Closing time

So this is it.

It hardly feels like six months have passed since I was saying that at the beginning of this adventure.

The paperwork is signed. The moving truck will be loaded tomorrow. And on Sunday morning we will officially close the book on this grand chapter of our lives. Six years, one month and 28 days.

It’s bittersweet. 

At several points this spring, fighting through the stresses of selling our house, I found myself repeatedly recalling the line my brother spoke years ago when he had to get rid of his beloved Mercury Capris convertible. It had been a great car for him, but by the end he’d become so fed up with the problems it caused him that when my father asked if he gave the car a good kiss goodbye, my brother replied, “I gave it a good kick goodbye.”

I’d begun to feel the same way about our house.

Kates and I were in love with it almost the moment we stepped in the door six years ago. We'd missed the boat with offers on two other houses -- what did we know? --  and the housing market was roaring …
Take this recent New York Times story. The first paragraph could have been written about us ...
In 2004, newly married and having decided to embark on the next phase of adulthood, my wife and I bought a house. This was back in the delirious days of multiple offers and outlandish escalation clauses, when you had to bring your checkbook with you to an open house, just in case someone else tried to buy the place while you were poking around the attic.
I remember the delirious night in April 2004 when our realtor called us to share the news that Kates and I had beaten out two other bidders for the 52-year-old ranch home that we thought would be perfect to begin raising our family. Our mortgage broker helped us sweeten the bid by offering the sellers a couple thousand extra dollars if they paid our closing costs. We secured a home equity loan and a home equity line of credit, and didn't have to put down a dime. Having not yet reached the age of 25, we thought we were set for life.

We promptly went to work fixing up the place, going as far as thinking seriously about adding a second floor. Fortunately, we didn't get that far …We repainted all but a couple rooms and retreated all of the windows. I tore up parts of the yard and went wild, adding pockets of flower gardens, retaining walls and a stone walk. We replaced the roof, added a deck, replaced the carpet in the basement rec room and remodeled the bathrooom. We invested thousands in the home.

Then, in the blink of an eye, things changed. I was confronted with a dream job opportunity, and the housing market went in the tank.

* * *

I’ve purposely remained quiet on the travails of selling our house, out of fear of jinxing it. Call me superstitious; I prefer to think of it as taking nothing for granted and being mindful of worst-case scenarios. But here’s a brief synopsis of how it played out …

When we put the For Sale sign in front of our house in February, Kates and I were confident our investment would hold. We’d taken excellent care of our house, and we thought it showed. Compared to other parts of the country, the housing market in K-Town had been fairly stable. Most of the things our realtor was telling us were in line with that positive outlook, too. We studied the comparative market analysis and listed the house at an 8 percent increase from our purchase price six years ago.

And then it sat with little interest for what seemed like an eternity. In mid-April, we lowered the listing price to about 4.5 percent above our purchase price, and began calculating the what-if scenarios. Not even the promise of a government tax credit spurred interest … To say we were frustrated is the understatement of the year. Painful seems more appropriate. We were selling a nice home, dang it!

In the end, we sold the house to a man who was buying it for his daughter -- whom we learned from a neighbor may have two young children of her own. So I suppose we can take solace in the notion that the home will be a nice place for another family to grow ... During a couple weeks of negotiations in May (which included an infuriating inspection that, had it been a court case, we won, and an appraisal process they took down to the wire, which we also won) he wore us down to a sale price of $5,000 -- about 3 percent -- less than our purchase price.

Add on the fees we doled out to the realtors and we now must come up with more than double that to clear the books.

Despite all of the ups and downs, the truth is Kates and I couldn't be happier with the way things turned out.

Do we wish we had received a better offer and recovered our entire investment? Oh yeah! ... But we're also cognizant of the market we're living in, that other home owners are dealing with far bigger losses and it could have turned out a lot worse for us.

* * *

Even with all of the harsh feedback and remarks we’ve endured about our house these last few months -- some of it was so far off it made us wonder if people were really talking about our house -- Kates and I wouldn't trade our six years of home ownership for anything. Heck, we may just build a replica of this house in The 'Ville -- with a few slight modifications and updates, of course.

Although, Kates and I never expected to live the rest of our lives in this house. We had started casually looking at bigger places before this big change presented itself …

We were, our property research tells us, the fifth family to live in this home, and our tenure was the third longest of those. We bought the home from a family who lived here barely a year.

To be frank, it was not a pretty house when we bought it. The brick patio in the backyard was in sad shape and caving in toward the foundation. A third of the grass in the backyard was sand. The bathroom was only partly refinished, with pieces of baseboard missing. The bushes were overgrown.

But Kates and I saw loads of potential in it. We made it our own and made infinite memories around every corner … My tireless work on our yard. All of the handyman projects my father helped me with -- from our deck, to the storage shelves, to the thresholds in the doorways and the quarter-round molding along the baseboards, to installing the bathroom sink.

We redid the living room and the bathroom. Phoebe's room and the guest room got multiple re-dos ... And, after years of being stashed away in boxes, my sports memorabila collection finally got its very own space in our basement rec room.

This was our first home, and the memories that come with that can never be replaced.

It’s the home where we began our family and started raising our first child.

We celebrated birthdays. And Christmases. And we took Phoebe for her first trick-or-treating experience in this neighborhood last fall.

I’ll miss the way our music filled the home -- from Phoebe’s playlist to our impromptu family dance parties in the kitchen. And, of course, dancing endlessly to “Fireflies,” which Phoebe now calls “Daddy’s Song.”

I'll miss the summer nights on our deck, gazing at our yard and taking pleasure in the fireflies flickering like I'd never seen them anywhere before.

I'll miss eating breakfast and reading the newspaper at our kitchen table on Saturday mornings during the summer and the quiet neighborhood view that always brought me so much calm.

I'll miss the quirks, charms and action of K-Town.

As we embark on the next phase of this adventure, we have far more questions than answers. It will take years for us to know whether we've made the right move ...

But as we lock the door on Sunday morning and close it behind us for the last time, we can be sure of this ...

We spread a lot of love in this house,
and we're leaving it in a lot better shape than we found it.

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