Adventures in Home Ownership, part 2 – How to Close a Garage Door

I no sooner post a blog about being a new home owner than, lo and behold, we had one of those, “Oh, that’s just great!” moments. You know what I’m talking about. One of those moments when something breaks or stops working as expected and all you can think of is “How much is this going to cost me?” This adventure, though proving to be minor, also made clear that it was most definitely a wise decision to have bought a home warranty.

This past Monday, as I was leaving for work, when I pushed the button on the remote to close the garage door, nothing happened. I pushed it again; same result. So, thinking that maybe it was the remote that had failed I got out of the car with the intention of closing the garage door from the wall switch and just exiting through the back door. It still wouldn’t close. I kept messing with the wall switch until it closed, and like moron, opened it again hoping it was just a glitch, but, you guessed it, it wouldn’t close again. I headed into the house to let Roxane know, since she was still in bed, locked all the regular doors and headed to work (only barely making it on time).

I proceeded to contact our home warranty company while Roxanne researched “garage door will not close” online. She managed to “fix” it by cleaning the lenses on the optic sensors that prevent the door from closing if something is in the way. Despite it appearing to be simply dirty sensors, we decided to keep the appointment with a service technician that our warranty company had arranged just to make sure.

Thankfully, it turned out to indeed have only been dirt on the sensor lenses, but the technician did notice that there was a loose wire on one of them. He also inspected the entire opener and the door itself, tightened up a couple of things and lubricated the hinges. He also gave us some maintenance pointers and a spare screw drive carriage (because those can wear out eventually). All in all, probably worth the $75 copay for the warranty coverage just to make sure all was well and we now know the process for getting stuff done through our warranty (I see a new gas stove/oven range in our near future).

~ JC


Adventures in Home Ownership

As I wrote about in my last post, my fiancée and I bought our first house. We closed on May 15 and officially moved in on May 28. Here it is almost mid-September and frankly, there are still unpacked boxes and little projects to be done (and bigger ones planned for and dreamt about for the future).

The first thing one learns when going from renting to owning is that picking up the phone and calling maintenance to come fix something ceases to be an option. Thankfully, nothing major requiring a trained, licensed technician has occurred, but still – home ownership is evidently a never ending string of do it yourself projects. Project number one, naturally, was changing the locks. While I’m sure the previous owner gave us all the keys, it’s just peace of mind to spend $50 on new doorknobs and deadbolts at Home Depot and change everything out. In the ensuing weeks, hundreds of additional dollars have been spent on things for the house. We found a rebuilt riding lawnmower on Craigslist for $350 and have subsequently put another $140 into maintenance and repairs so we can keep our very large yard cut, $180 on push mower to get the spots the riding mower can’t get to, $100 each for a weed eater and blower. I also bought a new drill and other sundry tools to help make home projects easier with a wish list of others to soon follow. I’ve lost track of how much we’ve spent to be honest. We bought a new king size bed from IKEA and a mattress for it from a mattress liquidator (not a bad deal really; $1500 Serta mattress for $750). I’ve made so many trips to the local Ace Hardware I just about remember several of the employee’s names there now, usually for little things that I don’t want to have to go all the way to Home Depot to get. And we haven’t even really gotten started on the projects we’d like to do such as turning the extra garage bay into a proper tool room and workshop.

Speaking of lawnmowers and yard work, I have to admit there are times when I wonder what the hell I was thinking buying a house with so much land! It’s been an interesting challenge to keep it cut with the back-and forth of summer rain storms followed by weeks of no rain as is the case in the southeast. There were a couple of times the mower didn’t seem to be doing much because the lack of rain meant the grass hadn’t really grown overly much. Other times, it raining just one or two days out of the week it grew so much that cutting it was a chore even with a riding mower (having to constantly stop to pull clippings out of the deflector).

