Archive for the ‘Fayetteville’ Category

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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Time lapse photography of unpacking our townhouse

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Here are photos of our living room and dining room before the movers came.

dscn0393.JPG Looking toward the dining room from the stairs

 dscn0392.JPG Looking toward the living room from the kitchen

The sheers cost $25.  $15 at a garage sale in Chicago for five sheers with lace toppers and three valances plus $10 at Target for another pair of sheers to which I sewed two of the valances on top.  (That pair is in the dining room.  They are missing the lace insets.  Still thinking about what to do with the leftovers.  They will probably just go into the dress-up box.)  The rug cost, ahem, more, and came most recently from a Fayetteville auction .  We have another, even larger rug that we may have to design a room around if we ever find a house.

And this would be a picture of our moving van pulling away… except I forgot to upload it while I was at my folks’ last night.

And these are of our living room and dining room approximately 24 hours later.

dscn0396.JPG Living room view.

dscn0395.JPG Dining room view.

I didn’t realize how dark the after photos turned out, but I’m desperate to post something with photos. 

I should have taken pictures of the rooms now (2 weeks later), but I forgot.  We have light bulbs in the lamps, glass in the table tops, pictures on the walls, pillows on the couches, child clutter on the floors, and most of the upholstered furniture wrapped in pseudo-slipcovers* in preparation for C for Cat’s arrival.  We’ve also shifted the furniture around a little bit so the window loveseat is a little nearer the TV and the rocker and corner table are pulled in a little.  Makes a cozier grouping, I think.  Maybe I’ll post after the cat comes.

* I spent quite a while yesterday fighting with slipcovers.  I wound up using a bedspread and some lined curtains from a previous house, along with safety pins, for our loveseats.  For some reason (maybe because our loveseats are slender of arm instead of big armed), the storebought slipcovers looked just horrible.  My makeshift ones are a bit better.   The one I bought for the sofa is OK, but I will probably wind up changing it, too.  I may have to just buckle down and make them.  It took me a solid two days the last time I did that.  In 1988.

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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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Check? Check!

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Check came in today, so I guess our Chicago house has sold.  We also got an all-clear on the follow-up radon test, so the last bit should be released from escrow soon.  Whew.

Movers come tomorrow, I think.  The Little One started kindergarten this morning.  She sure is little.  She’s almost as big as her backpack.  We spent our first night in our in-between rental apartment/duplex/whatever you call it (the townhouse).  Don will be taking his mom home later this week and painting her bedroom some more.  It’s another chaotic time in our lives.  Oh, and we’ve been married 7.5 years.  Happy half-anniversary to us. :)   In those 7.5 years, we’ve lived in 4.5 houses.  (We’d signed the lease on our townhouse, but hadn’t spent the night there yet.  The houses are: Howe, Ashland, Kensington, my parents’ guest house, and the townhouse.)  That’s a lot of moving, isn’t it?  Here’s hoping we stay longer in our next house.

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Other country homes

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Now that we are about to leave my parents’ 21st century house in the country and rent a late 20th century townhouse while we try to find a suitable 19th century house to buy, I thought you might like to see where some of our nearest neighbors live.

three-mud-dauber-nests.JPG Three mud daubers‘ nests in the eaves of our breezeway.

wasp-nest.JPGA wasp’s nest (?) in the eaves.  I guess.  I’m not sure what it is, but I know we didn’t fling a lump of dirt high up in the eaves so it must belong to some other creature.  It’s been too hot for me to sit around waiting to see what lives there.

carolina-wren.JPG My favorite.  A Carolina wren‘s nest on our potting bench.  You can see her eyes and beak if you click through.  She may have abandoned it after the big blow-out last weekend since I didn’t see her or any eggs last night.  Did you know the Carolina wren sings one of the loudest songs per unit volume of bird?  Fortunately, she’s quite small.  Her French name is Troglodyte de Caroline.  (I gather that the genus name for wrens, Troglodytes, is because wrens tend to live in caves and not because wrens are ”reclusive, reactionary, out of date, or brutish.”  Word of the Day Archive.

Car update:  I picked up a rental “car” last night.  They didn’t have the Ford Focus they promised me, so I got a Chevy Silverado extended cab.  I think it’s even bigger than our F150 extended cab.  It seats six with plenty of elbow room.  Once Don gets home with our truck, I think we’ll take this one back and try for something smaller.  Waiting on estimates from the body shop so I can authorize repairs.  The estimator said it would take 1-2 weeks after the parts come in to put it back together so I suspect it’s not totaled.

Moving update:  The movers loaded up and left yesterday about 5 p.m.  All Don found that they forgot was one trash can and one iron.  Yesterday afternoon, he was emptying out the fridge, delivering leftover meds to the IVF clinic, and trying to identify “frozen things that look like ravioli, but in a medical waste resealable bag.”  Those turned out to be little icepacks from my two biopsies last fall.  He’s borrowed a broom from his mom’s house so the house will be “broom clean”, per our contract.  Closing will be mostly completed tomorrow and Don should be back here tonight.  I hung lace sheers in the townhouse downstairs last night.  ($15 for the set (four long sheers and four valances) at a garage sale in Chicago last week.)  Not quite pleased with them yet, but maybe I can rearrange them a bit more.  I’d like one more long sheer than we have, but I have some ideas.

