Coming Out of The Dark…Or “Smack Me Upside The Head If I Mention Moving Anytime In The Next Decade”

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At the beginning of the year, we set a goal to sell our house and purchase a new home that was better for our family. As much as I loved our house, the layout was impractical for our kids (especially with a soon-to-be teenager), and the utility costs of a poorly insulated, 100 year-old home were threatening to sink us. Within a week of New Year’s, we launched “Operation Sell The House 2014.”

I think moving is kind of like child birth in that you tend to block out how horrible and traumatic it was the last time, because if you didn’t, you would never, ever do it again. As my OCD-ish tendencies demanded, I attacked the selling/buying/moving process with an intensity that my husband frustratingly refers to as my “tunnel vision.” We cleaned, packed, and staged like our lives depended on it. While I will spare you the details, I feel like the last four months have been a marathon of work, stress, upheaval, tears, frustration, and ultimately success. We sold our house quickly, and despite the frustrations of just getting to the closing table, came away happy.

Thus began the frantic marathon of house showings to find a new house, and the debates of budget, neighborhood, and deal-breaker priorities. We finally found a great house in a great neighborhood, successfully executed the move, and have slowly been settling in. That’s the tough part about moving though–life doesn’t stop or give you a vacation to get it done. We still had school projects, business trips, and for me, trying to keep my freelance clients happy. Add cranky-pants Bean into the mix and yeah…just yeah. But we got it done, so everything should be awesome.

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However, months of being surrounding by boxes and chaos have taken their toll on me. Instead of being happy and excited in our new house, I’ve felt overwhelmed and unsettled by all of the work still left to do. I am so ready for everything to be “done” already! When you are already neurotic and high-strung, feeling like everything is in a state of chaos is alternately depressing and paralyzing. First, we had a couple of unexpected surprises, like a dishwasher that requires immediate replacement because it sounds like an F5 tornado and leaves the dishes looking worse than they were before. Unpacking and organizing seems to progress at a snail’s pace, and we still have a lot of organizing ahead of us before we can declare unpacking complete. My dad reminded me that moving is one of the top four most stressful life experiences, and that it will probably take a year before the house feels like home. So, I get why the frustration lingers. After months of being in “project survival mode,” I am still struggling to get back in to “living normally” mode. Our schedules have changed, as has our neighborhood, and we are adjusting to 1000 changes to all those little routines, from grocery shopping to bill paying. Heck, even my email address had to change, so it’s no wonder I’m a little frayed around the edges.

As unsettled as I have been, I’m still grateful we pulled it off and am looking forward to “normal” day.

Ha! Like anything is ever normal in our house:photo 3

Selling a House, Buying a House—Which is Going to Be More Difficult?

After weeks of small projects, our house is officially on the market. Within two days, we had our first showing, and we have an open house this weekend. Guess who is going to be cleaning like a madwoman for the next three days?

Do you know how hard it is to keep a house “show ready” with three kids, one of which is a toddler of terror? Yeah…there isn’t enough hooch in the world to take the edge off on that one. You’ll be peeling me off the ceiling before the month is out.

Now, the great part about this much activity early on in the listing process is that it has made me feel better about getting the house sold, which I always imagined would be the hardest part.

However, we have now come to the part where I’m panicking…because finding a house WE want to buy is proving to be more difficult than I thought. Sure, I can find perfect, beautiful houses, but they are four times outside of our budget. This is the plight of all house hunters…our eyes are always bigger than our wallets. However, beyond the budget issue, my husband and I are starting to have a crisis of priorities/needs/wants/desires. When we first started our search, I THOUGHT I had a pretty firm idea about what we wanted. Newer, with a more modern, open concept layout, a remote master bedroom, a great kitchen and some modicum of energy efficiency. I want that open concept because it is more conducive to family living, instead of me being across the entire house cooking while everyone else is visiting in the living room. Sounds easy to find, right?

Mwhahahah!

Here’s the problem: everything that matches this criteria, in our price range, in our area, is in new subdivisions with small yards and a little too much Stepford sprinkled in for my husband. He has visions of land dancing in his head, but I’ve been firmly on the bandwagon of finding a home that’s better for our kids’ everyday lives, and that isn’t a project for us that we will never have time or funds to complete. We keep going back and forth over price, location, priorities and arguing about how to find a compromise.

Here’s what’s not helping matters…the reality that we are leaving a house we love is starting to hit home, and as much as I wasn’t opposed to the subdivision idea, I am starting to remember why I fell in love with THIS house. Its historic southern charm reeled me in and still tugs at me. I can’t find that kind of character in a subdivision. I spend hours on the front porch, and the kitchen has MY stove, the bathroom as MY bathtub and the attic is perfect storage for my ba-gillion square feet of holiday decorations. It’s so close to everything, our commute is miniscule and the excess of windows keeps this house bright and light all the time.

But, even as I love our house, I hate it too. I hate that the boys have to walk through my bedroom to get to theirs. I hate my electric bill. I hate that summer weekends mean hours upon hours of yard work for my husband. I hate that I spend too much time refereeing between my boys over who made what mess in their shared room. It’s the perfect house…it’s just not perfect for where we are in life right now.

