Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Relocation Chronicles, Chapter 5 - I Love That House!

On the 1st of the month, my property manager/realtor formally posted my house for sale. Mid-morning, we went by the house to give it a once-over. I have to acknowledge my tenant, who kept it in pretty good shape. Sure, it will need a bit of TLC, but there are no glaring issues. That is a relief.

As my realtor and I went in that morning, I saw the house from a different perspective. It was the first time since September of 2010 that I'd set foot in in it, and thought "I wouldn't mind staying here". The house was light and airy. The kitchen and den area were roomy. The basement looked good; the carpet held up well & the walls were in good shape. With some of the tenant's stuff still in it, I could see how a different decoration theme could bring out some different qualities.

My realtor is also optimistic about the house being on the market. He feels the proposed price is reasonable for the location, and he's doing what he can to increase its marketability.

I didn't tour the upper (bedroom) level, since the tenant hadn't finished removing her things. But, the rooms I saw reminded me why my wife and I bought it. It wasn't one of those "try to remember/the kind of September..." moments, but I did get a little sentimental. We had such plans for it, plans that didn't quite come to fruition.

The house was the first & only one my wife and I ever purchased. Even after all these years, her vision and intelligence are still a positive impact on my life and the lives of our progeny. That thought really blows my mind, and got me to thinking. Have I made choices that can be a long-lasting benefit to others? When I'm gone, will others say I had their best interests at heart?

Yeah, in a very mundane sense the house is an asset. It can be converted to another resource as I move on in this life. But, it's also a symbol. It's a reminder of a better time, a more innocent time. I'm not saying I want to move back in. But I saw the potential. Whoever buys it will have a really nice house.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Relocation Chronicles, Chapter 4 - Papers (No, Not Those Kind of Papers)

(With apologies to Usher Raymond IV)

Tuesday morning, I met my realtor at his office. It was a cool, weirdly blustery day. In most parts of the nation, it's normally hot on 1 July. Here on the Front Range, though, we're liable to see any sort of weather. I wore a tropical print shirt, trying to convince myself I felt warm.

My realtor, as mentioned before, is insightful & professional. Upon my arrival, he had a bit of Chick-Fil-A set out. We broke bread for a bit as we discussed selling my house. He was confident that the house was desirable, that the selling price he proposed was appropriate for the location, and that it wouldn't take a lot of work to dress it up for viewings.

After a few minutes of visiting, he brought out the papers. Contract time! I put electronic signatures on a couple of forms, forms that were actually shorter than I expected. Each was around 8-10 pages, written in clear text that even a goober like me could understand.

Each form had boilerplate language towards the top, in bold print. I could imagine a stentorian voice reading it, like Chuck D, Walter Cronkite or Billy Graham:

THIS FORM HAS IMPORTANT LEGAL CONSEQUENCES AND THE PARTIES SHOULD CONSULT LEGAL AND TAX OR OTHER COUNSEL BEFORE SIGNING.

First up were the Closing Instructions. This form confirmed the location of the property, the name of the closing company we plan to use, how the closing documents would be prepared, who pays the required fees, etc. Also included were some high-level statements regarding disputes around the closing, if such events happen. So far, so good.

Next, I got the Exclusive Right-To-Sell Contract. This one had language at the top of the form similar to the previous, and something unique to this contract:

Compensation charged by brokerage firms is not set by law. Such charges are established by each real estate brokerage firm.   

Uh, sure. Seems reasonable. This one spelled out my business relationship with my realtor. The listing period was confirmed, the realtor's duties, selling price, and our respective rights to cancel (if it came to that).

One interesting thing included is Section 7 - Compensation to Brokerage Firm. Yep, when my realtor gets the house sold, he gets paid for his work. Something I'd ignored before was in Section 7.3.3. There is a 30-day period after the listing period ends, where if I negotiate independently with a prospective buyer I met through the broker (realtor), I still owe the broker his commission. I'm been naïve about this, but there must have been too many instances of folk hooking up after-hours to sell property & "hip-checking" the broker out of his/her rightfully earned commission. People and money, as usual a recipe for possible temptation and wrongdoing.

