Goodbye, Old Friend

Back view of couple waving hands to the sky

 

The day I thought would never get here has come and gone. The house is sold.

I have posted 156 pieces on this blog since its inception in 2017, and housing is the subject I’ve written about the most. Starting with this one in November of 2017, I’ve written about the old place and the new place in some fashion twelve times in two years, with the latest one coming last November. I hadn’t written about it since because I was frustrated and disgusted with the process, and very concerned about our financial future.

To re-cap, we planned on selling the house last year, and reap the benefits of the energy efficiency built into the place through tax credits we’d receive this year, but it didn’t turn out that way. The new house took longer to build and we moved in October, which is not a great time to sell,  instead of August. For a variety of reasons, the place didn’t sell, winter came, and we took it off the market. Thus started our winter of discontent.

We dropped the price and placed it back on the market in late February. We were getting interest and had reason for optimism, then the virus hit and things came to a screeching halt for a little more than a month. When the surge in Connecticut came and went, we had a flurry of activity before traffic stopped dead. Starter homes were selling great, but not so much houses in our price range.

June was arriving, the weather was great, the house and yard looked great, we were entering the peak selling period, and nothing was happening. No visits, no showings, nothing. We were already nine months into owning and paying for two houses, were hemorrhaging cash, had no prospects and needed to sell the place before summer’s end because we could only sustain this for so long before we’d be broke. The outlook was bleak and so was our mood.

I learned to despise HGTV, because I believe it spoiled people and created unrealistic expectations about what a house should be. Our place was well maintained and in great shape after almost twenty years of existence. It was energy efficient, and move-in ready. But some of the feedback we received from pervious showings indicated some folks didn’t like things we thought were very nitpicky and could easily be taken care of once they moved in.  But they either weren’t interested or too lazy to do it themselves..

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so we took the house off the market again and we changed real estate agents. Our new agent was passionate and enthusiastic about her work, loved the house, believed in it, and her upbeat personality was infectious. What we had been doing obviously wasn’t working, so at her suggestion we agreed to put some money into the place and repaint the downstairs and change the flooring upstairs.

I have to admit, even though I hated spending more money on the place, the changes were stunning! It made a world of difference visually, and made the entire downstairs look much larger. I was wildly optimistic that we would finally find a buyer, but the day before the house actually went back on the market, the old fears started creeping in again. What if we spent all this time, effort and money and nothing changed? What would we do then? I was scared shitless, quite frankly.

Well, the first showing was booked the same day it went on the market, and four more were confirmed within the next 48 hours. We had five showings in three days, and accepted an offer a few days later.

To make a long story short, because nothing ever comes easy for us as far as real estate is concerned,  we didn’t get what we hoped for, and had to spend a little more cash to mitigate something that came up during the inspection that came as a complete surprise, but our long ordeal is finally over. The day I feared would never come has arrived. Halle Fucking Lujah!

But, and you can’t make this shit up, our real estate luck made the last several days nerve wracking, as Tropical Storm Isaias hit Connecticut.

As the storm made its way up the coast earlier in the week, K and I joked that with our luck, something would happen to the old place. Keep in mind that the closing was scheduled for Friday, and the storm was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. The storm actually tracked a lot further to the west than expected, so it did not last nearly as long as anticipated, but it packed a wallop. Trees and wires were down all over the state and our town was no exception. We thought we came out of it unscathed until our neighbor from the old place called to let us know that a tree was resting on the garage roof on the house we were scheduled to sell in three days.

Fortunately, the secondary branches that extended from the tree hit the ground first and cushioned the blow. There was no structural damage to the roof or building, so “all” we had to do was find a professional who could get rid of it in thirty six hours. That fortunately happened, as the tree was taken off the roof on Wednesday night and completely removed the following morning. We were thrilled it all came together, but we had to dump another $1,000 for the privilege.

The closing went as scheduled without a hitch, and occurred yesterday. The windfall we expected to bank from all the tax incentives we earned making the place as energy efficient possible went towards paying the expenses on the old place. We didn’t net anything close to what we hoped, but can live with it. With all the uncertainty going on with the virus, our economy in a freefall and the political and social unrest in this country, we are thrilled that the financial bleeding has stopped.

We are also thrilled that a nice young couple with young children, who fell in love with the place and who I believe will love it as much as we did, are the new owners.

It is a very happy day indeed, but also bittersweet, which caught me off guard because I have been yearning for this day to come for what feels like forever. In retrospect though, it shouldn’t be surprising. We lived there for twenty years. Nidan grew up in that house, arriving as a two year old toddler and left as a twenty two year old young man. There were good times, bad times, happy times and sad times. We grew together as a family, and K and I spent most of our middle age there.

The house we are in now can finally start feeling like a real “home.” We can enjoy it without worrying about something else. Hopefully will enjoy a long period of peace and harmony as we ride out our golden years in our brand new abode. Being able to start saving again will be a novel and welcome experience too.

I wrote about the new place as it was being built, and shared pictures of the outside, but held off posting pictures of the inside until this day came. So now that it is here, let me reintroduce you to the new place.

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Moving Daze

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I have spent a lot of time in this space over the last year talking about the new house. In fact, when I wrote last week’s post , my intention was that it would be the final one on the subject until the moving trucks had come and gone. But there is another aspect to this ordeal I haven’t spent a lot of time venting about, and it is coming to a head.

