A to Z Reflections, 2018

I knew April was going to be a difficult month. My full time job was going to be getting our house ready for the market and there was not going to be time for researching blog posts or coming up with clever (worthwhile) subjects. But I did not want to forgo the famous A to Z Blogging Challenge, which I have come to view as my April habit. The only solution was to blog about what I was going through and knew best. It turns out that it was not only the easiest subject to write but it also helped me to vent a lot of frustration and angst.

I didn’t go in for every bell and whistle offered. I skipped the daily logos, opting for the general one which stayed on my sidebar. I didn’t use a lot of hash tags, which I would have if I had been more familiar with Twitter and other social media sites. I thought the master list, and the daily lists were easy to use and not at all time consuming. I posted often on the night before since the list was always open at the earliest time zone. I never missed a day. It was probably my easiest year.

My theme was not one that garnered as much interest as other years, but I did find a few friends and appreciated them all. I had interesting comments and I think I answered them all. I was able to read some, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. I have a catch up goal of doing two or three a night for the next month. I like that the lists give each blogger’s theme or category, although I don’t just read the categories that match mine.

Our house prep was timed just about right to fill up the month, and I’m happy to post one last picture on my theme. We are finally listed for sale! The video and photos are awesome and we are hoping for a buyer soon. I’m sure I will probably blog about that too, so stay tuned…

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Finally.

Selling the House: Photo Shoot

To me, a landmark is a memorable object or moment marking a significant change in direction. A couple of whirlwind days (and nights) have resulted in what I would call landmark moments. In fact, it seems there have been amazing events, one after the other, most of the month as we progressed toward the listing of our house for sale. The most satisfying deadline came this morning – the taking of the pictures.

As scheduled the photographer was here at 7 am.  That’s really quite early for people who are still living in their home to be ready, completely staged and photograph worthy. Clearly we were those people who weren’t quite there. Our realtors arrived and helped us hurry around and clear last minute items (the morning coffee cup), unfinished cleaning (the windows in the re-roofed area), and stuff we just plain forgot (the vacuum cleaner left in the middles of the floor). All this in a great hurry because the sun was coming up and putting a whole different light on things that wasn’t as photo friendly.

After we got out of his way, the photographer did a video panning the neighborhood and then proceeding through the house, to show the general layout. click here for video tour

Next he took still photos in each house. click here to view stills

Multiple listing service allows a video and 25 stills. This didn’t allow for shots of the garages. We were thankful. That’s where we hid all the personal things that didn’t belong in the pictures (think like a giant junk drawer).

We, on the other hand, got taken to a much-needed breakfast. This was the first time in several days that I’d actually sat at a table for more than five minutes. We signed the listing papers over our coffee cups. It was a landmark moment.

Another thing that made this a landmark day was later, watching two of my favorite “friends” go down the road to a new home.

One of the days that our realtor helped us as a handyman, he noticed my kayak and asked about it. He wanted to get one for his wife, so we bartered for his labor. Also, we had decided that we wouldn’t need my car in our new location and would sell it. In another conversation he asked about my husband’s truck. It wasn’t for sale but when he found out I wanted to sell the car, we immediately began to discuss that. He needed a “first car” for his daughter.

That’s how it turned out that after our signing breakfast, we went back to the oneacrewoods, put the kayak on top of the Mazda, and drove down to his house to complete the sale. I followed in the truck and took this picture.

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The kayak and “zoom zoom” en route to their new home.

Changes seem to be coming fast. I’m now a truck girl. Although I don’t have my boat anymore, I can still rent a kayak if I want to. More likely, I’m going to concentrate on hiking plans. And the biggest change, of course, is that we will probably not be living in Florida much longer.

Still Burning

Still burning after three weeks.

Last month, on the 12th to be exact, I decided I would dispose of some old financial records that weren’t needed any more. I also had a stump in the backyard from a tree that was cut down this spring. It seemed to be a good idea to me to burn the papers and possibly the stump at the same time. I started the fire right on top of the stump and probably spent an hour getting rid of the paper. The stump was perhaps two feet in diameter and began to burn a little around the edges so I put some dry wood on it and kept it going.

It did eventually begin to burn all the way to the middle – over the next week! We would think it had gone out but a wisp of smoke would go skyward every time the irrigation would water it, so we knew there was still heat there. A couple of times I would find downed branches (we live surrounded by trees) and throw them on the stump and in an hour or so we would see flames again.

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The stump itself was about two feet in diameter but the roots spread out quite a bit more. Today it began to flame again.

