“Where are you moving?” People logically ask when they hear I am once again pulling up stakes.
“I don’t know,” I say, which is sad, true, and puzzling to most normal people, a group to which I have not belonged for some time.
Eyebrows raise. Silences grows. Subjects change. People whisper.
This I do know: After seven-months of living in and staging a lovely Southern Plantation-style Florida home, I am moving. Allegedly, I am moving to another home that I will again decorate to help sell.
The home staging company and I have a home in mind, a lovely Spanish Mediterranean facing a lake. There’s just one little hitch. I need to be out of my home 48 hours sooner than the current resident of my target home plans to move out. Apparently those living in her target home can’t be out any sooner.
I appear to be the only one concerned about this.
“Ahh details, schmeetails. What’s 48 hours?” say those pulling the strings behind the curtain.
Although two days don’t seem like much in the shifting sands of real estate time, when you’re trying to coordinate the handing over of the keys along with the relocation of, oh, ten tons of household contents, two days might as well be two years.
What am I supposed to do, sit on the curb with my stuff? Move in with the current resident? Excuse me, Ms. Thistlebottom, would you be so kind as to scoot your things over just a skosh while I slip my queen bed next to yours? I promise to stay on this side of the sink.
Sometimes I picture the real estate map of America like a giant chess game. One move triggers a cascade of contingencies that has ripple across the entire board, often at the expense of someone’s castle.
Meanwhile, speaking of bad timing, as I’m packing to move to a home where I may or may not be headed—asking myself why am I in this situation, and answering, oh, yea, because I don’t want to buy a home until I sell the home I own in Colorado, which is difficult since it isn’t for sale, but Lord willing and the creek don’t rise that will end in August when the lease is up and I can put that house on the market—my tenant calls.
She wants to extend the lease. For a year.
"NOOOOOOOO!!" I think. But what I say is, “The end of the lease is months away. Do we need to decide this now?” I mean, why panic today when you can panic later? That’s my motto.
“Actually, yes,” she said, adding something about wanting to know where she’ll be living in six months and not liking uncertainty.
You want to talk about uncertainty! I feel like saying, but instead, I find my last shred of calm, and say, “Let me think about it.”
And I will, even though this hurts my head so bad I want to rush back to fourth grade when my biggest problem was keeping my knee socks from sliding down.
For therapy, I run all this by my friend Audrey Will, a realtor from Castle Rock, Colo. “So many things have to align for everyone’s life to fall into place,” she said, succinctly summing both my housing predicaments.
“It’s like dominos. You can have them all lined up, but if one down the line falls the wrong way, or doesn’t fall, it sets off a chain reaction of frenzy,” she said.
We agree, though timing is a huge issue, it’s the elephant in the room no one talks about.
To prepare her clients, Will tells them up front: “Every deal takes on a life of its own. We’re going to have issues. We just don’t know what they are yet.”
Here are a few hiccups that can derail a move’s timing, and suggestions from real estate pros on avoiding or getting through them:
Why timelines blow up:
• The house doesn’t appraise well, so everyone goes back to the bargaining table.
• The loans falls through. Get a lender letter soon after the home is under contract stating the confidence level of funding.
• A failed home inspections. A pre-inspection from the seller can disclose problems up front.
• Arguments about repairs. Parties have walked away after disagreeing about who’s going to pay for fixing what. “Check your ego at the door,” says Will.
• The roof caves in. After a house is under contract, catastrophes -- the basement floods – can set deals back.
• Cold feet. For reasons ranging from sudden job loss to a change of heart to onerous homes associations, buyers back out.
• A lien surfaces. Escrows collapse when a property doesn’t clear title, or a lien pops up. Run a title search beforehand.
• Other people. Any one of the above happening to another deal in the housing chain can affect yours.
When move dates don’t align:
• Buy time. If sellers need more time in the house, they can rent the property back from the buyer. If buyers want in sooner than the seller is out, they can hold their stuff on the truck if the overlap is only a day (otherwise it can get expensive), or rent a pod which they can fill and store until the new place is ready. Then find a friend that has a guest room, or stay at an inn.
• Adopt the Zen of moving. “When you think about how much real estate changes hands every day, it’s amazing how well it all works out,” says Will. You may not move the day you set out to, but ultimately you move. You can’t know how it’s all going to work out, but trust that it will.”
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.