After signing those two forms, my realtor showed me a website used in the real estate industry. This site is a clearinghouse for home listings, with pictures, descriptions, etc. One cool feature on the site is a scheduling function. There are blocks of time designated, where a realtor can sign up for a block to show the house. This allows different realtors to de-conflict between each other's schedules when showing a house. It seems obvious, but I've always been captivated by "process". In clicking on the tab that showed my house, he had loaded pictures of the interior. These pics were taken before my current tenant moved in. My realtor chose a sunny day, and the interior looked attractive with sunlight streaming in. I was quite impressed (more on that in another post).

The third form I received was the Seller's Property Disclosure. I have to fill out this one; my broker isn't allowed. This one is also pretty obvious - describe the house's physical condition. There's a series of questions, and I fill in the dots. I had four answer choices: yes, no, I don't know, N/A. Seems simple enough.

Most of the questions were straightforward, and I dove right in to addressing them. Sections of questions covered the structure, appliances, electrical/telecommunications, mechanical, sewage, and other related issues. I took real comfort in the form addressing whether or not I kept radioactive or hazardous materials on-site. (rolls eyes). The question about mine shafts or abandoned wells on the property cracked me up as well.

[Note: I understand the need for inclusion of such topics. Especially in this state, with all sorts of terrain and previous usage, one would be prudent to cover such issues. But, in the suburb where my house is located, one wouldn't normally expect an abandoned mine shaft. My suburb is as un-exciting as one would expect.]

Yeah, these were just forms. People sign papers for various reasons every day. But to me, on that day, the symbol was larger than just paragraphs and signature blocks. I've been running my mouth for years about leaving. Now, it feels a little more real. My intent has been expressed through legally-mandated means. It's time to do business.
 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Relocation Chronicles, Chapter 3 - A "Low Pass" [Recent Update]

[Update - 27 June/2053 hours local - just got a note from my property manager. The tenant needs one more month. So, I don't get to do my walk-through next week. I'm somewhat happy to help, but I'm ready to break camp. Let's wrap this thing up!]

I rode by my house Thursday, to get a quick glimpse of how things looked. My tenant's lease expires this weekend, and I anticipate going over there in the days to come to get things ready for the sale.

I used the phrase "low pass" because the phrase "drive-by" has unpleasant connotations. I certainly don't want that popping up on a Google search near my name, with the possibility of being required to explain to anyone what I meant.

(A "low pass" in aviation [paraphrasing here] is a scenario where an aircraft goes low enough near an aerodrome to allow the pilot or pilots to get a glimpse of the local aerodrome environment. Local control tower operatives would grant this permission, taking into account possible obstructions to controlled flight. Depending on the location, the actual altitude from one place to another may vary.)

Anyway, looking at my house from that emotional distance felt weird. My first wife and I bought it seventeen years ago, when other houses on the street were still under construction. It was the first house we'd ever bought, after years of back-and-forth (and not a small amount of trepidation on my part). We were blessed to acquire it, and my wife did a superb job of finding it.

Back in 1997, my part of the neighborhood was pretty much the north edge of the city. My across-the-street neighbors had cow pastures adjacent to their back yards. I remember many a morning waking to the placid mooing of cows that were in no particular hurry to get anywhere.

I'll admit, it's one part of the neighborhood that cracks me up to this day. I encounter plenty of folk on this end of town who seem surprised that a person of color lives in this area. I watched the neighborhood grow year by year (and ended up with stray construction nails in my car tires as a result). In the vast majority of cases, I arrived before most of the others did. But, how would they know, without actually asking?

Regarding the house itself, it looked in relatively good shape. The paint job I had done in the summer of 2011 appears to be in good shape. The parts of the roof I had repaired that same summer are also decent. There don't appear to be any gaping holes in the exterior. The fencing will need some work, but pickets at that size aren't hard to come by.

I have never met nor conversed with the tenant since she moved in two years ago. My property manager/realtor advised me to keep my distance. I'm satisfied with how he took care of things. I would recommend him to others in the area. In addition, since he and I are fraternity brothers, I do take some measure of satisfaction knowing the two of us could enter a mutually satisfying business arrangement. I felt from the start he'd protect my interests while earning enough to make it worth his while.

I'm not his only client, so I won't badger him for hourly updates or similar nonsense. But come Monday, I will feel a sense of excitement and anticipation I hadn't felt in years. It's one thing to talk about change, pray for change. It's another thing to be on the precipice of such change. I'm blessed and grateful that the years of waiting for this transition are coming to a close, and the time for action is at hand.

