Tag: House

Undead Mimosa tree

Mimosa trees won’t stay dead.

Deck Project 1, Mimosa 0

Last summer, I had my deck rebuilt. The home inspector had flagged the deck as a “needs to be repaired or replaced, seek professional help” type of project. The boards were rotting. Nails poking up and the joists were soft. The tree cutters removed the Mimosa tree adjacent to the deck a few months prior.

Old deck with mimosa stump
Old deck with mimosa stump

My contractor did a fantastic job. He changed the location of the steps to the backyard to be more centered. Unfortunately, he had to sink posts next to where the Mimosa tree used to be. The trunk had to be sanded to below dirt level.

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Deck Project 1, Mimosa 2 saplings

I’ve been very pleased with the deck and will finally be able to use it since the homeowner association’s house painting project for my townhouse row is completed. Deck is stained, everything looks good. I started shopping for deck furniture.

Until I looked outside and saw this:
Mimosa through deck boards

Mimosas never die. Their roots sprout new trees. That’s two saplings coming up through the deck boards. Underneath the deck looks like this
Undead Mimosa 1

and this
Undead Mimosa 2

I am currently waiting on a response from the HOA. The tree contractor who cut down the tree suggested to the HOA that the landscaping company take care of the saplings by spraying them with poison and clearing them out. A coworker suggested drilling holes in the Mimosa roots and spraying Round-Up in the holds to kill the roots.

I definitely can’t have the tree roots coming up through the deck boards.

Sounds in the ceiling

Last night while I was doing the dishes, I heard skittering of something in the kitchen ceiling. The kitties were upstairs staring at the wall and walking around meowing. They were following the sound of something in the walls.

Not sure what it is. Mice seem to be a good guess since my neighbor recently had issues with mice. The HOA is working on painting and repairing siding on the houses. The painters have were repairing some of my unit’s siding except they messed up the back wall of my chimney. There are gaps in the siding which they have said will be properly fixed. Those gaps are big enough for a mouse to get in.

So the kitties now have the full run of the house. BrieBrie was brave and came downstairs with me. She is wandering around now, playing with a fake rabbit fur mouse (one of Kiesha’s old toys). She seems to enjoy having the extra space. She’s much braver than Phaedra is. My other little kitty will eventually come down here.

I am hoping that the smell of predators will cause the mice to go away. If the kitties don’t catch the mice, then I’ll have to call an exterminator. Can’t have mice in the walls.

Plumber fixed the drip

The tub is no longer leaking. My neighbor said that the build quality on these houses isn’t very good and I believe him. This was the second time the tub had to be repaired because of a drip. One thing I did learn with these old Delta faucets: the springs have to be elongated just a little bit with a gentle squeeze from a pair of pliers. Otherwise, they are a little too short and don’t seat properly.

Kitteh likes water drip

I turned off the water to the house when I went to work and during the day over the weekend. I turned the water back on overnight so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. I was upstairs looking at the faucet, and BrieBrie decided to try and help me.

Help from BrieBrie means her investigating each tool and playing with anything that might move. BrieBrie had her back feet on the ground and her front feet on the tub rim. Just too cute.

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For size comparison, here is a picture taken a few minutes after the first one. BrieBrie is sitting on the tub edge and Phaedra is on the floor near the tub.

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Leaky bathtub faucet

A few months ago, my upstairs bathtub faucet began to drip. Just a little at first, but over the months it became a constant background noise. I couldn’t stand it and found a video on how to repair the Delta faucet. It is an older faucet, with a push-button diverter and a single knob that controls water amount and temperature. I took apart the faucet handle, replaced the inner rubber seals and springs. The leak stopped.

A month ago when the dripping started again. Just a few drips. If I moved the shower knob down and to the left, then the dripping would usually stop. The dripping went from a few paltry drips to a continuous stream.

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Nothing I have tried stops the stream of water. It’s hot water, too. Since it’s been warm, I shut off the household water when I went to bed last night and have called the home warranty place. They are going to send someone out on Monday to look at it.

New refrigerator

The lovely new refrigerator is here! It makes such a huge difference in how the kitchen looks. The house is so much quieter too, without the rattle of the other machine’s motor. It will be interesting to see what happens to the electric bill now.

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The old Whirlpool beige refrigerator.
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The lovely new GE refrigerator
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Interior of the new refrigerator. So pretty!

Ice Age in the refrigerator

My 32-year old refrigerator is dying a sad death. The freezer’s frost is creeping into the refrigerator compartment. There is a six inch frost ledge. A bottle of juice at the back of the top shelf has most of it’s cap covered by frost. I couldn’t easily move it. This frost is also melting and dripping water.

