Friday, March 27, 2015

Mortgage Update for March 2015

I better write this before March is over.  It has been a rough month and I thought about skipping my extra mortgage payment but I don't want to get out of the habit so I contributed $1,200 extra to the mortgage for March.  I was hoping to have $1,600 but I needed a new battery for the truck and I gave my niece $300 for her plane ticket which was well worth it.  It has been so great having her here to help out.  I am already behind at work and I missed some time last week because my father broke his hip.  I've had extra expenses for gas, meals at the hospital and groceries and that will continue for another 3 weeks while my father is in a rehabilitation facility near my house and my mother and niece are staying at my house.  I'm also missing work for my mobile home remodel project.  Next Tuesday the excavator is coming out to fix the drainage on the property and to level a site for the big shed.  I'll need to take a half day off to supervise.  The following week my shed should be delivered and I definitely want to be there for that.  They don't deliver on the weekend so that means more time off work.

Anyway, back to the mortgage.  The new balance is $45,405.  If I keep paying $1,200 a month, I will have it paid off in 2 years and 8 months.  Slowly but surely, I am whittling it away.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jumping Hurdles

I just wanted to stop by and say, I GOT MY SHED PERMIT!  I'm not free and clear yet because it is conditional on a load test of the earth anchors but I have stamped plans and I paid my $375 permit fee so I can go ahead and get the shed delivered.  The only thing holding me back now is that I have to wait for the excavator fellow to be available.  He said he was going to be busy for 2 weeks and it rained for 3 days last week so I hope I don't have to wait longer than 2 more weeks.  Once the site is level I can tell the shed people to deliver it.  Then I will need to figure out how to attach the anchors to the shed and how to get them in to the ground.  I'm thinking I should rent a jackhammer because me and sledgehammers don't work well together.  Then I am supposed to call a geotechnical engineer to come out and test each anchor to see if they can withstand 400 pounds of pull.  400 pounds doesn't seem like a lot to me.

I am thrilled that my plan is moving along.  I hope to have more time to work on my mobile home soon but my father is still in the hospital and my mother and niece are still staying with me and probably will for the next 3 weeks.  It's getting hot too.  This weekend is supposed to reach 90.  I'll need to be setting up the window air conditioners soon.  I just realized that the window that I used to put the air conditioner in is now a door.  Oh well, good thing I have more than one window.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Maneuvering Through the System

Today was supposed to be spent working on my old mobile home but my father will get discharged from the hospital tomorrow and that means we have to pick a post-surgery rehab facility for him to go to for the next few weeks.  I narrowed down the list to places closest to me and then picked the ones with good reviews.  I set up 3 appointments and my mother and I spent the day comparing amenities.  All 3 were adequate for his needs but one had a lower patient to staff ratio so I hope we can send him there.  We will find out tomorrow after they process the paperwork.

On Friday, I sent in my revised paperwork for my shed permit.  I got a reply back too quickly.  They want the engineering calculations for the earth anchors from an Arizona engineer.  Wow.  No wonder people don't bother with permits.  I sent an email to a structural engineer that I found on the internet and they wrote back that I might be able to do a load test instead.  Well, that's great except I don't know what a load test is.  I'm hoping that I can maneuver over this (hopefully) last roadblock and get my prize at the end (a permit and a bill for the permit).  I should be happy that the county didn't have any complaints about my site plan.  I worked really hard on that.  But if I don't get the permit in the end, it will all be for nothing and I will have to buy the 10'x20' shed that doesn't require a permit.  That would merely be a consolation prize.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Change of Topic

The day started out like any other day and then I got a phone call from my mother that my dad fell.  I was almost to the office so I stopped in, checked my emails and then headed to the hospital.  He was groggy and didn't want any of those pesky wires and tubes on him so I spent the morning holding his hands.  The doctor finally showed up with the bad news, broken hip.  I had to get back to work but later my mother said he was still in the ER at 7pm because they didn't have any open rooms and that surgery would be sometime tomorrow.  Now we have to figure out where he can go for post-surgery rehab since his current home is not  set up for that.  I hope he will regain enough strength so that he can return to his previous home.  My niece is flying in to help my mother with figuring all of this out.  That is so nice that she is available and willing to do it.

