Birthday joys

Today is my birthday, and I’ve already heard from so many of my family and friends. So fun to see the notes on Facebook or the texts on my phone, to have morning calls and birthday cards. All sweet!

I had an amazing pre-birthday last weekend, and that was sweet too. Spent a long weekend in Sonoma County and soaked up warmth, sun, delicious food, biking, and beautiful scenery. What a treat that was! Driving the winding country roads, seeing the grapes hanging ready for harvest, stopping to make a photo of a picturesque view or beautiful winery was the perfect way to end the summer. More about that later…that trip deserves much more than a passing mention in today’s post!

Looking across the valley

Looking across the valley outside Healdsburg, CA

DSC00788

Chateau Montelena, Calistoga, CA

Harvest time!

Harvest time!

And on Thursday this week, I accepted an offer on the house. This is from the same couple that looked at it before, so we’ve already gone through the nitty-gritty of inspection, appraisal, offer and counter. They came back with a better deal, so now closing looks set for October 10th.

Aaahhh.

I remind myself again..life works out. Not always as I thought, and certainly not always neat and tidy, or even as I’d like. The house is still selling at a loss. But it is selling, and I won’t have to live through a 2+ year street replacement project. (Apparently that doesn’t trouble these buyers.) If I thought this was a forever home, it would be worth it. But that’s not the case.

As to what’s next, that’s still up in the air. For now, completing some fall work commitments, a break for the holidays, spending time catching up with family, and taking time out to make a good decision is the plan. The things that will ship out will go to storage in Seattle, so that’s an easy solution for a while.

Aaahhh.

I’ll admit my anxiety level has been high. Nice to see some light peeking through the clouds, and to acknowledge: it’s important to step back, take a breath, await events. I learn again that solutions sometimes come, not at once, but at last. And there’s probably a reason for that.

I can’t see the reason at the moment. I certainly can’t make sense of the house selling at a loss, and I’m not suggesting that there’s divine meaning behind everything. Just that I find it helpful to evaluate…is there a lesson here? Some takeaway I should file for future reference? Sometimes I get it, and sometimes not. Or maybe I’m overthinking.

But regardless…today is a good day, and I’m thankful to be spending at least a part of it sorting and boxing, taking up that task again.

And I think about “next” and the options on the horizon. There’s a piece of my brain that wonders about all this. I’m 54 today. Shouldn’t I be snug and dug in?

Yes, that would make sense, so of course that’s out.

The funny thing is I don’t see myself as the adventure loving type, not really. I’ve stumbled into some interesting choices, but I’ll be honest to say that’s been more a result of following the leader, rather than my own instincts.

But I’m curiously excited by the chance to mix it all up again, to live in anticipation, to wonder where the next birthday will be. And today, it’s enough that I can dream as I sort, letting my imagination roam at will, thinking about the constants in my life that keep me sane, regardless of the mailing address.

Faith. Family. Friends. That’s security, and that’s continuity.

The rest is just temporary anyway, and I know that more surely today than on any of my previous birthdays. It’s a good thing to understand, a good place to land.

Advertisements

Hello September!

I know the official start to fall is still ahead of us, but for me, that’s always been the first day of September, so here we are again: in the season of falling leaves and pumpkins and apple crisps and cozy soups. These are a few of my favorite things.

Normally I would be pulling out autumn decor, moving my summer season look to the back of the cupboard and putting out the accents that hint at chill in the air and the smell of wood fires. But at the moment all of that stuff is boxed and I can’t bring myself to unearth it just yet.

I countered the offer I got last week and should have an answer by Wednesday. If the counter offer is rejected, that’ll be soon enough to pull out a few things to bring some fall color to the rooms. After all, the house will still be on the market, and selling is about staging, right? So it will be worth doing a little work to set the right tone. The goal is to have anyone who sees the house imagine themselves living here. And how could anyone do that in September without a little fall foliage to add some color?

In best September form, the sun is warm and strong today, the light lingering and offering hope that the fall rains won’t begin until October. Of course, no month in Ketchikan is free from rainfall. But some years September is an extension of summer, and others it feels like November.

