Mortgage Bound

sienna_frontWe never intended to settle into a new home when we began our house hunting adventures. After contacting John at Canning Dream Homes, I developed a rather short list of homes to tour. I can’t say they were overly impressive as the stock in Oakley was quite limited because of many ‘Pending’ offers. After our first purchase back in 2004, I would like to think we have learned a few things about the home buying process. which would not lead us down that same disastrous road we traveled when we purchased the first time. From the enter buying process to the interest free loan for the first 12 months to two bad refinances and a shitload of debt, it was amazing we survived as long as we did in our first house.

While the end result caused stress and frustration, we entered the home buying process in a much better position than in 2004. After touring 6 homes it became apparent, “our house” wasn’t “in the middle of the street” (Madness reset) or to be found in Oakley, based on what we wanted in a house. It was somewhat frustrating, as we were growing out of the renting experience and needed to reestablish ourselves in a place to call our own.

John was wonderful enough to take my wife out to a new housing development in Oakley called Emerson Ranch built by DeNova Homes. While I didn’t accompany them on the first trip to Emerson Ranch I stopped by after my wife raved about the model they were looking at. Of course, models being models are staged with great looking furnishings and have MANY upgrades added to the base home.

For a few days I felt we were rushing into a new home before seriously considering other options. Both options had good and bad associated with them. One night, while lying in bed I decided to look out towards Valley Springs and was shocked at what we could buy for $350,000 to $375,000. One of my main concerns was property size. I wanted a minimum of 3 acres, something I was not going to find in Oakley. Valley Springs was amazing. The prices fell within our range and many of the homes we looked at on met many of our requirements we were looking. I even found a 2500 sq. ft. home with 40 acres! Not only could I run ultras on my property, we could camp and fish in the Calaveras River, which ran through land!

Yet until the size strapped lots in Oakley, the commute and schools in Valley Springs became an issue. With a single high school and only a handful of elementary and junior high school, commuting our son to school would not be as simple as a 2 minute ride down to the corner to drop him off. Living in the foothills of the Sierras would also turn my 45 minute commute into a 2:15 commute. One way! So was buying out in Valley Spring realistic? Probably not, but I would make the sacrifice and commute if it allowed us a place to buy.

Back in Oakley, my wife and I were getting excited as we talked to our realtor, as well as Kelly and Wendy at DeNova Homes. The homes weren’t moving as fast as they had expected and there were some good upgrades and credits being offered to entice people into buying. After visiting the development a second time and walking through a few of the “Move-In Ready” homes, as well as the model, we decided to put down a soft deposit in order to hold the house. It was their only single story floor plan (Amber), which was a few hundred square feet smaller than the rental we are in. Even worse, the footprint of the slab, left very little room in the backyard to house some sort of kennel for my wife’s breeding hobby (Bengal cats).

After spending a few days reading the 3 inch binder full of fine print, rules, regulations and more stuff that I probably didn’t care about. A day later my wife, with John in tow were back at Emerson Ranch and I received a phone call about purchasing a bigger home, which was the next floor plan up, called the Sienna. This home made a bit more sense. It provided us with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a California Room, something as a Californian since 1971 I had never heard of, as well as a fireplace in about 2300 square feet.

Not having walked the larger models I was taken back by the size of this home, it was rather well laid out, seemed to have a good flow and energy through out. The kitchen was amazing. I can’t believe the amount of storage space with dual pantries and about 30′ of counter space! I could have people in the kitchen and still be able to cook comfortably! This house was about $30,000 more, but broken down into mortgage terms that came out to about $210 a month. Then I remember the wise words of my friend Brian N, as well as our realtor, “happy wife, happy life.” I know she would love this home, as would I, so we moved our deposit to the larger floor plan and started the paperwork.

One of my requirements for a home was a 3-car garage and I missed the next floor plan up, the Emberglow had just that. I got very excited, especially since the price of this home was JUST another $10,000 (or $70/month on my mortgage). I drive out to Emerson Ranch and walked the floor plan. My main concern, the garage, which was actually a 2-car garage with a tandem garage extending one side. It worked for me, but the downstairs floor plan was terrible. The ‘Great Room’ wasn’t so great and seemed to run into the kitchen, which now included a nook. It just didn’t flow well and I knew it the moment I walked it. The master bathroom, which it offered more closet space, was smaller than the previous model, but the upstairs did have a loft, which overlooked the entry way. At over 2600 square feet, it was too much house, even though the garage was nice.

