House Sale Price Incentive (Lower the Price)

Standard

After having the house on the market for 12 weeks, it’s time to increase the buyer’s incentive by lowering the price.  I learned that if you change the price, the listing goes back up to the top of Multiple Listings – plus the potential buyers are encouraged by “bargain buying”.  We lowered the price from $350,000 to $339,900.  My Move Manager immediately noted that the decrease “looks bigger than it is”… a concept that would not have occurred to me, but is absolutely true.  By reducing it to $339,900 instead of $340,000, it gives the impression of a much lower price by putting it in the 330,000s group instead of the 340,000s group.  Now, at Christmas time, we are having our highest traffic level to date.  When I expressed my surprise, Mr. Manager stated that if large corporations are going to transfer families (by giving the employee a big job opportunity in another city), they will often give notice to the employee in October, so that they have time to travel to the new site over the Holidays with their families to scope out the possibilities.

As the weeks go by, my out-of-pocket costs related to the “empty” house on the market have stabilized, but are still at $1400 per month. Granted, this is all not real expense, because after living in the house for 25 years, most of the payments now go to capital rather than paying for interest.  I will get most of the money back when I sell the house. But, the cash out is still $1400, and I’m paying it out-of-pocket.  That was also a factor in “speeding up” the sale by reducing the price.

An interesting technology experience came from the real estate agent sending me an Agency Agreement Amendment through DocuSign. I was not able to make the signature function work on my Smart Phone (an Android). When I tried to add the signature, the next screen was blank, but it did fine through Gmail, and I was able to print it for my file after a little encouragement.

We will see how the latest “trick of the trade” affects the sale of my lovely old house.

Seven Weeks After the Move

Standard

Now it is about seven weeks since I moved my home from Big City to Small Town – from a 2800 sq. ft. house with full attic storage to a 1500 sq. ft. town home  (with a 2-car garage). We lived in the house for over twenty years, and rarely threw anything away. I take full responsibility for that issue, and would do it differently had I to do it again (and am determined to pare down going forward).

But I also moved quickly because a large town home in a group I had been eyeing for several years (for a mountain get-away) miraculously became available. I knew that it would not remain on the market long, so quickly made an offer, which was accepted.

Another positive synchronicity was that the market value of the “old” house was up 30% over the prior year.  I had known for some time that we needed to down-size, but market-values had been soft, so I delayed selling – the investment in the house represented a good portion of our retirement “nest-egg.”  Then, this Spring, the value went up by almost 40% from the prior year. Obviously, the time was right to sell.

BUT…then there was no time for the slow winnowing through a family’s 30 years of life together.  My sister, when she decided to move to Small Town, had the luxury of taking three years for the clearing process I had to complete in three months.

Of course, the result was that a lot of things were moved that should not have been.  Now there are boxes, and boxes, and boxes…Actually, from a high of about 350, I am down to 75 or so…fifteen of them are Christmas paraphernalia of various types – Christmas China, ornaments, lights, clothes, wreathes – you get the idea.  As I write this, it is December 3.  Tonight I have no desire to winnow through Christmas boxes.  It’s just not going to happen.

The closets are hard…the wedding gown that my sister and I both wore (but is just not my daughter’s style), dresses from recitals, family weddings, t-shirts from vacations and graduation gowns… the ones that are still beautiful, but just out of style, or too small. There are still many of those in my closet that really must be purged – sometime soon.

But no easier are items from the kitchen – platters, bowls, glasses (how many sizes of wine glass do you need, and how many of each??) crock pot, punch bowl, salad bowl, soup tureen- all those lovely large pieces that I intellectually know I will not use again (or can borrow from one of my sisters who live here Small Town).  Truly difficult is acknowledging that all those family moments will happen much less frequently, and last a shorter time…intellectually I know those things, but it does not make the paring down process any easier.