I’m always tempted to look at school supplies in the fall, though I don’t have kids at home now. I look at the school lists in the stores and remember how many years we did that, stocking up and getting ready for the first big day of the new grades. Must run in the family. I know my mom and my daughter are school supply lovers too…just something about a pristine new notebook or box of crayons that have all their tips intact.

I think the calendar year should begin in September instead of January. It would take so much pressure off that month, and the holiday season in general. Maybe we should sign a petition?

Here’s hoping for good weather, a house sold, and the magic of fall, all coming together this week. I could really get excited about that. And it would be a small miracle, especially the house piece. But I’m open to that.

Fall bouquet

Fall bouquet

 

 

Real Estate 101

This has been a week of body blows. I’m lucky to be standing upright.

After I steeled myself to accept a low ball offer on the house, lower than we paid five years ago, because I thought it was worth it to move on to the next chapter, all the pieces began to fall into place. We made it through the inspection and a couple of minor repair issues intact, and I started thinning out, boxing up, and getting excited.

I thought I was going to change paths, go to culinary school in January and take my writing focus from healthcare to something I love, and to an industry that offers endless variety and opportunity. I wanted to experience training in a professional kitchen, work in the food industry, and create legitimacy and credibility for me to transition to that world.

And then the appraisal came in low. I didn’t see that coming.

In all the real estate transactions we’ve had over the years, we never had a property that appraised lower than the agreed on purchase price. To be honest, I guess I thought it was really a formality of the process. Never occurred to me that in one fell swoop, an appraisal could knock $40,000 off the value of my home.

Five  years ago we paid $379,000, and there was never a peep of concern about the house appraising high enough to meet that price. Now when I’ve got an offer of $365,000 on the table the appraisal comes in at $340,000. How is that possible?!

I know there are all sorts of technicalities and variables that appraisers consider, and I know the appraisal has to hold up to the scrutiny of the lender’s underwriters. I understand it’s not personal, or based on subjective impressions about the property. But the thing is, the end result is personal to me. I just got knocked down by $40,000, and that’s before the realtor commission and closing fees.

It’s very personal.

The buyers came back with another offer, the exact amount of the appraisal. So now instead of a sucky $365,000, I’m looking at a horrible $340,000.

But wait, there’s more!

We met with the project consultant for our street replacement this week. The street we live on is built on top of a wooden trestle, and that structure is reaching the end of its safe life. It’s scheduled to be replaced, with the work starting next summer. This is a joint project between the city, state, and the federal government. And of course it’s all done under “eminent domain,” which means that we don’t have any choice in what happens. We take the value that is offered for the easement rights during construction, and for the damages that will occur to our property. The offer on the table is $20,000, most of which will cover the replacement costs for the garden and the planters in front of the house. And guess what? If we sell, that goes to the buyer. So we take a $40,000 hit, from the purchase price we paid to the price we’re offered, we still pay commission and our share of closing costs, and the new buyers would immediately receive $20,000 to compensate for the road project.

And…after we were told a year ago that the utility cables strung in front of our house, and actually all along the street, would be moved under the new bridge as part of the project, we’ve now learned that the move of the cables will end at our house. At. Our. House! Is this a conspiracy? I can’t believe that the view we’ve been looking forward to…ok, the view is great, but it would be much better without cables in the way…has now been cut, due to government budget constraints. But the rest of the street still gets that perk. It’s only the last few homes that will get to keep the street level utilities. What were they thinking when they made that decision?!

Our lovely view and unlovely cables

Our lovely view and unlovely cables

I think my head is going to explode.

I can’t impact the issues of the street construction. But I’m not selling like this. I’m not desperate. I don’t know what the answer is, what it could be. But it’s not going to work like this. I’m already feeling bled out. I can’t take any more.

The other fun fact is that we’ll have approximately 4-6 MONTHS that we won’t be able to drive to our house. We’ll have to park way down the street and walk in. Then we’ll have to hire our own contractor and come up with a design for replacing the structures that will be removed during the road and new sidewalk construction, so we’ll have that to sort out too.

