House buying is not as easy as running to the store for Diet Coke, in case you were wondering.
With this quest for a new house, we knew our budget. Our budget would get us nice (not brand-new) houses with four bedrooms. And that’s about it. What we’ve been hoping for all along is to find an older house with extra space that we could spend the next 20 years making beautiful since we’re hoping this will be our Forever Home. A house that would be big enough if we wanted to add to our family. Simply getting a four bedroom house, if it had no extra rooms, might not provide us that. But an older house would fall under our budget and might have more space. That’s what we found. A house with four bedrooms, and a bunch of extra space – all within our budget. We put in an offer, they countered, we accepted and the contract was signed. We started talking paint colors and furniture locations…and then we had the inspection.
Let me say first – this inspection was not that bad considering what it could have been factoring in size, age, and general design. The inspector got us really excited about the potential he saw in the house. But, there are structural issues where things aren’t necessarily up to code and where cuts were made to install a tub that jeopardize the safety of anyone sitting in the tub. So, we’re at the point now where we try to get some sort of repair or cash at closing. They can always say, “No.” But since they might? And it’s a safety concern? We’re no longer bound to our contract. In other words, we just found out the store is out of Diet Coke. We’re hoping they put some out on the shelved before we finish our grocery shopping, but I’m starting to realistically consider leaving without it. And that makes me sad.
(Just for the record? This is not just a metaphor. Leaving any store without Diet Coke would really make me very sad.)
That’s where we are with the home. I’m trying to stay positive but I really don’t see the home owners being able to fork out cash at closing. Not when they’re carrying two mortgages. I’m worried we’re going to be in a situation where we have to decide whether to buy the house anyway, and spend the little money we have set aside for furniture and paint for structural repairs…OR…not buy the house at all. That’s a decision I’m not wanting to make. I love the sewing nooks under the windows upstairs too much to be able to make that decision logically.
So…we’re going to stay positive today. Even if this doesn’t pan out…it’s for a reason. Maybe there is also a troll in the attic no one found. Maybe the neighbor goes out to get his paper in the morning in the nude. Maybe there is a bat infestation in the trees behind the house and they’ll turn me into a vampire the first time I’m outside at night. (It would explain the screened in porch.) If it doesn’t work out? It’s for a reason. Sewing nooks aren’t that hard to find…are they? And come on…since I still can’t thread my sewing machine the right way every time? I probably would live without a sewing nook.
So…as of yesterday…I’m 99% sure I’m done with everything associated with the Probate Courts in Knoxville to finally close Dad’s docket. I mailed off the last bit of everything yesterday to my lawyer and as far as I can tell, the rest is in in his hands to get it where it needs to be to finalize everything.
DO YOU HEAR THE ANGELS SINGING?
This has been such an annoying and frustrating process. And Dad’s situation? Was actually kinda easy. He owned his house and car. He had no debt. And the amount of money in his various bank accounts fell well below the amount that the Tennessee Department of Revenue cares about, so no taxes had to be paid. He only had two beneficiaries. In other words, this process could have been a lot worse. Yet still? It took over a year and made me cry on several occasions. I thought I’d put together a list of pointers if – GOD FORBID – you ever find yourself having to deal with someone’s estate in probate.
- It’s never easy. I bet 10 different people told me this would be “easy” based on Dad’s situation. And either I really am the idiot they all acted like I was, or their definition of “easy” has been distorted from years working in this industry. I prefer to assume the later.
- You can never have too many copies of anything. Get at least 20 of everything that is official, like letters of administration and death certificates. Dad didn’t have a will so I had to be declared the Administrator, which is different from someone who is the Executor. If you’re the Executor of the will? Make sure you have 20 copies of whatever it is you need that states that officially. Non-official documents? Make at least 5 copies of those and make sure you NEVER send off your last one. Most people will send official documents back when they’re done if you need them, but you don’t want to have to wait on a bank.
- Find a lawyer that will actually help you. I could write pages about ways my lawyer actually made this worse, but I’m trying not to focus on that. Just make sure you have a lawyer that will answer questions, especially via email so you can have record to go back later and make sure you’re doing everything right. In theory, you don’t need a lawyer. I wish I hadn’t had one, now. It was a waste of money he was so unhelpful. But, I’ve heard stories from people who have had lawyers who stayed in touch, answered questions, and always repeated the same information. My lawyers liked to tell me different things at different times which does nothing to help someone who is already confused.
- Understand this: Everyone will treat you like you are stupid. I felt like everyone from lawyers, to probate clerks, to revenue officers, to title companies and medical billing departments – thought I was the dumbest person on the planet. And here’s how someone explained it to me: They all do what you’re trying to do: Sell a house, get a tax exemption, pay your bills – they handle those things every day. To them? It’s common sense what you’re doing and if you screw it up somehow? It’s because you’re stupid. Just go into it knowing that you are going to feel very stupid OFTEN. And you’ll find yourself proposing the situations to family to make sure you aren’t the only one who wouldn’t have known what to do. They will reassure you that it’s not common knowledge. It will not help.
- The internet is helpful. There were several times when my lawyer didn’t answer my questions or return my phone calls. So, I googled. I was surprised how many times I found good advice/answers to my situation. Sometimes just a translation of some of the legal language on probate documents was all I need. “Oh! So that just means I need to sign below? Why didn’t they just SAY THAT?” Sometimes there were even copies of the forms I was filling out with arrows telling me exactly what to do. Seriously – if you can’t afford a lawyer? Don’t panic. It didn’t really help us as much as I had hoped. Google was much more helpful.