In other news (which doesn't seem as important right now), I got a response from the permit office.  They said the building plan that I sent was in a protected file format, they need the building's structural calculations (I thought that was just wind ratings and snow load but I guess not) and I need to submit structural calculations for the earth anchors.  I wasn't even planning to use earth anchors but now I know they are required.  I printed and scanned the building plan so that should fix the "protected file" problem.  I asked the WeatherKing company for structural calculations.  If they don't have them I will have to hire an engineer to make them.  And I found an earth anchor company and asked them which ones I need to buy and if I can get the structural calculations.  So, I'm making progress on the permit but I am still in "scavenger hunt" mode while I gather all of this data.  Hopefully, I will find the answers quickly.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Plan and Re-Plan

Saturday turned out to be not as productive as I had hoped.  The HVAC guy (who is also my handyman) came over early to shut down the furnace and start up the evaporative cooler.  While he was doing that I took my truck battery over to the auto parts store.  They couldn't test it because it was so depleted so they said they would charge it for 10 minutes and try again.  I was pretty sure it was very dead but I said ok and headed over to the library to pick up my free seeds.  Back at the auto parts store they said the battery had 17 minutes left to charge (hmm...first 10 and now 17?).  I browsed the store and found an inexpensive seat cushion and some cut-to-fit carpet so that I can make my own dash cover.  They let me take the seat cushion out to the car to try it out before I bought it and it was so much better than the plain seat.  As I was perusing the windshield wipers, they finally told me that my battery was truly dead.  At the checkout the manager rang up the battery and my other impulse purchases and the total only came to $100 because he said the battery still had a prorated warranty or something like that.  I was happily surprised and didn't ask for details.  Back at home, the battery went in the my truck started up, yay!  I was ready to head to Home Depot but my handyman didn't realize that I wanted him to do the cooler start up AND work on my mobile home.  He hadn't brought the right tools or his truck so I paid him and we made plans to meet at Home Depot on Tuesday.  

Not wanting to lose out on a Saturday, I called my friend who had offered to give me 50' of chain link and told her I could pick it up.  Since she lives near my mother, I stopped by to have lunch and visit.  On Sunday, I brought the chain link to the property and cleaned up some of the debris from the door installation.  I took down the curtains that haven't been washed in years and took some measurements.  Then it was back home to play with the dogs, plant a few seeds, and catch up on laundry.

Today I finished my site plan since I was able to locate the telephone pedestal on the edge of the property.  I was very apprehensive about submitting the paperwork for the permit but I went ahead and did it.  Now I will just wait for them to tell me if I did it correctly.  One good thing was that I read that simple permits should only take 5 days as opposed to the 20 that I thought they took.  I might have my permit by next week!  Then it will be full steam ahead to get the area level, add blocks or whatever I am going to do under the barn/workshop, and get it delivered!  Oh, and the neighbors fixed giant hole in the road for me so now I only need to cut back some of the branches so that they don't scratch my new building on the way in.  Things are coming together which is a good thing because I got another frustrated call from my nephew's grandfather today.  I told him he could send my nephew back at any time.  I can put him to work fixing up his own room.  I'm sure my nephew will be thrilled with my suggestion.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Busy Weekend Ahead

The week is over and I am ready for a nice relaxing weekend.  But, wait!  Tomorrow at 9 I scheduled my furnace to be shut down and my evaporative cooler to be started up.  It's been in the 80's which is abnormal for March so I just know as soon as the furnace gets shut off we will get a few more weeks of cold but I will have to survive with my space heaters.  Then I need to get a new battery for the truck, meet the handyman at Home Depot for more supplies, meet my mother out at my property to show her my "vision".  I hope she has a good imagination because there really isn't much to see other than my new door.

It kind of looks like a door to nowhere.  I love my new door and I will love it even more when it has steps.  The handyman will continue replacing the metal skirting with the grey Hardi-backer board.  It isn't a common skirting material but I think it will work well for my needs and I can paint it.  I will be working on prying off the old vinyl tiles so that the floor can be covered in plywood.  I plan to sand it and polyurethane it and that is all.  At least it will be better than the pressboard that swelled up when wet or the sheet vinyl that ripped.

I met with the excavator yesterday.  We discussed how to get my big shed on to the property since both access roads have issues.  The woman who owns the shed business happens to be a close neighbor so she is going to check out both roads and tell me which one has the least amount of problems.  I think flying it in by helicopter would work.  Do you suppose I could hire one of those military helicopters for a few hours?

I also met with 2 concrete guys today.  I'm not sure if they will give me quotes for a slab or not.  I think they correctly surmised that my budget is too small for what they would charge.  I expect them to be in the $5k range or more.

