All posts by alannabrake

Downloadable Real Estate Contract

 “…if you’re willing to do the legwork yourself there is no reason you should have to pay an agent if the transaction is fairly cut-and-dry.”

I have spent many hours this week researching how to make a real estate transaction happen as inexpensively as possible -since we’re paying for both sides of the upcoming real estate transaction- while still covering all proper bases.

In the beginning I was told that if you don’t use an RE agent (for which our cost would be ~$9,600) you would at least need a RE attorney (cost:~$3,500); but then I learned you don’t have to have an attorney unless there are disputes about the contract, so if the Seller is someone you trust it’s perfectly legit to simply pay an agent to write up the contract for you for a flat fee (cost: ~$1,500).  Now, even this much smaller $1,500 price tag seemed awfully steep to me, probably because that’s still $1.5k even before the Title company charges you for all their goodies too. So after a lengthy search for Colorado Real Estate contracts I eventually found the DORA site. Lo and behold, the Department of Regulatory Agencies is where all RE agents get their contracts from. Jackpot!

I hunkered down and read through the 25+ pages of the contract and addendums and the closing statement we’d need and realized I could totally do this myself with a little guidance from an agent where needed. So I called up the agent my mom had recommended (the same one who gave me the $1.5k price quote for her services) and asked her what she would instead charge to answer my questions and help me if I get stuck filling out the contract myself. Her initial reaction was one of shock because I had found the DORA website and that those mystical sheathed-under-cloak-and-dagger documents could be simply downloaded by just anyone. Her second reaction was that she refused to give me an hourly rate for her services and offered to check them over for free when I was ready. For free?!  I think I’ll send her a huge thank you gift card for such a generous offer. If I end up pulling this off I will be saving us upwards of $1.5k (or really $9.6k if you consider how agents charge around 7%) in exchange for a few grueling hours of research and paperwork.

I’ve come to realize there was a reason I had so much trouble finding information online about how to complete a real estate transaction without an agent/attorney or contract writer; because if you’re willing to do the legwork yourself there is no reason you should have to pay an agent if the transaction is fairly cut-and-dry… and I’m thinking this is information agents prefer not to share liberally. This DIY approach, of course, only applies if both Seller and Buyer are amicable and can work together civilly; but who’s to say in this bad economy folks can’t learn to work things out on their own if it means they’ll save more than $10,000 just for being well-behaved, hardworking grown ups?

Need your own state- or region-specific Real Estate Contract?

Colorado’s DORA website

Regulator Agencies for North America 

Becoming Reality

Jason and I just met with the family to decide on a final price for gma’s house. They ended up agreeing with our original asking price if we’ll pay for all closing costs, title and contract fees. All this stress, frustration and hard work is about to pay off!

This is really happening!!!

By this time next week we should be able to have the contract written up and submitted to the lender… I can’t even tell you how floored I am right now (and, if we’re being honest, a little drunk from celebrating). The house that I’ve loved since I was 15 is about 45 days away from being mine!! Around the start of the year I will move into this beautiful cottage with my bodacious husband, my snarky little G-bird, and my goofball cat. I have my health, my dream job, a great family, the love of my life and a bright future ahead waiting for us in a tiny brick cottage on a beautiful chunk of land. It seriously can’t get any better than this! I am floating on Cloud Nine right now…

Good night world! Sleep sweet and get ready – because tomorrow is most certainly going to be a beautiful day.


First Fix: Natural Gas Leak

Score one for independent women everywhere! :) Yesterday I made my very first true house repair. I fixed 5 natural gas leaks on 3 appliances at gma’s house. Her house has always smelled like gas for as long as I can remember but for whatever reason the leaks have never been sought out. I can still detect a smell of it somewhere in the wall between the furnace and the dryer but that leak will have to wait until we close on the house since some drywall will need to be removed to find it.

A nice technician from our local gas provider was extremely helpful in explaining how the gas system works. He showed me how to control the gas flow at the main source and how to repair any basic leaks I ever find. I am extremely wary of all fire and electricity so I was nervous to give this a go – but now I feel confident that anyone can do this type of repair easily and quickly using just a few precations. Here are the steps I followed. Disclaimer: I am not a professional in any sense of the word. Do not use these directions as your only source of information. Consult a professional before taking on a project like this. Thank you.

Basic supplies needed for an easy-to-access natural gas leak between the fixed gas line and an appliance:

– Two adjustable wrenches, or one adjustable and one pipe wrench, depending on need. 

– Pipe Dope and a toothpick/Q-tip or something else to apply it with – small tubes of PD can be found at your local hardware store for under $2 (teflon tape works in a pinch, but it doesn’t age as well as Pipe Dope and you have to be sure to apply it clockwise or it can bind and cause leaks)

– A good flashlight to shed light on the situation

– A plastic sheet to protect surrounding areas incase you drop any Pipe Dope (it’s icky-sticky stuff), I just tore open a big garbage bag as a makeshift tarp

Optional: a bottle of Snoop to check your work when you’re through or for if you’re having trouble pin-pointing the leak

If actual damage has caused the leak you may also need new couplers, piping or flex-line  -which you can pick up at your local hardware store for fairly cheap.