- Remember: someone you loved died. This sucks no matter how proficient you are at legalese. Allow yourself several rants against THE MAN who makes you do such stupid things after someone you love dies. Those rants probably won’t make any sense, but they will make you feel better. Trust me.
A lamp my brother made out of some of Dad’s old stuff
Like it’s not hard enough, losing someone. I’m thankful it’s over and we’re just waiting for the official “CLOSED!” sign on the docket so I can finally wash my hands of all of this depressing legal crap. It turned Dad’s death into something more of a legal proceeding and I’m glad to be rid of that irreverent feeling. It’s no longer any sort of business transaction or court session. One year later and it’s finally back to being what it was truly all along: the death of a very wonderful father. Case closed.
In the interest of protecting the privacy of certain parties involved, I’ll keep this simple and detail-free: Yesterday? All of my kids were possessed by something even more evil than Lucifer himself. I’m not sure what that is because I’m not familiar with all of the evil deities of the world, but I just know that not even Satan is as evil as my kids were yesterday.
There are a lot of stories I can share but I’ll just give you two quick little bits to give you just a glimpse day I had. First – at one point? My daughter was wailing from the dressing room at our local dance-gear store after I took away the potential recital choices and said something along the lines of, “I already have one real teenager to deal with. I DON’T NEED ANOTHER ONE.” Second – my youngest son’s new favorite response? Furrow his brown, point at me and yell, “NO!” It’s his favorite response to EVERYTHING I say. And it’s not just the “No!” – it’s the horribly mean look that goes with it that totally wreaks havoc with my heart.
Those two small little bits? Multiple those by ninety million, apply them to all three kids FOURTEEN TIMES, and you might see a little bit of a glimpse of the treatment I got yesterday. I would prefer Sharpies on the walls, gum in the dryer, and spaghetti on white carpet 100 times over the attitude I sometimes get from my kids. And yesterday? They seemed to gang up against me and I got it from all of them. ALL DAY.
So, when D got home from work? I wanted to do exactly what everyone who spends an entire day alone with kids periodically wants to do: Run Away. I considered requesting for some B&N time, as that’s my escape after bad days. But it was clear immediately after dinner that D was going to be working on some of the projects going on in our house trying to get it on the market. That stuff is really important and it takes a lot out of him to go straight into those projects after a long day at work, so it seemed a bit selfish to say, “The kids are being mean to me! I need a break!”
I often just put the kids in the car and pick a random errand to run on bad days like that because I can zone out to one of my audiobooks (Currently listening to “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins. I’m pleased that I’ve picked up more listening than I did reading it.) on the ride and kinda clear my head of the funk. We ended up going to get ice cream because it just felt like the thing to do. I felt a little better as the kids were cute and sweet on that outing and then we came home and played with bubbles. I felt even better after that, but you know? It’s hard to get rid of that funk and it reminds me of the one summer in middle school where every kid at my summer daycare made fun of my acne EVERY DAY. When you get ridiculed repeatedly? It starts to really frazzle your emotions. And as sweet as kids can be? They also lack a lot of the ability to feel empathy at young ages and so often can be more crappy than even your crappiest 12-year old bully. Add a real teenager to the mix? And my house sometimes reminds me of that damn daycare with the kids making me cry every day.
So…not the best day. But also very much a rarity in my life. My kids are great and I love being their Mom. And even on days where they’ve had me cornered and feeling helpless? They can be kinda cute.
And then? I got my best outtake photo EVER yesterday. If this picture doesn’t make you crack up then I should warn you that your soul is most definitely missing.
One of my favorite places in my current home was this wall:
Since “they” (who are “they” anyway?) say to sell your home it’s best to remove personal photos, that wall now looks like this:
And you know what? I still really love it. Because that is MY photo.
Most of our walls were covered with photos I’ve taken of our family. For some reason, because my family is gorgeous, I was never insecure about those photos being on my walls. I call myself a photographer on this blog and on the bumper of my car (I have a bumper sticker that says, “Photographer: Frequent Stops For Photo Ops”) – but out loud? For real? I’m a bit too insecure to say that. I can easily write off the beautiful photos of my kids and not take credit because they’re the beautiful subjects. But my own artistic photography? With no kids with hypnotizing blue eyes or contagious smiles? I was never confident enough to feel like that deserved framing or spots on my walls. The last few weeks, however, I’ve had to come up with things to hang on the empty walls now that all of our personal photos are gone. What is cheap and easy? MY OWN PHOTOGRAPHY. And you know what? I’m a wee bit giddy over it.
Frames for the halls
Frames for our bedroom
We went back and forth with the owners of our Forever Home today and it’s official: We’ve got an offer in on a new home. If all goes well with inspections? We’ll own it on June 11th. Which means we’ll be able to sell our current home empty. No need for all of my framed photography. But you know what? I’ve enjoyed seeing it so much around my home this last week or two that I’m finally confident enough in it to make sure it ends up on the walls in our new home. I don’t know if it’s starting my Mondo Beyondo session, or what, but I’m owning my work now. It’s for ME to judge, and I love it. So today I said to my husband, “I want two gallery walls in our new house for my photography. One upstairs and one downstairs.” I didn’t ask. I didn’t add qualifiers like, “If you don’t mind.” I honestly saw my photos as something to be proud of and to display as art. And I can’t wait to add to the collections.