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(click on photos to enlarge)
"Moving Out, Moving In, and Moving On"
March 17, 2003 to November 7, 2003
Story by Carey [Debbie's comments in italics]
We had both put our homes on the market in early February.
I used a new breed of discount broker called Texas Discount Realty that basically provides you with a full listing in the MLS system, but leaves the rest of the marketing up to you. I was perfectly qualified and happy to take my own pictures, print brochures, build a website, put up a sign in my yard, and convince my neighbor to let me put up a little "FOR SALE BY OWNER" pointer arrow sign in their yard at the end of my street. They charge a flat $495 for that instead of the usual half of the 6% commission. The key to the whole thing is that I still offered a normal 3% commission to any buyer's realtor who would show the house, so they had the same incentive to show my MLS-listed house as all the rest. Not an approach for everybody, I suppose, but I really liked the idea and ran with it.
Debbie selected a conventional Realtor to sell her condo. That agent did such a sloppy job of preparing brochures and following up that Debbie ended up firing her within a few weeks. The price printed on the flyers wasn't even right!
[I thought that some serious *selling* needed to take place, since right after I listed the condo, a unit just over from mine went up in flames. Fifteen fire trucks showed up! I've never been that close to such an inferno, and it really made an impression. I dithered around on the phone with Carey wondering what to take (I am NOT the type to just run out in a bathrobe and no shoes), and I grabbed one of my big Mexican bags and loaded up Chucky, some backup computer disks that I had no idea what was on them, a lockbox that contained my passport and similar stuff along with my mother's wedding rings, and my Palm Pilot. When I got back in a few hours later, I realized I'd left several hundred dollars in cash, my credit cards, and my glasses. Right on the counter. Hmmph.
The fire was in the building adjacent to mine (we share a staircase). In the unit between the burned condo and mine, there had been residing the "family of four" that was mentioned in a news article. I unaffectionately referred to the lady of the house as The Skank. See, these apartments went condo in 1983, with old people specifically in mind (I've seen the promotional material, and about 80 of the 102 units were one bedrooms). And when I moved there in 1987, there were still people clink clinking around in their aluminum walkers. I was sort of the mascot of the place, and I loved it.
Then the old folks started dying and their kids started renting out the units, and we ended up with people ~~renters~~ like The Skank. She worked at a nut store in the shopping center across the street, and had two children (and by the time she left, another on the way): one was a screaming baby and the other was a door-slammer of about three. These were the first children EVER to live in these condos, and my front window was about 6 feet from their balcony, which was constantly littered with kindercrap, dead plants, towels, cigarette butts--all against association rules. Unfortunately, there was a 10-foot drop between my second-floor railing and her balcony, and that's all that kept me from putting down a plank across the divide and having that stuff "disappear." Carey did watch helplessly one night as I wielded a pole with a hook on the end in a futile attempt to upset some of the fine possessions over there.
The Skank et famille made my life absolutely miserable, and I found out the night of the fire that I wasn't the only one. The burned unit was catty-cornered down from The Skank's, and you'll recall that the news story said a family of four was displaced. Wait, you say, there's only The Skank and her two adorable offspring, that makes three. Well, not that night. The Skank had a gentleman caller who evidently had become too sleepy to drive home safely (not an infrequent occurrence, although the cast of characters was varied and always Skankalicious).
So at about 10:30 p.m., I hear really loud yelling. Nothing new, of course, but this sounded a little more urgent than usual. I stuck my head out the door and the gentleman caller was yelling, "Call 911! Call 911!" I (reasonably, since I didn't trust anything these clowns did) responded in a very loud voice, "Why?" He yelled, "Fire!" And sure enough, plumes of acrid black smoke suddenly appeared about 20 feet from my door, followed shortly by flames coming out of the windows of the first-story unit, up over the roof of the second story. Yikes!
I note that at the time he commanded me to do the dialing, he was about 2 feet from his own front door, putting him no closer to his phone than I was to mine. But I'm a cooperative sort, so I called in the emergency--and was put on hold.
That's when I called Carey, started dithering, heroically rescued Chucky, and got out of the apartment. When everything got settled down again a few hours later and people started introducing themselves to their neighbors for the first time (as usually happens after disasters), the very quiet, young married couple who lived next door to me told me they had heard the yelling between me and the Skank's gentleman caller and said, "I thought you'd finally had enough and taken matters into your own hands." Ha! I'd never said a word to these folks about my vexations with The Skank! I knew I wasn't being unreasonable! They lived a few feet farther away than I did (and nowhere near the balcony), and were being driven crazy, too.
And then I found out everyone was miserable, but unfortunately, there had been a coup in the homeowners' association and the previous president, who would have just called up the owner of the unit and said, "Charlie, get those people out of there" (she did it when he misguidedly rented it to a bunch of college girls), was no longer there. So everything had to be done by the property manager, who had recently YELLED at me in the courtyard about an unrelated matter.
I thought that all of this was best left unsaid by anyone involved in trying to sell my unit, although I made the case for the extremely robust construction, which had prevented a fire that completely obliterated one unit from doing any more damage other than a charred balcony and some smoke in the unit directly above it (that woman moved back in the next day!), and nothing but smoke smell in the unit that shared a common wall. The final indignity was that I found out the homeowners' association was trying to get some insurance money for The Skank, since of course she was sans renter's insurance. I didn't have the heart to follow that one up, and instead danced a happy dance the day she moved out, knowing my unit was for sale and if this sort of thing happens again, I'll be able to just start the engine and move somewhere else.]
