I know I've had you all on pins and needles since the last post, and I'm happy to report that things appear to have improved markedly since that frustrating emailing session last week. And although I'm proud that Abby and I stuck to our guns and toughed it out meeting with Mark, the real breakthrough was most definitely spurred along by something that happened about 100 miles up I-95: our loan was reopened. Therefore, as we walked up to the house, with Mark standing there holding out his hand and only half-jokingly asking us whether we had any weapons on us, there at our feet was a UPS envelope with a check for $14,000 in it. If you'll remember, Mark's main issue was apparently that the money stopped flowing, and that he didn't have the up-front capital to fund materials purchases and pay labor costs. Granted, the money only stopped flowing because a) the work has gone much too slowly, and b) Mark failed for such a long time to supply an adequate timeline to the bank. That said, a check for $14,000 will make anyone rethink their lack of capital. And $5,800 in cash on top of that-- which is what we gave him at the end of the meeting, having tallied up what we owed him that went beyond the loan-- had him walking away happy... and us too.
We met in the community room across the street from the house. For those of you unfamiliar with how it works, we pay into a Homeowners' Association at National Park Seminary, since our house is on the property, and one of the perks is the use of a beautiful community room that has meeting space, sofas, a flat-screen tv, computers with Internet access, a pool table, and a foosball table. In other words, we can do some work, and the kids can be more than occupied. So while Isaac watched Gangnam Style for the billionth time, and Lola watched something having to do with Cinderella, we sat down with Mark to go over our extensive list of demands. (Although we didn't call it that, that's pretty much what it was.)
Our first demand was to know whether the deadline of February 15 was realistic. That's the date the loan will close. Mark hedged at that, and before he could really expound, I made it clear it was his responsibility to talk to the bank to secure the correct deadline. Patty has told us in no uncertain terms that the loan will have no more extensions. Mark said banks don't want to take write-downs, and in projects so close to fruition it does them no good to play along at the end, or so is his experience with previous 203(k) work. I told him I didn't care, and that our plan was as follows: we will pay for any and all materials from here on out, so there is no excuse as to not having funds for them. We will then be the ones applying for reimbursement, not him. (Heck, I would have been fine doing this all along, since I get cash back on credit card purchases.) We also told him everything requiring reimbursement from the loan (which isn't everything actually) must be completed by the loan closing date, whenever that is. That's because, while we have the credit line to purchase things before being reimbursed, we do not have the savings to pay for things out of pocket. (That's why we have the loan in the first place.) If the loan closes, so do our pocketbooks. I think we got our point across.
Second demand: under no circumstances will I and my family be living in the basement on March 1. Period. No debate.
Third demand: it's imperative to know whether he is committed to completing this project. We got a good answer to this, and I think this is where he knew we meant business, and where I satisfied myself with the direction of the meeting. He told me a bunch of personal things that I don't need to write here, and which aren't really germane to the process. But what they told me was that, yes, he was committed, and he wanted to see this thing completed-- correctly and quickly-- just as much as we did.
So then we came to the individual items and timelines. To spare you all the gory details, I'll just list things bullet-style, for those who, well, don't want to be spared:
- Where are the four missing windows? A company in Wisconsin is finishing them up. No timeframe available, but they are special order, and time consuming.
- The porch has been laid. When will it be stained? Once most work inside is done, the porch will be stained. The idea is to work from the bottom up, then out, to avoid ruining newly laid materials.
- When will the upstairs floors be finished? Again, bottom up, so as soon as the downstairs floor is laid. That said, if there's a big gap in time with nothing going on, this is something that can be pushed forward to avoid a lull.
- What items do we need to go ahead and buy? Vanities, toilets, tiles, hardwood floors, shower enclosures, light fixtures, interior doors, door hardware.
- So no flooring has been ordered at all? None. This was the main issue with the lack of capital.
But at least we now know where we stand. And here's what we've done with the last 100 hours:
|One of the ordered vanities|
|Our kitchen sconces|
|Our porch lighting|
|Our cabinet pulls, old and new. |
Or are they? Hmm...
- Two vanities, chosen months ago, have been ordered from DecorPlanet.com. And luckily, right before I placed the order, I checked on the Internet for any sort of discount code... and found a 10%-off coupon. Hey, for 30 seconds of searching, I saved about $250. They are supposed to be shipped early this week.
- 80 square feet of small clear glass tile has been ordered from GlassTileOasis.com, a specialty tile retailer on Long Island, and should appear at some point this week. It's for our shower upstairs.
- Two sconces for our kitchen have been ordered from West Elm in Georgetown, partially paid for with a gift card we got as a Xmas present from Abby's mom. Unfortunately, they're completely out of stock nationwide, so we won't get them until March. But they're exactly what Abby wanted, and we've got other lights in the kitchen ceiling in the meantime. They've got Edison bulbs, with the prominent filaments that use up way too much energy for my taste, and look like Bell jars. Very pretty, but at least they get their own light switch.
