Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Color Me Happy

Big house news today: Our new exterior paint colors were approved by MHT this morning, and we received word from Rory that they've started removing the old exterior paint this afternoon.  Apparently the removal process should take about a week, "unless we uncover some additional rotted areas."  So hopefully that won't happen, because by mid-May we could have a new-looking-from-the-outside house!

Thanks to those of you who put in your two cents about the paint colors.  For those of you who chose the green in the center, you chose correctly!  Our color palette (spelled very incorrectly the other day as "palate," no idea why...) is set to be as follows: (Hopefully, you'll be able to see the colors I've attached below.)

Tadpole Green will be the main color of the outside of the house,
replacing that terrible salmon color.
Olive Leaf will be on the four columns out front,
as well as encircling each window.
Black Suede will be on the windows, both inside and out. 
Moon Rise will be on the window sills, as well as on miscellaneous architectural features like that frieze (is that what you’d call it?) on the street side under the bedroom windows left over from when there was a sleeping porch.
Grenadine will be on the front and back doors only. 

Also, before I go, big thanks to Kellee James, a neighbor-to-be, who offered us free excess insulation she had laying around from her home's construction.  Yay for nice neighbors, and yay for free stuff!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Evergreen? Nevergreen?

Our next challenge is picking colors.  Mark called us this week and said he'd like to know the exterior colors we want in the next little bit.  (Exciting, because that means painting is pretty much upon us, which will dramatically alter the house.) We went to Home Depot last night and Abby promptly showed me the disappointing palate.  She had told me we were going to have a bunch of colors on the house, but the main one would be pale green.  Fine with me, because I'm a colors guy.  So imagine my surprise when she shows me the color she wants: Gray.  Okay, so it's called Fungus or Mossy Toe Jam or something, but it's basically Gray.  I'm not amused.  Lola has to pee, so Abby tells me to look through the paint chips and pick out what I'd pick, if I had my druthers.  So I set to work, and pick out a nice palate... that she tells me looks just a bit like camping.  Having a house sided with cedar shingles means anything that looks like camping is really gonna look like camping, so we have to avoid that.  Okay, back to the drawing board.  I pick something else out, look at the palate, and it doesn't look like camping as much as it looks like army fatigues.  Well, mine looks like Vietnam army fatigues, and hers looks like the ugly modern ones, so I guess we're both stuck.

We agreed on all the trim colors, but are still not seeing eye to eye on the main color of the house.  She wants a cooler color, I want a warmer one; I feel that if a house is "green" it should actually look "green."  Okay, I don't need Astro Turf Green or Shamrock Shakes or anything, but I'd at least like to tell from 20 paces what color the wall in front of me is!  So we pick three colors we can somewhat agree on, have them make tiny sample buckets for us, and this morning Abby and Lola trekked out to paint squares on the side of the house.  Apparently they got so many passersby to remark on the colors that, when we drove out after I got off of work (and after I had asked her not to tell me which ones she liked, so I could make my own decision) she was so excited that every other breath was something else about the darn colors.  

Finally we get out there, and here's what I see:

Three blocks of color on the house, and one on the pillar.  The dark green on the pillar is what we agreed on.  It will only be on the pillars, and that's it.  One of the other three will go almost everywhere else on the house, except for the windows and the doors.  The differences are really subtle, and in fact are made more distinct only by the camera.  It's like one's color #760, one's #770, and one's #780; not a huge difference, but enough to make a difference when it's painted over a whole house. 

So?  Thoughts?  We have our mind made up, but I figured I'd hear what you all have to say before I give the answer.  If you'd like another, closer shot, here you go, this time with flash after it got dark:

Anyhow, I'll give you all the colors tomorrow... because we think we did make a decision-- we just want to sleep on it.  In the meantime, here are a few more pics of progress that's been made since our last visit a few days ago.
Working on the windows in our bedroom, with the kitchen in the background.

Our bedroom windows are in!  Several had been broken by vandalism before we bought,
which is why not all the panes are in.

