Friday, June 1, 2012

Garden Musings (06-01-12)

Vinca, Major or Minor = Verrrry BAD! Do not plant. Ever.
(Yeah, I know, those star-shaped deep blue flowers and dark glossy leaves sure look harmless and enticing...)
But the worst is yet to come: tentacle-like pull-resistant sturdy shoots that spread far, wide, high, and deep. This one is as bad as ivy, - even worse because it spreads in every direction at once.
Left Photo: Pretty...                                                   Right Photo: After hours of pulling.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Even more frustrating... (05-25-12) to get a bid that suggests redoing everything, and for a fortune, of course! All I can do is shake my head.

Monday, May 21, 2012

More contractor news (05-21-12)

When we moved in two year ago, the first thing we noticed was how cold the house felt. So, we had some work done to insulate the house, as part of a program of the Energy Trust of Oregon. It is frustrating to find out, based on a recent test done with Clean Energy Works Oregon, that the previous work was apparently not completed as thoroughly as it ought to have been...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Finally! A resolution (11-02-11)

Hard to believe, but we had a meeting of the minds.

Papers were signed, this just one day before the official court date. My two ladies (previous owner and her agent) were quite chatty, -even friendly-, as we were signing rounds of documents, mine specifying that I would not hound them any further, and theirs that they would pay for french drains to be installed between the house and the studio, and for some work to be completed under the house.

After we were done, George (our buyer's agent) and I braved the frigid weather to celebrate with a cup of hot tea at Village Coffee. It had been an exhausting process, but we were both glad it was over.

The odds of winning in small claims court were rather good, we thought, but Gary and I felt better with a compromise where all parties could feel that they had come out with something... Big relief to be done with this and to be able to move on with other things.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Roses in Bloom... (06-20-11)

...Yeah, and it looks like this will be another year when I am going to forget to cut them... so there will be fewer blooms altogether. Still, so lovely...

Lovely in Springtime (06-20-11)

Here are some photos of the house at its best, when everything around is in bloom...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Good Grief: Another Delay (06-09-11)

Isn't there a saying to the effect that the wheels of Justice move slowly? Indeed, they do.
I almost laughed when I read the notification the court sent us, that the Small Claims hearing has been scheduled for... November 3!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More on the Complaint (04-21-11)

It takes me some time to make a decision, but here goes.

Inasmuch as it would be easier and simpler to just forget the whole thing and to move one, I still owe it to myself to stand up against a situation in which we were clearly prejudiced, perhaps even willfully. I would have no respect for myself if I didn't try to do something to correct the situation.

So, yesterday, I went to file in Small Claims Court in Oregon City, not only against the ex-owner, but against her agent as well. There was too much aggravation over this transaction, and the agent ultimately had the responsibility to to corral her seller, and to make sure that the disclosure form was truthful and thorough.

Friday, April 8, 2011

So she's playing with us... (04-08-11)

Our previous owner's response, dated March 9, was not surprising, yet it was stunning because of the bad faith it revealed.

There was nary a mention of the photos I had sent of the water pooling against the foundation when it rained, nothing about the omissions on the disclosure form, but, rather, some vague statements where our lady:

1.) claims to be defenseless: " a single woman living alone I had no particular ability or experience to know more than I disclosed." We are in fact dealing with a commercial real estate agent who must be experienced enough since her name consistently comes up on at least seven consecutive pages of Google searches.

2.) says that since we had a house inspection, all is well.
3.) has the nerve to claim that she did all required repairs to our satisfaction.
4.) congratulates us for doing the excavation: "...from the photos you included it appears you have done a great job of getting that area ready for planting and I am sure it will be lovely."

I contacted our real estate agent, to inquire if there had been any contact from the ex-owner's agent, and his inquiry generated a polite certified letter addressed to us, where the other agent tells us she appreciates our keeping her "in the loop" and asks us to keep her "informed of all future correspondence."

The same day, we got another copy of the ex-owner's letter, this time via certified mail; the only difference this time around was that she didn't use a fancy calligraphy stamp with her name and address on the envelope.

I am going to give some thoughts to my next move...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Gotta Mark the Date (03-04-11)

Today, it's been one year since the house has been in our name.

