Tuesday, September 29, 2009

While We Wait

This won't be an update on any pending complications to the sale. For better or for worse, we'll know more by this Thursday afternoon and I'll update then.

Last Sunday I went went back to the pile of fabric in the corner of the dining room. I pricked my finger twice while basting some pleats on our future living room curtains, but still it felt good to be doing something concrete and productive. We picked up the fabric back on our Labor Day trip. The fabric was 50% off and Charles gets a 15% educator discount on top of sales prices at Joann's.

For the living room I chose a paisley print in creams, greens and blues. The curtains will be a classic festoon with jabots design and they will hang from tension rods set as deep as possible in the window. Because although the curtains will be nice, it is the windows themselves that I want to really shine. What will be our living room was quite obviously used as the parlor in our home's earlier life. All of the original walnut woodwork remains, and it is unpainted. Because of the stone walls the three windows have sills around a foot deep, again solid original walnut wood. Above the windows is crown molding that extends to the ceiling, and below the windows are raised panels extending to the floor. So if you put that all together, you have three windows with floor-to-ceiling original walnut trim, and sills a foot deep before you reach the six-over-six windows.

I can't help smiling just thinking about those windows. : )

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Once I had a dream

that worried me, like a drunken guillotine;


just above

my head."

From "Novim's Nightmare" by Yusuf Islam, back in the days when he still used the name Cat Stevens.

We've learned a few more details over the past couple of days but we have many, many questions remaining. Mostly concerning what will happen if our guillotine falls. This is all very confusing for Charles and I, but I'll try to explain what I can. If you haven't read my posts earlier this month about the sheriff sale, you need to backtrack to them in order for the following to make sense.

Unknown to us, Mr. Attorney had not been hired by the bank that foreclosed on the Einsel House. This bank (of course it's a giant nationwide chain bank) had hired a Great Big Bloated law firm (hereinafter known as The GBB Firm) which has Ohio offices in Cleveland and Cincinnati. The attorney who prepared and signed all the paperwork for the foreclosure works out of the Cleveland office. When it came time for the sheriff sale he didn't want to leave his nice air conditioned lake-front office, so he had The GBB Firm hire Mr. Attorney to attend the sale for him. The "Sheriff's Sale" posts on this blog explain what happened next.

We learned yesterday that after the sale Mr. Attorney returned to his office and called The GBB Firm to explain what had happened. Apparently, The GBB Firm told Mr. Attorney not to worry, that it was okay and they would work it out. The GBB Firm continued as though everything was hunky-dory. Paperwork was filed on time and no alarm bells were rung. The GBB Firm prepared the Order for Confirmation of Sale as would be expected and forwarded it to the local court. The local judge signed it on Thursday, September 16.

Then, on Friday, September 17, The GBB Firm called Mr. Attorney and demanded money.

Remember that The GBB Firm promised its client (the bank) to get a certain price on the property. Because Mr. Attorney flubbed up on his part of the job, we bought the house for less than that price. And last Friday, The GBB Firm told Mr. Attorney they wanted him to pony up the difference. Well, Mr. Attorney carries insurance for just this sort of thing, so he calls up his insurance company (another great big bloated company, this time one that specializes in providing errors & omissions insurance to law firms). His insurance company hears the details and decides that they will not cover this claim because Mr. Attorney has not attempted to contest the sale. After all, if Mr. Attorney can get the sale reversed it won't cost his insurance company a dime.

This all occurred on Friday, September 17th. Just after lunch on Monday, September 20th, a junior partner in Mr. Attorney's firm called up our attorney to offer us money if we would agree to forfeit our bid. If we didn't take the offer, he threatened to contest the sale. So far, that's where things remain. Officially, we've not yet turned down the offer. (We're "buying time" here, folks.)

At this point, there appear to be three possible outcomes:
1 - the threat is just that; a threat (if you want to pray, this is the one to pray for);
2 - he files a motion contesting the sale before closing; or
3 - he files a motion contesting the sale after closing.