Step 1: Have a professional seek out the location of the leak. Most gas service providers will offer this service for free if you call and report a smell of gas. Be prepared to have them come immediately since they treat all reports as a possible emergency – and be prepared to fix the leak right away because, as a policy, if they find one they will turn off your gas until it is repaired

Step 2: If the professional hasn’t done it already, turn off the gas valve at the provider supplied source (for an apartment, turn off the valve at the dwelling/unit source), then wait several minutes or until you no longer smell gas from the suspected leak,  and until the smell in the room/house has fully dissipated, before proceeding

Step 3: If there is a local gas shut-off valve for the appliance, turn that off as an added safety measure

The appliance’s shut-off valve will either look like this yellow knob, a little red knob or it can be similar to the main shut-off valve to the house

Step 4: Use one wrench to hold the pipe (or neighboring coupling) steady, and use the second wrench to twist and loosen the coupling. If the leak is up-line of a local shut-off valve you can try to simply further tighten the connection instead of going to the trouble of unscrewing it and applying your PD

*a note for us weaklings: to loosen stubborn couplers, positioning the two wrenches so that squeezing them together (like squeezing a nutcracker or pliers) will give you much more torque than holding them independently

Step 5: apply Pipe Dope to the male end of the connection (on the threads). Only apply enough to help lubricate the threads so they can be fully tightened. Be sure not to get any Pipe dope inside of the pipe as it can cause issues down the road

Step 6: reconnect the coupler and tighten as much as possible. Repeat Steps 3-6 on any other leaks that were found

Step 7: turn on the gas at the source. Remember to turn the valve very slowly. Opening it too quickly can burst the diaphragm in the meter. Here’s a video clip of the technician opening the valve Gma’s house so you can get an idea of how slow to go:

Step 8: Since the gas has been off for a bit the air in the house should be completely clear of any gas smell (it dissipates pretty quickly) so it will be pretty easy to tell if any of your fixes didn’t hold once the gas is back on. Immediately move to any repaired leak that didn’t have a local shut-off valve to check if you can smell any gas still leaking. Next, go to any repair(s) that do have the local shut-off valve and turn the gas on to the appliance. If there is still a leak present you will smell it right away if you sniff the repair site.

If there is still a leak you might want to use a bottle of Snoop to pin-point where it’s still leaking, or if it turns out you’re unable to find/fix it yourself, you’ll have to hire a local HVAC pro to come take care of it for you – but at least you did what you could!

Step 9: Re-light all appliances that require a pilot light: the furnace (if it’s as old as the hills; newer ones have an electronic ignition), hot water heater, gas fireplace, etc.  Directions for lighting pilot lights should be located on each item’s warning stickers

Step 10: Squeal and giggle and do the happy dance because you are an independent, kick-ass DIYer!

Now go get yourself a tasty treat because you did good work today!

Frustrations Abound

Tropical Storm Sandy – they’ve dubbed her “Frankenstorm” since it’s becoming one of the biggest ones in history.

Maybe I’m just over emotional this week but it feels like any small thing that could go wrong is taking the liberty to do so. I feel like I have my own personal hurricane wreaking havoc in my world.

Just today:  the roofer never showed up to evaluate the roof of the house we’re trying to buy, the guy checking on the gas leak there never showed up either; the dishwasher in our current home is on the fritz, only working when you caress the buttons just so; I was making two beautiful quiches for dinner and after preheating our crappy oven for the typical 45 minutes it takes to heat up I noticed it was still cold so I had to inconvenience my sweet neighbor for her oven and give her one of the quiches as a thank you… and now I have half a dinner to serve an hour late and still need to figure out how to fix an oven; my feline domesticus buttholeicus ate the last living morsel off the hops plant my mom bought for Jason and me as a wedding gift; the Radon test still hasn’t arrived at the lab after a week of travel which means it’s going to be invalid if it doesn’t arrive within two days – we looked on the package to see where it’s headed and, of course, it’s headed to the East coast which is currently being pummeled by Frankenstorm Sandy and USPS may not be running on time in the area….

all this and it’s only motherbleeping Monday!

I’m off to soothe my nerves with some cozy tea, chocolate and maybe a chick flick. And even through my hormone induced tantrum I truly hope all the folks being affected by Frankenstorm Sandy are able to stay safe and dry tonight and my thoughts will be with them all. As of this writing there have been reports of +15″ of rain in areas and over 2.5 million without power so far. Yeesh.

