Saturday, October 29, 2011

So you want to buy a house?

I put an offer on a house back in August, a perfect little place for me.   I had expected to make an announcement by now that I got the house, or even that I am living there, but I am still waiting.  However, I am going to share what has transpired, as I am going mildly insane.
The house is a "short sale."  This means the owners are under water with the loan, and the value of the home isn't enough to pay off the loan.  There is a process by which the bank will allow the sale as a "short sale," since it is better for the bank to recoup some of their money than to let a place go into foreclosure. (There are far too many homes like this on the market, by the way)

As I am learning, this process takes time.

I offered the full listing price.  My realtor and I thought doing this rather than haggling would have a better chance of getting the bank to approve, and it was a good deal anyhow.  Of course, the current homeowners accepted. 

From there, it went to some lawyers.  A week and a half later, we heard the legal review was complete with no questions asked (my realtor said this never happens), and everything was forwarded to the bank for review and approval.  So far, so good.

Then it sat at the bank for weeks with no updates.  You could hear the crickets.  There is nobody you can call, either, so you are simply at the mercy of waiting to hear from someone.

Finally, we got word that the bank ordered an appraisal on the house.  I thought maybe they could have ordered that sooner during the weeks that they had my paperwork in their hands, but what do I know?

About a week later, we heard that the appraisal was complete, the file was in the hands of the bank negotiator (a real person with a name), and that things would move quickly now.  Great!

Another week goes by.  Nothing.

The next week I get a call from my realtor saying there was a snag.  Apparently the bank had sold the loan to some "investment group" (and why are we learning this now?!?).  So they had a say in the sale.  The investment group made me a counter offer that was $10 grand higher than the price I offered (which I remind you was the full listing price!).

What.  The.  Hell?!?

Now everyone involved was completely pissed off - the sellers, their agent, my agent, and me.  We had been waiting for weeks, and now this?  After discussion with my agent, we decided that my offer was my final offer.  If they don't want it, then the bank and the investment group can have fun with the place when it slides into foreclosure.

This is where my agent really went to bat for me, providing them with comparable sales to demonstrate that the original price was fair and that their counter offer was insane.  Eventually the investment group relented and said they would agree to my original price, so my agent really came through.  So now it was back at the bank for the bank to approve the sale.

Two Fridays ago, I got a call from my agent.  We received word from the seller's agent that the bank had approved the sale.  Hallelujah!  We also learned from the seller's agent the date the current occupants were moving out, along with possible closing dates to consider, and that I could go ahead with the home inspection.  So I scheduled a home inspection.

We were expecting the bank to rubber stamp this and be done with it.  Monday rolled around and we still hadn't seen an official approval letter.  I talked to my agent, saying I didn't feel good about going forward with a home inspection if we don't have the official approval letter.  She agreed.  I cancelled the home inspection.

Further discussion with the seller's agent told us that the bank had approved the sale, but that the bank and the investment group still had some paperwork to hammer out (something "HUD" related, legal mumbo jumbo, blah, blah, blah).  Still, if the sale is approved, why can't they get me something in writing so I can get moving on the stuff I am responsible for?  That was Tuesday.

Friday rolls around, and still nothing.  I asked my agent what was going on.  She inquired and found out that one of the people from the investment group apparently isn't from our great nation and didn't understand some documents that had to be translated for him.  No, I am not making this up. 

So that is where things stand.  I think I have the house.  They keep telling us they are working on it, and to be patient.  It has been more than 9 weeks since I originally made the offer, so patience is wearing thin.

There seems to be a cast of thousands that have a part in this - the bank, bank negotiators, lawyers, this goofy investment group with people who can't read English.  I keep asking myself - where is just one person in this whole process who can take responsibility for getting the right people together to make this happen?  There is no reason this should be taking so long. 

