Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Demo Begins

The weather was so cold and it gets really windy up on the ridge so we could not do much.  We had no heat because the propane tanks were dead empty, we had no water, because the company that winterized the place did not empty the pump tank at all so it froze.  The windows which we thought were Anderson, were really Peachtree, a now closed company that offered no parts or replacement windows.  The apartment windows were really bad, some didn’t shut and were duct taped to keep the wind out.  So we went looking for windows to order.  We went to Home Depot and found a wonderful guy named Jeff Kramer,or Kramer for short, who came to the house to help us decide what to get and measure.  Because the windows where very tall they were close to the floor.  Now the code says up to a certain height the window has to be tempered, which is very expensive.  We decided to do two windows to save costs, a solid tempered window at the bottom and a nice regular glass wind out Anderson window on top.  That would take about 6 weeks.  Deciding on a color was a long process.  We decided to have the outside match the garage door color.  We ordered a dumpster and hired a contractor to totally gut the apartment so we could start redesigning the place.  He took 2 days but did a great job and it was totally gutted including the bad leaking drywall.  The roofer came that Monday after we settled.  He had a crew of 10 men and they worked very fast.  We replaced 9 of the 11 skylights and closed up 3.  It was overkill in that house.  The roofer pulled off all the gutters so we could paint behind them.  I had such a hard time deciding on colors of the house.  Its such a big decision and of course has lasting effects, we are stuck pretty much forever with the color.  We decided to repair most of the outside board and batten siding because siding the whole house we could not afford yet.

I have a great plumber, Dave Judd, who is also a friend I knew from my Ferguson Days.  He knew an electrician, who actually turned out to also work for my  main contractor, so everyone knew everyone and I felt safe letting them come into the house when I was not there. That makes such a big difference when remodeling.  After going back and forth with Dominion Power convincing them I had two power boxes, they finally turned power on to both parts of the house.  The electrical panel in the garage had somehow sometime gotten wet and all the circuits were corroded.  Ross, my electrician had to come change that out and move some switches in the apartment.  Dave moved all the plumbing around in the bathroom for us and moved the washer/ dryer into the next room, I hated it being in the bathroom.  We added doors and took other doors away,  reframed and started in on the drywall damage and fixed it up.  I never realized how everything worked together and what contractor had to come in and when, but I know now!

In between all that I had to get estimates for tile and wood floors, painters, decided what trim I wanted and order that, and decide lighting, cabinets for the bath and kitchen, appliances, and all the paint colors in and out.  I was up alot of nights and early mornings going over everything in my mind.   We were going to add a shower pan to the bathroom, the first one was warped, after ordering a new one, that one was cracked.  I hope the third one is perfect.  That held up the bathroom cause you can’t drywall until that is in.


dumpster for the gutting




kitchen is gutted


drywall repair in the apt


apt bath torn up


Meanwhile, I wondered about our septic field and tank.  I had no record that it was ever pumped out.  I had Stewarts Septic come out one cold day and see if he could find it.  I had somewhat of an idea from the town records that it was 50 feet off the main house and then there were cleanouts every 25 feet down the slope to the field.  There were 2 visible cleanouts by the house, but where they led we could not tell.  We did not have a concrete lid on the tank, no that would have been too easy.  After an hour in the bitter windy cold I told the guy forget it, come back when the weather was better.  He had a long metal pole he stuck all over the ground looking for the tank.  He came back 2 weeks later with a bigger crew.  We called the county again cause we still could not find it.  Someone finally found the permit for the septic field and said it was 66 feet off the main house.  They sent for a camera snake they were going to snake down one of the cleanouts to find the tank.  When they arrived, the battery was dead so they had to let it charge first.  One of the old timers came along.  Thankfully, they never ended up using the snake which would have cost more money.  He found the tank right away just by looking at the topography.  They dug it up and it was quite full.  Disgusting.  The truck had to go empty and come back again and pump more.  I guess it had never been emptied, I am glad it never backed up into the house. They put a cement riser on it for next time.  Just more money…

Had to fight Southern States over the propane tanks, first they didn’t believe I had two sets, two on the apt side and one big one on the other side.  Their records said it was buried.  They didn’t think I knew what I was talking about.  Good Old Boys didn’t think the little lady knew about propane.  They actually came out to verify!  Then they told me I had to fill them all up and get an inspection for more money since they owned the tanks. And I had to be on an automatic fill plan, so even if I didn’t use much they had to charge me.  I didn’t really want them filled, I am hoping to get one big one and bury it maybe by next winter.  That way I own it and decide when its filled and who fills it.  I convinced them to just fill the small ones on the apartment side.  They said they would give me 6 months on the big tank to decide. Since it was a foreclosure. They had pity I guess after they saw the house.   The poor contractors working on the inside house were so cold and the drywall was having a hard time drying.  After I got the propane it starting getting warm out.  Figures.  I never had to turn the heat on after all.