I’m quite pleased I decided to buy a home warranty. I haven’t used it yet, but it is pretty obvious I need to soon. While there aren’t any major issues with the house, the stove needs some work or to be replace since one burner won’t light (at least, not without using a lighter) and the oven temperature is off by 25-50° and the broiler doesn’t work at all. The tub in the third bathroom downstairs needs repair/replacement too. Neither of those are things that need to be done immediately, but since we have the warranty I figure I might as well try to see if they can be covered by that before it expires next May.

Still, even with the added expenses and chores involved with being a home owner, I wouldn’t give up my 4 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, 2100 square feet house that sits on 0.79 acres of land to go back to the tiny 2bed 2bath townhouse we were renting before.

~ JC

Welcome Home

home_ownersSeveral months ago my fiancée and I made the decision that we were tire of renting and that it was time to look into buying a house. Oh. My. God. There is so much involved. It’s not as simple as “I want that one, give me a loan so I can buy it.” We looked at so many houses online at, talked to a lending broker and worked closely with a realtor. We learned so much about shopping for a house, like looking for water damage and other possible repairs that might need to be done. Financially we learned that you can’t just walk in and apply for a mortgage loan – you have to have a few thousand in cash already set aside to be able to put a down payment as well as pay for inspections and appraisal fees. That last part we learned the hard way, having found a house we really loved and wanted to make an offer on, only to discover that had we tried to move forward we wouldn’t have had enough cash to cover all that (nod to our realtor, Darrell Hess for preventing us from getting in too deep on that one).

Why buy? Well, we’ve been paying rent now for three years at the same location and the rent has increased every year: 2012-2013 = $890/mo., 2013-2014/mo. = $940, 2014-2015 = $990/mo. Based on the numbers we’ve had a mortgage broker do for us, we can get a mortgage, insurance, and our property tax into a monthly escrow payment for only a little bit more than that, and it would be ours. We only have a 2 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom townhouse right now, and we not only share a common wall on both sides, but we can’t paint or make any changes, and we have no yard (not that it matters since we’re not allowed to have pets). Also, last summer, when my fiancée’s parents and brother came to visit, it was a little cramped in our tiny townhouse; her brother slept on the pull out couch in the spare bedroom/office, her dad slept on the couch, and her mom in the recliner. Having a house with at least one extra bedroom (since I need one to serve as an office) seems pretty necessary if we ever want family or friends from back home in North Carolina to come visit.

The whole process is more emotional and stressful than I thought it would be. I don’t think anything sucks worse than finding a house, falling in love with it, and then not being able to get it. House number one, someone beat us to the punch because we didn’t quite have our finances in order to be able to make the offer. My fiancée’s father, a few days later, told us he was gifting us money to be able to buy a house with. So with his gift and the money I had already set aside, onward we went with our search. We found another house that we loved – this time with four bedrooms, even though we only needed/wanted three. This time we made an offer; the owner countered, so we re-countered, but it was too late as they had received several other offers on top of our counter offer and they chose one of those instead. So, strike two.

A few days after losing out on the house we just knew we were going to get, Roxanne spent two days driving past around 30 or so houses from our list of favorites to narrow it down. That weekend, with our agent tied up and unable to tour anything with us, we took advantage of a couple of the houses on our list having open houses on a Saturday (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). Neither house particularly gave me a warm-fuzzy, but I didn’t necessarily dislike them either. We sent our somewhat abbreviated list to our agent to try to set up some tours. Time was running short with our lease set to expire at the end of May, and it already being close to the end of March. To make matters more challenging, the last week of March was once again my turn to be the on-call technical support engineer for work, so that would be a week plus one weekend that I wouldn’t be able to venture out to look at houses. On Friday afternoon of March 20 my agent called me as I was leaving work to ask if we wanted to go look at some houses – he had six that we could get into that night; naturally I said yes. Of those six, three made the cut for consideration but there was still one more scheduled for late Saturday afternoon. This one was the only one we had found in a USDA district, which would mean 0% down compared to 3.5% down for a standard FHA loan. We had some concerns, as our agent had mentioned that scheduling this tour had proved a little bit challenging – it wasn’t listed on MLS because it was for sale by owner, so he was dealing directly with the owner and not a selling agent. But, we were able to go see it and so we did. We met the owners (which was a little different) who showed us around, and were very honest about what they had or hadn’t done during the five years they had lived there. We fell in love with this house! We loved the layout, we loved that it sat on a large piece of land, that it had a guest suite and three car garage. Compared to the two we had lost out on, this one blew them both away.