If you remember, I mentioned last week how I hate feeling unsettled because I have flags planted in two different locations, but neither of them feel like home. The new place doesn’t feel like home for obvious reasons, we don’t live there yet. My current home of 19 years doesn’t feel like home because….well, all you have to do is look at the above picture to understand.

As you can see, there is shit all over the place. Moving boxes in various stages of completeness are strewn throughout the house. I have no idea how many boxes we (K and her Mom mostly) have actually packed, but I’m guessing it is getting close to one hundred. I  made a Staples trip last weekend to purchase more of them because we were running out, and when K told me we should get at least 30 I rolled my eyes thinking she was nuts. Well, we have maybe ten left less than a week later.

Clutter and disarray generally doesn’t bother me, which is probably a guy thing. K is fond of saying there could be a steaming pile of cow shit in the middle of our living room and I wouldn’t notice it. Not this time, however. First of all, it has been like this for a couple of weeks, so after that long even someone like me can’t not feel it. Secondly,  negotiating the suddenly limited floor space is like navigating a treacherous obstacle course for someone who has no balance, a drooping foot, and leg with no strength.

My role in this endeavor has been to carry the stuff out of the house and into the garage, but, as you can see from this pic, our garage is getting full.

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The cars have been evicted from our garage for a month now, and there isn’t a lot of available space. Negotiating the garage is even more difficult than negotiating the house space, but at least we have a place for everything. Having said that, there isn’t much room left, and we’re at the point were I will soon have to start restacking the boxes to create more space. A number of boxes marked fragile exist, and we don’t store anything on top of those boxes to prevent anything from getting crushed or broken. So in order to create more space to accommodate the additional boxes I know are forthcoming, I’ll need to segregate the fragile stuff from the pack, and start stacking the other boxes higher. But not so high that they will become top-heavy and fall over. That would be a disaster!

Most of the painting is done, so our next step is to start the deep clean, which I love to do more than anything else (NOT!) That endeavor begins next week, primarily with the windows (there are a lot of them), and the floors, which need to be steam cleaned and waxed.

K is of the opinion that we need to get this house spic and span, and that the Home and Garden channel has made it harder to sell houses because buyers expect a lot more from prospective houses they want to buy, assume things should be a certain way, and have become very finicky and entitled. Guess we will find out if all this extra TLC will make a difference. I certainly hope it does. If we can get the price we want, they can be as finicky as they want.

We did this a lot in the late 1990’s (moving four times in five years), but we are far removed from that era. Although I thought I remembered what a tedious grind it was and is, this feels much harder. Perhaps that is because back then we were young, didn’t know any better, hadn’t accumulated nearly the amount of stuff we have now, and I didn’t have MS. As bad as the garage looks, it could be worse, as we have discarded or given away a bunch of stuff we no longer need and didn’t want to pack. That is one slice of wisdom learned from previous experience.

We are preparing to mobilize the troops to help us move the stuff in our garage in advance the movers coming in and taking all the big stuff. Compared to where we started, there is not a lot left to do, but there is still enough. Especially if we want to be out in three to four weeks. Then comes the task of removing everything we packed and placing them their new locations. While it will be wonderful to be in that position, this endeavor is almost as bad as getting the stuff packed. Plus we will have a ton of empty boxes to discard. On and on it goes. Will we be completely settled by Thanksgiving? Christmas?  I’d like to think the former, but who the hell knows?

Like I said last week, it can’t happen soon enough.

 

 

 

Wheezing Towards the Finish Line

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The finish line is close. I can see it clearly, as it is almost within our grasp. All that is left to do is install the floors, finish the trim around the doors and floors, install the appliances, hook everything up to the plumbing and electrical systems, finish painting, plant the grass, and lay the blacktop for the driveways. It sounds like a lot, but in the scheme of things this is short par putt. At least I’d like to think so.

I should be giddy, but the truth is I’m exhausted, more mentally than physically. In fact, I almost nodded off on the way home from work yesterday waiting for a long stop light.

I can’t speak for K, but I’d bet she’d tell you she is feeling the same way.

I am tired of being in limbo, with a foot in both places. Not only are we preparing the final touches on the new place, our current one is in compete disarray. The garage is half full with packed moving boxes and other items, and our living room has an assortment of boxes in various stages of being packed laying about. There is still cleaning and painting to do. The pace is relentless, and not feeling settled is, well, unsettling. I know the end is near, as I believe a late September/early October move is imminent, and that is part of the quandary. There is still so much to do in such a short period of time. It often feels overwhelming.

Each day is a blur. Wake up when it’s dark, go to work, come home and figure out what to eat (planning and preparing meals is more the exception than the rule), then head to the site and perform a myriad of little tasks to make things easier for the workmen and prevent unnecessary delays. One or both of us stay there until dark, then we come home, clean up, collapse for a few hours, drag ourselves to bed, and do it all over again the next day. By day’s end my mind is mush and my body is spent. I move around like a Walking Dead zombie. K’s body is sore from head to toe.

This weekend’s priority is to get everything off the floors of the new place, and trust me when I tell you there is a lot of big and little shit strewn about, much of which needs to be removed by tradesman, and get the floors cleaned, vacuumed, and otherwise prepared for the wood floors that will be put down next week.

It has literally become a seven day a week, eighteen hour a day gig, and has been this way for about a month now. You’d think the pounds would be melting from all the activity and the reduction in food intake, but you’d be wrong, so I don’t even have that perk to feel good about. The grind is relentless and tedious.

