Sunday, July 31, 2011

Let the Packing Begin!

We've been packing things up little by little for the last several months, but honestly, Scoob has been doing most of it. I finally feel like I made a dent in the packing that I've needed to do. Today, Scoob helped me take my mini-grandfather clock down from the wall. I dusted it (oh my god, the dust!) and packed it up while Scoob wrestled with the massive nail we had pounded into the wall to support it. The nail nearly won. We broke two hammers on it and Scoob finally got it out of the wall with pliers.

Of course, now we've realized we're out of spackle/putty, so I'll stop at Lowe's on my way home from work Monday to get some (and a replacement hammer). I also got a bunch of books (where do they keep coming from?!) and odds and ends packed up. I feel good, if hot and sweaty.

Now I'm washing sleeping bags for next week. I'll be making the annual August trip to Idaho with my dad, step-mom and sister in a week and either sis or I (or both) will probably end up sleeping on the floor, so I figured I had better wash the bags since they've been stowed away in the garage since our last camping trip a couple years ago.

I wasn't sure if I had enough vacation time left, but it turns out I have just over 2 full weeks of paid time off left, which should be just enough—1 week for Idaho, and 1  week to drive out to North Carolina. I'm actually pretty excited I can make the trip this year. I'll get to see dad, step-mom, and sister again, and I'll get to see mom one more time (she lives near where I'll be meeting up with the others), and I'll get to visit my dad's parents and siblings again before we leave. I don't know what next August will look like for travel, so I'm very glad I get to go this year.

Last weekend Scoob and I went to REI and I bought a rooftop cargo carrier for Roo. Since I'm all but 100% convinced we'll be driving Roo to North Carolina, I thought a rooftop cargo box would help make the drive more comfortable by getting some things up onto the roof so we're not just jammed into the car with the cats. Then, I thought, we'll I might as well get it now so we can use for the Idaho trip. And there you go. We'll probably use it again for camping or whatever, so I don't really feel like it's a moving expense, thought it will help with the moving.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Property Management Primer

Today I started my research about what to look for (and look out for) when hiring a property manager and other interesting information about being a landlord. For example, the property manager's fee is probably tax deductible, as are the expenses for maintenance and repairs, property taxes and insurance, and travel expenses to periodically inspect the property.

So hey, renting the condo might end up being a better thing all around than we originally anticipated.

I also learned what to expect in service levels and what is considered a competitive fee and a set of pretty good questions to ask property managers during the interview process. And some really good, but complicated questions here. (These questions make me feel sneaky, though. If I've got to come up with convoluted questions to figure out honest answers, I should probably just move on to the next company.) And some important things to make sure we get into the Property Management Agreement before we sign anything.

And some good advice regarding tenant selection that we hadn't considered before. Initially I thought we'd have the property manager handle everything when it came to finding and selecting a tenant, now I'm think we'll come up with a list of base criteria for any potential tenants that the property manager will use to screen applicants and we'll have final approval.

I've also realized we need to start interviewing property managers, like, last month. I don't think I know anyone locally that uses a property manager so I don't really have a list of referrals to start with, and it's a fairly large pool of potential property managers to begin sifting through.

It has occurred to me that we could possibly use the same property management company that our HOA here uses. It might help streamline things. Then again, we haven't exactly been thrilled with how we've been treated by them and I expect that's how a tenant would feel about them, too.

But, I do believe that's my next step—contact our current property management group. If there are any special or specific requirements we need to meet when renting our unit, it'll be better to know that up front.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Facts, Figures & Decisions

Today was the last day for getting into the office early this week, and naturally, I'm a bit tired. So this morning as I'm getting ready for work I get an email saying there's something wrong with the granite for the kitchen and we need to change the size of the kitchen island and I need to make a decision and call the vendor TODAY.

It seems there is some very deep scratching on the granite slab and we'll need to trim the counter overhang for the seating area by 4" to avoid it. The email made the issue sound so much more dreadful than it was; it was an oversized island counter to begin with, so trimming off 4" will still leave us with generous surface area.

We should expect the counters to be installed on Monday or Tuesday next week. I must have misunderstood the builder the other morning when I thought they were being stalled this week. I tell you, the 6:30–7:30am hour is not a good time for me to be making important phone calls.

