Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring is Sprung

Spring is here at last. Blossom is on the trees and we actually saw some daffodils in the park the other day. I wasn't even sure if they have daffodils over here or not; I love daffs, they bring bright colour into the world after a long dark, dank winter (in the UK, anyway) so it is cool to see them here:

Meanwhile, I put some pictures into the local camera shop, who invite submissions from their customers to have pictures in the window. This a very excellent camera shop, with far too many juicy things inside for the safety of our bank account :-) Anyway, here is the latest addition to the beautification (and aeroplane-ification) of Austin ;-)

House buying, lesson 2:

Sit and wait for various people to talk to each other. These include the title company, the bank, and the homeowners insurance provider, amongst others. One obviously needs a mortgage in order to pay for the thing, and one needs insurance before the mortgage will be granted. The title company seems to pull all the various strands together, and they are the people who ensure you will have clear title to the property and that no oputstanding loans or claims exist on it. They also send out the homeowners association (HOA) stuff to the buyer.

The HOA is not something that exists in the UK but most places in the US seem to have one - generally it will be local to the subdivision or estate that the house is on. The HOA is the body that both looks after common spaces within the community and also enforces general rules over the area which are designed to maintain the look of the area and thus also maintain the house prices and quality of living.

These rules will vary according to where you live. There's an area southwest of Austin called Circle C Ranch which has strict rules including having to have grass out front of your house; i.e. you're not allowed to have natural gardens or gravel or anything else, and they police the length of your grass and chide you if it gets too long! The chiding probably comes as a warning first but if you let it grow unhindered they can fine you. Needless to say, we didn't want to live in Circle C where everything looks the same and you can't have your garden the way you want it. I think most of the rules are generally reasonable though; no parking boats in your driveway, no parking cars out front that don't work or are mid-repair; that kind of thing. There's not much getting away from the HOA anyway and most of the time membership is compulsory, with fees such as $120/quarter being payable.

Sometimes you get amenities in return though, there might be a tennis court or swimming pool if you're lucky which is maintained by the HOA and available for anyone in the community to use. It all depends on where you live.

Big thunderstorms tonight. It's been lovely weather this past week or so but we have a day or two of heavy rain, which we do need, for sure. Lots of flashy lightning tonight; always good to watch.

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