Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The problem of too much "to-do" and not enough "to-do it with"

Oct 27,2009

The wind is really blowing here in Moraga today! I can just imagine what it is doing up in the hills. I am wrestling with what to do next on my list and where I am going to find the time and money to do it.
I like keeping lists, even if they are just in my head because they help me focus, and weigh my priorities. Here is my short-term "to-do" list:

Not in any particular order:
1. Replace the window screens that are missing or destroyed. (I have the material do that just need to get to it. (time)
2. Paint the kitchen.. for pete's sake I need to just get this done. I don't have the paint bought yet though.. (time & money)
3. Move all the remaining logs from the front yard area. (ugg... time)
4. Plant the seeds I ordered and the other plants that I have gotten from my mom's friend. (time)
5. Block the rat entrance points and place the poison in the attic. (time)
6. Get some kind of flooring down in Nick's room. There is just concrete right now and an area rug. (time & money)
7. Remove the dead trees from the planting area down the hill and rebuild the planter boxes. (time)

As you can see most of these are time related... with 2 having money issues. Right now I have used up my budget for renovation for a while...so I am going to have to get creative and figure out how to pay for some of these things.

Long term to do's are all being pushed to next year until I can get the budget saved up....

If there is anyone out there that has hardwood flooring they are ripping out, would love to talk to you!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wildflower Seeds- in BULK!

I was able to find an online resource for wildflower seed mixes that are just for my area... trouble is that I had to buy 2 pounds to meet their minimum order size. That will cover about 6000 sq ft so I will be spreading them around lots of places I guess... more than I thought I would. Hope something actually grows!

The stump grinder guy called and he finished the stumps in the front yard. But then said that when he was unloading the grinder from his truck, the truck lost traction and slid down my driveway into a fence post. And got stuck.. so he had to call out a tow truck to "unstick" him.. apparently my fence post is bent a little and his truck is fine. I can just imagine what that must have looked like! And thankfully the post stopped it from continuing down the hill or he would have been in a world of hurt!
** Just got off the phone with Tom, the guy who did the stump grinding. He parked his truck and trailer on my driveway on the hill. The slope there is steep... and he could have pulled up to the flat part on top. He put it in park and proceeded to off load the grinder. When the grinder hit the ground, the weight came off the trailer and popped the wheels up on the truck and it started sliding. The truck headed to the left and the trailer went 90 degrees to the right. This means the truck was sliding to go over that steep hill next to the road. It hit one of my big fence posts and stopped but was completely wedged since the trailer was 90 degrees from the back of the truck.. he had to have a tow truck come out and yank everything into the right position. I can't imagine the horror of watching your vehicle start sliding towards that hill! He says he has learned his lesson and will now use blocks.. good grief!**

Oh and the home warranty saga continues.. just got an email from the company saying that all my mail is being returned to them. Really? Maybe if you would fix your records after the first time I called it would help! Sorry... sarcasm sneaking out.. :) So I politely emailed them the correct MAILING address and hopefully the 4th time is the charm!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Taxes and Home Warranties

This week has been so strange because I have been sick and still trying to work and do house stuff..
My home warranty company on this house has a big problem with property address vs. mailing address. It has been since June and they still can't seem to mail me the warranty information to my Moraga address. I called them again to request it and to ask if my policy covers rats.. and unfortunately it doesn't. Bummer...so it is back to the planned assualt whenever I can get back there again.
I highly recommend a home warranty especially the first year, just not sure I will use this company again.
Just paid the property tax bill on both houses and it is strange... the Calaveras county tax collector has valued my property at $70,000 more than I paid for it. I think that is probably right since other houses in the area are selling for $200k more.. but still.. why didn't they use the sales price?
Oh and my financial adviser said I need to build up my cash reserves again.. only have about 2 months worth in there. That was something I was aware of with all the expenses I have had... but I am working on paying down my debt. Maybe I will change that up a bit and move more into my emergency fund when I sell my stock next time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quick Trip - 10/17/09

I went up to the house this weekend for a quick overnight trip to check to see how things were after the big storm. According to the locals the winds were fierce and the power went out but everything looked okay. No leaks in the house and the crawl space was dry, so that is a good thing.