[And now, back to Carey's story]
Almost immediately after her initial listing got pulled from the MLS, Debbie got a call from another agent, who had figured out that the original one must have screwed up and was eager to do better. So Debbie hired this guy, who at least managed to print up some decent looking and accurate brochures.
We had missed the end of the Austin real estate boom by about a year, which left us both trying to sell during the sort-of bust that followed, but we weren't in too big of a hurry and we were willing to just wait for the right buyer. Which finally happened in mid-August. By a crazy coincidence, after over 6-months on the market, we both received an offer on our respective homes on the very same day! Amazing that totally different methods had ended up getting results at exactly the same time.
Both offers quickly turned into solid contracts, and before we knew it we were both slated to close in less than a month--in fact, one day apart. Which meant that we both had to get cleared out of our houses and get everything moved into the RV simultaneously. [So much for my plan to use Carey's house as sort of a way station.] We both had lots of stuff to get rid of that wasn't coming with us, and we had a lot of success and I must say quite a bit of fun selling stuff off over the internet, mostly via the austin.forsale newsgroup. We made killer websites (which still have a few items left, actually) of our items and people started emailing, calling, and generally showing up with cash and hauling things off.
Met some interesting folks that way, who really seemed to enjoy their new treasures. For example, I found a buyer for my semi-rare, giant, Polk loudspeakers, a guy who had been looking just that model to go into his new house. [And Chris had already bought some stuff from me before Carey put up his website. I told Carey he was an excellent credit risk for the waiting period for the speakers, caused by Chris' house not closing until after Carey's did.]
[And In what had to be the most surreal moment (out of many) during this whole virtual garage sale, I had Ponty Bone playing my grandmother's accordion in my living room. He was buying somehing else and the accordion was still there awaiting pickup. So Ponty (I call him Ponty) picks it up and starts playing that thing and I just couldn't believe it was the same instrument I'd hacked around on so unsuccessfully. (The only reason I had it in the first place was that my brother who originally wanted it tried to play it but got his beard caught in the bellows, so I said he couldn't have it. And I had entertained the thought of keeping it to play in the RV, to compete with screaming kids and barking dogs and people yelling at each other when trying to back up their RVs, but I was so horrible that I couldn't even stand to hear me play. But I will say that after seeing Ponty play it, I realized that I didn't have to push and pull the bellows to its limits, which would have allowed my tunes to be much peppier than the dirges they always seemed. Oh well, I'd promised it to someone already.)
As it happens, there was another guy picking up something else, and he's watching this whole thing and after Ponty left, he said, "Wow--that guy can really play." Snort! He had no clue who he was. One minute I was valiantly trying to unload my crap on unsuspecting suckers, and the next there's a world-famous accordion player jamming in my living room. Ah, the miracles of the internet.
And then there's this Kraut named Werner who came to look at my TV but was also interested in some lederhosen I'd brought my dad from Austria about 20 years ago. I was showing them to Werner in my bedroom when the phone rang, so I went into the living room to answer it (not wanting to make a customer leave a message!). When I came back in, Werner was wearing the lederhosen over his tennis shorts. They were a perfect fit. I said, "They're YOU, dude," and he bought them to wear to an Austin Yacht Club party. He gave me several hundred dollars to cover the junk he was buying, but said he couldn't cart it all away in his car, could I hold it for him. Yes, a stranger from the internet gave me money for something he didn't take with him. All in all, both Carey and I had great success with our virtual garage sales, meeting very nice people who also happened to be sincere buyers with cash money in hand. It's definitely the way to go when YOU decide to sell everything and move into an RV.]
We also gave away lots of stuff to charity, and sold other things to family and friends for cheap. Someone even wanted (and came to get) my 20-year collection of Road & Track magazines [thanks, Jeanette's boyfriend Dennis's son--I owe you]. It was a heck of a busy few weeks.
A UT grad student wanted my old puffy gold chair, but didn't have a big enough car to carry it, so Debbie ended up delivering it via the mighty Bu Wagon. I think it went to the same guy who bought the weight bench set. All for something like $25, including delivery. What a deal!
Finally the house was empty, the carpets cleaned and everything was ready to close. We'll, except that Bubba still had our RV in his shop in Georgetown, working on our RV slide problem! So we spent our last night before closing on a foam pad and sheets, hoping he would finally get the darn motorhome finished. Ended up being a pretty surreal experience, camped out on the floor in an empty house on my last day owning it.
Below are the new owners, who I later found out ended up camped out on the just-cleaned carpet themselves the night after we did. Believe it or not, they actually wanted the 35+ year-old washer and dryer that I had inherited from my folks, so I was glad to throw those in with the house and not have to unload them somewhere ("Hmmm, that back parking lot off Kramer Lane sure looks like a good place to dump appliances...").
[That washer and dryer rocked! Carey's dad had rewired the dryer to change the maximum temperature to something along the lines of 1,000 degrees, and he did something to the washer that made the water level unnaturally high. I loved those appliances.]
Luckily, we had my office space available as a temporary staging area for a bunch of items that we either didn't quite get rid of in time or just still needed to figure out how to fit them into the RV. That worked out great, but it sure made a huge pile in the office for a while.
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