Archive for the ‘Going on a house hunt’ Category

As seen in the paper today

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Frank and Ernest are (is?) not on my must-read comics list, but every so often they nail it.
Frank & Ernest

(And … how cool that you can just embed the strip like that. Yay for technology!)

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Buying Update

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

We have found a company willing to insure the house, although we are paying a higher premium since it isn’t owner-occupied. (If I didn’t mention earlier, the insurance agency I’ve been with since 1987 doesn’t insure old houses in Arkansas, especially if they’re being remodeled.  Once it’s all put back together again, they’ll consider insuring us.  Nice.) 

Just like we’re paying a half percent extra interest on the mortgage because of it not being owner-occupied. 

The insurance rate may go up still more once the tenants leave, until we move in.  And we had to bump up the amount of insurance because the mortgage company wants it insured for at least the amount of the mortgage. 

While we do have closing scheduled for November 28, the appraisal hasn’t come back yet, so it is very unlikely we will actually close on November 28.  Even if it comes in today (which it is supposed to), the mortgage broker needs 24 hours to clear, and the big bank is taking 72 hours on top of that to issue instructions.  The broker says she hears that the big bank is extremely busy because of all the other small lenders shutting down their lending operations.  Not so much due to a sudden uptick in the housing market.

Will hold breath for reasonable appraisal.  If we don’t make the appraisal, we may have to shut the whole thing down and try again in the spring.

At least we’re not trying to vacate one house and move into the next before month’s end.  If we were, I would be much more worried about all this.

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Sorry – I’ve been out of pocket (excuses follow)

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

It all started when I had to go to Little Rock four days in two weeks, and then we spent some time seriously considering whether we should just buy the Fulbright house,** and then we tried to buy a FSBO house, but ran into complications, and then Don had a big crush on a bungalow that creeped me out, and then there was Halloween (Little One went as Mr. Mistoffelees — you know, from Cats – isn’t that what every five-year-old wants to be? so I made her costume*), and then we wound up getting to make the FSBO offer after all, and the inspection (eight hours, can you believe?), and choosing exterior house colors, and work traumas (but we do expect one of our two vacant positions to be filled in January, and I think the new hire will be a really good fit), and the trip to Little Rock for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Conference (maybe Don will post on that when he gets back from Chicago before we go to Dallas), oh, and Don and the Little One have gone to Chicago for a quick salvage trip before Thanksgiving, we’ll go to Dallas for a quick inspiration trip after Thanksgiving…

Anyway, we’ve been busy and, yes, we think we are buying a house after Thanksgiving. Assuming, of course, that we work out the last details like, say, the appraisal (must appraise as a four-flat, not a five-flat, or the interest rate is insane), the insurance (turns out my insurance company of 20+ years doesn’t like to insure old houses in Arkansas, especially ones that haven’t been updated in the last 15 years and even more so ones that are about to be majorly redone and aren’t going to be owner occupied for months), and the mortgage (again with the investment property and number of units) … although it sounds like we caught a break and will be able to finance at 6.5%, even though it is an “investment” property — which means: It is a block from our apartment so it cannot be a second house; and we don’t intend to move in until our lease is up — and maybe even later, if necessary — so it cannot be our primary house. Apparently our primary house is our rental apartment. I think I will need an accountant this year.

In brief, the house was built sometime around 1915-1920. It is in Wilson Park, but is “non-contributing” to the historic district. It has been apartments since at least the 1950s, although my initial house genealogy already found two sisters (the older one was the owner) living there in 1930, along with two married couples renting from them — which sounds like it may have been divided already by 1930. It is the biggest project we’ve ever done, but I shouldn’t have to go without a kitchen since the house has five of them. We’re thinking to treat it as a hybrid Arts & Crafts/Colonial Revival.

More details and photos later — I had to edit 81 comments when I logged in tonight. Apparently the spammers have found me (along with two actual comments — thank you), and they accumulate when you’ve been off line for over two months. Also, I’d like to actually own the house before I jinx it by overposting.

* Pictures of the Little One. She was Mr. Mistoffelees three times (fall school carnival, church carnival, Halloween). Make that four times: She was supposed to dress as her favorite book character Friday, and Mr. M is, of course, from TS Eliot’s book, which she took to school to show, but I think somebody fussed at her for wearing her Halloween costume based on something she whispered to me while we were at a big band jazz concert at the University Friday night. I knew she was supposed to be a book character, but she was. (I don’t think it bothered her too much. Just me.) She had a good time meowing, “Meow, meow, thank you” to all the neighbors. Especially because it led the candy-givers to say how cute she was. Which she was.  (My folks came and handed out candy for us.  We had three trick or treaters.  Just three.  We have too much candy left over.)  The second picture is just her being silly.  Which she is.


