Selling the house was a roller coaster. If you have ever sold a house that you’ve lived in for over two decades, you’ll know what I mean by roller coaster. For those of you who have not had the opportunity to go through this incredibly painful, euphoric, chaotic experience, I’ll try to share the intensity of what it felt like. When we returned home from our trip to Oregon, we knew the first step was getting the house listed for sale. We both belong to the Lions Club and we knew a woman in our club that was also a real estate agent. Prior to our trip up to Oregon, she had given us some great advice on things to look for when looking for a new place and she had given us the idea to sell our house on a contingency. We had no idea we could even do that! Selling our home with a contingency afforded us the ability to state in our contract that we would sell our house *IF* the house we wanted to buy came through on the other end. This was especially important to us because we really didn’t want to be without a place to live between selling our house and getting a new one in Oregon. Moving out of state was a big move for us – we were moving away from the place we had grown up.
We called Adrie (Major League Real Estate), from our Lions Club, to ask her what our next step should be. We knew she didn’t sell homes in our area but we thought we would ask her for a referral. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised that she offered to help sell our home for us. We were thrilled. Adrie is not only a real estate agent, but also a broker, so she really knows her stuff. We were able to ask her advice on the listing price for our home, what improvements we should be trying to make, and what the best route to selling our home would be. She was amazing. She even gave us advice and help in buying the home in Oregon. We are forever indebted to her. She was more helpful than we could have ever hoped for. Selling a home in California involves about ten times the paperwork as buying a home in Oregon does. We could not believe the pages and pages of legal information and clauses we had to read through. I was constantly Googling to figure out what certain clauses and words meant. We read through every single page with detailed precision. We were no experts on selling or buying a home and we wanted to try our best not to let anything slip through the cracks.
Adrie (our agent in California) was determined to sell our house quickly for us so that we would get the other house in Oregon and not lose it. Our agent in Oregon (Shannon) had let us know that there was an interested party in the house. We were nervous for sure! Adrie had our house listed and showing within a week. We were hustling to have the house ready to show. We cleaned every square inch of our home, and took out any clutter or junk that didn’t need to be there and stowed it away in the garage. Of course, when we had to show the garage briefly to each buyer, we were mortified that it was such a mess. Filled to the ceiling with boxes and items we didn’t know what to do with. Each day, we would make improvements to our house – painting walls, fixing little things that we just lived with like sliding door latches, and cleaning things from top to bottom. If I were to do it all again, I would have hired a maid service to come in for one day and do a deep cleaning. It would have been SO worth it in the end! I would have also called a handy man to come in and just paint all of the interior walls and trim. We had recently painted about half the house, making the older paint in the other half of the house really stand out as older paint. Every day we went through more of our belongings, putting them in piles for donating, selling, and keeping. It was arduous. We knew we could only keep about one-third of our belongings – a) because we only had so much room in the trailer to move our things and b) because our new house was quite a bit smaller than our old one.
It was hard work filled with stress. I hadn’t realized how stressful it would be to choose what I would keep and what I wouldn’t keep from our collected treasures. We knew once the house sold that we’d have 30-ish days to finish going through everything, packing, and moving. In between all of that, it was the holidays and we wanted to spend them with our families since we weren’t sure if we would see them every holiday once we moved so far from them. It was not the most opportune time to move but the lake house had been on the market a year and we couldn’t risk letting it sit any longer especially at the price it had dropped to. I would say that the showings of our house in California were the hardest part of selling the house. We showed the house every day that it was listed. We even did one on Thanksgiving Day before we walked out the door to head over to my sister’s house – that was nutty. The showings were so hard because we would have a disaster area of our plethora of stuff that we were going through and putting in piles and packing away – then we would get the phone call. Typically the showing would be in an hour or so from the time of the call. Giving us barely enough time to clean up (aka hide in the closet or garage) or current mess of things we were going through, tidy up the house, light candles, turn on all of the lights and the fans and make the house more desirable to buyers. The buyers would show up, we would leave or go out into the backyard to give them time to look around, and then they would leave. Most buyers were there for five minutes or less. Occasionally, we’d have a buyer stay for about 10-15 minutes – those were the ones we were hoping would put in an offer. The back and forth of going from the full-mess mode of going through our things to our pretend-we-live-in-a-model-home mode was exhausting to say the least.
