Monday, February 3, 2014

The House, or Why Merikay is stressed

Warning:  This is a long wordy post that covers the events of more than two months. I had planned on not writing about the house sale, but things have really been stressing me to the max and I have now decided to share this journey with my blog world friends.

We had a real roller-coaster December and January. Lots of good times with our daughter and grandsons, but also some exciting then disappointing days, during which we dealt with the realtors about the sale of our house.  We received an offer on the day before Thanksgiving.  It was a low offer, but the potential buyers were very well qualified, and did not have to sell another property to close on ours.  It took several days of counter offers to reach an acceptable price. Some people like to haggle.  I don't.

I was very worried about getting everything out by their requested closing date of Jan. 10, since we planned on staying in San Diego through Christmas. That tension spoiled much of my holiday spirit.

I know no real estate sale is final until the money is in the bank, but we trusted it would go through.  Unfortunately, more than three weeks into the escrow time, the sale fell apart.  I'm not at liberty to say why exactly, but their inspectors and engineers had made some ridiculous recommendations, and they wanted an additional $110,000 price reduction to cover earthquake retrofitting and landscape terracing. We hired an engineer and he said very little of it was necessary, but perhaps $11,000 might be a reasonable retrofit proposal, and even that might be a bit high. 

On December 23 we released them from the contract, and the house went back on the market. 

It was messy and painful. 

Needless to say, we were upset.

The day after Christmas, we said our good-byes and headed back to Los Gatos.  We were home by midday on December 27.

Our realtors were also away for the holidays. When we talked to them the morning of the 28th, they told us there had been some new interest in the house.  By the end of the day they called and told us they had a new offer in hand and expected another the next day.

Wow! Multiple offers!

It turned out that the first offer was poorly written with an inadequate deposit and a low offered price.  But the information on the second offer was very encouraging. We did work out a counter for the first, but held high hopes for the second.

I had been a bit sick for several days with a bad cold, and that night I think I overdosed with cough medicine, because I had some really bizarre dreams about meeting the new buyer, liking him a lot and feeling very good about the deal. Instead of being on edge all of the next day, I was quite relaxed about it.

The new buyer really wanted our house. Needed our house. He has kids in the Los Gatos school district and his current home was in escrow and scheduled to close at the end of the month. He previously lost a bidding war on another mountain home, and although the other offer price is not disclosed, a buyer is told when there is a multiple offer situation.

He made an offer $1000 over our asking price.  We had reduced our price considerably from our original asking price by that point.

We were delighted and accepted.  

This all gave us further motivation to get things cleaned out, which we did.  In a way, I was glad the first offer had fallen apart, because there would have been no way we could have done all that was needed before their requested closing date of January 10.

Craig dismantled and sold his beloved high end audio system. I packed and donated my beloved china to a charity. We made a deal with the estate liquidator, A.K.A. the junk man, and he took almost everything else away. Our buyer did buy several things and gave us a certified check right away. I sold my van for a pittance after our last dump run.

But, as I said in the beginning of this post, no real estate deal is done until the money is in the bank and the deed is recorded. We were pretty sure that if this new deal fell apart, another buyer would come along by spring.  So it was a good idea to clear out our stuff. We knew we were not going to move back in, but I do think it's harder to sell an empty house than one with furniture.

I have been posting about that process!  I'm sure glad that "getting rid of stuff" is done.

The new buyer had until the  January 17 to remove all contingencies except for the one about his closing the sale on his home.  We breathed a big sigh of relief when they were removed. We were also pleased he didn't ask for a single dollar for fixes. 

His closing was another matter. Although it was in contract, the sale of his house was contingent on a sale of a third property. The realtors all told us not to worry, but it did weigh heavily on our minds, particularly when we heard it was a commercial property.  We didn't know that until well into the escrow process, but I'm pretty sure knowing it would not have made any difference in our accepting his offer.

On Jan. 20 we allowed him to bring quite a bit of his stuff to the house and put it in our garages. He couldn't move in, but this helped him out. What a day that was!  Our junk man finished in the morning, and just as he pulled out, two large trucks and our buyer and his father pulled in.  We watched them unload, and I took him and his youngest son for a walk in our forest. 

They left, but were going to come back with a second load.

While they were gone, Craig and I took the last van load of trash to the dump, came back and got the Alfa down to the front drive to fill the freshwater tank, and were ready for a trip to town to dump the black and grey tanks. We tried to get out before the buyer came back,  but didn't quite make it. It was a bit of a circus juggling two large trucks, the Alfa, the buyer's SUV, and the Accent all on a very narrow windy road, but we did it and all went well.  We hoped it would be our last time to the RV dump and back.  

But it was not.

On the offer paperwork, the closing for both his and our properties were scheduled for January 24.  A week before that, we were told ours could not be until the 28th because of the way banks worked and because of the weekend.  We were fine with that. 

