So I’ve been scarce for a while and I feel badly about that. A week after moving I’d like to report that everything is up and running and normal life has resumed without much of a hitch. As long as you don’t look too closely the house might even give that impression. For the most part flat surfaces are clear(ish), closets aren’t straining their doors, and all the lights and appliances work.
It’s a start. I say start because I still can’t seem to figure out where anything is. I find myself wandering around from room to room alternately forgetting what I was originally looking for and then finding something that I want to put somewhere else. Then, of course, there’s also the “catch all” room that still has boxes stacked around every wall and the dining room that was pressed into service as a temporary cardboard recycling center. The house is clearly reminding me that moving isn’t an event so much as it’s a process – a time consuming, exhausting, madding process.
Aside from the obvious items I knew I wanted to address coming in – reworking the master bathroom, installing a fence, and a few others – the house is busy informing me about other projects that will need my attention sooner rather than later. There are grading and drainage issues in the back yard and landscaping that will take a season or two to beat into shape. There is carpet that needs stretched and cleaned. There are approximately 1,372,261 nail holes that need filled and painted. It’s a well put together house, but despite being easily rated move in condition it’s going to be a work in progress for quite some time.
The dogs are slowly setting in to their new routine as well. They’ve adjusted to being lead around on a leash temporarily better than I have to be honest. They’re still barking at every bump and tump when the washing machine runs or the furnace kicks on, but other than that there the move hasn’t caused them any apparent trauma.
I could use another week or two to really get things settled here, but work beckons… which I suppose is a good thing as in a few weeks I’ve got to start paying for this mess.
And here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for – or at least the moment I’ve been waiting for – the last post (probably) from the house I’ve been renting for the last four years. I moved in basically sigh unseen. My furniture was about 24 hours behind me and it met all the major criteria. Basically it was available immediately and it had a fence. If I had to describe it in a word, I’d say the house as been “serviceable.” I’ve had my troubles with the place, but it’s been a good enough roof over my head and I’m sure next week when I drive past it I’ll look at it a little more fondly that it probably deserves. Sitting here now with boxes piled on every flat surface is not exactly bittersweet – I’m enormously pleased to be leaving – but there have definitely been a few moments of nostalgia this morning. There won’t be time for that tomorrow.
If I’m honest I’m still finding it a little hard to believe I’m a homeowner again. The reality hasn’t quite sunk in yet, although it got a little more real yesterday when two trucks and a trailer’s worth of “stuff” were deposited. George the Russian Tortoise has even taken up residence already so I’ll make at least one trip down this afternoon there to see how he made it through the night. I know it will feel a lot more like mine tomorrow evening when the furniture is basically in place and the dogs are threatening to trip me at every turn. At the moment, even with a few of my odds and ends there, it still feels like a big empty house – someone else’s big empty house. I keep expecting the old owner to wander down the hall and ask what the hell I’m doing in his house.
It feels a little like I’ve been in some stage of moving since I pulled up stakes in Memphis. In fact there are still boxes taped shut from that move that will get loaded on the truck tomorrow. That probably explains a bit about why I’ve never felt entirely settled here. We’re about to resolve that issue… and I can’t wait to get this all behind me so I can get out of a “moving” mode and into a “living” mode.
All other annoyances this week have been superseded by this one:
Waiting for the last minute.
I understand selling a house is a complicated business. It’s not a mission to Mars or anything, but it’s complicated enough. At the same time it happens millions of times every year from one corner of the country to the other, so it’s not exactly like we’re trying to figure out how to do it for the first time. There’s no creative financing involved. There are no issues with the title. There is really not anything remarkable about this transaction in any way… except that putting together the final HUD-1, the document that lays out the dollars and cents of the transaction, is apparently the hardest thing to do in the world. Ever. I started writing this post 19 hours before closing and they still can’t seem to tell me exactly how big a bag of cash I need to bring to the table to get the deal done. I started asking for this document a week in advance specifically because I am going to review and understand where every penny is going. I’d hoped I would be able to do that on my own time, but if I have to sit in a room with the lawyer, the seller, and both our agents wasting half a day of their time tomorrow going over every item line by line until I’m satisfied it’s correct and my questions are answered, I guess we can do it that way too.
Note: In the interest of fair and balanced blogging I should tell you that I received the paperwork about 30 seconds after finishing the above paragraph. I’ve opted to let it stand alone because I still find it pretty damned annoying.
One of the most challenging aspects of keeping this blog is always trying to sit down and say something even on those nights when I have nothing to say. In this case, maybe it’s more of a case of not having anything to say for public consumption. There’s plenty going on here at the cardboard box factory, but none of it is even mildly interesting – and certainly not interesting enough to stretch into an opinion piece. I have the distinct feeling that these next couple of days are going to be more about grinding the job out than having anything entertaining to say about it. There are only so many ways to say moving is a pain in the ass and I feel like I’ve delivered that message effectively already.