The symbol of it all is the “good china”  that we all registered as young brides-to-be, and collected as friends and family built our “trousseau.”  It filled our china cabinets for years, looking beautiful, and (at least in my case), was used, at most, five times over 42 years of marriage. Now, it is (again) taking up space in a china cabinet (silly me) at least for now. I think I will know that I have gotten over this mountainous bump in my road when I give up the “good china”.

One of my new missions (should I be so blessed), is to teach my grandchildren how to keep those things that they love, and let the rest go. I can count the items I have from my mother on one hand, each highly valued. I will be writing about the process I develop for retention (and release) of all the “excesses” over the next year as I teach myself to “winnow”.  I hope you will all join me and share stories and ideas and resources as I explore this path.

Moving Day

Standard

Moving Day

Lots of people helped me get ready for the Big Move…my family (sister, brother, nieces, nephews,  sister-in-law, cousins…you get the idea – this was a major family project), friends, acquaintances, contractors…all helped prepare for The Move.

About a week prior to the vans’s arrival, we decided that we really needed help with packing.  I had spent a couple of days in our attic, and unloaded most of the things in the closets, and the bookcases (I think that even after purging I had over 700 books), but I had not even started on the kitchen. My kitchen had a lovely bookcase with too many cookbooks, plus a desk area with cabinets above, and two large file cabinets, plus china cabinet and (yes, really) 29 cabinets doors, two pantries, 38 cabinet doors and 16 drawers.  It was not going to be pretty. So I just asked the moving company to pack the kitchen and the balance of the attic. It took the team of four guys most of a day (Tuesday).

Wednesday was the final “prep” day. Thursday was Moving Day.  Thursday dawned a beautiful clear day with moderate temperatures. The movers were at the house about 5 hours putting boxes on the truck. We already had two storage spaces from the “staging” clean-out and other pre-move boxing, so they proceeded to those areas.  It was not pretty.  We ended with two 16-foot trucks (they were afraid they would need three, but stayed within two thanks to one of the most efficient truck loaders I have ever seen).

The drive to my new home was about five hours.  I thought I would meet them there about noon, but somehow did not hear the communication that they would leave at 5 am. Luckily, my sister was ready in the mountains with a key and they started putting furniture and boxes in the town home two hours prior to my arrival about noon.  The final clean out of the house with my Move Manager had taken about two hours . The cats and I left on our new adventure. They did amazingly well on the trip.

Boxes, boxes everywhere.  I did not make a final count, but estimate about 350 boxes. Oh, my.  The trick was to get all the furniture in, get the car in the garage, and then put unopened the boxes in the middle of the rooms.  There was barely room to walk.

And of course, my idea of where things were going to go did not fit the space sometimes, so things had to be relocated. I have to say, the four young men that made the final outloading were amazing and exceptional young men. They were always respectful and polite even the second (and on one occasion third) location for items. They did not leave until I agreed that all was where it should be.

To say that the house was overwhelming at that point would be the understatement of the year. At this writing, it is ten days later.  I still have about fifty boxes to unload (in addition to the garage storage shelves). It is beginning to feel like home – and the vision for the house is evolving.

But there is still a very long way to go.

The Painters

Standard

The painters were a critical part of the preparation for the sale of my house.  The exterior had relatively new siding, but the windows has not been painted in our 20-year residence. The interior was equally in need of refreshing. All rooms needed a coat of the light gray color selected by the Stager, as did all the closets.

The contractor (recommended by the real estate agent) provided the following quote <his text and grammar is reproduced> :

Exterior

Powerwashing paint all sinding and trim windows frames doors.

