Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two very hectic, happy, sad weeks

It is rare that I go ten days without posting anything to the blog, but it has been a very busy few weeks. This is a long entry, but it describes what is one of our more significant milestones in life.

We have lived in our house in the Duxford subdivision of Raleigh for 18 years. It's been a great house, in a great location with some of the best neighbors you could ever ask for. However, we decided over a year ago to become full-time residents of Park City. The house had been on the market for 18 months and we decided to take it off MLS for the winter. Our realtors went back to anyone who had shown interest and let them know it was coming off the market. The one couple who had made an offer came back to the table. After a little more back and forth, they came up, we came down, and we ended up under contract with a planned closing of December 16th.

That's a pretty a quick close when you live 2,000 miles away and already have booked plans for the Thanksgiving weekend (and Julie's birthday). It got even harder when Julie accepted a part time job a Deer Valley. They started an extensive training program on Nov 17th. It isn't optional, and it runs every weekday.

Julie went to Raleigh on Nov 3rd and came back on the 15th. I went out on the 9th and came back on the 17th. Somehow, during that time, with lots and lots of help from friends and relatives, we managed to get everything sorted out and the house is now empty.

Our house was on a unique property, heavily wooded, 2.8 acres backing up to the Corp of Engineers property around Falls Lake. We made it more unique by putting in a volleyball court with 200,000 pounds of sand and never planting a blade of grass.

We had the house built for us, but it was really just a slight modification of a Parade of Homes spec house we saw. I joke that our original design choices came down to "brass or chrome?" That held until 2001-2002 when we did a major addition and remodel. This time we really made the house OURS. Julie spent hundreds of hours choosing interesting cabinets, wallpapers, granites, tiles, and more. She even did a fair amount of faux painting herself.

I have spent many long hours out working in the yard, planting hundreds and hundreds of perennials, adding pavers, a fountain, irrigation and making it uniquely ours.

This makes it very hard to leave and even harder to hand over to someone you don't know.

The buyers are both NC State graduates, which makes our neighbor Tony Hudson very happy. He wanted to make sure that they weren't getting any new UNC fans in the neighborhood.

The house is about 100-150 yards from Falls Lake and with the late leaf-colors this fall, it was gorgeous. We were blessed with excellent weather for all our work. I can't imagine doing all the packing, trips to the dump and to Goodwill if we had a lot of rain. It literally waited until the very last day, and even then it didn't rain nearly as much as they were calling for.

This picture was taken using the HDR feature on my iPhone camera. These little phone cameras are getting better and better.

We knew that we wouldn't have a full moving van's worth of stuff, so it made for some interesting alternatives:
  • Pay a real moving company to carry our partial load. This is expensive and I read way too many complaints about vans carrying multiple families' belongings. Things were lost, delivered to the wrong place, or loaded and unloaded so many times they were badly damaged.
  • Load a U-Haul and drive it ourselves. This gives you total control and care. It also requires two people who hate long driving trips to drive a crappy truck over 2,000 miles. We pondered this for a while and had almost eliminated it as an option when Julie's new job made it impossible.
  • Renting from PODS. They bring you a big container. You pack it on your time. Then they take the container intact and ship it to your destination. You unpack it. This seemed like our best alternative for a medium sized shipment, but it was expensive and I found lots of complaints about their company.
  • Finally I discovered our solution. ABF is a very large freight company. They have a subsidiary called U-Pack. They have something similar to PODS, but they also have a different option with trailers. They brought us an empty, 28-foot long trailer and left it at the house. We had several days to pack it up. Then they come get it and load the rest of the truck with freight heading to your destination. They unload their freight and bring you your trailer. The reviews on the Internet were excellent.
So far, the experience with ABF has been as positive as I could ask for. Hopefully we will feel the same way when we get our belongings at the end.

We packed up everything in the house and hauled a million boxes out to the garage. Then we hired a pair of movers to load all the boxes and the furniture we are bringing out.

We couldn't have gotten everything done without a tremendous amount of help. The biggest helper Thank You goes to Julie's mom Joan, who came down for about five days and packed relentlessly. The next Thanks goes to my dad and Colleen, who came over day after day and did packing, cleaning, repairing, loading, and whatever else I could think of. We also had help from Anne and Tom Schick, Alex and Judy Plavocos, Tony and Patty Hudson, my aunt Martha and cousin Sara, and neighbors Barbie, Carmella, and El.

