Friday, September 28, 2012

Really? Two Months?

Well, I see I forgot I have this blog. Life just seems to get faster and faster and two months (plus!) have marched away since I closed on the Louisville house. I am working away on her, but my early zest has trickled to a bit of a slow crawl thanks to work travel and other items that have taken my focus of late.

So, to catch up, here is what I have managed to complete:

*New roof
*Office floor finished (more on that in a minute)
*Painted the living room (horrible shade that will need to be redone later)
*Painted part of the kitchen (really great color)
*Installed most of the kitchen floor
*Installed new doors
*Uninstalled cabinets in kitchen (much better!)
*Patched up some holes

Wow, looking at this list makes me feel I've hardly accomplished anything, but many of these projects took a long time, not to mention money, to complete (like the roof). I still have two major exterior projects to complete before winter gets here-siding and insulation. I still need to have the furnace examined or replaced as well. Once I get past those hurdles, it's mainly cosmetic.

I really like the neighborhood and the neighbors all seem friendly enough. The most excitement has been an accident that happen this past Sunday inches from my car (so I am parking down the street a bit now). My only gripe is that there is nothing to do around here. This is such a cool, historic area of Louisville. Where the H is the restaurants, pubs, shops? I am really hoping some revitalization happens around here at some point (sans gentrification). On the plus side, there is a Habitat Restore and a great thrift shop within walking distance to my house.

And, in "file under wonderful", I have been told I am moving to a home office! This is such great news and will not only help me save on mileage, but will give me back at least an hour of my life! This, of course, meant the office room moved from near the end of my ginormous house list to near the top. I'm not complaining; I'm ecstatic!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

West End Girl

OK, no more boo hooing about closing on the house!

The closing finally happened on July 13 (Friday!). The day of the closing I heard Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" twice on the radio. I hoped it was a sign of good things to come.

My first project was to gut the house of it's yicky carpet and three layers of vinyl flooring. I also had to moved all of my stuff from the apartment (bank too me to the wire on my lease) and it is currently crowded and ugly right now, but do I ever have inspiration running amok in my head. I cannot wait to dip brushes into paint, shovels into dirt, and rebuild this baby into her former glory. Only a bit more modern.

I have taken to calling her Fannie J. Glory.

Of course, I am still full of the negative nellie stories: Like the mountain of garbage I found in the front yard on the first day, or the punk guy who gave me the look of hate because of the neighbor's garbage can in his way, or the nightly domestic fights. Welcome, Friends, to the ghetto!
I do have some photos to share, but for now, I am dreamy with what will be. I will instead leave you with some links to beautiful things.

I love the blog All the Luck in the World. Check out the second and third photo on the post I linked here. Gorgeous!

And, here is a link to a Pinterest Board I made last month. I am constantly adding to it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 36: Do I have a Choir?

I am starting to be a bit redundant here. Yes, another week of no progress. I am out of tears and my frustration is turning to sullen apathy at this point. I am tired of hearing that the bank does not have to abide by the same rules and regulations as the rest of the US population. I mean the rules and regulations are created by them (through our own legislation), so you would think they would be the first to uphold their end. You would think. And you can laugh. Out loud.

The listing agent has no balls to confront the bank and get this thing moving. I mean a split $500 commission just is not going to be motivation to be a strong force against the a*holes. Nope, I'm on my own in my cloud of frustration. I am the only one that seems to care that I am going to be homeless in a few weeks if this does not go through anytime soon. My buyer's agent just keeps saying "It's'd be easier if we were dealing with an individual and not a bank."

I keep thinking I get to lose my initial investment because someone didn't do and doesn't want to do their jobs.

