Back in December, we decided to refinance our home to take advantage of low interest rates, but more so to consolidate debt and better utilize the equity our house has gained since we bought it in 2012 after the housing bubble burst.

Actually, I first started researching this back in May, however the big banks including ours had all put a halt on cash-out refinances to help manage their risk and we had wanted to stay where the rest of our accounts were, so we opted to wait it out. Well, after eight months I got tired of waiting – particularly after calculating just how much we could save in debt payments by rolling it all into the mortgage instead.

We ended up reaching out to the same mortgage broker that helped us buy the house because he was a lot easier to work with than the scads of other lenders who all had kind of terrible offers anyways. I highly recommend finding a broker who you can contact directly instead of working with a call center who has you talking to a different agent every time you call in…

Ultimately it took us 52 days from the day we chose our lender to when we had cash in hand after closing, compared to 55 days when we bought our house from offer to keys in hand, which in hindsight is still pretty impressive!

Granted, we already live in the house that we refinanced, however in turn they also gave us a fat check, so…

Also, there’s been this pandemic going on, if you hadn’t heard. Plus there were a couple of major holidays in the mix, which I’m sure slowed us down a bit.

Nonetheless, I know that during all of my waiting that I would’ve loved to see something about how people in a similar situation were progressing, so I thought it might be useful to share my own timeline after the fact in case anyone wants to compare how their own refinance is moving along… (or not!)

12/8 – Began soliciting loan offers.

12/11 – First contact with lender we actually chose.

12/15 – Selected lender.

12/15 – Completed loan application and submitted supporting documents.

12/20 – Provided more documentation for underwriter.

12/30 – Loan approved by underwriter.

1/9 – Lender realized that we needed an appraisal after all and ordered one.

1/11 – Contacted by title company for paperwork.

1/15 – Received closing disclosure (#1).

1/15 – Appraiser came to review house.

1/18 – Appraisal amount was confirmed.

1/20 – Received closing disclosure (#2) after results of appraisal.

1/25 – Loan was cleared to close.

1/27 – Closing date – some documents signed online, notary came to our house for others.

2/1 – Loan funded after waiting period, cash out received!

If you stumble across this and find yourself staring down the barrel of a refinancing offer while this crazy pandemic is still going on, just know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so get that paperwork submitted and then go find something productive to do while you wait! 😛


So this is a little project that I started way back around the 4th of July, but between it being a very busy summer and a lot of unexpected challenges popping up with it, two months later I can finally say that my Legos have a new home in our family room … and I think it looks kinda cool! 😉

The main goal for this project was more space, more space, more space.


We previously kept our completed Lego sets on a pair of bookshelves that I used to have in my office, with overflow pretty much anywhere we could find it, which was getting a little out of hand as the collection continues to grow! I wanted to build something that I wouldn’t immediately fill up overnight – something that we could grow into over at least a little while.

…and ironically you’ll see that free space is already less abundant than I would’ve thought, but more about that later…

It’s kind of funny that I sort of had this same type of setup in my bedroom over my bed back home when I was growing up. My Dad had recognized the need, so he got a bunch of brackets and mounted them to the wall, then threw up five or six pieces of counter-top remnants that he had for one reason or another, and that’s where my childhood Lego collection grew – from monorails to pirate ships to castles and everything in between!

Now that I’m an adult, my collection may have started anew, but it’s still growing probably even stronger than before because I’ve got a job that pays more than $1/week! I needed a new place to store a collection that will keep growing and growing both before and after we have kids, so that’s a pretty tall order to consider… 😛

Anyways, the idea started back in July when we were wandering around Lowe’s picking up stuff for various home improvement projects that we wanted to do. We kinda/REALLY went overboard and ended up buying about 5 projects worth of stuff – one of which was the first of several sets of the boards that I picked out for these shelves. The plan in theory was pretty simple – the back wall in our family room would become covered with shelves, from floor to ceiling, with a small cut-out in the middle for my wife’s fish tank.

…which we later decided is actually going to become a Lego fish tank, so stay tuned for that!