I wish I had taken pictures of all the packing and loading, but it was such a frenzy of work and stress, I simply didn't think of it. Too bad, it was an interesting sight. I'll grab some shots as we unload.

One of our big challenges was deciding where everything went. We wanted some at our house in Park City. We were considering bringing some furniture out to put in our condo when we try to sell it. The condo is rented for the next year and we rented it unfurnished. Some stuff would would be sold to the home buyers. Some would be be given away. It was in an incredible state of flux up until the time we closed the doors on the truck.

The final measurement (which determines what you pay for the trailer) was 16 linear feet. That left the freight company with 12 feet to add their stuff. You put up a partition to separate your belongings from the freight. As I type this note, I can see that our truck has gone through Dayton, Ohio and is on its merry way west.

One of our best decisions was renting a decent SUV from Dollar. Our normal rental cars get some light use going to and from the airport and a few trips in between. This truck had 993 miles put on it and a lot of those were with the back full of anything from furniture to huge piles of trash for the dump.

One of our biggest problems is that we had been living out of houses in Park City and Raleigh for several years. This means that both houses were well furnished and equipped. The net is that we had more furniture, clothes, tools, and kitchen ware than we needed. The buyers had shown interest in buying some of it from us, but they bought less than we expected.

Then we got lucky. Julie has bought very nice furniture over the years and we have taken excellent care of it. It helps having no kids and manageable pets. We ended up selling a lot of furniture to friends. They got a great deal on nice furniture and we had a solution to our excess. We felt so much better knowing it was going to someone who appreciated it, and we can also come back and visit it on our trips to Raleigh.

Perhaps the funniest was the woman who bought Julie's Infiniti M45 through Craigslist on our last trip. She commented on how nice some of the furnishings were. She ended up coming back to the house and buying a pair of love seats and brought back friends the next day who bought a big chair. You just can't predict how things are going to work out.

This is our master bedroom at the end. The only thing remaining were my suitcases waiting for their contents. It is sad to walk through the house with it looking so hollow and empty after you spent 18 good years there.

I think the two big surprises for us on furniture were the buyers not wanting to buy the home theater equipment and furnishings and not buying the two gorgeous cherry cabinets we had built for both sides of the fireplace. They haven't sold their current home, so it comes down to cash, but those are the two things I would have kept before anything else.

They did keep the front guest bedroom and the bar area intact. Even with the barren house, you could still head up to the bar and shoot a game of pool.

This bathroom is just one of the numerous examples of how Julie took the look and quality of the house up about five notches when we remodeled. The interesting tiles, sconces, and faux painting were wonderful. I am proud of how nice she made everything look, but that made it so much harder to leave. At least we have a beautiful house in Park City to live in.

This is one I am happy to leave. I learned one of those clever life lessons 5 or 6 years ago. Our old washer and dryer were dying and needed to be replaced. Julie was having lots of problems with them but hadn't bought new ones yet. I did a lot of research on the best appliances with the best reviews and went out and bought some very expensive Neptune front loaders. I did this on my own as a surprise, and no, it wasn't for a birthday or anything that stupid.

Julie didn't like front loaders at all, for numerous reasons. My lesson is that if one person uses something 90+ percent of the time, THEY get to pick the replacement. One of my dreams of selling our house in Raleigh is that Julie will slowly forget how much she hated the washer and dryer and how badly I had screwed up. As long as she remembers, I will have to as well.

Another thing I won't miss is the growing traffic in the area. Everyone probably has stories like this, as the population continues to grow and grow. When we moved into the Duxford neighborhood, we were way out in the boonies. It was hard to imagine we had a Raleigh mailing address as far as we were from the city limits. Now there are long lines of cars heading to and from work, passing our neighborhood along the way. It took me two minutes to pull out onto the main road the other day. Years ago you could sit for 10 minutes and not see another car.

This is it. The last of the remains, stashed out in the garage. It's all spoken for and is just waiting to be picked up sometime in the next week or two. I really will miss having a seemingly infinite garage, especially when the 16 feet or trailer contents shows up.

I could babble on and on about the experience of moving and the emotions (good and bad) about selling our long time residence. The bottom line is that we loved the house and the people around us, but the headaches and expense of trying to be in two places was just too much. Keep your fingers crossed that our closing all goes well in December.

The one thing we won't lose is all our friends and family back in Raleigh. We will return often and now we can just be on vacation instead of having to maintain a big house and a yard. And of course, I still have my Wolfpack tickets....
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