December 9: Adulting

There has been so much of it lately! After the big push I documented in my last post, to get ready for the appraiser, progress has been reasonably steady on the doors and door jambs, but nobody has been to work inside the house but me, and I, obviously, have a lot of other calls on my time. I’ve just been scraping and refinishing when I can, and also got a bunch of plywood cut for the kitchen cabinet units.

The main progress has been practical, though. The appraiser came before Thanksgiving and sent his report to the bank right after the holiday, and the house did appraise high enough for me to get the HELOC I wanted. I think I talked a little about how I’ve been financing this early on, but that was a long time ago, so just to recap: I had been saving cash for a long time in case I didn’t have a job, so I had about $50K to start with. But the rest was a little tricky. There are two main ways to get a renovation loan. The first is to roll it into a mortgage, but I wasn’t getting a mortgage because I bought the house in cash for $1000. The second is to go through a pretty complex FHA-backed process, which I think is actually quite a good way to go because it means inspectors are really watching your contractors. But that was going to take longer than I wanted, and also would have required me to have a general contractor, and I didn’t think I had enough budget for a GC. If I hadn’t had any other option, I could have done that — in fact, I found a bank that would have done it with me — but instead I opted to take out a $40K personal loan, backed only by my excellent credit and high income. This, obviously, is a privileged situation, but I was in it, so that’s what I did. I also got a new credit card with a zero-interest-for-a-year deal so that I could buy materials and worry about that down the line. The personal loan had a relatively high interest rate, so the plan was always to refinance into a HELOC when the house was worth something again. This is what I’ve just done, so on Friday when the HELOC money becomes available I’ll begin the process of paying off the personal loan and the credit card, and will just have something resembling a mortgage payment. I imagine I’ll want to pay this off sooner rather than later, but I’ll probably wait to get aggressive with it until I’ve cash-flowed the last big projects for the house, all of which are slated for next year (the main staircase, the upstairs bathroom, new storm windows, and gutters.) I went with a HELOC rather than a straight home equity loan in part because the interest rate I could get was lower, but in part because I liked the idea of paying it down to avoid interest but still having it available just in case, since it’ll probably take me a little while to rebuild a cash emergency fund.

Second big piece of adulting was just completed this morning. In the contract I made with the city, I promised to spend X dollars in the course of the first year. Closing date was January 4 of this year, so last month I pulled my receipts together and sent them off, and this morning at a brief meeting of the relevant city department my evidence was accepted and I should receive a document shortly affirming that the contract is fulfilled and I have no more obligations to the city.

Third big piece was getting internet at the house. There was no line leading in, and I spent a long and frustrating month wrestling with Xfinity/Comcast’s various automated customer service options before giving up on Sunday and driving up to their store in Granger. I did a genuine, yet mildly performative, desperate yet very polite routine, and the people at the store were honestly great. They sorted out the issue that leading me to get nowhere with the automated system, and also scheduled a tech to come string the wires on Tuesday (two days ago). He had to get the new wire over the garage, and told me it was one of the hardest things he’d done in his ten years of doing this! But I’m online from home now.

Fourth big piece of practicality: I’ve now run three loads of laundry!!!!! The mudroom is still not done done — I don’t know if I’m ever going to do a big “reveal” of anything because there’s always still a list. In the mudroom, for example, I still have to strip the windows and trim and refinish those; put a storm window on the fourth window so I can take the plywood down; get a bench for taking off shoes; hang a couple of shelves for laundry supplies; get the ceiling light hung; find a cover for the electric switches; finish my little Guadalupe shrine; and rehang the ironing closet door. (And probably some more stuff I’ve forgotten about). And yet, I am very happy with how it is right this second.

Especially considering how it started!

So, finances, laundry, internet, and door jambs. Not the most glamorous of weeks, but very important!

Published by Catherine R. Osborne

Historian, theologian, editor.

3 thoughts on “December 9: Adulting

  1. HOW DID I MISS THIS POST?!?! Actually, I know, my job interview was the next day and I was being self absorbed. I’m so sorry!

    WOOT! This is HUGE! December was a BIG month for you!

