Virtual House Tour: The Outside

As promised, I’ve rounded up a bunch of pictures of the new house — and since there are so many of them, I’ve decided to split it into two posts, one each for the outside and the inside. This first installment will feature a look at the outside of the house and the yard.

(Note: some of these photos were taken in the evening, right after closing, and others were taken the following weekend in midday sunlight, so there are some noticeable differences in lighting.)

Anyway, to give a brief introduction: the house is a red brick Chicago bungalow built in 1928. There was a cameraphone photo of it in my introduction post, but here’s a slightly better picture of the front:

View from beneath the shady tree out front.

The front of the house features stone trim (all painted white, unfortunately) including sturdy brackets for holding up a long-gone flower box. There’s also a row of small shaggy bushes that could probably use some trimming. Down the road, it would be neat to actually bring back a flower box, and maybe add some flowers and such around the bushes.

Bushes along the front of the house.

The front door is actually on the left side of the house, and has a little gabled roof style canopy over it. The sidewalk along this side of the house eventually leads into the backyard:

The front door.

The backyard gate indicates that the previous owners had a dog at some point:

Backyard gate with "Beware of Dog" sign.

Stepping into the backyard, you see the one-car garage (accessible from the alleyway behind the house). It’s a small frame structure, with little red flower boxes beneath the windows, and it’s just the right size for our Honda Insight — although if we had a van or an SUV or something, I’d actually be worried about getting it to fit in this garage:

Backyard view.

Next to the garage, there’s this little garden patch — as you can see from the photo, it’s currently pretty overgrown with weeds, and there’s lots of gravel and such mixed in. But it would be really neat to eventually get some vegetables going in there:

The garden.

This is what the house looks like from the backyard, standing over by the garden. From the outside, it has what appears to be an enclosed back porch addition, although on the inside it’s actually two separate rooms. (More details on that when I get to the inside pics.) Between the house and garage, the yard is completely open and grassy:

The house as seen from the backyard.

Off to one side of the yard (just outside the frame of the above photo) there’s this lovely flowering bush growing right alongside the fence:

Flowering bush along fence.

From a distance it looks like a rose bush, but up close the flowers are actually clusters of tiny flowers with yellow in the center:

Mystery flower cluster.

This is a closer view of the back door, which leads up through a sort of mudroom and into the kitchen:

The back door.

There’s another patch of lovely flowers growing by the back door — these ones are yellow and about an inch in diameter, but once again I don’t know what kind they are. Is anyone familiar with these?

Small yellow mystery flowers.

Beyond the back door, there’s a stairway that leads to the basement. This is in addition to the stairway to the basement inside the house:

Basement entrance.

And finally, an interesting detail… On the other side of the house from the front door, there are these two little stained glass windows:

Stained glass windows.

But the thing is, they’re only visible from the outside — on the inside, the previous owners decided to put a wall over them for some reason. (More on that in the next installment of house pictures.)

Anyway, that concludes the “outside” part of the virtual house tour. In the next installment, we’ll take a look on the inside — stay tuned for those pics very soon!

Update: The inside portion of this virtual house tour has been posted, complete with tons of photos! Check it out here.

The Story of the Stopped-Up Shower Drain

Earlier today, we showed my family the new house — more pictures coming soon! — and after they left, we stuck around to take some measurements and such in preparation for the work we need to do before moving in.

At some point, Joe decided it would be a good idea to try running the water in the bathtub, to make sure it would be suitable for taking showers and so forth. I admittedly thought this was a silly idea at first, since I was sure I remembered all of the faucets running fine during the home inspection. But to my surprise, running the water revealed a pretty big problem: the bathtub didn’t drain.

It wasn’t just that it was plugged a bit and drained slowly — it was completely stagnant, not draining at all. Since we need to be able to bathe pretty much immediately after moving in, we recognized that we needed to address this problem right away.

So Joe set to work bailing the water out of the bathtub while I ran out in search of some Drano — it was already after 10:00 pm, but as it happens 7 Eleven sells Liquid Plumber. We followed the instructions on the bottle, and… nothing. It seemed that whatever was clogging the drain must be pretty serious.

At this point, we decided to call it a night and head back to our apartment. We spent the ride discussing possible next steps and the logistics of getting a plumber in around our work schedules.

Then came an epiphany as Joe remembered the mysterious knob that we’d fiddled with briefly and then ignored. By now it was nearly midnight, and we’d almost driven the 14 miles back to our apartment, but we turned right around and headed back to the house, slapping ourselves in our foreheads the whole way there.

It turns out this thing controls an internal drain stopper.

Yep… turning that knob did the trick. The internal drain stopper opened right up and the bathtub drained as fast as any bathtub should. So we wasted three hours and a bottle of Liquid Plumber only to discover that everything was functioning exactly as it should the whole time.

Now in our defense, this knob is a bit loose and finicky, and doesn’t give the impression that it actually does anything — we may want to eventually replace it down the road. For that matter, the whole bathroom is a bit tired (the photo above shows where it’s in need of some caulking around the tub) so it wasn’t completely implausible that the drain had problems. But now I’m just making excuses.

The bottom line is that we failed at Bathtub Operation 101. And the worst part is, I fear this is just Episode 1 in an embarrassing new series entitled “Hapless New Homeowners Learn Simple Stuff The Hard Way.”

Closing Day

Well, it’s official: Joe and I are now homeowners! We closed on our little Chicago bungalow this afternoon. (For more on the trials and tribulations leading up to this moment, check out this post.) It’s almost hard to believe that we own a house now, but I’m really glad everything went through.