There were dozens of baby lizards running around, about 2-3 inches long feasting on the bugs that the rain brought out. Oh the bugs were just crazy! We have had a pretty bug free couple of months, but this weekend there were things flying in the air that I had never seen before. My young buck was there again in the back yard area. He is just not afraid of me even though I tried to shoo him off so I can let the dog out. He actually seems to be interested in what I am doing... not the smartest deer in the herd. Thankfully, we don't allow hunting in the subdivision so he should be safe as long as he stays around.. he is just too familiar with people to be in "wilder" areas. He would never survive!  

I didn't do much because I have been fighting a cold.. just hung up some mini-blinds in the bedroom. I don't need any window coverings for privacy because no one can see me, but I do for the light coming in the morning. Casey seems to think that as soon as it gets light out it is time to wake up! Which means it is time for me to get up... at the crack of dawn. Here in Moraga it is almost always overcast in the morning so she gets up when my alarm goes off... but there.. it is bright in the morning and all the animals are making noise and my normally lazy dog becomes energized.
The same thing happens with people as well. After the Columbus Day weekend Nick said that I was actually acting like a normal person on vacation. I have vacation "to-do" lists running in my head the same as my normal "to-do" lists and find it hard to slow down. I get this from my dad who took us to Hawaii when I was 15 or 16 and made a point of seeing everything on the islands worth seeing... no laying on the beach for us! Nope we got our money's worth from that vacation. But up there, I know I have at least 2 years of work but it seems I am also okay just sitting on my deck watching the animals.
Speaking of my dog Casey, where did it get written in the dog genetic code that rolling in stinky stuff is a good thing? She went out and found a mess of deer poo.. diarrhea like stuff and rolled in it with determination and purpose. I mean come on! She hates baths so I have to tie her up outside to hose her off..I just don't get it. I watched one show that said that wolves do it to mask their scent when they are hunting, but the only thing my dog hunts is flies. (She is really good at that too!)
I was hoping my rat problem would go away with the trees gone but even with the rat highway and bridge system torn out, they are still there. (Determined little varmints!)  I have the stuff now to really go after them and block all their entrances but was not up to balancing on a ladder that was set on a slope while all alone. Nope... so they get to enjoy the good life for a bit longer.

Almost over this stupid cold and next week is the final birthday party for Nick at my parent's house.. so the birthday month is finally going to be over!

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Snake...and NICKS 17th Bday

Looking at google pictures, I think my baby rattler was actually a gopher snake.. that and he was so mellow! Unless I am really, really sure I will treat all the snakes as poisonous... I like snakes because they eat rats and I HATE rats...

Going to try and go up this weekend to the house but I am not feeling so good.. will see how I am in the morning..

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Columbus Day(Nick's Photos) by Nick

The dirty ATV after a morning ride.

The FIRE PIT!!! and the big log Jason and I hauled up with the ATV.

The first tree that was laying across the path you either had to go up and around or over...

The mess that was 4 trees fallen in the same area at once on the path... Jason and I cleared it out. Amazing what an ATV, chainsaw, axe and a bunch of hatchets can do.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day Weekend

Nick, Jason and I went up to the house this weekend and it was quite a surprise to see all the trees in the front cut down. I knew it was coming since I hired them but it sure looked different. All that was left was piles and piles of wood... when all that dries I will have a bunch of firewood for the next few years..

Here is a before picture:

Front before

And here is now..

Front minus the trees

Because I live in a high fire area I am supposed to have 100 ft of defensible space around the house. I think I have it now! The blue tarps are covering the piles that are left out in the yard because it is supposed to storm really hard this week. We moved one pile under the deck in the back to give it a better shot at staying dry. I am going to put out some wildflower seeds and hope they take... just to try and keep down the weeds.

When we drove up on Saturday the deer were everywhere including a new buck that we hadn't seen before. (actually, he might have been the "teen" deer we saw in early summer that was hanging with the baby. Only now he has some small antlers.) He was hanging out with the 2 females and our "baby" that was born there... she is getting big !
Here is her picture...

