Home Ownership Lesson #5

There will be mysteries.

I remember the day that I looked at my house for the first time. It was house number three for the day.

The house immediately before it was the same floor plan but a corner lot that exposed the entire backyard to everyone who drove by the house. I was not raised in a subdivision. My parents quite literally carved a house seat out of the side of a mountain in order to build my childhood home. Our road had one other house on it and it belongs to B & Daddy Pete. My Daddy and Daddy Pete lived across the road (a different road) from each other their entire childhoods until Daddy Pete went into the Navy and then Daddy went to college. But, soon after the Navy and college they resumed their normal locations. Across the road. Needless to say, I am not used to having neighbors much less having a backyard that total strangers (there are no strangers in the holler at home – we know everyone) can observe. So I passed on that house.

My house has a large backyard with mature trees and no neighbors to the rear – only two neighbors!  Then there is the screened in porch where I can sit and listen to the rain and look at the trees. I did not need much more encouragement. Although, the inside of the house was nice – fireplace, tile, hardwood, and surround sound. I was intrigued by the surround sound. The crafty sellers were wise enough to have the surround sound playing during the showing. And it was on NPR – that helped – I do enjoy some public radio. Every room has speakers, including the screened in porch. Very nice, especially since my laptop works overtime playing music all the time.

So, I make the deal, sign the papers, erect the fence, move in and set up housekeeping. During all this I assumed that I would find the surround sound controls. Seems reasonable that the controls would be obvious. I was wrong. To date, I have no idea exactly how to make sound come out of the surround sound speakers. There are little knobs in every room and tastefully recessed speakers but no obvious outlet, control panel, or plug-in for the system. After weeks of looking I thought I found it. There is a Honeywell panel in the closet. That must be it. When Donte from Comcast came to fire up the internet I asked him and he said, oh, no this is not for surround sound this is where al the telecommunications go. Wrong again.

I began to get desperate. I emailed my realtor.

My parents came for a visit after I moved in (they very kindly brought a bed from my house in Virginia and returned The Queen to her new kingdom). Daddy was bored, I don’t have cable, and needed a project so I suggested he find the surround sound. At this point I am somewhat embarrassed because this should not be this hard, right? Dad inspects. He notices an outlet near the cable hookup in the living room. The outlet has four wires sticking out – green, white, black, and red. Of course, I have no clue what these do and have avoided touching them. Always the 7th grade teacher (he did do that for 25 years), Dad says what do those look like? Oh, well, I guess they kind of look like the kind of wires you hook to speakers and the wires are the same colors as those that go into the back of the TV to connect video and audio from the DVD player. Bingo.

So, we think we have found them but neither of us have any idea how to actually connect a stereo or amplifier to the wires.

My realtor gets back to me with the phone number of the seller. This is so interesting/mysterious that she wants to know what I find out.

I have not gotten around to making that call. I wonder why they would bother taking my call. We’ll see. If they don’t help me (at least tell me where to go to get some geek to help me make this work) I guess I will hang Christmas ornaments from the wires and control knobs and call the speakers fancy decorations.

I never enjoyed mysteries.

Home Ownership Lesson #2

Fences are nice and they will cost you in more ways than one.

It is no secret that I am totally committed to my dog. The Queen and I have been together longer than any of the three primary relationships in my life (sorry guys). So, one of the big benefits of having a house and a slice of land is having a yard for The Queen.

Unfortunately, The Queen cannot be trusted off-leash. She minds well as long as there is not a squirrel, rabbit, mole, or groundhog involved or in the vicinity of the command. Because of her lack of impulse control around small furry creatures she can’t run free in the neighborhood (nevermind the leash law). Therefore, I had to buy a fence.

