Tuesday, March 29, 2011


It's been quite a while since I've gotten the time to sit down and write.  Things have been pretty busy around here  trying to get our house sold.  Today, I thought I'd quickly talk about one of the avenues we're using to get the house sold.  It's a website called Zillow.com.  There are a lot of different options out there when you're trying to buy or sell a new home, but I've found Zillow to be one of the easiest to use in both capacities.
When you're searching it has a lot of options to help you narrow things down and gives all the results through a map so you can easily see what's available in the area you're looking at.  When you're selling, it allows you to find and claim your home as your own and then fill out as much or as little as you'd like to.  You can post images and even provide links to other websites.  Even if you're not trying to sell you can go on and provide information about your home for free.  You can even post a "Make Me Move" price which is just what you might be willing to consider even if you're not looking to move.  Set it high and who know what could happen.  All in all, it's a very neat site to find out a lot of information about real estate.

By the way, we're having another Open House this Sunday, April 3, from 2-5pm.  Everyone is invited!

jrmfzf on Zillow

Saturday, March 5, 2011

First Month

Wouldn't You Like This Living Room!
Well the house has officially been on the market for just under a month.  All in all I'd say it's really been a pretty good month.  We haven't sold the house yet, but given that we're listing by owner, during a notoriously bad time of year to sell a house, and amongst the worst housing market in decades I really feel like we've done a very good job.  While we never really intended to, we've actually had three open houses this month alone.  After the first one being all weekend long we decided to shorten future open houses to Sunday only and only from 2-5.  This seemed to work pretty good and throughout the month we've had ten different families stop by and take a look.  Out of that ten we had probably four who just wanted to see the house, but the remainder showed at least some level of interest in the home.  In fact, there was one couple who came through and ended up sending a real estate agent friend of theirs by to get a second opinion on the house.  It just goes to show how it's such a small world because we ended up knowing the agent and he was able to give us his professional opinion on how the house shows as well.  Between his comments of how well our house looks plus the multitude of compliments we've received from everyone who has come by we're feeling pretty good.  Here's hoping that we'll here from one of the interested families soon to get an offer.  Between an already busy weekend and the fact that the weather forecast isn't looking good for tomorrow I think we're going to take a break from open houses this Sunday, but check our website regularly as I always post there when we get something scheduled.  And as always if you have a friend or family member who's in the market feel free to send them our way!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Design Software

We have been so preoccupied with selling our current house lately that's in been quite a while since I've written anything about the next house.  A while back I wrote a little bit about our house plans and some of the ideas we've used to come up with them.  So today I thought I'd write about the software I used to draw the plans so that any of you who are considering this avenue can go ahead and start today.  Like most things, you can come up with ideas all day long but sometimes getting them on to paper is the hardest part.

Source:  aspgfx.com
The primary program I've used for coming up with the actual floor plan type drawings is AutoCAD LT.  Now AutoCAD is not a software program that I'd recommend for just anybody.  Mainly because the light version, that I use, is $1,200 and the full blown version is over $4,000.  Fortunately I use AutoCAD on a daily basis at work and was able to bring my laptop home with me and use my work version.  I can guarantee you that no matter how good of a program it is I couldn't bring myself to fork over that much money.  In addition, it is a professional drafting software that I took classes for in college and that many people spend their entire careers mastering.  What this means is that it has a relatively steep learning curve and isn't always user friendly.  That doesn't mean that anyone couldn't learn it, you're just not going to be able to knock out a drawing in half an hour the first time you sit down with it.  That all being said, if you have the money and have the time to learn it, AutoCAD is a great program.  If you can think it you can draw it with this program and that's why I love it.  I've been using it for the last seven years and the whole design process wouldn't had been nearly as easy if it weren't for AutoCAD.

Source:  www.nofullstop.com
Now if you don't have a few thousand dollars laying around and probably at least 80 hours where you're just twiddling your thumbs I have another program that I've used extensively that works great.  Not only does it work great, but the price point is just right:  Free!  Google SketchUp is an absolutely free program that anyone can download.  Plus with some of the great tutorials that Google has put together anyone can learn it in a reasonable amount of time.  Plus SketchUp excels in the one area that AutoCAD LT doesn't actually perform, 3D drawings.  The whole idea of SketchUp is that rather than drawing in 2D like most programs do you actually model everything in 3D from the very beginning.  So what I did was design my floor plan first using AutoCAD and then took that 2D drawing and used it to make a 3D replica of our house.  This really paid off when trying to show things to Becca because like most people she is able to get a much clearer picture in her head of things when she can see a 3D representation of what it looks like.  Plus SketchUp will let you literally walk through your models so you can experience what it would be like to step foot into your new home.  I would highly recommend it to anyone going through the home design process.  Just sit down in front of your computer an in no time at all you can actually walk through the home of your dreams.  If anyone has any questions on either of the programs or help getting started feel free to post them in the comments.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

First Open House Part II

Well the first open house came and went and we're still siting comfortably in our first home.  I wouldn't call our first attempt a complete bust, but I would say things could have been much better and we've definitely learned some things for next time.

