Off to a Rough Start

May 22, 2012

 It’s four days since the scheduled “closing” on our house, and here we are at the Arrowhead Campground at Badin Lake Recreation Area in the Uwharrie National Forest not far from Albemarle, North Carolina. That’s about 60 miles from Charlotte. The last several months, going back to probably a year ago have been a heck of a ride, and it isn’t over yet.  For now, our lives are in Limbo, and God only knows for how much longer.

 This all began about a year and a half ago when we decided to build on our property in Idaho.  Since we were married, in 2009, that property had been on the market, but with today’s economy, not much was happening.  Selling the house in Charlotte and building out west seemed to be a good option. We first thought of building a log home, and began researching on-line various log home companies and floorplans.  We found a few from Yellowstone Log Homes that we really liked.  Based in Rigby, Idaho, not very far from our land in Ashton, Yellowstone Homes has a very good reputation and they looked like a good bet. 

 We were also in contact with neighbors who recommended a builder they knew had worked  in the Twin Rivers Ranch subdivision.  We  researched his references and all spoke very highly of him. We didn’t hear a single negative comment.  That, and his answers and suggestions when we talked gave us a good feeling. We decided he would be the one to build our home.  We told Jason we’d be building on a budget, and his suggestion was to go with a more conventional “stick-built” house, with some log accents to maintain the rural and rustic appearance.

 In the summer/autumn of 2011, we took our 26-foot travel trailer and headed west for a two-month vacation, centered on a visit to Ashton to meet with various people such as bankers, insurance brokers, and the builder.  This was a fabulous trip, which eventually we’ll write up in our America Through a Bug-Splattered Windshield series.  When we got home, we got started in earnest to prepare our home in Charlotte, NC for sale.

 The next several months were hectic.  A home inspector came and gave us a list of things that needed attention.  Contractors were coming and going to take care of the things we weren’t able to handle ourselves.   We started going through all our stuff, throwing some things out, bringing some to Goodwill, and packing the rest for the move west. Among all this activity, we were making changes and fine-tuning our floorplans for the new home, paying careful attention to the covenants. We didn’t want any surprises at the last minute, so we kept the HOA Architectural Committee abreast of our planning.

 In January, we listed the house for sale, and had several “lookers” the first few weeks.  Then came a lull.  We took a month’s vacation to Florida, since “a watched pot never boils.” While we were gone, there wasn’t a single showing.  We called our selling agent when we returned, and had a serious talk.  We’re not sure if it helped or not, since the season was changing from winter to spring, but soon after, the “lookers” started coming again.

 By now, we were happy with our drawings for the new home, and just about ready to have them drawn up as building blueprints.  But first, we sent them off to the committee for another perusal. The reply was not what we expected.  The house was not “rustic” enough.  Several suggestions were made and none of them were required in the covenants.  We were furious. This is our house, not theirs.  Screw her, and to Hell with building.  Let’s just get this house sold and go full-time RVing!”

 It was said facetiously, but the more we thought about it, the more sense it made.  It was now April.  Even with today’s economy, we naively expected more action on our house sale, but it was taking longer than we expected.  Who knows how much longer this may take?  We planned to live on our property in our camper for the duration of the building process, but if operations had to be closed down for the winter, this could possibly mean living in it for close to a year before moving in to the house. Maybe, we should think about buying a bigger truck and larger trailer now, rather than in four or five years as we had been thinking.  But, if we got ourselves into debt to the tune of a hundred grand for a truck and trailer, do we really want to take on the cost and obligations connected with building a new house?  At this point in our lives is this what we really want to be doing?  When would we find the time to do the traveling we really crave?  Who needs a new house anyway?  Maybe, just maybe, we’d been kicked us in the right direction!

 It was a Wednesday when we made the final decision to cancel plans for building and become gypsies.  We’d already been looking at fifth-wheel trailers for some future upgrade, and had a reasonably good idea of what we would want.  Thursday we visited a couple of dealers to see what was available.  Friday, I went out to look at trucks and see what Chevy, Ford, and Dodge had to offer.  My first stop was at Chevy, and they offered me a deal on a 2012 Silverado 2500 that would be hard to refuse.  The truck was on the lot, and I took it home for an overnight test-drive.  Saturday, we signed the papers.

 We continued visiting RV dealers.  While leaving one, on Monday, I mentioned to the salesman that he knew what we were looking for, and if anything previously owned, fairly recent, came in, we might be interested.  “Let’s see what we have on the used lot right now,” he said.

 To make a long story short, before we left we had left a $200 deposit on a 2011 Grand Junction fifth-wheel trailer.  It was a fantastic find.  Most of the trailers we had been looking at would have served very well as vacation RVs, but what we were looking for would have to serve as our permanent home.  The Grand Junction is a more luxurious model, and therefore a lot pricier than what we had been looking at, but being a used model, was right down into our price range.  Our only hesitation came from the fact that our house still hadn’t sold, and we had a mortgage to pay.  My intuition told me that since we would no longer be building, we could afford to hit my IRA for the extra payments of the truck and fifth-wheel until the house sold.  I wanted to talk with my CFP before making any final decision.  It just coincidentally happened that we had a telephone conference scheduled for the following morning.

 Dan, my financial guru, agreed, but before we went back to complete the deal on the Grand Junction, there was one more model trailer we wanted to look at that was on the lot at a dealer in South Carolina.  After hanging up with Dan, we got in the car for the drive.  On the way, Chari got a cell phone call from our agent that there would be a showing of the house that afternoon.

