House buying update: We bought the house

We filled out the mortgage forms ... did the final walk-through ... sifted through a pile of paperwork ... and wrote a big-ass cheque ... and now we're home owners! Now that it's a done deal, I can start spilling the beans.

We looked at about 13 houses in person, either with our agents or at open house events. Amanda dug up dozens (hundreds?) more through MLS. It was a lot of hunting packed into an action-packed few weeks.

Amanda happened upon a split-level in Timberlea and went out with the agent one evening while I was still at work. She thought it was fantastic, and the listing looked good to me on paper. We went out for a second look, and I liked it too.

It's a split-level, three bedroom home with two bathrooms. Two bedrooms, one bathroom, the kitchen, living room and dining room are upstairs. Downstairs is another bedroom, another bathroom (with jet tub!), a 'family room' with wiring installed for surround sound, a laundry room, and the 'den' -- a decent-sized room with coffered ceiling (and walls), and a propane fireplace.

Asking price was $214,900 -- we got it for $200k. The inspection turned up some problems we weren't expecting. We went back at the sellers for $2500 but settled at $1000.

Our mortgage broker kept plugging at getting us a good deal, eventually scoring us a five-year fixed mortgage for 4.99%. Now our principal and interest payments will be just a little more than we were paying for rent in downtown Halifax.

Well, not really "were" -- are. We went in looking for a Jan. 15 closing, but the sellers were firm on December 31. That worked alright, too, since it'd give us time to get in and fix and clean, plus arrange a good moving date.

The home is not without its flaws. Based on some pics we found on facebook, we can see some of the changes the most recent owners made in preparation for sale.

They pulled out the carpet and put down laminate flooring in several of the rooms. At least three different kinds of laminate flooring, though. Amanda thinks it's ugly -- I don't really care. It's new flooring, so let's leave it.

They put up crown moulding in the kitchen and elsewhere -- poorly. I mean, like, really poorly.

Some of the other finishing work is poorly done.

As reported earlier, the dishwasher, washing machine and upstairs toilet were non-functional inspection.

Bla bla bla, enough complaining. We got a wicked deal on a bigger house than we could've expected to get, with a good mortgage, in what I'm told is a great neighbourhood.

Seriously, everyone's saying we did well for our first time out. Now it's on to paying off the mortgage, paying back the $20k I withdrew from my RRSP via the Home Buyers Plan, making repairs, decorating, cleaning, moving ...... wow, this isn't the end, or the beginning of the end --- this is just the end of the beginning.

Happy New Year, friends, family and readers! Love and peace to all!

Parents meet the parents -- at last


Two families, originally uploaded by BigAssSuperBlog.

My folks and Amanda's folks finally meet. Left to right is her stepdad Wendall, Amanda, me (crouching and bug-eyed), her mom Barbara, my dad Dave and mom Kathie. It all went pretty well, I'd say. A delightful dinner at my fiancee's family's home in Bradford.

Multi-mode transportation from A to B

We did almost everything short of riding a bicycle in the snow in our journey from Halifax to Bradford for the first leg of the Big Ass Christmas Tour 2008:

- car to Halifax Stanfield International Airport
- shuttle bus from Park n Fly to the terminal
- various escalators and elevators to our flight
- airplane to Toronto City Centre Airport (YTZ) via Porter -- first time on Porter, and nothing bad to say about 'em. Good (free) food, good (free) drinks, decent service, civilized travel
- ferry to the mainland
- shuttle bus to the Royal York Hotel
- crossed the street to Union Station to take the subway train to Finch
- picked up by Barb & Wendall in a car for the final leg to Bradford

Trains, planes, automobiles, and a ferry boat to boot. All without any extreme delays from snowstorms that smacked Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Tonight, it's dinner with both sets of parents for the first time ever. I expect everyone will get along.

House buying update: leaving home to go home, hoping to come home to a home

Weather permitting, we're flying to Ontario to spend a week with family starting tomorrow. Meantime, the home-buying process is nearly at a close.

We've signed numerous documents at the lawyer's office ... signed documents with the mortgage broker ... signed documents to take over the rental of the propane tank ... seen the number for closing costs (gulp!) ... now it's down to the wire.

We'll return to Halifax late on the Monday after xmas. Tuesday morning we're due at the bank to sign a pile of papers. If the money goes through properly, we'll have a final tour of the property early Wednesday morning, do the deed at the lawyer's office, get our keys ..... and then I have to go to work. Damn, I keep missing the prime champagne-style-beverage opportunities!

