Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Opening Houses

There is such a thing as too much HGTV, people.

We had an open house last weekend, and one of the only negative comments that our realtor passed along to us was that our front porch was not as welcoming as it should be, because we have flower pots with some half-dead flowers in them.

To that comment, I roll my eyes.

The flower pots aren't for sale, dead or alive. Besides, we're talking max $50 of pots, dirt, and dead petunias (my 2nd or 3rd batch for the year...even watering them daily hasn't quite been enough in this heat). If that's a deal breaker, well, I don't really know what to say about that. It's like complaining that the comforter on my daughter's bed is too girly (The comforter is not for sale either!)

Now, the grass in the front of our house has taken a serious beating this summer, and that is something that a prospective buyer might keep an eye on. A month of 100-degree heat, no rain, and a professional lawn service (who cut the grass way, way, way too short) have sent it way into the "dormant" end of the spectrum. At the same time, our neighbors on both sides are in the same boat. And the ones across the street who have a sprinkler system timed to go off every morning aren't doing much better(!). That is, unfortunately, something we are unhappy with but can't do much about in a hurry. We are watering it. A lot. There is only so much you can do when it is 100 degrees (or even 90's and sunny) and you have a western exposure. Grass will neither be reasoned with nor bribed. My husband and I have joked about spray paint. (If only that were an option)

The grass may be unhappy, but my mums, sedum, and rose bushes that also adorn the front are doing nicely. Personally, I'd take pretty flowers over a maintenance-greedy water-sucking thatch of plain ol' grass any day. But, it's not up to me, it's up to some buyer who may have some ideal image of thick green turf on their "gotta-have-it" list.

*sigh* Selling a house is a pain in the petunias.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moving and Packing

If someone were to break into our new house today, they would be really amused (or confused). It is our Christmas House. The front closet is stocked with heavy coats and boots. The bedrooms have sweaters, turtlenecks, and long pants. And the basement is full of Christmas decorations. And that's all that is there.

Our official move date to the new house is September 1st, the Thursday before Labor Day. That is the date when the moving company arrives with four men and two big trucks to load up our furniture. It's a bit of a contrast to our move into the house eleven years ago:  It is a toss-up whether we spent more money on the Uhaul or the pizza and beer that we served to the friend who helped us move. Nope, not doing that this time. We love our friends too much to ask them to haul our (rather heavy) collection of junk across town again.

We have begun moving the things that were already packed and/or that we could easily live without until September. Yes, we could just box everything and have the nice strong men move it all for us, but they charge by the hour, so we are trying to focus our money on the heavy-lifting.

Packing is a pain. It feels like so much work to carefully tuck items into bubble wrap and neatly array them into boxes, just to drive them twenty minutes away and tear off all that wrapping. But if I just tucked a few things into a shopping bag and drove them in the car, it would take us months to move. So, we have boxes and boxes and boxes.

We could choose to pay the moving company (by the hour) to box all of our things for us. That is so tempting--have them arrive on Wednesday and box up the world, then drive it over on Thursday. Except I'm too cheap and feeling too poor...we still have two mortgages to pay until we find a buyer for the old house.
It is also an interesting challenge to decide what we can live without. Now that we are within two weeks of M-day, the decisions are getting easier. Saturday I packed and moved a bunch of bathroom items. Tonight I think I'll tackle most of the dishes and possibly some kitchen appliances. I could probably just load most of those into the trunk of my car and skip the boxes, since I can unpack them straight to the new cabinets. We may eat off paper plates for a few days right before the moving day. We can further whittle our closets down to just a few days worth of clothes. We have delayed moving most of the kids' things because we didn't want to freak them out, but we can transport those now too.

And we have begun buying some of the necessities for the new place: curtain rods for bedroom and bathroom windows. A zippered clothes wardrobe-thing for the basement for some of our "archive" clothing (junk like our high school letter jackets that we want to keep, but have no intention of wearing). Believe it or not, the new master bedroom has a smaller closet than the old one. But our old one was insanely huge (6x16) so we got really lazy about purging old clothing and never needed basement-ready storage before.

Every time I think we've made major progress on the move, I look around and realize just how much is left. I am getting antsy to just be done with the process. Anyone have a magic wand handy?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Open House

We had our first open house last weekend and the turnout was...less than spectacular. We had one person come besides our realtor. One.