 We decided the Grand Junction would be the better choice, and called the sales rep to say “We’ll take it”.

 Wednesday morning our agent called to tell us that yesterday’s “looker” would probably be making an offer on the house.  The offer came that evening, and with less than ten minutes of haggling, we had a contract!  Closing would be scheduled for May 18.

 In one week, we made the decision to become full-time RVers, had a truck literally fall into our laps, had a trailer fell on top of the truck in our laps, and found a buyer for the house!  WOW!!!

 If we thought we had been busy before, it was nothing compared with the following five weeks.  We were no longer going to move out west, actually, we wouldn’t be moving into a house at all, so everything we owned, except what could fit in the trailer, would have to go!  We already had more than 200 boxes packed.  We had a house full of furniture.  We had closets full of clothes.  We had five weeks!  Where to begin?

 We gave ourselves three weeks to prepare for a moving sale.  That would give us another two weeks to get rid of whatever didn’t go.  I started calling Chari the “Energizer Bunny”.  She’d get up and start working and wouldn’t quit.  I had trouble keeping up, and have to admit that lots of times, I didn’t.  We sorted through all 200 boxes, plus the stuff that had yet to be packed.  We listed what we could on Craig’s list, and sold quite a bit before the sale date.  Tables were set up throughout the house and garage, items were displayed and priced.  Two days before the sale, we had friends and neighbors come in for a first perusal.

 It all went very well.  We got rid of loads stuff and made a bit of money.  One of the people who came had a business of clearing our homes and garages, and we made a deal with him to clear out much of what was left.  Some things would go to long-term storage for the time when we would decide to grow roots again, and we arranged for a mover.

 Shortly after signing the contract, the buyer had his home inspector come in.  Having already had an inspection before putting the house on the market, and taking care of all the major issues, we weren’t concerned.  Then we saw the report!  We were floored.  This guy wanted a forty-year-old house to be in absolutely perfect condition, as if it was built yesterday.  Luckily, the buyer must have thought the inspector was just as nuts as we did, and he gave us a list of a half-dozen items to have corrected.  Mostly minor stuff such as fixing a drippy pipe in the crawlspace, installing a dryer vent cover outside the house, repairing a small garden retaining wall, etc.  Being too busy to deal with it, we called in contractors, including a local handyman we’d used before.

 Monday, “C-Day” (Closing Day) minus 4

 “Honey, what’s that smell?”  “I dunno…  smells like something died.”  “It seems stronger here by the dryer”

 After a quick emergency call to our handyman, we had the remains of an opossum, really more a pile of fur with a hairless tail and an overpowering stench, in a plastic bag, after being removed from the dryer vent.

 Wednesday, “C-Day” minus 2

 We were going crazy, loading up the trailer, making last-minute runs to the dump, contractors were there cleaning theducts and the carpets, the buyer was there with his agent, and his home inspector came for his re-inspection.  Finally, everyone left and we had a few minutes to relax before going out for a bite.  We hadn’t had a home cooked meal in over a week.  The phone rings.  It’s the buyer.

 “When I got home I had a phone message waiting for me.  My VA loan has finally been approved.  A few minutes later, I got another call.  I’ve lost my job.  The sale is off!”

 Thursday, “C-Day” minus 1

 What to do?  We had planned on leaving the house today, taking the trailer to Badin Lake for a week.  We’d come back the following morning for the closing.  Now there won’t be a closing.  We have a house, but no furniture.  We have a RV in the driveway, but it’s only plugged into a 20-amp outlet.  We can’t use the air conditioning.  This is North Carolina, and summer’s coming.

 Let’s go.

 The only time I’ve driven the truck pulling this trailer was the day we brought it home from the dealer.  It’s a monster, maybe not to some people, but it is to me.  A big pick-up pulling a thirty-five foot trailer is a lot more than anything I’d ever towed before, and I wanted to get an early start.  There were umpteen things remaining to do before we could leave, and I was getting frustrated.  Finally, mid-afternoon and we’re ready to hook up.

 The right blinker on the trailer doesn’t work.  “Damn” was one of the milder four-letter words that came out of my mouth.  There were others.  OK, Chari’s following along behind me in the Subaru, I don’t need a directional blinker.  I calmed down by the time we reached the park, but as we came in, I looked in the rear-view mirror and noticed a trailer tire looked a bit low.  By the time we were set up in the site, it was flat as a pancake.

 So, here we are.  “C-Day” plus 4.  But there hasn’t been a “C-Day”.  But we’ve had a few relaxing days.  The directional light turned out to be in the truck, and it’s been fixed.  A serviceman came to replace the tire.  The side-wall was blown out…  probably hit a pothole coming into the park.  I’ll need to get it replaced when we leave here in a couple of days.  Yesterday we had to go back to the house to deal with another odor problem.  Seems when the carpet cleaners were there they used way too much water and didn’t get things even close to being properly dried. Five days later, things were still damp. Chari’s “evil twin” got on the phone with the manager at Sears and raised Holy Hell!  They came back out, admitted they used too much water, and de-odorized everything.  The smell should go away… hopefully.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed.  Don’t want to have to pull up the carpets and replace the matting underneath!

 So far, things haven’t gone quite as planned.  But better days are coming!

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