August 17, 2012

Adventures in House Selling

If you’ve never bought or sold a house, you have no idea of the fun in store for you.  In our case, we’re selling one and buying another (hopefully).  First comes the decision to sell and move.  This is the hardest part for me since I detest moving.  When I initially moved in with my husband, I told him I might have one more move in me, but that would pretty much be it.  Of course, times and needs change so your mindset needs to change too.  

The uninitiated might think the next step is just call a realtor and it’s over.  Wrong.  The next step is to clean your house.  I don’t mean vacuum and dust, I mean go through all your stuff and start two piles:  (1) stuff to donate somewhere or otherwise get rid of; and (2) stuff you want to keep but can be packed away for a while.  This is called decluttering and is harder than you think until you’ve been through it a few times.  A good rule of thumb is to consider whether you’ve used any particular item within the past year.  If the answer is “no”, then you can probably get rid of it.  

After the decluttering, you’ll need to consider all those little jobs that you just never seemed to get to before – changing the washer on the kitchen faucet, painting the bathroom, cleaning out the shed or garage, replacing ripped screens, etc.  Then, of course, you have to really clean like you haven’t cleaned in a long while.  The windows need washing, the exterior of the home may need washing or even paint, steam-clean the carpets, cut the grass and make sure the gardens are weed free, and the list goes on.  In our case, there was fix the ramp into the shop and paint the shed, too.  We also made time to have a yard sale and sold off a lot of junk…I mean valuable stuff…that was hanging around.  Double bonus here is decluttering and making money at it!  

Now you’re ready to call a realtor.  Do your homework and figure out who you would like to represent you and will give you the best service.  Just remember:  the one with the most signs out is not necessarily the best at actually selling.  S/he may be simply good at listing properties, but have little experience at finding buyers and closing the deal, or alternatively, s/he may simply be too busy listing to spend any time working at selling.  

The realtor will come with forms, a contract, and a camera.  After the necessary paperwork where you contract with them to represent you and agree to a certain selling price and commission fee, you need to decide what you’re going to include with the house when you sell it.  Are you taking the window coverings?  How about the stove, or the beer fridge in the man-room (aka garage)?  The appliances are always good to exclude because they can be used as bargaining tools later when your potential purchaser wants to add them into the deal.  Our bargaining tools include the appliances (fridge, beer fridge, freezer, stove), a snooker sized pool table, a riding mower and trailer, and a snow blower.  We also have a window air conditioner that is only two years old that works well to keep the house fairly cool on hot, humid days.  

With the paperwork done, the realtor will take several pictures of your house including both exterior and interior shots.  Make sure the rooms are tidy, beds made, table not still holding your breakfast dishes, kitchen clean, bathroom sparkling and laundry not visible. Also make sure the smoke detector works and all the light bulbs work.  Soon after this your MLS listing will be posted online and your realtor should also be advertising your home locally in newspapers and real estate listing books.  

Next your realtor schedules an open house where s/he invites other realtors to attend and look through.  These are the folks that will be trying to put a new owner into your home so this is a good step.  After the realtor open house, you’ll have a public open house.  This will be advertised by your realtor and on the day of the open house, just take yourself (and the dog if you have any) out to the park for a few hours.  Your realtor will hang out at your house and hopefully lots of people will show up to look at it.  

We went a step further.  On the second week in August, the Welbeck Sawmill holds its annual wood show.  Since we live about one kilometre from the sawmill, we put out lots of open house signs and our son even had one on the back of his bicycle.  He and my husband walked over to the sawmill and advertised our open house.  I stayed at the house ready to show people through.  Over the course of the two days we had five showings.  It had rained on and off all weekend so we were (are) hopeful about the ones that came through because they are obviously die-hard woodworking hobbyists if they’re out in the pouring rain to attend the wood show.  Since our shop was originally built and set up by someone that was into woodworking, we figured those die-hards would be thrilled to see a house for sale so close to their favourite store!  