In the meantime, I am trying to get all my work done so that I don't get fired from my job.  People start to grumble when they can't reach me at my desk.  I'm trying to save my vacation days for important stuff like when the excavator is there and when the shed is delivered.  I am still working on the site plan so I can submit my paperwork for the permit.  I called Blue Stake today which tells the utilities to come out and mark where their lines are on my property.  I need to add those to my drawing.  That should be done by Tuesday and then I can submit my paperwork and it will be rejected of course because I'm still not sure what is needed for the grading plan but I am hoping they will help me with it.

To end with some good news, the city called today and said that they approved my claim for the tire damage.  Actually, they said they would pay for one tire and since the wheel was bent, they will pay for that too even though I didn't have it replaced.  They estimated that a wheel would cost as much as a tire so they will pay my whole bill of $159.  That is great but I wish I hadn't ran over that pothole in the first place!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Impulse Buy

After meeting my handyman at Home Depot on Monday and buying $500 worth of supplies, I headed to the office.  I passed the portable mini-barn lot as usual but this time I decided to stop.  I have always assumed that these buildings would be more expensive than the sheds from the shed company plus, they are only open 10-5 so I haven't stopped.  I pulled in and wandered around.  The salesperson wasn't on site so I grabbed a brochure.  The largest shed was 12' x 32' and I fell in love.

It is smaller than the 24' x 24' garage I was planning to build but it is already built, and it has 2 lofts, and it is cute!  

A blank slate, now if I only had the money and the time to work on it.  Anyway, I went to work and called my mother to invite her to lunch so I could show her what I wanted to buy.  She agreed that the buildings were cute and had potential.  Since she is helping me finance this project, I was thrilled to get her blessing and I wrote a check.  The only hitch is that I don't have a permit yet.  If for some reason I can't obtain a permit I can trade in my building for 2 - 10' x 20' sheds because I don't need permits for buildings 200 sq.ft. or under.

Next step is to finish the site plan so that I can apply for a permit.  My building will stay on the lot until I tell them to deliver it.  Hopefully that will be within the next 6 weeks.  I can't wait for it to be on my property so I can start imagining the interior.  Yay!  This is fun!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Flat Tires Are No Fun

Today was very relaxing, except for my headache.  The weather was beautiful and I spent a little time in the yard trimming the trees, pulling weeds, and detaching the old Queen's Wreath vine from the shed.  The dogs and I took naps and watched new episodes of Hawaii 5-0.

I hope this week goes better than last week.  Last week started out ok but then went downhill.  On Thursday, I dropped my foster dog at the vet to get neutered and then headed to work.  I hit a big pothole very hard and wondered if it bent my rim.  I made it to work in time so I was happy and forgot about my wheel.  At 4pm I jumped in my car to finally meet up with the excavator out at my property and I heard thump, thump, thump, before I got out of the parking lot.  The tire was completely flat so I rolled in to a nearby parking space and called AAA.  They said it would take an hour to send someone.  I looked for the spare tire but didn't see it.  I could have looked in the manual but decided to walk back to work and google it.  Google told me that there is a cover that is removed to reveal a bolt.  The jack has an adapter that fits on it and when turned the spare tire descends in a basket from under the car.  I went back to the car and wondered if it was worth getting dirty so I decided to wait.  The tow truck guy showed up early and he managed to lower the rusty tire in a basket after a couple of tries.  Having the spare on the outside of the car is a horrible design especially when the car lives in snow.  This particular car is from Connecticut.  He jacked up the car with his professional jack and removed the old wheel.  The spare was small and needing air and he had a lot of trouble getting his jack out from under the car.  Then the cap for the air valve was rusted on.  Luckily, I had a leatherman tool that he could use.  I am glad that I waited for him to change the tire.  I learned a lot by watching him and I think I could do it myself next time if I had too although I would have to use the mini-jack that comes with the car.

I was sad that I missed my appointment with the excavator.  Maybe he will be available later this week.  I still had to drive to pick up my dog and then go back home.  The car and the spare made it without any problems.  The next day I spent most of the morning at the tire shop.  The tire was cut and unrepairable so I bought 2 tires.  The rim was slightly bent but the tire still held air so I didn't replace it.  The clerk mentioned that people can submit a claim to the city for damages caused by potholes.  I looked it up and the pothole has to have been previously reported.  I drove back to take a photo of the pothole and I noticed that the edges had florescent paint so hopefully it was a previously reported pothole.  The city website said to call for a claim form so I did and they emailed it to me.  I sent off all of the requested information and I hope they will reimburse me for one or both of the tires.