Our baby is about 3 months old now... she is not afraid of us at all.. and loves to hang out in the yard with the fruit trees.

Also in that area I found a baby rattle snake..

Can you see him in the middle of the picture?
I moved him to the other side of the hill where we don't go.. didn't want him to cause any trouble with the dog and kids. Although the dog has a rattlesnake vaccine now so even though it would still hurt her, it won't kill her. Which makes me wonder, why do they have rattlesnake vaccines for dogs and not for people?

All weekend we heard about the storm that is coming tomorrow.. in every store that I went to they were talking about it. The locals were all getting prepared because it is supposed to have 50 mph winds and 2 to 4 inches of rain on Tuesday. I wish I could have stayed for it but have to get back to work sometime, and once again, we were all out of clean clothes. You get so dirty working up there! The boys had a blast and even dragged a log up to use by the fire pit. (On the ATV of course! ) They worked hard cutting up wood and helping me move the other wood around. But we have to have fun as well so they got to ride the ATV just for fun... My back hurt too much so I couldn't ride it this weekend. Next weekend hopefully I will be better and can do it..

Still no painting done! Oh well, it was important to get things set up before that storm hit..maybe next time? I think I have to have a wine and paint weekend with my friends... lure them up there with winery tours and surprise them with a room to paint! Hmm..  I may not have any friends left after that!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Step #2 in buying a house - Area Research

This is the fun part! I loved doing the research and could spend hours looking at homes.

Have you ever met someone who has lived in the same place all of their life? If you are one of these people, you will never need this advice so you can go back to watching T.V.
(I actually knew someone who not only lived in the same house all her life, it was her parent's house and she had bought it from them! )

For those who are willing to change their venue from where they are now, you have to know what you are looking for in a new area. What matters to you in terms of location? The reason you focus on the area first and then what you want in a house is simple.. houses are basically the same everywhere but everywhere that has houses is not the same.

I was looking for the following things:

1. Price - lthe lower the better in terms of real estate, looking for lots of foreclosures 
2. Open Space - not much development, buildings or freeways
3. Location near my current house, mom and sister without being "too near" (I came up with 2 hours as the distance I thought was easy to cover in a weekend trip.)
4. Small town feel with proximity to the larger town amenities I would need to survive (Lowes, Safeway, Starbucks and a hospital were on the top of the list.)

Where do you start looking? I used my parent's house as the starting point and like I said earlier, started looking in a foothill town called Coarsegold. It has a huge group of houses in Yosemite Lakes that offers lots of amenities and still has a feeling of seclusion. At first, Coarsegold looked like it would meet all of my criteria:
1. Price- the number of foreclosures in just Yosemite Lakes was staggering.. I would say nearly 20% of the development was for sale when I saw it. And very few were not foreclosures...
2. Open space- it is a planned community but they had all different lot sizes and house sizes. You could get a lot right up next to your neighbor or a house that you actually couldn't see from the road..
3. Location- It was only about 45 minutes from my parent's house but it would be 3 hours for me and my sister to get there. That is what tipped the scale away from Coarsegold. Why would I buy a house down the road from my parent's for a vacation place? It made no sense...
And so I moved on... to the gold country around Jackson, CA.

I got curious about the houses here from an internet auction site that I found.. and that is where I first saw that Wilseyville house. So I created an alert in Realtor.com and starting looking around the internet to see what was available.
It seemed to meet all of my criteria with tons of foreclosures, lots of space, 2 hours from everyone in almost a perfect triangle and location to big town stuff. They even had a brand new hospital in Jackson that was very pretty and modern.
I looked on the websites I use to track real estate and just kept watching what came up for sale to get an idea of what a good value would be when I saw it. (This is important for someone coming from out of the area. Think about all us bay area folks with out jacked up home prices going somewhere like Winnemucca and thinking that the house for sale at $150,000 is a steal! What if it isn't? What if you are paying too much because you don't know the market well enough. I live in fear of paying too much!)