    1) So I read the HELOC part twice to make sure that I had a good grasp of what you were saying. I think I was just surprised/shocked/learned something new in that your HELOC rate is lower than you would expect a mortgage to be. A mortgage is backed by real property (something the bank can collect against if you default) so I am somewhat surprised…I guess the HELOC is technically backed by real property as well…the house? So interesting. Either way, super badass that you were able to get a decent personal based on stellar credit and income. I’ll have to keep that, along with the FHA process, in mind if I move towards home ownership. I love old houses and don’t see a new build in my future.

    2) Yay for paying off the city. Was this a part of getting the house? I was reading about deals like this when I was dreaming of one day buying an old home in Detroit or upstate NY.

    3) Ummm internet is a game changer. Also, the accuracy of this: “I did a genuine, yet mildly performative, desperate yet very polite routine…” I have done this routine before and I find that it often works better than competence/logic. I’m always a bit uncomfortable after I do it because I recognize that there is both a gender/class/physical stature component of it that allows for this “routine” to be successful that makes me uncomfortable but… Anywhoo…internet is a NEED. So glad you have it.

    4) Laundry! The mudroom looks great! Look at how clean and beautiful the floor is. Was that under all the rubbish or is that new? Either-way, it looks like it belongs to the home. And I love the green accent wall and the wood. So…why isn’t this room done, done?

    And what do you mean you aren’t planning to do a reveal? I feel like we, the DevineRenoFolk, deserve a room by room reveal at a time and pace dictated by you. I guess that means you could dictate “never” but ugh. 🙂


    1. 1) If this is ever relevant to you I’ll go into all the details, of course. But briefly, yeah, the HELOC is backed by real property (the house). It’s more or less like a second mortgage, except I don’t have a first mortgage 🙂 Also, I currently have a promotional rate of 1% for six months. After that it’ll be 4%, so still not bad. The personal loan was 10% so obviously it’s a much better deal. But in your situation — unless you do something totally insane like me, you’ll probably just get a conventional mortgage even with an older house. The only reason I had to do all these gymnastics was because I was buying in cash, which you can only do really with a property that’s in absolutely terrible shape.

      2) Well, I didn’t have to pay the city, just prove that I’d spent what I said I would on contractors. Yeah, it was part of the deal I made with them. And yes, those programs in Detroit and Syracuse and so on are very similar. You can get a house for nothing but you have to prove you can finance the repairs and then prove that you made them.

      3) Yeah, I’m very aware of the gender/class elements of my ability to perform this routine (and in my case race too). And it makes me uncomfortable to play to this gendered script (“please help me!”) But it’s also *very useful* so I keep doing it. We live in a fallen world.

      4) The mudroom: well, a month ago I still had this list: “I still have to strip the windows and trim and refinish those; put a storm window on the fourth window so I can take the plywood down; get a bench for taking off shoes; hang a couple of shelves for laundry supplies; get the ceiling light hung; find a cover for the electric switches; finish my little Guadalupe shrine; and rehang the ironing closet door.” In the interim I’ve gotten the ceiling light hung and the ironing closet door rehung, but everything else is still waiting! So it’s not so much that I’m refusing to do a reveal as that…when do you do the reveal? I feel like it’s when the room is done and I don’t know when it’ll ever be done 🙂

      The floor is awesome isn’t it? It’s not original to the house, but it is old (40s). Funny story, I saw it on facebook marketplace, loved it, and then realized I knew the people who were selling it — they’re rehabbing a house two blocks from me. So I bought it from them and it’s perfect in the space. // The paint is so great. It’s technically a dark grey but it has a ton of blue and green in it and it looks different in every light. It was nuttily expensive for a mudroom (it’s Farrow & Ball, which is very swanky) but I loved it so much and have no regrets.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 1. Ahhh…thank you for the additional insight.
    2. Yea…I am originally from upstate NY and went to college not too far from Syracuse and would absolutely love to live there. Or maybe Albany…they also have a ton of old homes. I think one of the reasons my mother is pushing for the house is so I don’t do exactly that. In any instance, thank you for the greater insight into the process.
    4. Yes the floors (and the paint) are absolutely gorgeous. What a great story.


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