Ciao, I miei amici-





Autumn Heaven

My autumn heaven. One of my favorite mornings on record.

I just had to share a photo of the kind of awesomeness I’ve been gushing about here recently. This is an iPhone photo I took last weekend while we were over there picking apples.

Okay, this isn’t grandma’s house exactly (though the red garage behind the playhouse is gma’s) but it is my mother-in-law’s house which is next door to grandma’s place* and the lots kind of run together so they’re very similar.

Is that not simply the definition of a perfect autumn morning? I am slightly embarrassed to admit it, but as I stood there taking this picture with my hot latte in one hand, a bag of crisp freshly picked apples at my feet, a breeze knocking leaves out of the tree as if it were snowing pure gold while my bodacious husband raked up the golden leaves for his momma I just burst into tears of joy. The day was like a fairytale… and I could hardly comprehend that I was the lucky girl who got to live it. *swoon*

*Don’t worry, I actually adore my mother-in-law and the close proximity won’t be a concern

The Waiting Game

I am a researcher. A Googler. I’m not afraid of the unknown as long as I have a working internet connection. Conversely, waiting for answers to important questions and not being able to Google them right away makes me absolutely bananas.

One of the prettiest places in town – especially in the autumn.

My husband, Jason, and I are currently waiting to hear back on the plethora of tests and checks we’re having done on the beautiful 1890 brick carriage house Jason’s grandma -and grandpa before he passed 10 years ago- lived in for over 20 years. Jason’s grandma, Eileen, had some scary health issues at the beginning of 2012 and she had to be admitted into the hospital/rehab for months. While she was recovering I volunteered to care for her yard so no one had to think about it while the 4 siblings all worked on getting their mother healthy. Unfortunately, as Eileen’s health recovered through the summer, her memory has declined substantially due to the many seizures she experienced during her illness. Unable to remember if she has taken her pills 3 minutes after she takes them has forced the family to admit her to into a senior care facility. …and now her beautiful home, which her love and tasty cooking made so inviting and warm, sits empty and the elements are starting to take over – and I, after caring for it all summer, am so smitten with the place that I can’t see my life being lived anywhere but there. I want to keep her home alive and happy and lived in. I can see our Christmases, our summer BBQ’s, our niece playing in the massive leaf piles in the autumn… I can see our history unfolding there and my heart aches at the notion that another family might take over, or worse, a contractor will buy the land and tear down the house to make room for condos like they did on the other end of the city block.

When Jason and I started dating I was only 15 years old. Even at 15 I fell madly in love with the house the moment I laid eyes on it. The lot is a sprawling 1/2 acre on the edge of historical downtown Loveland, Colorado. The lot is populated with huge trees and bushes of beautiful roses. The house itself used to be the carriage house where the horses and blacksmith resided, and the original home sat on the South end of the lot; a veritable mansion built during one of Loveland’s first big waves of incoming settlers. If the stories I’ve been told are correct, that main house burned down in the 1960’s and no one ever repaired it. It sat unloved and hauntingly filled with nocturnal creatures for almost 20 years. The family that owned the lot decided to scrap the mansion in the early 80’s and convert the carriage house into a livable space. George and Eileen bought the home soon after.

There are so many things to think about with such a vintage home! Asbestos, Radon, roof replacement, electrical updating, the constant smell of natural gas; all items that could be deal breakers if they come back with nasty results.  So far, the electrical has come back as updated but not great (needing a $700-1.3k upgrade); the Asbestos came back negative on all samples except a ‘presumed’ positive on the plaster behind the drywall since we couldn’t get to enough sample spots to rule it out (which is absolutely incredible in such an old home!). We’ll hear back about the gas, roof and Radon early next week and I’m about ready to explode with anticipation.

tick. tock. tick. tock. 

For now I’m trying to keep myself preoccupied with this new blog and with preparing all the paperwork to allow us to rent out our house if we end up buying gma’s place. That’ll be another huge project in and of itself.

Hello world!

Here I sit, starting yet another project and yet another blog…. won’t I ever learn that I am a terrible blogger and I don’t stick with it?

Heh, nope! ;)

This time around I’m going into my shiny new project full well knowing it’s just a sort of diary for my stories. I’m not going to try to peg this blog for anything specific, though it was originally going to be the documentation of our adventures as we try to purchase Jason’s grandmother’s 1890 brick cottage in downtown Loveland, Colorado (and then fix it up from grandma-chic to modern-artistic). The documentation of our home will be a portion of the content, but not the entirety of it. …that is… if we even are able to purchase the house at all. ::fingers crossed::

I just feel there’s so much good and happiness in my lucky little life right now that I have to document it somehow. If not just for me, maybe for someone needing a chuckle at my naiveté, or someone looking for a little hope and unabashed optimism.

For whomever you are, I hope this blog makes you smile and sparks something new in your soul.



The first signs of autumn.