Another issue was the crawlspace in the main house.  Not only did it still creep me out, it had water in it  and the house was uneven like it was sinking.  I had a basement crawlspace expert Aquaduct come in and evaluate it.  I got him from  Home Advisor.  He was a nice guy, was not afraid to go down there and mapped out the whole area and told me what was needed. Thankfully there were no rotten beams from standing water, the house was well built.  There was a main beam running thru the house that had steel poles holding it up. They were on concrete but were sitting in water and were rusting.  He suggested drying out the space with 2 sump pumps and a dehumidifier then adding new poles, jacking up the floor there and then replacing the old ones.  Sounded alot like what my dad had said.  It was a two step process and was alot of money.  They had to dig a trench around the whole space (there were actually three seprate crawl spaces) and add pipe and rocks and get all the water to flow into the pumps. Then they would encapsulate it so it stayed dry.  Lastly they would replace all the insulation under the floor that had gotten moist and wet.  Mark said worth every penny that was hard disgusting work. So we hired him.

After gutting the apartment, I saw two dead mice.  I knew the place had been infested. Dave said in the country, you either have black snakes or mice.  You want the snakes. I didn’t care for either really.  I called Cropp Metcalfe, we love the owner Tim and his wife Leslie, they are such down to earth people. The technician came out right away to assess my pest control needs.  First he sprayed inside and out, had to fill his tank up twice.  I figured get the heavy duty inside now because after we moved in I wasn’t going to do that anymore.  I had those hopping crickets bugs in the crawlspace, I hate those things, they love wet places.  My technician said he hurt his wrist so he couldn’t get down there.  Ha ha I don’t blame him.  He set 28 mouse traps through out the house. I hoped Boo my dog didn’t get snapped cause he put peanut butter on all of them.  He told me that mice didn’t like to live in empty houses.  They would probably come back after we moved in.  Great news! My cat would love that!  He was there about 2 hours, he also knocked down all the wasp nests and mud dauber nests that covered the house. He filled the mice bait houses the original owner had on the outside.   He told me another technician would come back in a few days to get the crawlspace and get the traps.  Not one trap caught a mouse.  But the next technician didn’t want to go in the crawlspace either.  I told him it was okay, he could wait until the crawlspace was fixed.

Every day was a challenge.  I still had no water or toilets, The pump room had to be totally reconfigured.  The winterizer folks had not emptied anything and with no heat everything had froze.  We had our water tested in the meantime to find out what kind of water treatment we would need to buy.  If there was iron or it was hard, we would have to get a softener so the pipes wouldn’t get corroded over time and spring leaks.  We were basically rebuilding the house from the ground up.  These were all basic things that needed to be done so I could apply for a mortgage and get an appraiser in there so we could get some money out of the property to fix what else we were bound to find!


Looking for my septic tank





The final week

The day after we closed on our family home of 20 years, we decided to go look at another property, in case the foreclosure fell through.  There was a house up on Mt Gilead that looked interesting, private, and had another house already built on the property for their mother.  The house was dated, small, and had an incredible horse barn and facility, if we were into horses.  The mother’s cottage was bigger than the main house. the houses looked very nicely kept, but it was all in the woods and was very expensive.  It made the price we were going to pay for the house seem not so bad.  On the way back, we went by the house again.  Someone drove up when we happened to be there.  He said the bank hired him to appraise the place.  That confused us as to why they needed that.  He  said sometimes the bank wants another opinion from an appraiser to make sure they are not giving the house away. If he appraised it high, they might boot our contract out and try to sell it for more.  That could be an explanation as to why they took the time and effort to kick the owner out.  Maybe they were hoping to sell it for more with him out.  Either that or, since the owner owed so much more than we paid, maybe they needed reassurance  that they got the very most they could from the property.  We made sure we followed him around and showed him all the defects.  It was sort of depressing all the things we were able to point out!  He thought we paid too much, which was also depressing.  We made sure the curtains were closed so he couldn’t see the view. That would have increased the value significantly!  Mark still says we paid for a piece of land with dump on it.  Some people said maybe we should just knock it down and start over.  Sometimes renovations turn out to be more expensive.  The jury is still out about that.