Now that paperwork has been started we are probably 4-6 weeks away from closing on our new home. Still very hard to believe we are going through the new home buying process. Unlike our previous home, where we were carrying quite a bit of debt, this time we are debt free, earn more money and the entire situation feels right.

Time To Buy?

aspenIt’s been a little over 3 years since Venus Jackson-Kennedy and Bank of America took our house and sold it at auction inside of 30 days after the foreclosure. It was amazing to see just how quickly things moved. Worse part, the house was sold at maybe 50% of what we purchased it at back in 2004. The lack of communication, the shady, underhand and behind closed door deals didn’t provide of much chance in keeping our home. It got to the point losing it would actually be a winning proposition, but now how it played out. If it were under our conditions, things would have been more beneficial, but looking back I chalk this up as a learning experience.

Many things have changed since that fateful day in November I found out we were losing our home. Needless to say, my wife was livid, as was I. All the communication with B of A and filling out of paperwork was for not, as I was continually told I “made too much money” in regards to refinancing or restructuring our loans. It didn’t help that was was underwater with two car payments and three credits, all of which carried balances at their limits. To say I have learned something is an understatement as I continue to work towards improving my credit score. It will still be another 4 years before the foreclosure is completely off my record.

Just this year I finally reapplied for two lines of credit; Victoria’s Secret and this past November for Amazon. Until this point, I decided to hold off on any credit cards, as if I didn’t have the money to buy something, I didn’t need it. I was surprised with VS approved me for a $500 limit. This was the first step to reestablish my credit. I also paid off my 2007 Ford Ranger, which put more money in our bank. In February my MIL was kind enough to co-sign so we could get out of our Hyundai Genesis Coupe and into a more family friendly Kia Optima. By her co-siging, the monthly payments dropped approximately $200 in monthly payments! Early in 2015 I applied for an Amazon card and was denied, this past November, I opened a small line of credit. Both of these will help me build a strong credit history moving forward.

With the help of my wife’s friend, we got in contact with a local lender and filed paperwork to see what we could pre-approve at for a new home loan. Until now, my wife and I had just talked about moving and hadn’t really moved on anything. We would look at Redfin and Realtor, but didn’t really consider anything a reality. I renewed our 2 year rental contract with Waypoint Homes in 2014 knowing it would cost me a month’s rent to get our of it.

I was excited to hear our pre-approval came through, higher than what I anticipated it would be at and this began the house hunting. Knowing now, what we didn’t know in 2004 we made of list of items we wanted our new home to have:

  • 2000 sq. feet
  • .25 acres or more
  • 3-4 bedrooms
  • 2+ bathrooms
  • big kitchen
  • built within the last 5-7 years
  • 3-car garage
  • ranch style (no second floor)

With some basic information gathered we started looking in Oakley for potential sites. Unfortunately, as my wife can attest to, we ran into MANY homes that looked to be a good fit, but they were ‘pending’ leaving up to continue to look. I expanded our search to Brentwood, but I found out their prices were usually about $100,000 higher than Oakley. So while I didn’t rule this area out, I was hoping something would be found.

Early in December I contacted a real estate agent, who is local to the area and surprisingly enough gives a portion of his commission to a school of our choice. Thought was awesome, he would donate some money to Vintage Parkway. I had also spoke to him a few years earlier, as he was walking the neighborhood handing flyers out, we spoke about about 30 minutes and explained my situation, the loss of our first house and being in a rental until we were ready to buy again. So we took him on as our agent….to date.

During our search and somewhat on a whim, I added Valley Springs to our search area. If you don’t know where Valley Springs is about 40 miles northeast of Stockton, as you near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This would have resulted in a commute of about 2:15 for me. ONE WAY! But I would have been more than willing to drive it. The best part of searching out here was to see just how far our money would go. I found one property that had a 2000 sq. foot home with 40 acres! Amazing! I could run, camp and fish in my backyard! After discussing our options, my wife and I decided we wanted to stay local in Oakley, but living in Valley Springs after Zachary is out of school would be possible.

