Category Archives: Home Ownership

Blowing Snow

Today I am a man suburbanite. We had a few inches of snow overnight, and this morning I got out the snowblower and cleared the driveway. I also did the sidewalk out front, the walkways to all the doors, and the patio in the back yard.

I know that seems like no big deal to many of you, but I’ve never used a snowblower in my life. The last time I lived in a place where I had to deal with the snow was in 1982 when I was living with my parents, and I used a frickin’ snow shovel because I was young and strong and my knees still worked right. Ever since then I’ve been living in dormitories, apartments, and condominiums, where there was always someone responsible for clearing the snow. The most I’d have to do is shovel out the car after it got plowed in.

But I spent a lot of time learning about snow blowers, and finally pulled the trigger on one a few weeks ago, which was delivered on Friday. This morning I checked the oil level, filled the fuel tank, and started it up. It’s got an electric starter, so I could have plugged in an extension cord to start it, but I decided to try the pull-starter, and it worked just fine.

After that, it was surprisingly easy to use. I spent a few minutes practicing the steering on the backyard patio before risking maneuvers it near our cars, but it wasn’t too hard to control. I haven’t had near enough time to internalize the controls, so it got away from me a couple of times, and I reflexively tried to hang on instead of just letting go of the wheel lever.

It was also a bit of a puzzle to figure out which direction to throw the snow. I don’t want to throw it all over my neighbors’ driveways, or into their yard, or onto our cars, or onto a walkway that I just cleared, or into the street, or at a window… It kept me thinking. I only had to re-do a little bit of walkway.

Owning a house is turning out to be more complicated than I expected, but that’s a good thing. I like learning about new stuff. And frankly, when all you know is a shovel, a snow blower is pure awesomeness.

The Bouquet Of My New Suburban Life

I’m still recovering from my move to the new house. It turns out that packing all your stuff into boxes and then trying to reassemble it back into a working life is really time-consuming. I keep running into problems like wanting to put a piece of furniture together, which would be a lot easier with the right tools, which are all in boxes, and I’d like to unpack the tools back into my tool chest so I don’t lose them, but I locked the doors on the tool chest so it would be easier to move, and now I can’t find the keys.

Everything is like that, plus there’s all the stuff I have to figure out about the new house. What do all the light switches do? Where are the hose bibs? How much hose do I need? How does the gas fireplace work? Which way do we turn the keys in all the locks? When is the garbage picked up? And what are all the different cans for?

I only just got my home computer up and running a couple of days ago, and I still haven’t hooked up the speakers. I’ve got my electric shaver, but I can’t find the charger. I had to buy dishwasher soap, even though I know I’ve got enough for hundreds of loads in one of these boxes…

Then there’s last night’s introduction to another aspect of suburban life.

We got home after dark, and since the next day was garbage day, I walked around the side of the house to get the cans to roll them down the driveway to the street. As I passed the little fence that hides them, I heard a noise and looked over. Some kind of small animal was scrambling in the dark.

I couldn’t quite make out what it was, but I could tell right away that it wasn’t moving like a cat or a dog. As I pulled my flashlight from my pocket to get a better look, I remember thinking that it was moving a bit like a squirrel, but it was too big. Maybe a possum? No, I could see the fur was too long and scraggly…and then I flicked the light on.

Of course it was a skunk. A panicky skunk.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…

It didn’t nail me dead on, but there was definitely a clingy odor on me and my clothes. I seem to have been able to wash most of it away, but every now and then I think I catch a whiff…

Sigh. Welcome to life in the suburbs, I guess.

Oh well, maybe the coyotes will kill the skunks.

What the Fuck Did I Do?

“What the fuck did I do?”

That’s what Detective Jimmy McNulty asks Bunk at the end of the first season of The Wire as he contemplates all that he has set in motion. It’s a phrase that has been going through my head a lot over the past week.

“What the fuck did I do?”

I bought a house, that’s what I did.

After 26 years of living in a condo, my wife and I decided earlier this year that it was time to buy an actual house, like grownups.

We had a pretty good of an idea of what kind of house we wanted and what we wanted to spend, and we had a lot of help from our good friend Susan, who had a lot more experience with house ownership than we do. It took us about two weeks of looking at homes to figure out how we wanted to balance the trade-offs between combinations of features, location, and price, and then another week to find three homes we liked and figure out which one to make an offer on. Then while we were dickering over the price on that one, a fourth house came on the market for a more reasonable price, so we made them an offer instead and quickly reached an agreement.

Last Friday, at the request of bankers I never met, with the tacit approval of a lawyer I never met, I sent an eye-watering amount of money to a bank account written on a piece of paper by people I never met, as a down payment on a house I was buying from people I never met. This made me a bit nervous. I was only about 99% sure this wasn’t some sort of elaborate variation on the Nigerian scam.

(I was especially concerned about the difficulty of reversing wire transfers, so to satisfy my paranoia, I got the destination account numbers from a second source, just to make sure I wasn’t about to wire all that money to an enterprising and ethically challenged paralegal who had changed the account numbers to their own bank account.)

Then I spent the weekend worrying about all the other things that could go wrong. My most elaborate scenarios involved the sellers — who had given their lawyer power of attorney to do the closing — getting into a fatal car accident right before we started signing documents. We’d go through with the rituals of the deal — funding the loan, issuing checks, transfering ownership, pledging the house as collateral — without knowing that one of the parties was dead. Or maybe it would be worse if they both survived and were unconscious in the hospital because the lawyer’s power of attorney would terminate if they were incapacitated…

Nothing that bizarre went wrong, naturally. But at the closing on Monday it turned out that the sellers weren’t quite finished moving out. The garage was full of stuff awaiting a moving truck, and the movers were saying they couldn’t get there until that afternoon, or maybe the next day.

To my wife and I, this was kind of annoying, but not a big deal. The lawyers, however, handled it like lawyers, quickly producing a two-page handwritten post-closing access agreement that included liability clauses and a daily rental fee backed by money left in escrow. I’m sure I would have been grateful for their work if something had gone wrong, but I found it kind of amusing nonetheless. In any case, the seller was gone in four hours.

(And yes, I notified my lawyer to release the rest of the money.)

After the seller left, I immediately got my first taste of home ownership when I noticed that there was packing material from the movers all over the front lawn…which was now my front lawn…which I now had to clean up…

Since then, we’ve had a locksmith out to change the locks, we’ve had a pair of electricians give us an estimate on fixing some inspection issues, we’ve had a garage door tech reprogram the remotes and make sure the doors stopped safely when obstructed (another inspection item), we’ve had a guy out to refinish the hardwood floors, we’ve had a cleaning service quote us a price for a top-to-bottom cleaning before move-in, we’ve had an exterminator spray around the outside of the house, we arranged to have a lawn service clean up and maintain the lawn the rest of the summer and fall, we’ve had Comcast out to set up cable and internet (I arranged for all the other utilities earlier), we scheduled delivery of some furniture we bought a while ago, we’ve ordered a desk, a new washer and dryer, and a new cooktop and hood.

We still have to fish ethernet and coax to more locations, setup the new wireless router, order another desk, order a couple of new office chairs, replace the casters on our old office chairs with something hardwood-friendly, figure out how the exterior lighting works (haven’t found all the switches yet), clean the gutters and downspouts, and remember to start checking the mailbox.

And we still have to finish packing, vaccinate and board the cats, move all our shit to the new place, and get the cats back. And unpack.

Then we have to sell the old place.

Then there’s walkway repair, fixing the shed, a new mailbox, new fencing, snow removal…and all the things I haven’t thought of yet…

What the fuck did I do?

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