Looking back now on all the emails that were exchanged the week of Feb 1st, I cant believe we were able to settle.  The listing agent sent email after email asking where all the paperwork was from the bank attorney.  The bank attorney asked us for payment to send them to us! That was ridiculous.  I just said whatever, I would pay the $60 just send them already.  Jaime, my title attorney finally received them the Tuesday before we were supposed to close that Friday.  She quickly looked through them and said everything was in order.  She asked the bank attorney to send the deed for us to look at.  They asked HER to create it!  She said she was never asked to do something like that, however it was in my best interest she write it so nothing is left out and it’s all secure.  She typed it up and sent it to them to sign.  Getting the correct HUD from them was another issue.  They forgot to put my commission in there (I got a big 1% back), and had me paying the buyers premium twice (of about 23k), it went back and forth for days.  Lastly, I needed Home Owners Association documents, no one knew if there were any, the listing agent said they didn’t exist, but I knew they had some kind of neighborhood board because the neighbors were saying how behind in dues the owner was.  There were no formal documents, and I asked my title attorney if we could just forget it.  She said the title company would not provide  me title insurance  unless we had it documented there was no association.  I found out there was some ancient agreement between the original owners that started the neighborhood, so I just added my signature to the end of the document.  Then I called the treasurer and asked how behind the owner was.  She said about $600.  I had to add that to my bottom line, because the bank refused to pay them.  I felt like the bank was trying very hard for me to say “I quit!”.  They asked me to extend settlement once more to the following Tuesday.  I really had no choice because the signed deed had not been returned. At this point, we had really complied with all their requests so we figured we would close.  Mark booked the roofer, yes, he put money down on a roof for a house we didn’t own yet. That was a little stressful, but the roofer was a week out and with weather unpredictable we had to get in line.  Mark could be at the closing if it happened on Monday.  He had to travel Tuesday, so if we settled on that day, I would need a power of attorney and just sign his name for him.  Another $100 down the drain to have that drawn up.  We also had a landscaper lined up to decimate the landscaping all around the house and take care of all the dead trees that were standing and laying all over the property.  Bobby also agreed to take away the hot tub that was sitting on a deck out front.

Monday came, and we were still waiting on the final HUD statement to be approved.  I wondered who was paying the county property tax from Jan 1 to Feb 9, the bank owned it at the time and it was their fault we had not settled.  I made one ditch effort to ask for that amount to be credited to me.  No such luck.  Finally, Tuesday, February 9, at 3:30, we settled on the house we were trying to buy for 4 months.  And the original contract said we had to settle in 2 weeks!   It was just Jaime and I, I had to sign for Mark, and when I was finished signing I called the listing agent and told her we had finished signing the papers, maybe now I could have the keys?  She told me to use the ones that were in the lockbox on the front door, that was all she had.  I really had no emotion, I was not looking forward to all the things that needed to be done to the house, nor was I that happy we had gotten it.  It is still taking me time to say I even like the house.  I was thankful we had sold our old home, and the timing had worked out. I just asked the Lord to keep directing us in the right direction and give us the strength to carry it through.  Then I ran to the Garage Door Company and ordered our doors.  The garage doors were crumbling and anyone could crawl through and get into the house. It would take 4 weeks to get them.  I also called Bobby the landscaper and had him come the next day with his crew.  Then I called Mark and told him the good news.  We owned a nice piece of property with a money pit on it. There was so much to get done so we could move in the end of April.