Meanwhile, I have been living on a month-to-month lease in preparation for moving, which of course is more expensive.  And even with a month-to-month lease, I still have to give two months notice (nice flexibility, huh?).  I was hoping to have given notice by the end of this month.  If I don't see anything by Monday, I will be on the hook for another month, perhaps needlessly if by some miracle we get the approval sometime next week.

I feel like I have completely lost my summer and fall.  I haven't had a vacation day since the 4th of July weekend and have been sticking close to home in case I needed to act on anything.  My only planned vacation on my birthday weekend in September got thwarted for a couple of completely different and unrelated reasons (which I will not go into, but I am still pissed off).  And I am sitting amongst a sea of boxes as I type this, because I have started packing.  So I am living in squalor. 

As unbelievable as this sounds - from what I am told, this short sale process is actually going pretty well!  Holy crap...

So you will have to forgive the relative dearth of posts on my blog over the last couple of months.  This is why.  I am still trying to remain optimistic, but I am containing any excitement until I get the keys in my hand.

I HOPE to have some positive news soon.  But in the meantime, these are the lessons I have learned:

1.  I am never going to buy a short sale house again.
2.  I will go out of my way to avoid doing business with the seller's bank that is processing the short sale (I am not naming names, but let's just say it rhymes with "Citibank").  May you collapse like the Vikings with a second half lead.
3.  Running is very therapeutic. :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011


So I have had a lot going on, I've been very busy at work, and I haven't really had any time to update my blog.

I expect to have a fun announcement soon.  In the meantime, please enjoy this Thai yellow coconut curry with shrimp that I made the other night... :)

Thai yellow coconut curry with shrimp - yummy and spicy!
More news forthcoming!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

London Particular

I learned something this week.  The British call split pea soup "London Particular."

This is apparently a reference to industrial fog of London from years gone by - which could be as thick as pea soup!  You can read more about the history behind this here at Serious Eats.

In perusing various recipes for London Particular, I discovered it is really not any different than the split pea soup we know and love here in the good 'ol U. S. of A.  Dried split peas, carrots, celery, and onions, with bacon and/or ham.  Pretty much the standard on both sides of the pond. 

I decided to take my recipe for split pea soup and play with it a bit, giving it a British twist to make my own London Particular. 

I always use beer in my split pea soup recipe.  The beer adds a nice tangy flavor that I really like.  For this recipe, I used Boddington's Pub Ale.  I figured if I am going to make London Particular with beer, it had best be British.

But what is this?  A German invasion?  A "London Blitz," as it were!

Only this "London Blitz" is much more palatable and harmonious, with nothing but good will and good intentions.  Some Sam Adams & sauerkraut bratwursts that I sliced and browned found their way into the soup.  I buy them at Mackenthun's in St. Bonifacius, and they are fantastic.  I often use these in my bean soup, so there is no reason this wouldn't be awesome with split pea.

London Particular...or, split pea soup, as it were
This was one of the better batches of split pea soup...I mean, London Particular...that I have made.  And I hope no Brits were offended in the making of this soup.  It was delicious, even if the addition of some German sausage crossed cultural boundaries. 

British, German, American...who cares?  All I know it is made for some darn good lunches at work this week.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Scenic Byway Half Marathon

Today I ventured southwest of the Twin Cities metro area to the town of Belle Plaine.  I would be running in the inaugural Scenic Byway Half Marathon.

I signed up for this race a few weeks ago thinking it would be fun to run a race on a nice, cool, and crisp October day. 

Well, these fall races are supposed to be nice, cool, and crisp.  It was 73 degrees when I woke up at 5:30 AM.  Ick!  In addition, a little bit of rain fell prior to the start of the race.  Predictably, the sun came out right as the race started and steamed things up.  Just perfect.

Anyhow, the race started in town at Court Square Park (a rather neat little park with some well preserved historical buildings), crossed the river north out of town, and took the Scenic Byway Road along the north side of the Minnesota River.  From there, the course was a counterclockwise loop, crossing the river again in the quaint railroad village of Blakely, eventually making it back to the park for the finish.