I called around – Home Depot, Menards, Lowe’s – and found the cheapest cedar picket fence at Lowe’s. They do free estimates and they install. Fine, works for me. Two days later a representative from the store (“Capt. Smooth” said in a sarcastic tone accompanied by an eye roll) contacts me and sets up an appointment to check out the property. On said day, Capt. Smooth calls an hour early to see if I can just “come on over” since he “came by to see a friend who lives in the neighborhood” and his buddy was not home. Um, no, I can’t leave work and additional hour early to accommodate your schedule, sir. I did however show up just after the appointed time to find that he had kindly waited in his car in my driveway – for over an hour. One walk-thru and measurement later and I had a price. Turns out approximately 215 linear feet of fence will cost you around $3,300. Ouch.

Not knowing of any other options, I called Capt. Smooth back to schedule the install. You can’t just schedule an install must another site visit with Capt. Smooth and the installer. Fine. I met Capt. Smooth and the installer at my new abode. The installer is a lovely guy who runs his company along with his son. He seemed genuinely interested in doing a good job and meeting my expectations. Unfortunately, he was not doing the pricing. At the end of this walk-thru and re-measurement the installer left and Capt. Smooth stayed behind to have me sign the contract. I am a lawyer, I get that, let’s read, sign, and get it over with.

No such luck. Capt. Smooth spent the next thirty minutes filling in five blanks on a form in between asking me where I “go out” in FW, making it clear that he drinks martinis, and telling me the long and sordid story of his baby-mama’s drug problems and incarceration (if this was a pick up line it is the worst I’ve heard). Lovely, this guy now knows where I live. All this for a fence.

So, Forty-five minutes later the contract was signed and I was able to escape unscathed from Capt. Smooth. So far, I have not had to encounter him again. I am thankful for the little things.

I did, however, go back to meet the installers when they marked the posts and they were great and fast. The fence was up in less than five days from the time of the installers first visit. I was bragging about my new fence at work. My audience was two fellows who work for a construction company. When I told them where I got my fence they literally bent over and laughed out loud. Not helpful. In construction circles having Lowe’s put in your fence is better than Home Depot but is still dumb. They always know someone who can do something. So, next time I need anything installed or worked on I am calling these two guys (this will be sufficient pay back for laughing at me)!

After recovering from the smack in the face brought on by my contractor-buddies’ laughter, I went and checked out my fence first hand. I love it. It’s fabulous. This was a little salve on my fence wounds.

The final step in the fencing process was to introduce The Queen to her new kingdom. I did and, well, she was mostly unimpressed. She walked around a bit, smelled, ate some grass, did her business, and promptly asked to go back inside. Sigh. She has never had a fenced in yard before, so I am going to chalk this up to inexperience. I am sure she will grow to love it as much as I do. And thank God I do. I am also thankful that my fence is pretty.

Home Ownership Lesson #1

A house requires tools.

I bought the house on Monday. By Friday I had spent more than half of my down payment even though there were no major or minor defects and nothing was broken. These expenditures were just to prepare for The Queen and I to move in. We may be a little high maintenance (mostly her). So I will be posting a series on all the things I am learning (the lessons are coming daily at this point) about owning a home.

I was so excited to go to Lowe’s and buy my new door hardware. I bought some good-looking round knobs for the front door. I dislike those long straight handles – too much to go wrong, jiggle, or break.

I got into the car with my purchase and was on the verge of reporting my first home purchase to my Daddy when I realized that . . . I have no tools. That is right, my toolbox included one hammer, one tape measure, and one vice grip. I live in an apartment – I have people for that stuff.

So, next stop, Sears. Ruby Falls, an experienced handy-lady at home, advised me on a solid list of tools I should have and I trucked myself to Sears. Screw drivers, pliers, wrenches, nails, and a box cutter now join my hammer, tape measure, and vise grip. I’m set. For now. Except, I soon learned that you can’t buy just ANY old door knobs. You must buy the “high-end” knobs. I bought off-brand door knobs. According to the Father of Six, this is bad. Generic doorknobs break. So, I went right back to Lowe’s and exchanged (did you know that Lowe’s will take things back without a receipt – I was amazed) my generic knobs for a Schlage knob and deadbolt. I am told that you get what you pay for . . . I hope that is true.

Four-way screwdriver in hand, I attacked the front door and successfully installed new door hardware. Just like a real big-girl homeowner. Tools and all.