer/dryer and oven.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kitchen work and the last half week

Whew. I don't know what else to say to describe the work that we've been doing the past several days. My mom (Hi Mom!) came down on Sunday after surviving the withering heat of Merced and seeing the First Lady give the UC Merced graduating class (439 strong) their commencement speech, and started helping us figure out a color scheme and general plan of attack for tackling the kitchen.

The weekend consisted of hours of scraping 2 coats of paint off of un-sanded and un-primed laminate cabinets (then sanded and primed), selecting some paint colors (Oatlands Subtle Taupe, Asiago, and Knight's Armor), many trips to Lowe's and Home Depot, Costco, and Von's, and just a lot of general work.

We spent a lot of prep time getting the kitchen ready for new paint; we took Monday off of work to make certain we could get it all done. To be honest the days and nights are starting to meld into each other and I'm not quite sure what happened when.

But the end result is we got a ton of work done; my mom weeded and pruned rosebushes, cleaned off cabinet door hardware and prepped the cabinet doors themselves for transformation (forthcoming) and Christina and I scraped, sanded, and painted our way into a new kitchen.

Tuesday saw the installation of the sink, disposal, and accessories and grinding down of the front entrywat by Christina's dad Nick (thanks Nick!) as well as the Verizon Fios installation (finally some fast internet), and the completion of the first coat of paint on the kitchen ceiling and walls. Take a look at some of the photos from this past weekend.

And finally, while we still have a little more work to do in the kitchen, take a look at the before and after shots:

So I want to thank my mom Catherine, Christina's dad Nick (and his workers Tito and Roberto), and of course Christina. Good night! I need to get up and have the energy to do this tomorrow.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

All Moved In

We're finally out of the apartment! Yesterday, Sam and Travis (thank you both) helped us with the dreaded move. We rented a U-haul and survived the long day of walking up, and down, the apartment stairs with our heavy boxes and furniture. By the time we were finished, the truck was packed to the brim. We formed a caravan with Travis in Ted's car, Sam in hers, and us in the truck, and made it over to Camarillo. Unloading was much easier; we basically tossed everything in the garage for the time being until the carpet and flooring is finished.

Today we chose paint colors for the living room and kitchen. Ted's mom is visiting, helping us make wise choices and with all of our little projects going on right now. We sanded down the kitchen cabinets and will hopefully paint them tomorrow. Short post but we are currently "borrowing" internet and are beyond exhausted. Goodnight!

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Countertops!

We're getting prepared for the move tomorrow and starting to see everything slip into place; new carpet and Fios next week, oven and washer/dryer the week after, fridge getting moved tomorrow and now we've got our new countertop installed 2 days early! Some moving in, some painting, and eventually me trying out the miter saw and laying down some flooring.

I'm excited.

As you can see it's a pretty big improvement over what was there. It's laminate, so faux-granite (faux-graminate?), but I'm still extremely happy with it. Thanks Mom and Dad for making this post possible.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wedsnesday, aka 2 more days of work before we move

Another day of work, painting to be exact, and another day closer to move-in. Today I bought a fridge from Costco. It's sitting in the garage until we can get the kitchen painted and another guy strong enough to help me move it (Travis I'm looking at you).

Painting is coming along well; we've completed the bulk of both bedrooms (save for minor trim and doors). We're starting in on the kitchen and are looking to have a semi-complete house sometime mid next week. New countertops, sink, faucet, appliances, should be good.

This weekend we'll be having Sam and Travis help us move and my mom (Hi Mom) will be coming down after to help with painting and all the other things that we're already over our head in. Should be fun!

Another day...painting, countertops, and more!

Today after work we finished painting the office (except for the ceiling). Elizabeth and I tackled the baseboards and moldings. The off-white color we picked is, well, whiter than we expected. We'll have to add color with draperies and such. We bought a 5 gallon bucket of paint so there's no going back now! We also worked on painting the master bedroom. It isn't perfect yet - there are still blue remnants we need to go over with another coat.

Ted worked on removing a kitchen cabinet so our refrigerator will fit in its provided space, and he put primer on the backsplash tile. We also picked out a laminate countertop pattern - blackstar granite. The little specs of peach in the coloring will match the peachy/tuscan floor. A big thanks to Catherine and George for the countertop! That will be going in next week. My dad will be putting in our new faucet and sink after the countertop is installed (another thanks to him for helping us!).

