Friday, September 6, 2013

All Good

It's all good.

The purging, the cleaning, the sorting, the selling, the packing, the moving.

The renovating: not as good, but improving.

In May we were slightly crazy, as often we are. We bought a house before we had listed ours for sale. We did this having watched friends weather the real estate crash and lose everything. We did this with a scary health issue looming (No worries; it turned out to be nothing.) We did this despite all conventional wisdom to the contrary because it felt like the right thing to do.

Hombre and I came from totally different places to the same conclusion with breathtaking speed. It seems that he had been thinking of selling the house and moving for quite some time. He had made comments to that effect, but I was resistant. I didn't think he was serious. I wanted so badly to make our house work for us, but once I opened my mind to his logic, I quickly became convinced that he was right. Once my mind is made up, the deed is done.

Over the course of one week, we read The Not So Big House and its various related books. We analyzed our needs and desires for a different space. We spent hours on the internet looking at real estate listings. We had our parameters, the biggest that we remain in the same school district. We took off on a Sunday afternoon to look at houses.

Hombre really liked the first one. I did not. We both hated the second one. We called realtors to inquire about several that looked promising, only to be told that they were "under contract" or in foreclosure proceedings and over-liened. Many drive-bys resulted in options scratched from the list.

The third house we saw that first Sunday in May was a surprise. I had pooh-poohed it after looking at pictures online. Because of it's perfect location, abutting the school campus, I agreed to have a look.

There were signs right away that it was a fit: the hand-painted flowers on the mailbox; the tire swing; the certified wildlife habitat designation; the open, sunny back yard, and the spectacular trees. I could see right away where my clothesline would go, where I would plant gardens and build a grape arbor.  It reminded me of a cottage in the woods, the way the hand-laid flagstone walk wove through the foliage to the front porch.

The house itself was significantly smaller than our current house. We quickly assessed the spaces against our needs: bedrooms, bathrooms, homework and office areas. We walked outside to find a very private deck and pool. We walked through the woods at the back of the property.

I looked at Hombre and said, "I think I could live here."

"I'm so glad you said that! I could, too."

"So what do we do now?"

"Let's talk about it."

We called the kids and told them we'd be home later. We went to a restaurant with our iPads and papers and had a glass of wine. We were flying solo this time. No realtor to suggest a price nor negotiate for us. We used Zillow and Trulia to research comparable sales and market value. Our plan was to go back and see it one more time, Monday evening, and then to make an offer, which we did. Our big surprise was that the sellers accepted that very first offer.

"Holy shit. We are really doing this. I guess we had better tell the girls."

We had debated bringing the girls to see it first, but we were not sure they would be on board with our plan. They knew we were looking for a house and that we would be moving, but we had only just explained that to them and they were still digesting the idea. Their current dynamic seems to be automatically disagreeing with each other out of principle.  Our best guess about their reactions was that one would like it, one wouldn't and we already knew we planned to put an offer in. The decision was ultimately ours to make and we decided that we would rather have both girls upset with us in the short term than to have one feeling like her wishes were disregarded and the other "winning."

When we told them, they were angry. Incredulous. Outraged, even.

I could live with that.

We took them with us to see the house on the day of the inspections. In just a few days, lilacs had begun blooming all around the house. They were oblivious. To our surprise, neither one took to it. B couldn't stay inside for long, because of the overwhelming dander from the owners' three cats and from the copious bunny fur floating from the cage in the kitchen. I sent them both outside to explore the trails that led to their school. That helped, along with the prospect of a pool in the back yard.

As soon as the inspection was done, we headed home to start purging our belongings. The neighborhood garage sale, always a big event, was on the calendar in six days. We had much excess to get rid of. We were giving up around 1,000 square feet of living space and halving the size of our lower level/basement as well. Good bye, formal dining room. Good bye, formal living room. Good bye, guest room. Good bye, sleeper-sofa sectional. Good bye, ugly hand-me-down furniture.

All this streamlining was exhausting and yet oddly exhilarating. Hombre was antsy to get our house listed. I did not want to list it until we had cleaned and staged it. On Sunday night, beaten down by his urging and pooped from the weekend sales, I succumbed.

"Fine. List it as, 'For Sale by Owner' on Zillow. See what happens. If we don't get any action in a couple of weeks, we'll have an open house and then list it with a realtor."

We posted the same pictures that had been online when we bought the house three years ago.

12 hours later we had a request to see the house. We put them off as delicately as possible until later that week. We did the best we could with the cleaning and staging on such short notice, but it did not look like I wanted it to look. Hombre met the couple at the house. He said they weren't there long. He was not very optimistic.

The next day, the husband called with a couple of questions, which I answered, and then he said,

"We'd like to put an offer on the house, but I'm not sure how to go about it because we don't have a realtor."

"Usually, the buyer provides the contract, but I am a lawyer and I have a form contract here, if that works. I'll email it to you to have a look. Let me know what you think and we'll work from there."

(Holy shit. We are really doing this.)

I put together a contract and emailed it over. The next day, it was emailed back, completed. The offer was low, but enough that we did not lose any money. We had no commissions to pay; no financing contingency; a couple of drippy faucets and an attic fan to repair. We accepted, changing only the closing date to give us time to do work on the new house before moving.

Did this really just happen?

The kids were out of school at the end of that week.

Swim team started.

We closed on the new place and promptly went camping for four days around Father's Day.

We decided to gut the kitchen and open up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, so we spent lots of time meeting with designers and looking at cabinets and countertops. I wrote lots of big checks.

We sent both girls away to Girl Scout camp the first week of July. I packed like a mad woman, while checking in on the painters, who were hard at work. So many friends gave up precious summer days to help us pack.

We picked the girls up from camp on Friday, did laundry and re-packed to leave for Unitarian Universalist family camp on Sunday. We had booked it shortly before the moving bug bit. We had talked about going for years. The timing couldn't have been worse. We would return on the following Saturday and the movers were scheduled for 8 a.m. on that Monday. What were we thinking?

Somehow, we had an awesome time. So much tie-dye and lefty, liberal love. It was bliss.

While we were gone, the carpets had been torn out and the wood floors installed. In order to do this properly, the kitchen demo had also been done.

This meant that we were moving into a house with no functioning kitchen. Not even a sink. We did keep the fridge and the old stove for the time being. We had no washer and dryer yet. We planned to move the washer and dryer from their previous location, just inside the back door, to the basement. Both a plumber and an electrician were needed to do the hook-ups. More checks were written.

It was kind of like camping, only with beds and flush toilets. And no clean house to come home to.

Less than a week after we moved in, B was headed to a youth leadership conference in western New York state. I drove her and four other teens to Canandaigua, because, you know, I didn't have much else to do.

Since we would be tantalizingly close to Seneca Falls, NY, I decided to take A on a little "Mama and Me" road trip! We went to the Women's Rights National Historical Park, which was very cool. We walked around the town and made friends with a local gardener and then headed off to Ithaca, home of the Moosewood Restaurant.

It was a whirlwind couple of days with my favorite 11 year old. She is the best traveling companion. The scenery was beautiful, we ate good food and talked up a storm. She discovered a love for steel drums at a funky drum shop and we made lamp work glass pendants together at the Corning Glass Museum.

B arrived home a few days later, completely exhausted and filled to the brim with good ju-ju and a renewed sense of herself.

Two short weeks later, school started.

We still don't have a kitchen, but it's on its way. The house feels like "ours" and we are settling in.

It's all good.

Crazy, chaotic, exhausting and challenging, but good.