And what a year it has been! We have lived through unforeseen problems and break-downs, many repairs, but also through too many family-related upheavals... Here we are now, one year later, broke, beat, battered and bruised.

Would we do it again? What do you think?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Finally, I Made a Complaint! (02-25-11)

Over the last year, I've been crying and whining about the problems we've had with the house, either about the dysfunctional transaction or about repairs the previous owner promised to do but ultimately didn't. And every time I finished telling my tales of woe to whoever was patient enough to listen to me, I'd conclude by stating that I was, for sure, going to make a formal complaint against the previous owner. Then, some catastrophe would happen, and I would be distracted with another pressing issue.

It was like a background nagging, a constant burden. And it was infuriating, especially after moving in and finding out how many problems there actually were with the house, and I am not talking about an errant Hobo spider here or there, although by itself, that would be enough to get me freaked out.

Well, I finally did it! It took me months, but I finished my letter to the previous owner, and sent it off yesterday. In it, I list some of the problems we've encountered and point out that these issues ought to have been disclosed, and ask for payment of repairs to be done, as well as for reimbursement for work already done. For good measure, I also included colors photographs, estimates, receipts, notarized statement from the lady who was renting part of the house, and the 911 report about the undisclosed January 2010 frozen pipe incident.

Depending on the speed of postal delivery, this may have been already delivered today, or maybe tomorrow...

Here is the letter I sent.

[First and last name] and [First and last name]
[Street address]
[City], [State] [Zip code]

14 February 2011

[First and last name of previous owner]
[Street address]
[City], [State] [Zip code]

[First and last name of previous owner’s real estate agent]
[Name of real estate agency]
[Street address]
[City], [State] [Zip code]

Cc: [First and last name of previous owner’s agent’s broker] [Name of real estate agency]
[First and last name of our real estate agent] [Name of real estate agency]
[First and last name of our agent’s broker] [Name of real estate agency]

Re: Disclosure Form
for sale of property located at
[Street address] [City], [State] [Zip code]

Dear Madam,

I am writing this letter in regards to the disclosure form you provided for the property located at [Street address] [City], [State] [Zip code], which we purchased from you on [Month and day], 2010.

In light of problems that have emerged since the purchase of this property, we are notifying you that there were issues you apparently were aware of, but did not report on the property disclosure form even though you were mandated to report them by [Name of state] law.

In light of the fact that the property has been your main residence for several years and was recorded in your name since [Month] 1998 after being in your parents’ name as early as of 1997, a reasonable expectation is that you would have acquired direct and intimate knowledge of any problems that may have emerged during those years.

The problems mentioned above are:
1.     The foundation repairs that were to be done as part of the transaction were not completed; the foundation is in fact in poor condition and this state is likely related to some of the factors listed below.
2.     The large mound of dirt at the back of the property has caused rain drainage runoff to flow and pool against the back foundation wall of the house.
3.     According to the landscaper who installed the sprinkler systems in ca. 2007, French drains were installed, to alleviate drainage problems in the berry garden area “due to a flash flooding to the back of the house during a storm sometime in about 2007.”
4.     Your tenant, Ms. [First and last name], revealed to us that the water pipes to the tenant kitchen burst in winter 2009-2010 and resulted in a 911 call.
5.     Ms. [Last name] also informed us that the pipes to the main house kitchen also burst under the house sometime in winter 2009-2010.
6.     The gutters were in such bad condition that they leaked or poured every time it rained, and contributed to the water drainage problems.
7.     The perimeter of the main house is permanently wet in spring, fall and winter.
8.     Due to water accumulating against the perimeter wall of the main house, there has been some seepage of water under the house, contributing to possible weakening of the foundation.
As the owner and occupant of the main house, you had to be aware of this issue, especially since you agreed to make repairs to the foundation as part of the sales purchase.
9.     The sprinkler system attached to the neighbor’s property (at SE corner) actually waters large portions of our property, including lawns and large shrubs.
10.  The drainage collection pond that we are required to maintain and recorded on the title is not there. As party to this agreement with the [Name] Sanitary District, you had to be aware of this issue and report it in the disclosure form.