Thankfully, the rest of the day has been fairly mellow (except the regular elevated noise levels in the neighborhood). I got lots done at the office today, stopped at the produce stand on my way home from a half-day of work (LOVE summer work hours), and got a couple quotes for how much renting a moving truck and driving it ourselves would be.

The Penske website seemed to be pretty thorough in helping me decide what size truck and equipment we might need, so I'll use those numbers for my budgeting. Even though we could probably fit everything into a 12' truck the cross-country one-way rental for the 16' truck is the same rate, so if we go with this option I'll use the 16' truck.

Actually I'm a little torn here. On the one hand, the 16' truck would help ease some stress with regard to having enough space. On the other hand, if we know we're getting a larger truck, we might be less motivated to get rid of things before we move. And there are some things in this house I've been waiting years for the right moment to get rid of.

Well, that doesn't sound right. I haven't been waiting for the right moment to get rid of these items—if it were up to me, we would have bid farewell to them long before now. It's been more about waiting for the right moment to gently nudge someone else into getting rid of some things. *ahem*

So yeah, I still want to place a premium on getting rid of all our second- and third-generation hand-me-downs (most are gone, but there are a few hangers on) and the "assembly required" furniture that has seen better times.

Anyhow. The trucks. So given the choice, at the same cost I'd probably get the 16' truck. It'll cost roughly $1800 for cross-country one-way rental and includes unlimited mileage. The truck gets 6–10 miles to the gallon, so we should plan $1,100–1,800 for fuel. So, we're looking at $2,900–3,800 to drive the truck ourselves.

Now, the 16' truck is also capable of towing Roo, which would put the cats up in the cab with us. I honestly don't think there's enough room in the cab to pursue that option, but space issues for the cats aside, the math just doesn't really hold either.

The cost to rent the car carrier (can't use a car dolly with an all-wheel drive car) was about $400. The other day I calculated that if we drive Roo, gas will be about $400; so that's a wash as far as expenses go. But towing Roo would add to the load on the truck engine and we'd see an increase in fuel costs there. And then you've also got the added stress of pulling a trailer, which isn't so bad if you're just driving, but when we've got to navigate cities/towns and pull in and out of parking lots, neither one of us will like being behind the wheel.

About the only real benefit is in not putting the miles on Roo. So if we do end up driving a moving truck, we'll also be driving Roo.

Now, the overall cost of the truck was about what I had anticipated spending to get our things to North Carolina. And it's actually not far off from the $2,800–3,100 quotes for moving containers I got a week ago. All things considered, if they really are priced comparably, the containers seem like the better option to me. At least the less headache inducing option.

Based on what I've learned so far, I think we'll be using a moving container company and driving Roo. I'll need to dig a little more into the container companies. I could still change my mind. Say, if we can't find a reputable container company in that price range. If it turns out that the "good" companies are in the $5,800–6,000 range, like PODS, then we'll rent a truck.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

…Early to Rise

We're doing some mandatory training at the office this week and I have to be at work by 9:00 am every day. I know. Life's rough right? But I normally get into the office around 10:00–10:30 and get to avoid the morning (and evening) rush hours. So this week I've been mastering "Early to Rise."

Unfortunately, I've never quite gotten the hang of "Early to Bed," so as the week moves on, I'm getting more tired.

So, while I'm half asleep and barricaded in the conference room for training,the half of the half-brain that's awake is also trying to coordinate for the annual family Idaho road trip, thinking about the house, thinking about moving expenses, trying to figure out how to go about finding a property manager, trying to decide whether Roo will need another oil change before we leave in a couple weeks, trying to figure if Roo will need an oil change while we're on the trip.

Yeah. Distracted. I'm starting to wonder how much of this training I'm going to retain.

I did speak with the builder this morning before work about the laundry room sink, though. I'm not quite sure what I agreed to with regard to the sink, but I did learn that the kitchen appliances arrived on time, the wine refrigerator finally arrived (after they missed and rescheduled the delivery 4 times), the kitchen cabinets finished installing today, and the granite is going on tomorrow. Hope to have more pictures soon.