We are at the end of a what has been a grueling marathon, which is ending on an upward slope. The slope feels steep, but we need to muster a strong finishing kick. The task seems Herculean, but I know it will happen. What choice is there?

I know it will all be worth it. I know we will love the comforts and amenities of the new place, and I know that some day in the not so distant future we will look back at this with a nostalgic fondness. I also know this will all be over soon.

But it can’t happen soon enough.

 

 

 

It’s Getting There

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Daze

A brief update as I climb back into the saddle

It was good to take a step back for a few weeks and recharge the writing batteries. The break provided me with time to look forward to getting behind the keyboard once again, not to mention provide time to let my mind wander and come up with a host of ideas and subject matters.

Having said that, the new house has become an all-consuming monolith that dominates my daily life. I took week off to start getting our current house in shape for the market in addition to helping out at the job site.

This process is taking a lot longer than we hoped or expected. The first house we build in 1997 took about seven months to complete. Our current home took less than six. We assumed this project would be no different, however we are currently into our ninth month of work. There are a number of reason for this, which I might elaborate upon in the future, but we truly expected to be moving in any day now when we initially broke ground. Instead, the sheetrock will be completely up and taped by week’s end.

The pace of our progress picked up when K took control of the project several weeks ago, and I suspect that will continue on the remaining items that need to be done: painting, the finish carpentry, the cabinet and fixture installation, the lighting, the flooring, the garage, the final excavation and grading of the site,  installing the driveway and seeding the lawn. There may be a few tiny things I’ve missed but those are the biggies.

The biggest fly in the ointment right now is the excavating. The individual we hired is now doing this part time, his hired help is gone, and the laundry list of items that need completion are long. We have sniffed around to see if there are other contractors that can pick up some of the slack, but so far have been unsuccessful in our search as they are all booked with other projects. If we do find someone, I am sure they won’t be cheap, and this project is already way, WAY over budget.

Then there is the stuff needed to get our current house ready for sale. That list is almost as long as the one needed to finish the new place, which was the motivation behind taking last week off.

The pressure to get this all done is immense because we want to be get the house on the market while the weather is still nice. We initially believed everything would be settled before the end of August, and that the financial piece of this odyssey (selling our house, settling our accounts and depositing some funds instead of constantly drawing from them) would soon be over and we would begin enjoying the new homestead, the move a painful memory. Instead, our goal has morphed into moving by late August/early September, which is not ideal because the goals was to get the house sold before all the kiddos go back to school. That is a pipe dream now. Our original timeline allowed us to fix up the old place once we were moved and it was emptied. Instead it is more likely that we have to do this and put it up for sale while we live there. That means we have to work on both places simultaneously. Maybe that is for the best because I have read is it always better to sell a house when your are still living in it rather than when it is empty., but it does complicate things exponentially.

Our heads are swimming with all the stuff that needs to be done, and how to deploy our dwindling resources. I don’t remember the process being as stressful as this one has turned out to be, perhaps because we are financing most of this, but it is what it is. I forgot, but now vaguely remember, everything coming to a head towards the end of the process, where you feel like the tail is wagging the dog.

Meanwhile, it is soooooooooooooooo freaking HOT! I picked the hottest week of the year so far when took last week off. Temps were in the 90’s with high humidity all week long, and I felt as if I were melting. As you know, MS and heat are not a good match, but I plowed through it for eight to nine hours each day, drank a ton of water, then jumped into the pool to cool down when we called it a day. My body was thoroughly shot by evening, and I shuffled around the house like Frankenstein. Crawling into bed felt like heaven, but by morning I was so stiff it took a while  to get loose enough to get back at it.

Nonetheless, I survived and in some ways thrived. It was good for the ego to learn that I’m still fairly useful, even though it takes a lot longer to do things compared to the pre-MS days. But at least I still can. My balance and leg strength seems to be a little worse than before. I can’t tell if this is real or imagined, but it feels like it is more difficult to get around under controlled conditions. Then again, that disappears when I get to the job site. Maybe it is the motivation or adrenaline to get things done. Maybe it is all in my head. I guess we’ll find out when the move is actually complete and we can finally exhale.

Mother nature isn’t going to relent, unfortunately.. The heat index is going to be in the 105-110 range this weekend. It is going to remain hot next week, and many are predicting this will be the hottest summer in recent memory. That’s par for the course. We’ll have to be smart about working in that environment.

So as I climb back in front of the keyboard, I don’t know if this will be an every week thing again or whenever I have the time. I am sure you will read more about our progress in the short term, as it is the easiest and quickest thing to write about. Completing the house and actually moving has become an obsession, time is limited, and this will be a good outlet to vent. However, I’ve had a few epiphanies during my hiatus that I want to share, and will eventually get to them.

One before and after pic opened this post. Here are a few more to give you a sense on how far we have come. At times both K and I feel like we are running on fumes, only to get to what by now must be our fourth or fifth wind. In the scheme of things we are in a final sprint on the home stretch, but it feels like it will take forever to finally reach the finish line.

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Unsettled

Unsettled

It has been a while since I’ve written about the new house, primarily because the process has been slow and steady.  I may have mentioned before that this is the third time we’ve done this, the last time having occurred almost twenty years ago, and each time reminds you of the the highs and lows that go with the territory of such an endeavor. I had forgotten about the myriad of decisions that have to be made, about the emotional swings, and how the progress can feel like it is zipping along one week, then slow to a snail’s pace the next.