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I spent the better part of the weekend online reading reviews and going to the regular stores (Sears, HH Gregg, Best Buy, Lowes, Home Depot) to see what was on sale. I found a GE Artistry refrigerator at Home Depot that was in the display / open box area. It was only 10% off, so I asked the manager if maybe a little more could be taken off… and well, turned out it could. BUT. I’d have to pick up and install the unit *and* get rid of my current unit. (New units include delivery, installation, and haul away of the old unit.)

The manager was very nice and said he could give me 10% off of a new model for “customer satisfaction”. Turns out that there was also a special deal on that model so the total deal was 20% off.

I was shocked at how large and how expensive most of the refrigerators in the store are. My current refrigerator is 29 inches wide, 30 inches deep, and 65 inches tall.

I had to wander back to behind all of the expensive display units and try to find something that would fit. Half of the units that I was interested in were unmarked, didn’t have prices, or sizes on them. Sales people at Lowes were unhelpful. Home Depot people were great. HH Gregg people were helpful but … pushy. Sears couldn’t find any one to help.

My current refrigerator is a Whirlpool, and it’s had a good life span. My parents had a side-by-side and a French door model. Didn’t care for either of those. Couldn’t fit pizza boxes into the freezer side. (Funny what is important to college students.) I haven’t had a bottom freezer unit before. This will be an adventure.

I really liked the way the GE Artistry looks, and the discount managed to bring it down closer to the price range of the other units I was looking at (okay, still $100 more but better).

Any way, it arrives on Wednesday.

Roof leaking

It rained a lot on Thursday and all day Friday. Inches of rain and some ice. West of me, like out of the barn, there were trees down and power outages. It poured and poured.

Thursday night I could barely sleep because I kept hearing the rain and thinking it was Kiesha purring. The water rushing through the gutters sounded like Kiesha when she was about to hack a hairball. That noise instantly wakes me up. I kept thinking I heard something hitting the ceiling in the attic.

I didn’t look up at the bedroom ceiling on Friday morning. It was dark from the rainclouds outside when I woke up. Saturday morning though, I sat and stared at the ceiling and saw the water stains. Said a nice spring of explicatives.

Water damage spot above bed
Water damage spot above bed
Water damage spot to right of bed
Water damage spot to right of bed
Water damage spot to left of bed
Water damage spot to left of bed

Roof and exterior repairs are supposed to be handled by the home owner’s association. Interior damage should be handled by my home owner’s insurance. This is my first test of the HOA, and honestly I’m impressed with their response. Leaving a message on the emergency line actually resulted in a returned call within a few hours. The nice lady said someone from a roofing company should call me back in the afternoon.

My insurance agent also called me back. We are going to coordinate repairs.

The roofing guy was supposed to call me today, which he didn’t. If I don’t hear from him tomorrow then the HOA will get a call.

Kinda annoying that he didn’t call because I stayed close to home all day. Of course, with the power out at the barn and trees blocking the road out there I couldn’t go to the barn any way.

It was gorgeous today and in the 60s. I ended up going for a 4 mile walk (and realized just how much out of shape I’ve gotten since the car accident).

Trying to cope with an empty house

When I came home on Tuesday after saying good bye to Kiesha, I slept for most of the afternoon. There is something healing about sleeping after feeling so depressed and upset. Although the empty bed and no kitty to greet met at the door was hard.

The house is empty now. I felt like I had to make it look different so I wasn’t going to be looking for her every where. I got rid of the litter boxes and cleaned up the food dishes. I even hung two new lights in the kitchen and outside the front door.

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Once the stained glass light was up in the dining room, I fell in love with the way the stained glass lights look. I’ve replaced both lights in the kitchen now.

Dining room light with dragonfly motif
Dining room light with dragonfly motif
Kitchen ceiling light
Kitchen ceiling light
Pendant stained glass light over sink
Pendant stained glass light over sink

I don’t know if it is helping but it gave me something to do with the rest of the evening so I wasn’t sitting around expecting her to jump in my lap.

Downstairs bathroom remodel

I’ve been updating the fixtures in the house from brass and fake-looking gold plastic to oil rubbed bronze. I’ve changed out all of the door knobs and removed the towel rods from the walls, especially in the downstairs bathroom. I also replaced the light fixture to match the ones in the upstairs bathroom.

