Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Marking Time

It’s been 10 or 11 days since my last post in this blog… a case of bloggers block! As you know, we accepted an offer on the house on the 15th. Since then, we’ve waited for the home inspection, waited for the results of the home inspection, and are currently waiting for the “back-and-forth” negotiation process that comes out of the home inspection process to end… which it surely will by Thursday afternoon, the 10th business day after the signed offer. I’m not good at waiting. The buyers did make an issue of a section of roof shingles that are wearing more than the others, and wanted us to re-roof the place. In return, I offered a partial credit at closing — which seems commensurate with the problem, which is really a cosmetic, not a functional, issue. So we wait.
In the meantime, we continue the cathartic purging of possessions. Box after box of things that are utterly, or nearly, useless. Betamax video tapes, audio cassettes, old receipts and statements, miscellaneous hardware, nuts, bolts, wires… all of it was so important at some point in the past, but now is just more fodder for the landfill. What is this urge to accumulate?… to store as much stuff as we have room to put it? It seems innate… that we’re wired to stash stuff. We’re like squirrels that are never satisfied… always finding and hiding as many acorns as they have time to find and hide — far more than will ever be used. At least for us, shedding ourselves of this stuff is uplifting, energizing, liberating. Highly recommended!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

When Do I Celebrate?

We signed an offer on our house tonight — the Ides of March! I hope it turns out better for us than it did for Caesar. If all goes well, we should close near the end of June. I don’t know why I’m not more excited — (perhaps I’ve been over-doing it with the vacuuming)? I feel like celebrating now… but there’s more work to do, more hurdles to cross, still so many things that could go wrong. So when do I celebrate? now? or when the home inspection is done and the issues are handled? or when the buyer’s loan approval process is complete? or when the buyer’s townhome sells? or when we’re a week away from closing and everything seems like we’re on a glidepath to a clean close? or, when we actually close and the cash is in the bank? I fear that if I wait until closing… the end of the process… I’ll have little energy left. The celebration might be two fingers of scotch and a nap!
It’s only been a little over two weeks, but it feels much longer. Our Realtor, Ginny Sylvester, has been a real trooper and has really helped us through the process. We’ve sold homes before and often we’ve seen “our” agent when we signed the listing agreement, and then had to get re-acquainted with him/her at closing: (”so nice to see you… what did you say your name was again??… Oh yes, that’s right, I knew I’d met you somewhere before”). Ginny has been different. She brought in an interior decorator to help get the home in showroom condition. She helped move things around, put the right things on the walls, in the right places. She’s made sure we’re ready for every showing. She’s called with feedback from the showings. She’s shepherded a bunch of other agents through the house, plied with cheap wine and a drawing, so they can experience it first hand and perhaps, bring back the right buyer. I can’t say enough about her. She’s a breath of fresh air in an increasingly musty, stagnant world.
So, the clock’s ticking. Keep your fingers crossed. Nudge me when it’s over.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Outdoor Projects

Not much going on the past couple days. But the weather is teasing us with a sample of, oh, let’s say mid-April — it’s 72f as I write this on Tuesday afternoon. The snow’s totally gone, even the big pile at the end of the driveway that was 3 feet high last week. The moderate temps are also giving me an opportunity to tackle some outdoor projects… sand and paint an inside panel of the garage door; wash a few windows; pick up litter in the bushes; seed and mulch a few bare spots in the lawn; rake up a couple of the planting beds near the deck; clean and wash the patio and deck; take some dead fall plants out of deck planters; etc. — all to make the house look a little better. I’m not normally this ambitious — especially when it comes to yard work — especially this early in the season, but I’m doing everything I can to entice a buyer quickly. We have another showing scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Keeping fingers crossed!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Revelations

The temp made it to 52f yesterday… and it should be about that again today. The snow-cover is essentially gone. And as the snow melts, so too does it’s masking effects. Where last week a bank of plowed snow existed, today, there’s a line of jetsam on both sides of our streets and more throughout the yards. This debris collects during the winter, some of it blown out of trash and recycle bins, some blown into our neighborhood from less caring neighborhoods nearby. It all lays about, accumulates, is covered by snow, and waits until spring to emerge exactly when we’re trying to sell a house!
So it goes. After my daily constitutional yesterday, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed one of my blue recycle bins and headed out around the neighborhood, picking up discarded cans, plastic bottles, one big whiskey bottle (empty — I think I know which neighbor it belonged to), and anything else that made the subdivision look trashy. The neighbors, of course, were watching me. Convinced, and saddened probably, that my retirement had degenerated into this… picking up cans for a little cash. I could almost hear the tsks’s from Mrs. Kravitz.
We both spent some time getting the house ready today, although we had no showings scheduled. A late breakfast was in order, but since the kitchen can’t be messed with, it was over to Papa G’s in Elburn. We did then get a showing for 3:30, so Dar and I went over the Peck Farm and Mill Creek for a long walk. It felt spring-like and we enjoyed it.
More waiting….