- Two sconces for our front porch have been ordered from LightingDirect.com. They'll be on a timer, so no need for bells or whistles. The copper finish was important to Abby, and the no-frills design was important to me. I was pushing for Art Deco, but Abby said it'd be too Disney looking on the house with the paint job. They should arrive tomorrow or Tuesday.
- 70 square feet of floor tile was ordered from iDesign in Rockville. Then we realized we didn't include the mudroom in our calculations, so I had to call from work on Friday to put a hold on the order. I heard the guy say "For Pete's sake!" on the other end of the phone, probably with his hand not over the receiver as much as he thought. But after going up and measuring the mudroom floor, we added another 20 square feet to the order and called it a day. Cool thing about this place was it has the same owners who tiled our bathroom in our DC house back in 2004. When we first started looking for tiles for the Bungalow, we drove by the place they used to have in Wheaton, which is really close to the house, but it was closed. Bummed, we looked elsewhere and ended up loving this place in Rockville, when out comes Bobby, the guy from the Wheaton store. He actually recognized us-- from 8 years ago! He remembered Abby's name, which is crazy, because sometimes I can't even remember my own kids' names. How do people do that?
- 38 cabinet drawer pulls were nearly ordered from Amazon.com until I realized some were on back order and not all qualified for super-saver shipping. Instead of paying $250 and having to wait for 12 of them to show up later, I googled the name of the pulls and found them at GoingKnobs.com (who names these places?) for about 50 cents cheaper each, with free shipping. So instead I paid $197 and will get them all at once. Weird thing is that we could find absolutely no cabinet hardware at Lowe's or Home Depot that we liked. Abby remarked at one point that she really just liked the hardware we have on our current cabinets, and that couldn't we just get new ones and switch them off, we just went back and bought the exact same ones. Hey, some things you just like, right? (To be fair, this was all her. At Home Depot my random pointing showed that, in 8+ years of using the kitchen cabinets, I could not tell what the drawer pulls looked like, or even what shape they were. Yep, she gets to make that decision...)
The big issue remains the wood flooring. The flooring that caused all the trouble in the first place was engineered bamboo from Lowe's. It was a special order, and takes 2 weeks for delivery. We told Mark that we would go the next day and order it, but got sidetracked, and sidetracked, and sidetracked... First, Mark said he really wanted us to get nail-down flooring, and the stuff we chose was glue-down. Abby was unconvinced, and at iDesign she told Bobby and Jim, who I can only describe as Mr. Moreau, the choir teacher from my high school's slightly younger brother, about the predicament. They told her the Lowe's stuff was really poor quality, and that she could do much better, but I thought they were just trying to upsell her. So she goes to a few more places and ends up pretty much discarding the Lowe's flooring with two styles at opposite ends of the spectrum: one that's nail-down engineered bamboo from Lumber Liquidators at $4.80/ft, which is about 5% cheaper than the Lowe's glue-down stuff; the other is $10/ft sustainable hardwood from AllEcoCenter in Wheaton that's just gorgeous, but 100% more expensive. She really, really wants the expensive stuff, but it's going in the family room, the kids' rooms, and the guest room. And I love my friends and family, but are they worth paying twice as much for the flooring that'll just be under the bed they sleep in? The problem is, here we are on Sunday night and we haven't chosen either. That's because Jim from iDesign told us to give him until Monday to see if he could match Lumber Liquidator's price on the cheaper stuff, or to get a better price on AllEco's stuff. I have more than a sneaking suspicion that Abby's going to talk me into the sustainable stuff, and I'll probably be fine with it, because it's gorgeous. But yikes, it means our downstairs flooring will cost $12,000 instead of the $6,000 we would spend on the perfectly acceptable floors that obviously neither of us loves. Yeah, you don't need a crystal ball, do ya?
So after bitching about spending five digits at Home Depot a couple of weeks ago, and doing the same over the past four days, we're seriously considering doing it all over again on these floors. But on the way to my parents' house this weekend, we crunched numbers while Lola napped and Isaac bopped along to Katy Perry and Aerosmith. Even with all of this spending, somehow we're still right on target. Our unease is really the result of being so close to the end, and so close to reaching that target. And if we go over, it really won't be by crazy amounts, only slightly crazy ones. So, well, yeah. Maybe our spirits were buoyed by the best news of all this week-- and I very much meant to save this 'til last: CABINETS!
I was notified by Home Depot that our cabinets were completed on Wednesday, and that we'd have delivery by this Wednesday and installation by Wednesday February 5. By the time I left work on Friday, that was pushed up so that our cabinets will be delivered on Monday, and installation will be completed by Thursday, January 31. So by the end of the week, we'll have a real kitchen, save for the countertops, which have to be measured based on the completed cabinet install. And that also means with the cabinets in the house before Wednesday, we'll be able to apply for the $12,000 reimbursement for them, since that was what we had budgeted. And by February 5 we should have a nice giant check in our hands that we don't have to hand over to a contractor. Along with a completed kitchen, a bunch of lighting, some tiles, some sconces, and two vanities. And, if we play our cards right, we might even have floors.