Granted, the one person was also a realtor, who had a client who was looking for a house in our neighborhood. All we need is one buyer. But still, after all our work lately to make sure the house was as good as it could be, it was disappointing.

I am not a market analyst, though I do have a few theories as to why we had such a low turnout:
  1. School starts this week. Most families who want to move either did it last month, or else are waiting until they get in the groove of fall. And our house is most likely to appeal to a family.
  2. Debt ceiling and stock market. The various and sundry news outlets have foretold the end of the world as we know it, therefore no one wants to buy a house. Best to wait until after the apocalypse to see which areas of the world are glowing with an eerie green and which are still habitable.
  3. We are overpriced. I don't actually believe this one as we are darned close to actually taking a loss on the house at our current price. By "taking a loss" I mean that should our house be destroyed by a tornado today, it would cost more to build another one exactly like it on the same lot than we are asking a buyer to pay for it. But, logic and math have never played a part in the real estate market, and I don't expect it to start now.
  4. We are flesh-eating monsters and there is Dark Mark permanently hanging over our roof, a la Voldemort. This is actually my favorite theory lately, as it explains many things (including our issues with flooring contractors). This theory would also conveniently explain why we recently sealed our garage floor (had to cover the fresh patch where we hid all the bodies...), that we own two black cats, and the assortment of dragon decorations...
  5. The house has been listed for all of two weeks, and there aren't a lot of people in a position to buy a house, especially one that is probably a move-up house compared to many nearby neighborhoods (and many of those people are probably wringing their hands wondering why no one is coming to their open houses either).
  6. Its too soon to tell.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Looking for a house? I've got one for sale. Ok, so that's not exactly a surprise to anyone who's read my last few blog posts. No, I'm not posting the MLS link or the photos here. Go dig around or and see what you can find. If it's nice, make an offer. Maybe it will be mine :)

Getting the house ready to list has been a huge chore. I never want to talk to another flooring contractor again, and I'm thrilled that our new house is brand-new with brand-new carpet that should last us many good years (at least long enough to forget the trauma). I have some advice for contractor-types:

Communicate with your potential customers. Frequently and honestly. It's not much to ask, I swear.

Two different contractor lost our business for communication problems. The first was an independent company recommended by our realtor. I'm not naming their name because I did get an apology phone call after the fact. But basically, the sales rep showed (an hour late) with two small squares of carpet (his "samples"), took measurements. And then we waited a week and heard nothing from him. This was in early July and we were aiming to get our house photographed and listed by the 21st of July (and he knew this).

When the president of the company called later to apologize (sort-of), he said that the rep had sent us email (he read off the email address...was typo-d so it never got to us...our email has our last name in the domain name and he spelled it wrong), and that the rep had called (he hadn't). Knowing that we were in a bit of a time crunch, you'd think that he might have followed up at least once (possibly more) to make sure that we got his estimate, or sent it by snail mail in addition to email, just in case. Whatever.

Next we went to our friendly neighborhood home improvement warehouse store, where they had nice-looking in-stock beige carpet (nothing fancy, but about the same color/quality as what we were replacing) and a big ol' sign advertising "72 hour install" on in-stock carpet. Perfect, right? Not so much. They hired a sub-contractor. The sub took 4 days (of their promised 2) to CALL us to set up the appointment to measure for the carpet (scheduled for 2 days later than that), then 3 more days to turn the numbers back to the store, then waited over a week (of their promised 2-day waiting period) to call and schedule the install (which they wanted to set for 2-3 weeks later, not 72 hours).

In the mean time, we'd gone back to the home-improvement warehouse store and complained. The store was very helpful and scrounged up a crew to get it done before the 28th of July (see how we'd already had to push the listing date back?). The crew was literally in our house until 10pm one Friday night finishing up.

Hooray for the store, and big hooray for that crew.

To the other sub: I hope that the store re-thinks how they work contracts with them. True, we were buying inexpensive carpet, but the install costs aren't tied to the cost of the carpet. And those time-frames are set by the store (with whom we'd signed the contracts and paid the money), and should have been respected. If they couldn't handle the job they should have called on day 1, not day 7. I would have forgiven them for saying that they couldn't do it. I can't forgive them for wasting my time.

All is well. We have all-new carpet in most of our house (we didn't do the bedrooms--there was no where to move all the furniture). Our house looks really nice. Thankfully. Now we just need a buyer.