Wednesday, January 27, 2016

You Should NOT Build a New House if… (Part 7) You Don't Want to Deal With Selling Your Existing Home and Moving

Let me start out by saying that I know how daunting a task selling a house can be. I’ve only sold one and that was enough. But I discovered a way to ease the pain of the sale. Just pretend you’re having a yard sale, one in which you are selling the entire yard along with the house sitting on it. You might even want to get one of those small round color stickers and write, oh let’s say, “$150,000.00” on it and affix it to the side of the house. Then when those early Saturday morning hoarders come to your yard sale, they’ll know how much your yard sale item costs without having to interrupt you while playing Candy Crush on your smart phone. That’s assuming they can find that small sticker on the side of your house.

Once we signed a contract to build a new house, the first major decisions we had to make was how much to ask for our existing house and when to put it on the market. Fortunately we had a really good realtor who researched the value of the house and made a recommendation about how much to ask. It turned out to be a good number in that we eventually received an offer that was real close. But the bigger issue was when to put it on the market. We didn’t want to put it out there too soon and end up having to move to an interim dwelling and put a lot of furniture in storage. We also didn’t want to have to pay the movers twice. On the other hand, we didn’t want to put it on the market too late and end up not selling it for months on end. What to do? What to do?

Well, we ended up putting it on the market about 4-6 weeks before we thought we would be able to move. Our thinking was that if an offer came in quickly, the buyers would be able to wait that long before moving. Of course, as we all know, thinking can sometimes get you into trouble.

We were very fortunate in that it was about one month before a serious offer came our way. After a bit of negotiation, we settled on a price. That’s good, right? No, that’s bad! You see, the new house wasn’t yet ready. It looked like it would be another four weeks. Oh, that’s bad! No, that’s good! You see, the buyer was in a position to wait that long before moving. That’s good! No, that’s bad! You see, the movers weren’t sure if they could move us at that time. We’d have to go ahead and get put on their schedule even though we weren’t positive about the timing of the house completion. Oh, that’s bad! No, that’s good! We were able to schedule it about a week later than the expected completion date. Now that’s good! No, that’s bad! If we ended up not being able to move on that date, it might be weeks before we could reschedule. Oh, that’s really bad! No, that’s good! You see, the buyer was really flexible about when she could move and as it turned out the house was indeed complete before that date. Wow, that’s really good! You’re darn tooting that good!

Well, except for one little thing. The day we moved was a hot, humid, muggy, sunny, southern day. We felt sorry for the movers. They were sweating up a storm, but that storm didn’t change the weather. The workers were taking frequent breaks and at one point thought they may have to split the work into two days. But they stuck with it, spending about 10-11 hours and making two trips with that huge truck of theirs.

All went pretty smoothly, although there were a few mishaps. First, one of the workers decided to remove the mirror from our dresser by himself. It ended up slipping out of his hands and making a large crashing noise. I thought a train has broken through our bedroom wall. I was afraid to go see what the room looked like. As it turned out, the mirror had not busted, but it did cause its wooden frame to crack near the top. I was furious and was about to retaliate in some way, but thought better of it when I realized how long we’d be at the emergency room getting my foot out of his butt. I reminded myself that it was to be expected for things to go south during a move, especially when you are already in the south. Another worker used a stain pen to disguise the exposed inner wood at the crack and we called it even.