We had one really good rain and a couple shorter ones, and still the stump burned. It began to look different, kind of like a volcano that had blown its top. The husband was always looking out the glass doors to see if it was smoking. I was worried that the constant drift of smoke would get the neighbors upset, but maybe, like me, they kind of like the smell of a wood fire.

For the last week the fire has seemed to be out. The caldera, as the husband likes to call it, is huge, black and ashy and surrounded by its rim of large roots. We have been poking it and trying to see if we could make it level with the ground around it, but it was still needing an axe or a chain saw to break it up. As the irrigation ran this morning I was surprised to see it start smoking again. Something in there, underground, was still hot.

I have heard how important fire was to nomads who moved their camps frequently, how they would carry coals in special containers to have a fire starter when they needed it. The longevity of my burning stump must be something like that. Joe came today and cut what was left of the roots in pieces and set them on top of the hot area. Late this afternoon it flamed and our volcano is glowing hot again. I don’t know why fire and its attributes are so interesting to me, but there it is. Burning. Glowing. Fascinating.

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A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter Z)

I was hoping we’d be listed for sale by the end of this challenge, but no. However it is close. Today the Pack Rat storage container was delivered and I struggled to figure out where to put the thing so it wouldn’t dominate the 360 degree photo shoot. The big truck kind of tore up some grass too. But it’s out there and tomorrow I can start loading all those boxes!

Z Zillow

Many themes do not easily suggest words for letters like Q, or V, or X, or Z.  I have real estate sales to thank for an easy last day to this blogging challenge, because of Zillow.  I have no idea where they came up with that name.

Zillow is an online real estate search tool that has come about since 2006. Not surprisingly it was started by some Microsoft guys. They gradually bought up other companies and their real estate data bank grew and grew. They have information about individual houses in every major area of the U.S. whether the house is for sale or not. They can “Zestimate” what your house might be worth if you are thinking of selling it. They can tell you what the trends are in your area and what comparable houses around you are selling for. They do this same kind of information sharing for rentals as well.

Of course, they don’t always do it perfectly. Our lot was listed as having only one house, when it actually has two. I don’t know how they missed that. I had to update it, which they allow owners to do. It’s a very interactive site that offers video tours of many homes – a very nice feature for buyers since it gives the ability to rule out many places as if you were actually there looking around at the house and neighborhood.

When we are finally on MLS I will put a link in the Reflections post, up on May 7th.  And of course, if we’ve gotten an offer, or a sale, I will be sure to be deliriously celebratory.

Also today, the problem roof got nearly completed. Two buff guys and their paint rollers made a nice deck for us. These are the only pictures I have for today, but who doesn’t like to look at two buff guys working hard? I’m putting them up.

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Put the railing back up, get situated in a deck chair and it’s just like sitting up in those giant oak trees. 

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter Y)

Today for the second day, pounding is resounding through the neighborhood from the work on our flat roof. I, however, am taking the day off, saying yes to the need to rest.

Yes, it’s the day for a Y word.

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Saying Yes is a part of accepting change, and therefore a part of selling a house.

 It seems lately there has been a lot of saying yes to hard things. Yes, to big expenditures. Yes, to big decisions to stop having other people live with us, rent from us, borrow from us.  Yes to letting go of favorite things and activities in favor of new plans. To say yes to the future that God is gently bringing to us, one second at a time, takes a lot of trust and is a test of our courage.

Last night we had dinner at a favorite restaurant that has been operating since the early eighties, before we were in Florida. It’s an Amish place known for its pies and farm style cooking. We’ve seen them expand into a beautiful new building decorated with handmade quilts on the walls, a gift shop and a toy train that circles the dining are on a track on the second story balcony. It’s been a landmark restaurant in a land where restaurants come and go rather quickly. They are serving their last meals on Sunday and closing for good. Change has come for them and they said yes.

One day this week the husband came home and announced he had put in his retirement notice. I’ll admit, the timing is partly because he sees that I’m selling the house out from under him and he’ll have no place to come home to.  But, other changes have been happening as well, and considering them over the past weeks has given him the courage to take that step toward big change. God works with people in ways that are right for their temperament and their ability to accept. It’s different for each individual, but he knows us. He gets us ready to change if we let him. He changes us and works with us so that we’re able to move forward. Yes is all about letting that happen.

One of these days soon, we will be signing our names to a contract of sale. We’re selling our house, not our life, and yet things in our life are going to change and never be quite the same ever again. There is a lot of freedom in the act of saying yes. It’s also a little scary.

 

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter X)

Kind of a sad day, really. I’m surprised I’m not more bummed out.

 X

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See the X?

