The Closing

I’ve made mention in previous posts about our move to Gig Harbor. The house was ours on the first of July.  We started hauling boxes over immediately. Movers brought over the big items (e.g., beds and furniture) the following weekend. Last week we cleared out the storage locker we used during the “decluttering and staging” we had done in preparation for selling our Kent house. That means our Gig Harbor house finally has everything we own in it. Plus, it seems for some period of time, storage boxes, as we adjust to new realities in closets and rooms.

This past Friday the buyers of our Kent house finally closed with the recording of the deed. They own the house and we now have only our new one. Everything has been closed.

Closing is a term used in the western of the United States to indicate when the parties in a real estate sale complete the transaction under the supervision of a trusted agent (escrow officer); documents are signed and any funds needed to complete the transaction are collected. Interestingly, as it was something I didn’t know, that in the eastern part of the U.S., it’s called settlement and is handled by a settlement agent.

But did we really close something?

In both a literal and figurative sense we did.  Obviously, we closed (completed) the financial transaction discussed above. And figuratively, we closed out a part of our lives in a place we no longer live.

A good many things will be missed, but not all.

We’ll miss our neighbors – some of whom I didn’t get to know as well as I should in all the years we lived there. The excellent arts program run by the city of Kent, which gave me a chance to see the East Village Opera Company and Roger McGuinn. The routes we developed to walk our dogs or for me to go running. A few very nice groceries and restaurants – specifically Paolo’s. QFC and Nature’s Market – both for their quality vegetables and fruits; the latter for an excellent variety of supplements. And the noise of children on their way to and from school buses – marking the end and the beginning of summer.

While many of the above are close enough for a visit, it’s never the same. Stepping away from a place even for a time means only coming back as a visitor. It’s like going back to the house you grew up in. It’s never quite the same.

Fewer words are needed for won’t be missed: one neighbor for the large numbers of cars in varying states of repair cycled between curb and driveway; the tedious routes endured on the daily drive to work; the tired and increasingly tiresome array of chain restaurants (mostly fast-food) that were close by; and the way in which the main floor of our Kent house became unbearble when outside temperatures reached even only the high seventies.

So this reflection is the final close of that chapter of life.

The new chapter has begun.  We live in a house we like in an area we’ve wanted to live. I can be standing in salt water casting my rod not more than three miles from where I live. Our new neighbors seem nice. I’ve started my list of things to be fixed or upgraded in the new house. And the drive to work – while long – isn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. As in all things, there will be the good, the bad, and the things to be endured.

But the last three months of moving are over. It’s time to get back to fly fishing.

 

House SOLD…The Clock’s Ticking

I had mentioned in an earlier post that we are moving to Gig Harbor, Washington. We are now in the seemingly interminable period between the initial flurry of activity (house hunting, offer making, and inspection) and the final closing coming at the beginning of next month.

A parallel activity has been underway – one that hasn’t involved writing big checks, only a lot of effort – and that has been to prepare and sell our current house. We had worked the last month to get it ready as I had noted in a previous post (read here).

Last week we signed the contract with our realtors and the game was afoot. The house was turned into a display case with new bed coverings in the bedrooms and color coordinated towels in the bathrooms. Dirty clothes and wet towels were stuffed into empty drawers and everything else was ready. The dogs, which typically have free run of the house, were kept sequestered in the family room in the basement to avoid spreading dirt and hair throughout.

Last weekend we held a two-day open house, which – by accounts from realtors and neighbors – was a success. We didn’t see it ourselves. We had spent the two days as gypsies: driving around town, at dog parks, beaches, and fast food locations.

Sunday night we got a call from the agent from one of the prospective buyers. She wanted to do a pre-inspection early Monday – all offers would be reviewed that evening. Monday morning, the house was still in in display-case mode, the dogs were loaded into the car, and another day was spent away with the inspection and other potential buyers coming by.

Our realtors came Monday evening. We were expecting three to four offers; we received five. That was very good.

Even nicer was the surprise that of the five offers, four were over the asking price. The offer selected was the high bid, and it came from the people who had done the pre-inspection. And that they wanted the house as-is. So no additional maintenance by us is required.

The bid was even higher by several thousand dollars higher than I thought we could get if the Seattle market was as hot as reported in the newspaper. At least from our experience it is.

Whether a hot housing market is good thing in the long run, time will tell.

For right now, I will say it worked out well for everyone in this parallel activity of buying and selling. We’re moving to the place we want to be. The family buying our house gets to move out of a cramped townhouse to a bigger house, and their children will go to good schools.

Now if all our remaining stuff would just appear in our Gig Harbor house without us having to pack and move it all; that would just about make me believe in magic.