All in all, the finished plans would yield 45.5 feet of shelf space across the four tiers you see, with roughly 14 inches of vertical space between shelves and some extra height on the top and second tiers for extra-tall models like the Space Shuttle and the Tower of Orthanc.

The parts breakdown worked out about like this:

  • the shelves themselves – 11 boards @ $10 average each (Lowe’s cut them into the sizes I needed)
  • brackets – 13 sets of 2 @ $10 each
  • wall anchors – 2 per bracket plus several errors and trialing different types … about $50
  • misc. screws for anchors and securing boards … about $10
  • anchor plates to run between adjoining boards … about $15
  • estimated total – $315

The numerous challenges that I encountered throughout this two-month journey…

  • My first Lowe’s didn’t have enough boards and brackets, so I ended up having to go to a second store.
  • It wasn’t until I started opening up the brackets that I noticed many of them were bent … at least half a dozen … and returning to store #2, I found many still on their shelves looked just as bad. Was lucky that the rep worked with me to create matching pairs of good ones with whatever they had left and promptly exchanged the ones I had, no questions asked.
  • Realized that my laser level was pretty much dead, and was subsequently shocked to see how expensive laser levels are these days.
  • Took a while to get all of the brackets installed because even with the level I kept measuring wrong and drilled some holes in the wrong spots.
  • When I got ready to install brackets on the side wall to the left, realized that opposed to the internal wall that most of the shelves are on, that side wall is actually the external wall to the house … meaning that there’s concrete brick within a few inches of the other side of the drywall. Crap. Took some experimenting with different drywall anchors to find a style that would actually work. Ended up using the same ones that I used elsewhere, but drilled two holes side by side to fit the anchor in already mostly extended, then turned it to lock it into place.
  • Also had to buy just the right length of screws to work with said anchors that would hold the brackets in place tightly without running out of space at the concrete bricks. 1/4″ ended up making the difference, and yes, I bought both sizes before I found the right one… 🙁
  • Had to go to Home Depot to find anchor plates to run between the boards that touched (to level them) because I couldn’t find them at Lowe’s. Eventually did find them there, too, because I needed more and didn’t want to go to two stores, but wasn’t super thrilled with the ones I got because Lowe’s was out of the smaller ones.
  • Ended up having to pull out and realign several of the brackets for the top shelves after finding that they were a couple of inches too high at the right end.
  • The shorter screws that I bought the first time to hold the boards down to the brackets … sucked. They were a self-drilling type, which I thought would be better because I knew that the particle board was really tough to dig into, but on the contrary, the “self drill” tip ended up taking up half the shaft of these screws that were only 3/4″ to begin with, so they ended up falling out of the shelves because there was barely anything to bite into the board with after the drill part. Ended up swapping them out for normal screws that I had to pre-drill holes for and those worked great.
  • Also, I wish that I’d discovered the benefit of pre-drilling holes earlier in this project!!! I honestly didn’t start until the final push and it was so much easier than fighting each wabbling screw until it finally took! This alone probably would’ve cut down my frustrations by probably 25%.
  • Stopped and started this project many times throughout all of this because each of these items became very frustrating … I’d literally set aside an hour to work on my shelves and then get maybe 10 minutes before a new problem would arise and I’d be making yet another trip to Lowe’s for more parts! I probably made 6-10 trips for these stupid shelves by the time all was said and done … maybe I should add a fuel surcharge to that cost list, too! 😯

But nonetheless, they’re done now, so take a look at the final product!







As I eluded to earlier, I guess my biggest concern is that even with a seemingly large 45 feet of space, you can already see where most of the shelves have been accounted for with various series, even if they’re not very full yet. I would say that the LOTR/The Hobbit section will be the most full, considering that I have two other sets sitting here that I haven’t built yet, but even look at the modular buildings or the lake house/cottage/whatever it’s called collections that Sara has been working on – a few more sets and each of those are going to fill up pretty quick!

It’s kind of funny because my Mom has slowly been mailing me down my old Lego sets a few at a time – she literally has a huge bin with all of them, so every so often she picks a few manuals and finds the pieces for them, puts ’em in ziplock baggies, and throws them in a box for me! So far they’ve just been stuck away in that same priority mail box because I didn’t have shelf space to unload them, and yet even now with this new project, I still wouldn’t have room if she were to send me many more of them!!!