Isaac in the back of the house.  Bedroom windows (top left) are new,
as are the frames for the kitchen windows (top right).
We ate dinner at the property, having brought a bunch of leftovers with us and eating out on patio furniture Abby thinks is communal but I have a strong suspicion actually belongs to someone.  No matter-- we cleaned up after ourselves.  Then we noticed people poking their heads into the house, so we went over to say hi and show them around.  It's one of the "bothers" of owning the place-- everyone wants to see inside!  I actually really like it, and I love that so many of our neighbors feel free enough to poke around.  Love the idea of people watching out for each other.  We met some great neighbors, who own the Victorian at the edge of the campus-- a beautiful place that's featured in some of the videos because it was one of the first to be completely renovated.  Looking more and more forward to the move... whenever it is...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Drop It Like It's Hot

Yep, I'm starting by quoting Snoop Dogg.  And I'm going to finish by misquoting Rihanna.

Seems like Travelers Insurance feels our house is not part of their overall business strategy, and they've given us 45 days to find other coverage, dropping us like we're hot.  I guess the fact that we have three policies with them, have never missed a payment, and were likely to stay with them for a long time forward really has no bearing on anything... so for those of you who believe the commercials that make companies seem like they're all about finding what's best for both themselves and the customer?  Well, you all should know better than that, especially after the last several years!

My favorite part is that Travelers looks forward to servicing our other policies well into the future.  Really?  You send us a letter telling us we're no good for you, and you look forward to servicing us?  I'm thinking it's a different kind of servicing you'll be doing... but this is a family blog.  Ish.

Needless to say, the call has already gone out to shop all of our insurance needs elsewhere.  So if any of you represent companies that would like to have two homeowners' policies and an auto policy for two good drivers with excellent credit, we're accepting all comers.  *Fume*

...ella ...ella ...ella ...ella ...ella ...ella ...ella

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Let There Be (Sun-)Light!

We were in Florida for a couple of weeks, just getting back this Tuesday, so I hadn't had a chance to see the house since the day before we left.  But Abby had been there just before the trip, and saw the very first step in our window refurbishment process.  She proceeded to take a picture on her phone... and there it sat for 2+ weeks, because we have no idea how to get pictures from her phone onto the internet.  And, weirdly enough, she can only send/receive pics by text, and my phone can only send/receive pics by email. (Is it an AT&T-vs-Verizon thing?  Whatever...)

ANYHOW, yesterday was the first day since late March I was able to go up to Forest Glen, and I got an eyeful: the original windows on the first floor have been entirely refurbished!  The ones that had been boarded up for so long are now open, and all of them have been stripped and primed white, ready for the next step.  And that's no small task: we've got 17 windows just on that floor!  (Okay, now that I think of it, there's one window that wasn't done-- in the first-floor bathroom.)  Regardless, the change from the outside is remarkable, and makes me even more impatient for when the whole place is done.  The change from the inside is amazing, especially in the family room, where all five windows had previously been boarded up.  Granted, the room's crazy bright right now because light from the 12 windows in the kids' rooms is shining through what will be walls, but still... most of my previous visits to the room have been in the dark, and even in the light there was pretty much no light getting in.  Now, the three little windows facing DeWitt seem just to be waiting to hover over Anyu's piano, and the two big ones facing the glen are filled with bright green from outside.  Yes!

Many of the second-floor windows are currently being refurbished, so several blocks of 'em are empty, with big plywood slabs posted over the openings as if expecting a hurricane.  The second floor will definitely take longer, because not only are there the 25 regular windows, but also the 6 up in the balconies, the five surrounding the front door, and the huge bay window overlooking the glen.  In other words, maybe it's time for another trip to the beach!

The initial view from the parking spaces.  Get a load of those windows!
They're all original windows so far; none have needed replacement.
If you look through them, you can see the walls going up in the first floor.

Lola looking out of the newly-unboarded windows in her bedroom.
She's standing up on the sill, which starts just about at her forehead
if she were standing on the floor.  The window looks out at the glen,
the windmill, and where our patio and barbecue will be eventually.
Who is this clean-shaven guy looking out of my daughter's gorgeous windows?
The glen side of the house, showing the three refurbished windows
in Lola's room, along with the two newly-unboarded windows in the family room.
The kitchen windows (above left) are currently being refurbished,
and the window in the dining room (the little one next to the window box)
is one of the last to still be boarded up.

A newly-unboarded window on the glen side of the house,
looking through the family room to the three newly-unboarded
windows looking out onto the street side of the house.

Isaac looking through the newly-unboarded streetside windows, through the family room,
and at a posing Abby (if you can make her out) standing on the glen side.