On Saturday I sat around from 12-5 without as much as a single soul stopping by.  On the bright side I had plenty of time to to start and finish my taxes.  And even better, we're getting a refund this year!  I always try to look at the bright side.  And for those of you who didn't stop by you missed out as we had some excellent cookies, banana chocolate chip muffins, crackers, humus, and a small vegetable tray.  By about 3 o'clock when I realized there wasn't going to be some mad rush I started munching and it was all very good.

My Spot for Most of the Weekend
Sunday wasn't a whole lot better; however, we did get two families to walk through.  Of course, while I happened to be sitting in the office with a perfect view of the driveway for most of the weekend the first family decided to pull up while I was back in the bedroom.  This resulted in me rushing through the house like a mad man to turn on lights before they got to the front door.  Fortunately I was successful and as they were leaving I noticed the second family stopping right in front of the house.  So during the 10 hours of open house time both families were in and out within a 30 minute window.  I'm not complaining though as both families were very complimentary of the house and the second family said that it was the nicest house they had been through so far. So here's hoping for a phone call soon.

A few lessons learned:  1)  We won't be doing another open house on Saturday.  10 hours is way too long and really just a waste of time.  For what ever reason people like open house shopping on Sunday, so who am I to argue with the customer.  2)  Use balloons on your open house signs.  Saturday we didn't, Sunday we did and regardless of whether it made the difference or not with the two families it made the signs much more visible.  3)  Place your signs carefully.  Halfway through on Sunday Becca got home to inform me that there was another sign  for an open house in the neighborhood across from ours which was redirecting people before they could even get into our neighborhood.  Once again, I don't know if it really made a difference, but there's the potential that people who started out following our signs finished off following the others.  I'll be making some different placements next time.  Oh well, live and learn.  I'm sure there are some more lessons in there but that's all I have for now.  If anyone has any suggestions we'd love to hear them.  I know if we can get people to our home we'll sell it in no time, it's just getting them there.


Friday, February 11, 2011

First Open House

We're having our first open house this weekend!  Becca and I have been working frantically this whole week to get the finishing touches ready and I think we're just about there.  It's been a lot of work but we're excited to see what kind of response we get.  In this market it seems to be either feast or famine so we're praying hard for the former rather than the latter.

So if you're needing something to do this weekend, even if you're not in the market, feel free to stop by.  We'll be open Saturday and Sunday from 12-5pm on both days.  There will be a few snacks and coffee.  We figure that any press is good press so the more people we can get walking through the more likely we are to sell.  See you then.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

We're On the Market!

After months of blood, sweat, and tears we have finally gotten our house to a point where we feel good about putting it up for sale.  There are still a few small things here and there, but hopefully we can have all of those straightened out by next weekend when we're going to attempt our first open house.  From here on out it's just a whole lot of hoping and praying that the right buyer will walk through our front door and fall in love with the house as quickly as we did.  It's really pretty sad when I stop to think about it:  leaving our first home as a family is going to be tough.  But if all goes well by the end of the year we'll be in our new home and will get to start the next chapter in our lives.

If you know anybody in the market for a wonderful new home send them this way.  I've set up a website at http://sites.google.com/site/1139redoak/ that gives all the details.  And everybody is welcome to the open house next weekend.  Saturday and Sunday 12-5.  See you there!

Monday, January 31, 2011

As Seen on TV

I have a little confession to make:  I really love infomercials.  I don't mean that I love buying from infomercials, in fact I haven't bought a thing, but for some reason I've always enjoyed watching infomercials.  Something about the over-the-top "acting" and miraculous, change your life inventions have always kept me infatuated.  That being said, I rarely believe the hype and mark most of it down as just good marketing, at least effective marketing.

Becca and I dedicated this weekend to cleaning and staging the house for her friend Megan to come by and take some pictures for the future home website (Coming Soon).  One of the many things on my list was to clean the bathroom floors and see if I could get them looking any better with minimal work.  So when I started scanning the internet for a solution for cleaning grout in tile floors I was a little hesitant to believe that oxygen bleach, the main ingredient in one of infomercials' favorite sons: Oxi Clean, was the hands-down favorite of many bloggers out there.  However, I'm no professional cleaner and when the internet tells me to use Oxi Clean who am I to doubt, so I gave it a try.  All I can say is WOW!  Oxi Clean really did clean the grout and did it rather easily.  With just a little of time and even less elbow grease our dingy dark grey grout was a bright white; a color I had quite literally never seen out of our floors.  I was thoroughly impressed.