Friday, March 9, 2007

Spring

I stopped in my tracks on the way out to get the paper this morning. The crisp early morning air was still, there was no wind at all. But something was different. It felt like… no, that can’t be… or could it? It felt like, maybe, just maybe, there was a hint of spring in the air. It was something new, clearly something different. It felt good! I took a deep breath of clean cold air, picked up the paper, and it hit me. I was hearing robins. The unmistakable sound of robins. It was all around me. For a boy from the upper midwest, this is a clear sign of spring. We’ve survived another winter.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Hiding Out at Library

We got an offer on the house yesterday, Tuesday. After some consideration, we rejected it. The problem wasn’t the price offered, which was reasonable, but the attached contingency. If we accepted the offer, the prospective buyers would put their townhome up for sale and would need to sell it prior to our being able to close on our deal. That doesn’t sound too ominous but consider these facts… first, we’ve only been on the market for a little more than a week; second, during that week, we’ve had strong activity, including two second-showings; third, we’re just now getting into spring, the prime house selling/buying time. If we accepted the offer with the contingency, it puts our house in a sort-of limbo status… technically, still “on the market”, but most agents don’t show houses that have contracts pending. Our activity would go way down and we’d miss a lot of potentially better deals. The townhome the prospective buyers need to sell is in an area where a number of other properties are for sale and where recently closed sales had been on the market for 100 days or more. We’re rolling the dice that we’ll find a buyer that can close quicker.
Today, Wednesday, is “real-estate agents day”. What this means is that agents from all over the area are out familiarizing themselves with properties recently added to the multiple listing service. The selling agents make these properties “available”, which means they’re cleaned up, lights and candles on, owners out, and ready for inspection. Often, as our agent is doing, they’re enticed to show up by means of a free bottle of cheap wine and a chance to win a $50 drawing at a local wine store, where presumably they’d be able to get a better bottle of wine. Besides getting up early today and getting the place ready to show, we’re evicted from the house for a few hours. Dar’s off today, so we treated ourselves to breakfast and, with laptops in tow, headed to the local library to hide out and do some work for a couple hours.
The weather is predicted to be warmer in the next few days and spring can’t be far. We’re hoping the warm weather brings out buyers with money.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Positive Sign

We had big plans to go through files and other stored items this weekend, but the house took precedence and almost nothing else was accomplished. The daily routine is to get up, shower, shave, etc, and once ready for the day personally, it’s time to get the house ready to show. Getting the house ready means we’ve got to hide or get rid of any incriminating evidence that actual real people are living here. Every loose hair on the floor, every water drop in the sink, every odor (in the morning, odors can be a problem), every foot-print in the carpet, every dirty dish… it’s all got to go. I feel like an ax murderer getting rid of the evidence… trying to mop up the blood, get rid of all the stained clothes, and stuffing the body in a trunk under my bed! If the prospective buyer even suspects that a real person lived here, they’ll walk. These are all important real estate sales techniques that I didn’t know before this.
So, once the place is ready, and as you’re backing out the door, dusting everything on the way out, you realize you’ve forgotten the keys to the car — I think I saw them in my office. Damn! That means we back up to T minus 5 minutes, take shoes off, grab the swiffer-sweeper thingy, retrieve the keys, and back out the door sweeping all evidence away, once again, as you go. Finally, out!. Now the hoard of potential buyers can walk through the house with the confidence that, if they buy this place, they’ll be the first people who ever lived here.
And so it went for two days, Saturday and Sunday. The showings were done by 3pm Sunday, and we headed back to the house. There was enough time yet to enjoy a quiet afternoon, spend some quality time with our son who stopped down for a visit, and try to be normal for a few hours. It felt good to unwind, share a bottle of good cheap wine (the only kind I’m drinking these days), and prepare dinner.
We had just sat down to dinner, when the phone rang. It was our real estate agent: “one couple that came through earlier in the day want to come through again… in 10 minutes! Can you be ready?” “No, we’re eating… we just sat down!” “They were from out of town and had to leave tonight… so there was no putting them off… unless, of course, we weren’t interested in selling the house to them.” So 15 minutes of panicky activity later, we were out the door again, cast out of our own house into the wintry night. The good news was that someone was coming through for the second time… at the very least, a positive sign that we’re doing something right.
As for those files and boxes, the ones we planned to cull through this weekend? Maybe next weekend?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Waiting... with Emotion

We had two showings the day after the house went on the market. Both turned out to be “tire-kickers” — checking out the market but not ready to buy. Not a peep from anyone yesterday, and it’s been quiet today as well. Of course, the weather hasn’t exactly been cooperating — cold, snow, rain, ice… just about everything in the past week. Today, we could get a couple inches of rain on top of the snow and frozen ground. Not exactly the kind of conditions that put people in the house buying mood.
While we wait, our senses are more receptive to anything that could impact the housing market… the stock market (it dropped like a rock the day after we put the house on the market), the number of homes for sale (our real-estate agent has listings coming our of her ears right now), and government reports on housing activity (January was down 16%). All this caused me to go for a walk yesterday. I found myself in the sub-division next to ours, and as I walked, started to count the number of homes for sale — 12! 12 homes for sale in Randall Square! That’s at least twice the number that I remember from last summer. Trudging back home, it was clear to me: we may never sell the house.
Get a grip! It’s only been 4 days. I remember similar feelings when we sold our last house 13 years ago… little, if any activity for a few weeks, and then, a contract! The emotions swung the other way at that point… it went too quick; we could have asked more; we left money on the table!. It was an emotional roller-coaster ride.
So, today’s a new day. It’s still raining, actually harder than before. The stock market’s still down. But I feel better. All the effort to get the house ready to sell was exhausting — but the waiting is harder.