The street side of the house, showing additional new refurbishments,
in our bedroom (at right) and in the great room's windowbox (at left).
Also notice the refurbishment of the strange white frieze at bottom right,
which used to be the divide between the house and the screened-in porch--
which is now our bedroom and the kitchen.
(Plus, note the completed roof!)

The newly-bright family room, thanks to five newly-unboarded windows.
Isaac's room's to the left, laundry room and stairs to go up to the right,
and a space for Anyu's piano right along the wall.
Also, lots of room for needed storage (12"-18" deep) all along the top.

The newly-bright family room, this time looking toward the glen.
Lola's room to the right, and the guest room, the second stairway up,
and the entrance to the mudroom and bathroom are to the left.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Nice view

So we've got news of visible progress at the house... but it's really late and I don't want to stay up writing about it. So, in the meantime, I'll show you some pics I took both right next to the house and from the house. I promise to show pictures of the house tomorrow. :)
The renovated windmill.  Not done, but gorgeous nonetheless.
The owners are in the military, in their last tour before retirement.
In three years, they'll move in here permanently.
Our house is just off camera to the left.

The view from our kitchen windows, with the refurbished windmill in the foreground.
Can't wait to be seeing this as I'm packing my lunch in the mornings before work!

The kids playing at the end of DeWitt Court, with the windmill off camera to the left
and the Colonial's front porch to the right.  When the school was operational, there
was a bridge that went straight ahead, over Forest Glen, to the Castle and the Villa,
which are off camera to the right.

More of the Colonial.  No owner yet.
It may become a condo rather than a single-family home, because of the
problems potential buyers have faced with financing and insurance,
given it's attached to another section of the Seminary that remains undeveloped.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can you speed it up?

So the lovely Patty from our mortgage servicer emailed the other day to request that we set up a draw inspection, which is good, and right on time. (A draw inspection is a regular meeting with the FHA Loan inspector and our contractors in order to make sure things are proceeding on time, and for the contractors to get some more money based on what they've completed since the last draw, as approved by the inspector and us.) So in the process of scheduling the draw inspection, Patty notes we need to be finished by May. Um, come again?

Yeah, so apparently these things should only take six months. Who knew? Well, we knew things could be open for six months at a time, and that you could get extensions. So at first our loan servicing agreement was good through December, and since in December we hadn't even gotten permits yet it was extended through May. Problem is, even though we've had a lot of progress lately (and hope to see more tomorrow, during the aforementioned draw inspection), we're not exactly done. Or close to done. Or thinking of being done.

Our target is still Labor Day-- it has always been Labor Day. At first, our target was Labor Day because we wanted to be sure Isaac could start kindergarten in Montgomery County schools. Then we added an "ish" after the target holiday because we liked Isaac's pre-k so much that we are nearly certain we're going to keep him enrolled there for kindergarten (and just drive him once we move). So now we can fudge on our target date, we think, because we're no longer pressed for that school-year-driven date. But Patty has other thoughts.

I responded to her email with an incredulous one of my own, then realized she's not the bad guy, nor is she asking us for anything we don't want to be giving her; after all, we'd like to be done by May! But, alas, that is not to be. Patty said we'd have to give her some really good reasons why we can't be done by May; I'm guessing "neither the electric nor the water and sewer utilities currently recognize our home address as existing, let alone are they thinking of beginning to inspect whether they want to allow us to apply for permits to possibly maybe turn those utilities on" is a decent one.

So where we stand right now is that we're trying to persuade our mortgage servicer to slow down, and our utilities to speed up. Meanwhile, we'll get to see progress tomorrow (with pics, I promise!) and we'll finalize all our plumbing fixtures over the next 24-48 hours (again, with pics, I promise!). In the meantime, I have to do some agonizingly early overtime over the next four workdays (arriving at work by 5 AM!) and all I can think about is that, in the end, these four days of jetlagging myself within my own time zone should at least pay for our dishwasher. (Gotta see the positives...)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

O Davey Boy, The Pipes are Calling

Even though we're on vacation, there's still work to be done, and much of the work seems to involve being on hold and leaving voicemail messages.  In this case, it's with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission --WSSC-- a.k.a. the ones who will pipe water into and out of the house.

