Monday, December 31, 2007

A Sunday drive to see more listings

Our next adventure begins on a December Sunday afternoon. Sandy, our realtor, had recently given us some more listings to look over. We really like House #2 from our first day out, and the more we kept thinking about it, the more we wanted it. However, to be fair, we only saw three houses that day, and we really felt that it was in our best interest to at least do a drive-by of other houses on the market in Long View and select a few for potential viewing later with Sandy. We added them to a pile as we went, ranking them in comparison to the other houses we went by.

After meticulously planning out a route to avoid doubling back as much as possible, we set out, armed with 13 other listings, a map, some snacks and water, and ready to see what else was out there. We must have forgotten that we were driving in Hickory, where doubling back and turning around are not optional.

We aren’t going to bore you with each detail of each listing. Not all were bad. We saw a cute older, little bungalow, but it was not in the best of locations, and the listing said it had asbestos siding. Imagine the future conversation:

Us: Hello, HAZMAT? Yes, we want vinyl siding.
Despite this, we did keep that listing towards the top of the pile.
The Asbestos House

As we continue to drive, we delve into some of the not so good areas. Remember in an earlier post when we told you that Coach Elder’s wife, Cindy, told us that the closer to the train tracks, the more transient the population in this area was and we should probably avoid those areas? Well, we did not heed her advice. You see, she might have known more than we had expected when we decided to look around the area of the school she works at (near the tracks!).

Nancy was driving, and Jason was looking for the next place on the map. We had gotten turned around as a result of a one way street (what a surprise). It was becoming a bit more discouraging as listing after listing became more and more disappointing. Several blocks behind the school, as Jason is deep into the map, Nancy exclaims, “Oh!!!” as in shock and horror, not excitement and delight. To which, Nancy finishes off the statement by uttering the now famous words: “That kid has a gun.”

That’s right. A gun. And yes, some of the questions you are probably asking yourself are the same ones Jason asked. Was it a BB gun? Maybe it was a toy? Did he look like he was hunting? The answers were all, “No.” So much for a leisurely Sunday stroll. Needless to say, the house that we were looking for was eliminated for that, the gravel drive, and rusty beams in the front.

The Gun House
It got more bizarre. A house, which was listed as 2,096 square feet, had only 0.14 acres. The house size sounded impressive, but how do you get that much house on that little land? Jason will tell you he never saw the house or the land because he was flipping out. After turning down a very tiny, shared driveway with three other small, somewhat rickety looking houses, passing the chain-link fence with the Beware of Dog sign, then, one assumes, the same dog starting to bark, Jason was ready to put this at the bottom of the pile (even below the Gun House) and was frantically asking Nancy to turn around and leave.

"Beware of Dogs, Shared Drive, Never really saw it" House

We made our way to see the last two houses on the list just as night was falling. As we were looking for the last ones off of Highway 70, we noticed a cop car pull someone over. As we got lost looking for the last house several minutes later, we saw what appeared to have been a fender bender at a light, and this time, the Long View Fire Department had responded. And yes, by the time we saw the last house, it was completely dark and we got lost looking for it twice (again, so much for planning out a great route)!

So at the end of the drive, we reviewed the top 3 houses. Amazingly enough, the Asbestos House was still on top. It had good square footage but no stairs for the cats. It had inside renovations but the garage had no doors. It was more of a detached car port with three walls than it was a garage.

The next house on the pile seemed to have an interesting floor plan based on the outside and the description given on the paper in the information box out front. The drive was gravel and the glass doors you see below are the front door. The house to the left (not in the picture) looks like a tornado hit it.

The Interesting Floorplan House

The third house on the pile was probably the closest to ressembling House #2, with a few exceptions. They had similar square footage and multiple levels (meaning stairs). This one is on a corner lot across the street from Food Lion near the intersection of two fairly busy streets. The tight driveway is behind the house off of the main road (yes, one of the busy streets). It also didn't seem to have as many windows.

The Food Lion House

So after going through these listings we noticed one thing that they all had in common: they were farther north than House #2 therefore would not help Nancy's commute time as much. The more we talked, the more pros we came up with for House #2. Each time we mentioned the other houses the more cons we came up with for them.

Next time: We are so serious about House #2 that we get both sets of parents to check it out with us. Is this like bringing your date home to meet your parents….?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thanksgiving in Wytheville

We took a week off from househunting to spend some time in Wytheville, VA with Grandpa Greiner. When Jason got off of work on Wednesday, we loaded up the car with all of the Thanksgiving fixings and headed out to I-40. Needless to say, we were in for a real trip that evening. We have traveled before to Wytheville on Thanksgiving Eve, and we know that at the intersection of I-77 and I-81 the traffic gets really backed up. Imagine our shock to approach the exit to get onto I-77 in Statesville and there is a cop car parked in the lane and an officer waving us away from our exit! Luckily, Jason is from Statesville, so we took the next exit and he promised to get us onto I-77 in no time at all.

