More Warm Fuzzies

I got an email this week from my rock-star mortgage broker/203(k) loan specialist, Don, telling me that not only were we on track to close on September 14, but I am the valedictorian of home buyers.*

*not his actual words

Woot!  On to more pressing things.

My fairy godmother (don’t you have one of those?) tells me Elephant Culo needs shutters.  I think it used to have shutters, and I’m not opposed to going back to shutter land.  But…

  1. What color?
  2. Can you put shutters on the second floor windows that are gabled?  Will that look strange?

I am trying to decide what color I want to pain the front door.  I am a big fan of bright, primary-colored front doors.  You can’t go wrong with a red door, but yellow does have a lot of sunny charm.  And then there is a bright royal blue. Any thoughts on door colors?  The front door faces south-southeast, so it will get a lot of light.  It’s currently black.  Weigh in, folks.

I went to the liquor store earlier this week and picked up some boxes.  I pack slowly and try to weed stuff out as I go.  It’s getting me reflecting on all the moves I’ve done – though, technically, some of these were as a kid and my mom did all the hard work.  But just for fun:

I make my fantastic debut in Sacramento, CA, and from there move to:

  1. Valencia, CA.
  2. Yorba Linda, CA.
  3. Plainsboro, NJ.
  4. Princeton Jct., NC.
  5. Clemson, SC.  (Two dorm rooms in the f*cking shoeboxes in two semesters, but just one mailing address, so I think that might count as just one.)
  6. State College, PA. (West Beaver Ave. – Three addresses in three years at Penn State)
  7. State College, PA (Atherton St. – ugh, the Graduate)
  8. State College, PA (College Avenue above Mr. Charles – best college apartment ever)
  9. Lubbock, TX.
  10. Carrboro, NC.  (This is where the list really gets wacky)
  11. Chapel Hill, NC.
  12. Cary, N.C. (Ugh)
  13. Raleigh, NC.  (Moving back in with mom before law school – fun times.)
  14. Durham, NC (Old West Durham)
  15. Durham ,NC (Burch Ave.)
  16. Durham, NC (Green St.)
  17. Raleigh, NC (current adorable bungalow) (3+ years)
  18. Elephant Culo.

Really looking forward to staying put for a while now!  Although, if I’m anything like my mom, and we know I am, I’ll get the whole house decorated and fixed up, and then I’ll decide to move.  🙂


Math for the Win

Here is another update from 203(k) land, where the paperwork is plentiful and the math is mandatory.

One of the things i have to do to get this loan approved is get my general contractor’s “scope of work” all written up fancy-like, so the FHA knows what we are doing to the house.  Then an appraiser – who is independent, and who I never meet, see, or talk to – takes that paperwork, and takes a look at the house.  Because of his skill and expertise, and also a little bit of voodoo, he is able to create an appraisal that predicts the value of the house after the work is done.  This lets the FHA know they are underwriting a loan that is actually supported by the value of the property.

Now I’m going to dish the dirt on the money, because I think not talking about money just keeps people in the dark.  I want to demystify the process, so here are my numbers.

Purchase price: $105,000  (getting a little cash back at closing, but forget about that for right now)

Cost of renovations: $35,000 (this price plus the purchase price make up the loan amount)

Total Cost of Elephant Culo: $140,000 (plus shipping and handling).
So for this bad boy to be a go, the house has to appraise for better than $140,000, which makes sense, because that’s what the bank and I are paying for the house.  You with me? 
Here is where it gets sexy.
If the appraisal says the house is worth more than $140,000, then the bank is happy because if, God forbid, they end up owning this house, they can be fairly confident they’ll be able to get back the money they have in it.  I am happy, because I am sitting on what is known as equityEquity is the value of your home less what you owe on your home.  It works for cars, too, except cars don’t generally appreciate over time, and homes can. Having equity in your house is awesome because if you sell your house for more than you owe on it, you keep the difference – you MAKE money.  Nice, right? 
Elephant Culo appraised for $165,000.  Booyah, bitches.  On paper, once I close and the work gets done, I’ll be sitting on an additional $25K in equity over and above my downpayment.  Not bad.  Another way of looking at this is that $35,000 of improvements yields $60,000 in value.  Also not bad. 
But it’s not like I’ll have an extra pile of cash in my house.  That value is just on paper, and it’s only this appraiser’s opinion.  It is his opinion based upon his knowledge and the relevant comparable homes in the area, but in reality, the house is worth whatever the next buyer will pay for it.  Still, it’s nice to know that this big ol’ risk is likely to have an immediate payoff, even if it is just a payoff on paper.