After that tour, we chatted with our agent in the parking lot of the church down the street for a while. We knew we wanted to make an offer on this one. Darrell had been able to find out from the owner that they had already turned down several previous offers, so that made us a bit nervous, but apparently the previous offers were for considerably less than their asking price. They also, because of not having an agent of their own, were asking that the buyer pay the closing costs. Since this would be a 0% down USDA loan, we could possibly do that, but it gave me an idea. I was willing to meet their asking price, but I really didn’t want to come out of pocket over $5,000 if I didn’t have to. So, we asked for them to contribute a certain amount to the closing costs, but we added that amount to the purchase price for our offer, so in actuality, they really wouldn’t be losing anything in the sale. That night, our mortgage broker got us a pre-approval letter for USDA and our real estate agent drew up the offer contract. I electronically signed it Sunday morning, and then we waited. It was sent to the seller Sunday and they said they would let us know by the following day.

All day, on that Monday (March 23), every time my phone chirped to let me know I had a new email message, my heartrate increased. And finally, it happened. An email from my real estate agent with a subject line that simply read, “Congratulations!” I’m not going to lie, I teared up a little bit and wanted to jump up and shout (but I was at work so really couldn’t). Then the real fun began – getting everything done so we could close by May 7.

One of the things needed to buy a house, other than decent enough credit to get the mortgage loan, is enough on-hand funds to pay for all the stuff that goes into getting the mortgage. A good bit of the fees apparently get rolled into the loan, so in our case, since we were getting a USDA loan which requires a 0% down payment, our loan was actually for a bit more than what we were paying for the house. The first chunk of money spent was on the $1,000 in earnest money; this, of course, is a good faith deposit toward the purchase of the home. The next thing I had to pay for was the appraisal, which was $475. I also paid for a separate inspection of the house for $385; this was optional, but everyone I’ve spoken to that has ever purchased a house has said not getting one is very unwise.

Inspection day arrived and we ventured back to the house to meet the inspector. It was totally worth it, but following the inspector around for three hours was not exactly my ideal day off from work. Still, he did find some things that we would need to bring to the attention of the owner about getting fixed. Some of them the seller agreed to fix, but others we’ll need to take care of ourselves, and I am oddly OK with that. Nothing was a major issue – they were mainly cosmetic problems. Overall, the house is in great shape for being fifteen years old.

The hardest part after ordering the inspection and appraisal is the waiting, because really that is all one can do. The rest of the mortgage process cannot move forward until the appraisal results come back, which took a week for some odd reason (maybe because it was right around Easter?). And so I waited, confident that all would be well, but there was still that bit of worry that the appraisal might come back for less than the purchase price, which would mean having to go back to the seller to adjust the offer and hope that they wouldn’t back out. The good news was that the house appraised for $5000 more than our purchase price, so we were good to go. Then there is all the paperwork; thankfully most of it, at first, could be electronically signed, but I was quickly getting tired of having to get copies of check stubs, bank statements, etc. over and over again.

And money; did I mention how much money I had to spend up front to buy a house? I think I did, but let’s break this down again. $1,000 Earnest Money, $475 Appraisal Fee, $385 Inspection Fee, and $350 to get the Septic System pumped and inspected. Oh, and I also needed to get a Termite inspection for another $45. So, all totaled that was $2,255, so it’s a good thing I got the seller to agree to the $4,500 closing cost contribution added to the purchase price.