It looks like an X, doesn’t it? To the left of the X is part of what the roofers found when they uncovered the lanai roof – termite damage, maximal termite damage. Evidently they’ve been feasting for a while (dry wood termites eat slow but some of these boards are nearly gone). The good thing is that they are dead now, since we have had the house tented. But what a unXpected mess which is making no one happy.

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Termites, and how weird to find a hook on your roof joists. I’m thinking reclaimed lumber… 

In a way, it is good to feel that we are making the house safer and more sound for whoever lives here next. We really don’t like to run away from messes if we can help it. This is, of course, going to be much costlier than we had thought, or the contractor had bid. All I can say is that God is not surprised to find out about the termites, He knew. Nothing has changed except that we are also now “in the know”.

Also, today we were apprised that the handyman we have been waiting for all week has decided he is too busy to do our work. (Sigh) He Xed us out.  I think that the husband and I will be going to the home improvement store to buy our new door tonight, and some of the other things the handyman was going to do will have to be done by the handywoman. Like I’m not already wondering how I will finish the things that are on my list…

One good thing is that the photography is going to be a day later than I thought – on Friday now. Another whole 24 hours to manipulate all our stuff. I’m not kidding about this, when I wake up at night or early in the morning my mind goes to planning how it will all fit in the container, and then I decide to get rid of a few more things, and plan the next box I’m going to pack, etc… Last night I planned when and how to get the piano in the container – no small matter. Please don’t tell me I should sell the piano. I just had it repaired and it is my one weakness.  I’m getting real good at leaving other stuff behind.

Signs of the times: X

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You just don’t see a lot of X signs, so I had to snap a pic of this one for sure.

 

 

A to Z: Selling Our House ( Letter W)

Today the roofing contractor called with the good news that our DekTek roofing has arrived and his crew will be here in the morning to start that long awaited project. With that out of the way, and our storage container coming on Monday, the realtor thinks we can plan on the picture taking event on Thursday and listing the house on Friday. I’m a little panicked and not feeling ready yet, but then maybe in a week I’ll feel different.  

W Windows (Washing them)

For a long time I couldn’t think of any issue starting with W that I’ve been dealing with but that was just because I hadn’t gotten to that point yet. Without going through this whole preparation for the photography process you wouldn’t necessarily know that windows, clean windows to be specific, are so important. For the best pictures the windows have to sparkle in their transparency.

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What window? Exactly! It’s there but you can’t see it. #cleanwindow

We’ve just gone through this annoying season (spring, they call it down here) when leaves and tree dirt fall from the live oaks, followed by greenish-yellow tree pollen that clings to everything. The leaves get wet and stain the cement walks and drives. Mold thrives on the siding that’s in the shade. Even though we just pressure washed both houses after the hurricane (October) we did it again. Our well water has a lot of minerals in it and leaves spots and streaks on all glass. They needed washing badly.

People joke about “not doing windows” even when they clean other things. I guess it’s not great fun ordinarily, but for me it was not bad at all. I have a wonderful friend who agreed to come and help me with window washing. You don’t find someone like that every day, and I am thankful for her. We got a lot done because, as it turned out, she’s good at it.  She washes her own windows in the same way I do mine – white vinegar and water scrub followed by a squeegee.

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Who can find a faithful friend, especially one who will spray the screens and wash the OUTSIDE while you wash the INSIDE where it’s air conditioned? Not many.

Two houses = lots of windows. We left a few because I’m sure the roofers will mess some up tomorrow.

Sign of the times for W:

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Just because it’s a good idea, As long as you’re washing windows do some of this too.

 

 

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter V)

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Signs of the times: V for Vacuum. Have you cleaned the inside of your car lately?

V for Vacate

“To give up possession of property and leave the area totally devoid of contents.” According to Miriam Webster dictionary.

Being a landlady for years now I am very familiar with the word vacate. Today, I have struggled with it for the last time. The last vestige of life with boarders has just rolled out the driveway, and none too soon.

I should never have been a landlady (I should not be allowed to paint, or have tools, or sell Mary Kay, the list goes on…). My heart is too soft and I seem to be a magnet for people down on their luck. God has been at work full time protecting the husband and I from all these mistakes and it is by his grace alone that we have not suffered anything but monetary loss here and there. Many times I have breathed a sigh of relief as I inspected a condo or a house that had finally been vacated.

There was a hurricane last September and we took in three men who had no place to sleep.  They were starting jobs but didn’t have paychecks yet. All three were struggling to have or keep vehicles.  Their vehicles were always needing work and becoming disabled. As they moved on, two of their vehicles were stranded in our yard and they could not afford to move them or fix them – so they said. For months I have called, nagged, and threatened to no avail.