So, there are some crucial deadlines ahead. Two big scary factors involve the fact that the big wrap-up is on December 31. The vendors' lawyer insists his office closes at noon, despite the fact that the vendors insisted they wanted a December 31 closing date. Also, the banks close early on the 31st. So, money-wise, we're really closing on the 30th, probably paying an extra day's interest just so we can be sure the transaction goes through. Not that I'm worried. Much. Really.

Of course, if the kind of weather Ontario's had in the past day repeats itself on Monday the 29th, the whole thing could be a wash and we could end up out in the cold. Ha! Ahem. Let's hope not.

And for those who're wondering what the holy heck I'm doing up this early -- and on a SATURDAY no less -- I'm working. Yes, working at 4:30 (arrived at 5am thanks to the attentive fleet of Casino Taxi drivers who ignored my pickup request for about a quarter of an hour). One extra day of overtime that'll hopefully let me take two weeks off in January to TCB at the new house before and during the move.

Oh, interesting news about my grand visions of a wired home. I've acquired, through generous and clever sources, two half-used spools of Cat-6 cable. Now I just have to decide whether I'm going to tackle the installation of a future-proofed home network myself, or contract in someone who actually knows what he's doing. For the sake of the walls, joists and WAF*, I'm seriously considering getting a pro in there, even if I have to pay for it "myself" instead of having "us" fund it from "our" account.

Next best thing to living in a Club Sandwich

The region I'm moving to, as I understand, is known as BLT -- Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea.

I'm especially looking forward to the bacon.

Timberlea Meat & Video


Timberlea Meat & Video, originally uploaded by Chris Campbell.

This is the coolest thing I've seen so far in the town we're moving to. Timberlea Meat & Video. I haven't been inside yet.

I love meat. I'm so-so on video -- retail, anyway. Check out those specials.

Come to think of it, other than Pizzatown (a chain) and the industrial park, this is about the only retailish establishment I can remember in the town so far.

Big Ass Fun Friday #8: DNTO does Halifax

I'm mid-way through listening to this week's podcast of CBC's Definitely Not The Opera. It's all about Halifax, and how the city is of just the right size and with overlapping social circles that virtually ensure that you'll run into people you know on an astonishingly frustrating basis. I'm not the most social or networked of individuals, but even I've noticed this!

From cbc.ca:

We're packing our bags and heading to guest host Jonathan Torrens' hometown... Halifax! This week, we're following "Six Degrees of Jonathan Torrens." He'll be constructing his dream Halifax 'super band' to play a Canadian classic; we'll eavesdrop on his '80s cover band; and we'll tell you how to become a Hali "superconnector."
Visit the DNTO podcast page or just open the MP3 right here.

As much as I love Toronto and was proud as heck to live there, Halifax is super-neat and keen and has an extra layer of "hey, you ought to check this place out". I can only hope I'll be as impressed with Timberlea, which is technically part of the same municipality as Halifax (much as Etobicoke is Toronto).

Taking the stage at the xmas party

A good time was had by all at the company Christmas party this past Saturday night at the Elephant and Castle in downtown Halifax. Good food, good drinks, good folks ... and some good music. Tim the Sales Guy put on a fantastic acoustic show, performing some lovely original songs and some inspired covers.

I was also invited to perform, but there was no PA available to play my backing tracks and guitar output. The proprietor, a former member of popular 1990s ska band Hopping Penguins, pulled out a small mixer from behind the bar and I MacGyver'd together a workable solution that'd run both through the instrument input on Tim's acoustic guitar amp. Didn't sound great, but it was preferable to having me play and sing without the bells and whistles. Trust me.


It's only, what, my fourth time playing in front of a crowd? And the first time with red wine in my system. All in all, it went well, and I'm keen on doing it again. I had a goal of playing two gigs in 2008. This is one. Many thanks to Tim, Ryan and the rest of the folks in the sales department for inviting me to crank out some tunes.


For (my?) future reference, I performed A Picnic (just guitar and me), New York City, Sorry Charlie, Ticket To Spain and Buenas Tardes Amigo. The new original, Mr. Clean, was dropped from the set, partly because I've never ever performed it with guitar and vocals together (and did the guitar on the recording in one take), and partly because I think people were getting sick of my strained caterwauling.


Hey! Help make my Cub cover "Ticket To Spain" the #1 song of the year at onlinemusicnetwork.ca! Click over and have a listen!

Who *does* this kind of thing?!

Sandra recently posted an item on her blog about some nasty miscreant stealing her beloved green bin. She and Jojo are humbly dedicated to Doing The Right Thing and Handling Their Waste Properly:

i suppose instead of being self-satisfied and complacent we should have been chaining our garbage bin to our porch and writing our address on it in big sharpie pen, and realized that we are surrounded by people who create so much garbage that they have to GO AND STEAL SOMEONE ELSE'S GARBAGE BIN in order to have properly presented garbage for the city to collect. jesus. we are now going to have to pay our fair city $50 for a new garbage bin. garbage put out in anything but an approved, registered bin does not get collected.