Even if #2 or #3 occurs, the our attorneys assure us that the odds of the sale being reversed are slim. They have researched case history and it clearly supports our position. So in the end we are not that concerned about losing the Einsel House. The main difficulties have to do with time and money. And lack of sleep. I'll elaborate on the "time and money" stuff later, and close this post with the following true story: After finally falling sleep on Monday night, I woke up in the wee smalls in an empty room. I looked at the alarm clock and saw 2:58. I headed to the kitchen where I found the light already on, my mom busy emptying the dishwasher, and my husband snacking on a cup of yogurt. "Couldn't sleep?" my mom asked with a smile. I nodded and Charles replied, "Join the crowd."


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are you there, St. Joseph? It's me, Kimberly.

Sorry to go private. Posts here may be sparse for awhile. This wasn't my plan. But the "Thank you" back in this blog's first post was obviously given prematurely.

Mr. Attorney (and believe me it takes restraint to avoid using other choice titles) has offered Charles and I $$$ to bow out of this sale. If we refuse (and believe me we will) he is threatening to contest the closing of the sale.

So if you're willing to pray we appreciate it. And if you're the type who would rather take a small cloth doll dressed in a suit and a pair of women's glasses and poke it with 18,000 pins - well, we'd appreciate that too.

(Continued here)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wish I was ten years old again

Because I would have had a blast playing in the woods along this creek. While we talked with another contractor Friday afternoon, our children spent the entire time exploring along the creek. Since leaving, our son has drawn at least three maps of the paths he plans to clear through the woods. They're going to love living there.

The picture below shows the stone bridge that crosses the creek (if you can find it in the midst of all the greenery). The creek bed is basically dry right now, but we've been told it can turn into a fast moving stream very quickly during spring rains.

The last picture shows the springhouse. This poor building has obviously been largely ignored for a long time. Right now it is difficult to get close enough for a good inspection. As the picture shows, the small lower door needs some work and although you can't tell from this picture, the entire floor inside is collapsing. But all in all, the building definately looks like it can be saved. The springhouse cannot be seen from the road at all, and the first time I drove down the lane my jaw just dropped when I caught sight of it. Spring houses (like stone houses) are very rare around here.

That's all the eye candy for today. For now we'll keep collecting bids from contractors, waiting for a call from the sheriff department.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Moving Forward

As of 8:30 this morning we have money to bring to the closing table. Woohoo! Confirmation of the sale has been signed by the Judge, now we just wait for the attorneys to prepare the deed.

This afternoon we have an appointment at a local heating and plumbing company to go over our first bid on a new heating system. Tomorrow afternoon we meet another masonry contractor and another heating contractor back at the house to get more bids.

We're moving forward!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First Picture

There she is. We've got our work cut out for us, eh? The details will be fleshed out in future posts I'm sure, but I'll give a few details now.

First, the silver section used to be an open recessed porch. Although I'm already plotting how to open the porch back up, my plotting is complicated by the fact that behind that silver wall is a nice two-sink vanity in a bathroom that is currently twice the size of the original-house-with-porch bathroom. In the words of someone who was familiar with the house before the bathroom was expanded, "That room was just a nasty hole." So, it's aesthetics vs. modern comforts - a conflict that I'm sure we'll face repeatedly in this adventure. My vote is for aesthetics, but I suspect I'll be outnumbered on some issues - particularly the bathroom vs. porch issue.

Second, yes, the left chimney is in sad shape. See last week's post about the masonry contractor. (A second one is coming this Friday.)

Third, the poor house needs trees. Badly. There are lots of trees on the property, but they are almost all along the creek (just behind me when I took this picture).

Interior pictures are probably a couple weeks away yet, but I'll try to take some pictures of the creek when we're back with more contractors on Friday.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pictures!!! (of houses we will not be living in)

(Trivial detail I know.) I mentioned in an earlier post that Charles and I spent part of Labor Day in Centerville, Ohio. There's a very good reason for that....

So although the pictures that follow are not of our house (sorry!) they should give a pretty good idea what kind of house we are buying. The first picture below is now a museum. Of course everything was closed while we were there.

Below is a picture of the front of a building that is now home to an interior design business.