Another thing that got my gourd was when they were moving in the last load at the end of the day. We had several rolling metal racks we used for storage at the old house and were planning to use them at the new house as well. They had loaded the racks up with packed boxes and so forth and wrapped then all up in cellophane for the truck ride. I thought they would empty them before moving them into the house, but they were planning to roll them in with all that weight on them. At first they were going to come in through the front door and run them across a lot of hardwood. I told them I was concerned about those wheels digging into the hardwood given all the weight. I showed them an alternate route that would mostly be on tile, which would be more durable. However, there were a few spots where they would still have to pass over hardwood. One of the workers got a bunch of cardboard and laid it out over those spots. What a good idea, I thought. Pad those floors! But as it turned out, there was one spot in a hallway where the racks had to turn left and then immediately back right. Well, that was enough for the wheels to dig all the way through the cardboard and into the wood. After all was said and done, ruts were left in the hardwood. Not terrible, but enough to raise my ire. But once again I decided I didn’t want to spend the night at the emergency room, so just let it go. I didn’t even mention it to them. And on top of that I gave them a good tip. Hey, it had been a hot, humid, muggy, sunny, southern day and the movers were completely exhausted. Overall, they had done an awesome job. Those rutted hardwood slats could be replaced.

Before having the hardwood guy come out and replace the damaged slats, I decided to check on the Internet to see if there was a way to repair them. As it turned out there was…using a wet rag and a hot iron. Great! I decided that one day soon I would attempt the repair, but that day kept getting pushed out and has not yet arrived six months later. And actually it seems as if the wood has expanded back a bit causing the ruts to not seem so bad. I now just consider what remains of the ruts to give the house some character. Think of this way. What does a furniture maker do when the quality of the wood he buys starts deteriorating? He does funky stuff to it and calls it “distressed” and says it’s the latest thing in furniture and charges a premium for it. Let’s just say that those hardwood slats have a distressed look. Hey, if I ever have to sell, that might bring us an extra thousand or two.

There is an interesting aspect to the sale of our old house that I would like to mention before I finish. The person who ended up buying our house was someone we used to go to church with…when she was a child. When she told us her parents’ names, we remembered them although we never really knew them well. It turned out that a painting we had hanging in our foyer helped seal the deal. The painting was of the church where the buyer and we used to attend together. The artwork was painted by another friend of ours that had gone to that same church. My wife had won it at as a door prize at a lady’s function she had attended years ago. In fact, the buyer liked the painting so much she offered to buy it, but Kathy was not willing to part with it. We told her that should we ever decide to sell it, she’d get first option on it.

Well, this is my last installment in this series. I hope you have enjoyed my posts.

You Should NOT Build a New House if… (Part 6) You Insist on Perfection

Are you like me? Do you like for everything to be perfect? When you see a pothole in the road, do you want it filled in immediately? Or better yet, have the road repaved? When you see a hole in a shirt, do you want it to be repaired quickly? Or better yet, have the shirt replaced? When you forget something, do you want to bash your brain in to teach it a lesson? Or better yet, reroute your neurons so they no longer take the wrong exit or run into a ditch?

I hate imperfections. You’d think that after having put up with many imperfections in my almost 61 years of life, I’d be used to them by now. But I am not. In fact, I think I hate them even more now than I used to. If my aversion to imperfections continues to grow, then by the time I reach the age of 75, I may have to be put into pure white sterile room with no doors disturbing the walls’ perfection. And please leave me a gun so I can blow my brains out should the wall paint ever begin to crack.

If you are a perfectionist like me and you want to build a new house, you have two choices: blindfold yourself each time you visit the house or DON’T BUILD IT!! Well, actually there is a third option, but it won’t be easy. It’s the option I opted for. Get it through your think head that there will be many imperfections while building the house and just GET OVER IT! Whew, it’s hard to say, let alone actually do. It will require a lot of mental energy, so be sure to carry a portable generator around with you while construction progresses.

I could tell you about the time I visited the house and discovered they had put water and drainage lines in a wall where no water or drainage was needed, but I won’t.

I could tell you about the time I visited the house and discovered someone had knocked a hole in our freshly installed sheetrock, but I won’t.

I could tell you about the time I visited the house and discovered that the newly installed kitchen cabinets were partially covering one of the can lights, but I won’t.

I could tell you about the time I visited the house and discovered there was a hole all the way through the partial wall above a column near the dining room, but I won’t.

I could tell you about the time I visited the house and discovered a leak at the water line to the laundry room and how I visited many more times over the following weeks and it was still leaking, but I won’t.

