Beginning

So.  The place is ours now, and all the planning we have done in our heads must become work done with our hands.  Priority number one is in fact not the roof (which is now temporarily patched with painted plywood and catch bins placed under small leaks), but the power service.  Work on the roof will be much easier once we have electricity.  The problem is that the Buffalo Fire Department also cut the power lines leading from the pole to the house as part of their training, and seem to have removed the breaker boxes as well.  So we are starting from the backyard, where the pole is.  Fortunately, we have an electrician we trust, so no nightmares expected.  Having lights, running power tools and heating water for hot cocoa will improve conditions inside the house immeasurably.

Since the weather seems to have come on strong days after our closing, the roof may have to wait until the spring.  Fact is, there are no finished spaces in the house, so the roof issues are mainly in keeping framing and electrical dry during the demolition phase.  The plywood and catch buckets are working for now, and I hardly want to be on a roof during this time of year.  In fact, I would prefer my roofing crew to be nice and dry and comfortable, so they can do a thorough job and not a rush job.  Timing is everything.

Speaking of demolition phases, it turns out that the plaster in this house is in bad shape.  You are not surprised.  But even worse than water damage are the years of neglect and shoddy repairs.  Just about every wall in this house is covered in layer upon layer of wallpaper that was then painted over.  With the continual changes in heat and humidity, that paper is peeling all over.  To get down to something that is worth finishing would require hours and hours of scraping, scraping, scraping.  And then removing the myriad sloppy patches to the plaster, and then doing proper, smooth patches.  And there are a lot of walls in this house.  Meanwhile, we are going to insulate this house; code and common sense require it.  Add to that the other building systems that need to be redone and the conclusion I come to is that most of the plaster, especially exterior walls, will have to come down.  I would prefer to leave it, no only because that would mean less dusty, heavy work, but also because it represents a large commitment of human and material resources expended by those who went before us and I think that is worth preserving whenever it makes sense.  Nevertheless, it must go, so if anyone has use for old wood lath just let me know.  A. and I now own plenty.

IMG_0425
Bad plaster.
  Bad.

Planning for demo means planning for removal, and with the amount of debris we will have a dumpster is the way to go.  The beauty of dumpsters is that they drop off a big metal box, you fill it, and then it goes away.  Hauling trash to the transfer station yourself could potentially save a buck, but once you factor in the logistical challenges (timing, vehicles, etc.), the extra time it takes and the extra strain on your back, then for large amounts the dumpster is my choice.

But to get a dumpster next to the house (we own the lot next door as well, for just this sort of reason), we need a proper driveway.  We are lucky that there is a large driveway approach leading into our lot (leftover from the house that used to be there), but it leads into wet, sloppy clay at the moment.  We need something that a truck can drive on without getting stuck.  So first we need to get some stone down there.  We will go with recycled (crushed) concrete, which is mostly the stone aggregate from concrete with little bits of crushed cement mixed in.  Works well for this sort of thing, promotes reuse of concrete instead of filling up landfills, and is cheap at $15.50 a ton for 1″ crusher run, which is to say  screened so that no pieces are larger than about 1″.  Now it is just a matter of wrangling a truck and dump trailer to get the stuff from the gravel yard to our yard.  But only after we get a break in the weather.  That’s “order of operations.”

Lots to do, and none of it is the “put on a roof and paint the place” stuff that would really look great on the block.  We will get there, someday.

Closing

It took us almost eleven months from the submission of our purchase proposal to City Hall, but we are finally the owners of the Green Monster.  Since first seeing the place, closer to a year.  Add to that the six months or so we spent on the dead-end of 247 Rhode Island St, and it is a bit strange to finally own a house in Buffalo.  Going in, we never thought it would take so long.  Now, A. and I have joined the club of jaded Buffalo homeowners who chuckle when some bright-eyed kid starts talking about their house dream.  We ought to keep a cache of airplane-sized bottles of whiskey to give those twenty-something innocents.

But I digress.  Closing itself is a fairly straightforward process, for all that it takes to get there.  It takes place at the Erie County Clerk’s office, in the County Courthouse downtown.  A representative of the Division of Real Estate meets you at the Clerk’s office, you look over the deed, may your payment for garbage user fee (oh that fee), hand over your certified check for the amount of the purchase (minus the 10% deposit required back at the purchase contract signing), and then go see a secretary of the clerk to record the deed and pay the required transfer tax and filing fee.  And just like that, your fee simple interest in the house is recognized by the reigning authority in the land.  That is to say, you own the rights and privileges pertaining to the specified parcel of land, including all improvements thereupon.  I mean, you own the house.  As long as you feed the beast and pay the taxes.

Now, we just have to figure out how to get some new garbage totes, to take advantage of our paid-for City services.

Updates to City Real Estate Dept. web site

The City of Buffalo web site is chock full of information, but you have to put on your computer boots and bring a brain shovel to find it.  I just came across what appear to be some updates to the Real Estate department’s web site.  Behold:

http://www.ci.buffalo.ny.us/Home/City_Departments/RealEstate/PurchaseCityProperty

As of Dec 19th, 2012, that address gives you a navigation bar on the left side of the screen with headings such as “Vacant land information,”Public buildings for sale,” and “Residential property for sale.”  Clicking the “Residential property for sale” link brings you to a column style listing of some residential properties offered by the City.  The list is not complete, but I would hazard a guess that this format is much easier to update than the City Buys catalog, the likes of which is current to last March and no longer appears to be linked on the RE dept’s page.  Cha-cha-changes.

Hopefully the updates to the Real Estate department’s web page are just beginning, and soon there will be sensible, info-rich electrons just flying all over the place.  How’s that for optimism?  I would love to see up-to-date and complete listings of houses available, including those on the demolition list.  Unfortunately, the view in the past seems to have been that a demo-stamped house is no longer worth marketing for sale.  Given how freely houses get marked that way, I disagree.

Tomorrow

Barring any (more) unforeseen challenges, we will be closing on the Green Monster and its monstrous adjacent lot tomorrow. Cross your fingers and watch this space – we’re almost done with one set of challenges and just about to enter a new realm of them: rehabbing the property.

Title Search complete

We received news this week that our title search is complete.  Normally, when you send out for a title search it takes about two weeks to get it done.  This one took four weeks because of certain irregularities.  We are eager to get our hands on the hard copy to figure out what those are.  The chain of ownership provides an important window into the history of this 120+ year old house, so we shall see what it reveals.

For folks interested in tackling a fixer-upper, the cost of the title search was $650.  The title search company is Capital Abstract out of 3659 Harlem Rd in Buffalo.

Oh Those Documents

Well we’re rolling into December and still no deed.  But for the last month, the delay has been on our part, not City Hall’s.  We were waiting on the property survey (now completed) and the title search (pending).  What was supposed to be a two week affair has turned into four, partly because of the Thanksgiving holiday and partly because the title search has been a “tough one” (so say the professionals).  I cannot say I am surprised about that, given the age of the house and its location in a part of town that has seen much change over the years.  Hoping for early this coming week on the finished title search, and then we should be able to set a closing date quickly and get this thing done.  Excelsior.

*Edit (12/8/2012):  I should add that the cost of the property survey was $400.  The survey company was Millard, MacKay and Delles Land Surveyors, LLP.  Their office is at 150 Aero Dr. in Buffalo and their number is (716) 631-5140.