The next house is quite similar in design to our house. Three windows over two on the front with a centered entrance door. Our porch is much smaller, though. We also have a story and a half stone wing off the back of the house, where this home has a frame wing painted white.

The house below is now a funeral home. It was by far the largest of the stone homes we saw in Circleville.

This home is a private residence. We thought the tan and white paint presents a nice clean look. This is also another 3-over-2 house similar to ours. I also liked the centered dormer framed out of the roof. It's something we could easily do to our house to gain some attic space.

These last few pictures are of another house museum. I loved this place. The paint colors and landscaping were just delicious.

Notice the dental molding in the picture above? I love it, but don't think it would work as well on our house. Our frame addition has board and batten siding rather than clapboard and is a bit more rustic. But we love the colors here, so much so that I went to the van and came back with paint samples so that we can try to match these colors on our own home. One thing I don't think we can match will be the deep red on the windows. Our home's original windows are gone, and the replacements are white vinyl. The old house lover in me sort of cringes, but I know the original windows were in very poor condition and the replacements will be nice in the cold of winter. The old house lover in me still cringes, though. Right now we're thinking we'll use the deep red on our exterior doors instead.

We're heading back to our house next week for a round with HVAC contractors, and I'll try to remember to get some pictures. Just be prepared - our house is not quite as picturesque as the ones posted above. At least not yet!

Sheriff Sale - Part 3

The attorney who wanted our house kept trying the woman who had run the sale. He asked her to reread the case number for the sale of the property in question. She did and he said, “That’s not the case number that is on my paperwork. Two numbers are transposed on my papers.” The woman apologized but said she didn’t know what she could do. After a few tries at the woman who ran the sale, the bank’s attorney turned to Charles and asked if he could talk with us after the sale. Charles nodded. As the small crowd thinned, the attorney came over and sat on the other side of my husband. The woman who had run the sale came over almost immediately and the attorney raised both hands in front of him (like a criminal about to be arrested) and said, “We’re just going to talk, that’s all.” The conversation that followed is somewhat of a blur to me, but it went something like what follows.

Turning to Charles he said, “We can work this out. So, are you specs?” Charles and I both replied, “No.” “Oh,” he replied, “well we’ll talk. I’m sure there’s a way we can work this out.” He paused. “You’re not specs?” We both shook our heads no. “Well, what are you going to do with the house if you’re not specs?” He seemed genuinely puzzled. Charles said, “We’re going to live in it.” And the attorney replied, “Oh.” Somehow, he seemed even more puzzled than before. At this point I interrupted to ask Charles for his cell phone. Charles gave it to me and as I walked towards the exit door I heard him explain to the man beside him, “My wife works for an attorney.”

Yeah. There are numerous times I have been grateful for the job I have, but that moment ranks right up there among the top.

I stood just outside the doors to the sheriff department and talked with one of the partners of the law firm where I work. I told him we had a bit of a problem. I explained to him that we went to the sheriff sale, it was the first property sold. Charles placed a bid at two/thirds value and that his was the only bid. “Well, that sounds great,” my boss said, “what’s the problem?” So I explained to him that at the end of the sale this other attorney came forward saying he should have bid on the same property but he had the wrong case number on his paperwork. From the other end of the phone I heard deep chuckles and I knew that meant good news.

Charles later told me that while I was on the phone the attorney beside him tried to make small talk, and kept assuring him that “we could work this out”. He even made some comment about having put on his wife's glasses instead of his own that morning. (???) After only a short while, Charles told him he wanted to wait until his wife returned before talking any more. Following that, the attorney folded both arms across his chest and they both waited in silence. They were sitting thus when I came back in. The attorney unfolded himself and said with a smile, “So, are we going to work this out?” I replied, “We are going to stand behind the bid we made this morning. If you have any other questions I can give you the number for our attorney.” The attorney facing me said he was sorry to hear that. He took the name and number of the firm I work for, and then stood almost breathing down the back of my neck while I filled out the purchaser’s information sheet the sheriff department required. Although my voice sounded firm after my phone call to my boss, my hands were shaking like leaves and it was difficult to keep my handwriting legible as I completed the purchaser’s form. The attorney leaning over my shoulder asked for a copy and he finally left.