Exactly What You Want to Hear

I sent my mortgage broker an email to see if my general contractor had gotten all the information to him that he needed.  This might sound strange to you if you’ve never bought a home using a 203(k) loan, but it’s par for the course for this type of loan.  Really, my mortgage broker is more of a hand-holder and all-around troubleshooter than “just” a mortgage broker.  He’s awesome.  He’s right here.

Oh yeah, I remember what I was saying.  So I send my broker this email, trying to keep tabs on things.  Here is what Don says back to me:


Hi Sarah:  Yes, I received a lot of good information from Steve.  I think you made a great choice with the contractor.  Have a great week and I’ll let you know when we have an update for you.  Thanks!


I smiled from ear to ear.  You’re damn straight I made a great choice with my contractor!  Shout out to Steve Sypher.  Now I can hurry up and wait for closing to get here, or at least wait for the next request for documents explaining who knows what to the  people with the bags of money.  24 more days.

Kitchen Colors

1.  Walls are going to be Agreeable Gray by Sherwin Williams.

2.  There will be pops of red all over, like from my KitchenAid Mixer, Gertrude, and from curtains that might end up looking like the fabric below.

3.  Finding the right shade of turquoise is going to be hard, so I’ve ordered a swatch of that fabric.  I think color-matching it is way easier than getting cross-eyed staring at paint chips in the store.  I did find this image on the web, though, that makes me think that Tantalizing Teal by Sherwin Williams might be a close match.

She even calls it a 1960s aqua color.  That’s about right.   And here it is in a kitchen as a wall color.  No sleeping in this joint!

I am so in love with this color scheme I want to marry it and have 10,000 of its babies like I’m Charlotte living in a web in a barn with a pig, y’all!

4.  I’m getting rid of this bookcase, which has served me well.  It’s not the bookcase, it’s me.  I have lots of built in storage in the new place, and lots of smaller bookcases that I’d like to keep rather than this ginormous one.  Are you the next owner of this piece?  Let me know!

Click the photo to go to the Craigslist ad with a few more pictures.


T-31 Days

Closing is scheduled for a month from Tuesday.    I’m going with Steve Sypher Designs for my general contractor.  I’d give you a link, but I don’t think he has a website.  He’s awesome, though.  Steve lives in the ‘hood, has done lots of work all over the place, including at Tracy & Kim’s gorgeous home.  As an aside, Tracy & Kim’s gorgeous home on the interwebs is Ingeniously Created, where they sell beautiful letterpress cards. Steve’s wife, Graham Williams, is an Iyengar-certified yoga teacher.  As long as I’m giving out link-love, you should check her out, too!

In other news, I love Facebook.  Maybe that’s not really news at all.  I love it because it’s allowed me to stay in touch with my friend Sue, who happens to be my friend Brantlee’s stepmom.  She was out shopping and spotted someone who she knew was just destined to be a future resident of Casa Elephant Culo:

Peanut!  How sweet is Sue?  I am so touched by her kindness. Peanut the Elephant is settling in here in the Dennis Avenue house just fine, by the way.

In other news, I’m considering the merits of various colors of granite counter tops.  I like how white stone looks, but I’m worried that I’ll stain the heck out of it.  What do you guys think?  I’m also on the hunt for a pendant light for over the kitchen sink.  Here is a picture of some of my kitchen inspiration:

Turquoise, baby, turquoise! And punches of red.  I die.

This is really happening.

I put up on Facebook the other day that I was kind of startled by the realization that, once this home purchase goes through, I will be the owner of three toilets.  THREE TOILETS!  Isn’t that wild?  Me!  An owner of multiple toilets, hooked up to plumbing and everything.  Not like the toilet I own now, which is in my backyard and is a planter for irises and morning glories.