All of the above should have been noted on the Property Disclosure form and were either left off, or marked “unknown.” Marking “unknown” to questions pertaining to water seepage or drainage issues does not relieve you of the obligation to be truthful. According to the [Name of state] Association of Realtors, “Answering “unknown” to avoid disclosure of known information can be considered a form of fraud.” ([Website address]). Surely, even you, a real estate agent with an active license in the State of [Name of state] would be aware of that.

The factors above affect the property value in a detrimental manner and, had we known about them, would have fully been influential in our decision to not purchase this property after all. We feel that we have been defrauded by your negligence and request some financial compensation to address the issues in question.

I am including estimates for necessary foundation and drainage repairs, as well as receipts for corrective work already done, such as excavating the mound of dirt to level the ground in a manner that water will not run against the house, as well as installing properly working gutters.

My husband [First name] and I acted in good faith during this transaction and expected the same from all parties involved, including and especially you, since you are a real estate agent with an active license in the State of [Name of state], and are consequently bound by strict ethical guidelines.

We expect to be reimbursed for the costs incurred so far and compensated for those that still need to be carried out. That done, we would give you full release from any further issues with the property, including the foundation.

[First name] and [First name and last name]

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tree Fall (02-16-10)

One of the flowering plum trees fell down the day before yesterday. It wasn't even terribly windy outside... It was one of the trees that framed the lovely Shade Garden, and I am not sure about what to do for a replacement (like, in case we unexpectedly come into money)...lilacs, or even the cherry tree I got for my birthday? I wish we could just pick up the little plum tree and set it back straight in its hole, roots and all, problem resolved, nothing to dispose of!

Before and After: December 2010 and February 2011
Before and After: January 2010 and February 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chaos After the Vintage Flea Market (02-10-11)

The Vintage Flea Market was a great success! (I wrote about it in some details on my No Ducks and Bunnies Vintage blog.) I am now trying to make sense of the things I have brought back from the show.

We've been here for now 11 months, and the house still looks like a disaster. The idea of getting the shed/studio done was a great one, but it's taken way more time than it should have. Despite taking many things to Village Merchants or Goodwill, there are boxes all over the house, some I haven't even had a chance to open yet!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Moving In! (01-30-11)

What a day! I finally started moving things in the studio! Of course, it's total mayhem inside. It's going to take me a while to sort all this stuff and get it put away.

Sturio Interior Views

From left to right and top to bottom:
- Photo1: The big table in the foreground was displayed in pouring rain in front of an interior decorator's shop in Sellwood; it was a bargain at $60.
- Photo1: The gorgeous pine wardrobe in the corner was found on Craigslist.
- Photos 3 and 6: The big cabinet with the doors and shelves was a rare find from the Rebuilding Center.
- Photo 5: Of course, there is the Warped Table, a unique find from Tropical Salvage; they thought I was crazy when I bought it (for a pittance); the table is so freakishly wavy, it's like something one would expect the Mad Hatter to use.
- Photo 4 and 5: The small Restoration Hardware bookcase was only $60 on Craigslist.
- Photo 4: I got the library card file cabinet years ago when Jackson County Library was converting to computers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Final Touches: Baseboards (01-24-11)

Everything about the Shed/Studio Revamp project has been meant to be done economically. Of course, this has not worked out in many cases due to contractor-related surprises, but that was the initial plan. Since Gary lost his job recently, we really are on a shoestring. 

We went to the Rebuilding Center hoping to find some materials we could use for baseboards. It was disheartening to look through the warehouse, and see only piles of junk stacked up against the walls, old cracked planks thick with chipped or peeling paint, nothing that one could imagine to be useable... Finally, we located some beat-up siding, and figured out that it could work out...despite the $30 cost (now, I know, that's a minimal charge when it comes to construction materials, but it was in pretty bad shape).

Once home, Gary braved the cold to install the makeshift baseboards in the studio. The look is now genuinely shabby chic!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lots of Work Ahead (01-06-10)

My head has been spinning the last few days, ever since I found out that I had been approved as a vendor at the Funky Junk Sisters' Junk Salvation Flea Market in February! It's a challenging task to sort the furniture I have collected and stored under the carport, especially since I don't like the cold weather.