Did I mention the waiting? I’m sure I did, but I’ll mention it again, because that’s the most stressful part. Especially when, with only two weeks to go, the lender informed us that USDA was very backed up and we most likely wouldn’t get the underwriting from them in time for our May 7 closing date. What?! Ain’t nobody got time for that! This caused us to have to invoke the unilateral extension clause in the contract to extend closing by seven days. That probably wouldn’t have been as big of deal had it not caused the seller to have to do the same for the house they were buying contingent on the sale to us. So, regardless of if USDA somehow miraculously caught up in time to make our original closing date, we still weren’t going to be able to close before May 15. With our lease expiration of May 31 looming, and the scheduled time off from work I had already booked, my stress level went up pretty quick. It only got worse as we started daily checking the USDA website to see which day’s files they were reviewing and counting days on the calendar. We soon realized, there was no way we’d close on May 15, let alone our original date of May 7. So, though it meant using the “dad money”1 for down payment instead of being able to buy things for the house, we made the decision to switch to getting a FHA loan; even then our lender had to bust serious ass to get everything done in time for May 15. My fiancée wired the $4900 estimated needed for closing to the attorney on May 13th so it would already be there, and we sat back and waited. I even texted the lender on the morning of the 14th to make sure all was well and was told they were basically waiting for the amended appraisal but that we would make it.

Of course, even with all the assurances of getting it switched to FHA in time to close on May 15th it still didn’t go smoothly. The lender was supposed to have everything to the attorney by 3:00pm the day before, but of course at 4:30pm that day I get a call from my Realtor that the attorney is still waiting on the package. Awesome! Then the lender needed an amended contract showing with a FHA loan exhibit to replace the USDA loan exhibit on the original contract; my real estate agent was not pleased, citing that it was a redundant piece of paperwork. But, whatever, the seller and I DocuSigned it at just after 7:00pm (yeah, a little over four hours after all this shit was supposed to have been completed) so we could finally be done and hoping the folks at the lending agent actually got it to the lawyer by 9:00 am on the day of closing.

Somehow, it all came together and on May 15th at 2:00pm (well, 3:00pm really – it took an hour to sign all the paperwork) we became home owners. We even managed to get some money back at closing.

If you had asked me in October 2010, when I took the big risk of moving from Fayetteville, NC to Atlanta, GA if I thought I would be buying a house in the Spring of 2015, I would have said, “No.” Yet here I am, a home owner. We had to jump through a ton of hoops, endure a lot of stress, and shell out a lot of money, but we finally have a home we can call our own.

~ JC

  1. By “dad money” what I mean is, my fiancée’s dad was gifting us $5000 to be able to buy a house. Since we were supposed to get a USDA loan with 0% down, we had planned on using that for things we’d need for the house, like washer and dryer, lawn mower, perhaps some furniture to augment what we already have since we would have so much more space to fill. But, $4900 of that ended up having to go toward closing costs because of the 3.5% down needed for FHA.

I’m All About That Vape

b653795acec5ddd46bf1ff183e17ffb9Back in January, in my post “Not Exactly New Year’s Resolutions” one of the things I mentioned was my quest to quit smoking by using e-cigarettes. I am happy to report that as of six weeks, five days ago, I am cigarette free and now exclusively “vape” for my nicotine fix. In fact, I recently upgraded to glass tanks instead of the small plastic ones that came with the starter kit I bought back in November. I’ve also started dropping my nicotine levels, having started with 24mg and now down to 18mg in the e-liquids I use; and with the new glass tanks I foresee dropping that down again soon. My current collection of vaping supplies includes a Vision Spinner variable voltage battery with an EVOD as a backup, a KangerTech GeniTank Mega, an Aspire Nautilus Mini tank, and of course a few smaller tanks that resemble the KangerTech Mini ProTank. For liquids I rotate three different ones – Apollo Green Apple 18mg, eLic Java Wava Caramel Macchiato 18mg, and eLic Berry Yaya Blueberry Donut 18mg.