With the realtor we went and toured about 6 or so homes. I can’t say I was too impressed with what Oakley had to offer. There was one that had distinct possibility, it was built as a split level with a crawlspace, something you don’t see in California often. The property had a nice large backyard, unfortunately it needed a new roof. Not an investment I wanted to get involved with in a new home. Just days after looking at this home it went pending. The other two homes we saw required A LOT of work, neither were “move in ready” and with what little time I had, I knew none of these homes would work for us.

On a recommendation by the realtor, we visited a new housing developments in Oakley called Emerson Ranch. Located about 2 miles away from our current home, this is a all new development that currently has two builders, but not many moving in. I can’t compare looking at a new, staged home and a previously lived in home. The model looked amazing, but that is the point in order to drive prospective buyers. I do believe my wife and I were both sucked in to the possibilities of owning a new home!

Unfortunately this new home was pricier than any other home we had looked at to date. The other drawback, the lot size, 52’x100′, pretty much you typical “postage stamp” lot, neighbors within spitting distance. I never have been fond of these sort of developments, but the house did offer some of the aspects we were looking for in a house. Can we overlook the areas in which the house is lacking, while spending a bit more than we anticipated? We will see.

The home, built be DeNova Homes, who’s reputation as “one of the Bay Area’s most respected builders traces back to the company’s commitment to quality and integrity.”Surely they must have a better reputation than KB Homes, who I refuse to buy from after all sorts of plumbing issues in the first house we purchased. We were both impressed by the styling of home, obviously taken to the next level by the interior design and staging, as well as countless “upgrades” in the models we visited.

Along with the realtor, we were able to visit two other similar floorplans that were in different stages of construction. The second home lacked some of the upgrades, most notably, the California Room (read covered patio) and the fireplace with built in cabinetry. So it would stand to reason this home was about $20,000 cheaper than the final home we looked at, which included the aforementioned upgrades.

We decided NOT to rush into the purchase of any home, new or otherwise but felt time wasn’t on our side as the developer was looking to “make a deal” with an incentive based purchase. After discussing between ourselves and realtor, we decided to put a deposit, to confirm a “soft hold” on the final model we walked through. We meet on Sunday and decide if we will move forward to pull our deposit and continue looking. Chances are if we pass this new home up, these new homes will only be priced higher, possibly out of what we are willing to pay to get our of rental and into “our” home.

There have been a few new home show up on my search list in Oakley, shared them with my wife, but after seeing a new home, it’s very hard to take two steps back and make the decision to purchase a pre-owned home. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I can only surmise that, if we had not visited Emerson Ranch, we will be a bit more excited about seeing these new listing pop up.

Run. Run Some More.

hurtsInteresting to see the running threads as the year was ending that read, “like my post and I will run 3 miles, comment on it, I will run 5 miles and share it, I will run 10 miles.” That is surely one way to get motivated and help ring in the new year and your goals you have set for running. After feet problems and a busy schedule today starting my training for my next running challenge.

Initially I wanted to compete in my first 100 mile race, but after the disappointment I felt logging my first DNF in October while running the Dick Collins Firetrails 50, I have reconsidered my skill and abilities at this point in my running. I plan on running two races the first part of 2016. The first race is the Relentless Razorback that will take place in early March. This will be the second time I have participated in this race. What makes this race amazing, Tracy Johnson, the organizer and race director. She is flat out AWESOME when it comes to supporting the event and all the runners. This will be my first 100k (62.5 miles) event over a 2-mile loop that only has a 90 foot elevation change. All things considered, I should be successful in this challenge, which will make this the longest race.

I never intend to win an event or even my age group. For me, at age 46, finishing is winning. This is the same way I approached the American River 50 last year and ended up crossing the finish line in 13:52:55. The race challenges your physically, yet you continue to find that strength deep inside to make it to the next aid station. This sort of endurance race can mentally break you demolish you. I felt this in my last 50 mile attempt as my lack of training and all the hills put me in a bad place and I was never able to recover and make up lost time.

The following month, April its back to Folsom and the 2016 American River 50! This year I plan on crossing the finish line with my running partner, Brian N. It was very difficult to go on after he dropped out of the race at mile 41 due to a swollen and twisted ankle he suffered around mile 20. Amazing to think he soldiered on for another 21 miles. Without him, I am not sure I would have crossed the finish line. Thankfully, things went my way that day and I was blessed with good friends and a finishing medal when I heard my name and time as I crossed the timing strip. It was an amazing race, one I look very forward to this year and improving on my time.