The weekend was finally here and I was pretty tired of new experiences and people but I had signed up for a Co-Op water conservation project in order to earn more points for my own project.  Resisting the urge to go back to bed, I gathered my hat, gloves and water bottle and drove to the rainwater harvesting project.  I picked this project because it was only 5 minutes from my house.  I must admit that I had fun.  We worked from 8am-1pm and installed water collection tanks.  We learned how many people it takes to lift a 1,200 gallon capacity tank over a block wall, how to move a shed by rolling it on PVC pipe, how to install what is called a 'first flush' which sends the first water from the roof in to a separate pipe which can be emptied in order to keep the tank water cleaner.  And we put a leaf screen at the top which is removable for cleaning.

I definitely need this set up on my tanks to keep the lizards and tarantulas out but first I have to figure out how to attach gutters to my mobile home.  I am really glad that I went to work on the project.  So far I have earned 10 out of 16 credits that I need for my own project, whether it is building rock dams or setting up water tanks, I haven't decided.  The best part was how fast all the work got done with a dozen eager and enthusiastic helpers.  And it was fun to be able to talk to people about outdoor showers, composting toilets, etc...without them thinking I was strange.

Tomorrow I am supposed to meet my handyman at Home Depot in order to buy supplies for my mobile home renovation.  I can't wait to see some progress out there.  Photos coming soon, I hope!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Planning Stage

Four days in to March and and I haven't spent any money on extras yet.  Only 27 days to go.  Unfortunately, my truck battery is dead and I need to renew my passport soon.  Technically, I could put both of those things off for another month but I probably shouldn't.  I've been researching the permitting process for my county.  I don't know who makes up their website but I would only give it a 5 out of 10 for User Friendly.  I do know that I need:

-a permit application
-a site plan with utilities, elevations, and set-backs marked
-building plans
-possibly a grading plan

I hope that is it.  I got basic plans for a 24'x24' building with loft off of the internet.  The county assessor has a map of my property that I can print.  I still need to call Blue Stake to come out and mark my utilities.  I meet with the excavator tomorrow to get a quote on the earthworks.  This is all going so slowly.  Sometimes I think I should just buy a manufactured home and be done with it.  But do I want to pay $60k for the cheapest basic particle board and vinyl box?  Not really and I'm not willing to pay for the upgrades.  I guess I will just keep plugging along.  This is the planning stage anyway.  There isn't much to see yet but there will be.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Marching Forward

Marching...get it?  Because it is March?  Oh boy.  I met my handyman out at my property on Saturday morning.  He was very enthusiastic about my plan and had ideas to do things better and easier.  I've had people come out to give me bids and most of them either don't get back to me or make the bid so high that it was obvious that they didn't want the job.


My mother has offered to lend me the money to build a guest house.  She doesn't want me to put a lot of money in to the old mobile home.  My first thought was how much longer would I have to work to pay her back?  I figured it would add 1 year to my plan.  Building something has always been an option but I figured I would wait until after the house was paid off and then see how I felt about working longer in order to upgrade my living arrangements.  I was thinking along the lines of a 10'x20' shed that I would turn in to a tiny house but with my nephew returning (I'm 80% sure he will return in July) I need something a little bigger so now I am looking at a 24'x24' guest house.  It would be 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, with an open kitchen/living room.  I helped my dad build a garage/shop back in 1994.  My parents made an apartment out of the garage and lived there while they built the main house.

My first thought was to call the shed/garage builders since their website said they could build a 24'x24' garage for $23,000.  Unfortunately, they said they were booked for the next 6 months and weren't taking any garage orders.  I told this to my handyman and he said that if I got the permits, he could build it for me.  Getting permits has always been a scary and mysterious thing to me.  I guess if I really want this, I need to face my fears and figure out the process.  I mean, I'm a drafter, after all.  It shouldn't be too hard for me to make a site plan.  I already looked up the zoning, 20' from the property line and 30' from other structures.  I might buy the garage plans off the internet but we will see.  I need to do more research.  If I do this right, I think I will be able to finish the guest house cheaper than hiring the shed company to just build the shell.  Of course, I will make lots of mistakes.  I read that if you want to build a house, build a garage first so that you learn from your mistakes.  Well, I only need one guest house so I'll just have to try to learn from other people's mistakes.