About two blocks into the race, I witnessed a woman pull a "Down goes Frazier," tripping over a huge orange pylon in the road.  She was screaming and waving to someone, wasn't watching what she was doing, and absolutely pancaked the pylon.  Several of us stopped, but she bounced back up laughing and was perfectly fine, which was good.  The wipe out didn't stop her running partner from razzing her by pointing out upcoming pylons - "Look out, there's another one!"  All's well that ends well.

By the first mile, I was sweating profusely.  It was definitely going to be a warm day out there.  Ugh...

The route was really quite pretty, and there were a few long hills scattered throughout the course to keep things interesting.  The high winds this week did a number on the leaves, but there was still a lot of color on the hillsides.  Also, duck hunting season is going on, and I did hear a few shotgun blasts coming from the river bottoms.  Glad I was wearing my blaze orange shirt. :)

Roads were not closed to traffic, but these were quiet country roads.  And, they had pylons marking the entire course to offer the runners the shoulder and part of the pavement.  This can create some unnerving situations, but every driver I saw go by was quite courteous and gave us a lot of space, so this was no problem.  Most of the traffic consisted of race spectators following the runners anyway!

I saw a lot of attrition, even early in the race.  Of course, there are always the high school hotshots who go out too fast and have this dazed, "what did I get myself into?" look on their faces by mile 3.  They had pace groups, and I couldn't help notice the girl who was the 1:50 pacer seemingly dropping out at mile 4.  Not sure if that was heat related or otherwise.

As the race went on,  I could see people ahead of me getting closer, on hills especially, but even on the flats.  The heat was definitely taking its toll.  I was managing to keep it steady and held it together, even though I was getting really warm over the last 3 miles.  Perhaps I have a summer's worth of running in awful heat and humidity to thank for that?  

Cresting an absolutely sinister hill shortly after mile 12 to head back into town (a very evil race director planned that, I am sure!),  I finished in 1:51:32 (results here).  Actually, I totally surprised myself with that time.  I had expected to be much slower in these conditions, so I will take it.  Not a bad run for me, all things considered. 

Not a bad race, either.  But there are a couple of glaring things they need to improve:

1.  The start time was 9 AM.  Really, it needs to be earlier for a half marathon.  You just can't count on the weather, and there were some folks who ended up finishing between 11:30 to noon when the sun was at its peak.  Always err on the side of early.  I would vote for an 8 AM start. 

2.  Mile 10 was the last water stop.  I made a last minute decision to bring my hand-carry bottle today, and thank goodness I did!  They really need to add one more stop over the last 5K.  You could see there were a lot of people suffering out there!

All in all, for a first year race, they did a pretty nice job though.   It was well organized, scenic as advertised, they had volunteers at all the major intersections, the race was very well attended (nearly 500 runners between the half and the 5K), and everyone was really friendly.  They have a successful annual event in the making here if they stick with it.

A few photos from today (I didn't take many, so this is pretty much all of them!):

Waiting out the rain at the start!

The Hooper Bowler Hillstrom Historical House located right in the park and decorated nicely for fall

Before the start, ready to run!  Notice I am wearing my midsummer running attire.

The race shirt, and my first ever "finisher's keyring!"
And now, with a belly full of Chinese take-out (as is the semi-regular post-race tradition), the rest of the evening is going to involve the easy chair, a little football, and probably looks a little something like this...

Post-race "recovery juice" :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar

I am finding myself not exactly enjoying this stretch of unseasonably hot days (80's for the next three days...I am ready for fall), and I am in a waiting period to find out about my house.  So there is nothing particularly interesting or exciting going on right now, and I just don't have much that I feel like writing about.

Instead, please enjoy this picture I took today of my Kit Kat bar:

I was sitting here like a dummy for a half an hour trying to figure out how to open the darn thing, and then I flipped it over.  Thank goodness it came with instructions! ;-)


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