The next day was bitter cold, it didn’t get above 32 degrees. Bobby brought a huge crew and they got started right away.  It took three days to get everything down, chip it up and churn up the roots.  The house looked so different with everything cut away.  It had to be done, there were vines growing thru the windows into the curtain linings!  We were blessed to get this house in the dead of winter when the weeds were all dead, and the bugs too.  Because the ground was so frozen, the truck was able to get around back and chip up those huge pine trees.  If it had been spring, it would have cost more to haul all the stuff around front.  Mark and I came back that night to meet with the Bobby and pay him.  I noticed that all my beautiful blue clay pots were missing.  Someone had taken them all, and left the others!  I guess they thought the original owner and they were there for the taking!  We walked around back and noticed the heat pump was on.  Mark remembered turning all of them off, since the owner had left our propane tank pretty much bone dry.  We went into the house and someone had turned the heat on.  When our landscaper showed up, we asked him if anyone had been there.  He said yes, there was a couple and their dog in a BMW with West Virginia tags that had come up and asked who was in charge.  Bobby said he was, and they said okay.  They were in the house for at least an hour, he said.  He was not sure how they got in there but they acted like they knew what they were doing!  He thought they were relatives or something or ours.  I had a scare that maybe the original owner had sold the place to them while the bank was selling the place to us.  It freaked me out really.  What if it was the original owner, maybe there to cause trouble, or burn the place down? (Well that might be okay, actually).  We alerted all the neighbors to look for strange cars that might show up and posted signs all over saying the place was privately owned and No Trespassing.  That really didn’t stop anyone.  When we were there over the weekend several people just drove right up into the driveway to take a look.  It was still listed on Zillow as being for sale and a foreclosure.   Darn that Zillow.  I called them right away on Monday and told them to pull it off immediately, people were breaking in to see the place and stealing things.  They were surprisingly very quick to do it.  No one has come up there since!

Now it was time to get all the estimates from everyone and decide what needed to be done in what order.  Mark was really slammed at work as usual so it all fell on me.  I was the GC because we couldn’t afford to hire one.  I didn’t really want the job but there was no one else to do it.  Now that we owned the house, it was time to get a mortgage and get some of our cash back out of it to make repairs.   I called BB&T cause they were so good at helping me through all the financing to get the place and I had several prior mortgages with them.  The mortgage guy said “Didn’t you know about the Fannie Mae rule that if you buy a property for cash, you can’t get a mortgage for 6 months?”  He told me to call him in August.  I could not believe no one told me that rule.  Even as BB&T was helping me through all the money gathering, they didn’t bother to inform me of this tiny little fact. Now I was a GC that had limited amount of funds to work with.  We decided to fix up the garage apartment first. Then move in and live like paupers until August.  The sooner we moved in, we could stop paying rent.  I made a long list of every kind of contractor we needed and got started.


After all the landscaping taken out


Before: view from back with trees


after the trees are gone


Back porch before the landscaper


after all the trees taken out


Hot tub gone!


finally can see the deck



Moving day…


apartment over the garage


The house was so overgrown with trees and bushes


my creepy crawlspace entrance in the hall closet

The weekend of January 22 brought 39 inches of snow to Leesburg.  A few days before, I scrambled to get rid of as much stuff as I could.  I could not sell my dining room table and chairs so I brought it over to my friend Gretchen’s basement (thanks Gretchen!).  We took all my pottery and dumped it in the chain link fence area of the foreclosure.  I figured if we ended up buying it they would be under the snow there and if we didn’t I could always go get them later.  I had already asked the bank if I could drop a pod up in the driveway but they didn’t allow it. I understood their reasoning they didnt want to be liable for anything getting stolen.  I realized how right they were later.   I told the bank they better get out there and secure the leaking parts of the roof with all that snow coming they said they would.  Mark happened to be out there that Thursday and some guy came that didn’t speak English and didn’t even have a ladder.  He didn’t put anything on the roof.  I called the realtor back and told her the guy they hired was incompetent.  They promised they would send someone else.

I was scheduled to move the following Monday, and close the following Friday.  I can’t believe God sent so much snow!  However, it had good and bad timing.  We had scheduled my son’s wisdom teeth to come out that Friday, I figured he was young enough to bounce back and help us move that Monday after a weekend of rest.  There were no other weekends available when we booked it in December, but they had to come out, there were 5 of them and they were causing him pain.  I didn’t know we were going to have so much snow, and he could not help us shovel the whole weekend!  We were so exhausted, we had to shovel a path around the back of the house to the walk-up so the movers could get some big items out from the basement.  The walk up took forever to shovel out.  Then the snow fell off the roof and we had to shovel it again.  It was waist high snow and there was no place to put it all!  But we had to make a path for the movers.  Being snowed in meant Mark could not get to work, so that gave him time to pack things too, in between shoveling.

