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Good Deals in Real Estate Exist!

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We are in escrow! Sorry, in Texas (and pretty much every other state) terminology, we are under contract!! We landed a house for $60K under budget. Yup, you read that right, $60K UNDER budget in a crazy housing market where houses are gone in days, sometimes hours. How’d we do it? Did we buy a trashed fixer-upper? Did we buy in a bad area of town? Nope. The house only needs moderate updates and it’s in a spectacular neighborhood 15 minutes from my work. We copied the buying method we did 14 years ago; we saw what everyone missed. What was that exactly?

1) We ignored the colors. The outside of the house was stunning but the second I opened the door, I leaned over to my husband and whispered, ‘1980 called and asked for their wall colors back). The colors felt like they were yelling. Bleh. But that’s a very cheap fix.

2) We ignored customization. The homeowner installed 4-foot-tall walls (pony walls) to break up spaces around the house and the garage. Let me be very clear, DO NOT ASSUME YOU CAN MOVE WALLS. My husband is an expert and we walked through with an engineer. These were non-load bearing walls but that isn’t always the case. But homeowners do weird things, if they aren’t permanent, don’t let them scare you away.

3) We brought a tape measure. The house belonged to a ‘collector’. It was FILLED with antiques and bulky furniture. When people have tons of stuff, it’s really hard to gage how big a house is or isn’t. We always bring a tape measure. Trust me, you’d be surprised. We walked into the upstairs playroom and it felt claustrophobically small because it was filled wall to wall. It was 17 feet by 22 feet.

4) We focused on the bones. It’s so hard to focus on the bones of a house. What’s the layout? What’s the condition? What’s the location? Stop being distracted by the paint and the furniture.

5) We consulted with experts. After our offer was accepted, we hired an inspector. Yes, pretty much everyone does that, but my husband walked through the space with him. My husband was doing final measurements around the house and drafting a layout plan while the inspector was doing his thing. Every time the inspector spotted something important, he’d call my husband over and they’d have a chat about it. They were able to bounce repair ideas off each other. We also invited a specialist to join the inspection party. The front windows looked like they may need replacement so we brought a window installer (they’ll usually come for free BTW). General inspectors are great but if you need specific repairs, sometimes it’s nice to bring in someone who can give you exact costs rather than a ballpark. Those floor measurements and layout drafts my husband took? He took those to a carpet installer who gave us a solid estimate. Always talk to experts. All too often, people buy very pretty houses that are complete money pits. Try to have a very clear picture of what you are buying.

What are your homebuying tips in this crazy market?

Health Update

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I’ve met with lots of specialists over my health mess (cha-CHING!). There were lots of conversations, lots of statements of ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you’. There didn’t seem to be any consistency in what was causing the problem. I had the joy of paying over $1,000 for the slew of tests they ordered. After months of absolute misery and a lot of frustrated crying, they gave me a diagnosis and a corrective action plan. I didn’t like it. I thought they were wrong but I did it anyway just so I could tell them how wrong they were when the plan failed.

Except it didn’t.

It’s been 30 days since I was last sick. I’m back to running and my hair is starting to grow in. It’s a big lifestyle change and it’s permanent but it’s so nice to know what’s wrong that I almost don’t care.

Almost. It still sucks.

I’m hoping this is the end of it. Hospitals and specialists are so darn expensive. But on a positive note, my HSA plan was the best thing in this case. I didn’t have to ask for referrals to specialists; I could just go – and it was a specialist who figured it out. HSA’s are great if you are really healthy OR really sick. I’ve always assumed I would fall into the ‘really health’ category; it was a relief to have when I slid into the ‘really sick’. Again, HSA’s aren’t the solution for everyone! Research, research, research, and make a decision based on your needs.

Feels great to be (almost) normal again. But I think I’ll keep the short hair.