The big moving day is this Saturday. Unfortunately our carpet isn't ready yet, so we will have to live with the old blue stuff for a few days when we are moved in. We will have concrete floors in the living room for a little bit too, until we have the energy to tackle the flooring installation project. We're getting there... little by little.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day off of work

Photo by San Diego Shooter
We're both tired. This past weekend was long and exhausting so we decided to take the night off of working at the house and spend some time picking up paint (a 5-gallon jug of interior paint, Cool Gray color), supplies, and a cordless drill. No Diet Mountain Dews though. Beyond that we actually made some dinner, instead of just heating something in the microwave, and packed up odds and ends for the upcoming move this weekend.

Tomorrow will see us return to work; hopefully completing the bedroom painting and getting a good start on the kitchen area. New countertops in the near future too. Less than a week before we're slated to move in and still so much to do.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weekend work: Goodbye carpet, wallpaper, and stage

We had a pretty busy weekend. From after work Friday until about 6 PM on Sunday we removed wallpaper, carpet, the stage in the living room, had some wall texturing applied, and began painting. We also purchased some appliances from Lowe's and I managed to finance some Diet Mountain Dew. I don't have to pay for that soda for 12 months now.

So we finally got the wallpaper off of the office wall; I'm estimating that between the two of us we've spent something along the lines of 15 man-hours getting everything removed and cleaned up. The big problem that we had with this terror-wallpaper (the great wallpaper fiasco of ought-nine) was that it was glossy. I'm guessing, and this may be due to the exorcism required, that this gloss was the spit of Beelzebub, the devil himself. Once we got the glossy part off and we applied water and an iron we eventually pealed off the backing and the paper itself.

The other bedroom, on the other hand, came off like a dream. Here's a short video of the relative ease:

Wallpaper being done was a huge relief (we finished Saturday evening). Before that we spent Saturday morning tearing up carpet and that heavy duty stage (thanks Jeff and Roberto) in the living room. The carpet came out easily while the stage, well the stage was rough. A couple of hammers, a giant prybar, a circular and reciprocal saw and a few hours of rough labor and the living room was clear.

After that Tom, our ceiling texture guy, put new texture onto the ceilings we de-popcorned and some of the drywall that was un-texturized. It took Tom about half a day to finish up but the results were great. After he finished the texturizing I was set up to seal the ceilings and drywall with some Oil based primer, specifically Kilz. Kilz is used to seal up drywall and texture (itself basically spackle) so that any water based paint won't pull out a stain or color in the drywall. Basically we need to do it or all our pretty paint will end up discolored.

Finally with the help of Christina's sisters Elizabeth and Veroncia we got a real good start into painting, completing the office (save for the ceiling).

So that pretty much sums it up; we're looking to handle odds and ends this weekend, start seriously packing, and getting a new frige. Hopefully this upcoming week is a lot slower and easier on the joints than the last.

Take a look at some of our photos here:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

C+T: 2 / House: 1

Hey, it's been a crazy couple of days here, finishing up the popcorn in the second bedroom and starting what I am hoping is one of the worse tasks: removing wallpaper. Haven't had much time to post so I want to get caught up on the past couple of days and then plan for the future.

The second day of removing popcorn went better than the first, and we were done with it very quickly (relatively speaking). Do not underestimate the power of a good wall sheeting job.

The wallpaper on the other hand was/is terrible. The anti-glue that we got (Dif) worked well enough on the wallpaper that wanted to come off but was completely useless on the tough stuff. We've resorted to water, a sponge, and an iron to help get the wallpaper off, but with each little section coming off in 1/2" chunks, it's slow going. A big thanks goes out to Jeff for helpking us out with the wallpaper on Thursday. As it stands we've each put in at least 6 hours into wallpaper removal so far and we'll have some more to go. Next time we're going to rent a steamer.

We've got Nick (Christina's Dad) and his workers tearing out ducting and junk in the garage, reinstalling the water heater and prepping for the installation of the new FAU (Forced Air Unit). Today, being early Saturday morning, we're heading off to Home Depot for supplies and countertop options then to the house for some painting, wallpaper removal, and possibly carpet removal and floor demo. Hopefully I'll get some more photos online and a couple of how-to's on wallpaper and popcorn. I will say this though: if you see a house you like with wallpaper, consider buying something else.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Removing Popcorn Ceiling, Part 1

So the house is ours, which is cool, and the first order of business was to remove the popcorn from the "office" bedroom. As you can see, it was quite the production.