The plow did not come up our street until Monday.  Obviously, our movers didn’t come.  We also had no trash service and we had alot of trash.  We had a special pick up scheduled for an old kitchen table and a queen mattress set.  They said they weren’t coming.  I was supposed to secure the apartment that Monday too, so we could start moving stuff over.  They did give us a few extra days, but I kept thinking everything was going to happen all at once at the end of the week.  I called my new buyer to see if he was able to move.  Of course he thought he was going to be okay.  So we could not extend closing.   The mover thought he might be able to get one of his trucks out by Tuesday, but we were concerned about the storage unit because there was a sharp turn the truck would have to go down and around.  Thats all I need is to have all my stuff go over a cliff.  I called the storage unit on Tuesday and they said they had only plowed a path and there was no where to put the snow so the units were snowed in.  So we decided to move our stuff to the apartment on Wednesday and then the house on Thursday, the day before settlement.  Not a good scenario for me but what could I do?

I had to have a certified check to move in to the apartment.  I went by BB&T and they were not plowed out and they were closed! I started panicking, where was I supposed to get a certified check?  I ran to the apartment office and they said they had to have a certified check, but I could go to Walmart, they would do a money order.  Never knew that.  I ran there and sure enough, they can cut money orders off your ATM card in $1000 increments for 70 cents each!  Ha that was cheaper than my bank would charge.  I ran the money orders back to the apartment and got the keys.  The movers were already at the house loading the stuff we would bring to the apartment.  The next day they we were hoping to bring the rest of the stuff to storage.  We moved in to the apartment on Wednesday. The hardest part about the apartment was our old dog Boo.  He hated being on leash and hated the elevator, he kept shaking and putting on the brakes to get in.  Guess it made his stomach jump.  I hated the fact we couldn’t just let him out the back door to go out.  Plus he drinks sooooo much and has to go out all the time.  Ugh.

That night in the apartment the plows were going all night long moving snow so we barely slept.  I missed my quiet house.  Mark and I both questioned our decision.  But it was too late to turn back.  I just kept telling myself the Lord sold our house quickly, He knows where we will end up.  After the move I was going to push that bank hard to make a decision.

The next morning, Mark ran to the storage unit to make sure it was shoveled out for the movers to get in.  I ran to the house to let the movers in.  They moved while I cleaned, and cleaned and cleaned.  I wish I had hired a cleaner but the timing was so tight I was literally cleaning as they moved stuff out of rooms.  Mark realized at the first trip to storage we were not going to have a big enough storage unit.  I had to rent another one, and that one ended up being filled too.  Luckily Justin and his buddies had the whole week off because of the snow, I could not have done it without them.  They loaded up our trailer and took all the trash and items to the County Dump.  They made a bunch of trips. They took items to storage and donation, it was great having some gophers.  The last of the house stuff was moved late Thursday night.  The garage still had things in it.  We asked the buyer to walk thru Friday morning, and we would settle and come back and finish with the garage.  It was cutting it so close!  He was very understanding.  They had all their stuff loaded on trucks and were sleeping in a hotel.  Their settlement was at 9 AM Friday and ours was 11 AM,  he came at 7 AM to do the walk through.

All went smoothly at walk thru, the house did not look too bad with all the furniture and pictures down, I mean its looks so much bigger empty you don’t notice all the small flaws like picture holes, etc.  It was certainly clean I know that!  Of course our rotten garage doors started acting up.  I told the buyer I would have a repair guy come by and grease it up.  I also never had time to take the windows down for glass replacement.  I was going to have to pay to have them come to the house and do it.  Not cheap. But we sold our house in record time and had the money in the bank for the next house, wherever that would be.

We loaded up our trailer with whatever was left in the garage.  Our new neighbor at the foreclosure told us we could park our trailer in his yard until we settled on the foreclosure.  However, with all that snow he didn’t have any room.  We had to park our trailer at the house under the portico and hope for the best.  We locked it up and hoped the bank didn’t say anything.  Now we were settling into our apartment, all our possessions were in Cube Smart and it was time to push that bank to get moving.   The roof of the house was totally covered with snow and I was hoping it didnt cave in, the bank would have to file and claim and it would take forever.  I called the listing agent she said the roof was covered, a guy had come out the Friday of the storm and had done it in the blizzard.  That turned out to be not true.  The house started leaking as soon as the snow started melting.  Mark and I put buckets out to catch the water.   We were sure the crawlspace was filling up since there was no one there to pull the snow away from the house.  The gutters were clogged or missing. The bank didn’t care.  We  were buying it as-is, that’s what the contract stated!   I was scheduled to close in one week.  We told the bank there would be no more extensions, they had to close by the following Friday.  We were not sure if we were bluffing or not.  I mean, we had come this far how much longer were we going to wait?  We decided to look around for houses on the market in case the bank could not get its act together.