So, after weeks of searching, we are back at square one trying to find the balance between what we want and what we can afford. How we will find the home that will be ours until the kids graduate? We’ll keep looking, but if our house sells before we find another, we may be renting until we do.

I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, but in the meantime, cross your fingers and hope that this weekend’s open house leads to someone falling in love with this home as much as we are. If they do, drinks are on me…or my realtor J

Getting the House Ready to Sell: Why Pictures Are Oh-So-Important

Believe it or not, but Spring really is just around the corner and if you are thinking about selling your house anytime this year, then here is some of the best advice I can give you: pictures, pictures, pictures. I have been house shopping for months, and I can’t get over how some realtors post either no pictures, or the crappiest pictures humanly possible on their listings. I can tell you that I unilaterally decide whether to go see a house based on the pictures. If your realtor posts a bunch of wretchedly bad pictures of your house, you really will be lucky to get people in the door for a showing. Because I know that pictures drive my search as a buyer, they better be my top priority as a seller.

My pictures plan is two-fold, and here is where Spring comes in.

Spring is the best time to take exterior pictures of your house. The grass is green, the flowers (if you have them) are blooming and your landscaping will never look better. If you will be moving in Winter, a picture of your house with a yard full of dead grass and mud is already putting you behind in the game. You house will look tired, and that isn’t a good first impression for someone scouring internet listings. If you’ve got landscaping that looks great in Spring/Summer, by all means, take exterior pictures of your house THEN! Tuck them away as insurance if you ever need to sell your house, and you won’t be that person in January that is like “Dang, if only people could see the yard when it looks good!!”

Our house has great landscaping, so I made sure to snap great pics of the exterior last Spring:

See…green, pretty flowers and sunshine! That’s way better than the brown hot mess my landscaping is right now. Will one picture sell my house? Of course not. But it will have someone pause for a second rather than clicking right by a Winter-dead yard.

Now that we’ve established well-timed photo opportunities, here’s another piece of advice regarding pictures: Unless your realtor stands to make a boatload of money off your house, he/she may not be overly invested in taking pictures, and most realtors aren’t going to spend a whole lot of time taking/editing good photos. I am taking and editing all of our house photos using my very amateur photography skills and free Picasa editing tools. Here’s an example.

The average realtor will stand in the doorway and take a quick point-and-shoot photo of a room, which may look something like this:

This pic is dark, has a bad angle and shows nothing about the room. But again, unless your realtor is good, or stands to make some big bucks off you, he/she is going to put forth minimal effort on your house pictures. Instead of this tactic, I would take two pics to show full dimension at different angles and lighten them up using two seconds of photo editing:

These obviously are not perfect pictures, but they beat the first because they are brighter, show more scale and dimension, and give potential buyers more to see. They also give an additional vantage point of the dining room that further allow buyers to make connections regarding the scale and flow of the house.

So here’s the deal…only you know your realtor, and only you know whether the pictures he/she will take will actually represent your home in its best light. Even if you don’t have the basics on photography, maybe you have an amateur photographer friend that would help you out for $50 bucks or a bottle of wine.

So, there’s my picture soapbox for today. But when your financial future is on the line, I believe in stacking the deck in every cheap, inventive way possible.

Jeeze, I need a drink just thinking about this…

Getting the House Ready to Sell: Master Closet De-clutter!

It’s time for us to get our house ready to list. As much as I hate moving, the reality is that we need a house in which all of the Heathens can have their own rooms. The clutter of two boys in one room, sharing one small closet is threatening to overtake my house and my sanity. And did I mention that those Heathen rooms need to be far, far away from the master bedroom? They also need their own bathroom, lest I have a mental breakdown in the very near future from 3 guys sharing one bathroom.

Anyway, as an HGTV junkie, I know that to maximize our chances of a quick sale, our house needs to be “show ready,” which means that we need to de-clutter, de-personalize and stage rooms as best we can while still living the day-to-day here. I’ve made a list of projects, and this weekend, we tackled the bedroom closets. Here’s the before of what was our book closet. It’s got plenty of shelves, but it’s not deep at all:

Pretty bad, right? Since not everyone is a crazy-book person, I know that most people would see this as a linen closet, so that’s how I needed to stage it. I spent hours packing up the books for storage (the shelves actually go two more feet to the right on the inside of the closet so there were a LOT of books in there). I put everything in boxes for storage, and here is the final result:

So now, potential buyers can see the space but still envision a use for the closet (rather than just looking at a completely empty space).

As for the master closet, I am way too embarrassed to post the before pic, but let’s just say it was pretty messy. The idea of “walk-in” was a misnomer, because with all the shoes and baskets of craft stuff on the floor, as well as clothes packed in way too tightly, it was a hot mess to say the least. I packed all my craft stuff for storage, packed about 1/3 of the clothes and gave a bunch more to Goodwill. Here’s where we ended:

My husband also spent time weeding flower beds and scraping and re-painting sections of our front doors that has started to show peeling paint. I think we still have a couple of more weeks of work to go (since most is accomplished on the weekends), but I’m determined to have the house looking its best. It really is a great house, but yeah…for the good of my sanity and world peace, those kids need separate bedrooms…like yesterday.