Memories of the first house we built are near and dear to my heart, primarily because it was the first, but also because we fired the contractor before we were under roof. With the help of my father-in-law, a retired carpenter who could, with perhaps the exception of pouring a foundation, build a house from top to bottom, we became our own general contractors and finished the job in less than four months. That experience is a story in itself.

Each house is different, and this one has the distinction of K being the general contrtactor from the start, and because we started in late autumn.  It has been an interesting process so far. When we initially broke ground, it was easy to measure the progress because clearing the site, pouring the foundation and floors, framing the structure and installing the roof were all visable markers.

It was exciting to witness, but the project was still in its infancy, and didn’t feel real in many ways.  That may seem a little silly because the eyes don’t lie, and you could see the drawings on a blueprint come to life, but we were still making tweaks to the design, and the idea of actually moving felt distant, at least for me. True to form, I compartmentalized the entire concept of what I knew would eventually arrive. After all, why fret over something that isn’t imminent?

Since then, it hasn’t been as easy to chart the progress, yet the progress has been real and is now moving quickly. Once the shell was up, the roof on and the windows in, the indoor work began. Once that occurred, the structure really began to take shape, although it might not have appeared to looking at it from the outside. But as we speak, the inside has been competely framed, all of the interior plumbing has been roughed in and so has most of the electical wiring and interior duct-work.  The siding is more than half-way completed, and the deck that will also have a screened-in porch is almost done. Every time I go on site I see something new and different. You can see the rooms take shape, and see how everything fits. It is beginning to look like a real house, and I am beginning to think of our current home in the past tense.

We still have a ways to go. The garage floor needs to be poured, the sheet rock needs to go up, all the cabinetry and fixtures need to be installed, the finish carpentry needs to be completed, the heating system installed, the plumbing and electrical work finished, the floors installed, the walls painted, the driveways created and the exterior grading finished. But most of the decisions have been made in regards to the materials and subcontractors, and it is a matter of lining them up and getting them in. I am hoping that we will be able to move into the new place before July is over, but have no idea how realistic that goal is.

Nonetheless, the move is imminent, and therefore very real. As exciting as that prospect is, and as much as I want it to happen sooner than later, we are also in a state of limbo, and I find that very unsettling.

Why? Well, an endeavor like this has a lot of moving parts, and while you try to plan for the choreography of events that never ends, it never goes according to plan. There are always glitches and unexpected costs that need to be addressed. I knew from the beginning that as this project neared completion, the bills would begin to mount, and that things would be tight until we sold our current house. That has always been my hot-button, and it is on the verge of being pushed.

While the thought of being settled into a house that I know is well built and tailored to our specifications is comforting and brings a smile to my face, the idea of moving makes me want to curl into a fetal position. This will be our fifth move, but I was a lot younger, more able-bodied, and full of piss and vinegar during the previous four. Perhaps I was also a more naive about what the move actually entails: packing boxes,  unpacking boxes, setting up the new house, and getting the new lawn and landscaping established. I know better now.

Then there is the process of getting our current home ready for the market, which in my mind is worse than the actual move itself. We have some cosmetic work that needs to be done to make the house look its best, and have to inventory every single item we own, deciding what to keep, donate, pawn off or take to he dump. It is a time consuming, tedious and mind-numbing process. I am very impatient when it comes to this shit, and want to devote as little time as possible to it. I don’t want to debate the details of what stays or goes, so my impulse is to throw a lot of stuff away, consequences be damned! K attaches more emotion, sentimentality and careful thought to the process, so I am going to have to do my best to meet her half way and not become irritable as we comb through the history of our life in that place.

Once all that is done and the move is completed, the final hurdle is to sell the house for the price we want. I am feeling the pressure of time, because common sense dictates you want to sell your house during the peak selling seasons of spring or summer. Waiting until the fall or, God forbid, winter, would not be ideal. We’ll be up to our eyeballs in debt by then because we will be carrying what amounts to two mortgages, and when that occurs I will be a basket case of worry until the house is sold.

How the MS is going to factor into all of this is anyone’s guess. I know I don’t do well in the heat of the summer, which is theoretically when all of this will occur. I also know a lot of stress isn’t good either, but I don’t see how that can be avoided. I have no idea whether the MS is going to allow me to be as involved and engaged as I want to be and, assuming it does, what my body will feel like when this is over. This was not a factor before, and brings an another layer of anxiety to the process. I want to roll up my sleeves and do as much on site as I can instead of paying others to do it, but will my body allow it? I’ll probably be sucking on that vape pen quite a bit.

These were all realities last fall, but they were theortetical. It’s an entirely different ballgame when they are on your doorstep. Between dealing with the day to day issues of getting the house built, dealing with cost overruns and planning for the actual move, the new house has taken a life of its own and consumes most of our time and energy. The strain is worse on K than for me because she is the general contractor. She is on the front lines every day, and has to deal with a myriad of personalities and other crap that is too long and complicated to get into.  She is really good at this and has done a remarkable job, but it is sometimes painful to witness.

We are on the verge of entering the final stretch, where everything comes to a head. Critical mass is approaching where we prepare and transition from one place to another. I feel it approaching. It is an unstoppable force, a test of endurance, stamina and nerve.  The feeling is exciting and terrifying, exhilarating and draining.

