I can’t believe it’s been a year…
As I sit here with my third cup of coffee and my feet planted comfortably on the ottoman, it dawned on me that Sean and I have been homeowners for a year. This time last year I was working on cleaning the house to remove all instances of funk left by the previous owners. The carpets were disgusting, the bathrooms made me cringe and the amount of dust and mildew on every one of the baseboards, countertops, windows and doors had me gagging. You never truly realize how disgusting people are until you buy a house from them.
During the initial viewing of the house I knew this wasn’t my dream home (no where near it), but I knew it had the potential to be A LOT more than it was. With little modifications, proper furniture and a deep, deep clean things were going to take shape to the point that the house leaned more towards my liking and less towards what the previous owners had left to rot. During the inspection there were a lot of red flags, the most costly one being the fact that the original 30 year old roof was still on the house and absolutely nothing had been done with it. The garage was inaccessible because of their issue with hoarding, and we didn’t even know there was a crawl space IN the garage because there was so much piled up in front of the door it was very easy to miss. There were also a few questionable areas of just downright negligence on the owners part. The caked-on mold in windows that could have easily been taken care of with windex, lysol and ten minutes of work was the biggest concern, and one of my first areas of focus when I got in here with my massive box of cleaning supplies, but I digress.
When we were set to do the final walk through, we unfortunately had to do it with the accompaniment of an exterminator. During the initial inspection, the inspector noted a small area of termite damage. When the report was returned to the bank in January, nothing further was mentioned about it. Of course, 24 hours prior to the final walk through where we’d be then signing the paperwork and being handed the keys we were informed by the bank that an extermination is required, forcing us to put $2,000 unexpectedly into the house before we even had the damn keys in our hand. The extermination was started at 6am on the morning of the 12th when we were supposed to get the keys. Unfortunately we didn’t close on that day because the bank screwed up yet again and didn’t provide the proper paperwork to the lawyer and we were delayed – yet again – to close on the 14th. Everyone was in a rush to get the paperwork completed, and when we walked in on the 14th there was no longer a wait or a fuck up on anyone’s behalf and we got the keys.
I was here for about 7 days cleaning this house before any instance of my belongings came into it (other than a radio and cleaning supplies, obviously). We had Comcast come in to run the new cable lines (they used FIOS, we needed more internet than TV so Comcast was unfortunately our only choice). We put power, water, sewer were in our name and we attempted to keep the house warm with the $250 worth of oil we wound up having to pay for at signing that was also unexpected (Within a week we’d dropped $800 to have the tank filled completely, btw. Another area where we got screwed). Windows and doors were scrubbed to the point that the paint damn near came off of them, bathrooms were soaked so heavily in bleach that I had to wear a mask just to handle the fumes. I’m convinced they wore sneakers when they showered considering the inch of slime I scraped off the floors and walls of the showers/tubs. I damn near burned out the motor on a carpet cleaner just to get the thick black stains out of the rug that they had so meticulously hidden with furniture and even in hindsight I know that spending the money to have Stanley Steamer come in would not have made the difference since they only make one to two passes over the carpet and I wound up focusing on single areas for upwards of a half our at a time. It was so bad in certain spots that I felt as though I was destroying the plywood underneath because of how saturated the carpet was after multiple passes just to scratch the surface. With the color of the water being sucked up into the machine I was convinced that I was sucking the carpet padding right off of the plywood because there’s no excuse for a berber carpet to be that disgusting.
The kitchen was the biggest focus for me, I truly believe it’s the nucleus of a household. I had a stock of food, brand new pots and pans and kitchen supplies to move in but they weren’t coming anywhere near the house until I could get everything clean. The cabinets and countertops are very, very dated so by default I knew the kitchen, over time, would be completely redone. Initially though, I went at it with steel wool, bleach and elbow grease. The cabinets damn near changed colors. The slime everywhere from built up cooking grease and dust was stomach turning. And the further I got into cleaning the house, the more I hated the previous owners.
The bedrooms weren’t as bad as originally anticipated. I knew with curtain removal, adding mini blinds and a few gallons of paint things would take shape and as of right now that’s the track that we’re on. While the carpets (throughout the whole house) need to be removed and replaced with either hardwood or low-pile berber, this didn’t stop me from setting up shop in the smallest of bedrooms so that I could have my office space. I painted the room a very pale grey, painted the ceiling in an effort to brighten things up and put a fresh coat of trim white on everything so it could pop. The guest room is where Sean and I merged things. He chose a bright blue for his office and whatever was left of that blue wound up being mixed in with the grey I had left for my office, boom – the guest room color was born. The same treatment went into the room. The carpets were cleaned, the walls and trim received a fresh coat of paint and the curtains were thrown out and replaced with fresh bright linens to keep plenty of light in the room. The mini-blinds were brought in for privacy and that’s that.
