10 years sooner

May marked our 5th year in fixer-upperhood. We smiled to recall how, 5 years ago, we moved in one day and went on vacation for a week the next. It was chaotic. Coming home to a houseful of boxes and junk is not something I recommend.

But we’ve come a long way baby, I think. Too many home projects finished and in the works to recount. Too many dollars spent. Too much darn hard work. But to celebrate, we decided to make all this (raise hands and twirl around) all ours 10 years sooner.

We’d been watching interest rates for a while, and finally jumped on a 15-year refi at 4.25% from the same lender who holds our current mortgage. Our 5.5% 10/1 ARM wasn’t bad, but would need to be refinanced in 5 years anyway (unless we were willing to put up with annual adjustments). So, we’ve done the “smart thing” and cut 10 years and more than $60,000 off our mortgage (and paid $2800 in closing costs and $111.76 more a month for the privilege). Whoopee. The worst part: enduring, again, the blood-sucking crock that is the home-buying biz — all those fees we just paid 5 years ago had to be paid again (Flood certification — HA! An appraisal — HA! [don’t get me started on appraisals] Title insurance — HA! An extra 1/4 pt. because we don’t want to escrow — HA!)

Oh, and did I mention our smalltown lender would immediately sell the mortgage? To Wells Fargo — a Fannie Mae thing. The same Fannie Mae already bailed out at taxpayers’ expense. Is this my payback? Maybe.

But hey, at least we’re paying our mortgage. At least we didn’t buy more house than we could afford. At least, God willing, in 15 years, this will all be ours (except for those pesky taxes every year).

I’ve never been this close to owning my home. I’m praying for good luck and good health in the next 15 years…and beyond, of course.

Home is a shelter from storms — all sorts of storms.
~ William J. Bennett

We’re gaining on it.

pleasant valley wreathIt’s like a badge of honor, living in an old house — a “fixer upper. Glamorized by the rise of Martha (even after that brief fall — she was railroaded, people), This Old House, HGTV, DIY, Cottage Living, Coastal Living, Southern Living, and on and on — all full of eager, determined souls earnestly going on about “good bones” and “seeing the potential” and “doing it ourselves” and “adding a splash of color” to “make it pop.” Inevitably, these transformations seem to take either an industrious 24 hours or 7 years of hard labor.

I, on the other hand, came to fixer-upperhood reluctantly. We needed a house, the location was great, the house really does have good bones (or it did before osteoporosis set in), we could afford it, I wanted to be with Mike. How bad could it be? After all, I grew up in a house built in 1900 that had (and still has) the original ’40s kitchen and one bathroom for all 9 of us (plus the “Pittsburgh toilet” in the cellar — kind of a half powder room for those of you not familiar). And precisely two electrical outlets per bedroom, right next to the door. Well, yes, for the last 14 years I had lived in new or almost-new construction — does that matter?  

Oh, you bet it does. I’m all about pretty — choosing colors, decorating, accessorizing, adding that splash and pop. That’s what newer houses are great for. I’m not about knocking down crumbling plaster walls or picking 7 layers of paint out of staircase molding with a dental tool. That would be my sister — she’s taken on a number of abodes of a genre we in the family now refer to simply as “Kathleen houses.” 

Yet, here I am, 2-1/2 years later, still in the thick of fixer-upperhood. We have remodeled the bathroom, added a sink in the dressing room off our bedroom, painted the dining room, living room, bathroom, upstairs and downstairs halls, our bedroom & dressing room, updated the electrical, reinsulated the attic, re-landscaped much of the yard, front & back, and spent the last 6 months remodeling the kitchen, still a work in progress. Oh, and when I say “painting” that means days of scraping, patching, caulking, priming, THEN painting, all the while cursing the previous owners who painted latex over oil, among other atrocities.

With many more projects to go (including our current “outside” projects, also in the works as winter approaches), the house is still winning. But — dare I say it? — we just might be gaining on it. 

Who will prevail? Stop back — it could still go either way.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
                                           ~Friedrich Nietzsche