It was also pretty tiring.

One more bedroom to do and then we move on to demolition (I think).

Escrow Closed!

We have officially closed escrow!!! A special thanks to my mom for all of her help. She truly is a miracle worker! Now that all the paperwork is over, we can start making it our own. Let the demolition, painting, carpeting, etc. etc. etc. begin! We move in a week and a half so we're trying to do as much of the messy stuff we can before we are living there.

Tonight's agenda: scraping the popcorn ceilings.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

LA Times: House Hunting?...

From this Sunday's LA times, an article about much of the current state of home-buying:
Real estate

Stefano Paltera / For The Times
Potential buyers visit a home in Eagle Rock. In desirable areas, bidding wars are common. “The biggest problem,” says real estate agent Phyllis Harb, “is that people are overreacting to housing statistics, thinking they can come in and make an offer 20% below price.”
The median price in Southern California may have plummeted, but in more desirable neighborhoods, home buyers are still engaging in bidding wars.

Choice Quote:

* Be cautious of self-serving terms like "buyer's market," because in truth there isn't one real estate market in a given metropolis; there are as many as there are neighborhoods, with unique flavors. As one agent said, "Any generalization about real estate is not true somewhere."

We've seen this in full effect; everything from gluts of property in Oxnard to sought-after duplexes in Camarillo. Definitely a good read.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The First Task

After we close escrow on the house this Tuesday, our first task will be to tackle scraping the popcorn acoustic off the ceilings in the bedrooms. We've watched some videos online and have gotten some advise on how to do it ourselves. Luckily, there is no asbestos to worry about (we got that tested during our inspections). Today we went to Home Depot to pick up a few supplies for this fun task: a ladder, scrapers, a 1-gallon watering tank to wet the ceiling with, blue painter's tape, and lots of plastic sheeting to cover the floor and walls with. We barely fit the 6-foot ladder in Ted's little Honda. After we scrape the popcorn off, we know a guy that specializes in drywall, and he is going to help us patch up the ceiling and apply some texture before we paint it (we didn't want to mess that part up doing it ourselves!).

We also decided on a carpet color for the bedrooms today... "puddle" by Bliss... it has new technology to resist stains, odor, and any mold from growing underneath. Plus, it feels nice on the feet :). The color is in-between a gray and a beige. We didn't want to go too light so dirt would show, but we didn't want to go too dark either. We started realizing the fine lines between light beige, medium beige, and even medium light beige! Your eyeballs start to glaze over after you've been staring at carpet colors for over an hour. But we finally settled on "puddle." If you are looking for new carpet, watch out for any pink undertones when you are picking out the color; it can sneak up on you. Unless of course, you want your carpet to look pink! We decided to pick a carpet that is a little bit more expensive than your bottom line stuff because it comes with a 10 year warranty and well, the new technology had me sold. Let's hope it works out!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hidden Costs (of trying to buy)

As I was explaining to my friend Blake, there's a fair amount of money you can spend on a house before you even make the decision that you really want to buy it. To sum it up: inspections. Expensive inspections.

Before you buy a place you want to make certain that it's not completely falling apart and full of mold or termites. That's really the big three inspections you're looking at: general, mold, and termites. A good general inspector will check out the structural stability of the foundation, the house itself, the quality of the plumbing and wiring, up to the point a specialist would need to be called in. The mold inspection is going to check for, well, mold (specifically in air ducts and around water sources). Termites are self explanatory; in our case the owner (the bank) covered the termite inspection and repair.

So how much is all of this going to cost? Roughly $750 - $1200 and it's got to come out of your pocket. This cost isn't covered by the bank or able to be rolled into your loan, and even if you spend that money there is no guarantee that the house will end up yours. So the decision that you've got to make is whether or not you like the place enough to throw down the cash (we decided yes).

So, what other hidden costs can you guys think of?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

About time to Pop the Champagne

(Photo: Waldo Jaquith)
We've official semi-closed on the house, i.e. we've signed all of our loan documents and we are awaiting the review and funding of the house. So, if things go right the house will be ours on Tuesday!

Beyond that we've gotten quotes on carpets, ceiling work, and I audibly gasped in front of my fraternity brothers when I saw a nice Stainless Steel side-by-side fridge at costco. What have I become?