**Seriously. We spent most of a rainy Saturday inside the Fulbright house, taking measurements, and the better part of the next two weeks trying to talk ourselves in or out. The thing is, it doesn’t need walls moved or plumbing updated or stuff like that, just a lot of updating. We could probably live downstairs, and never need to go upstairs. It’s that big. But, we would be close to over-extended, and this house we probably won’t be over-extended. I hope.

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Stalking houses in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Part 3

Friday, August 31st, 2007

To stalk a house, it helps to know where your house might live.  We have two preferred habitats, the Washington-Willow Historic District and Wilson Park.  As you’ll see if you click through, the habitats are not very big, so it’s not very hard to drive through and check on the status of our houses.  In fact, we often do.  (Wednesday, I came home and told Don that one of our potential houses had three garbage cans out front — and he’d seen the same thing on his own drive-through.)

Wilson Park.  The Wilson Park habitat is hillier, with a big park at the center depression where you can see many of the rock houses in their native habitat.  They are mostly 1920s to 1940s, cottages and bungalows, many made from native stone.  Cute, small, and highly prized for their location near Wilson Park. 

Wilson Park is the first and largest park in Fayetteville.  It has a swimming pool, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a castle.  I think the Little One believes that the Park belongs to someone named Wilson — she always asks if we can go to Wilson’s Park.  (As a result of the park being in a valley, it’s always a long, uphill walk to get home.)  Also very near the main restaurant drag, Dickson Street. 

At the edge of this habitat is the Little One’s school and Mt. Nord.  Mount Nord is even smaller than the other habitats; it comprises four houses, including the Fulbright House.  (You’ll remember I had a tremendous crush on it.  It still makes my heart beat a little faster, but I hope we can find something else that makes my heart sing, and isn’t such a gigantic project and imposing house.)

Washington-Willow. Washington-Willow is flatter, and thus more walkable.  It’s also older on average, mostly late nineteenth/early twentieth century houses.  Thus, the houses are bigger and in the genre we understand.  (Victorian, in case you’re new to the blog.*)  It’s generally our preferred neighborhood, although Wilson Park is growing on us (especially since we live on its fringe.) 

The Little One would have to cross five lanes of Highway 71B to get to the grade school, but I believe crossing guards are available to get her across in the morning.  If not, I think we could tie a bike flag to her and cars might see her.  Or … well, we could walk her to school like we do now.  This district is also on the same side of the highway as the grocery store and further from the restaurants, which would be a good thing if we wind up with a project house that requires all our income.

A good way to learn more about the habits of resident houses is to take the Washington School House Walk.  This spring, we toured all seven houses, and got to see a variety of houses without being too obvious about stalking the neighborhoods. 

Another way is to use your resident five-year-old. 

Maggie the PrincessShe usually dawdles enough that you can see lots of details in the houses, again without being too obvious about your ulterior motive:  bagging a dream house.  We used her last night.  She really enjoys running along the top of rock retaining walls, visiting with strange cats, sniffing lavender, and running away from us.  (Eek!  She does still have the sense not to run across the street, but she’s fast, and presumably could run around the block forever.)

Have a good weekend!  I think we’re going to Prairie Grove for the 56th Annual Clothesline Fair, and to the Fayetteville Arts Festival.  I’m kind of hoping to see Ed Pennebaker at the Heartwood Gallery Street Art Show on Saturday.  He makes some amazing blown glass pieces, including chandeliers and sconces.  Chihuly-like or perhaps Dr. Seuss-like.  He has pieces in galleries in Fayetteville, Little Rock, and even Chicago.  (And in my brothers’ houses — I gave them Pennebaker vases for Christmas.)  I suspect we’ll find a house that just really needs a Pennebaker chandelier or sconce or two. 

ETA: Full story about both the Clothesline Fair and Fayetteville Arts Fair here, with schedules.

*Speaking of our blog, I apologize for the continuing dearth of pictures.  Our digital camera’s connecting thingy (not to mention our computer) is still at my parents’ house, so I find myself composing in my head at night and blogging on the fly — with nary a picture to be had.  I promise more house pictures soon-ish.  About the same time we get a land line and cable at the townhouse.  And more interesting entries.  I keep thinking of things I want to write about, but they are more suited to pictures than words.  (Like what our townhouse looks like now.  Or what we would have done with our Kensington kitchen.  Or what a rock house looks like in NW Arkansas.  Or what the Little One looked like at Kiddy Park.  Or what the house where I grew up looks like, then and now.)