Hard work and stress turned us into zombies who no longer ate healthy foods (or sometimes ate at all), no longer slept a full night’s sleep, and no longer had the brain capacity for anything beyond our impending move. The zombifying of ourselves paid off quickly. We had showings every day for a week and then we had an open house that weekend. Our agent sold the house during the Open House to a buyer whom had viewed the house previously during a showing. We were so excited! We couldn’t believe the house sold so quickly and we could almost feel ourselves living in our new home on the lake. We told everyone that the house sold, including the owners of the house we were buying in Oregon. The paperwork started rolling on both sides. Three days later, we got a call from Adrie. The buyer backed out. She decided to take the earnings from the sale of her home and move down to San Diego where her grandchildren live. We were devastated. We went from the highest high to the lowest low. Not only had we lost our offer, but that meant we had to go back to showing the house. It meant we had to call our agent in Oregon and ask for more time with the house there. It was an awful, sinking feeling. We almost gave up hope. Part of us wanted to give up and just stay. We even talked about the idea that the lake house might not be meant to be. We agreed that if we didn’t get it, it just meant we would find something better – we hoped. We quickly resigned ourselves to the idea that we might fail. At the same time, we kept trying anyway. Plugging away in zombie mode, even through the stress and ugliness of our feelings. We cleaned the house again, did showings every day and had two more Open Houses.
Another tip I would give my future self is that Open Houses are for lookie-loos. You know, those neighbors that never talk to you but want to see the inside of your house… or those people out going to garage sales on the weekend and stop in to see the house for fun. Or a handful of potential buyers who aren’t actually ready to buy, but just want to see what is out there. Next time, I wouldn’t worry about Open Houses. It took another week and we got another offer and the promise of two others. We couldn’t have been more elated. The other two came in as promised and with three offers on the table we were able to choose the best one. We chose the offer that came in at full price and had a conventional loan already secured. They also needed to move in quickly for the husband’s job so we knew that they weren’t likely to mess around if this really wasn’t the house that they wanted. We had met the buyers the day they came for the viewing. They were super sweet and I really liked the wife a lot. She was also an artist and really loved my paintings on the walls. We even ended up trading some of our art - her ceramics for a couple of my paintings – one of them being my favorite painting I’ve ever painted, “Loss”. I still sadly miss that painting a bit but have to remind myself of the beauty that replaced it living here in our little piece of paradise.
We accepted the offer and things got rolling again and this time they would stick. Of course, I do understand that selling a house twice in the first two weeks it’s listed is quite an accomplishment and not the norm. We were lucky to have a home in a very good neighborhood in a very desirable location. We were also lucky to have an agent who dedicated herself to getting the house sold quickly. The stress of selling was far from over. We still had inspections to get through, disclosures, a few more tours by the buyers, and to secure our purchase of the lake house in Oregon. We had many restless and sleepless nights but every morning I woke up, looked at the photo of the view from the bedroom in the lake house, and just kept plugging away at it all. We had a handful of garage sales, several trips to Salvation Army to make donations, and a few trips to the dump to get rid of things that couldn’t be sold or donated like old tires and car batteries. Can you tell that we save everything? I always thought it was just me until I met Dennis. We had a huge house to hold it all, so it was easy to keep.
Filling out mountains of paperwork for the house in California felt never-ending. Filling out the handful of pages in Oregon was a delight in comparison. I almost felt like the purchase of the new home wasn’t real because there was so little to do on that end other than pack to move. I mentioned to Dennis how cool it’d be if we moved into the lake house by my birthday on December 9th and although our escrow started too late for that, we were excited that we might be there by Christmas. The escrow took the full 30 days. We actually had to ask for a few extra days so that we didn’t have to leave during the holiday. Christmas came and we spent it with our families. It was wonderful but it was also a blur. We were so stressed and exhausted from all of the hard work of getting 20+ years worth of stuff moved, sold and donated. Just before we moved, our dear friends bought my Jeep as a first car for one of their kids – a saving grace for us since we couldn’t take all of our vehicles to the new place. There wasn’t enough room to park them there. Dennis’ friend came and took the Ford Explorer that his uncle had given him. We really wanted to keep that one since it had 4WD but the 4WD wasn’t working and we didn’t know when/if we could get it working.
Then we got our closing date for the California house. The house would close on December 29th and we would be out that morning. We were so lucky to have our families offer to help us move. My dad and my step-mom would drive up in their big diesel duly truck, towing the big 25 foot enclosed trailer. Dennis’ mom and dad would drive up in their truck, towing Dennis’ car trailer with his off-road truck. Dennis and I would drive our two vans – me driving the carpet cleaning van with no trailer and him driving our camper van with our little enclosed trailer on the back.