More updates coming soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Don't pop the champagne yet; Escrow and timetables

So, escrow. Escrow, in terms of real estate, is the final stages of buying a house where the buyer and the seller use a 3rd party (the escrow company) to facilitate the transfer of deed to money (borrowed, hopefully for a fixed rate, for 30 years). If this were an action movie escrow would be the final act leading up to the showdown; Arnold yelling "get to the choppah", that sort of thing.

The thing about escrow is that ~70% of the time it's delayed by some amount; so far we're looking at a 2 week delay and it could honestly be worse. The point of all this? That house isn't yours until escrow is over with, so don't go making plans and spending money until escrow is locked and loaded.

Case in point is something I heard today from a friend at my old job: this guy, Dave, knew a couple buying a house who gave themselves 4 weeks for escrow to go through and get approved. This was a hard 4 weeks; leases ending, boxes packed and needing movie, money being spent. And then escrow took 6 weeks to complete and this couple had to rent storage for 2 weeks and move back in with her mom while they waited for escrow to close. That sucks. No offense to her mom.

So we're getting into our second delay of escrow but we've been lucky. Our apartment complex doesn't mind letting us pay for another week of living there, the utilities are the same, and we haven't scheduled any work that can't be moved a week; if all goes well we'll close escrow next Friday and start tearing things out. Anyone up for some demolition work in the next week (escrow willing)?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Appliances Continued


So in keeping with the theme of appliances I wanted to share some of our methodology for searching out appliances in the wide world of Lowe's, Home Depot, Costco, and Sears (among others).

1. Bring a camera. We've taken to snapping photos of each and every appliance we're interested in and throwing them into Evernote (my favorite note taking program and system). We use that to compare each store's offerings.

2. Look for Energy Star appliances and Energy Star rebates. Lowe's is running a 10% off all Energy Star appliances. Costco has a few sales here and there for Energy Star fridges.

3. Take notes and check for shipping costs. Lowe's and Home Depot tend to have free/subsidized shipping while Costco warehouses expect you to handle your own hauling and installing.

4. Consider the quality. We're steering pretty far away from the generic Chinese washers, dryers, fridges and the likes, and going for the ones that are at least headquartered in the US. There was an interesting post on Gizmodo about about the relative quality of no-brand HDTV's; essentially a no-brand has less incentive to provide a comprehensive service and warranty plan (including home service and shipping) then an established brand. So while the two may perform similarly, it's when things go wrong you might want the better (and more expensive) brand.

5. Figure your colors and finishes out. Your washer and dryer? Probably don't need to be designer colored (yet). But your fridge/dishwasher/oven? They should look alike and probably be a color that you like and/or love. Our friend Jim pointed out an interesting note though: Stainless Steel appliances love some fingerprints and need special cleaner to get the job done. Right now we're waffling between Stainless Steel and gray paint. Decisions, decisions.

Finally, throw everything together: can you get a color and style and size that you like from a manufacturer you want? Can you do that for everything you're looking for? And what about the delivery? Balance that all together....and let us know because we're still fiddling with it.

Natalie's comment reminded me about looking for interest free financing; generally the big box home improvement retailers offer 12 months no interest financing on large orders ($1000+) over big weekends (Memorial Day, 4th of July, etc...). Beyond that if you have a real big order (fridge and oven and washing machine and...) you might be able to finagle interest free financing anytime
(this is especially important to us as the gov't tax rebate for new home buyers takes 8-10 weeks to get processed). So grab some coupons from the USPS, get a big list going, and look for some deals.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Appliances, Carpet, and Flooring Oh My!

Fuscia Foot via FlickrHi everyone! Today we went shopping for a lot of different things... appliances at Lowe's - think we're going to go with stainless steel or stainless looking ones, carpet - a light beige or grey seems to be the consensus, and we've been looking at Costco's hardwood laminate flooring - the Brazilian cherry looks pretty spiffy. So many choices! Still not quite sure what to do with the 3rd bedroom area... possibly a dining room.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Welcome, welcome, welcome! While the title of this blog is pretty self explanatory I shall expand upon it here:
we're buying a house!

we've got to fix it up; we've got carpet, flooring, paint, repairs, landscaping, and general de-lousing to look forward to for the next oh, 30 years or so (minimum). So we'll be posting photos of before, during, and hopefully after. Beyond that I (Ted) will be posting reviews and impressions of the tools we'll be using and I'm certain Christina will share her thoughts with everyone else too.

So bear with us while we start figuring this whole thing out. Now if only escrow would close.

Also, here's a map of the general location:

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