You call WSSC and immediately get voicemail, which is something I always find fishy.  Like when you call an airline in the middle of a random Tuesday and they tell you how they're "experiencing a high volume of calls" or something; give me a break-- we're going to be put on hold, and it's because you're too cheap to pay more operators, not because too many of us are in need of your services!  But I digress.

So anyhow, this voicemail tells you all of the water people are busy doing what water people do, and you should pick from one of five choices.  The fifth choice is "permits," so I've always chosen that one. Each time, however, I have been directed to leave a message, and that's it.  Last week I left multiple mssages, and each time a guy named Dave called me back, leaving a message of his own. Always when I had stepped away from my desk for about 4 seconds, too.  Anyhow, it was a game of perpetual phone tag.

So on Tuesday, I decided to go out on the deck during the kids' nap times and do my voicemail-leaving and holding with a view of the ocean... and got frustrated again when choice number five led me to yet another voicemail box.  So I hung up and called back, this time going rogue and choosing #1. Nope, same results.  Hung up.  Called back, Choice #2. And guess what? Dave picks up!

So now I find myself standing on the deck looking at the ocean and speaking to the elusive Dave at WSSC.  Before I tell him anything else, I make sure he has my name and number in case we get disconnected, because I'm pretty sure we'll never reach each other again if we get disconnected.  

It's a long conversation-- at least a half an hour-- but it's very productive, and by the time it's over, I've gotten exactly the information I needed, as well as some interesting tidbits as to why no one at any utility knows what/where the heck our house is. Turns out our house has been listed as having at least three different addresses on three different streets, and different permits and site plans have been issued for each-- and this is just for water and sewers. It has been listed on the 2700-block of DeWitt Circle, on the 9600-block of nearby Hume Drive, and as having the same address as the main condo building across the street. So now, along with all of our permit request stuff, we also have to submit paperwork confirming that, yes, we do have a real address, and we are actually a single-family home (we're listed as a condo), and then they can go and normalize all the rest of the historical permit stuff.

Other stuff I learned:

1) We get to pay a $3050 fee along with our permit to help defray the water company's cost of bringing water pipes to the property. And that's on top of the $750 annual payment (for the next 20-some years) to help defray the water company's cost of bringing water pipes BY the property. (Did you catch the difference?)

2) Even though it's the same utility, we get to pay separate fees for water inspection and sewer inspection, as well as fees for each of the toilets, sinks, and spigots we build into the house.

3) We also get to pay a separate fee to have the water meter installed... So they can bill us for our water use.

Phew! Funny, because when DC Water upgraded our lead lines a few years ago, we paid not a cent. Guess that's the difference between living in the 'burbs and what my former boss called "the People's Republic of Washington."

In all, I won't really see most of those fees; they'll all be sucked into our giant FHA mortgage, to be paid in monthly increments for the next 7.5 presidential administrations. We have, however, already paid the $750 fee twice now-- yeah, we're only 57 days short of being a year into this now... I can't believe it either.

After hanging up with Dave, and thanking him profusely (I find that can never hurt with contractors or bureaucrats) I called Rory to update him on everything I had learned. He can pretty much take things from here on water and sewer, except setting up the actual account, which we have to do ourselves. Again, I'm psyched to hear he's been busy in the few days we've been away. Apparently either more windows have been taken off for restoration or those that had been taken off are now back on. Also, the roof is being finished, including refurbishment of the tin section above the front porch. (I promise pics when I get back in town.).

The big current issue is heating, though. He found last month that most of our radiators were unusable, and the replacement cost is likely going to be astronomical. So he and the HVAC folks have been figuring out the best road to hoe. Looks like the radiator/heat-pump combo is going in favor of a larger gas forced-air unit. He says "the numbers still aren't in" on the system, but from how he was talking I'm thinking it's a done deal. I can only guess at how the MHT folks will flinch when they hear the radiators are going-- me too, since we've loved our radiators in the current house-- but we'll be sure to salvage anything we can that's pretty. Not to mention, we'll regain some precious square footage in certain corners of the house, especially the dining room and Isaac's room.

Anyhow, that's it for now. Next week when we get back, we're meeting up to finalize small layout changes needed by updates to the HVAC plan-- as well as little tweaks like moving Lola's closet two inches to accommodate the bed Abby's already chosen for her at IKEA. :) In the meantime, I'll keep on sitting in the sun, on hold-- just not leaving messages with the water company!