That evening, we saw a little bit of everywhere in Statesville. We turned around here, took a cut through there, but we kept running into traffic wanting to go the same way we were headed. Finally, Nancy called her parents and asked them to check NC DOT’s webpage for news about traffic. Turns out that a few miles north of where we had originally tried to get on I-77, there was an accident that involved a downed power pole. Realizing that our fate was sealed, we sat in the traffic to get to an alternate road that would intersect with I-77 north of the accident. When we finally got on the interstate, it was really eerie because there was only the trickle of cars heading northbound that had made it through the detour.

Anyways, we made it to Wytheville in one piece that evening. The next day Jason started the turkey when we got up. Yes, we cheat and get a turkey breast instead of a full turkey. With three of us there, it works nicely with just enough left overs to cover Grandpa for a week. Jason and I then set out to hang the Christmas lights for the front of Grandpa’s house. Most of the decorations have been Susan’s work through the years; the rest of us just help put it up and take it down. You can almost hear the guy from the twelve pains of Christmas by Bob Rivers complaining about stringing up the lights! Yes, they all went out at one point, though we didn’t have any blinking problems.

When we finished trying to approximate Susan’s ideals of the perfect light set up, Jason worked on the fixings to go with the turkey and Nancy started peeling, coring, and cutting apples for the pie. In the past, we have run into minor issues making Thanksgiving dinner for Grandpa. There was the year that we single-handedly kept Food Lion in business because of everything we forgot to get (and yes, there were multiple trips involved). Then one year, the pie blew out of the top and made a mess in the oven. We have since learned that it is a good idea to put a cookie sheet under the pie pan for that very reason. This year, though, we are proud to say that we had a successful Thanksgiving dinner.

We were able to spend some time talking to Grandpa about our house hunting adventures. By this point, House #3 has fallen off of the list, never to be seen from again. Maybe it is a result of a bigger swarm of gnats in front of it now. Who knows. We are starting to note more problems with House #1. The only plus that we have come up with is if we do have Nancy’s parents living in the mother-in-law suite downstairs that since the washer and dryer are down there, they can do the laundry. It would be a long commute to Atlanta for Nancy’s dad, but it wouldn’t be the first time that he had to commute to work. Anyways, we discussed House #2 over pie with Grandpa and his friend from church, Joan. We sketched them a floor plan, tried to describe the wallpaper, and looked at the pictures we have of the outside. Joan wanted to know all about the living space possibilities; Grandpa wanted to know about what kind of shape the place was in. We answered as many questions as we could and noted all of the others so that we could find the answers.

Air conditioner installed in 2004; heated with oil (full tank recently); how old is the furnace, though? Is gas an option?

Outside of Hickory city limits; in the community of Long View, which purchases utilities from Hickory (all the benefits of living in Hickory without the taxes); hooked up to city water and sewer (no septic tank); what condition are the appliances in? Which ones stay?

Quiet neighborhood with convenient location for work and shopping; not on a main street so traffic is light; house was built in 1968; What condition is the roof in? Is it in a flood plain?

Great space for gardening; trees look to be in good condition (including a few that would be good for a hammock, Jason notes); little under an acre of land; Jason’s mom said she will mow it; How close is the fire department? What is the crime rate?

The number one piece of advice that Grandpa gave us was not to get an adjustable rate mortgage. Too many people have been ruined financially by this option. All in all it looks like a good place if we get good answers to the questions, according to Grandpa and Joan. It was really fun talking to both of them and sharing our excitement. We would still like to check out a few other places, though. As of leaving Wytheville that night, House #2 was heads above the rest.

Next time: We go for a Sunday drive to check out some new listings that our agent sent us. Learn why Coach didn’t take us everywhere in Long View.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Coached on Long View

Yes, we are a little behind in updating but as usual life happens and then Christmas is here. So, we will catch you up in a few installments over the next while.

Househunting Chapter 2

One of the best ways to learn about an area is to talk to someone who lives there. Luckily, Jason's partner in broadcasting Hickory High is a native of the area and has lived in Long View for quite a few years. When Jason mentioned that we were looking at moving to that area, he said, "I live out that way. Give me a call and I'll show you around." After seeing our first set of houses, the next weekend we decided to take him up on his offer.

Now before we continue, let's paint the picture by having Jason share a little bit more about Coach.

David Elder was born and raised in neighboring Alexander County. He went to Lenoir-Rhyne and played football all four years, then got into education. He was a head coach at a few stops in the late 70's and early 80's, mostly in football before coming to Hickory High School as an assistant in the mid 80's and becoming head football coach in 1994. In 1996, Hickory went an undefeated 16-0, winning the state's 3-A championship and dominating opponents that people still talk about to this day (7 shutouts including the playoffs, scoring 30 or more points in every game, winning a first round playoff game 70-16, their third game with over 70 points that season and winning the state championship game 42-0). Oh yeah, he also coached three girls basketball state championships (1995, 1998, 1999) going 31-1 in 1998 and a perfect 32-0 in 1999.