But his property did not close on the 24th. It seemed there was some sort of problem with the commercial property sale.  Instead our buyer's agent presented a request for him to move in as a renter. 

Forty years ago that may have been a good idea, but with the litigious society we live in now, we knew it was not a good plan. So we said no, citing the fact that our homeowners insurance was for an owner-occupied residence, not a rental.  

On the 26th we received another request stating that he would pay our homeowners insurance, and create a liability release.  He is a lawyer.  We were not hostile, but did not feel this was to our benefit either, so we again said no, citing the fact that we were still using the house for personal reasons, showers, telephone etc. and did not want a renter.

Of course this was all disturbing.  We kept thinking that perhaps we would lose the buyer and have to start over again.  I wouldn't mind having an empty house, but the garages and one room were full of his things.  No to mention the hot tub in our front driveway!

January 28 came.  No closing.  Another in and out with the Alfa for tank dumping. Every time we do this we breathe a sigh of relief when she is safely parked at Camp Driveway once again.  Every time we hope it will be the last!

On January 28, our Realtor sent us an email saying there was still one issue holding up the closings, but they all hoped to "see some movement" on it by the end of the week!  

We were so ready to be out of here! But we went to a movie instead, and I reauthorized the February house payment and Alfa insurance on my bill-pay-plan from my bank. We paid our home owners and earthquake insurance due on Feb 7. 

Several people have suggested we should just take off and leave it to the realtor.  But we didn't want to do that. We didn't want to have to come back.
I kept hearing that we might get a better price in a few months.  But I just wanted to be free of it all.

The stress of these months has done some interesting things to our marriage. We have had more fights in two months than we had in many years. But the stress was also like putting a heavy quilt over someone with a high fever. One wonders if the patient will die or the fever will break.

For us, the "crisis" came one night when we both had a lot of wine. We sat eye to eye and opened some old and some newer marital wounds. We looked at ways we had both been destructive to the relationship, and promised each other we would each try to put things in the past and try to be better toward each other in the future.  Instead of just putting up with our differences, we are starting to be more understanding of each other.  

We are not enemies. We continue to be stressed, but we are ever so much more together. The fever has broken. The marriage will survive, and on the 31st of January we celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary. 

The sale of the house?

Not going well.  Our buyer's buyer's buyer has failed to perform and dropped out of the deal.  Our buyer's buyer claims to have a backup offer, but as of February 1, we hear that the back-up offer people are in Japan for the New Year and won't be back to sign papers until this week.  


We are told that "if all goes well" the new closing "could" be March 18.  More than a month away!

So, now you all know why Merikay has not been happy camper these last few months.  This is our fifth house, and we have never been through anything as difficult as this before.  

I keep telling myself it could be worse.  We could have no buyers at all. Our buyer does want the house, and is qualified to buy it.  

I am determined to let the house sit empty for as long as it takes. 

Tomorrow we are going on a day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Watching fish is very soothing.  I hope we can go on at least one day trip a week in the upcoming month. Maybe a couple of short RV trips too. 

I'm sure the whole country will hear the corks pop when this is over and we close.


  1. Wow. I can't even imagine how stressed you must be. What a sense of relief you will feel when this is all over, and you are able to roll off down the road - FREE!!!

    Here's hoping that it all comes together and that closing will be able to come along sooner rather than later! :)

  2. Oh, goodness, Merikay...I got tired for you just reading all this. I am so soo sorry, but hopefully a year from now, it will all be behind you. You will be looking out that great windshield at some gorgeous view and the whole thing will be a distant memory. wishing you well

  3. Egads! What a revolting situation this has turned out to be! Stiff upper lip and all that...

  4. This reminds me so much of the rocky road we had a couple of years ago with our house sell. Hang in there. It will happen. Repeat to yourself, it will happen.

  5. I applaud you and Craig for holding up so well. What a confusing and stressful situation. I was impressed with your story about the effect this has had on your marriage. It just goes to show that it is never to late for things to improve and that the future can always be better than the past. Russ and I are learning this as well. The future WILL be bright for you and Craig and soon this will all be behind you. Good luck.