Charles and I went to an office to finish filling out paperwork and to make our downpayment on the property. It became obvious at this point that what had just happened was highly unusual. Staff told us that once in a while there will be an attorney who is running late and arrives after a property has sold, but that they could never remember an attorney being present but simply not bidding on the property he was there to buy. Everyone assured us that our bid was legitimate, and that they didn’t think there would be anything the attorney could do to reverse the sale. After a few minutes the county sheriff came in and introduced himself to Charles and I. He told us that if there was any difficulty he and his staff would stand behind our bid. As he told us, his staff ran the sale “by the book” and our bid was made “by the book”. He told us not to worry. And he told us congratulations.

It was still before noon, so we decided to visit a nice restaurant for lunch to celebrate. As we walked out the door of the sheriff department for the last time that morning, Charles and I looked at each other, smiled, and then, finally, we both dissolved in laughter.

(We didn't realize it when this post was originally published, but the drama wasn't over yet.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sheriff Sale - Part 2

It all went according to plan the morning of the sale. Charles took our two children to the babysitter while I met my father at my parents’ bank. Promptly at 9am he signed for the $8,000 cash withdrawal, and I went to meet my husband at the sheriff department.

The crowd at the sale numbered only 10, and we were the first to arrive. Among the others we recognized the daughter of the current owners of the house we would be bidding on. With her was a gentleman we did not recognize. I tried to push back the idea that he might be there to bid on the property. Most of the people sat in silence. One gentleman joked with the man beside him, and offered his prediction that banks would be the only buyers this day. Among the people in the lobby there were four who obviously were attorneys. I couldn’t help but wonder which one we would be bidding against.

When the woman behind the podium asked for other bids I felt nailed to my seat. I’ve never been in a car accident or had any of those fabled “near death” experiences where your life flashes before your eyes in a matter of seconds, but I have some idea what it must be like. Because somehow, within the next two seconds, visions from the entire past year of house-hunting came unbidden to my mind. Old Winchester, Lemert Road, Township 44.

Beside me Charles sat as still as I. I tried to raise my eyes and scan the room, but my gaze was locked at the sheriff’s seal on the front of the podium. Another second ticked by and I had the distinct thought, “What the hell is this attorney waiting on?”

Still another second ticked by. I tried to consciously think of a reason why the bank wouldn’t want to bid on the house, but it was a puzzle I couldn’t solve. The entire room seemed frozen in place and my mind went blank.

It had been six or seven seconds at most, and the realization was dawning in me even before I heard the woman at the podium, “If there are no other bids then going once, going twice, sold to Mr. Charles…….”.

And suddenly I could move again. I looked up. Sitting across the room I caught the eye of the current owners’ daughter. She smiled at me. I turned to look at Charles and I saw the disbelief I felt reflected in his face. What had just happened?!?! Suddenly, overwhelmingly, I wanted to stand up and yell, to run, to jump! Could this be for real? It was hardly 10:05 and it was over! And it was ours – for the minimum bid possible!

But I couldn’t jump or yell. There were 11 other properties to sell that morning. So Charles and I both continued to sit quietly. I was oblivious to the next 5 or 6 properties that sold. Several times I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. But every time I opened them it was the same scene. The same people sitting quietly. The same podium in the front of the room. The same smile I kept feeling spread over my face.

About eight miles out of town on a county road sat the house and property that would soon be ours. Just over seven acres bordered to the south by a tree lined creek. A nineteenth century fieldstone farmhouse filled with the original unpainted woodwork. A matching stone springhouse tucked under trees along the creek. An arched stone bridge crossing the creek. And in the distance a country cemetery that includes weathered stones for our home’s first owners, John & Elizabeth Einsel.

Gradually, I came back down to the earth, and as the last few properties sold I followed along on the listing sheet. The woman running the sale began to thank everyone for coming. But she was interrupted by one of the attorneys sitting at the back of the room. He had arrived shortly after Charles and I and had sat quietly through the entire sale, sorting through the papers on his lap. I had watched as he bid on one of the last properties sold, buying it back for the bank that held the former mortgage. But now he stood up and interrupted the auction’s closing comments. “Wait,” he said, “what about the property at….” My breath caught as he briefly shuffled his papers again, and then he read out the address of the house – our house. OUR HOUSE. OUR HOUSE.