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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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Projects in a 21st Century Modern House, Cat Castle

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

While living on my parents’ hill in their 21st century house, we’ve grown accustomed to sharing the hill with other animals. The family of five deer. The rapacious raccoons. The toads living under the ramp and five-lined skinks skittering through the garage. The black racer wiggling through the labyrinth and beating his head against the fence trying to escape. (Did you know they have venom in their back teeth? They’re constrictor-type snakes and not particularly poisonous to humans, but they do have venom.) The armadillo that died on our driveway. (Daddy pitched it over the side, and the buzzards brought it back. Eew.) The squirrels that are too stupid to get off our driveway in the face of cars. And, of course, the cats that were left by their POs.

Mostly, the cats ignore us and we ignore them, but in early June, one came right up to the house, mewing pitifully. My mom fed it a sausage and she became ours. She is very patient with our daughter. The cat, I mean. She lets the Little One carry her around, and doesn’t scratch her, even when she’s screeching.

And she likes me.  The cat, I mean.

My dad had caught her a year ago July in his live trap for raccoons, so she’s been living wild for a long time. Anyway, we took her to the vet. She’s healthy and … had been previously fixed. (Can’t tell until you do the surgery so she had abdominal surgery for no reason.)

Now, my dad and my sister in law are allergic to cats, so she’s an outside cat until we sell that albatross in Chicago (hoping to hear about the inspection today — it was on Tuesday, but no word yet) or at least until we move into the rental, but we don’t want her to be eaten up at night or eat the early birds so Don built a cat castle out of scrap lumber and chicken wire.

Ceefor and the Little One
Ceefor and the Little One

Little one in cat cageThe castle with the Little One

We’ve wound up not using it as much as we hoped: In its first iteration, the raccoons were able to open the door, and (after that was fixed) a mean tailless cat was climbing around on it, trying to scare Ceefor. (As in C For Cat.) So she mostly spends the nights in the garage, but she enjoys perching up high in the castle during the day, waiting for her humans to emerge and feed her. (She has been habituated to the extent that she waits for me by the kitchen door in the evening. She trots into the garage behind me, and waits for food to magically appear.)

Little One as Cat This is a gratuitous shot of our daughter, except that this post has to do with cats. (If you try clicking through, I don’t know why the full size picture claims to be missing.  Mysteries of the computer, I guess.) We saw Cats at the Walton Arts Center this summer, and they had free face painting before the show. She was a bit scared of McCavity the first time she saw it, but now is enthralled with the whole show. (We bought the DVD and watched it before we went to make sure it was OK. Now she watches it ALL THE TIME. Don had to listen to the CDs approximately one hundred and eighty-three bazillion times as they drove to Chicago in early July.)


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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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Our Chronos House

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007


Well, August 20 is fast approaching, and nobody has bought our house yet, so I drove up and down every street in the school district last Saturday carefully investigated the neighborhood where our daughter’s future school is, looked at some houses, panicked and took the first adequate thing I could find and applied to rent a townhouse near school.  We passed the credit check. (Whew!  Given the amount we’re spending on our abandoned Chicago house, that was no sure thing.)  So, we’ll sign the lease this week and take possession in August.

It’s boring, beige with berber carpet and mauve countertops, but it’s newish, clean, has three bedrooms, includes all appliances (including washer and dryer), takes pets, and will be a good placeholder. (Currently rented by college students, we should be able to move in early August. Hoping to be in before family reunion.) It has a wee deck on the back, but I couldn’t check it out because the sliding patio door was broken. The tempered glass had been shattered. The lease agent said he thought a lawn mower had done it. I gather by flinging something into it — at first I had a vision of someone hauling the lawnmower up onto the wee deck and ramming the door.  A few pictures follow.  (I took them with the lease agent watching, so I didn’t do a very good job.  The bedroom pictures, not shown, are totally uninformative.)

Anyway, by a chronos house, I refer to a house that we keep in ordinary time. My L’Engle books are still in Chicago, but she explains about chronos time and kairos time. I haven’t found just the right explanation, but this one is close. I think I have a book (maybe not by L’Engle or maybe one in which she has a single essay), where she explains that chronos time is the ordinary time in the liturgical calendar (after the big holidays) where you just put one foot in front of the other, tick tocking time away.  (Don’s cousin in law, Betty, would remind me at this point not to be wishing my life away, waiting for the next big event.)  For instance, after Pentecost, where the altar cloths are green for months on end and time is measured as so many Sundays after Pentecost (in contrast to Advent or Lent or even Eastertide where you’re leading up to a big day).  In contrast, kairos is time is time out of time, like the big Christian days and the preparation leading up to them (Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, Eastertide and Pentecost).

Hmmm. Wikipedia explains that ordinary time refers to the ordinal numbers used to count how many Sundays after the last big festival day, and not to the ordinariness of it at all. In any event, this is an ordinary house that doesn’t really seem to be particularly special (except for reminding me of my North Howe townhouse), but it does get us into the neighborhood, and we don’t have to keep it when the lease is up. And, if we sell our Chicago house, then we should be able to afford the right something, the kairos something, in the neighborhood, even with rent.

I’m hoping to go back with a tape measure (maybe not this one, but the Stanley jousting ad still cracks me up) in the next week, and figure out what furniture can go in the chronos house, and what will have to go in storage. Each bedroom has a built-in desk and reasonable closet, and the kitchen has a nice size pantry. (A bigger kitchen than several of the houses I considered buying or renting this week. More on those another day.)

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