We bought our house in January of 2002. It was kind of a hand-me-down from my parents. My parents bought it from my paternal grandparents. My grandparents built the house—a modest ranch with a walk out—in the Sixties (I think).
In buying the house we became victims of the housing bubble and didn't know it. My parents had been renting it to a cousin and no rent had been paid. Mom and dad needed to get out from under it and we were looking to get out of the dump we had been renting for $300. The Dump was so bad. The furnace went out in the middle of the winter and the landlord ignored my phone calls until I left a message that said: “We're going to stay with family and your pipes are probably going to bust.” He showed up within an hour and fixed the furnace. But we had been shivering for days.
Anyway, we wanted a place of our own. We'd been married for over a year, so...why not?
I simply inquired of the bank what it would take for us to get a mortgage for my parents' house. At the time we were both going to EKU full time and I was working at UPS part time on call. And by “on call” I mean I worked two or three days a week for a total of about ten to twenty hours at $8-something an hour. At the time Mandy worked part time at the video store where we met. And $300/mo for The Dump seemed extravagant. We were barely scraping by.
When the loan flunky asked what we thought we could pay in mortgage per month I speculated that maybe we could swing $350. And for quite a while we heard nothing from the bank. In fact, we kind of forgot about it. My parents were talking about just renting to us or letting us rent to own.
After weeks and weeks the loan stooge called and asked: “Are you going to come in and sign these papers or what?”
And so on my twenty-eighth birthday we signed the papers for our first mortgage. The monthly payment? $450. By the time we moved into the house peak season was over at UPS and I hadn't been called in for weeks. Our income was basically nil. For a few years we were desperately dependent on residual money from our student loans and the few semesters we qualified for Pell Grants.
In 2005 we refinanced and a different mortgage company gave us a check for $9,999.99 and our balance kicked back up near where we were when we started out. Again, we were somewhat stunned that a lending institution would take a chance on us the raging financial liabilities that we were. But with that refi check we were able to buy all new windows and doors. We installed them ourselves.
That was the beginning of our remodeling attempts. We also gutted and remodeled the bathroom, but made a miscalculation in the purchase and installation of the tub/shower which resulted in our second bathroom remodel last winter.
So what's my point in all this?
We've struggled with finances for fifteen years. Circumstance has not favored us economically. I started my job in Colorado in 2008 before the bubble burst. Mandy was unable to find a decent job out there and we were unable to sell our money pit.
We said we'd never live in the house again, but here we are. Fourteen years later we're both gainfully employed and finally able to maybe do the home repairs that have needed to be done for so long. The house needs a roof, siding, gutters, septic work, general drainage, a stout kitchen remodel, the geothermal likely replaced, and a lot of cosmetic TLC. I keep saying that it would be best to bulldoze the whole thing into the basement hole and start over.
If only it were that easy.
A big part of the problem is me. ADHD, depression, and other neurological friction is notorious for impeding progress on home improvements. It's no excuse, but it is an explanation.
Recently we've started working on marking things off of the TO DO list that should have been done ages ago. I recently replaced two of the three Bikeport support posts. The rear post had sunk a few inches when the slab settled and slumped. The middle post had been missing for as long as I can remember. Now I don't worry about the damn carport collapsing all the time.
And in preparation for a new roof Mandy and I spent most of this past Friday ripping off and replacing rotted fascia and soffit boards. It was pretty bad. Next is the roof. The plan is to put on a steel roof, then wood siding, and then make it all look pretty. We need decks under our front and back doors too.
Mandy commented that her parents would never have done that kind of project themselves; that they would have hired it out, but it has never occurred to me to call a contractor for anything. Dad taught me enough about plumbing, electricity, and carpentry that I can fix leaks, replace light fixtures, and do basic home repairs. I'm not great at it—it always looks like its been half-assed because it has—but my meager skillz made it possible for us to get stuff done that we desperately needed done.
I look forward to the day when I just pick up the phone and say: “Give me a quote.”
I'm thankful for the abilities that I have been blessed with. I know a lot of people wouldn't risk doing things themselves. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nauseous the whole time the corner of the Bikeport was jacked up waiting for my concrete footers to cure.
It's times like these when I feel capable and resilient. I know I can get by for the most part. And if I were going to put together a Responsible Adult Wish List I would say that in a perfect world we'd go on to install solar electric and solar water heating as well as putting in nat gas for backup heating, cooking and water heating, and/or that we would just burn it all down and start over with our dream house.
But if wishes were hand grenades...or something like that.