In a matter of weeks, I'll be on a highway towards Memphis. If you see me, please say hi. The first cheeseburger is on me...



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Relocation Chronicles, Chapter 2 - My Last Soup Run

We used the Freightliner Walk-In Van. (Ours is similar to the one you see in the pic.) The one we have is about 15 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 10 feet high or so. (My measurements may be off a bit.). The model number for ours is MT-14FD.


This vehicle is an M-Line, Truck, 14,500 lb gross vehicle weight rating, Forward engine, Diesel Engine. It handles like a dream. It accelerates fairly well, possesses a turn radius that is a bit smaller than I expected, and it handles inclement weather with ease. I've driven that bad boy through rain, sleet, snow, hail, baking heat and heavy traffic. It always answered the call.


On top of that, the last few years when we've had wildfires in the local area, the Salvation Army staff has used it on the front lines to provide spiritual support, hot and cold beverages, meals and even some light first aid.


On 6 June, I did my last "soup run" for the local Salvation Army station. It's been three years of helping, and I gladly admit it was an enjoyable season in my life.


It all started in February of 2011. I'd just gotten back from my final deployment before retirement. A few months before, my divorce was finalized. So, there I was - no wife, no job, no direction for my life.


A friend from church was already running errands for the local branch of the Salvation Army. He usually volunteered on weekends, gathering bread for the homeless and others in dire straits. I got a chance to ride shotgun with him a few times before my deployment, so I was able to easily re-join to help him upon my return. As I got back into civilian life, working with him led to my meeting the receptionist at SA.


The receptionist, Teresa, was one of the most grounded Christian women I'd ever met. A little while after we met, she asked if I was up for an adventure. She had spots open for drivers, folk who would escort volunteers from various churches in the local area. We'd meet at the SA location, get the food and supplies onto the canteen, go downtown, fellowship with folk, pray with some, encourage others, then come back to "home base" to clean everything up.


Digression - how many of you have heard this rationale? "I'm gonna take my kids this Thanksgiving/Christmas to a homeless shelter to volunteer, serve some meals. Maybe it will help my children learn how blessed they are."


Digression 2 - how many of you have said "we gotta get the homeless off the streets, get 'em jobs, get 'em contributing to society."


I went into this effort so naïve. I went downtown to help people, and perhaps "fix" a few. I had plenty of time, and needed a place to belong. I am convinced God wouldn't have given me free time without a reason, a purpose in which to use the time allotted.


In my immature thinking, I was gonna personally get a few folk off the streets (and no doubt pat myself on the back for making the world a better place). In a very subtle way, our customers let me know from the start they weren't anyone's object lesson nor object of pity.


Our customers were unique individuals, with distinct value systems & beliefs. There were military veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder issues. There were women and men who'd left abusive relationships, but didn't have anywhere else to go for shelter. There were folks who hitch-hiked here from other states looking for construction work or other employment opportunities. Some were just enjoying life "off the grid" - they didn't have any bills, any bosses or any hassles. Some had good jobs at one time, were living paycheck-to-paycheck, got overextended financially, then ended up out on the street. Some were so well-versed in Biblical matters, they could discuss doctrine on a par with virtually any ordained minister.


Some wanted help, and we were able to help a few. Some just wanted to be acknowledged as living beings on the earth. A few were small-time hustlers, like in any other large gathering. Some just wanted a hot meal or a cup of coffee. We had that too.


I learned more about life talking to our customers downtown than I learned in a hundred formal meetings in office buildings from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. I got to see up-close better examples of fellowship, loyalty and integrity on the street than I've seen in many churches, offices, etc. Our customers showed me places where I fell short in life and attitude. Cool thing was, they weren't heavy-handed about it. In the final accounting, I got more from them than they did from me. They embraced me and helped me grow up a quite a bit.


So now, my shift is complete. I am gonna use the time to keep prepping for the move coming soon. I have no doubt God will send new volunteers to assist in this worthwhile endeavor. For me, I say farewell to Chris, Snake, Ghost, Mark, Vince, Dalton, Tom (R.I.P.) and all the other men and women I met on the street. Thanks for the laughter, the exchange of ideas, the broadening of my perspective. They helped me become a better man, because they were willing to give of themselves.