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Stalking houses in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Part 2

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Of all the houses I’ve seen in Fayetteville, I had the biggest crush on the Fulbright house. The listing is presently with Grubb & Ellis/Solomon Partners. (MLS 493886).  It’s come down $200K since we saw it.

fulbright-house.JPG A pretty bad drive by picture by me.

The new listing agent is using an odd picture of the carport at the rear of the house, and almost none of the impressive living room, dining room, and sweeping staircase.  (There is a nice shot of the painted/stained glass at the stair landing.)  Instead, the focus seems to be on the bedroom used for filming The Blue and The Gray miniseries in 1982, and the back of the house (kitchen with large, potential family room leading to backyard). 

It’s a Federal style mansion, with impressive two-story columns and brick with nice quoins.  It has a view of Old Main from Senator Fulbright’s office, and Mrs. Fulbright’s study is practically untouched since she left it 50 years ago.  Since we looked at it, the house has been tuck-pointed, and the wood trim scraped and painted.  It is an imposing house.

Unfortunately, it would need a ton of work.  The Fulbrights had it for more than forty years, and the Halls had it for fifty plus years after that.  I think the carpet in the front hall dates to the Fulbrights.  (Like the wool carpet in our Italianate, it shows practically no wear.)  The bedrooms and baths upstairs are all chopped up.  As I recall, the stained glass at the top of the stairs backs onto a laundry room on the second floor.  The electric and plumbing haven’t been touched in years.  The garden would need, ahem, refreshing.  (From what I remember from Mrs. Fulbright’s biography, she had a full-time gardener working on the property.)

However, the trim and paneling are in good shape, and it has a really nice flow downstairs from living room to dining room to sunroom.  And, it is Senator Fulbright’s boyhood home, and his mother (Roberta Fulbright) lived and worked there for many years as the publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Times. 

That said, I’m pretty sure we won’t be buying it. 

P.S. Movers start packing up our Italianate today.  And my car was creamed this morning as I came down my parents’ driveway.  I’m OK, but shaken up.  This is the third time it’s been hit since I bought it new in September.  In October (before my first payment), a high school girl hit me — the light was green, but traffic was stopped — she paid attention to the light, and not traffic.  That just required removing, painting, and replacing the rear bumper.  In December, I was waiting to turn left, and somebody’s hubcap flung itself into the driver’s door.  This is the worst by far.  I can see the inner bits of the bumper and some inportant part of the car has embedded itself into the tire, but at least the airbags didn’t go off. 

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Stalking houses in Fayetteville, Arkansas (Part 1)

Friday, July 20th, 2007

We’ve been looking at houses in Fayetteville since June 2005. A year before my dream job even existed. It’s a wonder our real estate agent is still speaking to us, let alone showing us houses. We’re not really that picky — we bought our orphan Italianate after looking for one evening at a total of three houses.  We just can’t/shouldn’t buy until we sell the orphan or find someone to adopt her.  There are a lot of houses that got away from us in that time. These are two of them.

The first house we ever saw with Rick was this yellow turn-of-the-century farmhouse on Prospect. It was a relo (presumably Wal-Mart), big, square, and had languished on the market a while. It had a large kitchen, and three more large rooms on the first floor (including a library!), anaglypta, a laundry room upstairs, and nice sized bedrooms and nice outdoor space. We could have bought it for $300k (garage not included), but we didn’t know we’d be moving down south a year later. Well, at least, it introduced us to Rick.


Last summer, we were hopeful we’d get to buy this house in the Washington Willow historic district. A Queen Anne FSBO that had been on the market for a year, it had a huge, peaceful, wooded lot, lots of room inside with plenty of nooks and crannies, a spring house(although there was no spring), and a kitchen as big as our Kensington kitchen. Alas, she sold before we did.


And there are so many more. The Smiths’ shingle style, the Canterbury Brady Bunch house, the pee house on Lafayette, the Queen Anne right by Wilson Park, the National Register Jordan House smack dab in the middle of a 20-year-old subdivision (it had been in the same family for most of its existence), the red house on the National Register in Washington Willow, the Fulbright house on Mount Nord (man, I had a crush on that one — Senator Fulbright’s mother, Roberta Fulbright, lived there from 1906 until her death in 1953, and was an incredibly powerful woman in NW Arkansas in her own right), the two story stone house we tried to buy while Don was on the road … I’ll save the rest for a post (or two or three) for another day.

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