Tuesday, February 16, 2010

So maybe it's time for a few updates. Andrea and I were staying mum about the house sale until it sold, but it's sold, so I can talk about it now. We were really pretty fortunate - we got some good advice from a home staging person on how to use our existing furniture and junk to stage the house. We did that, and it looked very good--so good that we're tempted to hire a home stager to give us advice when we have a new house. Decrapulating the living space in the house really did make it feel nicer to live in.

So we went back east to be with my folks for the month of December. On the 20th, we got an offer on the house, and the buyers wanted a rapid close. So we got tickets back to Tucson for the close (I had business in San Francisco, so I just did an open jaw trip that landed me in Tucson at the end). The close was supposed to happen the day before I got back, but there was a big snag.

If you've ever purchased a house, you probably know what PMI is - mortgage insurance. It's fairly expensive, but you have to have it if you have less than a 20% downpayment. Once your equity comes up above 20%, you can get rid of it, but it adds a significant bump to your mortgage payments until then. Our buyers had 15%. Normally PMI is a no-brainer, aside from the cost - if you can get a mortgage, PMI is just a line item that gets tacked on. But it's a line item that comes from an insurer, not from the lender. And you may recall that one of the big insurers in the business, AIG, took a really big hit recently.

Now of course, the government bailed them out, but they're being a lot more paranoid about writing PMI policies than they were. I guess that's probably a good thing, but Tucson's property values have dropped quite a bit since the big financial crisis started, and the underwriters don't think it's a good risk. So the buyers couldn't get PMI. So there was a week of nail-biting, and they finally came up with another solution to bring their equity up to 20%, and we finally closed.

And then things got exciting. I wanted to spend some more time visiting with my parents, and we had rented an apartment once all of the contingencies we thought were going to get in the way were clear, so we needed to move all our crap out of the house and out to Brattleboro quickly. We got a quote from some movers for $6000 to move everything, which seemed like a lot, so instead we rented a truck from Penske and did it ourselves.

It took two days to pack the truck. This included a lot of shoving stuff in boxed and taping them--it wasn't all loading. We rented the biggest truck you can drive without a commercial license. It was really big. Our stuff barely fit. By the time the door came down, there was less than an inch of clearance in places between it and the load. The good news was that the load was really stable - I tried moving it, and couldn't. And that proved to be true - when we opened it up on the far end, nothing was pressed against the door, although the contents did shift a bit.

Driving the truck across country wasn't as fun as driving the Prius. It turns out that the Interstates are a lot bumpier than you think when you're driving a nice cushy car suspension. There were sections of road that were pretty smooth, but there were some truly amazingly bumpy sections of road as well, and there were more bumpy sections than smooth sections by quite a bit.

Also, the truck handled like, well, a truck. There was a section of highway around Benson, early in the first day's drive, where I felt as if the truck was not very much in my control for a while, until the shock waves slowed down. So I was very, very conservative the whole way across the country - we rarely went above 65, and often went below 65, particularly at night. We were meticulous in our planning with respect to the weather, and had three different routes to follow, depending on how the weather broke as we went across the country. We were fully prepared to just stop for a day if the weather got really bad.

Fortunately, we caught a break--we followed a storm system across the country with about a day of lag, so we kept seeing signs of problems caused by severe weather, but never encountered any serious weather-related problems ourselves. We stopped for the night in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and the next morning when we got on the road it was clear that we'd just missed driving into a really, really bad ice storm.

I hadn't wanted to drive any further that night because of the temperature and the fog, so I'd actually decided to stop when we did partly because of the weather, but it was striking how we left Arkadelphia and within a few miles crossed up above the frost line and were seeing ice-encrusted trees everywhere around us. Later on that day we started seeing overturned trucks every few miles. It was pretty sobering - the whole way across Arkansas I was wondering if I was unknowningly making the same mistake as those drivers. But the road was dry most of the way to Nashville.

Things were a bit dicey in Nashville because they'd gotten probably six inches of snow, and clearly their snow-clearing equipment wasn't up to it. So there was snow melting on the sides of the roads, and I was afraid it was going to re-freeze and create trouble. But as soon as we crossed the Kentucky line, the snow-clearing got better, and the roads were dry. And that was really the last of the difficult weather for the rest of the drive.

When we arrived in Brattleboro, we got there just as the Comcast installer got there, so we had internet almost immediately, and I unloaded some necessities like the easy chair and the mattresses. And then Mel came and picked us up, and we had a nice dinner at my parents' house before reclaiming the Prius and driving back to Brattleboro.

There were some problems where we hadn't used enough furniture pads and some of the furniture got a little worn away, but by and large everything survived the trip intact, and now the apartment in Brattleboro is a semi-functional pile of boxes. We unpacked the essentials, but it'll be another week or so of work to really get it set up.

It was really nice to be able to visit my parents so easily - we went over several times during the time we were in Brattleboro, and one day I brought my father in for lunch with Andrea, which was really nice, and he got to see our junk pile, which seemed to amuse him. But very quickly after our arrival we had to pack up and leave again.

I shipped my bicycle to Arizona via UPS, because I wanted to have the full-sized bike, and it would have been really expensive to fly with (plus, I didn't want to have to deal with it getting misplaced). It was expensive - about $100 - but they were happy to ship it in a piece of bicycle luggage I bought many years ago called a Pedal Pack.

The bike arrived this morning, right on time, and appears to be no worse for the wear, although I did learn one important lesson: when packing your bike, clean all the grit off the tires beforehand. If you don't, it will be evenly distributed over all the exposed greasy surfaces in the bike when you unpack it. I had to do a lot of cleaning to avoid a grit meltdown. But it's here, and it's assembled, and it appears to work, so I'm a happy camper.


Blogger Nick Barnes said...

Emm and I drove Pittsburgh to SF via Denver, visiting friends for Christmas 1992, then back. On the way there, I70, US50, I80, we had glorious crisp clear weather. On the way back, I5, I40, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, it was all good (apart from a mechanical problem in Kingman), then the storm system which had been chasing us caught up with us in Elk City, OK. When we emerged from the motel room in the morning, there was some snow falling and the car was encased in about half an inch of solid ice. The snow got heavier as we hacked away, and (insanely?) continued on I40 to I44: single-track following snow-ploughs between the scattered jack-knifed trucks. Somewhere around Tulsa we emerged from the storm into terrific sunshine, and stopped for gas and coffee. In my archive I have photos I took at that stop, of the amazing ice crystals that had grown on the hub-cap centrifuges. Road-trips can be glorious damfoolery; I'm glad you survived yours.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2:13:00 AM  
Blogger Ted Lemon said...

Oh yes, those trips are always fun. Andrea and I did a drive like that across West Texas once. There really wasn't a good place to stop, so it sort of made sense, but it was a nerve-wracking drive, and we were very happy when we got to Fort Stockton and could stop for the night.

Those are some of the nicer interstates in the country. I-70 is one of my favorites, going across the Rockies in Colorado, and also in Utah. I did a trip across Utah on I-70 once--it's very dramatic until you get to the flat part... :')

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2:47:00 AM  
Blogger robyn said...

welcome to Brattleboro.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 1:47:00 PM  
Blogger Ted Lemon said...

Thanks! We're really happy to be here!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 8:27:00 PM  
Blogger PURCHASE MY HOUSE said...

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Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:01:00 PM  

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