In addition, I am thankful for all my fellow volunteers. So many women and men who took time from their own responsibilities to look after total strangers. Good people, every one of them. I was honored to serve alongside all of them. Thomas, Gloria, "the three Davids", Carol and Carol, Timothy.
Furthermore, I am thankful for all the organizations that donated foodstuffs, serving resources, clothing, Bibles and other items our customers could use after the meals were served. We couldn't have gone out to help if we didn't have the support.


Now, I need to go find something productive to do in Memphis. It's a big city, so I suspect something will be revealed soon.


I write to encourage those of you who read this - seek out opportunities to contribute. Each of us has a gift that can be a blessing to someone else. Your gift is needed in your community.
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(Yes, I tweet - @SomRandomOlDude)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Relocation Chronicles - Chapter One

This is yet another occasional series, where I'll share what I learn and see about my planned move from Colorado to Tennessee. I am excited about the opportunity to go back down south.

Being a military veteran & formerly married, I had lots of help whenever I moved. In other words, I did very little to no actual work. Other than signing forms or watching other folks put my stuff on a truck, I was hands-off. So, this time it becomes an adventure because all the responsibility falls on me. I'm excited about going home, and I'm excited about having some say about my future. I just don't know what the heck I'm doing.

Today, I had lunch with my property manager/realtor. He's a good guy, and helped me in many ways over the years. Also, he's frat, so it's cool to keep it in the Brotherhood (he's a much better Brother than I'll ever be). He brought a hard copy appraisal with him, and we are both pleased with the possible proceeds. Now, the way ahead is a little clearer. My tenant's lease expires in four weeks. Once she's out, we can show the house to prospective buyers.

Why do I have a tenant? A few years ago, the house became too big for me. Once my kids moved out, I wasn't excited about maintaining it alone. It's not a mansion by any means, but I don't need that much space. The money came in handy, but it seemed more like getting use out of the asset. I'm glad the tenant was able to have some stability in her life.

The house has a bunch of memories. It was the first one (actually only one) my first wife and I ever bought. It looks like it was a great investment. She always had great judgment, and I get to benefit from her vision.

Then, nearly 10 years later, my second wife moved in. By then, we had the basement remodeled to suit her desires (including a walk-in closet for literally 300 pair of shoes. I moved them in, so it's no exaggeration). Today, the valuation might be a bit higher if that space was a bedroom instead of a closet, but at the time I was in a "anything you want, baby" mood.

So, like nearly everyone, I can look back and see some cool, crazy, crushing moments. On some level, it's bittersweet to actually sell the house and "break camp". But, let me ask you this:

If you were alone & money wasn't a consideration, where would YOU choose to live? What would be the big criteria that would drive your choice?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Random Thoughts

I love the time just before sunrise, especially in the desert. There's something stark & beautiful, even peaceful, about that stillness. As my eyes adjust to the dark transitioning to dawn, my mind feels clear. The air here is usually cool & fresh. The madness of the day hasn't started. That time is fleeting, but I enjoy it.

Made lasagna yesterday. It was good, but I ate too much of it. My innards were crying out for relief throughout the night. So, I got up at 0430 hours for a nice, long walk. There will come a time where I will take the lesson learned to heart, the lesson of "don't be a glutton".

During the walk, I heard a couple of tracks from Berlin's "Love Life" CD. Even though it's an artifact from the New Wave '80s, I still get a kick out of it. Most songs deal with the dark, disillusioned side of love & romance (to which I can obviously relate). The scratchy guitar licks get under my skin like an itch I can't reach. The rat-tat-tat of the drums hit like tommy-gun fire. The beats would fit in with any spinning class; the lyrics, not so much. Terri Nunn's vocals purr one moment, snarl the next. It's one of the most thematically cohesive CDs I've ever heard.

Watching "Sink the Bismarck!" before heading out to church. I was never in anyone's navy, but the sea battle scenes look authentic. The scenes of the operations staff poring over charts and planning missions bring back nice memories as well.

It's June - Flag Day, Father's Day and the first day of summer are all coming. June is an underrated month. In addition, it's one month closer to my moving back to Tennessee.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Old Dude, Old Movies - "Hobson's Choice"

Sometimes, there are neat moments in a life that find you by surprise. I stumbled across this movie last week, after driving 600 miles. I thought I was too tired to watch it, but got into it after about five minutes. It was excellent.