Summer has always been my favorite season. I have always enjoyed this carefree time of year when when I’m lounging by the pool, enjoying evening fires on our patio, and hanging out in shorts, t-shirts and bare feet. I’m always saddened when September rolls around because I know the cold winter months will soon be approaching. I never imagined a day would come when I’d wish the summer away, but here we are.

I can’t wait for this to be over.

Moving Daze

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The temperatures are going to reach 60 today, so even though another week remains on the meteorological calendar, I am saying goodbye to winter.

It has been a relatively easy one, especially compared to last year. We’ve had only one storm where the snowfall measured a foot or more, and while there have been periods of bitterly cold weather, that was not the norm. Ice was more of a problem than snow this year, but the bottom line is we did not confront major periods where work on the new house was shut down for extended periods of time. We are in reasonably good shape on that front. The house is framed, the roof is shingled, and by month’s end the windows should be in, and the cellar floor poured.

With the days getting longer and the house completely enclosed, it is full steam ahead on getting the interior done because there shouldn’t be any weather-related delays.

For the past several months I’ve watched the house methodically rise from the ground, but I was in winter mode, where I can’t see beyond the snow and cold, and Spring feels light years away. Now that it is knocking on the door, however, the fact that this is actually happening feels more real than it ever has.

It is all very exciting, of course, now that the end is within sight. I mean, we hope to move by late spring/early summer, which is only three to four months from now. That may seem like a long time, but June/July will be here before I know it, which means I’m facing the reality of the one part of this adventure I absolutely dread: moving.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really looking forward to the new place. I’m sure there will be some melancholy involved with leaving the home Nidan grew up in, but it will be short lived, at least for me. This is something we have wanted for a while, and have been planning in some capacity for almost a year. I’m looking forward to being settled in the home we have designed for our golden years.

But the physical act of moving?  This will be our fifth move, the last one having occurred in 2000. The first one, back in 1996, was a new adventure, but each subsequent one was greeted with less enthusiasm than the previous move because we were no longer naïve about the work this all entailed. Besides, I was a lot younger back then, and more able-bodied. This time? Well, we’re going to see how this will work with one good leg.

Unlike me, K has been thinking about the move since we broke ground, mentally planning, and stressing, over what needs to be done. She’s infinitely more aware of all the stuff we have accumulated over the years that has to be moved, thrown away or donated, and she’s a tad overwhelmed by it.

I’m not dreading the actual packing and moving part, although I reserve the right to change my mind when I’m actually doing it. But motivation is never lacking while getting prepared for, and moving, from point A to point B. Comparatively speaking, it is something you can enjoy, especially when movers are involved..

What sucks is the unpacking, and we not only have to move ourselves, but Nidan and K’s Mom, who has lived with us for almost fifteen years, and is in her eighties.

Unpacking and getting everything where you want takes a lot of trial and error, and we are moving our current household into two different living spaces. We’ll have to get her Mom and Nidan settled first, which means we will live among a multitude of boxes for a while. Our living space will be in disarray, and present a constant obstacle course for me. I  know from experience that once you are in a new place, you are worn out and want to unpack/get settled as soon as possible, but soon as possible rarely turns out to be what you hoped for going in. It is a mentally grueling ordeal, and the physical part will be harder compared to previous years. We may not feel it that much when we are doing the actual work. But when we wake up the following morning, our tight, aching muscles and sore backs will remind us that we aren’t in our forties anymore, and make us question our sanity.

I’m especially wary of the physical implications MS brings to the table. I’ve never been the kind of guy who can sit idly by while everyone else is doing the work, and this part of my DNA has become more pronounced since the MS came along. I have this need, you see, to not to give into my disability. I push myself simply to prove that I can, perhaps because it represents some half-assed rationalization that I am still in charge of my body. But I also know from experience that when I do, my leg becomes weak to the point of almost feeling dead, and all the other symptoms, particularly balance, become magnified. Quite a quandary, isn’t it?

Even after the move is completed, the ordeal won’t be over. Our current home needs to be spruced up a bit, and then we have the minor detail of selling it. Given the fact that money is going to be very tight by that time, in part because of a very nasty tax surprise we were not prepared for, we’re going to have to put more sweat equity into that endeavor than originally anticipated. Swell!

So yes, I am looking forward to seeing the house completed and living in the comfort of a new place built to accommodate my potential future needs. But the process is going to be a grind, and part of me would like nothing better than to sleep through it all, and have someone wake me up when it’s over.

I’ve already received a taste of how tedious this is going to be by helping K weed through what we have stored in the cellar. We still have to finish the cellar, comb through all the closets and contend with the garage. Ugh, the garage!  I just should just park a dumpster outside for a week and fill it to the brim when we formally tackle that stuff.

I am hoping for the best but expecting the worst. The one silver lining with this philosophy is that you’re never disappointed, and are often pleasantly surprised. Only time will tell if that is the case this time around. Rest assured you’ll hear all about how this unfolded once the deed is done.

Wish us luck.

 

 

Bad Timing

stocks

Timing is everything in life, or so the saying goes. I’ve often wondered if good timing is a by-product of foresight and astute planning, or of it is all sheer dumb luck. The one thing I do know is that when it comes to real-estate matters, our timing has mostly sucked.

Whenever we have been in the market to buy, it’s typically been a sellers market. When we have been in the market to sell, it’s been a buyers market, either because of high interest rates or a glut of supply.

