Friday, September 28, 2007


If you're contemplating doing something like what we're doing be prepared. Yes, do your homework-- you knew that already. Be intellectually and emotionally prepared.

Buying a home is about as stressful a thing as a person does besides losing a family member or getting divorced. The emotions run high and there's a whole lot of emotional investment that can take place...and that can cause problems. Emotions make people make irrational decisions. All of this heightens stress which can cause even more irrational decisions.

Now some of this is absolutely unavoidable no matter what you do. It does help to understand that there are going to be tons of emotional whipsaws and to cut yourself (and your partner) some slack. It also really helps to view the project as simply a business venture. If you can, be willing to walk if it doesn't feel right. That gives you power and power reduces the stress and a clear mind is much more likely to get you through the process successfully and with all portions of your anatomy attached.

If that fails, I've also found that red wine helps quite a bit too. :)

Time to recycle Amy


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Covington Rocks

Actually, not just Covington, but much of the rest of Northern Ky, too.

To start, the DMV Rocks! I know, you think I'm nuts. I'm a former Ohioan. I would have thought I was nuts too. But let me tell you, the folks at the Kenton Co. Clerk's office are wonderful. First, they are thorough. When you call and ask what is needed to transfer a title or get new plates, or whatever, they tell you EVERYTHING. Secondly, they are efficient. I never wait for more than a minute or two to get my tags. Not in 7 years. Thirdly, they are all about "customer service". They're polite, nice, willing to go out of their way, and they have such niceties as a phone with every major auto insurance company AND a public fax so that you can have your proof of insurance faxed to them. And never a frown. I don't like paying tax and the various license fees, but they never add insult to that injury. Those folks are everything civic servants should be. BTW, they're pretty great to work with when you get a marriage license too.

Next up is the City of Covington. Now, these folks are bound by the same silly politics that every other city has to deal with, which is unavoidable, but I have to say that they really try hard to get out of the way of businesses and to make Covington a great place to locate. Things get DONE here. Cincinnati is still talking about the Banks after years and a billion dollars, but the Ascent went from a concept, to ground breaking in a matter of months and is now virtually done--and it's amazing ( ).

I'm not saying this local government is perfect, but I've seen an awful lot of successes and I've personally watched the City Commissioners and Mayor put in long, long hours listening to concerns, dealing with the boring, annoying and unavoidable minutia, and getting important things done, regardless. Now, maybe I'm wrong, but to a man (or woman), regardless of party or politics, they all seem to deeply care. Frankly, one look at this town and it shows. And, by the way, it's not just the big guys--the folks that are "on the ground" clearly care quite a bit. They seem to be coordinated around the shared vision of a vibrant community. Without going into too much detail, I just want to say that there are some typically under-appreciated folks working for the city who ought to be very proud of their work. I'm impressed.

But wait, there's more!

The folks at the Northern Ky. Area Planning Commission have managed to get almost everything a builder, business person, or homeowner might need under one roof. In fact, you can even get a permit on-line! On-line! Not only that, but from our experience so far, the folks down there ALSO share the same responsive attitude.

It just seems like all the things that local governments seem to screw up for folks in other areas, don't get screwed up over here. The necessary functions of government seem to occur with a minimum of inconvenience to the citizen. In fact, it sure seems like the only times that there are hassles, it's where the state or federal government regulation interferes with the local operation.

So, maybe these guys aren't perfect, but they're very, very good and they deserve a serious "atta" from us. They kick the stuffing out of anywhere else that we've ever lived and they are succeeding in turning this area into a place that anyone would want to live, work, and play.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Can we or can't we?

OK, follow up on a long absence: The bank extended out 45 day deadline to get the loan with no points attached. We now have an additional 30 days to secure the loan at the same rate, even though Mr. Bernanke just dropped the interest rate .5%. Gee, that ought to make things work better (yeah, right).

Final floorplans are still MIA, but our plumber, HVAC guy, and electrician are working off of the plans I made myself from our own measurements. I'm sure I'm missing a lot of the uber-technical stuff, but hopefully, by the time we need to submit the final plans to the City, we'll have something worthy of approval. We got new estimates for the roof & boxg utters, as well as for the demolition, so it looks like we can shave off a few thousand off of the budget, which is what makes the deal work for the Bank, it seems. Our banker is earning his keep on this loan. A lot of tough sells to us in a tough environment with a lot of barriers thanks to the complexity city loan(s).

Frankly, the hubby and I sat down and had another serious talk about financing this project. The Bank seems to want to lock up a lot of our cash in order to secure a larger (potentially unnecessary) loan. Their main concern is that we have enough funding to finish the project so that if anything goes seriously wrong, they won't lose on the deal. Understandable, they're in the business of making money-- aren't we all?--and they are more risk averse in this environment, too. The problem arises when and how the bank and the City disburse the loan amounts. If you thought the City just hands you a Rehab Loan check for $25K, you'd be wrong. Same goes for the Bank. They only get you the funds (limited by the estimates of the work yet to be done) as they see fit as you need it, and as certain goals are met.

