Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Surprises Galore!

Moving to Florida has been quite an adventure so far. The plan was to pay cash for manufactured housing, up to $100,00, including any renovations and purchases like new appliances.  We put almost all of our furniture in storage, so we have the basics and then some, and most houses come with appliance these days, so this all seemed very doable.  And then we started to learn about manufactured housing parks.  

We learned that we wanted to buy in a park where you also own the land, rather than renting the lot, or even owning a 'share' in the park.  And then we learned that those parks are few and far between.  And prices are generally higher.  And then Art, who'd never been comfortable with the manufactured housing idea in the first place (still thinking 'trailer park') said "If we're going to pay this much we might as well buy a 'real' house", which started us down an entirely new path.

We eventually jumped in feet first, not just buying a house, but also getting a mortgage, and having to go through the slow and painful process that entails.  After finding what we thought was a great credit union in Clearwater, we discovered that their mortgage department was not only slow, but also rather inexperienced and definitely NOT customer service oriented.  Luckily we found a professional, helpful and VERY customer service oriented loan officer at BB&T and she worked her magic to close our loan only one day past our original date.  

The fact that our house was bank-owned only added to the stress, because we weren't dealing with a homeowner for needed repairs, or for house related questions, we were dealing with a bank.  Again we lucked out with a fabulous realtor who was as calm as I was panicked, and who made sure everything kept moving until the deal was done. 

Of course now we're finding out that our Florida room is completely illegal, and that there's some questionable wiring, but every house had hidden surprises, and now that we're committed we just have to deal with the issues and make the house comfortable as well as safe.  Sometimes I feel like I'm living out an HGTV special about what-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong, but it's slowly....VERY slowly, coming together.

The kitchen, such as it was, was original to the house, built in 1969.  The sink had leaked, rotting the cabinet bottoms and causing mold on the walls.  The only appliance that remained was a microwave, and the layout was not only inefficient, it was downright dangerous, with the stove sitting right next to the doorway into the dining room.  The ceiling in the 'work' part of the kitchen was lowered, mainly to allow for the fluorescent lighting, much like we'd had in Louisville. The good news is that we have room for a kitchen table, albeit a small one, and once we decided to make the entire kitchen ceiling one height the space feels much larger.

Of course all this costs money, but in for a penny, in for a pound, right?  We want the house to be comfortable and to our liking, and of course cheapskate me will keep an eye on costs, but it still adds up quickly.  The kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities. granite counter tops and sinks run just over $11,000, including installation.  Then we bought lighting, and faucets, and new mirrors, and a new toilet, and all the millions of other little things you need for a house, and little by little I'm getting a handle on the situation.  

Unfortunately when the kitchen cabinets were ordered the bathroom vanities were NOT, and the shipping container with our flooring was selected for a random check by Customs.  And of course the counter tops won't be in for another week or two, making the kitchen unusable, which Art just doesn't get.  We wants me to start unpacking boxes and loading the kitchen cabinets, but until I can get in there (on a wood floor, not concrete!) and see all my stuff and get a sense of where I want the dishes to go, and the glasses, and where I'll work, and what sort of stuff should go in the lazy susan, it's just not happening.

We're planning to move in on Monday, after spending one night in a motel.  Our landlady graciously extended our rental term, but unfortunately for us, her realtor found another renter who wanted the unit on December 15, and we simply have to move. We'll have one working toilet, but the first bathroom should be tiled on Monday, the other on Tuesday, and the vanities, mirrors and lights should all be done by the end of the week.  We still have to figure out what's going on with the walk-in shower in the master bath - is all that caulking there because of a leak - and how do we even know?  And what's involved with replacing the fixtures in the hall bath, and what will it cost to have the tub reglazed?  Thankfully we have a utility sink in the garage that will have to do until the counter tops and sinks are installed.

Both bedrooms are piled high with boxes and furniture since those are the only two rooms not getting wood floors.  The house had new carpet throughout when we bought it, so we decided to keep it in the bedrooms. I think I'll have to get out of bed by crawling down to the bottom of the bed since there are boxes stacked up in between the bed and the wall. The flooring guy will have to move the couch, love seat, bookcase, washstand and entertainment cabinet to put down the floor, but we just don't have anyplace to store everything.  The garage is half full of boxes and furniture, and we had to leave room for all the contractor's stuff, and for them to be able to move in and out of the garage when they're working.  We also had to make room for the china cabinet we bought for the kitchen, and to allow enough room to paint both the top and bottom of the cabinet.

We still have to make the Florida room legal, and we'll build a new wall on the inside of the room, and take down the acoustical tile in favor of a dry-walled ceiling. that project will be time consuming and more money than I want to think about it, but it has to be done.  After that we'll replace all the windows, add an awning to keep the afternoon sun out of the laundry, and add a small  (covered) patio, assuming we still have any money.

Our impressions of Florida are these:  although Publix is a company I would proudly work for, they just don't have the variety that Kroger does.  Gas is a little cheaper here, but almost everything else is just a little more expensive. There's always something going on, and the unseasonably warm weather allows us to enjoy the outdoors.  We attended an outdoor Bluegrass Music Festival a few weeks ago, an opera last weekend,  and next week we're going to The Salvador Dali Museum, mainly to see the Escher exhibit.  Once we in the house full-time we'll visit some Italian markets in St. Petersburg, Mazzarro's and the Locale, and the weekly Saturday market in downtown St Pete.  Our new neighbors share our political and philosophical ideals, so my fear of being surrounded by super-old, super-stodgy, super-conservatives was unfounded.

For now we're inching our way to the finish line, learning our way around, meeting new people and loving the fact that we can wear shorts in December!


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