My house is already about two-thirds packed and boxed. I’m in chaos at every level, I’ve neglected a lot of my personal priorities…blog, family, friends, changed travel plans at the last minute… in the past few weeks to make all this happen, and now it’s just a mess. I can’t accept this offer…too wrenching. But I also know that the appraisal is out there, and any other offer I get is going to face the same hurdle. It doesn’t matter what offer I have in hand with this appraisal number, and that’s impacted by recent sales in the area of homes with similar square footage and amenities.

How is it fair that my home’s value is impacted by other sales in the area? I understand there’s a process in place to protect buyers and to look at fair market value. But how is it fair that I’m losing all this equity? Where’s the fairness to me?!

I need to breathe, need to regroup, need to think. And I have to decide if I keep packing boxes or start unpacking.

I don’t have the answers today. I probably won’t have them tomorrow, or even next week. But I need to slow down, make a good decision, and then find my resolve.

And one thing I’ve learned…if I should ever have a house to sell again, I’ll pay for my own appraisal before it goes on the market so I know exactly what I have to work with. I don’t want to go through this cycle ever again. And let me be a cautionary tale to the rest of you. At least someone should benefit from this experience, and it looks like it isn’t going to be me. At least not financially.

But maybe this is giving me other skills, other strengths. I hope so. I surely need to find the silver lining, and the sooner the better.

Strength: a river cuts through rock not because of its power but its persistence.

Digital garage sales and other joys

So I sold the house. Or at least I accepted the offer, which is not necessarily the same thing. We’re through the inspection phase, which went well, but now we wait for the appraisal and the rest of the process to grind through. I’ve already had a few hundred anxious hours over this transaction. I won’t feel entirely at ease until the closing is done. I’ve never had a closing fall through, but I know it happens. I just don’t want it to happen to me.

I’ve had a knot in my stomach pretty much every hour since I got the offer. It was low, much lower than it should have been.

67ff5c136780e850e10b8f7468a628b8

I countered, and they countered, and I caved. Still too low.

But as a woman who sat with a house listed for eight months and not a single offer a couple of years ago, I just couldn’t let it go. And the rainy season is coming, and sales are slower that time of year. I know, it can happen anytime. But waiting it out becomes a marathon.

You’d think this house is unattractive or something. Instead, everyone who walks in is charmed. The view is amazing. It’s almost maintenance free for yard work, the little front and back flower gardens hardly need attention.

It has dedicated parking, and that, on Water Street, is worth something, let me tell you!

I don’t know…maybe it’s a sign that I wasn’t intended to make my fortune in the real estate market. Our other home purchases and sales have always gone well…no sales that were extraordinary, but at least they were profitable.

I’m sad to say that I’m selling at a loss. On the flip side, I’m selling.

In the meantime, I joined the local Facebook sale site, where you post items and then sell like crazy. Or at least that’s my experience. I’ve got a virtual store going and I’m quickly funding shipping costs to the lower 48. Exciting, and the most fun I’ve had getting ready for a major move. Today I had a little party at my house which happened because several people who were picking up all arrived about the same time, and they all knew each other. So we sat and chatted and they shopped and I sold….very satisfying! Maybe my talent isn’t real estate, but I run a great boutique.

Between sorting everything I own, deciding what to keep, sale, donate, store, discard, etc., etc., etc., I’m spending a lot of time in my basement, packing boxes and trying to guess just what will be useful in the next setting…difficult to accomplish as I don’t exactly have “next” figured out yet.

Shipping rates out of Alaska make it easy to consider redesigning my look. I’m taking plenty with me. But I’m leaving more than I thought I would. Funny how quickly I detach as I estimate the weight of furniture and all the stuff! It’s a tortuous process. Movers pick up your boxes and furniture, then it all goes to a barge, has to be loaded into a container, then barged down to Seattle, then put on a truck, then on to the destination. The more transfers, the more it costs, of course.

Ah, the joys of a move!

I’m looking forward to getting my life back, getting rid of my house anxiety, paring down, making a fresh start.

But first…a little more basement time. 🙂