“Home is where the heart is, even if you can’t remember which box you packed it in. ~ enkiquotes.com
“Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love.” ~ Nate Berkus
Welcome to the final installment of my series on Home/Selling & Buying. If you’ve missed any of the previous installments you can read them here: Part 1-The Decision, Part 2-The Realtor, Part 3-Decluttering and Sprucing, Part 4-The Showings, Part 5-The Joy and Anxiety of the Inspection and Going to Contract, Part 6-The Search For a New Home and Part 7-The Closings.
Paul had mentioned early on that most of his clients felt that the move itself was the hardest part of the entire process. I recall laughing and remarking that the move would seem to be the easiest part because that was the end of the process; all the hard parts were behind us. Ah, I was so naive back then!
Packing It In
When we initially sat down with our mover many weeks before, we passed on the packing component because we felt it was unnecessary. Paul thought it was a good idea, but at that point we felt that we had plenty of time and certainly we could handle our own packing. That turned out to be a major mistake.
We worked day and night packing, stopping only to celebrate Thanksgiving at Paul’s parents’ house. Lyn helped with the tedious job of packing endless breakables. Paul, wearing his son-in-law hat, pitched in. After packing each box, we carefully labeled the contents and color-coded which room it was to go — red for living / dining area, blue for master bedroom, yellow for kitchen, and so on. We placed color-coded dots on all the furniture and furnishings.
But in the end, we ran out of time. We were still frantically packing when the crew arrived early on moving day. The owner shook his head, expressing “I told you so.” But seeing that we were at end of our rope physically and emotionally, our movers quickly and cheerfully mobilized to finish the packing for us! This was a service for which we were happy to pay the extra cost! And we were beyond grateful for this terrific crew. The day passed quickly and soon everything was being loaded on the truck, where they would be stored during the swing time.
Ted, Lyn, Paul and I still had some odds and ends to pack, and items to load in our cars that we would take ourselves (personal and important files, jewelry and other small valuables, etc.). We then proceeded to vacuum, sweep and wipe down surfaces before we departed.
It was at this point, standing in my empty house, that I had a moment to reflect on the fact that this was it. I was really saying my final good-bye to this house my family and I had lived in for three decades. All the memories of our daughter growing up, her friends and ours, our relatives and neighbors gathering in our home for small visits to big parties and celebrations. The ghosts of our departed pets flitting through. The decorating we had done; the floors, the kitchen, our master bath, the laundry room…all the work and sweat we had poured into this house. I thought of all the times we had carried groceries up those stairs, the hundreds of times we mowed the lawn, weeded the yard, watered new plants, all the money spent with upkeep….okay, I was good. Time to go!
We checked into a nearby, very pleasant local motor lodge, and settled in with mixed emotions. On one hand, we were both exhausted from packing and keyed up about the closings and move to our new place; on the other hand, we were relieved to have accomplished so much and have so much behind us.
We ordered take-out, put our feet up, figured out how to put the Amazon app on our smartphones to order a few necessary items, watched a little TV and, as we slowly unwound, finally fell into the first good sleep in a while. By the next day we felt refreshed. We did not have to attend the closing with our buyers, as our attorney and Paul represented us. Paul notified us that the buyers’ walk-through of our house (the final check to ensure that there were no new issues since the inspection and that all looked good before they closed) and the closing both had gone smoothly. That afternoon, we conducted the walk-through of our new property prior to the closing with our sellers, which was scheduled for the next day.
Following the closing with our sellers, which also went smoothly, we braced ourselves for the move to our new house the next day.
We were up shortly after dawn the next day — moving day! We had to be at our new townhouse very early to greet the movers, who start very early in order to finish a move in one day. When we arrived, we quickly placed color-coded dots that matched the ones on the boxes on all the rooms as a visual guide for the movers. The men arrived on time and we gave them a quick tour of the house. Throughout the day, we helped guide them on the placement of furniture in each room. And while they did the heavy lifting, it was still exhausting for us to circulate continuously throughout the house to ensure that everything was going smoothly, and to dash up or down the stairs when someone called to ask for clarification on something — all the while keeping out of the way.
Finally, everything was in, the movers were gone, and we collapsed on our familiar furniture in a strange setting, among an untold number of boxes!
Soon our daughter arrived with our cats, which had been boarded for three days at our favorite kennel where they had received excellent care. They were happy to see us but wary and a bit discombobulated. One had not known any other home for 15 years and was extremely cautious (and yowling); the other had lived in two other homes before we rescued him and seemed to take this move in stride. They both slowly explored the house, while we ordered takeout for us and extracted cat food and treats from their travel bag.
We had already made arrangements with the local utilities and telecommunications companies to start our electric and Internet services (when we arranged to disconnect such services from our former home). And over the next week we unpacked only what we would need for the next several weeks, because the week after we moved in renovations began!