Stuff

As I noted in my previous post, we are moving to Gig Harbor, Washington. The prerequisites to selling – decluttering and staging – have taken most of our time for the last month. The fly fishing gear has been boxed or put out of sight at least until after the open house and raft of offers (we hope), which is one reason I’ve had nothing to post regarding fly fishing in over one month.

Except for taking time out to see “Star Trek Into Darkness” (fun movie, by the way), life revolves around my day job and decluttering and staging.

The longer we do this the more I know George Carlin was right when he said that a house is a place for keeping your stuff. And as time goes on your stuff is everywhere.

We’ve rented a storage unit for keeping some of our stuff – not the stuff we use every day, but the stuff we want to keep but can live without for some period. This includes winter clothing, snow tires; storage racks that have been removed for staging purposes; bicycles; tools, some of our lesser used kitchen ware, etc., etc.

As we drive through the facility and see other people at storage units that are filled to the rafters with stuff, it’s obvious this is an industry that was inevitable in a consumer culture. I wish I would have been the one to see it as fortunes have been made in a society of too much stuff, divorce, moving out, and selling houses.

And the more I deal with our stuff, I find myself thinking about the transitory value of stuff.

It’s somewhat depressing to see things that once seemed urgent to buy and have, now placed under what we call the magic tree outside our house, waiting for some passerby to pick them up and to be added to their stuff. Or the pile on the side of the house of the broken and old, ready for the inevitable trip to the dump.

I’m not the first to talk about the problems of excess consumption and the loss of appreciation for a few valued things. It’s just this experience has made me realize how subtle the problem is.

Until forced to confront it in a situation like ours, individual items are purchased, kept and used for some time, and then sold, given away, or tossed in the trash and it’s often with little thought. Only when dealing with all the stuff in aggregate does it become obvious.

I had friend, now deceased, who held a garage sale when he turned 75. He said he spent the first 70 years of life accumulating things; then all he wanted was to get rid of most of it. I now understand what he meant. Stuff begins to weigh you down.

I’m very fond of the writings of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I particularly like his writing in Wind, Sand, and Stars where he wrote: “In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.”
He was writing about an airplane wing, but the same sentiment could apply to stuff.

I’m a long way from perfection.

Movin’

For some time, my wife and I had been planning to move at some undetermined time in the future to a continually debated location. Earlier this year we decided that the Gig Harbor area, across the Narrows from Tacoma had everything we wanted. Then less than two months ago, we were sitting in the Tides Tavern in downtown Gig Harbor, and the decision seemed obvious. Why wait for some future time? Let’s move now. We are Gig Harbor bound this summer.

One Saturday in late April spent house hunting with our realtor led to a major disappointment as the prices were higher and the properties less desirable than we had hoped to find with the price range we had specified.

We went home that night and did some quick spreadsheet calculations for increasing the upper limit. Doing a quick search, we found three that looked promising. Next morning, we hit the first house. We liked it immediately even though it was at the far reaches of affordability and maybe a bit beyond.

The other houses did not impress us. Back home we talked for a long, long time, did more spreadsheet calculations, and decided we’d buy it.

The offer was made and accepted. The inspection revealed a few things the seller agreed to correct. The buying part was underway with closing at the end of June.

We then turned our attention to what has proved to be the harder activity. Buying a house is just a matter of writing checks – very big checks. Selling, on the other hand, brings with it the spawn of the Roman goddess of chaos, Discordia; namely, “decluttering” and “staging”.

For anyone who’s not been involved with real estate sales in recent years, selling is no longer a matter of just cleaning the carpets and hiding the dirty socks. Today’s seller now declutters, which is an effort to depersonalize your house so potential buyers can see themselves and their things in your soon to be former space. That means taking something between 50 and 75 percent of all things in your current house and doing one of four things.

The first option was putting things into storage, which necessitates renting a storage unit. The second alternative was to try to recoup some of the purchase cost by selling things on Craigslist. The next alternative was to donate things, for which there are many worthwhile and needy charities. Finally, there was tossing stuff out. We’ve done all four with the majority of things going into storage or to Goodwill.

Along with decluttering came staging. This is the process where a knowledgeable realtor has us moving things around to create a better first impression: no, the bookcase should be there; move that chair into the other room; buy new bedspreads and towels. The list goes on from there.

There was also the last minute maintenance and cleaning, and the hiring of a small army of specialists: lawn and tree service, window cleaners, deck washers and patio power washers, painters for key touch ups, and a maid service to perform a showcase cleaning.

And the key constraint in all the above has been time. Getting the house ready and sold is an imperative – no one wants to carry two mortgages for longer than absolutely necessary. And to attract families, it’s been important to get the house sold in early summer so children can be registered for class in the new location.

That’s why we’ve hired our army and why lately most of the things being evaluated moved from treasured household items to being given away or tossed on the junk pile to be hauled to the dump.

Now, back to decluttering. Only three rooms left.