Sunday, August 2, 2009
The Fabers Move Full Circle
Moving homes is a monumental test in relationship and family strength, endurance and flexibility. If your family is challenged in any of these areas, moving your residence will blow the lid off it, without a doubt. It doesn’t matter if you move across country, or across the county, it’s trying. We’ve done both. You would think the move across country would be harder. It sure is longer. In Connecticut, I packed everything (took 5 days to pack 3,000 square feet), a bunch of guys came and put it on a truck, and we paid someone to clean the house before we left. Then, we got on a plane, and we were off. Moving over the hill, from Belmont to Pacifica, was harder. We were left to clean the house we vacated, after packing and working full time had already had me tired and sore. We made several trips back and forth with the dogs in tow, in the heat, taking care of loose ends. Do I sound like I’m complaining? I don’t mean to. We’re on the back end of the process now, and things are looking much easier.
Our hunt for an owned residence began in February. We knew it would take some time as the market was and continues to be very soft. The first thing we did was get hung up on a townhouse on Galway in South San Francisco that was controlled by a slimy, icky real estate guy who wouldn’t give us the straight story on anything. Once we realized we were being manipulated, we moved on.
Leslie cast her net for the perfect agent.
If you’ve read any of my moving blogs over the last several years (and yes, there have been a few, as we’ve sold two houses and moved three times since 2006), you might be familiar with Leslie’s good real estate karma. She has a knack for finding the perfect agent at the perfect time. It worked when we sold our house on Vista Grande in 2000, our house on Sunnyside in 2006, and then we found Stacy leaving Connecticut. This time around, Leslie connected with an agent who had a treasure trove of experience and limitless patience. We would need the experience and patience. Elfie’s delightfully dry sense of humor, unflinching honesty and integrity were a bonus. Leslie’s karma worked this time, as well.
Leslie and Elfie worked hand in hand exploring many properties. Granted, we had our issues such as two dogs which meant a yard, and a need for storage, which meant a garage. Concurrently, we had our desires. We knew what we wanted.
We didn’t want to be strapped with an enormous mortgage. This put us into a specific cost category. First, we diddled around with short sales and foreclosures, which aren’t the big too-doo you might think they are. You can place an offer as many times as you want, but the banks take months to respond. If your move is on a timeline, you’re out of luck. We began with single family homes in San Bruno. The homes Leslie and Elfie looked at had surprises like trailers, literally, added on the back and poultry in the back yard, or unwarranted additions tucked into what looked like a single car garage. Very strange stuff. “I hope you like to get up early,” Elfie chuckled, eyeing a rooster. There wasn’t a house she and Leslie couldn’t get into, even if it meant stacking trash cans and scaling a fence (which she did, once). Yet, it felt like we were traveling with the same pack of investors who pushed us out of the ball game every single time. There was no winning. We placed three separate offers, and got shot down each time.
Next, we moved on to townhouses. We went back to Galway, interested in a different condo, but that didn’t work out. Then, it was about the little hobbit hovels in the hills of South City that were so entrenched in fog, there was green moss growing all over the roofing. It was so drippy up there, we thought it was raining.
Elfie was very intuitive, letting us lead when we needed to, giving us advice when it was appropriate, and listening to me whine when the pressure increased. She never pushed our will on us. She is a true gem, and I've come to adore her. Yet, like my job search in Connecticut over two years ago, what we thought we wanted was adjusted quite effectively by the housing market and plain old economics as our search progressed.
The race was on! Would we find a place before our lease was up in the crappy little rental we lived in? Unexpectedly, the interest rate began to rise, and our spending limit decreased, pushing us out of our housing category. After panicking a bit, Leslie kicked it into the next gear. Opening up a can of whoop-ass (which she is prone to doing in times of stress), and in a moment of inspired genius, Leslie found an internet loan provider that offered a better rate, and a higher spending limit, putting us back in the game. What a relief!
But still, we hadn’t found the right property.
What’s very strange about our real estate adventures is the way Leslie some how scopes out, in advance, the places where we’ll land. Like, the first place we look at is ironically the place we end up. It happened in Connecticut, in South City years ago, and in this instance, it happened in Pacifica. Leslie had always had her eye on the townhouses back in the valley. They weren’t exactly in the fog belt, got plenty of sun, but still benefited from the natural air conditioning living near the ocean. Also, it was very close to the pacific coast, so had a lovely beachside community feel. Leslie knew about these places back in the early 80’s when she drove for SamTrans. Her old friends Lee and Babe had a place there.