Switching to the glass tanks hasn’t been without its mishaps. A few night ago, I decided to take the Nautilus completely apart to clean it so I could change flavors, and I managed to chip the top of it. I quickly learned that trying to play that off and use it anyway results in a big old mess of leakage since it couldn’t form a solid seal and vacuum… oops. Thankfully, a replacement glass tube was only about $6 which is a good thing since replacing the entire thing would’ve been $30. I bought the Nautilus first – last weekend in fact. I liked it enough that I decided to go to my regular shop (because I kind of felt bad that I didn’t do my first tank upgrade there to begin with) to pick up the KangerTech GeniTank. Having a spare tank is always a good idea, plus it allowed me to 1) have more than one flavor pre-loaded and 2) try a couple of different styles. I’ve only had the GeniTank for about a day, versus the Nautilus Mini for a week, but I think I already like the GeniTank a little better. Both have a adjustable airflow, but the Nautilus basically has four predetermined settings while the GeniTank’s air valve is more like slider giving even more control. The GeniTank also hold more liquid than the Nautilus Mini so I don’t have to refill as often. Both have replaceable parts and can be disassembled for cleaning because there are no glued in place parts (it also means, if I really gave a shit, that I could get different colored glass or seals to customize the look). They both use a removable drip tip; unfortunately, they don’t fit each other so I can’t just trade those around (well, the GeniTank’s drip tip will fit in the Nautilus, but not the other way around which is weird since they’re both supposedly 510). The Nautilus came with a “beauty ring” for use with a battery that has a smaller diameter than the tank. It’s really just an aesthetic add-on, but it works well with both tanks with either of my batteries (not sure why the GeniTank didn’t come with one too).

You may be asking, “Why spend the money on the glass tanks in the first place?” and that is an excellent question. I could go into how it’s a better vaping experience because of the ability to control the airflow, or how they hold more liquid and don’t have to be refilled as often, and that they’re easier to clean since they come completely apart, and all of that would be true. Originally I was resistant to switching to glass because they were more expensive and I really didn’t see the value in investing in one since my small plastic ones worked just fine. What I quickly discovered, however, is that not all liquids are created equally. Some get hotter than others, like the Caramel Macchiato by eLic, and the plastic tanks just don’t do well with those because they can start to leak or their coils burn out faster due to the heat.

As for liquid, there’s debate about the PG vs VG percentages (PG= Propylene Glycol, VG=Vegetable Glycerin). I know that the eLic liquids I use are 50/50 and I prefer that. The Apollo, I think, is 60/40, which isn’t bad, but one other brand I tried had more PG to VG ratio, and I just didn’t care for it (too much of a throat hit for my liking). I’m still new to the vaping scene, so I can’t really comment on it more that this for now. I just know I like what I like, so I’m hoping Cigars Plus in Alpharetta, GA stays around for a while because they are the only ones around here that I’ve found that carry Apollo or eLic. There are dozens of vape shops popping up all over the Metro-Atlanta area, but they appear to all do their own brands of liquid. For more about PG and VG (and no, they are NOT toxic chemicals), check out the article, “What is E-Liquid? What You Need To Know”.7e2c6999b656235bfd5013984df26782

Speaking of Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin, let’s go ahead and address the 500lb. Gorilla in this blog. Vaping is NOT smoking. It is NOT just as dangerous as smoking, nor more dangerous than smoking, and there is NO second hand smoke risk. Anyone who believes that is a dumbass and hasn’t done their homework and just wants to believe what the mainstream media puts on television from unreliable sources or the government. Let’s face it; the CDC tries to lable vaping liquids as tobacco products, even though they are not, so the government can make the case to tax the hell out of it like it does for tobacco and alcohol. I’m not going to launch into a huge debate/rant about it here; I’ll just say do some research, like the article I linked to in the previous paragraph and know what you’re talking about before you criticize someone who vapes. For me and countless others, it’s helped kick the smoking habit.


~ JC