Good grief, that’s a lot of Legos. :mrgreen:

I think the tough part for me is that not only do I want them on shelves, but I want the shelves to look nice and be somewhat organized … meaning not having sets piled on top of each other and being able to lay them out by theme, even in some scenes like I’ve done with LOTR. I’m sure that these shelves will manage for a few years, but once we’ve got a kid who’s getting just as many Lego sets for holidays as I do?!

I guess we’ll just have to cross that path when we come to it… 😉

So a few quick takeaways before I wrap this up, if I were to do it again:

  • I’d add a couple more inches between shelves. These were based on 14″ – the same dimensions of the bookshelves I was using prior, but it didn’t click that my biggest sets had been sitting on top of the units. About 16″ would probably do it … 18″ if I wanted to fit the shuttle, too. The Tower is a whopping 28″ tall, but I kinda planned for it to be in that corner where it is! Not sure what I’ll do if they build a matching tower for Sauron, though…
  • Mapping out shelves was really important – before I got too far, I sat down with a pen and paper and sketched out roughly what I was envisioning with measurements so I’d know how many boards to buy and how they needed to be cut, like so:


  • Making a list before going to the store with specific counts for things like anchors and screws would’ve reduced my number of trips.
  • Paying attention at the store also would’ve helped, as one trip was because I thought that a package had 12 screws in it, whereas they were #12 screws with a quantity of 8 per bag. Likewise in my favor, when I was looking for anchor plates, I had to pass on the size that I did want because the one bag that they had only had 3 plates inside instead of the 4 that it should’ve.
  • Measure twice, drill holes in the wall once.
  • Do it all at once instead of dragging it out so long. Whenever I’d get frustrated, I’d often times screw up more and then eventually give up altogether. If I’d just dedicated an entire weekend to building these, frustrations and all, they’d probably have been done back in July…

Either way, though, they’re done now, and now I can get back to the fun part – building new Lego sets to put on them! 😀


So I have some concerns about this…

July 16, 2013 10:00am
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Edit: How am I the only one to not know that dinking around with fire hydrants is a common cause of this and that it’s actually perfectly normal???

More Home Improvement Fun
Been tackling a handful of new projects around the house again, several of which have been on my list for a while now but were deferred due to either bad weather or a lack of the necessary parts. Replacing a handful of broken boards in the fence, resurrecting our sprinkler system that’s had a leak since the week after we moved in, installing the first of so many shelves that are needed to hold all of the crap that  we have around this place … and yet I swear for every one thing that I finally cross off the list, another three miraculously pop up in its place!

Still, it’s definitely fun seeing things start to take shape around this little home of ours – I guess I just wish we had a little more free cash lying around so that it could all happen a lot faster. Seriously, we need so many shelves between the family room, our bedroom closet, bathroom, etc…

Turning a Blind Eye to Politics
So how am I doing so far for February?!

I know I’ve said it about a million times – I find myself drawn to politics because I think there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in this country that needs to change, and at the same time I often times watch myself getting so wrapped up in some of these issues that it feels like it starts to cut into some of my creative efforts … and that’s bad. I honestly don’t write that much about politics as compared to everything else.

If it’s between politics and funny stuff, I’d much rather write jokes than rant about the Tea Party, so being as busy of a season as this is turning out to be, I’m trying my best to avoid the crazy so that I can focus all the more on creating stuff that’s actually enjoyable to read… 🙂

Missing Mickey Mouse
And lastly for this update, 2013 hasn’t seen very much Mouse thus far, though for reasons not to be disclosed February has been “hectic,” to say the very least! At this point our last trip was spending Christmas Eve at the Magic Kingdom … we had talked about maybe trying to spend New Year’s Eve there as well, but being our first holiday in the new house, we weren’t sure about how our new neighbors like to celebrate and Cleo doesn’t do well with fireworks – especially when she’s locked inside her cage… 🙁

If nothing else, we’ve got reservations in March for the brand new Be Our Guest restaurant in New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom … it seems like just yesterday it felt silly having to make them so far out in advance! We also really need to find the time (and money) for a slightly longer vacation over there – it’s kinda crazy to think that it’s now been over a year since we’ve spent even a single night on Disney property … not sure how that slipped through the cracks last year, but hopefully 2013 will be a little more kind to us in the necessary departments to make a long weekend more of a reality!