One day one of them actually made it to a repair shop. That left the one with two flat tires, no registration, no title, no key. Sadly, I know the owner and would have loved to have gotten a couple hundred dollars from the scrapyard, but in Florida, without the paperwork, they won’t pay money for it.  I found that out after a couple hours on the internet, trying one place after another.

Today I called the sheriff’s office. The deputy said to call a tow truck and they would take it away, for free. What!? Yes, but because they have to do paperwork and it costs them, they keep whatever the scrapyard pays for the vehicle.  It was so simple I almost cried.

I got a call from the truck driver, he was in the yard ready to take the van away, bless his heart. He was a rather burly, rough hewn guy that I had trouble understanding but I did catch “you have a big ass place back here”. “Yeah, thanks.” And now that the yard ornaments are gone we’ll have a better chance of selling it, I hope.

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There it goes.

I also did a little painting and made a doctor’s appointment for my cough, but both of those things were totally overshadowed by my complete relief – my yard has been vacated!

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter U)

We are still waiting for special roofing material for the deck over the lanai of the rental house. It didn’t get ordered when it should have and we aren’t sure where it is en-route… Even this is for a purpose as it gives me needed time to pack and touch up.  I am being slow and would be getting a lot more done if I could stop coughing – it takes so much energy away. 

U for Upgrading

Upgrades are a common bragging point in many real estate listings. Something better than what was there before. But, better according to who? The whole upgrade issue is more of a problem with our rental house because upgrades are usually done by people who are living in the building themselves and care. Renters very seldom care. Renters are more associated with downgrading.

With an older house that has not been remodeled for a long time, the upgrading does not have a clear endpoint. It grows and grows. If we had been going to keep the rental and live in it ourselves I would have upgraded the kitchen with new cabinets, countertops, flooring and appliances. I would have taken out a half wall and made a peninsula with a seating area. I would have opened up the view to the living room. All this because I do watch HGTV. It would easily turn into a $15K upgrade. Instead, we painted the cabinets white. We left a lot of potential for the next owners.

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Cabinets went white and we did upgrade the lighting from old fluorescent to LED.

The house we live in has some nice upgrades. The master bath is newly remodeled and handicap accessible. The kitchen has been remodeled and is still fairly contemporary. There are no smelly carpets anywhere – to me that is an upgrade. Our lifetime metal roof over the whole complex and the easy care vinyl siding could be considered upgrades.

My final thought on upgrades is that they are okay for a seller if they are cost effective. Can you add the price of the upgrade to your asking price and get it back? If not, don’t bother. An upgrade usually replaces something that can be considered functional and comfortable as it is, and it is fine to leave it alone.

The sign of the times for U:

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Can you guess whose sign this is?

 

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter T)

T  for Touch Ups, Thresholds, Tools, Titles, Timetables, Temporary Troubles, Trips, Tired, Thankfulness

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I should have added Trash to the T list because it seems we do indeed have a roomful of it to go to the curb each trash day.

At the beginning of this project, selling the house, there were big endeavors like whole house painting, like reworking an electric panel, like moving the renters out. Now some of those things are past and for the last two or three days I’ve been working on smaller details. I call them touch ups.

The rental house with fresh paint looks (and smells) better, but amazingly I was left with more touching up than I expected. I didn’t think I was that picky about paint, but I’ve found that the line between baseboard and wall is more important to me than I remembered. I was glad there was left over paint. And as I scrubbed the floors around the edges, there was paint spatter to be scraped off.

There’s something about a completely empty room that draws attention to things like switch plates and electrical outlets. Really, what else is there to look at? Some of them are beige, some are white, sometimes the cover plate is one color and the switch itself is the other – so noticeable, in not a good way. I am not ambitious enough to make them all the same throughout the house but I did try to deal with the ones that were close enough to be seen together. I like white.

All the heating/cooling vents had been removed for painting, and I guess I must have said I would put them all back. Some of these were really old and rusty so “touching up” means cleaning and painting them. Bath fans needed new grills put on. One of the bath vanities had curiously lost two door knobs and a drawer handle which needed replacing. Light bulbs were missing or burned out in numerous places. Door stops and wall protectors were needed. Today alone, I made two trips to the hardware store and it’s been this way most of last week. I am getting very familiar with the layout, and it’s a big store.

All those other T words in the title have meaning for me, especially the last one – thankfulness. Time, another T word, has brought great changes. I am amazed that we are this far along and thankful that each day brings a little more progress.