June 6, 2021 – A Dose of Reality

I am 99% sure that I want to move and my husband is 79% sure. And the reality is that we’ve got our work cut out for us if we want to make it happen. It’s going to take everything we’ve got and then some (energy, resources, money). Today was a real eye-opener because we made a point to drive around and look at the current properties on the market and it wasn’t promising. The type of home we are interested in isn’t anything ‘special’ necessarily. I want something with ‘good bones’ (that won’t require a complete overhaul) in a decent neighborhood (on a lot larger than a postage stamp), for under $400,000. I would also like it to have a fenced yard (for our dog). My husband would like that as well; however, he’d also like the home to have a three-car garage or similarly, a two-car garage and a shop. I don’t think these are unreasonable wants or desires but with the housing market as it is at present, you’d think we have ‘Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget’.

Ten years ago, $350,000 – $400,000 in this neck of the woods would have afforded us a massive home on at least a half-acre. It would have been completely updated with only quality materials (marble, granite, quartz), and located in an ‘exclusive’ neighborhood. Now? Haha! Anything for that price around here is either 1) located on a street lined with so many beat up cars that it’s difficult to determine whether you’re pulling into a housing development or a junk yard, or it’s 2) on a street that accommodates four lanes of one way traffic that is extremely noisy and never ceases, or it’s 3) so small that if we were to move in, it wouldn’t be long before a murder-suicide occurred, or it’s 4) right smack dab in the middle of gang territory. At least, that’s all we’ve come across so far. I had high hopes that we’d be able to find something ‘fitting’ until we got ‘a dose of reality’ today. After going on Zillow and checking out the homes that were in our price bracket, I’m not feeling terribly confident about my ‘grand plan’ to buy a house outright with cash.

Of course, that was before we were educated that netting $400,000 (after selling our current home) was ever-so-slightly optimistic. Yes, this afternoon we met up with an old friend who also happens to be a mortgage broker/lender and who is more-than-familiar with the current real estate market. After providing her with our current address and some of the financials associated with it, she entered the information into a database that is extremely accurate at determining values, and soberly informed us that $350,000 was a more realistic figure. That seems like an awful lot of money to me, but with the current market, it sadly doesn’t amount to much. What does that mean? That means that if we would like to live in a home that isn’t in a neighborhood where you go to ‘pull parts’ in order to keep your old Junker ‘road worthy’ for a little while longer, or on a noisy street where crossing it means risking your life, or in a ‘shoe box’ that will bring out your homicidal tendencies, or in a location where getting ‘jumped’ is a sure bet, we are going to have to take out a sizable loan. Noooooooooooooooooooo!

The whole point was to ‘get ahead’ (and be near our friends and family). Taking out another loan was not in the plans. We had hoped to pay for a home outright and live off my husband’s military pension, but after this afternoon our ‘hopes’ have been dashed. What’s really sad is that I just checked Zillow (the hundredth time this week), and one of the neighborhoods we drove through earlier today (that we could really ‘see ourselves in’) was $200,000 – $300,000 outside of our budget. Damn ‘Champagne Taste’!! Seriously??!! How do people afford to own property nowadays? And I have to tell you, when I say ‘Champagne Taste’, I’m being a tad facetious. I’m perfectly happy with Formica countertops and linoleum floors, I don’t need anything ‘fancy’. Rumor has it that there are actual people who walk into ‘design’ stores and ‘choose their finishes’. Money is no object. Huh? Who are these people? When I shop for ‘finishes’, I go to all of the clearance sections at either Lowes or Home Depot.

What I ‘choose’ is based on what is the cheapest and whether there’s enough of that specific product to complete the job or project. It’s not the most efficient method of selecting finishes but it’s the most affordable. ‘Living outside my means’ is not something I’m comfortable doing, even though it’s incredibly tempting, especially when I’ve traveled to Lowes or Home Depot in the quest to find the ‘holy grail’, the last piece that pulls the whole room together. When we recently remodeled our bathroom, the ‘holy grail’ was the paint. I had already purchased the tile (on clearance) for the backsplash and tub surround, the Formica for the countertop, and the water-resistant flooring, but finding a paint color that worked with all three ‘finishes’ and the existing ‘blush’ tub and shower was near impossible. Fortunately, after countless samples of paint colors, I was able to settle on one that I’m pleased with. It also goes surprisingly well with the polished nickel vanity lights and tub fixtures that I purchased on clearance several years ago.

