some things about living in the country

April 30, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Posted in Michigan, Moving | 7 Comments

We know NOTHING about living in the country.

J and I both grew up in the ‘burbs.  We have lived together in the city.  Are we crazy for attempting to find our dream home in the country?  Maybe.

But, I think both of us fell in love with the quiet serenity of the woods surrounding the house at the top of our list.

We didn’t realize, though, that financing such a large plot of land (9 acres) is a bit trickier than financing a home on a smaller plot of land.  We’re learning that lenders don’t like to do loans on land because it’s easier for the owner to walk away from a plot of land than it is their own home.  We’re learning to be creative in how we approach financing something like this.

We’re learning to think about things like wells and septic systems.  We’re learning that you have to investigate whether the local cable/internet provider will service your house, and that garbage collection and recycling might be a bit more complicated than it is in the city.

It’s so quiet there.  And the privacy!  Not that I dislike our city neighbors, but sometimes I want to sit on the porch with a good book without listening to our neighbor’s son’s loud music.  Sometimes I want to grill out in the back yard without another neighbor asking me to affirm my love for our doggy (seriously.  He was in tears last week because he thought that we’d be getting rid of Barley because we’re moving.  I had to confirm repeatedly that we were keeping the dog.  That, yes, he is a member of our family, and no, we would not be dropping him off at the shelter on the way out of town).

But, would we actually miss having neighbors?  Would our future kids miss out on having friends across the street, or down the block?  One of my favorite things about my childhood is that there were always kids around to play kick-the-can or sell lemonade or ride bikes with.  Would our kids be too isolated to enjoy that?  Or would they become better friends with each other because of it?

I’ll have to remember what its like to have to drive everywhere.  (Although, I doubt we’d be able to walk many places or take public transit if we moved to the city of Kalamazoo anyways). The grocery store appears to be a short 20 min drive away – comparable to the drive we currently take to shop at the nearest SuperTarget (after the no-smoking-ban issue, this is my second complaint about Kalamazoo – how will I get by without a SuperTarget!?!)

It’s a lot to think about, and it’s completely uncharted territory for either of us.  But, I think we might just try it and find out.

I know that a few of you out there are rolling your eyes and groaning (ahem, dad), and that you probably think its a mistake to even consider buying a house in a city we’ve barely lived in — especially when you take into account that the last two houses we’ve bought and sold in less than 2 years.

Nope, that is not a good history at all.

But, we’re basing our present decisions on the information that we have at present.  Kalamazoo is a nice place to live.  Jason loves his job, and his boss, and his coworkers.  He can’t imagine ever NOT liking this job, and those of you that know him will be quite impressed that this particular job has not produced one. single. complaint.  At this point in his career, Jason would not be able to do any better than this new job.  Also?  I just want to be settled and comfortable in my own house.  I want to stay in one place longer than 3 years.  Longer than 5-10 years, even.  My sanity cannot handle moving again anytime in the near future!  So, that’s what we’re working with.

In totally unrelated news, I wonder if any of you could recommend a new bank to us.  The bank where our accounts are held doesn’t have any locations in Michigan.  Our choices are: Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, Keystone Community Bank, Comerica Bank, National City Bank, Charter One Bank and any others any of you recommend.  Have you ever banked with any of these before and had great experiences?

the rest of the weekend

April 27, 2009 at 9:12 pm | Posted in Family, Michigan, Moving | 6 Comments

Barley and I skipped town Wednesday afternoon shortly before our home’s next owner arrived to show her family around.  This is worth mentioning because it marks the last time I’ll have to open my house to strangers.  No more making the bed with the 15 pillows my Realtor suggested were necessary to make it fluffy and fun!  No more hiding the unsightly dish rack under the sink!  No more stashing my toothbrush in the drawer before rushing off to work!  Yay!

We rolled into the Milwaukee area late Wednesday night, said hi to the fam, and hit the hay.  We were really tired.

Thursday, brother Trevor and I met my mom at the hospital and visited with my grandma for a little while.  She’s doing as well as someone who has been in the hospital for the past 2 months could do… we joked a little, talked about family/my move/Jason’s job, and decided what she should eat (and if anyone can tell me what lasagna rolls are or why a hospital would think that hospital-style Mahi Mahi would be an appealing choice, you get 10,000 points).  Anyways, it seems like everything with my grandma’s health is back and forth – forward 2 steps, back 1.  So, if you wanted to keep her in your prayers for a while longer, that would be sweet.  And, if you wanted to say a few words for my mom and aunt who have been staying with my Grandma, and for the rest of my family, that would be nice too.

My next stop was Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Jason took me to dinner at Fandago, where we had really good Tapas, and then we headed over to the Wine Loft for a drink.  Both places were quite swanky and delicious.  One of Jason’s colleagues plays in a jazz trio Thursday nights at the Wine Loft, and it was fantastic.  My favorite was the jazz version of Vanilla Ice’s Ice, Ice Baby.  So cool.  Also cool was that the Wine Loft is smoke-free.  (So far, my biggest complaint about Kalamazoo is that smoking is not banned from restaurants/bars).  After an hour or so at the Wine Loft, we headed over to the 411 Club to harass Jason’s boss watch Jason’s boss play jazz piano.  Somehow, shots were ordered and I spent most of the day Friday paying for that decision.  Ouch.  (who do I think I am? I am clearly not in college anymore, and you would have thought I learned that lesson 2 weeks ago.)

I spent Friday with our MI Realtor, looking at a whole bunch of houses that I will not be purchasing.  Friday evening, we caved and bought a TV for Jason’s apartment.  I was particularly excited that the friendly Best Buy salesman gave me a 10% discount when I asked for one – no coupon or anything!  I am insanely proud of myself, and will be using this technique for all major future purchases.  Jason was only slightly embarrassed.

