This weekend I went out and looked at another batch of houses. I think I've seen seven now. Because of my price range, there is always going to be something that I don't like about a house. Here are some of the problems with the houses I am looking at:
1) Lack of yard. Houses that were really small, and then expanded, had only one place to build into: the already small backyard. I'd really like to have some space behind my house.
2) Questionable Location. From where I live now, it only takes a few blocks to get into an area that I don't particularly to live in. Location is an important consideration to me. For starters, I want to live on a nice block and be close to public transportation.
3) Poor Layout. One house I looked at was kind of perfect, except for the weird floor plan. Of the three rooms advertised as "bedrooms" only one was a normal sized, functional bedroom. And I'm not trying to buy a one bedroom house right now.
4) Kitchen. I'm too picky here. I want a big kitchen. I want to be able to make delicious meals. I want space to be able to put in a dishwasher and indoor grill. All of those things are impossible to come by. I'm looking for the a kitchen with at least that potential.
5) Condition. Here's a huge problem for me. I want a house that is mostly in good condition that I can put the finishing touches on. But the are two prevalent types of houses: terrible condition with a lot of (serious or cosmetic) work needed; or, houses that have been rehabbed in a quick, cheap fashion. I will end up redoing this shoddy work, but also will pay for it up front.
My top pick so far is at Firth and Amber. I want to go back and take pictures and measurements of this house. Time is on my side right now; I am happy renting at my current location for about about another six months if I don't find a house to buy right away. Still, the housing market is pretty slow, and I'm not sure how many new places are going to come on the market between now and then.
I started to write a comment on my friend's blog. Her and her husband thought about only buying from the US for a while. Here's what my comment turned into.
I've been thinking a lot about international trade lately. Buying from the US does insure certain things: US minimum wage for workers, certain standards for pollution, and a relatively small carbon footprint. Those are the ideas off the top of my head.
At the same time, doing some reading, I came across this quote: "By 2002, [global trade] dropped to just 2% despite Africa having 12% of the world’s population. If Africa could regain just an additional 1% share of global trade, it would earn $70 billion more in exports each year. " I think there are real advantages to letting money be sent to third world countries.
Also, buying organic is something I've been thinking about. Even if we buy USA cotton, there can still be a lot of harm done. Cotton accounts for about 3% of all commercial crops in the world and about 25% of worldwide pesticide use.
I think there are a lot of things to think about, and it can be daunting, but you guys (Parsons, and other friends) have a good start.
Less than a year ago, the Memphis Taproom opened up a few blocks from my house. Between then and now, it's become quite popular and one of the best bars this side of the city. So the owners decided to spread the wealth and go to the other side. The result: Local 44.
Local 44 is a pretty standard bar that focuses of serving up good beer and food. It's clearly run by the folks from Memphis, as evident by the similar menu and beer selection. There are about eighteen beers on tap, including the beer engine, which gives beer drinkers of any persuasion a good choice.
Beer selection aside, the rest of the experience is average. The service was acceptable; not great. The prices are average. The atmosphere is nice, but forgettable. The only real reason to go to Local 44 is just that, if it's your local spot. You won't be seeing me make the trip from Fishtown again.
Downsides: The bar charges tax on beer, which is lame, but not unheard of. Beers that would be $4-$7 are suddenly $4.40 to $7.70. Even with the tax, the prices are still acceptable. I was having trouble deciding the beer I wanted, so I asked for a sample. The barkeep shot back that they "don't do samples, because that's how [they] keep the prices so low." I didn't think that was true, or a good reason for denying me an ounce of beer. It's not breaking your bank.
Bottom Line: This place is fine. If you happen to be around, check it out. It's not going to crack the top ten or even top twenty list of Philadelphia bars, but it will do just fine and continue to serve up good food and beers.
4333 Spruce Street
Avg Ent: 9-14
Cash only: No (Surcharge if bill is split on more than 2 cards)
Last week, I got down to business and started thinking seriously about going through the home buying process. I called a realtor and a mortgage banker and began to do the real work. Here are some results:
The Realtor: Jeff Carpineta. I've heard from various friends that Jeff is "the man." After meeting with him for a couple of hours on Friday morning, I have to agree. After talking with him, it's easy to understand why a dozen or more of my friends have worked with and recommend him. Jeff and I met at the Rocket Cat and he gave me the basic overview of the home buying process. He wants his clients to be educate before they begin anything, which I respect. I learned a lot: where money comes from, how to find a good home, the relationship between buyers, sellers, banks, and realtors, ect. Jeff was also willing to show me houses before I was pre-qualified, which is rare. He's incredibly optimistic, and believes that if you can get approved and gather a mere 3.5% of the purchase price, you can buy a home. Lastly, Jeff is motivated; he thinks that I can be through this process in two months.
The Mortgage Banker: I've talked to two different people on recommendations. I'm glad that I went to more than one person because my second pre-approval was a $10,000 increase over the first. The second person I talked to seemed to be pretty knowledgeable of city and federal programs that will allow me to get a lower interest rate. I'll talk more about this person as he/she become more important down the road. At this point, the mortgage banker has approved me for the price range that I am ideally looking at, which is perfect.