I should be clear in saying that it didn’t start tonight, but it certainly finally ended tonight!

We’ve had a problem since we moved into our new house back in August that the pressure in the kitchen faucet wasn’t what it should be. It was even noted on our inspection before we bought the house, and all the while we’ve kept our fingers crossed that it was just something busted in the faucet itself and not a bigger problem that would require a plumber with big bills and an even bigger butt crack to resolve. Well, over the weekend while we were out and about we finally found a new faucet that both looked nice and also didn’t cost $200, so we broke down and bought it, and frankly have been having problems ever since…

The faucet we bought is basically this one by Glacier Bay, except ours is white, and honestly everything works great except for the pull down sprayer. You see, our last faucet had the sprayer separate off to the side, whereas this one has it built right into the neck, and the (first) problem that presented was that instead of having one hose for each of the four holes in our sink, this faucet has all four hoses going down the exact same hole. And the problem that this presented was that upon installation, the sprayer wouldn’t entirely retract back up into the neck of the faucet, presumably because its hose was snagging on all of the other hoses crammed into one tiny, little hole!

So I went to Lowe’s and spent more time than I had ever planned to talking to people about sinks, and how apparently I couldn’t just buy a Dremel tool to sand away part of the hole and make it bigger out of fear that I might end up cracking the sink … which admittedly sounded even worse than my whole faucet problem! Another part of the problem was, I just bought the place, so I really have no idea what material the sink is even made of to begin with – this made it very difficult to answer their questions to avoid giving me a solution that in fact would end up shattering my kitchen sink into a million pieces…

After two days of research, we were finally able to nail down the type of sink – it’s just a “composite” sink, nothing fancy or anything – and I was told that a simple file would do the trick as long as I was careful about what I was doing. And so that’s what part 1 of my re-installation evening looked like – pulling the brand new faucet back out of the sink, keeping my wife awake past her bedtime by filing the hole with a tool I bought at Lowe’s for about five bucks, and then re-installing the whole mess yet again, only to find … the sprayer STILL wouldn’t retract all of the way!!!

The instructions said to take note of where the counterweight was attached to the sprayer hose, and I actually went so far as to measure the distance to make sure that I had it perfect, but still no dice – it would retract most of the way, but still stick out of the faucet by about an inch, which just looked kinda tacky to me. Taking to the Internet, I finally found that apparently lots of these types of faucets have the same problem and one of the main differences between the model we bought and the $200 models is that the more expensive ones usually have a magnet in the head of the sprayer to help guide it up to its resting place.


I also read that I could try adding more weight to the counterweight, though at 11:30pm my options were getting quite limited. After some brainstorming, I went out to the garage and dug one of my old SCUBA diving weights out of my all but abandoned dive bag. The weight was about 5 pounds and even had a convenient handle, and that ended up being more than enough … but not by much! I tried emptying some out because it just seemed like way too much weight to be hanging on the thing, but had to play around with it until I settled on I’m guessing about 3.5 pounds plus the weight of the original counterweight.

It’s not an elegant solution and you need to use a little more elbow grease to use the sprayer than you probably should, but at least the weight is hidden under the sink so it’s fine for the time being. I’ll probably stop into the store later on this week to see what my other options are – one problem with using the dive weight is that it’s basically just a sack of lead shot hanging off the hose and if there’s anything underneath for it to rest on, it won’t really do its job, so maybe I can just buy a second counterweight that at least actually wraps around the hose or something. I read online somebody talking about buying washers to add above the hose, but for the amount of weight that this thing seems to demand, I think the entire hose would be nothing but washers to get the thing to work!

