Dec 16, 2014

House hunting

It's amazing what a few hours of driving around can do for your perceptions of things.

We're on the hunt for a house out here, and gave our realtor what we thought was a pretty picky list of things:
- X or more bedrooms
- Y or more bathrooms
- Z or more square feet
- MUST be in GeographicArea.
- Lot size at least N.

She looked at it and said, "That's it? This'll be easy."

We started getting auto-emails with listings. 150ish to start with, and we've filtered through a ton of them. A lot got discarded out of hand due to location (2.5 acres, but ... sandwiched between two major highways), or condition ("a real handyman's dream!"), or lot size, or any number of other factors that made it apparent right off that it wasn't for us. We spent the better part of two afternoons driving around and looking at ones that were still on the list. A whole lot more got nixed.

Big-ass McMansions in cookiecutter developments on lots under a quarter-acre, and most with HOA covenants to make boot camp look like a sabbatical. And none with mature landscaping, or more than a ten-foot gap between houses. Ugh. I want to be able to sit on my porch or deck with my morning coffee and not have my neighbors participate in the over-the-paper conversations.

We had one on our "we like it" list based on the listing before we met the agent. We took a look at it very shortly after meeting her. We still liked it.

We looked at it again this weekend and we all still like it. It's not the perfect house, but it's hitting most of our requirements nicely. Even has enough space for a few yard raptors.

However ... there was a listing we'd looked at over the summer that got pulled last month, and we'd been kind of pipe-dreaming about it. Location wasn't ideal based only on schools - but it was a multi-acre lot in the city we have to live in. Photos were gorgeous. We did a driveby over the summer and it looked as good outside as we'd hoped. Our agent made a call and got us an off-market showing.

It's a beautiful house, and it'll make someone a great home. Not us, though. It was at the top of our budget and needed more work than we are willing (or willing to afford) to do. And the multi-acre lot? Most of it is unusable space thanks to terrain.

We'd never have known that from drive-bys and photos.

So ... we're continuing the hunt, with a strong contender in the running. Here's hoping.

Dec 11, 2014

Stamp 2

Got an email from my local Class 3 pusher the other night. Approved Form 4 was in hand, and could I come in to pick up...

If it hadn't been 1am when I read the email, I'd have probably left rubber smoke hanging in the driveway. Instead I waited 19 interminable hours and picked this up during his normal business hours:

That, my friends, is a SilencerCo Sparrow: 5" long, 6.5oz, and rated for the common rimfire cartridges and even 5.7x28.

There's only one problem, and a serious one it is... I mailed my form in July and my dealer told me to expect 7-9 months. It's been five.

I don't have anything threaded 1/2-28.

On my way out the door I was sternly admonished not to get anything threaded while I was there. I promised I wouldn't, then noted that BassPro was an easy side trip on the way as the door closed... but I didn't.

My gun priority list has suddenly changed from parting together a couple more ARs and buying ammo here and there to:
- repairing and threading my Savage MkII
- stamping and SBRing my M&P15-22
- threading my Ruger MkIII
- acquiring a Ruger American .22Mag
- acquiring a S&W M&P22c

That set aside, the process for buying that suppressor started in May when I ordered and paid for it. My dealer waited two months for the Form 3 to process so he could receive it from SilencerCo, it took me a week to get my paperwork finished and mailed in, and then another five months of waiting for the ATF to fold-spindle-mutilate and return my Form 4.

Total costs:
Trust by attorney: $350 (admittedly to be used in multiple instances, so amortize if you wish)
Suppressor: $450
ATF stamp: $200
Three trips to the dealer: 2 hours and 40 miles round trip each time.

... but if I don't have a muffler on my car, I get a ticket.

Dec 10, 2014

Housing Bubble: Round 2

Fannie and Freddie will again back mortgages with 3% down. (Warning: Autoplay with sound.)

The new loans will only be doled out to those who buy private mortgage insurance, have a credit score of at least 620 and offer complete documentation of their income, assets and job status. And, to further mitigate risk, the agencies will require borrowers to receive home ownership counseling.
Oh, well, in that case...

The mortgages require "home ownership counseling". Well, that's great... are they going to counsel people on what to do when it's 3am on Thanksgiving morning and the water heater just committed hara-kiri all over the basement floor? How to pay for that plumber's bill? Or are they going to teach them to use a water shutoff valve, a mop, a couple wrenches and a propane torch to sweat a new joint on a new water heater?

When we bought our first house in 2009, we didn't really know what we were doing. We had an agent who got lazy. We had a deal explode underneath us (which cost us a sizable chunk of money in fees for inspections etc - today I realize we could have probably filed a small claim suit for those fees as we'd have not made an offer and entered a contract if  the seller had actually made the legally-required disclosures), we had banks that wanted to give us obscene amounts of money, and truthfully, we didn't know what we wanted.

I'm not kidding about the obscene amount of money.

Our agent told us to get a pre-qualification letter from a bank, so we did. We had a rough number in mind that we were comfortable with affording. We gave the bank everything - statements, balances, assets, incomes, the works - and the lady plugged the numbers into her computer and rattled off a pre-qual number more than double what we thought we could afford.

I laughed at her.

She showed me the numbers. Three percent down, whatever percentage of gross monthly income, debt-to-income ratios... sure, we could afford it! She tried to tell us more than once that we could afford this mortgage.

She was nuts. Plain nuts. Or at least I thought so. We'd have been eating a lot of beans and rice and ramen if we'd gone anywhere near the numbers she waved at us.

Over the last decade we've heard a few major words over and over in the headlines. Bubble. Sub-prime. "Too big to fail."

Still, according to Mark Palim, who directs economic and strategic research at Fannie Mae, it's a welcome expansion of credit.
"It's not a radical departure from what we're doing now, but anything at the margins helps," he said.
Helps who, exactly?

When did we stop teaching fiscal responsibility? I (admittedly) learned some of it the hard way. MrsZ and I have had some tough months over the last eight years, and yes, some arguments and tears to balance budgets.

Now? We're not living check-to-check. We're far from wealthy. We do have a small balance on our credit card (which is being hammered down on a pretty strong plan). But we're living comfortably within our means*, and are a hell of a lot happier for it. (In fact, MrsZ just resigned from her job. It hasn't panned out the way we'd hoped and we're financially able to allow her to not work for a while without juggling bills.)

But now, less than a decade after the sub-prime crisis popped a bubble, we're setting up young homebuyers for failure again ... Why? Who does this benefit? And who doesn't have a chair when the music stops?

The builders benefit - because they are paid before they turn over keys.
The banks benefit - because the foreclosures can be resold, the loans are insured, and they made some interest while those wonderful sub-prime buyers living on the bleeding edge of their credit score were making payments.
The insurance companies benefit - because they're collecting a lot of premiums, and what the hell - they're too big to fail, right?

Who's on the hook?

Go look in the mirror. If you pay taxes, you're on the hook, and you should be asking SERIOUS questions of your elected representatives as to why they're willing to allow this again.


* - (having a third adult in the house, and associated income, of course, helps tremendously; that is fodder for a coming post)

Nov 17, 2014

Thank you

Several of you reached out to lend an ear after my last post. It's appreciated.

And, inevitably, there have been some good moments to help outweigh the unpleasant ones.

Nov 14, 2014

A couple for the wish-list

My selection of actions and calibers is pretty well-rounded... but there are a couple holes I'd like to fill:
- a Glock 19 ... because good lord they're everywhere. And I can get Blue Label pricing.
- a bolt-action .223, leaning towards a Tikka T3 Lite stainless.
- a big-bore. This is WAY down the list, but I'd love to have a .338 or larger in the vault.