Over the next couple of months, many tasks were accomplished from bottom to top, including completely finishing the basement to create a beautiful studio space and laundry room, with built-in shelves, a custom work table, doors, carpet and tile. The entire house was painted and we tweaked our beautiful kitchen by adding glass panes to the upper cabinets and painting the walls and the inside of the cabinets the same beautiful soft green that we had in our former kitchen (a design trick we learned from The Property Brothers), and changing out the hardware. The bathrooms were re-tiled and new vanities installed. Beautiful hickory hardwood floors replaced the carpeting on the second floor (the main floor had oak hardwood), and the two staircases were deep carpeted for beauty and comfort. And we had the attic sanitized, sealed, new insulation installed and flooring laid to maximize the attic storage space.
We paused to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, placing our menorah in the window and our tree in the living room. We no longer had a fireplace, but we did have a beautiful quartz counter in the dining room to hang stockings. The house looked festive, if a bit unsettled. Lyn and Paul came for Christmas Eve and we all spent Christmas Day at Valerie and Robert’s house.
It took months for the renovations to be completed and for us to finish unpacking and put everything away in its proper place. Our cats adjusted and took ownership of every square foot of our new house.
We had done it! We sold our house and purchased a new one, made renovations, and from beginning to end it took about a year — from one spring to the next.
It truly was a journey, but one that was worth it. While we still miss our former house sometimes, we are happy in our new home. We are just a short drive from Lyn and Paul, and the same stores at which we’ve shopped for decades, our former neighbors and friends, our doctors, etc. We live in a lovely area, with friendly new neighbors. We’ve become involved with our new community and get to keep one foot in our former one. Our new grounds are maintained by not us, and…there is the swimming pool. Life is good.
We learned important lessons during this process, which I’m happy to summarize:
- Hire a realtor, but not just any realtor. Hire a reputable, honest, straight-talking professional with an exemplary track record and good connections. The best way to find the right one is by checking with your trusted sources — neighbors, relatives, friends, business associates and the like. And if you happen to have one in the family, all the better! (The same goes for an attorney if your realtor does not recommend one.)
- Declutter regularly. Don’t wait until you decide to sell your home. At the very least, the minute you decide to sell start decluttering and keep at it until you are finished. Time flies, and it’s good to get a handle on tasks from the very beginning.
- Start packing. Items that you don’t use regularly but plan to take with you to your new digs can be packed early on (label boxes as you go and keep a list of everything packed). Packing early is optimistic, but you should think positively about selling your house.
- Start sprucing. It’s best to start repairs and sprucing up your house as early as possible to spread out your labor and spending, because there will be plenty of both later on, as well as other important things on which to focus.
- Plan your places to go, people to see, things to do while your open house and showings are going on. If you’re working away from home, great; but when you’re home, planning to go to the park for a hike or picnic, or hang out at your favorite coffee house or restaurant (in normal times) can make having to leave your home repeatedly less stressful.
- Keep your house showcase ready. Figure out a way to do this. There were times when we had to vacate for a closing that we gathered up clutter or laundry and threw it in the trunk of our car as we sped off.
- Sign up for professional packing help. Oh, how I wish we had done this! When I think of what we spent on new boxes (we quickly ran out of the no-charge recycled boxes that the movers provided us), packing materials and inserts, and tape we might as well have paid the additional charge for professional packing. We still could have handled some of it, but would have hired the movers to pack up the kitchen, dining room and breakables throughout the house. The movers were expert at this, as well as fast. It is money spent well and sanity well saved.
- Research hotel and kennel well in advance. In most circumstances, you’ll need to make arrangements for a place for you, your children and your pets to stay for the swing period.
- Locate in advance a good take-out place near your new home. You’ll need it for yourselves for the first week or so, and to provide lunch to any contractors working in your home (it’s a kind and gracious gesture).
A Word About Tipping
Most of the professionals that you will be dealing with in real estate transactions do not require tipping. Electricians, plumbers and most contractors, for example, are trained professionals and do not expect to be tipped. And many big box stores have a policy of no tipping when it comes to their delivery people or installers. A realtor’s ethical standards do not allow the acceptance of tips. However, it is customary to tip your movers at least 10%, which can be spread among the number of movers involved. And if your contractor’s employees do a great job for you, tips are always appreciated. But for any services, do not tip the company owner, just the workers the owner hires or employs.
The Wind Up
I hope you have enjoyed this series. If you have any questions, or wish to share your buying, selling or moving anecdotes, please use the “Leave A Reply” section. We’d love to know about them!
And if you are still sheltering at home as we continue to battle the pandemic throughout the country and the world, whether or not you are contemplating selling your home, decluttering and sprucing up in small ways can make you and your house feel better! Be safe and well!
Until next time,