While I am working on the permits, the handyman will be doing a few improvements to the mobile home like adding a door on the north side for easier access, covering the floor with plywood, and replacing the skirting (the first step for snake prevention).  The next project is to make a secure yard for the dogs.  I'm thinking about a 3' block wall with chain link on top of that.  Coincidentally, my co-worker just messaged me and asked if I knew anyone who needed 50' of chain link. I do, I do!  Although rattlesnakes can climb a 3 foot wall if motivated, I am hoping that blocking the pack rats with the new skirting will eliminate any motivation.  Diamondback rattlesnakes are quite lazy.  They tend to go under things rather than over in my experience.  I also need to keep out coyotes, javelina, and roaming neighbor dogs.  I hope to surround a large portion of my property in field fence some day.

And another thing, the excavator guy called me on Saturday and wants to meet at the property on Thursday afternoon to see what needs to be done.  I'm hoping he can level off a building site for me as well as fix my driveway.  I fear I will need some time off work for all of these projects which means I need to slow down the dog fostering because vet appointments interfere with work too.  My handyman can't get started until I meet him at Home Depot to buy the door, plywood and skirting material.  I just took 2 days off last week and I don't want to fall behind at work.  I'll make it all work though.  It's going to take some juggling but progress is being made, finally!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mortgage Update for February 2015

Whew!  It was a wild weekend.  My sister came to visit with her seven kids and they all stayed at my house.
 It is great to have a house big enough to accommodate them all.  I told her that in a few years I would be moving out to my property and they could all camp there but she wasn't very enthusiastic about that idea.  Something about snakes and scorpions...  Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I took Monday and Tuesday off so that I could hang out with them.  It was not fun to go to work today and face my long list of urgent email.

Since it is the end of the month, I made my February extra mortgage payment.  $1,200 extra brings the total to $46,798.  2 years and 8 months to go.  Only 2 years to go if I can start paying $1,600 extra but everything has to go perfectly.  And speaking of not going perfectly, I received an email tonight from my property management company.  My tenants are leaving in May and the management company is going to start showing the house to new tenants.  My current tenants were great.  They always paid on time.  I hope my next tenants are just as responsible and stay for many years.  And I hope I don't have a dreaded VACANCY for months.  That would be terrible.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Not a Frugal February

February is turning out to be a very expensive month.  I decided that I would pay the $1,000 that I owe in taxes with the interest that I made on my mutual fund ($500) and raid $500 from my property fix-it fund.  Ok, that was fine as long as nothing else went wrong this month.  Then on Monday, when I turned on the heater in the car, I smelled antifreeze.  I had smelled it before when the heater was on but I kept forgetting to check under the hood when I got home from work because I didn't need the heater in the afternoon.  Finally, I wrote it down because I was going to visit my mother on Tuesday and it would be convenient to drop my car off at the shop if it needed it.  Well, I opened the hood and there was green liquid on the engine and the coolant level was low.  sigh.  So, the next day I dropped the car at the mechanic for the forth time in 4 months and my mom and I went to visit dad at the nursing home.  It was his birthday and one of the staff bought him a giant chocolate cupcake and I put together some happy birthday posters from family members.  He seemed to appreciate it and he really enjoyed the cupcake.

Today, I heard back from the mechanic.  Now it needs a new radiator.  Total parts and labor $650.  My cheap car is not as cheap as I thought.  I already spent $750 for a new motor mount, thermostat and hoses.  I don't understand why the whole cooling system fell apart.  I would love to know if the mechanic missed all of these broken parts or they really broke in succession.  I certainly hope this fixes the problem and I don't have any more issues for at least a year.  Of course, that's what I said last time too.

So, where to get the money?  I was REALLY looking forward to putting $1,600 extra towards the mortgage next week but I can only do that if nothing goes wrong that month.  I am already using the interest and borrowing some of the property money to pay taxes so I can't use that money.  I could try to not spend any extra money for the next 3+ months and scrape $200 a month out of my budget but no more unexpected expenses could come up or it wouldn't work.  I think the only sensible thing to do is take $400 out of the extra mortgage money and then try to make it through March without any extra spending which will give me the other $250.  It is disappointing but putting an extra $1,200 towards the mortgage is still awesome.  I will get it paid off eventually.