We thought this chapter of our real estate exploits with the house we are building would be different. After all, K is the general contractor and is in a position to manage costs. We carefully reviewed our assets and financing options, determined that we didn’t need to borrow much and, after we sold our current house, could possibly walk away with no mortgage at all.

We planned the order in which we would utilize the various funds available to us. Not wanting to paying interest on anything until we absolutely had to, we decided to use our assets first before tapping into the various loan options, and figured these would cover us until late winter/early spring. The plan was realistic, well thought out, and all the signs pointed to a smooth and uneventful process, with no speed bumps or u-turns.

But history is a hard thing to overcome, and our wishful thinking was flushed down the toilet when the stock market suffered its worst week since the financial crisis of 2008, and the talking heads announced we were in the process of experiencing the worst December since the Great Depression. All I could do is shake my head, roll my eyes, smile a sad smile, and wonder why I should be surprised.

This development is not a deal-breaker.  After all, what goes up must come down, and visa versa, so I know there will eventually be a rebound. In fact, the market gained over 1,000 points yesterday, the single biggest daily gain in its history. But the recovery is a drop in the bucket compared to was lost these last ten days, and what is unknown is whether this is a one-hit wonder or the beginning of an upward trend to normalcy. What is also unknown is whether the asset we were going to liquidate will regain most of the value it lost.

The financial storm clouds are still there. The government shutdown had a lot to do with this, and will persist long into January as long as our Idiot-In Chief continues to insist on that stupid wall. His sophomoric comments about firing the Fed’s chairman added gasoline to the fire, but that also seems to have died down a bit. Then there are his ongoing legal issues, that are only going to get worse, to consider.

I’m trying to be optimistic and hope that the correction will occur over a matter of weeks instead of months, but have the nagging suspicion the wall issue isn’t going to go away. The political climate in Washington will only get worse when the new House convenes and starts all of their investigations, which is sure to keep the markets in a state of uncertainty, which is never good. And if a smoking gun emerges from either their investigations or the Mueller report, watch out!

So it is back to the drawing board. Unless the plunge of the last two weeks corrects itself in a hurry, we will have to employ the borrowing options first, which will hopefully buy us the time the market needs to recover. Fortunately, K had to foresight to obtain a building loan for more than we thought we would need, and we have a lot of equity in our current house. But the idea was to emerge from this with little or no debt. If the current situation remains by Spring or, God forbid, gets worse, we’ll either have more debt or need to liquidate more assets than we wanted. Both of these scenarios suck beyond imagination, but the foundation is in, and stopping the project in its tracks while this all gets sorted out is not an option.

As this project got started, my biggest fear is we would run out of good weather before we could get under roof, which would delay the process by three to six months. I still don’t want to see this become a reality, but that may be the one thing that provides the necessary time for the markets to settle down. Wouldn’t it be ironic if this not only occurred, but turned out to be a godsend? Perhaps, but it isn’t something I am rooting for.

I’m going to stop driving myself crazy and not look at the numbers every day for the next week or two. Nidan and I are going to Florida for a few days after New Year’s and I’ll wait until our return before taking another peak at them. Hopefully I will be pleasantly surprised. Meanwhile, we can ride this out until the framing starts. Some big bills will start rolling in then, at which point we’ll have to commit to a financing plan of some kind.

What we naively believed was going to be smooth sailing, is turning out to be more of an emotional roller-coaster, but I should have known better. Our previous house-building experience had repeatedly demonstrated that nothing ever turns out the way one plans. So why should this be any different?

On a separate note, I’d like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. I hope your 2019 is filled with brightness and hope, and that any troubles or pain you are currently experiencing last only as long as your New Year resolutions.

 

A Foundation To Build From

Foundation 7.JPG

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind on the building front. Plans have been drafted, tweaked and re-drawn at the eleventh hour. Details regarding the layout and elevation of the house, which I will get to shortly, were in a constant state of flux, and had to be put to bed before we could break ground. The mad scramble to identify and retain contractors was a daily grind, one that still has a few loose ends, but the truth is I have had little involvement with that. K is the general contractor on this project, you see, so she’s been the one pulling her hair out. I’m living vicariously through her, and never would have had the desire, nerve or knowledge to attempt this.

Building during the winter (technically, it is still Autumn – it has only felt like winter) is a race against the clock. We took on this challenge for a variety of reasons, but the main reasons were control and to save money. Serving as your own subcontractor allows for that, as winter tends to be a slower time for tradesmen, and there is less competition for their services. The other reason for building in the winter is we want to be able to move during the spring, which is the optimum time to sell out current home.

So the first order of business was to retain a builder who was experienced with building the type of energy efficient house we want, and who wouldn’t get their nose bent out of shape if they weren’t responsible for the entire building process. Their task is to get the foundation in, frame the house, install the windows and finish the roof. K would take it from there. Once the structure is up, it won’t matter what the weather or temperatures are because the house will be enclosed and the subs would be shielded from the elements.

Our self imposed deadline, based on an assumption that the ground would not be completely frozen until then, was Christmas. Until recently, getting to the point where we could meet this deadline was like trying to nail Jello to a wall. All the last minute changes were bad enough, but K was like a dog with a bone and managed to pull everything together in early November. Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn’t on the same page.