The master bedroom is where we’ve done nothing. Yes, it was cleaned and the curtains were replaced with mini blinds and black-out panels but there’s no new color on the walls and we still don’t own any real ‘grown up’ furniture. It’s just a dresser that was given to us and two $10 end-tables from Walmart that we’re using as night stands. I have the paint colors picked out, but there’s a lack of overhead lighting in the room and knowing that we’ll be putting in a ceiling fan with light and having to get the walls patched up there was no point in moving forward. Of course, by default, I have everything picked out that I want for the room from dressers to nightstands and even a headboard, it’s just something that will have to wait until we’ve got the money and the time to do it. Sort of like everything else in the house.
I think one of the biggest changes we’ve made is replacing the original toilets in the master bath and hall bath. I know that seems like a weird thing to say but when you’ve got two pink toilets that go back to the late 70’s… it’s time for an upgrade. We did begin the remodel of the hall bathroom but that’s come to a stand-still, much like many of the projects in the house. We utilized Rustoleum’s tub and tile refinisher and transformed the pink tub surround into a white one. A coat of pale green has gone on the walls and we need to purchase a new vanity because there’s a weird pink stone top that just looks horrible and needs to go. We do have tile for the floor, but it’s yet to be laid down. In reality it’d only take a few hours to get that bathroom completed but when you’re waiting on others for help it just doesn’t seem to get done. Maybe one day, but doubtful that it will be anytime soon.
The basement has been the biggest pain in the ass. When initially taking a tour of the house Sean’s eyes lit up because he wanted a nice big room to plant his butt down in and one of the 3 bedrooms in the basement is where it’s remained. The previous owners built up the basement (and did a piss poor job at it). The walls weren’t even secured to the floor (which we only found out later on), they put in a kitchenette that doesn’t function as anything but something to take up space. They went crazy putting in a full bathroom that needs to be completely gutted and redone because it doesn’t function and they made it so wide that it cut off access to the water heater and sewer lines. They boarded up a window with drywall (for no reason), and the way they have a sump-pump sitting in a bucket that the washing machine drains into makes absolutely no sense to me. The pump had to be replaced within the last few months because the basement flooded while doing laundry – that was heaps of fun.
At one point in time the humidifier on the furnace broke, the room closed to it flooded somehow because of it. It was one of the bedrooms that I had originally planned on using as a guest room (later down the road) now is just a cement floor that’s been bleached a few times to avoid any mold damage. Since they clearly had no knowledge of building codes they did a good job destroying the duct work to the point that there’s little to no efficiency capability from furnace and air conditioner. The main house is either freezing cold in the winter, or smoldering in the summer. The den (which is part of the extension) was added on by the original owner of the home (the ones whom knew what they were doing). Industrial grade everything was used for the extension and it actually meets the efficiency requirements.
In an effort to start getting things together, we’ve had a lot of help. Sean’s father and brother spent a few days completely rebuilding the deck off of the pantry (near the kitchen) in an effort to eradicate the termite damage. The sub-floor near the door even needed to be replaced because of how badly things were destroyed. We do still need to install a new outside door to remove the issue we’re having with the draft, but the new stair case and landing are now more than likely the most solid structure on the outside of this house. The rear deck (off the den) requires quite a few boards being replaced, this will hopefully be something we start on this summer. The roof was started on, areas of concern were patched. We do still need to have a new roof laid down but we’re now scrambling for cash because of tax season so we’ve been set back a few months. It will hopefully be done this year, but we’ll see.
Our friend Colin has been down here quite a bit, and just about every time he comes down we have a project for him. Most recently was some remodeling to the laundry area in the basement to move a wall so that we could have a railing on the awkward basement stairs. He’s also assisted with moving the stainless steel fridge from the basement to the kitchen. The previous owners purchased the fridge but it was 6 inches too wide to fit in the area of the kitchen where it needed to be. So, with the removal of a few cabinets and some of the countertop the fridge fit right in place, and the smaller one that was already there is now the overflow fridge in the basement. There was a freezer in the garage, Sean and I scrubbed the crap out of it and then had someone haul it away. We had someone interested in paying us for it but they were creepy and never showed up so we just gave it to someone to scrap and that’s that. We feel the same way about the jacuzzi in the back yard, it does run but it’s disgusting and the yard isn’t fenced in so even cleaning it and attempting to use it would be uncomfortable due to the lack of privacy anyway. So we’ll figure out how to get rid of that after we’ve picked up some scrap wood to close off that side of the deck as I don’t want to give Bella the ability to just bolt out of the backyard and wander around the neighborhood.
We’ve got about 15 trees to remove on the property, this will actually help to open things up in the yard before we get the chance to fence everything in. We know that part of the future plan includes the addition of a pool, removing the trees will allow room for this as well. We have to finish remodeling the kitchen, gut all carpeting from the house and replace it with hardwood floor, buy furniture for the living room (the den is fine as is), buy furniture for the master bedroom, pick up as much art as possible to cover the bare walls, also paint the walls when I can finally decide on a paint color that I actually like. Overhead lighting was installed in my office, we still have another fan/light that needs to be installed in the guest room, we also then need to pick one up for the master bedroom. There’s no light in the living room so that’s another project but a little more difficult as there is no attic access above the living room due to the taller ceilings. There’s a built-in unit in the den that needs to be completed as it does not connect in the middle and leaves things off balance. To the owners defense (original owner) the TV’s back in that time were still in a large box and not easily mounted onto a wall so obviously the opening was necessary. In this day-in-age it’s not, so that’ll have to be adjusted.