So there you have it – how my 1/2 hour job tonight turned into a 3 hour job, on top of another 2 hours from the weekend that should’ve been enough to begin with. Being a homeowner is fun.




door_wreathI know it’s not all going to happen this year, as partially mentioned in yesterday’s advent post, but one thing that my wife and I are certainly looking forward to long term with our new house is really working to turn it into a cozy, little home for the holidays.

That’s certainly one thing that I’m rather nostalgic from my own childhood – my Mom in particular did a great job of fully embracing each of the holidays with special Hallmark decorations for the walls, but especially Christmas was much more of an all-encompassing experience from even before you stepped in the door … with lights and snowflakes filling the front windows and a wreath on the door, followed by Snoopy in a Santa hat on the wall and miniature lit Christmas trees throughout the house in addition to the main attraction out in the living room.

It’s the kind of thing that over time Sara and I want to create here in our own home, especially as we get closer to having kids ourselves. We’ve already got our own little Lego holiday village, which I’m sure will make an appearance in this year’s advent once we get a chance to build the new set we got for it! We’ve also got the lights for outside, and I’m slowly going to try to bring some indoors as well because why should they only go on the tree itself?! What else from there remains to be foreseen – perhaps some garland for the mantle we don’t have yet, or one of those DecemBear advent calendars like the one that hung on my wall at home to track our progress to presents throughout the month?

So many choices, so many options are we try not merely to copy our own childhoods, but more so to use them as examples as we build a holiday home between us of our very own. Will Christmas music kick off the moment someone opens the front door? Will Cleo come running to greet visitors wearing antlers and a shiny, red nose?! (don’t count on that last one…)

This is something that we could never fully embrace while renting one home or another, but now it’s an entirely new angle of home ownership that’s fun and exciting all on its own!  :mrgreen:

And there you have it, the complete and unabridged tale of me and my wife’s new house purchase!

From there the story continues here with my first public declaration of said purchase, followed shortly thereafter here where we have to fight with the stupid seller’s agent to get her to come unlock the house that we just dropped a whole lot of pocket change for! Looking back, I’m still incredibly thankful that we got so lucky with how the thing went down as a whole – compared to hearing the stories of others just going through nightmare after nightmare as houses came and went, it’s crazy to think that we literally finished the entire process in right around 45 days.

I think a big part of that was who we had working for us, and mind you – picking them was pretty much all luck of the draw! – but we had two individuals who really helped make the process a lot easier to traverse…

Our Real Estate Agent: Chris Henry of Signature Realty

Our Mortgage Broker: Bob Saltzman of Academy Mortgage

In truth, one actually lead us to the other, but both of these guys really bent over backwards to guide us through the entire process, taking the time to answer whatever questions we had even if it meant talking on the phone at 10pm! It certainly became clear as we had to deal with other folks in the industry – the aforementioned seller’s agent, one of our local credit unions before we opted to work with Bob on the mortgage instead – that not everyone out there really had our best interests at hand and with many we just felt like another pile of paperwork that they had to deal with before they could go home, but these two guys really earned every penny that they got paid from helping to facilitate our purchase and I know that Sara agrees with me that we couldn’t thank them enough.  :mrgreen:

So what happens next in this brand new chunk of suburban heaven that we can now officially call our very own??? Hmmmm – let’s see, I had to deal with the toilet a couple of weeks ago, and I still haven’t gotten around to fixing that leaky valve with the sprinkler system yet … grass is starting to look a little pale, too … and if I look hard enough, I know that we’ve even got ourselves a list of home improvements specifically not related to flushing toilets around here somewhere that we wanted to work on as well!

They say that the work of a homeowner is never really done, but at least for the time being, I guess it’s just kind of cool to finally be able to call myself one to begin with… 😉

(This post was originally written on Monday, July 30, 2012 at 11:08pm – see the intro post for more details…)

You know that old saying, “Anything that can go wrong, will…”?

That was my day today.

As you may recall from my post earlier today, this morning my wife and I were supposed to sign the final documents to purchase our new house.  I say supposed to because, well, instead of signing everything at 11:00am, we actually just finished signing them at about 9:30pm!

Only 11 hours late, right?!