  6. Needless to say, when high hurdles come along things do begin to cave..... House sales are just about the worst....trying to make ALL THE PIECES fit ..... I do believe things are much tougher these days but who knows ..... Years ago I was selling my townhouse in Washington, DC and just like your situation it seemed like things would work out because it was not a money problem but timing and logistics ..... At any rate, at the closing proper the buyer has a heart attack at the table ....911.... Hospital ..... Dies two days later ....and I go back to square one !!!!!! I was young, it was my first "SALE" of a home and I learned the huge lesson....until everything clears,the cash is in the bank and the keys are in their hands ....SOMETIMES the deal is far from over .....
    Stay positive and so glad you have made plans to take the day trips, etc. I am also glad the stress has not brought on some health problems for you and Craig ....
    Between the cleaning out of your home and the selling situation as well as the are doing so well .... When your cash is in the bank I will also tip a glass in celebration !!!!! All The Best, Sally

  7. Glad you posted. It's good to let it out. I just did that on my last post also.

  8. The ball and chain cartoon says it all.

  9. Oh Merikay. I wish I could make things better for you. I'm glad you blogged about it because I think it helps to organize your thoughts and let go of some of it. All of us are pulling for you and saying lots of prayers and sending you hugs.

  10. I would be stressed too, Merikay. I'm sorry that you've had such a hard time with the sale of the house. I know you had mentioned about possibly going to San Diego to watch the Super Bowl, so I figured something must have happened to prevent that trip. Your day trip to the Monterey Aquarium sounds like it will be just the thing to help you relax. Besides, once you leave Los Gatos permanently, who knows when you will get back to the aquarium! ;-)

  11. Merikay, all of the bloggers that have posted so far, have said what's on my mind too, so I'll just add that I too will keep you two in my prayers in the days ahead.

  12. Merikay,
    It took 15 months for our house to sell, but we got tired of waiting and hit the road, and had been out there for over a year when it finally sold.
    That had its pluses and minuses. I did stress and even went down with stage 4 cancer, but we happened to be in the right place at the right time because we were on the road, and life went on. Now, nearly 15 years later, we are still living our life and our love on the road. It helped me to realize just what my priorities were and allowed both of us to get a handle of what life really means. We celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary in January and in June, we'll have another anniversary of our life as full-timers. We have never looked back and know that this is how we continue, in our love and our life, living life to its fullest, out here on the road. I know there will come a time that we will have to get off the road, but it won't be anytime soon. It is, quite simply, fantastic! Come join us!

  13. I'm glad you are hanging in there with all this, even if it is by your fingernails. Enjoy the aquarium and sit in front of the jellyfish tanks...and breathe deeply.

  14. I'm sorry this hasn't gone as you had hoped. When we sold ours, we heard some horror stories and didn't completely relax until the check was in the bank.

    Having the buyers stuff in your garages really makes it tough to try to get a new buyer. Are you charging him for a rental unit? I think I would.

    Good luck, as others have said, once it is all done, it will be just a bad memory and you can enjoy your new life.

  15. Hang in there. It will all work out. We also had an offer fall through on our house because of an unrealistic inspector and buyers wanting to pay for a 30 year old house that we pay to fix up as if it were a new house. We walked away from that deal. Several months later we had another offer and it all worked out. Those months were so stressful, but it was worth it. It's been almost four years of fulltiming and we have been so happy and stress free. Your fun times are coming!!!

  16. I like the part in the story where you sit down and talk about what is going on in your relationship. Taking the opportunity to build a stronger marriage is a good thing. Hang in there - something will work out, sometime. Think ZEN.

  17. First & foremost I appreciate & respect your honesty. It is a post like yours that can go a long way into helping others in the same situation but refuse to admit or talk about it. To understand your stress we just have to imagine ourselves in your shoes & how we would be feeling. Same way with all the same difficulties. Being an impatient & adventuress fellow I would be chomping at the bit to get on the road. Kelly being more practical would want to remain in the house until it's sold. Tough decision & tough on the relationship. The buyer set backs you have gone through would have probably caused me the most stress of all. Anger comes to mind. Not healthy. The old saying, 'Better Days Ahead' comes to mind & is the only thing I can offer. Hang in there & you know this situation too will soon pass.............

  18. Remembering those days...."just bring me a buyer"....almost to a point you just wanted to give it away to any Joe blow.... Soon this will be history...and you and Craig will be in your happy spot. Hope the aquarium brought you a little sunshine!

  19. Whewwwieeeeeee

    I am glad you posted about it. and glad you are seeing a light.. even so small at the end of the tunnel.

    I sold real estate for 9 years. Not a fun job trying to juggle all the balls and keep them in the air and everyone happy.

    Too bad your buyer can not arrange a "bridge loan" with his lender to finish your sale and he can deal with the buyer and buyer's buyer on his own nickel later?

    He should be very worried about losing your house to another buyer, and I hope you are continuing to market it because of the unmet contingencies and probably extensions to the closing dates are all running out. Hold out for another buyer to come along and bump his butt and his stuff into either shi* or get off the pot!

    Karen and Steve
    (Blog) RVing: The USA Is Our Big Backyard

  20. Wow, this buyer has me concerned. I would never allow a buyer to rent my home. Who knows what damage they might do - and then if they sale doesn't work, you're left with the mess. So I'm very glad you said no to that.