I added a hand towel holder in the downstairs bathroom and patched the walls where the 30 inch towel rod had been. Unfortunately, I couldn’t match the almond color wall paint. I tried several times and ended up with darker paint even though the color swatches matched the walls. No extra paint came with the house so I ended up finding a secondary color to paint the walls in the downstairs bathroom.

I found a tan cream brown color (called Innocent Fawn). I painted the left and right walls where I had patched the walls and left the walls behind the toilet and the sink the original almond. I am still getting used to it, but for the most part I’m pleased with it. I taped the room carefully. If any paint bled onto the almond and I couldn’t remove it, I’d have to paint the other walls. (Luckily blue painters tape worked great. Mostly straight lines.)

Next month I’ll replace the sink and the faucet which both leak. That will require a plumber to hook everything up.

Where has Ceffyl been?

Ceffyl has been moving! I bought a cute townhouse. Closing was October 9th. Most of my time in October has been spent packing, getting the new place situated, and cleaning out the old apartment. I had to give a 60 day notice for the apartment complex and pay the lease termination fee (two months’ rent!). I turn over the keys to the apartment as soon as I can get to the apartment complex office.

The new place has new carpet and paint, but did have some things to fix before I could move in. There are now two ceiling fans in the bedrooms (yay for finding electricians!), new sinks and faucets in the master bathroom (that will be detailed in another blog post), and a gorgeous new stained glass light in the dining room.

Now back to unpacking…

HRW as a Home Owner’s Association management company

I have been looking at houses and condos for a few months. Whenever my Awesome Agent and I look at a condo or townhouse with a home owner’s association (HOA), we ask these questions:

  • What does the HOA cover and what is the owner responsible for?
  • How often are repairs, pest inspections, property maintenance (like painting, for example) done?
  • How often are dues increased? Have any special assessments been made in the recent past?
  • What is the current balance for the HOA? What is the current budget? Are there enough funds to cover any unexpected roof replacements, for example?
  • What percentage of the units in the community rentals?

I’ve looked at three condos where my Awesome Agent asked the above questions. Two of the HOAs answered the questions within a reasonable time frame. The condo I’m currently looking at is managed by HRW Inc, a property management firm based in Raleigh, NC. HRW is owned by Associa. My agent called HRW to ask them the usual set of questions. Well, the woman who represents the HOA was on vacation, so HRW representative who answered the phone referred my agent to the HRW web site. All of the answers are there, she said.

So both my agent and I went to the web site to look for information.

When my agent finally located the real estate agent’s information package, she was prompted to pay $45 to receive a copy of the documents. Supposedly the package includes budget information, among other details. (I don’t remember exactly what was included.) While an example package was provided, the sample documents didn’t have enough details to know if the package would answer our questions.

When I created an account, the form asked for my own home address, phone number, and the property I’m interested in. Okay, fine. I filled it all out and registered as a buyer. When you log on to their site, you have to know the abbreviation for the managed community. I entered the three letter abbreviation and was presented with something called a “Purchaser’s Research Package.” It was the only option available. This package includes: “Package includes Realtor information, Budget and Governing Documents when researching information on HUD homes or property foreclosures, with consent of owner.”

To continue, I was told I had to have the owner’s permission to get the package. So at first I didn’t continue. I don’t have the owner’s permission (although being on the market might be a kind of implied permission). I finally did press Continue Shopping to get to the next page. And laughed.

Here’s the kicker. You have to pay to get this information, and it ain’t cheap.

  • The Purchaser Research Package is $145
  • Expedited processing is $50 (I don’t really want to wait 5-10 days while they get around to sending me my request, especially not if I’m considering putting an offer in.)
  • Want a hard copy or a digital copy? Add $20.
  • Want it delivered Fed Ex? Add $35.

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There is no way I’m going to pay $145+ to maybe have my questions answered. I’m not going to ask my agent to pay $45 to have a chance at answering the questions. Why won’t HRW just answer our questions like every other HOA has?

When my agent did get hold of the community representative, the HOA person stressed how busy she was and didn’t want to take the time to answer our questions. She again referred my agent to the HRW web site and then hung up on her.

My agent’s experience with HRW isn’t an isolated case. HRW’s CitySearch page has four reviews (since 2006) that match our experience. There was one positive review, but that seems to be an outlier.

How can any company justify charging this kind of money to answer questions that should be freely available? I’ve called HRW directly, and of course, I was sent to voicemail. I will try back tomorrow. Their voicemail promises a call back within 8 business hours (whatever that means).

Seeing how this HOA is responding  makes me wonder if this is the reason the places for sale in this community have been on the market for 200-300 days.

Update: Follow up to this post