I am afraid to push the envelope until after the paperwork is finished, but I do plan to make a HUGE congressional complaint. I will be heard. Neighborhoods? Why are you not putting together a class action against Fannie Mae and cohorts for allowing houses to rot and blight to fester? Local politicians? FUCKING care about your jurisdictions and constituents. Owner-occupants? You, too, should be questioning these unfair selling practices (i.e. only investors who do not have 'time is of the essence' issues and worries can buy at low prices; the rest of us have to buy homes from them at inflated costs and low appraisals if we hope to live in the damn thing). We lose out over and over and we allow them to walk all over us. They make rules for us to follow and then ignore them for themselves. It's not healthy or fair or sustainable. Someone needs to stop this ride.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 33: No New News to Tell

I actually had to edit the title because I put Day 27. It's been 33 (thirty-three) days!

Here we are...more than a week later from the last time I posted anything about all of this headache. I spent last week away from KY (for work) and tried to just put it all out of my head. I stopped by the house on Thursday and all was well. The gate had been opened again, but I am trying to just hope it was the listing agent.

No word on whether the bank got their issues worked out yet. If they don't have it ready by Wednesday at 8:45, I won't be closing again next week. Really, they have no accountability. They can hold the earnest money indefinitely with no repercussions, but if I tell them to go f*ck themselves, I have to walk away from $1000 (plus any costs associated with the inspections). And, of course, I have now run out of time to bid on any other properties (my lease ends 8/07). It's infuriating and unfair and I am just waiting until neighborhoods sue these banks and their half-ass attempt to sell foreclosures for the blight they are the sole cause of in many areas. Like I mentioned, if my house if damaged by vandalism or theft or fire or nature, I can walk, but they get to pocket $1000. Amazing racket, isn't it?

So, I am scheduled for 06/29 for a 9 am closing. I hope the agents start putting some pressure on the bank, but they seem scared of them. How do we fight back?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 25: Closing Woes

Well, another cancellation. At least now I know why, however, and have just resigned to wait. Maybe wait for copper thieves, or mischievous boys, or other tragedies of an abandoned and unloved house. I have to let go. I am driving myself crazy with worry. What will be, will be. It is not my house until the dotted line is signed.

Yesterday, the house was wide open in the back. I walked around and knocked loud and screamed into the cavernous hallway, "Go away!" I called Sr, practically in tears (even though I could see no damage) and while standing in the backyard, a boy of maybe 9 or 10 rode his bike across the neighboring yard. He saw me and jumped. His friends that were chasing him all halted to look at me. Finally, one says, "Ma'am, that house is abandoned!"

I smiled and told them it was not any more. The house belongs to me. I asked them if they had been in the house (mentioning too, which is totally true, my love of abandoned propertied when I was their age). And they said, "No, we just look to see if any one is in there..." They told me 6 men come and go.

My mind went back to the crusts of a PBJ sandwich I saw a few weeks ago and I smiled inside. These little boys are probably my squatters. I told them to be careful and that I was happy to be their new neighbor.

I then made a little visit to the police station. I spoke with an officer who not only immediately knew where I was talking about, but knew the inside of my house. He said young boys were hanging out in it and had done it no harm. I spoke with him at length about the bank frustration and he offered security tips. I hope he checks on it when he's out paroling the neighborhood. He certainly won't forget me for some time (I flashed him my own badge, something I very rarely do!)

So, why did the bank cancel (for the third time)? Apparently, there is a paid off, but unreleased mortgage dating back to 2007. This would have been before our big real estate melt down. I knew of this refinance from the bankrupted investors that owned the house because I researched it in the beginning. I had no idea that it was still an issue. I would think they would have caught that before they listed the property, but I am asking Fannie Mae employees to not be incompetent (this coming from a fed worker, by the way!)

We are now scheduled for the 29th. This is four days past the closing (before or on) date the bank picked in the first place. If I tell them to fuck off, I lose my $1000 good faith deposit. The bank gets all the benefits and the buyer, especially an owner-occupant buyer, gets all the BS.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 24: The Continuation of Frustration

My realtor texted me today with a message that began, "I am taking the coward's way. I want you to read and digest this before you call..." It went on to say Fannie Fucking Mae had not completed my paperwork today, something about some sort of HUD1 paperwork, and this means it would not be there in time for the 48 hour hold. WT Royal F? I thought that was the excuse last Friday???

