Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Selling our house in Cape Coral, Florida, and the end of my days as a pack rat

There's nothing quite like the experience of trying to sell one's house in the midst of the housing bust in a location that is ground zero for the foreclosure crisis!  It's not a question of how much you're going to make on the sale; it's all about hoping for the lowest possible loss!  The new reality here is simple: If you can sell your house and not have to write a check to the mortgage company at closing, you've won!

Our house is in good shape, and it will show nicely.  However, its setting is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.  In an area where most houses are on plunked right next to each other on a plain, quarter-acre lot with a manicured lawn, our house sits on a private, two-thirds of an acre parcel, with over two hundred feet of our back yard on a freshwater canal.  There is virtually no lawn; instead, we've got a cornucopia of Florida native plants and trees.  It's like living in a house inside a botanical garden.  Not something one would buy for use as a rental property, and not luxurious enough to attract wealthy Germans looking for a second home in sunny southwest Florida.  The relatively large amount of land is actually a potential liability.  Someday, possibly within the next decade, Cape Coral will expand water and sewer utilities to our neck of the woods.  When they do, there is going to be an insanely large assessment, the size of which will depend on the size of the lot on which the house sits.  Large lot means large assessment.

Location, location, location; a reasonable asking price; a good Realtor -- this baby ought to sell without being on the market forever, but I'm going to pull out all the stops.  Back in May, I came up with the idea of posting a short video extolling our house's virtues to prospective buyers everywhere in a way that cannot be accomplished by traditional photos or virtual tours.  I envision a web site where Zillow meets YouTube meets Craig's List.  I added comebuymyhouse.com (and comebuymyhome.com) to my internet real estate holdings, storyboarded the video, and wrote the script.  When the house goes on the market in the fall, my secret marketing weapon will be ready.

Now that it's early October, and we've found a home for our new home (the 5th wheel), it's time to put the traditional (non-mobile) version in Cape Coral, Florida on the market.  The Realtor I wanted to use tells me she'll be getting out of the business soon, and now has an associate.  Not a good sign, but we set up an interview.  The associate has an attitude problem, and really doesn't understand (or like) our house.  Buh-bye!  As fate would have it, Janet was getting some plants from the place that did our Florida-native landscaping.  A woman who works there and Janet got to talking about selling their houses.  It turns out that the woman had just sold her Florida-native landscaped house in Cape Coral using a great Realtor who really appreciated the property.  Bingo!  We called the Realtor, who wowed us at the interview.  We gave her the listing, effective October 10th.  Time to make the video for comebuymyhouse.com

Timing is everything.  My buddy, and long-time co-conspirator in radio and TV production, Jeff Ronner, is coming to town for a visit starting on October 5, and he's going to help me do the video.  We plan the shooting, and decide to do it the next morning.  Come Saturday morning (note to self: what a great idea for a song title.  When I have some free time, I'll see if the Sandpipers are available.), the day dawns sunny and warm, with a clear, blue sky.  We start shooting at 8:30 a.m., and we're done by noon.  A few hours of post production work, and voilĂ , we've got a nice video that runs two minutes and forty-five seconds.  Up on the web site it goes, ready to supplement the MLS listing and the Realtor's marketing efforts.  (Check out our handiwork for yourself at www.comebuymyhome.com )

Two weeks later, we got a firm offer on the house, with a net value very close to our asking price!  It's great when a plan comes together.  Yes, we're going to lose lots of money, but we won't have to write a check to the mortgage company at closing.  The house is sold, and I still have my shirt.  Woo-hoo, we've won big time!

One small thing, though: We've got two weeks to vacate.  That's just a fortnight to get everything in the house either moved to storage, sold, donated, or thrown away!  We find a climate-controlled storage facility literally across the street from the RV park, and get space at a really good rate.  Between Craig's List and a yard sale, we sell lots of stuff we no longer need or want.  What doesn't sell, we donate.

Now here is my confession: The bulk of the time it took me to get ready to move out was caused by my being a consummate pack rat!  Stuff... stuff... so much useless stuff!  Product boxes by the dozens, things I was sure would be useful one day, junk I haven't seen or needed for over a decade all had to be sorted through and thrown out.  What on earth was I thinking that made we want to keep all this crap in the first place?  I'm not a hoarder, but come on, this is ridiculous!  I filled an eighty-gallon trash bin four times over, a fifty-gallon recycle bin three times, and still had enough worthless electronic junk for the recycling center to fill the bed of our truck!

I'm now a member of PA (pack raters anonymous), and I can attest that my days as a pack rat are over.  (In fact, I've told Janet that if she sees me saving so much as a box for a can opener, she's to shoot me!)  My new world of limited space and weight will keep me on the wagon.  Others who have gone through the "shedding excess stuff" process have told me it was a cleansing, liberating experience.  I used to think that sentiment was a bunch of hooey, but now, I get it!

Coming up next: Photos

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Finding a home for our new home

Now that we have what will be our new home (the 5th wheel RV), we have to find a "base camp" that will be our location when we're not traveling.  We want to stay in the Fort Myers, Florida area, and fortunately, there is no shortage of RV parks here.  One day in August, Janet and I were driving to Fort Myers Beach, and just after we passed our favorite ice cream parlor (Love Boat Ice Cream -- all hand made), we noticed an RV park: The Fort Myers Beach RV Resort.  An interesting find for two reasons: First, the RV park is actually four miles before Fort Myers Beach, and second, we've driven past this RV park a gazillion times in the past fifteen years and we never really noticed it was there!  Funny how when you start looking for RV parks, they suddenly appear.  Janet suggested I do a scouting trip and check out the park later in the week.  I did so, and found the cost of an annual spot to be reasonable and the RV park to be really nice.  The location is great -- lots of restaurants, stores, and food shopping within walking or bike riding distance.  So too is Janet's dad's place, and a big public library (yes, we still like to read dead-tree tomes).  Fort Myers Beach is only four miles away, so we can bike there too. The park has a large, heated pool and big hot tub -- we'll surely enjoy those facilities all winter.  And best of all, Love Boat Ice Cream is just steps away (cue Jack Jones)!

We pick a lot that will be ours for the year, sign the papers (including giving management permission and money to do a required background check on us that we somehow pass), fork over a security deposit and the first month's rent, and starting on October 1, 2012, we'll have a home for our new home.

Now there's just one little detail that comes next: We have to sell our house!

Coming up next: Selling our house in Cape Coral, Florida, and the end of my days as a pack rat