Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's been a busy winter!

The last time I posted, we were going to make an offer on the house near the Indian River, and I promised to come back and tell the tale of the offer and the ups and downs of real estate. Meantime, we have been spending just about every spare minute working on the project house.

Titusville is in an interesting state of transition.  With the end of the shuttle program, a lot of people are on the move out of town, and there seems to be little hope of attracting anyone in to buy the homes they are leaving behind, at least initially.  Prices are very reasonable for houses, more so if the owners are not under water.

In this case, the owners are the grandsons of the man who built the house.  They say they never lived in the house and do not know anything about its condition.  They recommend an inspection. The house is free and clear, so no mortgage to deal with on the seller end. We planned to pay cash, up to a certain amount, in consideration of repairs we knew would have to be made immediately, roof, HVAC, plumbing and electrical. We also planned to remove the bed and bath units in the garage and re-establish the RV parking.

We placed a rock bottom offer on the house, conditioned on inspection results.  Back and forth we went for weeks, until we finally arrived at a price both we and the owners could live with.  Inspection showed the house was solidly built, but needed a new roof. The AC didn't work, the toilets didn't flush right, except for one in the garage.  The kitchen sink didn't drain and there was a big leak under the sink.  The electric box was OK, but an added one in the garage would have to go.  The needed repairs were about what we expected.  We found we could not get homeowners insurance until we had the new roof installed and the rogue electrical box removed.

DH had to go back home to work, so my Dad and I extended our rental of the little Spanish house and hunkered down in the beautiful weather to wait for closing day.

Keeping fit is easy here
We walked at least a mile every day, out on a fishing pier in Veteran's Park, and around the parks and neighborhoods.  My Dad is in his 80s and found the first few sessions out on the pier quite challenging. He was able to increase his distance a little each day, and after just a few weeks, was fitter than he had been in years.

Closing day SNAFU
Closing day came with the news that we could not close as it had been found that  the place could not be sold unless Aunt J agreed to it, as she has a life estate in the property.  Aunt J could not agree or disagree, as she was in a nursing home and not able to communicate.  A court date was scheduled for the middle of the next week. Now, that was pretty fast, but still very annoying. Apparently the nephew owners had been advised when they listed that, since the life estate was part of the trust they held, there would be no problem.  Wrong advice!

Court day came, and Dad and I dressed up and went down to the big courthouse in Viera to be on hand for the action.  We made our way to the hall outside the designated courtroom where we found one of the owners, his wife and their attorney.  There was another attorney present as well, turns out he was Aunt J's lawyer.  We were all chatting about this and that, nothing about the case, though.  When they were called into the courtroom, my Dad and I were not allowed in.  We thought it was fine to wait outside just to find out what happened.  A while later, Aunt J's lawyer came out and went steaming past us without a glance.  Oh-oh, we thought.

When the owner group came out, the owner was red as a beet. Turns out he has to buy out Aunt J, so they have to have the life estate valued and then pay her for it, then they can sell the house. That sounds like it could take quite awhile. The attorney said she thought she could get it handled so we could close by early next week. That would be miraculous, as we can only stay until the end of next week in our rented Spanish house.

We did manage to close the next Monday.  Dad and I spent the next three days working on the house, cleaning and assessing.  The house is a time capsule, with the furniture and decor items all from the late 60s and early 70s.  Luckily the decor is not really trendy and most of the furnishings will work well for us.  I was happy to discover that the king size bed in the main bedroom had a practically new mattress with no stains or issues.

Work to be done on the new house
We met with the contractor, our landlord Greg Valdyke, to go over the work on the house:

  • Estimates for the roofing and garage doors, 
  • Tearing out the units in the garage and salvaging as much as possible,
  • Removing a wall between the kitchen and living room and relocating the breakfast bar and display cabinet to the former wall area, relocating the refrigerator to the wall where the breakfast bar came from, 

  • Fix the plumbing in the kitchen and main bathroom, 
  • Tear out the carpet and install tile,
  • Paint the outside of the house a nice aqua shade with a warm pale grey trim.

Leaving Greg with the substantial honey do list and a modest advance, we headed back to cold and snowy Michigan.  Yes, cold and snowy, at the end of March!

Other info on Titusville:

Titusville is the county seat, but the courthouse is down at the other end of the county in Viera for some reason.  There was something about asbestos in the old court building in Titusville, but why move it way down there?

Fox2 Detroit did a little blurb on Titusville this Monday, January 30, 2012.