Every eye in the room turned to Charles and I. “I’m sorry, sir”, the woman who ran the sale said, “that was the first property we sold. It was bought by ….” She shuffled a few papers and read out Charles’s name and bid amount. The man seemed nonplussed. “But I’m here to bid on that property” he said, “I’m authorized by the bank to bid on that property.” The woman up front repeated that it had already been sold. Suddenly my head was spinning. I was aware that my lips were silently forming the words, “You can’t do this! It’s too late! It’s too late!”. And my mind was screaming, “No! Haven’t we lost enough houses already?!? Please, God, don’t let this happen again! Please, not like this!”

....to be continued. Part 3 here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sheriff Sale - Part 1

With a new router (and new blog header!) I can finally get to the full story of the sheriff sale. Remember folks, one of my bachelor's degrees is in English writing, so I've been known to throw brevity out the window at times.

A few weeks ago my husband and I went to our first sheriff sale. We had only the vaguest idea of what was about to occur. We had a restless night behind us, and limited hopes for the hour ahead of us. In the year preceding we had lost two houses that seemed far more certain than this one, but they say hope springs eternal. And so, just in case, locked in the glove compartment of the truck was an envelope bulging with hundred dollar bills.

We had arrived at the sheriff’s office an hour before the sale was to begin. Both of us were wishing we had had the chance to go to an earlier sale, just so we would know how the whole sheriff sale process works. As I watched other people come in and sit down, I tried to remind myself that it would be okay if the bank outbid us. If that happened the house would eventually end up being listed with a realtor, and we had been patient already, we could be patient some more.

At about two till ten a podium was brought out and sat in a front corner of the lobby. And promptly at ten o’clock the sale began. Two women from the sheriff’s staff ran the sale. There were general announcements – bids would be made by raised hand, appraisals had been made without interior inspections, typical "buyer beware" language – and then it began. As we had talked the night before, my husband had expressed the hope that the property we wanted would sell somewhere in the middle of the sale. But that morning, at 10:02, the first address read from the podium rang familiar in my ear and I realized that this was it.

Twenty-four hours earlier I was almost dancing around. We had transferred the required 10% of the appraised value from our online savings account and Charles was going to pick up the cashier’s check after work. I was going to meet the loan officer at the bank when I got off work at 4pm, but his earlier email had assured that we should go ahead and bid on our dream home without worrying about the financing. We knew the bank that had foreclosed on the current owners would bid the property up but we were prepared to go to 96% of the appraised value, and I figured our chances were pretty good.

That was twenty-four hours before the sale. It was 18 hours before the sale that the dominoes started to fall.

First Charles called me on his cell. He was at the bank, but the transfer from ING wasn’t there. He sounded frantic. From my computer at work I logged on to ING. I saw the transfer made on Sunday, just after we had gotten home from visiting the property we hoped to buy. And then I saw the entry from Monday, "Requested Account Closed, deposit returned". In the headiness of Sunday afternoon we inadvertently transferred the money to an account with our old credit union, an account that had been closed for nearly a year. ING caught the mistake and returned the funds but as I stumbled the words out to Charles over my cell phone at 3:50 that afternoon, knowing the money was still there provided no relief. ING requires three business days to transfer funds, and we needed that money by 10am the next morning.

The woman at the podium read out the case number, street address, and case caption for the property. It felt surreal. She read out the appraised value and said that bidding would begin at 2/3 of the appraised value. And she asked if there was an opening bid of 2/3. In my mind I couldn’t believe this was happening already and it seemed that everything in the room was in slow motion. But it was only a few seconds before my husband raised his hand beside me.

