Here’s a little lunch reading for you….

I shot a wedding a few weeks back for our friends John and Jess. That was a very interesting experience, but not the kind of thing I’d like to make a living doing. I was freaking out the morning of because I went to the rehearsal to scope out the church the night before, and something was set wrong on my camera because all the pictures looked AWFUL. That evening and pretty much all the time from when I woke up till when we were getting dressed for the church was spent reading my manuals, the internet, and going to the camera store to pick up some little accessories to make the job work better. To make matters worse, the morning of was the day where the small leak in our roof made its way downstairs into our living room and was dripping through the ceiling that I redid a few years back. (the one that I already had to patch once when water leaked out from around the grout in the bathroom tub tile.) In the end it was fun because everything worked much better on the day of, and Jess and John were very good to work with so it wasn’t stressful making sure I didn’t screw up important ‘life moment’ shots.

We’ve been looking at houses. I’ve been doing research about neighborhoods since May or June, and since we both work at Hopkins, I’ve narrowed it down to one area just south of Towson and north of the city line that has the best blend of low taxes, good schools, and affordable homes within 10 miles of where we work. We may start looking in the Timonium, Lutherville area if absolutely nothing shows up. We had originally thought about going out into the suburbs, but there was one day this summer when we were going to visit wife’s parents around dinner time, and got caught in this monster beltway traffic jam that spilled onto all the side roads for 2.75 hours. That was the end of that thought right there. Plus I really like riding my bike to work. Between my oil change in early August and early October I put maybe 350 miles on my car, and that included 1 trip to PA. Mainly we’re looking right now because we wanted to see if we could find a bargain since the market is tanked, but if no one comes down on their price significantly, we aren’t s.o.l. or anything.

Now for the fun stories…

We went out the one Sunday 2 weekends ago to look at 2 foreclosed properties that had just come on the market. Both were well below market value. One of them was just north of the city line in Roland Park. We get up to the front door, and instead of the standard lock that most doors normally have, there’s a huge crack in the door, and one of those deadbolt/padlock things like you’d get for a shed. While our realtor was fiddling with the lock to try and get it open I walk around back and check out the perimeter of the house. The grass looks like it hasn’t been cut since July or August, and the deck has huge holes in it that would swallow a small child. Plus it looked like it hasn’t been treated in about 12 years. I go back around front and with 1 or 2 more minutes of fiddling we get the locks open and go inside.
We push the door open, and we were obviously the first people who’d set foot inside the house for about 2 months because there was a mound of junk mail behind the door like nothing you have ever seen. And a mound behind that from the last time someone pushed the door open several months earlier. The place looked a little beat up, but nothing more than you’d expect from a foreclosure. At this point, we’re thinking yeah maybe… I go downstairs to check out the basement and boiler, and that’s when it started to get weird. All the windows in the basement were cinder-blocked off, and the cracks around the mortar were filled with ‘great stuff’ canned foam insulation. Ok I think, they don’t like sunlight, but it all came into focus when we went into the back room and saw the remnants of a hydroponic growing system… Umm ok, so we’re going to buy the drug house? NOOOoooooo. If we were in the mood for a flipper, it would have been a good deal, but we don’t need that stress right now. Interesting. Even though I went to art school, I never saw a real drug house before. That and the words “we’ll be back” spray-painted on the living room wall was a little intimidating too…

There was another house we looked at in our neighborhood (right near where we live now) that was really nice inside out, had a small yard, a big deck, a new kitchen with new appliances, and the price was pretty good, but when you walked into the kitchen you were like… ‘something’s off’… after staring for like 10 seconds I noticed that the island and the fridge were tilting at about a 3-4 degree angle towards the dining room. Ok, what’s up with that? I go outside, and there’s a small up/down crack in the foundation on both the left and the right side of the house exactly the same distance from the front, so it looks like the whole front of the house settled 2-3 inches. I’d consider that one if there was some way to verify that it was done sinking and that’s it, but as I’m sure you know, there is no way to verify something like that and the last thing we want is a house were the radiator pipes burst and flood the basement because of lateral stress from foundation settling, or we just get good old-fashioned leaks from the cracks. That lady was moving to Ohio at the end of this month, and right now she’s got it listed at exactly what she paid for it 2 years ago, so she’s not having a good month I’m sure.

Next fun house we saw was this Saturday. A house went up in the neighborhood we’re looking at Just north of the city off of York rd.. This one says it’s listed as is, and it’s priced to sell… About $70k below comps for the neighborhood. We go to look at it, and the lady (who is the daughter of the owner) tells us that she didn’t know we were coming, so we can’t see it right now. We go back to the car and our realtor calls their realtor, who calls her, who then calls us back and says “wait 15 minutes and all is good”. Ok, we finally get in and there’s one of those marble top desks in the hallway that looks just like the one that was in my old bedroom, so I mention it to the wife, and the lady opens up and starts telling this long elaborate story about how they’re taking this furniture to auction, etc… I of course am wanting to appear somewhat amiable as she is probably going to have some hand in the sale of the property, but she starts telling us ALL kinds of stuff. Like the original owner of the house killed themselves by putting their head in the oven… “but don’t worry, we replaced the oven since then!” The house had ‘spirits’ in it from that incident, but they weren’t bad spirits, and her father also died in that house, and “he’s definitely a ‘good spirit’ so that’ll balance it out a bit too”. Then she mentioned that the schools we’re really good in the area, and she was a student, but she had a learning disability, so she got ‘bing, bing, bing, bing, bing’ and made the hand gesture that she was bounced around from class to class. She was a wealth of information about the condition of the house as well which was very cool and useful, but also a little scary by saying things like “whoever we sell the house to I’m going to want VISITATION RIGHTShahahaha”. Regardless of her eccentricities, we were going to look again at that one this weekend with wife’s uncle (electrician) and her cousin’s husband (contractor) and possibly put a bid on it, but by Monday afternoon it had a contract on it. 😦 I feel bad for her because she grew up in that house, and very obviously couldn’t afford to keep it up and pay for her mom to go into a home at the same time.

There were a bunch of other properties we looked at too, but none were ‘memorable’ in any significant way. We have one more ‘normal’ house to look at this weekend, and then we’re done until the spring season I think. There’s tons of stuff out there to buy, but It’s all still priced to sell in the go-go-real-estate-boom-market that we’ve been out of for at least 9 months now, which is kind of annoying.

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