I could tell you about the time I visited the house and discovered that some workers had pulled their van up beside the house on wet freshly laid sod leaving a trail of ruts behind, but I won’t.

I could tell you about the time I visited the house and discovered that the wrong French doors to the library had been installed, but I won’t.

I could tell you about the downspout near our bedroom window that has a leak on the upper elbow that creates a continuous thunking noise when water drops hit the lower elbow, but I won’t.

I could tell you about the dirt and mud flowing into our yard from a neighboring empty lot during a downpour, but I won’t.

And the reason I’m not going to tell you about these things is that I know you too are a perfectionist and the very mention of these things would make you squeamish or even make your blood boil. I simply cannot bring myself to do that to a friend. I’m too much of a perfectionist.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

You Should NOT Build a New House if… (Part 5) You Have a Busy Schedule

Imagine you are at work and preparing an important report for your boss. The deadline is the end of the day. Suddenly your phone rings, jarring you from your intense concentration. It’s the builders of your new house. They tell you that the carpenters are at your house and need for you to come by and make a few important decisions. You tell them that you are busy today and ask if you can meet them tomorrow. The answer comes back. No, they will be on another job for the next week or so, but they need to order supplies based on your decisions. What do you do?

Fortunately, I never faced such a dilemma (or should that be dilemmum since it’s singular?). Why? Because I was retired. Oh sure, I was still doing part time work, but my schedule was pretty flexible, so I never really faced having to decide between whose demands I should heed first. But let it be known that if you work a full time job, especially one that requires long hours, you will probably face these types of issues frequently.

You’d think that if you hired a builder to handle the day-to-day interfacing with contractors, and you’d made many decisions ahead of time, you’d avoid these changes-need-to-be-made-and-a-decision-is-needed-immediately types of issues. But NOOOOooooOOOO! They still come up. So if you’re planning to build a house and you work a full-time job with rigid hours, plan ahead about how you’re going to handle them when they come up.

Sometimes making decisions well in advance doesn’t even ameliorate the situation. Kathy and I had picked out our hardwood and tile months in advance of when they would be installed. And guess what? When the time rolled around to order the flooring, both had been discontinued. So, it was back to the drawing board. Not being artists, this was difficult for us. Yet we had to decide all over again on different flooring.

It’s not just when you’re called that you need to break away from your regularly scheduled routine and go to your under-construction house. Many times you just want to be there to see what’s happening. You don’t want a mistake to go unseen until it’s too late. Usually we could simply go to the house at the end of the day and investigate what had been done and make a punch list for the builder. Other times it was best to be there while the workers were there to discuss things before they got started. For instance, one day we went by after the painters had been there and discovered that they were beginning to paint one wing of the house the wrong color. Fortunately they had only painted one room incorrectly, so it wasn’t that big a fix. Even so, had we been there before they started we could have saved them some time.

Besides me being retired, we were fortunate in another respect. A neighbor across the street from our new house was fairly diligent about keeping an eye on what was being done during construction and filled us in on anything he felt was not right. Many people dislike neighbors who stick their noses into other people’s business, but in this case, we liked it.

We are pleased to report that essentially all the mistakes we discovered were able to be corrected. However, there was one that could not be fixed without major work. We have many pocket doors throughout the house. One separates a hallway from the laundry room. While inspecting the house late in the game (about 13 minutes and 15 seconds into the fourth quarter to be precise), I realized that that door opened and closed roughly. There was something wrong with the rail it hung from. We had the door guys look at it. They messed around with the rail as best they could, but could only improve its functionality by a minor amount. They said the only thing more they could do was to tear out the wall and replace the rail. I just couldn’t believe it. You’d think that if we can put man on the moon (we can still do that, can’t we?), there’d be some type of limited charge directional dynamite or C4 that would knock out the door and the rail without doing harm to the wall so that they could be replaced. But apparently there is not. I guess I’ll just have to wait a couple of years for 3D printing technology to come up with a solution.