Standing in front of the new house after closing with keys in hand.

Last night, we went for the final walk-through, and I was a little surprised that instead of just the seller (who we’d met before), his son and daughters and several grandkids were all there. Apparently this house has been in the same family since 1959, and it’s being sold now that the elderly couple who lived in it have passed away. So they were all going around taking pictures of “grandma’s house” for the last time.

Closing went pretty smoothly — it took a little under three hours. The sellers seemed to finish their batch of paperwork much more quickly than we finished ours, so they spent most of that time telling colorful stories about wedding fights and drawing pictures of forts on scratch paper.

The only notable problem that came up was that my name was misspelled on every single document — they’d put in my middle initial as “B” instead of “P,” probably as a result of looking at one of the earlier tax records from before I got married and changed my name. It was too late to revise all of the documents, so I had to cross it out and initial the edit every single place my name was printed on all of the dozens of pages we had to sign. Boo.

But other than that, there were no nasty surprises, no delays, and we left with the keys to our new house, which we promptly ran to try out. So next comes the fun part: moving in, which we’re aiming to do next weekend if everything happens quickly with the floors. More updates on that coming soon!

The End of the House-Buying Tunnel

After weeks of back-and-forths with our real estate agent, lawyer, and mortgage broker — not to mention mountains of paperwork — today we finally received word that everything has been finalized, and closing on our new house is scheduled for later this week. (Yay!)

All in all, I think things have gone pretty smoothly, even if we did run into a couple of delays. We started looking at houses in March, and made our offer on this one towards the beginning of April. We worked out a price with the seller, had the home inspection done, and were originally hoping to close by the middle of May — but it’s taken until just this week to finally get everything in order.

On top of various small delays, the big thing holding up our mortgage was the handful of minor repairs the sellers had to complete in order to make the FHA happy. This included fresh paint wherever the paint was peeling, fixing an outlet in the bathroom, and repairing a couple of cracked windows. To complicate matters, there was some sort of miscommunication that resulted in the sellers not knowing they were supposed to fix one of the windows, so that added an extra week or so while they worked on it.

But now that the repairs are done and the paperwork has gone through, all that remains is the final walk-through and the closing — and I think we’re cautiously optimistic that no more surprise delays will pop up over the next few days.

If everything goes according to plan, our hope is to be moved out of our current apartment before the end of the month, although we’ll see how that goes — we wanted to have a couple of things done on the house before moving in. (The biggest one is to have the floors refinished, since that’s the sort of thing that involves so much dust and fumes and furniture-moving that it would be preferable to get it out of the way before we’re actually living there.)

But one way or the other, I’ll probably be posting more house updates and/or pictures over the next few days as things play out.

20-Week Ultrasound: Baby’s Gender Revealed

After many weeks of suspense, today Joe and I went in for the big second trimester ultrasound appointment, and our major hope — aside from a healthy and properly-growing baby, of course — was that we would be able to learn the baby’s gender. (I wrote a bit about that and our decision to find out the baby’s gender here.)

And everything went as perfectly as we could have dreamed — not only do both baby and I appear to be perfectly healthy, but we managed to catch the baby in a “spread-eagle” position that allowed the ultrasound technician to confidently tell us whether we’ll soon be parents to a daughter or a son. It was such an exciting moment — but since it came at the very end of the ultrasound session, I thought I would first show some of the other images, in the order that we got to see them.

First, baby’s profile, in what our ultrasound technician called a beautiful textbook shot:

Baby's profile at 20 weeks.

I should mention that our ultrasound technician was an absolute pleasure to work with — very personable and friendly, and she made lots of jolly comments about how cute our baby is. (Although I’m sure she says that about everybody’s.)

One of the first things she asked was whether we wanted to find out the gender. We enthusiastically said yes, but she had to go through the routine prenatal checkup and examine a million other things first. For instance, here’s our baby’s good steady heartbeat:

Baby's heartbeat at 20 weeks.

She took a bunch of measurements, and made notes by typing things directly onto the screen before saving a still frame or printing it out. It seemed like she made notes to label nearly every feature as she checked them one by one. Here’s baby’s little right foot, conveniently labeled for clarity:

Baby's right foot at 20 weeks.

It’s also neat how the ultrasound can see right through everything — check out these little baby arm bones:

Baby's arm at 20 weeks.

Every time she pointed something out — a bone, or an organ, or an eye lens of all things — I would ask if it looked healthy and normal, in neurotic first-time-parent fashion. Her response was usually to chuckle and say, “Well, it’s there!” before explaining what (if anything) it might look like if there was a problem.

While examining the head, one particularly cute frame captured the baby with mouth open wide — possibly yawning? I’m not sure how clear it is in the following image:

Yawning baby?

All of this went on for quite a while — I actually had to get up to use the bathroom at one point during the ultrasound session — and for most of it, it didn’t seem certain that we’d be able to determine the gender at all. But then, finally, the baby shifted position enough to allow a clear view:

20-week ultrasound: It's a girl!

That was actually how we found out — rather than saying anything aloud, the ultrasound technician just started typing some notes, and the words “ITS A GIRL” appeared slowly across the screen.

So that’s the story of our exciting ultrasound and baby-gender-revelation experience. And now that we know that we have a daughter on the way, hopefully we’ll have an easier time deciding on a name for her — not to mention stocking up on baby clothes and nursery decorations and all those other fun happy things. Stay tuned!