I cannot believe the incompetence of these banks.Meanwhile, <del>my house</del> their foreclosure is sitting there a sitting duck to a mass of vandals and desperate crooks. I am so tired of worrying it will be stripped out. I just want doors on the thing! I am driving by at least once a day, but I'll be gone this weekend and probably next week partly for business. Ultimately, I cannot be a constant keeper of the bank-owned-house-with-the-plywood-door. I want to remedy the situation and it is driving me crazy!

I cannot close until next Friday because it has to be timed to be able to install proper doors. I only have someone on Friday. I am so frustrated, it hurts. I cannot wait to write a bookn about all of this bullshit with the banks. The next time I hear someone blame neighborhood demise on people, I will speak up and tell them who they should be pointing the finger at instead. We allow "them" (i.e. banks) to have the power over all of us. At some point, we need to call their bluff. Tell them they are an emperor with no clothes!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Day 20: Of Course

Growls and snarls have been coming from me all day. GD bank and title company screwed up and did not get my title work sent in time for the 48 hour cooling off period. So, one hour before I was to go do the walk through, I sent a text asking for the amount for closing. A few minutes later, my realtor calls and says, 'We have a problem...'

This is all two hours before the closing. No one called me. I pleaded with them to make it happen (not possible due to the gvern regulations), to let me put the doors in anyway (nope, not going to happen), for anyone to have a fucking heart (definitely never going to happen).

Meanwhile, I have the doors purchases and Sr is standing by to install them. Needlesstosay, I was brought to tears with frustration. They said they want to schedule it for next week, but I am out of town for work. Their response was to say get a power of attorney. Well, paperwork is fine and dandy, but we are left then with no one to install the blessed doors.

I eventually calmed down enough to say I wanted it early on Friday. This will mean another 4 hour trip for Sr to help me put the doors in properly. I will keep the doors and the truck, meanwhile, to help keep gas costs down (it'll basically be parked at my office for the week due to impending travel).

The morel of this post is if you are going to try to this method of unconventional house purchasing, never, ever expect anyone in the business to have a heart or any human emotions at all. They are all heartless bastards (in fact, I believe this is where this cliche was born).

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Day 19: One Photo

How about a teaser photo? Not the best  (I was recording that there is a hot water heater), but you can see the staircase. This is the kitchen. I am closing tomorrow and will post better ones when I have a chance.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day 17: Marchin' like Army Ants

Pest inspector came out today and checked for extensive termite damage. There is some, but nothing that can't be fixed. I expected some; I mean the house was built in 1900 and has been through two major Ohio River floods (before they built the flood walls in the '40's). I needed to get that bad siding off as soon as possible, put up downspouts and a new roof. I also found out the house has a cellar (stairs were hidden under carpeting). He was funny: trying so hard to be political and nice and I finally blurted out, "It's OK! I know the house is a dump!"

We then talked about neighborhoods and houses and all was good.

The bad news was he said someone kicked in the back door. I imagine they actually just ran out of the door because everything is the same. In the neighboring yard, there is a bunch new junk (old mattress, toilet, debris) and I am not sure if it is someone's stockpile or a dumping place. First thing we are doing on Friday is putting in new doors and new fence panels. I also reported a branch on the tree in the tiny front yard to the utility company. the tree has split and it is only a matter of time before the branch succumbs to gravity and takes out the power lines with it. I don't want that on me, so best they come out now before I sign any papers!

Sr was able to take the weekend off, so after 2:30 Friday, the fun begins!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day 14: This is Political

So, I am learning a lot as I head down this rocky path of risky house buying. For one, after finding out I can't insure the place due to condition and the fact I am rehabbing it (WTF?)-not even some sort of investor's insurance, I have learned that insurance companies are not our friends (LOL). I am irritated because I have been paying home owners insurance for at least 18 years and have never made a claim. All that money and no one will take a risk on me now. Of course, we all know it's not "me", it's the neighborhood and the fact the house is older and in need of major work. It's the fact I paid only a few thousand for it. And, the bank is not helping by not letting me put a door on the damn house. I can't insure it until I put a door on it, I can't put a door on it until I close on it, and I take the risk if a breakin occurs after the closing and then good luck on insurance. Snake chasing it's tail.

