I accidentally packed myself up and taped my lid shut for the past few weeks and labeled myself FRAGILE.
We’re moving! And why is it that moving sounds like a better idea than it actually turns out to be?
This past summer, searching for a new house became my part-time job. I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s a buyer’s market. Let me be the one to burst your realty bubble with shot of the reality I found. It is only a buyer’s marked if you are a buyer who:
1 – is able to pay in cash
2 – is willing to pay list price
3 – is interested in waiting a year for that foreclosure to get released from the bank
We fell into none of those categories and so it took many months to find the right house and actually get it. I became addicted to Redfin. I called my realtor about houses before she even knew they were listed. I saw dozens of houses. Good and bad. Going into someone’s home is strange – you get a glimpse of their personal space which at times is very inviting and at other times downright frightening. The worst? Short sales. You’ve got someone who is financially distressed and knows it’s just a matter of time before the bank takes their home. Put that together and you have someone who basically living in squalor and smoking a lot of cigarettes.
Selling a house is no easy task. We saw some nice homes in great locations but had to say no when we encountered any one of these things:
1 – Don’t smoke in the house. Ever. And if you still smoke, walk yourself up to a brick wall and bang your head into it.
2 – Don’t have cats. I have nothing against cats but will say that you walk into a cat home and you just know it’s a cat home. Also, if you have cats, change the kitty litter – oh, sometime in the past month would be nice.
3 – Don’t try to cover up the smell of cats or cigarettes with some nasty cheap plug-in because (news flash) it doesn’t work. At all.
4 – Don’t do anything to the house that is just for you or your hobby. For example, installing 6 different closets in one room in the basement because you have 6 different hobbies doesn’t make much sense for anyone else.
5 – Don’t install a pool. Most of the houses I saw that had been on the market for more than 100 days had a pool (or hot tub). In a place where we get summer for 3 months out of the year, a pool is not highly desirable.
I should also add that if taxidermy is your hobby, hide it. In your car or someplace potential buyers will not be looking.
We put 5 contracts on houses. Eventually we found and agreed on a house in north Naperville. It’s an older home, built in 1957, and the prior owners raised 6 children there – including 3 sets of twins. Yes, this house is fertile. Which might come in handy one of these days. What sold me was the updated kitchen, the spacious family room and the office. I will have a real office with a desk and – doors that I can close. No more working at the kitchen table!
Finding the house, agreeing on the sale was the easy part. Working with the bank – very difficult. A few suggestions on how to prepare yourself should you ever need to seek out a loan:
Start keeping records – now – of everything, including all purchases, all bank statements and every time you’ve taken a shit in the last 6 months.
Don’t go with a big bank, go with a smaller bank or broker. The process will be much, much quicker. And you will be less inclined to want to reach through the phone and slap the person on the other end.
Expect the whole process to be very invasive, slow-moving and frustrating. Also expect that you will go completely apeshit on the phone at some point. It won’t accomplish anything but you’ll feel a hell of a lot better.
Give yourself 8-12 weeks from the time you approach the bank to the time you will close. We’ve heard that it takes only 3 weeks. That’s an urban legend. Financial times have changed and it takes much longer now. We missed about a half dozen closing dates.
As the days count down in our old house, I’m getting a little sad. I really like our old house. There’s nothing wrong with it, we just wanted more space, a “real” backyard, better schools and to be farther from the train. Plus we wanted to own the property (we live in a townhouse). Our current house is literally 400 yards from the expressway and a quarter mile from one of the busiest rail lines in the country. Some nights it sounds like the train is running right through the bedroom. Our new house appears to be in a quiet neighborhood. That was until Chris spent the day there Sunday and reported that the neighbors to the east left their two yellow labs outside ALL DAY and dogs left outside all dog will bark nonstop when it’s only 15 degrees. The neighbors to the north? Have chickens.
The new house needs some work – we removed the carpet upstairs to find wood floors so we’re having those refinished. We’re repainting the house in “our” colors. I lost a little sleep last night trying to figure out what color to paint the laundry room – Pumpkin Butter or Autumn Maple? And what about cabinets in Thorny Branch? We’ve installed all new switch plates, outlet covers and door handles. These are all the little things that will make someone else’s home into our home. I spent most of Sunday in Home Depot and the rest of it wearing a tool belt. Replacing doorknobs I thought to myself – why did I choose an older home? I viewed countless newer homes that needed only half the work. But at the same time, something about this home felt like home. And something about making it into our home feels really exciting.
We’re still living in the old house (for another 2 weeks). It’s strange knowing that most of our stuff is in the other house and at some point we have to live there. We’ve lived in this house for 7 years and it’s become so comfortable. We have our routine. We know the neighbors. But the only things left in our house are clothes, furniture and dishes. We’ve got a limited supply of food. The other day I made a meal out of a piece of old bread, raisins and peanut butter. I’m getting anxious to get out, start a new routine and honestly eat normal food again.
On Saturday night, we raised our first glass of wine in the new house. I’m a little excited, a little scared. What if I don’t like it? What if Max doesn’t nap as well in the new house? What if Boss barks nonstop with the yellow labs? The cure? Shopping. Shopping for all new décor made me feel like I now have 3000 square feet of possibility – new colors, new linens, fresh paint.
Forget that I will have to clean those 3000 square feet and mow the giant lawn that surrounds it.
When it’s all complete, I’ll post pictures and invite you all over to the new house. Until then, I’ll be unpacking boxes. I should mention that before the whole process started, we packed up a lot of the house, including all of our wine. What was two boxes is now two bottles. So if you’re thinking of sending a housewarming gift, (red) wine would be lovely.