Now, Amanda and I were struck last night by someone not so morally outrageous, but evil nonetheless. While Amanda was doing laundry at the pair of machines on our floor, someone came along with wet clothes and put them in the empty dryer that she was about to use..... and TOOK our LAUNDRY BIN. Just vamoosed with the hamper. Took it. Didn't bring it back.

Who *does* that?! What kind of person would show up *with* clothes, and leave with an *empty* hamper that's not theirs? WTF? It doesn't make sense. As angry as I am, I'm moreso baffled. It's just ridiculous. She left a note inviting the bin-thief to return the item, but no one has.

Two days earlier, I was on another floor doing laundry, and couldn't use the dryer, because someone had put powdered laundry detergent IN THE DRYER. Not just in the rotating drum, but a healthy dose in the lint filter! Who *does* that?! My guess was that an inattentive parent was doing laundry with a mostly unsupervised child who took the powder and put it in the dryer, much as a child would put a sandwich in a VCR. Either that or someone is stupid and mean. WTF?

We were out at Starbucks on the weekend to meet the agents and plot out our end-game strategy on the house purchase. I excused myself to the bathroom, where I found the toilet seat down, covered in urine. Who *does* this?! I couldn't help but wonder at the mental process that allows someone to believe it's perfectly fine to piss all over a closed toilet seat .... and then not even flush. WTF? Seriously, if you're the kind of person who pees on toilet seats in public bathrooms -- tell me what you're thinking. Tell me how this makes sense to you. Tell me what rationalizations you use to make it alright to soak a public toilet seat with your own urine.

Who *does* this stuff?

House buying update: Consummatum est

Got the call this morning that the deal is a go.

Friday's home inspection turned up more problems than we expected: a non-functioning toilet, washing machine and dishwasher; outlets requiring GFCI plugs; air exchanger and ventilation issues. We went back to the sellers asking for a certain figure for repairs, but their agent was on vacation in the sunny south, and communication difficulties resulted. (To put it politely.) The sellers came back with a cash-back figure $1500 lower than our proposal, but we're not greedy, so we're taking it.

I'd celebrate with champagne-style-beverage, but I'm at work now, so that's not gonna happen until later.

On the other great-karma/bad-health news, I celebrated with lunch at Burger King, and despite ordering a regular Whopper, they gave me a double Whopper. Free meat.

So, high-fives all around. Closing date is the 31st. I'm hoping the pipes at the home don't freeze before then.

House buying update; Xmas turns from 'ho ho ho' to 'meh'

Many thanks to the family, friends and strangers who've been sending congratulations! More details will definitely come, but I don't want to jinx it. The deal isn't 100% done yet. I don't want bad internet karma spoiling the deal. We learned a bit about the sellers through online resources (*coughfacebook*), so I assume they can find us just as easily. So, I'm going to keep any commentary off the site 'til it's all locked in.

The offer/counter/deal process is done. We've lined up insurance, a mortgage, a lawyer and the rest of the team (thanks largely to Amanda's heroic efforts on the phone).

Tomorrow (Friday) is the home inspection. Once we get the report and settle any issues arising from it, as far as I understand, we're locked in and counting down to the closing date, December 31. Then it's a matter of packing and moving.

We've been cornered into keeping the apartment for an extra month, which is not so bad, since it'll give us time to clean and repair a house that's empty, plus take our time packing. And from what I read, moving mid-month, mid-week in the middle of winter ought to get us the best deal from a moving company.

With all this going on, I confess I'm totally not into the Christmas spirit this year. And I'm hearing the same thing from so many other people. I don't know if the recession talk is creeping into peoples' brains (turn off the news and watch something fun for a change!) or if it's the weather or just growing up... but it's just not a jingle-bells year like some years past. I've made low-low-budget xmas-giving pacts with some people this year...well, pretty much everyone I've discussed the matter with. If I haven't talked with you about it yet -- hey, don't spend any big bucks on me. And I probably won't be spending big bucks either. I'm not being deliberately grinchy or scroogey ... just realizing that sometimes I get too caught up in buying people just the right things and feeling guilty if I don't put in a huge effort. This year I'm not feelin' it, and the bank account isn't inspiring me to push myself. Nobody's getting coal, but ... yeah, I think I've made my point.

Lots of love to all, especially those of you who I haven't been in touch with nearly enough -- you know who you are!

Today was my last day at work, and I'm okay with that

Today marks a weird spot on the calendar for me. It’s one of those landmarks that really doesn’t mean anything, other than to illustrate the...