(And, before I go any further: DO NOT INSURE WITH STATE FARM. Jerks and riddled with the disease of prejudice. Of course, if you are insuring with them, then I guess you have what they called an "above average home". After a very rude treatment by staff (Yes, State Farm Agency in Louisville-shall I mention names-you don't even know me or where I may end up). Personally, I have seen few 'above average homes' unless you are in a wealthy area. People try in the working class area, but 'above average"? I have no idea how that is defined because, at this point, my house is not even to average which means a much, much lower amount to insure. But you just go ahead and keep only insuring the East End. Good luck with tornadoes, fallen trees and flooding!)

All of this warrants the question of why some neighborhoods fall into disrepair and stay that way. You can't get insurance if you buy one of these rehab houses, you can't insurance if your house is less than "above average", you can't afford to put in items that banks and insurance corps call above average. If your house burns, you're on you own. So, who in their right mind would take a chance on a cash house. It takes a particular kind of crazy to do this and I am finding that I question my own piece of crazy (lots of sleepless nights in the past weeks).

Speaking of disrepair, many of these houses are snatched up by investors who can't insure them, hang on to them for whatever delusional visions of kingdoms they harbor, and walk away if the investment gets damaged. It is not the inhabitants of the community or bad tenants in most cases; it is the slumlords that end up owning blocks and blocks of boarded up houses. Case in point, the block I am buying the home on has a string of boarded up houses. I checked tax records and found the majority of them are owned by one couple. Apparently, they quit paying taxes and mortgages in 2010 and the bills have stacked up. I plan to go to the tax sale on July 18 to see about the house immediately next door (a cute brick Shotgun with no mortgage pending on it). They owe about a grand in back taxes, but I suspect someone already is paying the delinquent bills and will buy it outright on July 18. Kentucky is a Commonwealth state and has a strange lottery system of buying tax properties. I am still researching it and will post more on this later. I really wish more would embark on this adventure with me (and not just for the purpose of owning homes to rent or flip). We could even start a collective to help each other with the repairs and crime watch.

Sigh. Again with the pipe dreams...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 11: On Unwanted Roommates

So, my offer was countered and the bank asked for more money. I visited the house today because I had not had a chance to preview the inside. It is lovely. As soon as we walked in, however, I heard a door shut. I said to the realtor, 'Someone is living here...they just left out the backdoor." She asked if I was certain and I was.

I suspected someone was living there the first day I peeked in the windows. I saw plastic cutlery on the floor in one of the back rooms. Also, the window was open. And, I felt like I was being watched.

We walked into the house and my stomach has butterflies in it. In the back I saw a rather nice bike and the crusts of a recently consumed peanut butter and jelly sandwich. No doubt someone is staying in the house. The back door was also unlocked.

After looking around and deciding the house has great bones and potential, I signed the counteroffer. I am soon to be the transient's landlord! I left a note on the bike thanking him for being neat and respecting the property and that I was sorry he had to move. I wished him the best. I hope whomever he/she is they have a heart and move on without vandalizing the house. There are many, many more vacant homes in the city for someone to crash in.

If the house is vandalized, I can get out of the contract. Paragraph 11: House shall be maintained in the condition at the time of the offer.

I wish the bank would install new doors. I really want peace of mind.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 8: No Jinx

I so don't want to jinx this, but I put forth my strongest offer on another house. This time the house has only been viewed by me in photographs (I get a 10 day inspection period if the offer is accepted). I offered very close to asking price, cash, and as an owner-occupant (15 days first priority). I don't know how I could have made it any better. We did miss the 15 day owner-occupant period by a day (the math is funny on the Homepath was listed on the 12 which by my calculations would have made yesterday Day 15; however, the site listed Friday and the last day.