But now dinner is ready, and if I'm ever going to be early to bed, I'd better get to it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Citizen Wayward

I had a jury summons for today, so I was able to work from home as I waited to find out whether I needed to report to a courthouse, but I didn't. And now, my final civic duty as a resident of the state of California is complete. I cannot be called for jury duty again, and we'll be long gone by the time November elections roll around.

* ☼—grin—☼ *

I'm sorry. Was I gloating?  Heh.

I can't help it, we're about 3 away months from our move-in date and I'm getting more excited by the day.

Since I was working from home, I took the opportunity to make a few calls I wouldn't have been able to make from the office. I started calling around for RV rentals. I am looking for:

One-way rental.
Allows pets.
Towing capacity for Roo.

All of the RV rental websites I looked at do not provide online quotes for one-way rentals, so I needed to call. It took calls to 4 rental businesses to find one with a one-way, pet-friendly rental available and a towing capacity of 2,000 lbs. Too bad Roo weighs 3500+.

But talking to the rep at least let me start building out more numbers for the moving budget. Between a 5-day rental, and mileage and one-way drop off fees we'd be looking at around $1,000. Plus $2,000 in deposit money ($1,000 for the RV, $1,000 for the pets). The RV gets 10 MPG, it's roughly 2,800 miles door-to-door, so at current gas prices we'll need to set aside at least $1,100 for fuel. Even more if we're towing.

Okay, at least $2,100, with another $2,000 up in the air for deposits.

But the chances of finding an RV available with one-way rental that allows pets AND can tow Roo are shaping up to be slim to none. So, shipping Roo with an auto transport service would run another $1,000.

Alright. Now it's $3,100, with $2,000 in deposits. 

Yowza. Ooookay.

The other option, driving the car, is now looking much more attractive. Roo has been getting 27 MPG, which brings the fuel expense down to about $400. If we stay at Motel 6s (Motel 6 has a free app! That'll come in handy!) (FYI—I was able to download and install the app and look up hotels for each nightly stop all before the website was able to complete a single search. Just sayin'.) for 5 nights (it'll take 5–6 8-hour driving days, driving at an average of 65 MPH .) I'll need about $250 for hotel expenses, and pets stay free at Motel 6.Since Scoob and I will share the driving we can probably fit in more than 8 hours of driving each day and only need a hotel room and food budget for 4 days, but I'd rather plan for 5, just in case.

Then there's food. I'll probably pack a small cooler in the car, and maybe we'll eat dinners out (I mean how can you pass right through Albuquerque and not try the red and green enchiladas, or through Memphis without at least tasting the BBQ). I'll be generous and say $50/day for road food and meals to cover both of us.

Even if I pad the budget and round up, I'm only seeing about $1,000 with this option. Somebody check my math, please.

Ha, Mr. Welch! Put THAT in your algebra pipe and smoke it! (Mr. Welch was actually geometry. Close enough!)

Stops in Needles, CA; Albuquerque, NM; Oklahona City, OK;
Memphis, TN; and Asheville, NC.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Photo Update & Budgeting

So Scoob's computer monitor bit the dust this past week and we're currently sharing my monitor. It is making for some interesting computer arrangements in our office. We're not sure if we'll replace it right away, or wait until after we move. We'll see how this arrangement works for a little while before we make a decision.

As for me, there was more discussion about moving me to a Mac at work, which means I'd need to have a Mac at home if I'm going to telecommute after the move. If that's the case, then Scoob can just take my monitor outright. But all that remains to be seen.

Well, since the last time I wrote, the interior walls of the house have been painted, the tile work is nearly complete, most of the trim work is in place, and most of the lighting fixtures have been installed. Oh, and I had another round of revisions with the landscaper designer. Still ironing out a few details there and haggling the price.

I am so thankful to have someone taking pictures and keeping us updated, but I really wish I were there.

Scoob and I started pricing moving options this weekend so we can prepare a more realistic moving budget and get closer to making a decision as to how we're going to get us, the cats, and our stuff to North Carolina. I have to say I was left speechless for awhile after I received quotes for $5,900-ish from the folks at PODS and United/Mayflower. Even though we don't have a price for the RV rental just yet, we know the fuel expense alone is going to be almost another $1,500 if we go that route.

