Apartment Living – The Notice

As we have bought a house, and are having way too many trades people tweaking on it, it is time to plan our vacating of this apartment. This entails giving “notice” of our intent to vacate.

Having read the fine print of the lease (I know, shocking) we know that breaking the lease early is going to cost us 2 months’ rent. A bit of a hardship, but not unexpected. Of course, we could keep the lease in place, and hope that they can rent the apartment before the lease is up, but there are 4 months left on the lease, and that is a risk too much to take. (lots of vacancies)

So Barbara informed the office of our plans yesterday. The whole office staff was there. They seemed almost surprised that we were giving proper notice and were going to pay the termination fee.

The Dumpsters on moving day
The Dumpsters on moving day

Apparently the preferred method for leaving before the lease was up is to pack and leave on the weekends or evenings when the management isn’t on the premises.

Yeah, that is a great fucking idea. Not only will it destroy your credit rating to have a default on a lease, but good luck renting with that hanging over your head.

No wonder why Sundays are the preferred move-out day, filling all the trash dumpsters to overflowing with detritus.

Heck, two doors down from us, the tenants left and abandoned a lot of their personal belongings.

In a way, I feel bad for the people who are forced to do this. While i have railed at the neighborhood, and the deficiencies of the facilities here, I recognize that for the area (Silicon valley) these apartments are considered “affordable”. But seeing that we will pay $30K in rent for one year, and knowing that most of the people who live here are in the services industry (our next door neighbor is a chef at a local restaurant. I know how much that pays…) this is a struggle to afford.

I shiver to think about what the next step down is on the housing front. It can’t be good.

The good news is that we will soon be moving to our house.

House – Interior Painting

While the outside of the house has pretty decent paint, the inside was a bit, uh, hideous. Nothing too awful, but it clearly hadn’t been painted in a long time. The bedrooms had some odd paint colors on some walls, and one was obviously a child’s room with some odd trim.

painting 7Add to that the awful 70’s vintage “popcorn” ceiling, and you have a mess. Fortunately, our real estate agent recommended Mario to work it over. In a mere two days, they have:

  • Masked all fixtures and cabinetry
  • Removed the popcorn ceiling
  • Fixed some drywall damage
  • Replaced the particle board shelves in the closets
  • Retexture the walls and ceiling

Once we choose colors, we will have an awesome interior to come home to.

I can hardly wait.

The Kitchen

Before moving into our new house, we are having a lot of work done. While the “bones” of the house are in good condition, it is clear that some of the extremities were in need of some massive overhaul. The Kitchen Appliances are one of the worst offenders.

As a former professional chef, I am lucky (cursed?) with the ability to make anything “do” around cooking. Old stoves, inadequate ovens, etc, I can survive with it. Hence I have never felt the need to spend the money to upgrade appliances unless they are broken.

Doubly bad, having tagged along with my step father, an appliance repairman, I am pretty good at keeping appliances alive.

Thus, I have worked with some pretty crappy gear in the homes that I have owned. From the AEK at the condo I first bought, to the so so gas range in Tucson (neither good nor bad, but a serviceable GE unit) to the radiative heating stovetop at our Chandler house, I was able to cope.

appliances-11However, now that we have bought a house here in San Jose, it is time to splurge. The appliances in the kitchen (stove/oven, dishwasher, and microwave) are all abysmal. The dishwasher is just yucky, I don’t want to even touch it. The oven/stove? Well, it is a 1970’s vintage Roper that is not only plain, but in pretty rough shape. The burners are the old coil type, and the drip pans, well, instead of spending $15 to replace them, they were just wrapped in aluminum foil.

So we plopped down some bucks for new appliances. Since we are doing a lot of other work to the house, the new appliances haven’t arrived yet, so this will just document the meh that was there. The stove will be a sweet gas slide-in Kitchen Aid unit that will probably be the best stove/oven I have ever worked with outside of a commercial kitchen.

I have already replaced the halogen “can” lights in the kitchen with LED’s, and added dimmer switches, so it is slowly, but surely becoming ours. Next week the plumber comes to fix a few issues, and to plumb gas into the oven area.

I can hardly wait to move in.

Innumeracy and the cult of anti-vax

The last post was about an innate understanding of scale and scope, and how this lead to a general understanding of magnitudes.

A real world example, and one that is top of the news lately is the whole “anti-vaccine” movement. This is the increasing tendency to choose to not vaccinate your children due to the faulty belief that vaccines are worse than the disease. Leaving that argument aside, lets apply this “scale” thing to the antivaccine argument:

Measles, a once common childhood disease, has several bad results, with the death rate being on the order of 3 per 1,000 infections. (I will admit that I am horrified by how high this is.) That means that if 1000 children contract the measles virus, 3 will die. Let that sink in. That is a 0.3% fatality rate. Seems pretty low, until …

The MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine has pretty much eradicated the disease. In 2000 there were virtually no cases reported in the USA.