Now I am hoping beyond hope this house has electricity and plumbing like the photos. It was not on the market long after the photos were posted, so unless someone broke in this week, the house should (fingers crossed!!!) be "as is" according to the photographs. I do know the roof has leaked. I hope to go peek in windows tomorrow or Tuesday.

If the major systems are working, I can get it inspected and repaired quickly after closing and move in for the rest of the repairs. The house has a lot of potential, but like all the others I can afford needs a lot of work and TLC.

Oh, and the new realtor is great. I'm glad I switched.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 7: Cry

So, once again I've probably lost. This time the realtor dropped the ball on getting my paperwork in on time. See, the house of interest is a Homepath house with a 15 days Owner-Occupant period. It ended yesterday. She had told me she would have the paperwork ready by evening, but 8 came and went and I finally texted her a general "How's it going". She responded closer to 11 with a statement about another buyer's issue and that she wouldn't be able to get to mine until early the next day (today and it is 9 am the next day as I write this). I checked the Homepath website and the "first look" symbol is gone which means the house is now available to all interested parties. Now, I must compete with the big dog investors and they force you to go above the asking price. I don't have the capital. I am going higher this time around, but I doubt it will be high enough.

I am so frustrated. I just want to pay cash for a house that I also plan to live in. I prefer a house with electricity still in it. Maybe a toilet. I'm beginning to think the stars are against me being a home owner in Louisville. I refuse to take out another mortgage.

I am running out of time...two months left in my apartment.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 6: Another Part of the Story

Here is an interesting experience I had the other day while at the house by the tracks. I was sitting in my vehicle on the phone waiting on the realtor. I saw a couple of cars drive by and glance my way. The part of the street the house sits on is a small stretch dead ending at the railroad tracks. Both houses on this section are boarded up. Almost all of these vacant homes I've been viewing have been boarded up.

One of the vehicles, a newer SUV went by and then returned. They pulled into the short piece of road and blocked my vehicle. I told my friend I was letting her go (at first I thought they were pulling up next to me to ask me something). Soon after, out jumped 4 men in black t-shirts and khaki shorts. I grabbed my badge (part of my job I'll talk about later) and started to hop out of my car. One of them reached into the driver's window and turned on a red blinking light behind the rear view mirror.

I got out and said: "First, I'm waiting on a realtor to show me the property. Second, I'm an officer..." I showed them my badge. The one guy says, "Are you thinking of buying this place to rent out?"

Um, no...

I said, "Actually, I'm looking to buy and occupy a house in this area."

All four looked squarely at this 5'03" petite woman and I saw "crazy" written like stars in their eyes.

I stated, "I'm really glad you guys showed up's a great sign you are watching out for all these vacant homes and the community." They just stared and nodded.

Of course, I'd love to ask where the hell they were when the house was broken into and vandalized. I also didn't ask for their credentials and for all I know they are part of some West End Mafia. I guess that would be interesting!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 5: The Hunt Part II

I ended up calling her to say I was firm on my price and she said I should wait for a price drop. Now this girl has not offered me any advice until now. She never told me about this 5% rule when I made the other offer and even when they emailed asking for my 'highest and best'. She started telling me that the banks, after all the fees and taxes and other losses, would not go for a small offer. I wanted to say, 'Yeah...fucking banks!" However, I ended up saying that the banks would rather these houses rot into the ground instead of letting one go for cheap. I told her I lost 40% on a property in 2010 and no one seems concerned about that loss. I really have no sympathy for banks. And, the banks do not care about Louisville. They own or sell homes to uncaring investors and the blight continues.

I probably would have gone higher on that house I lost, but without any feedback I was scared to bid a lot. I had read that banks play these games and I didn't want to up my bid unnecessary. I want a good deal; I want to spend as little as possible on the purchase price so I can spend more to fix it up. It's a stacking game that investors are better at playing. How I see it, it will not be long before only a handful of investors own all the properties in low income areas.