I was literally getting in my car to go to the signing when my phone rang with those ominous words, “We have a problem…” As I listened to someone from the mortgage company explain the nitty gritty, pretty much my worst fears unfolded before me – in fact, they had screwed up some numbers on the closing statement … to the tune of nearly $3,000which we didn’t have, mind you … and so now my guess of how we were going to resolve the whole mess was pretty much as good as yours…

Well, luckily it seems that we managed to make a pretty good choice in selecting our mortgage company because they really came together to help us solve the problem. I mean, by now they’ve seen every intimate detail about our finances that exists, so more than anybody they knew that we didn’t have any more money, either, and so they were kinda forced with coming up with some other way of covering the difference or letting the deal fall through.

Thankfully, they did the former by basically splitting the difference of the excess with us – they gave us an invoice credit for part and we paid a little more out of pocket, which unfortunately pretty much sapped us completely dry, but at least we got a house out of it!

For those curious, the details were two-fold – 1) there were a couple of document stamps that are normally paid by the seller, however in the case of a foreclosure like ours, the bank refused to pay so we were stuck with them … our mortgage company overlooked this; 2) they also slipped when estimating taxes and quoted us figures for something like 3 months instead of 11 months … pretty big difference!
Anyways, again, I’m just grateful that they were still willing to step up and do what was right to finish this thing off, and as Sara pointed out on account of the ridiculous interest one pays over the life of a home loan, it probably wasn’t too big of an impact to their bottom line for them to eat the $1,500 credit, either! So that whole thing took the better part of the day to sort out, then we had to coordinate with the closing agent to meet with a notary to sign all of the documents, and it was finally just after 8:00pm at a nearby Wendy’s when we sat down at the table with a nice, older man who came bearing several hundred pages of paperwork for us to sign, and without even stopping to enjoy a cool chocolate Frosty, sign all of that paperwork we certainly did.

Now we’re told we should just have to wait a couple more days for the paperwork to all be verified, along with our closing funds and so forth, before we get our keys and it’s officially official, but in the meantime we’ve still got this pretty big stack of legal documents that more or less says…


(House-Buying Backlog) Almost there!!!

November 25, 2012 8:01pm
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(This post was originally written on Monday, July 30, 2012 at 9:58am – see the intro post for more details…)

So this is it … in a little over an hour, my wife and I are set to start signing papers like the dickens that will ultimately result in the purchasing of our first house! I’m a little nervous, simply because there were some snarfus on Friday that meant we didn’t get to see the final settlement statement (i.e. how much $$$ we need to bring to the table!) before actually arriving at said table, so I’m really hoping that everyone remembered to cross the T’s and dot the lowercase j’s so that the numbers all work out to exactly what we’re expecting.

Mind you, we won’t actually walk away with our keys today … apparently that doesn’t really happen much at closing anymore because they want to make sure that your check clears before handing them over … but still, it’s a pretty huge step considering that it was barely 45 days ago that we even decided to officially start looking for houses in the first place!

Now without further ado … to the Scottmobile!

(This post was originally written on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 2:58pm – see the intro post for more details…)

Two days until we’re scheduled to close now, and while I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it second thoughts, I have caught myself the last couple of days just wondering randomly if we picked the right house.

I drove by our second choice the other day and noted that it does have a little more street presence, but at the same time the layout inside leaves something to be desired. It also has a bigger backyard, but is lacking a couple of features that we probably won’t be able to afford to put in for at least another 5 years or so.

Oh yeah, and after seeing so many sets of financials for the house that we are buying, even being maybe 10% more, it’s probably well out of our price range at this point!

I’ve got to imagine that it’s probably pretty normal to have your mind wander before making such a big purchase like this … it’s weird – I didn’t really go through anything like this when I married my wife, but who knows?! Ultimately, when I do focus solely on the new house, though, I think it has a lot of potential to be a great home for us … at least for the next 5-10 years or so. I would like to see us move into something a little bigger as our eventual kids start to get older, but I suppose we’ve got a ways to go before all of that.

I think I need to find something to do to keep my idle mind occupied until Monday morning!

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