Through foreign vacations, career changes, the occasional personal issue, and the regular ups and downs of a life lived I don’t think I’ve ever declared an outright operational pause for this blog. I don’t think I’m going to do that now either because no sooner will I say I’m taking a week off then something stupid will happen and I’ll be right back here writing about it. Maybe I should just say that unlike every other normal week, posts for the next few days may not keep to any particular schedule. Then again maybe they will, but I don’t want to box myself into a case of over promising and under delivering.
For now, jamming the rest of my life’s accumulated possessions into cardboard boxes feels like it should take precedence. In a day or so it’ll be down to me, a few critters, and the network I wouldn’t be able to convince myself to take offline until the last second. The last few days of this process really are nearly intolerable.
As far as I can tell, there are about 3,572 different and distinct approvals needed in order to get a mortgage. There’s the pre-qualification, the pre-approval, and the tentative approval through the loan officer. From what I’ve gathered in the last thirty days, none of those three types of approval mean a damned thing to anyone. The only kind of approval that matters when it comes time for a six-figure loan is the one from the mortgage underwriter stating all conditions are cleared and the loan is well and truly approved.
The “clear to close” approval is the one I finally got this morning – a whole three days in advance. I feel like it’s a major accomplishment.
The final walk through is scheduled. The seller is preparing to produce receipts for all requested repair work. Closing is set for noon… and my inner paranoid pessimist is screaming out his familiar warning that someone, somewhere will find some way to send this thing hurtling wildly off the rails at the last moment.
I’ll feel infinitely better once I’ve signed away the next 30 years in exchange for a set of keys… or some magic beans. Either way.
The last week or so I’ve been working pretty closely with my mortgage underwriter. The volume of paperwork involved in this transaction is impressive… and that’s saying someone who’s spent most of his adult life as a professional bureaucrat. Late Friday afternoon I got a very apologetic email asking for updated bank statements. It seems my state and federal tax refunds dropped into my account and set off all kind of mortgage lender bells and sirens warning about unexpectedly large deposits. Within minutes I sorted out what they needed and punted everything back to them so they’d have it on Monday morning.
A few minutes later I got a very kind message calling me a “dream borrower to work with,” presumably because I actually keep reasonably good records and can access them on demand. That sort of surprised me. I had always assumed that most people would be able to dive into their files and find whatever bit of paperwork they needed. Getting a mortgage lined up can be an exercise in frustration – and can feel like you’ve sent every bit of required documentation a few dozen times. Having the paperwork you need on hand shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
All that being said, I have to think if you’re asking someone to lend you a few hundred thousand dollars or more, actually having your shit together and not causing them a bunch of headache is probably a good idea, no? Or maybe I’m just not approaching this endeavor with the requisite amount of douchebaggery entitled attitude. All things being equal, until we reach the closing table I’m going to err on the side of being as helpful to these people as humanly possible. It’s one of those happy convergences of self interest and the right thing to do.
This morning I got to experience the real value of working with a real estate agent. It’s not so much that they are board certified professionals who spend every day facilitating technical sales with dozens of moving parts and a propensity to run into trouble at every step of the process. What makes the realtor so valuable than any of that, however, is they allow the buyers and sellers to stay at arms length through almost the entire transaction. For most people real estate is the single largest purchase they’ll ever personally experience. Throw in the emotional dimension of a place called “home” and the whole thing is fraught with issues.
I’m bringing this up because I went by my house-in-waiting this morning to get some measurements, look at a bit of furniture the sellers are interested in being rid of, and to make sure the truck actually fits into the garage (Yeah, that’s actually a thing with a large truck and a standard size garage). Unlike the other showings and the inspection the seller was there. So was his son. So was his daughter-in-law. They all seem like nice enough people – the son and his wife apparently live a couple of streets over so we’re even quasi-neighbors. Despite that, I’m still the guy who chiseled them down to a rock bottom price and then presented a longish, but reasonable, list of repair requests on a house, their home, that the seller and his departed wife designed for themselves from the basement up. But there we all were standing in their living room (that in about three weeks will be my living room) making small talk while I made snap decisions about their furniture and then wandered from room to room with a tape measure and clipboard figuring out where my own furniture will fit. The whole experience was just awkward.
It needed to be done, but the whole thing just felt so very odd… and I’m pretty sure I’ve come to the preemptive decision that I will never even consider a sale “by owner.” I have enough weird in my life without adding that to the mix. For this one small thing, the realtor is worth every penny of their commission.