The movie was based on the play of the same name, written by Harold Brighouse. Two earlier film versions (released in 1920 and 1931, respectively) preceded this version.

This 1954 release starred Charles Laughton. The same guy who was the "Hunchback of Notre Dame" in 1939 and Captain Bligh opposite Clark Gable in 1935's "Mutiny on the Bounty" did a splendid job in this film. He was a thoroughly unlikable character, necessary to make this story work.

Laughton is "Henry Horatio Hobson", owner of a moderately successful shoe-making business in a small British town in the 19th century. He carries on around the town like "a big fish in a small pond (his words). He is arrogant and condescending to all in his orbit: his drinking buddies at the Moonraker pub, his workers and his daughters.

Hobson, a widower, has three daughters in the home and the shop."Maggie" (Brenda De Banzie) is the eldest. She is the character who makes the plot work. She's the smartest character in the film, and drives the story. "Alice" (Daphne Anderson) and "Vicky" (Prunella Scales) are the younger two daughters. All three work in the shop without pay, and do the cooking and housework after the shop closes each night.

The younger two are of marrying age, and each has her eye on a beau. Getting wed would mean their getting out from under their father's heavy-handedness. Hobson doesn't mind that, but he objects to paying his future sons-in-law any sort of dowry. He's just that greedy and self-absorbed.

Maggie, on the other hand, is a bit older. Her father is directly insulting to her, even as she is the brains behind the business. For her future, she has broader visions than just getting married. She even admits that she may be past prime child-bearing age, but she hasn't given up on her life going forward. After a particularly rude set of comments from her father/boss, she decides she's had enough. She is going to get married, and she decides to pick a husband that will embarrass her father - "Willy Mossop" (John Mills).

Willy is one of Hobson's employees. He sits in the basement of the shop all day, every day, making shoes. He's dirty, not particularly smart, not particularly confident. Measured by social status, Willy is at or near the bottom in the community. But he has a supreme gift. He is the best cordwainer (shoemaker) in the city, if not the entire region. It's his work that nearly single-handedly brings in the profit the shop earns. Maggie knows it better than anyone, since she keeps the books & manages the day-to-day operations.

Maggie figures she can establish a new dynamic with her father in two ways: she will be married, and she will take Willy with her to open a new shop. That shop would target the high-end shoe customers her father takes for granted.

Maggie's interactions with Willy are insightful and heart-warming. She's brusque, but she has a strategic purpose for every decision she makes. What initially looked like rampant manipulation is tied to bigger goals in mind. By movie's end, everyone's position is improved directly through Maggie's vision and commitment. You could consider her a pre-feminist for either, whether in the film's setting or the year of the film's release.

As confident as Maggie is, she completely supports Willy. She knows he would be a more productive worker with her by his side. She sees a greatness in him that he never considered in himself, as a man and as a business owner. As their time together goes on, Maggie and Willy make a great team. The bond that started in perhaps a cynical way soon grows to heartfelt affection between the two. That aspect was my favorite theme in the film.

There is a scene that warmed my heart, big-time. Once the couple acquire a small home on the main street to also use as a workshop, they start to decorate it. Maggie commissions exterior signage, with Willy's full name in big letters. The first time he walks out of the shop & looks at the sign, you can see his confidence and self-worth grow in that instant. For the first time in his life, he feels appreciated and valued. It's a simple scene, but I could relate to what Willy was feeling in that moment.

Director David Lean (who later directed "The Bridge On The River Kwai", "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Doctor Zhivago") did a superb job setting up the story-telling. The scenes where Hobson staggers around drunk are innovative and really put you in his shoes. (In no way do I mean to glorify dipsomania, but the scenes are quite effective). Lean lets the scenes breathe quietly. The viewer gets a chance to inhabit what each character is thinking, feeling or seeing. I love how this film expresses its message.

Yes, this film is a product of its era. The British sensibility in film-making is evident. It's a lovely film. Some critics called it "delightful", and that description is appropriate. I loved it, and look forward to seeing it again. It's definitely one I'd buy on DVD/Blu-Ray, to watch whenever I choose.