Things I've learned so far.
1) When talking about interest rates, it should be at zero points. That way, you are able to make a more accurate comparison.
2) Credit scores are annoyingly important. I had one account go to collections four years ago that is bringing down my score. Pay your bills on time.
3) Talk to as many people as you need to until you find someone that makes you comfortable. This is a huge decision and process; you want to go through it with someone you like.
4) This weekend a $8,000 refundable tax credit was passed as part of the stimulus bill for first time homebuyers. That means that if I buy a home before Nov 30 of this year, I'll have a big fat tax refund come April 2010.
I could write more, but I want to keep these posts manageable. I hope to keep doing updates each week as I make progress, learn more, and take steps closer to becoming a homeowner.
After spending too much time watching movies recently, I am ready to make my judgements and predictions.
Best Picture: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire.
Milk is easily the best movie on the list. I honestly think that if it doesn't win, it will be a result of some (possibly subconscious) homophobia. It is better than anything else, and therefore my pick and prediction. Slumdog seems to be a favorite. It is also the second best movie on that list, but I'm still sticking with Harvey Milk.
Actor: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.
I did see all these movies, and I am surprised by the nomination for Jenkins. I believe Mickey Rourke deserves this award.
Actress: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Angelina Jolie, Changeling; Melissa Leo, Frozen River; Meryl Streep, Doubt; Kate Winslet, The Reader.
This one is tough. I haven't seen Rachel Getting Married, but I don't think Hathaway has much of a chance, either. Meryl Streep was awesome in Doubt, but I don't think she'll bring home the award. Surprisingly, I want Angelina Jolie to win. I was skeptical of her acting in the past, but she makes Changeling a great film. I think she will and hope she wins the award.
Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, Milk; Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt; Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight; Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road.
This one is tough. Downey Jr, Hoffman, and Ledger all deliver incredible performances. While I would think it would be funny if Downey Jr won because he performance was impressive AND hilarious, I think Ledger should and will posthumously with the award.
Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Doubt; Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Viola Davis, Doubt; Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler.
I have no prediction on who I think will win this award. I want Viola Davis to win, but her role was quite small, and I don't know if the judges will deem it effective enough to win.
Director: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon; Gus Van Sant, Milk; Stephen Daldry, The Reader; Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.
I've always been a fan of David Fincher, so I really do want him to win this. I think Danny Boyle will win, and he's also a great director, so I like that pick too.
Foreign Film: The Baader Meinhof Complex, Germany; The Class, France; Departures, Japan; Revanche, Austria; Waltz With Bashir, Israel.
I haven't seen any of these. Still, I pick The Class to win. If not that, then Waltz with Bashir.
Adapted Screenplay: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; John Patrick Shanley, Doubt; Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon; David Hare, The Reader; Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire.
This one is hard, because I don't know exactly how they pick the winner. Benjamin Button was a short story, Frost/Nixon and Doubt were plays, and the other two were novels. Still, if I am going on the best adaptation from the story into a successful film, I want Benjamin Button to win. I think, however, the writers for Slumdog will walk away with the award.
Original Screenplay: Courtney Hunt, Frozen River; Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky; Martin McDonagh, In Bruges; Dustin Lance Black, Milk; Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter, WALL-E.
I really want WALL-E to win. Seriously, the story that they told with almost no dialogue...genius.
Animated Feature Film: Bolt, Kung Fu Panda, WALL-E.
Bolt and Kung Fu Panda have no chance, at all.
Art Direction: Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Duchess, Revolutionary Road.
I want Benjamin Button to win this. Both that and Changeling have stellar art direction, particularly in showing the time with sets and costumes.
Cinematography: Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire.
I want Doubt to win this, and it's not even nominated! Seriously, Deakins did an awesome job with Doubt, and I am surprised he didn't get a nod. The Dark Knight will probably win this because of Nolan's use of IMAX and a single filming unit for the entire film.
Sound Mixing: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Slumdog Millionaire, WALL-E, Wanted.
WALL-E, again, should win this. The robots talked, I mean, come one.
Man on Wire is easily the best documentary made in 2008.
(I skip a few catergories that I don't have much of an opinion on)
Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Benjamin Button should totally win this, although the other two films did also have great makeup.
I don't usually post websites, and I don't even like to waste much time online. Although, with some free time at work, I've started to spend a few free moments on stumbleupon. This site made me laugh out loud quite a few times.
Maybe you don't know this, but Lana loves scratch tickets. I bought one for her last night and she/we won $14. I don't play the lottery often; therefore, I win even less. So I was pretty excited. Instead of wasting the winnings on more tickets, as I'm sure many people do, I proposed the idea that we should use the winnings for a trip to Tacconelli's next week. In case you didn't know, this place is legendary. You have to call a day a head of time and reserver your dough. One guy makes all of the pizzas. They are only open five days a week because they want to take a break. It's pretty cool, and a total adventure, and some of the most delicious pizza you will ever have. Want to join us?
Also, it's BYO, which is awesome. There are often families drinking wine out of plastic cups (which is possibly the definition of kitsch). Still, it makes for a good trip, and I'm sure I could find a good pairing for the pizza with one of the 14 different kinds of beer in the fridge at my house right now.