Of course, the vaccine is not risk free. The major risk is an allergic reaction to an ingredient, usually the albumin (protein from the white of an egg), causing an anaphylactic reaction. This is somewhat on the order of less than one event per million doses. That is almost three orders of magnitude lower than the risk of death. (1/1000 the risk). And guess what, when you get a vaccine, the healthcare provider has an epi pen ready for the vanishingly rare anaphylaxis, so even if you do have such a reaction, you will get immediate treatment for it. There is also a more common reaction, of a fever, a rash, and other symptoms, all of which are far less risky than the disease. None of these are considered life threatening.

So, the risk of a vaccine adverse reaction is 1/1000th the risk of DYING from the disease itself.

The truly horrifying statistic is the rate of death in immunocompromised victims of measles. That mortality rate is a staggering 30%. That means that if your child is immunocompromised, and contracts the disease, they have a nearly 1 in 3 chance of dying.


The general population is poorly prepared to weigh risks, and scale. Clearly, the benefits of vaccinating your children vastly outweighs the risks with vaccination, but the specious arguments bantered about highlight how little
the general populace understands the scope and scale of the risks.

House Hunting Journal – Mortgage Companies Suck

I wrote this a couple weeks ago, before we closed so I wouldn’t jinx the process. The process of mortgage underwriting is completely f*cked up at this point. This post is some of the zaniness I had to endure.

The last house I bought, in Chandler Arizona was a breeze. We bought it in 2012 (i.e. well after the global financial crisis), and apart from documenting my wages, and supplying some paperwork about our house in Tucson that we were keeping and renting, it was a relatively painless process. That is not to say that we didn’t have some hoops to jump through, but they were easy, and quickly dispatched.

The loan we got here is a whole other story. Granted, we are borrowing the maximum allowed for a conforming loan. But it is a standard 30 year, fixed rate mortgage (that we locked in at 3.56%) I make plenty of money to qualify and repay the mortgage, and we are putting 10% down, a considerable amount of cash, so it seems like it should have been an easy process.

Nope. The wrinkle is that we are selling our Tucson house, (it is under contract, but it will close after we close here in San Jose) and that bears on the total debt ratio. So it was an unending stream of requests for documentation, and justifications for everything in the package. My relocation letter wasn’t good enough. My 4 pay stubs with my salary weren’t enough. My promotion letter with my new salary on it wasn’t enough.

We supplied the insurance policy information three times for Christ’s sake.

A few things that really got stuck in my craw:

  • The Tucson house HOA. They insisted on a printout from a secure website that showed the dues, and the payment schedule. Of course, the rinky-dink HOA was run by a rinky dink company that didn’t have a secure website, or really anything that was acceptable. All for a HOA fee of $45 every quarter. Yes, that’s right, $15 a month.
  • The transfer of funds when we closed a bank account. Upon moving here, the bank we used in Arizona, BBVA Compass, was not going to work for us. With only two branches int he bay area, neither within 20 miles of our house, we changed banks. So on December 23, we closed the BBVA account, and Barbara got a cashier’s check for the funds there (something north of $42K). The teller made a mistake and made the cashier’s check a little less than the total. The difference, $2.18, he just paid in cash. It took 3 hours over three days to satisfy the underwriter of this $2.18 discrepancy. I burned about $200 worth of work time to account for the price of a tall regular coffee from Starbucks.
  • The mortgage company uses a portal to communicate the status. mortgageloanstatus.com that seems to be a common portal. It started relevant with a lot of documents that I needed to sign, and return. But also is a panel to explain the needed items to clear. The problem is that they¬†never updated it as we cleared the documents. Useless as tits on a boar hog.

Look, I get it that the fast and loose times that lead to the crash in 2008 were bad, and that we need to tighten the process up, but the mindless drones, questioning $15 HOA fees, and $2.18 discrepancies in a transaction of over $42,000, well, fuck me.

I am also certain that the required mortgage company that we needed to use due to the relocation company was part of the problem. They were located in New Jersey, and the time differential (3 hours) didn’t help. Add in the nuttiness of the California market, where you have to act fast, and process it immediately. They never picked up the sense of urgency that is demanded to win here.

The process is done, the loan was approved, and funded, and we have the house. Next up will be the before post with plenty of pictures of what we will be changing before we move in.

I can hardly wait to get out of the apartment. Our formal move-out day will likely be March 31. I will hate to pay the termination fee on the lease, but I would hate even more to have the mortgage AND the rent.