I never thought we would live there in a million years.
One Saturday morning, with Elfie in tow, and after looking at one incredibly depressing hobbit hovel, we found ourselves a townhouse put on the market by a private, motivated seller. Bingo! We visited the place in Pacifica just as the current occupants were leaving, and managed to get a walk through simply because we were there. This felt right, even more so because Elizabeth received a phone call from her bosom friend in Connecticut, while we were there.
A good sign.
Lo and behold, we placed an offer and it was accepted!
Now, for financing.
The good thing about internet lenders is that they aren’t bogged down by banking rules and corporate drivel and so can offer better rates insofar as they are able. The bad thing is that it’s like doing big business in a supermarket. You’re talking about financing one of the most important decisions of your life, and you’re dealing with a bunch of young adults in an office, who are working out of an anonymous file. No one seems to be truly close to your loan. Elfie and I spent three weeks straight, hand in hand, following, urging, and coaxing that loan through escrow. I forwarded the same paperwork two and three times because no one got it. We followed up three and four times a week, nicely, to make sure nothing had been forgotten. We ran into an insurance snafu because the title was filed incorrectly, and bent over backwards to make sure the loan papers were sent to the title company. When all was said and done, we encouraged it along successfully to the end, proving that two heads are better than one, and that two people can work together harmoniously even when the pressure is on.
Signing took only thirty minutes.
A day later, the place was ours.
I have to believe that moving day is the absolute longest and hardest day of the year, and a true test of relationships. Jeeze, what a job. And ours wasn't without it's moments.
I think the funniest moment was when we had the dogs in the van with the air conditioning on (key in the ignition) because there was so much going on in the house, and the little dog locked everything up with her paw. There was, of course, no other key in sight. So, Elizabeth and Leslie spent 20 minutes with a piece of cheese trying to get Daizy to step on the lock again. She did finally roll the automatic window down so Elizabeth could get her arm in. We didn't have to call Triple A that time. The most difficult moment was when the movers tried to charge us for the extra guy they brought. We thought he was a trainee or something. That was a tense moment that Leslie took strongly in hand and turned out in our favor.
Everything we had fit into a 30 foot with the exception of our lawn furniture and our plants. The truck had to leave, and it would've cost more than $500 of time and half to make another trip. What would we do?
We called in the calvary.
In a wonderful gesture of friendship, Anita and Will, our neighbors from Sunnyside Drive, came to the rescue with Will's pick up truck. They did this despite Anita being on the tail end of radiation therapy for breast cancer (her last treatment is this Monday!). Before we even made it to the house in Belmont, Will had the pick up loaded with our stuff. We've known them for eight years, but it feels like we've crossed the threshold from neighbors to true friends.
It wouldn’t be moving without the hard work and the lessons. Yet, the hidden gems you find in a process this intense are my favorite parts. Leslie and I have had some tense moments, highlighted by revelations about one another, how we act under stress at this particular point, what we expect and need from one another, and what it takes to get back to a peaceful place. Our next project will be putting the house together, of course, but more importantly, getting in tune with our physical health. Now that our transition is over, Leslie and I feel more able to focus on this important thing.
Elizabeth is (re)decorating her room, which is twice the size of the other, and digs the television she’s got now in there now. With generous help from who will remain an anonymous benefactor (big hugs there), she is redecorating her room so it better reflects her more mature self. She starts school in a few short weeks.
The dogs have adjusted nicely and are very happy about the giant sliding doors off the living room.
I’ve got a rekindled interested in real estate, as well, which was unexpected but is very exciting. I find myself longing for trusted partnership, rather than corporate uncertainty. I also find myself with a growing affection for Elfie, who I hope doesn't become a stranger, and who I'd like to call a friend.
The friendship we discovered with Anita and Will was heartwarming, as well. It isn't easy for us to ask for or accept help, so this was very significant.
We moved from South San Francisco to Connecticut in 2006, and here we are in our new place three years later almost to the day.
We’ve come full circle, and we plan to stay here for a while.
Not forever ... but definitely for a while.