This has been a miserable Autumn, and the last few weeks have been especially terrible. While the folks in California would have given anything for a few drops of rain to stem the tide of the terrible wildfires, we were facing the opposite conundrum. Connecticut was in the midst of a stormy weather pattern that brought frequent rain, some of it torrential, and an early snowstorm. Not only that, the temperatures have been much colder than average, all of which have conspired to create numerous delays and postponements.

Talk about frustrating! It’s such a helpless feeling knowing that the clock is ticking, the amount of time in which to accomplish your goal was quickly eroding, and that all the time and effort spent in getting this out of the ground was in jeopardy of being derailed until Spring.

The last minute changes certainly didn’t help, but were an economic necessity. To make a long story short, we purchased adjoining lots, with the idea that when Nidan started working and eventually built up his savings, he’d have a lot to build his own place.  Our original plan was to have a separate apartment attached to the main house where he and my mother-in-law, who lives with us, would reside. When informed about the prevailing price per square foot for new home construction, and the fact that additional corners to any structure really jack up the construction price,  the math suggested that if we built a small house on the adjoining lot instead of an attached apartment, the cost would not be much greater. We therefore had blueprints for two houses drafted, and were ready to roll with that. After all, who wouldn’t want to empty the nest as early as possible?

Those plans unraveled once the quotes started coming in, and it became obvious that we would be way, way, WAY over budget, which was a shock based on what we thought we knew. The two house plan went up in smoke, so we had to scramble, and have the plans re-drawn (ka-ching!) that converted most of the basement of the original house into an apartment with a separate entrance.

This development changed the footprint of the entire house. In order to get the water and sewer lines into the downstairs living space, the house had to be raised several feet. This made the driveway, which was already a lot longer than we wanted so it would wrap around to the back of the structure where their entrance would be (ka-ching!), steeper than we would have liked. It also created a handful of other building complications that I won’t get into, but the bottom line is it delayed the entire process at least three to four weeks. Naturally, the weather nice during this unexpected delay, and would have provided a sustained period to get us out of the ground. It wasn’t until we were ready to rock and roll that the weather descended upon us like a ton of bricks.

When ground finally was broken, it was so saturated that extra material had to be utilized to prevent the heavy equipment from sinking (ka-ching!), and more drains were installed to help direct the water away from the building site (ka-ching!). The cherry on top occurred a couple of weeks ago where, after the hole was finally dug and ready for the foundation forms, over an inch of rain fell on already saturated grounds. This caused the earthen walls to collapse, which required the excavator to spend an extra day clearing the mud that sat where the foundation forms needed to be  set up (ka-ching!). The coup de grace was having to employ a truck that pumped the concrete from the mixer to the forms (ka-ching!)

Happily, all of that is past us. The footings were poured last week, and the foundation was poured on Monday. It appears we will be blessed with a ten day period of primarily dry weather, but this stretch will also be exceeding cold. What does that mean? It means the concrete needs to be kept warm, which requires an extra step or two in the process (ka-ching!).

The pictures that follow represent each step of the process to date, starting from the time we initially purchased the property.

BW6

tree2

Foundation 3.JPG

Foundation 2.JPG

Foundation 1.JPG

Foundation 5

Foundation 4

Foundation 6

This period of dry weather should provide enough time to get the floors poured before we reach the point of no return, so the pressure to get things moving isn’t as great as it was several weeks ago. Still, it will be a relief once the lumber and windows are ordered because that will mean the floor is poured, the construction can begin in earnest, and we are back on schedule.

Wouldn’t that be something?

A Building Update

building

There is a lot going on right now, and my head is swimming.

The fact that Red Sox have marched through the playoffs these last two weeks has gobbled up what little free time I have, including sleep time, because I have watched every inning of every game. To complicate things further, I am up to my neck in getting a package prepared that will go to prospective publishers soon. That is a story in itself, which I will detail when I’m done.

These two events have conspired to devour time ordinarily spent writing for this blog, which has presented a dilemma. One of my goals this year was to post something every week, and despite occasionally struggling with a subject matter,  I have managed to meet that objective.

This is a strange week because I have plenty of topics but am pressed for time, so this week’s post is going to be a quick one.

I’ve written in the past about building a new home, the last entry occurring in August. I am happy to report that we closed on the property a few weeks ago, the blueprints are completed, and we recently received building permits that will allow us to finally break ground. That’s the good news. The remaining hurdles are time and money.

TimeFrom a time perspective, our goal was to break ground before it froze, and have the structure under roof and enclosed before winter sets in so the finish work can continue, which would allow us to move by spring. That in turn would allow us to put our current house market in the spring, which is the best time of the year to sell in New England.

We fell a little under the gun on this front because the permit process took longer than expected,  and we are still waiting for the person we engaged to get the frame up to give us his numbers so we can put an overall project budget together. It’s almost Halloween, believe we must break ground next month, otherwise we will run out of time and not be able to start in earnest until spring, which will put us about a year behind schedule. I can hear the clock ticking.

As far as money is concerned, I can’t believe how much costs have increased since the last time we did this in 2000. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say they have almost doubled. We already know this is going to be more a lot more expensive than we originally thought, so the challenge is going to be how we will make this work.  K and I have already committed a lot financially just to get to where we currently are, so making major changes to our plans is not an option.

MoneyIn one respect, waiting another six months wouldn’t be terrible, as it would provide an opportunity to squirrel away a few more pesos. But the danger in that, besides knowing  building costs will only get higher with the passage of time, is that the stock market will crash and interest rates will spike. So the quicker we can proceed, the better.