It’s a lot, it’s just a lot. A lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of elbow grease and a lot of stress. I have the kind of personality where I tend to never forgive but will make it a point to try and forget. Though, I do believe if I were to ever see the previous owners on the street I’d make it a point to run them over. Their lack of maintenance and knowledge on how to upkeep a home has turned this house into a money pit. I know at this point in time it’s going to take about $40,000 for me to get this house not only restored to it’s ‘former glory’, but make it seem more like my home and less like their negligent mistakes.
Looking back, would I do it again? It could go either way. Dealing with the bank was like pulling teeth, I wasn’t really thrilled about their realtor (considering she was their daughter in law, and clearly had never sold a house before considering her husband would call up screaming when she had a bad day because she clearly couldn’t handle her emotions and went crying to him = dumb bitch). Knowing what I know now I would have probably continued to my search for a house, maybe even expanded to other areas. It was hard for us because of what we wanted. A basement was nice (but not required), for me the two main requirements were public water and sewer because I did not want to deal with well water in a very farm-related area and I’ll be damned if I’m going to deal with septic – I know many have in their lifetime across the globe but I’m not accustomed to that, and it just wasn’t happening.
While the neighborhood is peaceful (minus the constantly barking dogs), life in Lower Slower Delaware is not what it’s cracked up to be. Living in a beach town means you really can’t do anything between Memorial and Labor day without anticipating going out very late in the evening. The lower property taxes mean there aren’t the right town based jobs in place for general divisions for waste management and road upkeep. There are lights out everywhere, the roads (in my neighborhood) are only ever swept up by the homeowners, they don’t plow after snow and while we received no where near as much snow in the past year as NY and Mass. did, attempting to walk an aging pup on two inches of ice was nothing short of frustrating. There’s a major lack of the Italian influence I held so dear while living in NY. Picking up a decent slice of Pizza means I’m either driving a half-hour west to a mom and pop shop that is as good as you’re going to get (which even still isn’t great) OR I’m heading back to NY and in a car for 5 hours to visit family where NY Italian food is always a perk. When asking in local FB groups about certain ways of life that both Sean and I were spoiled by we’re met with country bumpkins having the audacity to tell us to go back where we came from because they’re biggots who just don’t like change and are very, very set in their ways. It makes me want to drop a bomb on their house, not even gonna lie.
When things are going good though, they’re going good. The trade off is the ability to just head down to the park and watch the ferry come in while fishing on the pier and enjoying the conversations with the locals who don’t care where you came from, just that you’re here and someone pleasant to talk to. There’s beaches for miles and if you aren’t happy with the ones in DE you can head right down the road and wind up in Ocean City, MD for a more amp’d up feel (on season only of course… DE and MD are both pretty much dead offseason). Minus the few rotten apples the general vibe down here was something I needed to get used to. The people are generally nicer, the lack of sales tax means there’s more money in my pocket at the end of the day and living on a NY salary in DE is 100% possible. The people are very lax about getting things done and this is both a good thing and a damn shame depending on the field they’re slacking in. I don’t care if it takes a few extra minutes for someone to assist me in a store, I do care if I’m standing in the E.R. and nothing is really being treated as an emergency because that kind of adrenaline doesn’t seem to exist down here. The lack of a sense of urgency is more than likely what ticks me off the most.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the fact that the last year has been an overwhelming learning curve, or it could just be the fact that I need to become accustomed to dealing with things at a different pace – I don’t know. Over the course of time the things that are broken can and will be fixed. I know I’m very happy and very in love with my fiance, I’m happy with my little office, and maybe one day I’ll be able to say I’m happy with my house. The kitchen will look how I want it to look, there will no longer be any weird pet smells after the carpets are gone, there won’t be any remnants of dated bathrooms when we’re done sprucing things up. We’ll have a nicely fenced in yard where Bella can attempt to enjoy her last years of life (if it happens within that timeframe), I’ll finally have a pool which is something that growing up in apartment was one major thing I wanted my entire life. It’ll all happen with time. It’s certainly not ‘drive’ that’s holding us back, it’s money and time. It’s going to take A LOT to get this house where it needs to be and all we can do for now is work as hard as we possibly can to build up the nest egg required to make this house our home.
Yes, this post went from a quick “Hrm… I wanna sit down and blog” to 3700 words. This is what happens when I haven’t sat down and written anything since October even though there’s been a lot going on. I want to get back into blogging more often, and I’ve said that repeatedly over the years but I just don’t know if I have that kind of drive anymore. Sometimes I feel like just randomly blurting out what’s going on but then not actually having the ability to just sit down and write for an hour to get my thoughts out.
In any event, it’s unfortunately time for me to get back to work. There’s a kitchen full of dishes that need to go into the dishwasher (that’s slowly dying on me and also requires replacement). Maybe I’ll be able to sit down and blog again soon, maybe I won’t. I can set as many goals as I want in life, but work takes the priority for me and that’s just the way it is.