When he was hired at WHKY in the summer of 2006, I asked him if I should call him David, or how he wanted me to address him. He said that he's been called Coach just about his whole life now, that he wonders if some people actually think his first name is Coach. I usually just call him Coach! He is so popular around town that we have to arrive at the broadcast site at least two hours before game time so that Coach has time to talk to EVERYONE there before we go on the air. At an impressive height of over six feet five and a biscuit short of 300 (according to Coach himself), it is no doubt that he will attain legend status very soon.

His wife, Cindy, is a school teacher and has lived in Long View all her life. In fact, where they live right now is some three to four blocks away from where she was raised. Needless to say they know this area!

Anyways, we called up Coach that Saturday afternoon and asked if we could get a tour of the town. After navigating through the northeast section of Hickory including a driver license check point,we identified his house as the one with the big red pick up. We knew it was gonna be good when he told his wife to come because she knew the area better.

Coach and Jason jumped in the front with Cindy and Nancy in the back (nope, not the pick up fortunately). We had to have gone down most every street in Long View. As you will later read, we can say with confidence now that they did not take us down every street. We can also say that if we had been taking notes, we could tell you where just anybody who is anybody in Long View lives. This includes where they used to live, where they live now, where their kids live, why they moved, and what kind of milk they buy. Here are some of the more classic lines from the adventure through Long View with Coach.

Cindy-"The closer you are to the railroad tracks, the more transient the population is."

Cindy-"Um, you were supposed to turn back there."
Coach-"I'm trying to get to the houses over there. It's just up here."
About two miles later, we turned around and went back to the turn we missed. At least we got to see the rec center, walking track, and runway for the busy Hickory airport. We can say that there are some very impressive views out that way. Jason just isn't so thrilled about the part where things fall out of the sky.

Coach-"If you go to West End Barbeque, they have the best breakfast and an all women staff."

Cindy-"Whoa! Watcha doin? You can't turn on red here!"
Coach-"I knew that. I just don't read the signs."

Seriously, though, they were very helpful in showing us where the Food Lion was, the schools, and what parts of Long View to avoid (as you will later read, we obviously didn't listen too well). We did find a few prospects to look into further. We also had a blast hearing all of the stories and learning about what Long View means to them. We got a really good feeling about moving to the area after our afternoon with them.

Next time: Thanksgiving in Wytheville with Grandpa (we didn't burn anything this year!) and thoughts from the patriarch on homebuying and the houses we have already seen.

Monday, November 12, 2007

It begins

Well, we finally took the plunge. Skimmed a few chapters of Home Buying for Dummies. Called the recommended realtor. Checked out some listings in those free books at the grocery stores. Went online to see what was on the web. Asked each other about a hundred times "are we really ready for this??"
Then, today came. We met the realtor at Ham's for discussion and drinks (why didn't we get them stiffer??). We were distracted by the poor orange and white mewing kitten; and the crying kid; and the traffic. To Jason's great shock, Nancy wanted to dive right into checking out 3 of the houses the realtor presented (the other two didn't make the cut).

House #1

"Wow, you could just live in the basement" - mostly finished basement with a second kitchen and fireplace...though this is the square footage that it is not heated.

"With narrow steps like that, we need a laundry chute"

"Each room has its own door. Is that to corner the cats?"

"What a cute little oven in the wall!" - If we start the turkey now, it might be ready for Thanksgiving. Next year.

"I like the wood panel cabinets" - I just wish there were more of them.

After getting lost in the extensive mother-in-law suite/garage/back door entrance to the maze, we moved on to the next house.

House #2

Amazingly enough, this is a house that we had already taken note of while cruisin' through Longview for a Saturday drive. Almost a full acre of land, staircases for the cats, obnoxious wallpaper throughout, good hammock and bird feeder trees, good size rooms with open kitchen/den area. Really ready to move in and make improvements as you go. If they will ever be able to move out...
Pleased, yet cautious to not get too excited, we moved on.

House #3

Looks nice, right? Let's zoom out a little and see outside of the frame. What you don't see is the busy street behind you and the massive furniture plant to the left. As we pulled into the "can just barely fit in two compact cars" driveway, we saw the last thing this picture does not show: a swarm of nasty gnats - that won't leave you alone!

We entered into the sitting room that used to be the car port maybe with a window hiding behind the humongous picture on the wall that was only out done by the massive furniture. We continued into the kitchen and felt like we were part of "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" with the stove that took up most of the kitchen, and lamps larger than the tables they were sitting on. Oh, and to get to the partially finished basement, you have to go out on the patio off the dining room, down the steps, lean to the right as you cross the slanting concrete porch, go down yet another set of stairs while avoiding the drain, and open the screen to get to the door that will let you into the basement. By the time we got there, we realized the keys were still all the way at the other side of the house. Not worth it. Especially since it would mean an extra battle with the gnats. And wouldn't it figure, a light was left on and we had to stand amongst the gnats for an extra few minutes.

Yeah, that last one was a big, fat NO!!!

So, at the end of round 1, the rankings are

1. House #2
2. House #1
3. Houses we have not seen yet
100. House #3

We rewarded ourselves with pizza, clean clothes, and a gnat free environment. Until our next foray into house hunting, may you have a gnat free home.