A happy place to hide…

Last year on this day I wrote that I was amazed a year had gone by and that “feels like there’s been some part of the place under construction for most of that time; not to mention an ever-lengthening list of projects yet to come.” As much as I would love to say that the second anniversary of buying Fortress Jeff finds that to be less true, of course it isn’t. The place is still a near constant construction zone (though fortunately this year’s efforts have been less dramatic) and the project list has only continued to grow.

It’s taken a while to get to a place where it feels like I’m not walking into someone else’s house that just happens to have all of my stuff in it… but I’m pretty much there now. Except, of course, for the occasional discoveries of little things that leave me wondering the logic behind why things were done a certain way when they built the place (like mystery light switches) and the perplexing rational behind not putting this place on a full basement.

All things considered I think I can be happy hiding from people here for a good long while.

Enjoying the moment…

At some point I’d like to get back to writing about anything other than what feels like every small detail of the move. Since the blog, by definition, comes from my day to day experiences and opinions the ins and outs of setting up in a new place feel a little like what’s going to be dominating my time for the foreseeable future, though. It may not always be entertaining reading, but it’s cathartic for me and sometimes that’s way more valuable than being entertaining.

If I didn’t have my moving blinders on, I’d probably be writing about Rand Paul (I don’t completely hate him), meetings (and how much they suck), or the fact that boxwood shrubbery looks so good but smells like cat urine. I’m sure that last one will get its own post sooner or later.

At the moment, though, I’m just going to sit here any be happy that I’ve got the coffee set to brew in the morning, tomorrow’s lunch is packed, the dogs are fed, and I’ve got a little more than an hour of “free” time before the call of bed is overpowering. I’m going to take the night off from what’s left of the boxes and enjoy a few minutes of nothing on the “must do” list.


As far as I can tell, there are about 3,572 different and distinct approvals needed in order to get a mortgage. There’s the pre-qualification, the pre-approval, and the tentative approval through the loan officer. From what I’ve gathered in the last thirty days, none of those three types of approval mean a damned thing to anyone. The only kind of approval that matters when it comes time for a six-figure loan is the one from the mortgage underwriter stating all conditions are cleared and the loan is well and truly approved.

The “clear to close” approval is the one I finally got this morning – a whole three days in advance. I feel like it’s a major accomplishment.

The final walk through is scheduled. The seller is preparing to produce receipts for all requested repair work. Closing is set for noon… and my inner paranoid pessimist is screaming out his familiar warning that someone, somewhere will find some way to send this thing hurtling wildly off the rails at the last moment.

I’ll feel infinitely better once I’ve signed away the next 30 years in exchange for a set of keys… or some magic beans. Either way.

The virtue of realtors…

This morning I got to experience the real value of working with a real estate agent. It’s not so much that they are board certified professionals who spend every day facilitating technical sales with dozens of moving parts and a propensity to run into trouble at every step of the process. What makes the realtor so valuable than any of that, however, is they allow the buyers and sellers to stay at arms length through almost the entire transaction. For most people real estate is the single largest purchase they’ll ever personally experience. Throw in the emotional dimension of a place called “home” and the whole thing is fraught with issues.

I’m bringing this up because I went by my house-in-waiting this morning to get some measurements, look at a bit of furniture the sellers are interested in being rid of, and to make sure the truck actually fits into the garage (Yeah, that’s actually a thing with a large truck and a standard size garage). Unlike the other showings and the inspection the seller was there. So was his son. So was his daughter-in-law. They all seem like nice enough people – the son and his wife apparently live a couple of streets over so we’re even quasi-neighbors. Despite that, I’m still the guy who chiseled them down to a rock bottom price and then presented a longish, but reasonable, list of repair requests on a house, their home, that the seller and his departed wife designed for themselves from the basement up. But there we all were standing in their living room (that in about three weeks will be my living room) making small talk while I made snap decisions about their furniture and then wandered from room to room with a tape measure and clipboard figuring out where my own furniture will fit. The whole experience was just awkward.

It needed to be done, but the whole thing just felt so very odd… and I’m pretty sure I’ve come to the preemptive decision that I will never even consider a sale “by owner.” I have enough weird in my life without adding that to the mix. For this one small thing, the realtor is worth every penny of their commission.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. I’m trying to buy a house. I understand that there are effectively hundreds of bits of paper that I need to sign. As a matter of procedure, though, it’s not a good idea to send me a dozen of them and then disappear. When I email you, then follow up with a voice message, then follow up again the next day, and then email again the day after that and still get nothing in way of response, you can reasonably expect to assume it’s not looking good for your company to retain my business much longer. I tend not to make unreasonable requests and I’m Johnny-on-the-spot getting things done on my end, so expecting the same of the companies I engage to work on my behalf doesn’t feel like a big ask.

2. Today is the first official “snow day” for my office this year. “Free” days off are always something I appreciate whenever they occur. Of course even being an “off” day I find myself up and moving well before the crack of dawn, but it’s my time and that makes it OK. Unlike other people who would just take the day and enjoy it for what it is, my mind is already turning towards thoughts of “Damn. It’s only Thursday… I wonder what the chances of getting tomorrow off too will be?” Maybe it’s just my nature to never be quite satisfied with something good… but seriously even a full scheduled day of work tomorrow will mostly be a lot of people milling around waiting for the weekend to start – and the level of disinterest only increases if there would happen to be a few-hours worth of delayed opening.

3. Maggie is an emotionally needy dog. She has been since the day I brought her home. I have a share of the blame here, of course, since I’ve always let her get away with it. Since the boxes have come out, though, it’s been even worse. Even though there is no sign of “moving” anywhere here on the main living floor, she’s attached to my hip even more than usual. At the moment that translates into sitting on my foot with her chin on my knee while I type this with one hand and scratch her ears with the other. So I’m an enabler. Yet another reason I’ll be glad to have this entire process over and done with. Settling back into “normal” will be a good thing.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Creeping middle age. I’ve always been ok with going to bed sore. That was just the sign of a good productive day. Now that I’m waking up with sore shoulders, a sore back, sore hips, and even more tired than I was when I went to bed. I vaguely remember a time when sleep was restful. I wonder if it ever will be again.

2. When it’s too good to be true. At two acres of sweeping, manicured lawn, the back third naturally wooded, and a house that looked like every piece of it was designed by a master craftsman, I wondered a bit at the price point. I assumed it was a murder house or something. Under the circumstances I don’t think that would have been a deal breaker. What was a deal breaker, however, was pulling the zoning map and discovering that the property backed up to a large open field… that was designated as a dumping ground for the material that was dredged dredged out of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. According to nice folks at the EPA, this practice has led to a bit of contamination of the local groundwater sources. Sure, the state is going to pipe in municipal water, but there’s just something disagreeable about living next door to a site that probably a few regulatory changes away from being eligible for Superfund. Remember kids, when it sounds too good to be true, it’s just a matter of figuring out why. In this case, I’ll just blame the Corps of Engineers… at least it’s a feeling I’m use to.

3. Being the middle man. I find myself caught at least once a week between the demands and desires of my local management and the corporate guidance I receive from “oh high.” Occasionally it would be nice if those two groups ever wanted the same thing. As it is, I mainly find myself in the service of two masters. From long experience I know the reality of things is that it’s generally best to follow the lead of the boss closest to you. They’re the one who can cause the most pain or dispense favor with the most largesse… but the reality is when you find yourself serving two masters you’re not serving either particularly well.