Interior 

Londry remove wall paper and paint cabinets White, Powder room paint walls and cieling family room paint only cieling office cieling walls and closet foyer cieling walls hallway walls and cieling, Bathroom walls and cieling hallway walls cieling master Bedroom walls cieling , Bedrom walls cieling closet, bed room remove wall paper paint cieling closet , Liven room paint cieling walls price labor material paint for all $3425

My move manager read the above, and summarized the necessary services:

– Power washing all of exterior

– Caulking as required outside

– Necessary repairs inside and out to the surfaces to be painted

– Includes all paint costs

– Priming to all repaired surfaces prior to painting inside and outside

– Interior ceilings

– Two coats of paint inside and outside

– Wall paper removal

Unfortunately, I looked at the two lists and thought that the painter’s looked complete.  A more methodical person would have looked at EACH of the spaces needing paint, and made sure that they were all covered.

The spaces that were omitted by the painter are in ALL CAPS in the following comprehensive list:

Exterior-

Power washing all vinyl siding, painting all non-vinyl siding (I had some in the garage),

Paint all doors and windows.

Interior –

Laundry, remove wall paper and paint walls and cabinets white (interior and exterior).

Powder room paint walls and ceilings AND CLOSETS

Family room, paint only ceiling (this was a paneled room)

Office paint ceiling and closet

Upper Foyer ceiling, walls AND CLOSET)/ Hallway ceiling, walls

Upper Hall Bathroom walls and ceiling

Bedroom (master) walls & ceiling AND CLOSETS(2), Bedroom 2, walls, ceiling, closet

MASTER BATH, WALLS,CEILING & CLOSET

Bedroom 3, remove wall paper, paint ceiling and closet.

Living room paint ceiling, walls

Other Spaces ADDED to original list :

Lower Foyer and Hall (paneled area that was dark) –

 -It was amazing how painting the stairwell white and adding a light carpet brightened the dark area

The Kitchen (mostly cabinets – little painted wall area).

-BUT – we should have had him paint the ceiling, which we did not think about until later.

Original Price $3425 (amazingly low, I thought for a 2800 sq. ft. home.)

He added painting the paneling in the lower hall, the four closets, and the master bath for an additional $200. I was very lucky.

The lesson learned was this: when dealing with a contractor doing a complex job with several possible options, be really diligent in defining the exact terms.  I have had success dealing with the contractors recommended on our Agent’s website.  I can be confident that those contractors are insured and bonded, and have a reputation for doing excellent work.

Preparation for Staging

Standard

Manageable would probably not be a word that would occur to me now in describing where I am with the move process.  About three weeks ago my Move Manager and I sat down and picked a target date to have the house ready to go on the market.  Three weeks ago, we chose Thursday of this week. We’ll see.

Things have definitely progressed.  Last Saturday the “mini-move” removed all the non-essential pieces of furniture and about sixty boxes of stuff to a 10 x 10 storage room. I understand that when the door was finally closed not another item could have possibly fit.  The local team of four young men that came that day did an exceptional job of moving things out – including a little last minute packing that cleared the way for the carpet men coming on Monday.

Today was supposed to be carpet day.  It started with a delay in the team’s coming because we did not have all the required rooms totally cleared.  There was some misunderstanding about the interpretation for “totally cleared” (or perhaps it changed). So the team that was supposed to start at 8 came about 12.  The manager who had come and quoted the job had decided that we could use the current carpet as a pad for the new.  When the carpet-laying team came today they disagreed. The current carpet was not totally fixed to the floor.  It had some wrinkles in it, which the laying manager said would negatively affect the new carpet.  Sounded logical to me. So…then we needed another pad, a new quote, and a new day.  No carpet today.

The painter started with a power-wash that took most of the day, but was totally amazing when he had finished. No more dusty garage!  It is squeaky clean. Tomorrow, painting inside and out. Tonight I had to take everything that was remaining off the walls, including the wonderful poster collection in my adult son’s boyhood room. He had taken photos of them last weekend, so all are duely recorded, but it was still sad to see them go. Batman, Spiderman, favorite college teams, and inspirational sayings (You Already Are What You Want To Be When You Grow Up). Maybe the carpet guys will be back tomorrow. I have lost track, actually.