The coupon below is good for $1 off the entry fee on the day of the show. Come visit!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Work on the Studio Exterior (12-31-10)

In retrospect, the hardest part of the project has been to find reliable contractors; in addition to Gary, this carpenter is the sixth contractor to work on the shed/studio.

Replacing the missing battens

End of Year Wrap-Up (12-31-10)

While I was working in the yard this morning, I was thinking of the the things that drive me. I am passionate about my little crooked house with the crooked floors. I am passionate about making it just right and cozy for us, our home, a refuge beyond the reach of the world.

A Day of Work (12-31-10)

I spent all morning and most of the afternoon trying to get some yard work done before there is another freeze. Lots of work today: I turned the dirt over in the garden area, to discourage the weeds from settling down for the winter. I stacked up away from the house all the wood logs Gary had split and left near the carport. I carried a lot of the wood debris left behind the studio (aka shed) by previous contractors to the side of the trailer, for a future trip to the dump. Valérie and Julia brought all the trimmed rose branches from the rose garden area and put them in the trailer, with the rest of the yard debris. Then, I went down to the rose garden and trimmed half of the lavender shrubs at the front of the property, and the big hydrangea near the front porch.

One of the pipes at the back of the house behind the laundry room may have burst: there was a long trail of ice along the side of the house, not a good sign...

On a positive note, the outside of the studio is finished, as far as the missing bats are concerned. My friend Julie Olson gave me the phone number of a carpenter who seems to know what he's doing (a nice change, since the last 10 months have been been a wild ride). He worked pretty fast, with no gloves on. Yet, it was so cold in the morning, I couldn't even feel my fingers inside my gloves...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gutter Installation (12-21-10)

After getting estimates from 14 different people, I thought I was going to go mad! In the end, I ended up choosing the... first guy! Happy-go-lucky, with a gentle sense of humor, he gave me the assurance that he wasn't out to take advantage of us, but to do a good job. I was able to get the last 30 ft. box of foamy rain filters Costco carried in the state, and he provided the missing 30 ft. What a difference with the guy who tried to sell me 60 ft for...$410! We may have a few low spots where the water will accumulate, such as the corner of the porch roof, but that remains to be verified when it rains a lot.
The gutter machine molds flat metal into 5" gutters.

The gutter for the upper roof is ready.

A nice change: a straight upper gutter.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Lights are Installed! (11-20-10)

I never thought this would ever happen, but we finally got the lights installed in the studio (can't really call it a "shed" anymore).

The big chandelier was in the dining room when we bought the house, and I immediately hated it with a passion; it was too big for the small room. ( It made me think of a monstrous space alien mothership looming in the sky, with tiny people running in panic on the ground.) But in this space, it looks just right.

The light in the foreground is a lovely small 3-light chadelier I got it at Hippo Hardware many years ago. It was on the upstairs landing in our old house, set with flickering flame bulbs (it drove Gary nuts, since it didn't light the staircase at all).

Next in the project is coating the OSB floors with polyurethane, to protect them and give them some sheen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ideas for a Fence (11-18-10)

I drew this sketch to try to get a visual idea of what a fence would look like in the lower part of the property. Right now, there is no fence because the old fence erected in the early 1980s was all rotted out and had to be taken out. Unfortunately, there is just not a way to get a new fence at this time, for lack of funds...
Fence idea.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rain and Water Update, etc. (11-11-10)

Gary was able to patch and repair the back gutter and downspout. The issue is not totally resolved, but with this temporary fix, we've gained a few days to get a couple more gutter estimates. And at least, I sleep better when it rains.
We live on a hill...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Water Issues (11-06-10)

This freaky weather is just killing me. It's been raining pretty hard for a while, and all I can think of is the missing gutter at the back of the house, with pouring water saturating the ground touching the area where there is a missing segment of concrete foundation wall. I don't know what to do, because none of the gutter contractors I talked to made me feel confident about how this project would evolve; but not dealing with the issue at all is clearly not the right solution either.

An Incredible Find! (11-06-10)

I was browsing at Portico when I came across this superb chaise in the back of the store. It looked absolutely perfect for the studio (if and whenever it gets done...). I hope there won't be any bad surprises with this purchase; I still remember the Toxic Couch of a few months ago...