We ate at the Hangar Bar & Grill, an airplane-themed bar with a mean pizza and great fries.  Then, back to the apartment to watch movies on the new TV.

Saturday was more house-hunting, tv-watching, and generally just being lazy.  We picked up soccer cleats and shinguards for Jason, who will be playing in his employer’s soccer league this spring.  I love that he’s working for a company that sponsors such cool events for its employees.  It’s so interesting to see how different things are when one is employed by a large company compared with a small company.  I’m not sure whether any of Jason’s previous employers could have fielded ONE soccer team, let alone an entire LEAGUE of teams.

Saturday night was eat-in night with more tv-watching.  Sunday was more of the same – lazy, lazy, lazy.  And then, it was time to start the long drive back.

I left early enough to have dinner with my parents and brother Trevor – the last 2 times I visited, I was only around for a few wakeful hours, so I thought it would be nice to have dinner and real conversations with them.

I made my return trip to MN this morning – tired of driving, sad about missing my husband, and totally anxious about missing work and quitting my job.  But!  We’re here safe and sound, and that is something to be thankful for.

house hunting

April 25, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Posted in Michigan, Moving | 5 Comments

After a second round of house-hunting, Jason’s favorite house is still on the top of the list.

Friday, I went out with our Realtor to see a few more houses – none of which I found too appealing.  One was too far from civilization, another had power lines running through the front yard, a third was too close to a very busy highway, and another was just too big and too new (after rejecting that one, our Realtor pointed out that we are a “unique” couple, looking for a “unique” property.  Which I think was a nice way of saying, “are you kidding me?”).

Saturday morning, J and I both went with the Realtor.  The first house we checked out was so ridiculously awful that it deserves mention.  The house was trashed, and we arrived to find glass from a broken window on the porch and cat vomit in the entryway.  We should have stopped there and turned around.  BUT! we did not.  The rest of the house was a strange mess of overly-ornate crucifixes, religious cartoons on the television, and papers describing child custody proceedings.  The first two would not have been something that bothered me, had it not been so orthogonal from a disturbing and startling piece of equipment in the third bedroom.  A strange apparatus took up most of the third bedroom – at first I thought that it was some sort of exercise equipment… and then I saw the packaging and instruction manual and ran from the house screaming.  Horrified. And since this blog is PG, I totally cannot tell you what it was, but I will let your imagination fill in the blanks, and hope that mind erasing drugs are coming to a pharmacy near me sometime soon.  Awful, awful, horrible, yuck. *shudder*  We later found out that the broken glass from the house was due to an attempted break in shortly before we arrived.  Scary!

So, of course I thought that this charming home sitting on a hill in the middle of 9 acres of woods was fantastic.  It blows the competition out of the water.  By a lot.  Also?  There’s 9 more acres of land directly to the West of the house available for purchase.  But?  It needs some work (of course).  Check it out:

the front of the house

the view from the garage/driveway

the view of the other side of the house

to your left as you enter the house is the dining room – we’d exchange the carpet for wood floors, remove the wallpaper and paint the walls and get a new chandelier

the kitchen is right behind the dining room and could also use some wallpaper removal, new cabinet/drawer handles, and new lighting, but unlike our Minneapolis kitchen, this kitchen actually has a stove!

the living room is to the right as you enter the house, and runs the entire length of the house.  No wallpaper to remove in this room, but we’d eventually like hardwood floors, and maybe a bit of color on the walls.

there’s a small study just off of the living room, which would make a great home office – I’d paint the wood paneling to brighten up the room, remove the tiled ceiling and put in new lighting.

Upstairs, there are 3 decent-sized bedrooms.  Here’s Jason standing in the “master bedroom” which would get new paint and new lighting, and the border would be removed.

A second bedroom.  For some reason, I didn’t get pictures of the third bedroom, but it looks like this except with green paint on the walls.

The basement is fully finished, and features a large rec-room with a woodburning fireplace.  This room would get a much much brighter paint color (white?  very light blue?) to make it feel less dungeon-y.

There was another room in the basement that we could use to house our weight bench, or as a guest room if our upstairs bedrooms are ever filled.

There was also a small “potting shed” off the side of the house.  Jason thought he might be able to add a bar here, but he’s also got some viable bar options in the 3-car garage or huge pole barn.

The back door led out to a three-season porch with a wood-burning stove and a pond/fountain.  Also, check out the view of the back yard – trees forever (and 6 or so acres of those trees will be sold with the house)!

the front yard

the back view of the house, complete with out-of-date and ridiculously large satellite

the pole barn

the loft in the pole barn.  great storage space – or, could be converted into a small apartment for visitors

I also wanted to mention that Barley was along for the ride, and he loves the house, too.  He pranced around the yard like he was the king of the castle, and then settled in some ground cover.

Jason is going to go on additional house-hunting adventures in the upcoming weeks to see if there’s anything better than this little gem.  We’ve been scoping the area – driving around the blocks surrounding the house, investigating the school district, etc, etc.  It appears to be in a great area with high median income and home values compared to some of the other surrounding areas, so I think that is a great sign.  There’s a bit of development going on in the nearby – large, beautiful brand-new homes in well-laid out subdivisions (these houses remind me of my parent’s house, which is wonderful, but I’m just not quite there yet).  However, the blocks surrounding this home are zoned for agriculture, which would make it difficult for a builder to come in and create a new subdivision next door or across the street.

We’re not in a rush to do anything definite on this one – we’re just in investigation mode for now.  We need to pull comparable sales in the area and determine whether the home is appropriately-priced.  Other than that, is there anything we should be asking?  What have we missed?  What do you think of the house?

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