Once we start moving dirt I can get more into the details of what our vision is and share the trials and tribulations of being our own subcontractors, but until that day comes we are in a state of limbo, anxiously waiting for the final set of numbers.

I’m not the most patient guy in the world, but should have known better than to think things would go according to plan. When it comes to house building, nothing ever goes completely as planned, hurry up and wait is they typical modus operandi, and the entire process is stressful as hell. My MS should love that. We also have never built during the winter before, so this is going to be an interesting experience. The original thought was that there would be more of a selection of  plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen to choose from, and therefore get better prices, because there isn’t lot of competition for their services in the winter. We’ll see if that was assumption was astute or naïve.

Buckle up for the ride. Hopefully it won’t be too bumpy.

 

The Next Big Project

BW6

Last summer, I mused about needing a new house. At the time, the sentiment was real, and the motivation was there, but the desire was more wish than reality. Our list of requirements was long, you see. We wanted to either build something new, or completely gut a run down house in a good location. We also wanted to remain in our current town, have access to city water and sewer, and to own a relatively flat piece of property, but finding any land that checked off all the boxes AND not cost an insane amount of coin turned out to be like trying to eat soup with a fork.

K had doggedly turned over over every rock, and called anyone she could think of who might know somebody or something, but every promising turn resulted in a dead end. It was getting to the point where we began to wonder if we needed to revisit our requirements because at the rate we were going, there was no possible way we would move in 2019, which was the goal.

While this hand-wringing was going on, a new option presented itself almost by accident. We discovered an opportunity that was not yet public knowledge, and K ran with it. Lo and behold, after several months of back and forth, we reached and signed an agreement and forked over a deposit, which was necessary because the owner’s development plan for the property and not yet been submitted to or approved by the town’s Planning and Zoning committee. We had confidence it would, but timing was important because our desire is to break ground before winter, and move during the spring or early summer.

The town approved the plan on August 2nd, and we are currently in the waiting period where the requested changes P&Z made have to be submitted. The period in question also allows anyone who wishes to dispute the committee’s decision to file a complaint and gum up the process. Assuming the changes are made and nobody raises a fuss, we should formally close and own the property by the end of the month.

Now the fun begins really begins. We’ve been working with an architect for almost a month to create a plan that pleases K’s aesthetics in addition to being ADA compliant. We’ve also been looking at things like windows, doors, flooring and material of that nature so we can begin pricing this out.  We’ve had preliminary discussions with our bank to discuss financing options that are going to be predicated on whether we are going to serve as the general contractors for this project or hire a builder to oversee everything, which is another decision that needs to be made soon.

Actually, there is no “we” as far as being our own contractor is concerned. K will serve in that capacity. We’re familiar with the drill because we assumed that responsibility with house number one after we fired our general contractor before it was completely under roof, and hired all the subcontractors after that. Her father, a retired carpenter who knew how to build  a house in its entirety once a foundation was poured, was alive at the time and served as the on-site general foreman.

House number two was done by a local contractor, who built a decent house, but there were issues along the way. K has always been ahead of the curve in terms of healthy house construction. Much of what contractors thought was crazy twenty years ago is code these days. This wasn’t much of an issue with house number one because we subbed out most of it and paid the subcontractors ourselves, but it was on the second house. The contractor’s primary interest for that job was to get the thing up quickly with little deviation from his normal process, and he was therefore reluctant try anything new or different. Still, with K riding his butt, sticking firm to what she wanted, and making sure everything the subs needed was on-site so they didn’t wander off to another job, we moved into the place less than six months after ground was broken.

K has been and will continue to be the driving force behind this project. Of course, she will want to pull out her hair during the construction process, and repeatedly lament what possessed her to take this on, but the truth is she loves this stuff. The other truth is we can save a lot of money by doing this ourselves.  In retrospect, she and her Mom missed their calling. They have the eye and talent as far as house design and layout are concerned, and her Dad had the skills to make their visions a reality. They could have created one hell of a successful business flipping houses long before it became the rage, and maybe I’d be comfortably retired by now.

So, assuming there are no blips within the next two weeks, the thought of a new homestead has transformed from a conceptual idea to something very real over a relatively short period of time, and some anxiety comes with it.

Why? Well, it didn’t take long for sticker shock to set in. Building materials and costs have increased dramatically since 2000, the last time we did this. We know what we want this project to look like when we are finished. The great unknown right now is whether the cost is going to force us lower our expectations. I hope not.

We also know nothing ever goes as planned when it comes to building a house, so there will be many stressful and aggravating moments along the way, especially if this drags well into next summer. Managing stress is going to become paramount, especially for me since I know it exacerbates my symptoms. I may not be on the front lines while this is going on, but if K gest stressed, I get stressed.

It is going to be quite the challenge for her to pull this off, maintain her writing schedule, and keep up with the current house. I will do as much as I can, but we’ve long established the fact that my physical limitations prevent me from picking up my fair share of the slack. But I will try to approach things methodically as this develops, and address one item at a time. It is easier not to become overwhelmed that way.

I’ll post periodic updates as this process unfolds, and share more of the specifics of what our plans entail. Meanwhile, I have to dust off the calculator, figure out how to pay for the damn thing without mortgaging our future, and hope/pray that Mr. MS doesn’t decide to up the ante and create a host of debilitating problems before the job is done. What a shit-storm that would be.