 I keep looking at the internet houses for a couple of months until saw the house in Glencoe and called Kathy.. with Kathy driving I covered 100's of miles up there... I saw houses in wilseyville, pioneer, railroad flat, glencoe and mokelumne hill. Having a realtor who is familar with the area is another key thing to find. Kathy was able to tell me what the snow fall looked like at houses we would see. Where they are having to drill for more water... what happens when a powerful storm comes and how long it takes to get power back one..just invaluable information. 
All together I spent months on the area research and looked at 100's of houses on line and probably 25-30 in person... but I knew that was the area I wanted to buy in and since I had in mind my criteria for a house, when one came up that matched I made an offer.

A lot of people go with their "gut" or a "feeling" when buying a house and that works out well only if you know exactly what you want. When people think of buying a house and just start looking at open houses, that is the wrong way to go about it. Emotions can make you think you have to buy a house right away, but it is too far from work, or your neighbors have a yard full of junk, or it is out of your price range... so research is important.

You have to stick to the plan or you will not be happy in the long run with the house you bought.
Here is where I got my info and these are just a fraction of the sites out there that can be helpful:
This is the best site for just the sheer number of listings and from it you can link to the realtor's home pages and see what else is in the area.
Most people think of this as a valuation site for pricing but it has great research has well. You can see aerial views of lot sizes to see how close the neighbors are and of course, past sales data if it is not too old.
The real estate section is limited but once again gives you some more information. You can also find the weather in the location you are thinking about and local news...new thing is the snapshot feature. Right now it says that 42 homes are for sale in mokehill with 22 of them being foreclosures and the pricing believe it or not is actually going up... hmm..
This site is one you have to pay for but i get an alert without paying, it just doesn't give you the exact address. But it does give you the street name.. so you can usually figure it out.
This an online auction site that lets you see the properties without signing up. If you wanted to bid on a place you would have to register with them. Not a lot of properties but some interesting things.

Lesson here... identify your needs first, choose some possible candidate locations and do your research.

BRRR- Cold in Moraga

Still in Moraga but will get to mokehill this weekend.... the ATV safety class was fun and now I am "certified" on the ATV. (Please no jokes about being "certifiable"! I know that was too easy and you couldn't help yourself.) They had different ATV models than what we have and they were fun because they were smaller and able to take turns faster.  Although I was slow compared to the other guys in the class! And my shoulders are so stiff, because it takes a lot of work on those things to get it to turn.

The weather has really changed and I am hoping that we are heading into fall/winter now. (Rain is forecast for next week so that will be the second rain shower in October which is pretty early!) I can't wait for a big storm to happen when I am up at the house! I bet it is impressive when the wind is howling around that place... I will not be able to afford the new windows this year so I expect it will be drafty. But we have the woodstove and that should heat the house up good. Now if we can only get the firewood finished! Nick is coming up this weekend and if we can get Dad's saw fixed we might be able to get it done.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beautiful October Sat in Moraga - 10/3/09

I couldn't make it up to the house last weekend because of work and again this weekend because of the ATV class. Nick and I are taking an ATV safety course this afternoon in Antioch and actually the weather is perfect here! The high will be about 75 degrees as opposed to last weekend when it was 105 or so! Since we have this high powered ATV and are riding it on hills that are pretty steep, I thought that would be a good idea to take this class. Nick is the typical teen boy who believes he was born with the genes to drive things and why does he need lessons? But he is still going and it should be fun, if a bit tiring!
I am hoping that I can get some pictures and post them here later..
Also, October 16th is Nick's 17th birthday but the birthday parties go on all month long... after the ATV class tonight some of his friends and him are going to a movie and pizza here in town. Then next weekend we will be back at the MokHill house! Finally! And I am taking Monday off so I will have a 3day weekend up there with Nick. The tree guy called and he said about 1/2 the trees are down and the rest will be down next week... which is great because I want to get the wildflower meadow going out front before the rains come. I have packets of seeds but still think I need more... so I am on the lookout for a good deal on wildflower seeds.
We also got a big truck for the house, a Nissan Titan and I think Nick posted pics on facebook but I will see if I can get some too. Then the birthdays continue.. he has 1 weekend at his dad's for his b-day and then 1 weekend in Madera for the family party... A whole month of parties for his birthday... wow!
Got to get going now... will try and get pictures up after the class...