The sad thing that happened today was that I took my two lovely cats to a “kennel” for the day.  It has a good reputation, and the “girls” could be together but also had an opportunity for their own space. When I arrived (about 3:30 pm) my little Arya (a year old and solid black) was huddled in the back of her space, and hissed at the attendant, who asked me to come coax her out.  They will have to go back tomorrow, but it is troubling.  Tonight she seems fine.  We shall see.

Onward with painters & carpenters.

Moving Forward – LOAN APPROVED

Standard

The locomotive that is my move keeps picking up steam. The first “mini-move” is Saturday.  An excellent local moving company is going to take about sixty boxes and all the “extra” furniture to a near-by storage unit (small tables, bookcases, all the art).  The goal is to create a minimal “canvas” in my house, giving the viewers the opportunity to paint their own new family portrait in its rooms.

Amazingly, after the debacle of the earlier “nonloan,” I received notification yesterday from a local bank (in the area of my new townhome) that my loan has been approved. We have a new closing date in two weeks. I hope my baby grand piano (circa 1924 that is being reconditioned) will be ready two weeks after that (dictating my “primary moving day”). The approval came TWO WEEKS after I walked into that bank manager’s office with the same document package that the Regional Bank had not been able to approve after five weeks.

There is daily activity here. Yesterday the salesman provided a carpeting quote to replace the very tired carpet in the family room. The power-wash and interior painting will happen next week, along with a regrout for our older showers and some help for the yard. The Inspector will be here tomorrow.

Keeping all the above in mind, the best decision I made was hiring the Move Manager. He has taken over the scheduling and supervision of all the subcontractors, leaving me (with invaluable help from family members) to do all the packing, donation runs to the local thrift shop, blogging, and work on the curriculum development for the Widows Way course. It is still extremely difficult, on many levels, but at least now it is manageable.

The Non-Close

Standard

Last week I was under a mistaken impression that I was about to close a mortgage loan on a new town home. The close date was set and the loaning bank had been selected through a logical process that included the fact that the bank was the mortgage holder on my “old” house.

However, as the loan package made its way through multiple levels of review, there were continuing questions on every “unusual” transaction.  Now, when your husband has just died , you are establishing retirement income,  you are applying for Social Security, insurance is coming in, you are changing insurance vendors, and your daughter is changing colleges, there are OFTEN unusual transactions.

But the big stumbling block became the fact that my debt to income ratio was too high.

I still have my family home and its mortgage (even though it has been paid down to less than a third of its value). There is the mortgage on the new town home, and I bought a new car (which I borrowed money to finance to get some credit in my name alone).  Therefore the total of those three payments is too high for the regular income I have from retirement and social security.

The “silliness” here is that there are also significant investment holdings which could totally pay ALL of the above loans. 

My frustration with this process was that there are MULTIPLE levels of review, nothing was changing through the process, and that ratio was imminently obvious from the first submission. I was not advised of the cancelation of the close until I had already traveled the five hours to the close location.

The town I am moving to is a small town – the largest part of the attraction after fighting rush hour traffic for many years.  Along with the smaller town is the establishment of personal relationships. The owner of the real estate firm acting as the agent for my new town home knew one of the loan officers at a regional bank, and suggested that I go talk to him. I had brought the loan package I had submitted to the larger banks with me after learning of this relationship.  So, after the introduction, and an interview related to my background and future plans, I left the three inch document stack with him.  A day later, after providing a few more pieces of information, he had run the numbers though his software, and said that he did not see a problem.  I have continued to say that if I need to pay off the car loan to improve the debt to income ratio, I will do so.

I left his office, and started back down the mountain.  Prior to leaving the new banker, I told the loan officer that I was now putting all my eggs in his basket.  From the car, I sent an email cancelling my application for mortgage loan from the prior entity (interestingly, I have received no acknowledgement of that email).  Now it will take another three weeks for this new package to make its way through the system. I have rented the townhome, and have time to plan the location of furniture prior to close. But I sure wish I had the loan in place. On to preparing the old home for sale.