And they won't be giving us anything to get things started. That's apparently on our shoulders.

The Bank wants to disperse funds only after the City lends us the Rehab loan. They also want us to use out funds first. The City won't give us any funds directly but only to the contractors who are doing the work for us. Which of course make me wonder, what if we're doing the work ourselves? How do we get the money then?

Especially when the Bank has required that we keep $XXK (significant sum) in a CD at the Bank that we can't use even if we absolutely need it.

If we get into a cash crunch during the first month of the project, how are we supposed to meet the goals set by the Bank and the City? I'm just starting to feel that someone's trying to push us into a corner financially so that we are completely dependent on the good graces of others. (late addendum by M: Evidently the way to make the project work is to let your conscientious banker and your amazingly responsive city folks figure it out with each other, as they did)

I don't like corners.

If this project doesn't start making me feel like it's going to benefit us and not just the Bank and the City (not that either hasn't been trying very hard to get this project done), after the conversation I had with my husband, I am fully prepared to walk away.

I HAVE to be prepared to do that. Everyone does. Real estate and homeownership aren't "can't lose" propositions. There are risk risks that folks are only beginning to grasp. You can't get into the mindset of "oh, everything will work out just fine" because sometimes it really doesn't. Remember, if it's not in YOUR best interests, walk away. A.k.A.: "If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging."

And now for the entertainment part of the post.

Have you ever felt that someone was trying to get your goat-- trying to get you to say or do something in order to catch you making a mistake? I've been feeling that a lot lately...

I've always wanted to respond to silly questions like the Senator in the clip below. I couldn't stop laughing. I've watched it 3 times today already.......

I can see it now...
Bank: "So what are you going to build the walls with in your rehab project?"
Me: "With the finest construction materials available that fit the code requirements in the state of Kentucky."
Bank: "Like what?"
Me: "Well cardboard's out."

Watch and enjoy.

In my case, I just hope the front doesn't fall off of the house.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Lead Safety vs. Lead Hysteria

I'm one of those sorts who views any "health epidemic" with a seriously jaundiced eye. Most times, the louder the drum beats, the less I should be concerned and the more it's going to cost me. I had been viewing the lead paint issue the same way.

Due to the undertaking of this project, however, and the fact that the missus is still of child bearing age, I decided to take the Lead Safe Work Practices course on my birthday. It was sponsored by National Paint and Coatings Association and was hosted by the Northern Kentucky Health Department (more info at

I have to say, it was worth while. I had a few take-away notions:

  • Lead is both far more dangerous in some contexts than most folks realize, and yet less dangerous in other contexts than many think.
  • Don't ignore serious lead risks, but don't panic, either. It's not that big a deal to deal with lead paint hazards in a safe manner, and it can be extremely dangerous to do a "quick and dirty" removal of a lead hazard.
  • Lead paint is not nuclear waste
  • Even very small amounts of lead can be a very serious threat to children and pregnant women.

I urge anyone who is going to be undertaking a rehab or who does work in older buildings to take a Lead Safe Work practices course. Those dusty work clothes that you come home in, or that bathroom remodel you're doing could be causing neurological and developmental problems in your children. It won't take a whole lot to dramatically decrease the health risks to your family, but you have to know what they are before you can do anything about them.

The good news is that these courses are often free or very affordable. The Northern Ky. Dept. of Health plans to be offering them quarterly ( . Cincinnati is also offering these courses.

The University of Cinncinnati and Cincinnati Health Department
Combined Lead Safe Renvoator/Essential Maintenance Courses
For more information or to register, contact:
Barbara Boylan (513) 681-4995

Course Cost: Only $25
2007 Course Dates:
Wednesday, September 5th
Friday, September 28th
Wednesday, October 3rd
Friday, October 26th
Wednesday, November 7th
Friday, November 30th
Wednesday, December 5th
All courses are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
All courses will be held at the Cincinnati Health Department

Work safe folks.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Post Rehab Appraisal Due today

It's what everyone's waiting for now. Nothing proceeds until the post rehab appraisal comes in and can be verified by both the City and the Bank. To get the City's Rehab Loan, the PRA can't be above a certain value; to get the Bank's Rehab Loan, the PRA can't be less than a certain value. Goldielocks-appraisal.

There's a fine line here and it's all coming down to this. We should get the news today.

Apparently one of the problems is that the Appraiser doesn't have much to go on by means of comparable properties that have been rehabbed in our area. There's a *Historical* area nearby (by 'nearby' I mean we are apparently cut out of the historic district by two homes on our block- nice gerrymandering there, guys... the building across the street-- is In. The Buildings to the North -- are In. We -- are out. Bummer.) So apparently we can't be compared to the homes on the rest of our block or a block away, even though they look about the same, are about the same size, appear to have been built at the same time... Harumpfh. We're just not Historical enough.

Come on appraiser.... baby needs a new pair of rehab loans.