There is a lot of information out there on how to do this, but this is the route I took.  Sweep or vacuum your floors to get rid of any excess dust.  Mix one ounce of Oxi Clean for every two cups of warm water in a bucket.  Take some type of stir stick and mix it real well because it won't just dissolve on its own.  Use a measuring cup with a spout (my choice) or a turkey baster to liberally poor the mixture along the grout lines making sure the entire surface is covered.   Depending on the size of the room your cleaning you may break it up into a few sections and only poor in one section at a time.  I found it easiest if I didn't poor any further than I could reach from in one spot.  Once the mixture is down walk away and let it sit for 5-15 minutes depending on how dirty it is.

When you come back make sure you have a bucket of warm, clean water, some type of wash rag, a scrub brush, and a big dry towel.  You could use an old tooth brush but I sprung for the grout brush at Lowe's and I think it was worth the money.  Take the brush and dip it in the Oxi Clean mixture and then start scrubbing the grout.  It really shouldn't take much work, just scrub it a few times and move on.  I usually stuck to about 4sq feet at a time of scrubbing and then take your rag soaked with the clean water and wipe up the mixture where you just finished scrubbing.  As you do you should see that the grout you just scrubbed is perfectly clean.  Rinse the rag out and continue until most of the mixture has been mopped up.  Then take your towel and dry where you just finished cleaning.

That's it.  Just continue this process a section at a time and in no time you should have wonderfully clean tile floors.  I've got some pictures below that gives you a better idea of the before and after.  It truly amazed me.  Stay tuned to this site where we'll soon be posting more pictures of the house along with website for the house once we put it up for sale.  It's coming quickly.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Great Wall

Another project that's been a long time in the making is our landscaping around the house. We were very lucky that when we bought the house there were already several shrubs and other plants the previous owner had put in. However, they used the black plastic bordering that I see so often and I always thought it could look much better. So two summers ago I set out to start redoing the landscaping so that when we were finally ready to sell I knew it would look great. I also knew it would be a little expensive so I wanted to spread out the project a little bit.

So that summer I consulted the help of my friend Tim Yoder, owner of Yoder's Lawn & Landscape, to help me out. Fortunately for me, Tim's wife Ashleigh needed me to distract him while she set up for his surprise birthday party.  I was able to get Tim to come over and help spend the day designing and building the whole front of the house's landscaping wall. It turned out wonderful, as you can see in the pictures, plus Tim gave me some great lessons on how to build a good landscaping wall. Later that summer I finished the front yard up by adding weed-guard, some mulch, and few new plants based on the recommendation of Yoder.

This last summer, with prospects of selling the house coming up quickly, I decided to finish what I had started and complete the wall around the side and back of the house. I didn't want to bother Tim again with a bunch of free manual labor, so I ventured into this part of the project on my own. Needless to say, it took a lot longer than the front yard, but as I got a few free hours here and there I just kept chugging along block by block. By the end of the summer I had finally finished up and with a few trips to add mulch I was finally finished. I'm really happy with the end result and know that at the very least the project has added some serious curb appeal. If anybody wants any pointers feel free to ask in the comments. Or if you'd prefer the easy way, just give Tim a call and I can guarantee he'll have it done faster than two years.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mount Saint Oak Tree

In this spot once stood the eighth wonder of the natural world: a massive pile of leaves that I would argue could have been the largest in residential Springfield. Known as Olympus to the squirrel gods in the neighborhood, the mound stood, at its pinnacle, nearly 5 feet tall with a base of 24 by 21 feet. I did a little math, as I often do, and figured that's over 1000 cubic feet or almost 7500 gallons of leaves! That's a lot of compost.

The reason for this suburban monstrosity is really two fold. One of the best things about our current home is that we have over 30 mature trees on our property. These serve for wonderful shade and low utility bills in the summer and a beautiful looking landscape all year round. However they also provide a variable monsoon of foliage every fall. In years past I've tried everything from raking, blowing, mulching, mowing, burning, and bagging. With Becca and I starting a garden a couple of springs ago I decided to keep a hold of some of the leaves and begin a compost pile to provide us with some good soil. Well over those last few years we accumulated more than we could possibly decompose in my life time.

Fast forward now to this fall when I came to the realization that no self-respecting home buyer is going to want to purchase a house with the mecca of arborist sitting in their backyard. So, as my oh-so-patient wife has pointed out in our other blog here, I have been spending a lot of time in the yard trying to both mange the current crop of deciduousness while also trying to chip away at the existing mighty monolith. At times the battle seemed feudal as the rate of leaves coming in to the pile was greater than that going out, but in the end I did prevail. This weekend, with a welcome December warm spell, I managed to burn the last bits of the pile and check one more thing off my list. With our new lot being completely bare of any trees at this point I can honestly say that I'm going to really miss the shady summer afternoons, but when fall comes around I'll be happy spending the afternoons inside with my family instead of battling an army of foliage outside.

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