She also never mentioned Homepath Properties where owner-occupants sign a contract saying they will stay in the home for 1 year (this is an option for me) or, if investor bought, the homes have 3 month deed restrictions. These houses have a 15 day preference towards owner-occupants.

Further, she never answered any of my emails directly.

So, I let her go. I need a more assertive agent. I realize they are not going to make much commission off of this deal, but, in theory, I plan to sell this house someday and I may buy others down the road. This is like a reduced price trial offer. I need someone that will guide me a bit better to help me fight the investors regardless of their commission. I am asking for the moon, I realize.

I think I found her. She is the mother of one of my co-workers. I sent her a Homepath property I like and I hope to place a bid by tomorrow on (yet) another property. This time I am doing so with only seeing photos (I'll put an inspection contingency on it).

It does suck that houses are selling less than economy vehicles now.

Day 5: The Hunt Continues


I lost my first 'official' offer. It took the bank exactly a week to decide. I was outbid due to being a bit conservative on my price (I think) and the fact investors can afford more overhead in the purchase price. As my friend R. likes to say, "You haven't found your house yet..."

So, I moved on and went to view a couple of more. The first one is really cute and still has the original wood doors and moulding. It also appears to still have it's copper, but I'm not 100% certain. The negative: both houses are boarded up on either side and the neighborhood is quite run down. I felt uneasy there for some reason (and this is odd for me). Ironically, it is not on the West End, but more south-central (near the house I lost the bid on).

The second house is a little shotgun next to railroad tracks. It sits on a big lot and someone even built a functional chicken coop in the back yard. Vandals (more than likely bitter X-owners or kids) have broken in and painted graffiti in one room (very easy fix), busted the stone fireplace, overturned a toilet and busted out plaster and lath walls. Still, it has some potential.

And this is where the story takes a discouraging turn...

While at this property, the agent helping me starts to hint that there is little commission to be made on these and that a lot of agents would just say, "Oh, we can't get into that one." Now, to be fair, I have looked at probably a dozen houses on my own time and have only asked for an inside view (which requires an agent) three times. I'm pretty good at narrowing down what I need. In fact, I had sent her an email saying I was willing to place the offer without a view (I'd peeked into the windows) and the amount. She ignored this email and set up a viewing.

This particular house is priced way over the other ones I had looked at ($12,000), yet it is in a degrading neighborhood, is much smaller, and needs just as much or more work. I chose a number I feel is fair based on the cost of repairs I will need to do and the comp values of the neighborhood ($7400). She replied she would put it in if I really wanted her to, but that the bank would only go 5% less. What? That means the lowest they will go is $11,400. The house needs at least 10K in repairs and the average selling price of homes in the neighborhood is $23,000 (all of the higher selling ones being in far better condition and in a bit better areas). And, as we realists all know, houses are still Depreciating. Paying 12K for this house is just not an option.

So, I told her I would get back to her...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 1: New Adventures

This is a record. A historical document of my adventure of home ownership in Louisville. A crazy timeline of deciding to be brave and move to the 'seedy' part of town. A chance to be mortgage free and own my own piece of the city by the Ol' O-hi-o. Keep your fingers crossed the bank takes my cash...

House one is a 1900 Shotgun in a decaying neighborhood Central-West. I have a low offer pending and waiting for a bank's decision. The house has been stripped of it's copper and pipes. It is a foreclosure that has sat empty for some time. The house next door is a posted former Meth lab. The bank wants more money. I want to spend as little as possible before fix-up. I wait until word on Monday (hopefully) and whether the bank will accept my low ball, cash offer.

Meanwhile, check out these inspirational blogs. Do you think we can all make a difference one urban lot at a time? Or am I just another (not crack) pipe dreamer?

Ghost Town Farm

Emerald City, KC

The Urban Guys Farm

Urban Louisville
Left Bank

This is Louisville

Green in the Ghetto