As far as picking a general contractor goes, I’ve received two out of three estimates.  I’m sure I’m going with contractor #3, but I’m still waiting on contractor #2 to get his arse together and send me his numbers.  I want to see what he comes up with.  He has continued to be generally disagreeable and We are not amused.  Ahem.  More to come on that.

Also disagreeable is a gentleman named Lenny who works at the Capital Blvd. H.H. Gregg.  I went up there because my awesome agent, Mary Brett, gave me a certificate that entitled me to a discount.  SQUEE DISCOUNT!  The salesperson I met with was named Lenny, and he made the discount not really worth that much to me.  Why, why, WHY do men still call women “doll” and “baby”when women are making major purchases?  I don’t get it.  I was extremely patient, until I couldn’t be any more, and then I was extremely sarcastic.  Neither made any impact on him.  I considered ripping into him, but I was late for another appointment (shocking!) and I thought he was unlikely to have an awakening if I ranted at him.

Other strikes against Lenny: he had never heard of a 203(k) loan; he was unable to confirm to me that the prices he quoted me would be good six weeks from now; and he wouldn’t put the rebate that he assured me I’d be able to get on the list of prices he did give me.  So his quote was pretty close to . . . worthless.  But as I left, he said, “Hon, be sure to ask for me when you come back.  I work on commission.”  Oh really?  <blink, blink>  I had no idea.

Then I went to see Rob at Garner TV & Appliance down in Garner.  Rob is my new BFF.  He can come over for dinner and tv watching when the house is ready to go.  He listened to what I wanted, which was pretty easy since I had done the research and new what was important to me, and then tapped away at his keyboard, came up with a price, and toured me around the store to show me the options.  He is a WINNER WINNER chicken dinner.  If you need a mattress or home appliances or a new big screen, please go see Rob at Garner TV!  It would be a lovely way of saying “up yours” to Lenny, who, as we all know, works on commission.  Plus, Garner TV & Appliance is locally owned.  Bonus.

There are a gazillion options for all of these appliances, but my budget takes a lot of them away.  Even though the options aren’t all available to me, it seems to me like there really are a lot of unnecessary choices.  I don’t need a whole lot from a stove, for instance.  Will it get things hot?  Is there a timer?  Is it self-cleaning?  Does it come in black and in a size that fits in my house?  Yes?  Then I don’t much care about anything else.  I do want a smooth top, but that’s it.  Reducing these decisions down helped me a lot.  A fridge and a freezer got to keep my food cold.  I hate the kind with split doors, and I can’t afford the French door or freezer on the bottoms.  I don’t need a water dispenser, ice maker, or tax preparation software.  Microwave?  Does it nuke things?  Awesome.  Let’s move on to where the magic really happens: the dishwasher.

The one thing I did have strong feelings about was my dishwasher.  I mean, I ask a lot of my dishwashers because I actually cook a fair amount.  It is my favorite first world appliance.  (Close second is the washing machine.)  So I wanted to get a well-made dishwasher with a stainless steel interior, because I hear those are the bee’s knees.  I wanted a brand with a reputation for quality.  Well feast your eyes on this little beauty:

He is a Bosch Built In Dishwasher, model no. SHE3ARL6UC.  He’s handsome, isn’t he?  I think I’ll name him Dexter, because he’ll take care of all of my unsightly messes.  Mwah ha ha ha ha.

Kitchen Inspiration


On Monday, my awesome buyer’s agent showed up with this little number.  She brought it as kitchen inspiration after reading my last post.  Don’t you just love it?


Kitchen inspiration – teal dutch oven. Love.

Nice shot of the kitchen counters as they currently are.  I need to take a better shot so you can see the edging – they look a little DIYed.  Even better, Mary Brett had bought me a diet Coke and it was tucked inside that baby.  She knows me so well!

Contractor #3 was delightful, and I knew he would be because he is married to a dear friend and came highly recommended.  I just hope that in addition to being delightful, he is a magical budget-stretching renovation genie, because it turns out the leak from the master bathroom’s shower stall isn’t just the drain ($), but is in fact the shower pan ($$$).

Fingers crossed, and if anyone sees a magic lamp, rub it for Casa Elephant Culo.  She needs some good luck!