Let's just say Scoob and I are having some very frank discussions regarding what we're going to take with us.

Thankfully we had several additional container/moving quotes come in an hour or so later in the $2,800–3,100 range. Even better, a few of them are even from reputable companies with very good reviews. MUCH more in line with what I had been expecting. So, we'll keep separating the wheat from the chaff with regard to our belongings and we'll keep building out the budget.

In the meantime… Pictures!

First time we're seeing the stairway with the railing and spindles, baseboard, and crown.
Also a good shot of the kitchen color, Burlap SW6137 (left) and the neutral color for the house, Barcelona Beige SW7530 (stairwell).

Ceiling fan installed in the office and crown moulding.
One of the accent paint colors, Expressive Plum SW6271.

Here's the main foyer with the chandelier and front door installed.
You can also see the dining room paint, Lagoon SW6780, to the left.
It looks more like the color we intended when it's in shadow like this.
Less so when the lighting is brighter.

From the dining room. I'm just noticing it, but I'm a little surprised at the
placement of the air intake vent for the heating/cooling system.

Looking in to the kitchen.

The trim for the fireplace mantle in the keeping room/kitchen is done.

Master bedroom with ceiling fan, baseboards, and crown.
It's difficult to tell, but this is another color of paint, Gateway Gray SW7644.

Scoob and I both have a fondness for glass blocks,
and the tile work around the tub is nearly complete.

The inside of the shower stall is done. Although, we're pretty sure there was
supposed to be a tiled bench seat in here. I have an email off to the builder.

This is our home. And it's waiting for us.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Responsibilities and Fun

Earlier this week I was debating about whether to spend the weekend taking care of grown-up responsibilities in San Jose or having some carefree fun in San Francisco. Scoob is obsessed with trying out a New York-style Jewish deli in San Francisco that he read about. Me, I'm having a hard time believing it can possibly be worth the 2-hour round trip.

Anyhow, since the San Jose task involved getting Roo's oil changed (and not changing the oil in the Forester is the whole reason I had to buy Roo), I decided we'd better stick to grown-up stuff. It seemed like the first oil change came way too quickly; it's only been two months since we brought Roo home. Although I have driven it up to Eureka and back, and I took it up to Oregon over the July 4th weekend to visit mom.

Oh well. But we did manage to have some fun in San Jose—we went to the movies! For the first time in forever!

We've gone to the movies with friends when we visit North Carolina, but when we're in California we never go. So, about a year and a half ago, I bought Scoob a movie giftcard for his birthday. I thought if the movies were already paid for, he would be more likely to go. I put enough on the card to cover 8 movies. We used them for the first time yesterday.

He chose to see Super 8, which was entertaining. I actually thought it was very Goonies-like for the first third of the movie. I think it would have been better if the writers/director hadn't tried to fully develop story lines for a few of the characters. The "love triangle" between the 3 young kids added nothing to the story. And they needed to devote more quality writing to the hatred/forgiveness story line between the fathers if they really wanted it to be part of the story. The latter did help support the "letting go" story arch for the young protagonist, but it still flopped at the end. Just my opinion.

So, after seeing Super 8, Scoob wanted to see another movie! Whoa! I told him it was entirely up to him. I didn't think he meant to sneak into a movie! Oh my god, the guilt! When I asked him if he felt guilty too, he said yes, and then just laughed. I don't believe I've ever snuck into a movie before, but somehow, I pretty sure this wasn't the first time for Scoob.

Anyhow, we saw Transformers 3. Frankly, they should have paid me to sit through that whole thing. I swear they kept changing the girlfriend's name throughout the entire movie, either that, or Shia LaBeouf needs to work on enunciation. I swore he was calling her Laura Lee and someone else kept calling her Carly. I'll admit, I was never a fan of the cartoon when I was a kid, though I did enjoy the first of the Transformers movies. But for crying out loud, it just seemed like this movie would never end.

Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime was a nice touch, and I always enjoy watching John Malkovich (especially when he's playing a prig). I've seen Ken Jeong in a few movies and I usually think he's too over-the-top to truly be funny, but this was the best role I've seen him play. Frances McDormand and John Turturro (and his man servant Alan Tudyk—anyone involved with Firefly and Serenity is almost always a pleasure to watch) were the best parts of the movies though.

Wow, look at that. All that praise and yet I hated the movie. What it really boils down to was that pretty much any scene that didn't involve a transformer or Shia LaBeouf (the main characters) was a good one. And unfortunately, there weren't enough of those scenes.

The level of brutal violence in this movie actually did bother me, because let's face it, this movie is marketed toward kids. It is based on a children's cartoon, after all. With lots of special effects to wow older viewers and try to distract them from what they're really watching.

There was a scene towards the end (or what should have been the end) when the autobots return from exile and kill a deceptacon in Chicago. Even though the deceptacon (bad guy) is dead, the autobots (good guys) mutilate him and rip him limb from limb complete with oil and other machinery fluids standing in for blood and guts. And audience members were voicing their approval. Yet, later in the movie when a deceptacon executed an autobot and smashed the dead body the audience was not pleased.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Round and Round We Go

Wow. Blogger really changed the way the blogger interface looks. And , of course, where all the different tools are located. I sure hope they had a good reason because change for the sake of change just sort of cheeses me off.

Anyhow, The last couple of weeks have just whizzed by so quickly! Summer weather is finally here in the Bay Area which means I now travel with layers of clothing. It may be a clear and warm 75° in the morning when I leave the house in Fremont, but when I get to work 30 miles away in Berkeley it's 62° and fogged in. Just your typical Bay Area July.

I sent off my landscaping suggestions and requests to the landscape architect a little over a week ago and haven't heard back. And we (I) had a minor meltdown with the appliances we ordered from Sears.

The appliances were scheduled to be delivered to the build site on 6/30 but the builders are not ready for them at the house, so I tried changing the delivery address to the builders' home address. What a fiasco!

I've tried to adjust this order twice before—once to unsuccessfully change the delivery date and again to, also unsuccessfully, cancel a single item on the order—and it was a nightmare each time. First, they tell me to contact the national delivery center. But they have no record of my order, which sets off alarms bells because here I am diligently making my monthly payments. So finally the national rep finds the order, but then has no record of the delivery in the national database.

They tell me to contact the local store. Okay, the local store the delivery is being made from (Raleigh, NC)? Or the local store where I purchased the items (Newark, CA)? Now, when you call the local stores, if no one picks up the phone within the first 2 rings, you're transferred back to the national center. And a different rep answers. And you get to start over at the beginning.

Finally, after 45 minutes of playing this loop I get a live person at the Newark location, who then hangs up on me immediately after saying Hello. Here we go again. Luckily it only took 20 minutes to get someone on the phone the second time. Although, for the first 10 minutes of our call she is absolutely convinced I need to talk to the national delivery center.

Finally I get her to look up the order. She says she can change the delivery address. Would I also like to change the delivery date? Well, yes, I would (because the builders' were currently out of town and I could confirm with them when they'd be back). Okay, I can do that she says. She also said she would call me back if she ran into any problems.

The following day I get a call from the gal I originally purchased the appliances from, we'll call her Hallie. My entire order (and her commission) has been cancelled! W! T! F!

The whole reason my previous attempts at adjusting the order were unsuccessful was because they would have to cancel and re-ring the order at current prices to make the changes. I made the purchase during and excellent appliance sale and got everything at 30% off, so I did not want them to do this. But, the reason they needed to cancel it was that Hallie originally entered the order as a store-to-store transfer sale with local delivery, and this was also the reason it never showed up in the national database.

So, that evening was spent at Sears sorting out the whole shebang. Luckily, there was a similar sale going on and Hallie was able to re-ring my order making sure I didn't pay more for any single item, she changed the delivery date and address, she cancelled the item I had wanted to cancel, she rang it as a regular sale (so now it is in the national database), and she gave me another 5% off everything for all our trouble.

Hopefully everything is all sorted now, though the phone call I received this morning from Sears asking me where my appliances are for the 6/30 scheduled delivery does not inspire confidence.