I was in the parking lot pacing circles around the truck when Charles met me after getting off work at 4:00. We made a couple harried phone calls before I left for my meeting with our loan officer. Charles went back to our credit union, prepared to drain our checking account. We would still need to find $8,000 before the next morning. I was 10 minutes late to my meeting with the loan officer, and the preceding 20 minutes had left my mind almost numb. Somehow it seemed appropriate that the details I was hearing now only added to my sudden despair. Portfolio loans with hoops to jump through, concern that the house might not appraise high enough for us to roll renovation costs into our loan (no matter if we could afford the monthly payment).

It was a dark night. Through cell phone calls with my mother (who was visiting my brother 1300 miles away) we determined that my parents had $8,000 they could loan us. Over the phone, she guided me through their on-line banking and the money was transferred into one account. My father arranged for someone to cover for him at work the next morning so that he could meet me at 9am at their bank, and sign for the cash withdrawal.

But as Charles and I considered the financing, we wondered if the efforts of my parents would end up being for naught. We had decided to bid up to 96% of the appraised value. It was a figure we were comfortable with, even with the repairs the property needed. But we had assumed on a conventional, 30 year fixed rate mortgage. My meeting that afternoon had been dominated by words like "adjustable" and "appraisal", and coupled with our suddenly AWOL 10% downpayment, the mood that night was impossibly grim. After much agonized discussion, we decided to drop our bidding limit to 79% of the appraised value.

The woman running the sale asked Charles to identify himself for the record. Somehow his voice sounded firm and confident. He spelled our last name while the second woman at the podium wrote diligently. The first woman restated Charles’ name and the amount of his bid. There was only a pounding vacancy in my head. No words formed into thoughts, but it was a prayer anyway. At the podium she asked if there were any other bids.

....to be continued. Part 2 here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Contractor

I’m anxious to be able to post pictures here, but until the router is fixed it’ll be text only. Hopefully no one minds a little suspense.

We got to introduce the house to a contractor for the first time. The owner of a local masonry company came by with one of his employees. It went quite well. They are preparing a bid for us, and hopefully we’ll be as impressed with it as they were with the house.

The employee who tagged along with his boss was obviously captivated by the house. He walked around the house in silence for a few minutes and then told us it would be an honor and a true pleasure to be able to work on a building like this. And about 20 minutes later he asked if we would consider selling it! Um, sorry! Charles finds it quite hilarious that the property is not even in our name and we’ve already had two offers from people to buy it!

One of the more interesting parts for me came when I noticed the contractor busily studying the house’s front porch. This porch is obviously not original, appearing to me like a 1930’s or 1940’s replacement of an earlier porch. This contractor was staring at the porch floor so I asked him if there was a problem there. "No," he said, "this is just really amazing." Charles and I hadn’t noticed before, but the entire porch floor is one solid slab of sandstone. The contractor said solid pieces of sandstone that large are extremely rare. He said it has to be very early, and that if we were willing to part with it we could get quite a bit of money for it. I assured him it would be staying exactly where it is!

Beyond the obvious this is also interesting because it tells me that the original porch was built on the same footprint as the current porch. You can see on the front of the house that the earlier porch roof joined the house horizontally about a foot higher than the peak of the current porch roof. It is not a very large porch, so these two facts put together with some Greek Revival or Federalist details should give a pretty accurate idea what the original porch looked like. Rebuilding the porch is not on our list of things to do any time soon, but we’ll tuck these little grains of knowledge away for the someday file.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Tease

I have a nice, long post with all the juicy little details of the sheriff sale saved on our computer. I have pictures of Charles and I spending our day in Centerville, Ohio yesterday (yes, they're house related pictures) saved on our computer. I also have a router that gave up the ghost, so until it is replaced it will just be this short post.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thank You Mr. Attorney

I'll start with the abbreviated version. The details - in all their agony and glory - can come later.

About two weeks ago my husband and I went to our first sheriff sale. Five minutes in we had the winning bid on a property I had been watching and praying for the prior 8 months. Thirty minutes in we realized that we owed our incredibly low winning bid to the bank's attorney, who (because of two transposed digits in his case number) sat through the sale without ever placing the bank's proxy bid.

Charles figures that in those five minutes we used up all our "good luck karma" for the next twenty years.Frankly, I hope he is wrong. A little more luck will come in handy. Because closing is still about 4 weeks away, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us.