Oh my goodness! My friends, I am having a hell of a time writing! My husband and sister-in-law, after we returned to his parents’ house after dinner and I parked myself at the desk (in front of the computer in order to start my daily blog), they sat down in the recliners (in the same room) and watched ‘Pitch Perfect’ at an eardrum shattering volume. Ack! There is nothing I loathe more than ‘a capella’. All it does is irritate me to a point where I want to physically hurt people. In order not to cause either of them irreparable harm, I tried to drown out the ‘noise’ by putting on my headphones and blasting ‘Heart’ but the horrible sounds the ‘singers’ were making with their mouths kept bleeding through. Who came up with ‘a capella’ anyway? A sadomasochist? I read on Google that it has Italian roots. All I want to know is ‘why’? So many wonderful things have come from Italy, pizza for one. Who is the wise guy that thought ‘a capella’ was a good idea? If time travel ever becomes possible, I’m going to hunt that person down and give ’em a piece of my mind.

Oh! Speaking of ‘Heart’, is it just me or do you prefer ‘early Heart’ to ‘late Heart’? By ‘early Heart’, I’m referring to the music the band produced in the 70s. I love all of their early hits. I can listen to ‘Dreamboat Annie’ and ‘Dog and Butterfly’ for hours on end. I don’t know what happened in the 80s but (in my opinion) their music took a dark turn (for the worse). I love Ann and Nancy Wilson but whenever I hear ‘Nothin’ At All’ or ‘What About Love’ or ‘Alone’ or ‘These Dreams’ play on the radio, I have a knee-jerk reaction, immediately reaching for the power button and shutting it off. It affects me much like ‘a capella’, in that I want to find the nearest person and cut off their oxygen supply. It isn’t good! Oh my gosh, where was I? I’ve been so distracted by the TV (playing at an exceedingly high volume) for the last 2 1/2 hours that I’ve lost track of what I set out to write about. Sigh. Hang on, I just remembered. I was talking about getting ‘a dose of reality’! Boy oh boy, I got a double dose today!

Look, I don’t mean to complain but I am beginning to get discouraged. When we get home, I will have more than my fair share of tasks to do and projects to complete. That, in itself, is overwhelming; however, knowing that even if we are fortunate and manage to eek out $350,000 – $400,000 once the dust settles, our prospects of finding a suitable home (that is within our means) aren’t good. That said, I still have every intention of putting a list together once we return home and taking an active role in completing everything on it. When I was out and about today, I started thinking about our laundry room and all of the crap in it that we can live without. The same goes for the rest of the house. Most of our furniture is from either Craigslist, garage sales, or thrift stores, and none of it really goes together. It’s just a big ‘hodge podge’ of stuff that has seen better days. It won’t break my heart to let most of it go in order to ‘downsize’. But before I start hauling our dining set off to the thrift store, I’m going to ‘clear out the closets’. They’re easily the worst offenders.

Anyway, as I said earlier, we’ve got our work cut out for us. Fortunately, because so much of our stuff looks rather ‘tired’, it won’t be as difficult to part with it. When we moved to our current home, we had 16 tons (32,000 pounds) of ‘stuff’ and the military covered all of our moving expenses. This time, we will be footing the bill. It’s going to take some doing but my goal is to cut that number down to 4 tons (8,000 pounds) or less. I would attempt to reduce it even further but that total includes a lot of heavy items stored in the garage that my husband refuses to part with (and I don’t blame him). He has a lot of ‘tools’ and ‘equipment’, but he also uses them a lot so I see no need to get rid of them. Once we’ve completed the majority of the projects, removed the bulk of the clutter, and ‘spruced up’ the house, I’m going to reach out to some realtors to get an idea of what we can sell it for and whether we need to do anything further in order to make it marketable. In the meantime, I’m going to get a little ‘R&R’ because as soon as we return home and walk through our front door, I can assure you that there’ll be little time for resting or relaxing. It’s going to be ‘go-go-go’!!

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