    On the same note, I would never allow a potential buyer to store his furniture and things in the house. For one thing, your sale is not done. You should still be showing the property and with his stuff there, it wouldn't show as well. Also, what if the sale doesn't close and he doesn't come back for his stuff? Does he have a key? What if he wants to get some of his stuff from the house? I don't like this scenario at all, Merikay. Sorry, but it just doesn't sound good to me.

    Hopefully everything will go well and the sale will close. But in the meantime, I'd tell my Realtor to show the house until it closes, and I'd tell the potential buyer to rent a storage unit and get his stuff out of MY house. :(

    I've never sold or bought a house that went perfectly. It's always a mess and soooo stressful. You and Craig will get through this - you've been getting the house ready for so long, and now having screwed up buyers, it's no wonder there's so much stress. You'll get through it - just remember to be kind to each other - and to yourselves, too. :)

  21. What a mess! Yes, it is very stressful trying to sell a house in today's market. We were so anxious to get out of FL and begin fulltiming that we left even though the closing had not yet taken place. Then the deal fell through because the buyer couldn't get a mortgage. We relisted it at a lower price, and sold it a couple months later. Never went back to FL as the realtor just faxed us the paperwork and we signed and faxed it back. It was much less stressful not being there at the closing! Hope it all works out for you.

  22. Gosh I feel your pain and appreciate your honesty about the whole process. This is such a major life transition with a ton of bumps along the way. So glad you were able to talk through your issues and come out the other side with a renewed appreciation for each other and your differences. Fingers crossed this is all resolved in short order!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

  23. Wow, what a good honest posting. Good choice in not allowing them to rent...he is a lawyer and he knows California's renters laws favor the renter and not the landlord. I too am concerned about the storage situation, but also understand why you did it. We were lucky, we sold our house early and easy last year, yet it was very stressful despite how easy it went. Just don't know how you all are able to stand this...hang in there. Dave (

  24. Thank you so much for sharing that very personal challenge. Some of us do not realize exactly what stress can do. This story is like a roller many feelings. But most important is your marriage..Getting that on firm footing again is the best foundation for the future, no matter what it brings..hugs.

  25. I feel your pain! Buying and selling homes is a real stressful situation and that's why I will never do it again. (after we rid ourselves of this one)

    Our last house was on the market for more than a year and we were still moving stuff out when the new owners were moving in. It had been a very hostile purchase so this just added to the turmoil and stress. Our new home in Arizona didn't close on time due to the title company dropping the ball so we too had to unload all of our worldly possessions into the garage of a house we didn't yet own.

    Now we are going through the whole process again, our Realtor says we should wait until spring time to get the best offer so that's what we are doing. But we aren't purchasing another home, we are going to move into the RV and hopefully our next home will be the old folks home...LoL

  26. First off, just breathe.
    You are doing well by not pulling your hair out, for now.

    It took me 1.5 years to sell my house.
    Many offers, all too low.
    Market slid a little, lowered the price, haggled with one couple, but no sale.

    Finally got me a realtor that wanted to sell the house as badly as I did. Sold in 3 weeks. Same couple I haggled with before!
    Realtor worked magic. House finally sold. Possession date reasonable.

    I completely understand your pain.

    Chin up, you are doing well, just remember to breathe....

  27. My goodness, you make our sale sound like a fairy tale!

    From experience, I can tell you that sharing your experiences in this experience is the best thing for you.

    As to you and Craig, I can understand. With John just out of the hospital and not quite "with it" things were hard. BUT I have found that every "encounter" that John and I have eventually draws us closer together.

    Hang in there, my friend. This too shall pass.

  28. Ouch, I can't imagine what a headache all of your real estate woes are causing. Stress is totally understandable.

    What a sticky wicket it is having a "potential" buyers property on your property. Very weird in my opinion. I agree with Barbara of Me and My Dog, not a good scenario to have someone else's stuff in your house, especially if the deal falls through.

    I sincerely hope this resolves shortly! Let's put some positive energy on this. Sell, sell, sold!

  29. Glad to hear the house is still in play. Years ago my Mom's closing was cancelled when the homeowner disappeared at sea. My friend also let the new owner store possessions in the basement before closing, but they used a space heater because it was winter, which caused a fire and the house burned to the ground. Hope all goes well and is resolved for all parties. Best of luck!

  30. So sorry that you guys had to deal with all that

  31. Sorry to be so late to comment on this, but I knew what was going on beforehand. 30 comments! Wow! Your blog is like mine in my MySpace heyday! Wootwoot! Go, Mom!

    "I sold my van for a pittance after our last dump run."

    I owned a van that was the exact same model of yours (Chevy Astro vs GMC Safari), wasn't 4wd, but was still in good condition. Sold it for a pittance before coming to Thailand.


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