We have a lot to offer a potential buyer.  The property is pretty unique.  We have 300 feet of river frontage.  The location of the house is such that it could not actually be built where it is today if you were purchasing raw land.  The house is almost 1900 square feet, completely finished throughout, with big open main rooms thanks to the engineered trusses in the roof.  There is an acre and a half of land (approximately 212’ x 300’; or 65,600 square feet; or about the size of a football field with an extra end zone).  Aside from the house, we have a large shop, a decent sized greenhouse, a drive-shed (think garage with dirt floor and no door), and a garden shed with a loft and attached wood storage area.  We’re surrounded by mature trees and our driveway meanders through the trees so that the house is invisible from the road.  In fact, you can only see one little spot near our fire-pit from the bridge over the river.  So there’s loads of privacy.  Sure, we have neighbours, but they’re very few and only a couple are there all year round.  Mostly the neighbouring places are owned as cottages and the owners only appear now and then throughout the year.  Deer, otter, wild turkeys, migratory ducks, geese, great blue herons, belted kingfishers, various woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals and hummingbirds, as well as robins, chickadees, sparrows, junkos and more make their way through and around the property regularly.  On a quiet night you can hear the coyotes.  In early spring you hear the peepers (little frogs) and of course the ever-present running of the river.  

So now we’re playing the waiting game.  People are looking through the house on occasion and one day soon someone will fall in love with it.  We love it, but our needs have changed for now. 

August 16, 2012

I love to read…

One of the neatest books I ever came across was “The Book of Questions” by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.  I was introduced to it by a friend back in the ‘80s and immediately had to go buy my own copy.  The great thing about the book is that it is entirely made up of questions.  I’m not talking like a trivia thing, but questions that question your thoughts on morality and ethics.  Some of the questions were notated with an asterisk and on checking at the back of the book, you’d find supplemental questions to make you dig a little deeper.  

One of the questions I recall (and I’m going on memory here) supposed that you knew of a technological breakthrough that would occur, that would allow people to travel across continents as easily as we do across town, but would kill half a million people a year.  The question was whether you would try to prevent its use.  Of course, for most of us the answer would be that most certainly we would try to stop this from coming to be.  However, when you check the supplemental questions, this new scenario greets you, (again paraphrasing) – that suppose you knew that the automobile was about to be invented and that it would soon be responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the coming century.  Would you try to prevent its invention? 

See?  It’s an interesting question.  We accept that some people (maybe even ourselves at some point) will die as a result of using an automobile, yet we do not try to prevent its use. 

Another question that I actually had occasion to use in real life came back to my mind as I was re-reading my last blog post.   Here’s what happened:

Friends of mine were new Christians.  In their zeal (really just the lust part of any relationship), they were keen to “save” me.  I’d politely resisted several times, but I’m only human and I can only say no so many ways.  Finally, after yet another speech from the woman of the couple about her need to save me, I asked her one of the questions from The Book of Questions that had stuck in my head.  “If God appeared to you in a series of vivid and moving dreams and told you to leave it all behind, move to the Red Sea and become a fisherman, what would you do?”  She thought about it for a few seconds and slowly replied, “I guess I’d have to go.”  

So I asked her the follow-up question.  “If God appeared to you in a series of vivid and moving dreams and told you to take your child up to a mountain top, make an alter and offer her up as a sacrifice, what would you do?”  My friend’s immediate response was, “Absolutely not!” 

I reminded her that according to the bible, Abraham had been asked to make the same sacrifice and he’d trusted in his god enough to set out to do as asked.  At the last moment God had stayed Abraham’s hand and rewarded his faith.  I also reminded her that just a few moments before she’d been prepared to move to the Red Sea to go fishing just because God said she should, but now she was refusing to do as God asked.  I then told her that until she had that same faith as Abraham, she should worry about her own soul and leave mine alone. 

A little harsh, I know, but it did stop her from trying to save me.  I don’t believe I made her doubt her own faith, but perhaps made her realize it might need a little shoring up in some places.  I moved some distance away a few years later and we eventually lost touch, but I heard from a mutual friend that she and her husband had eased up a bit on the religion thing a few years back.  

Another intriguing question from this great book proposed the scenario where you were walking together with your own father and your best friend when the two of them stumbled into a nest of poisonous snakes and were bitten.  The scenario continues by saying that there is one anti-snake kit with you and you, personally, are carrying it.  What would you do?  My strong sense of survival immediately replies, “I’d give it to myself”, but the best answer I ever heard when playing with this book among friends, was that the person would split it equally between the two and then go for help.  

When the friend that introduced me to the book was asking questions out of it, she came across this one:  “Would you be willing to go to a slaughterhouse and kill a cow?”  There was a group of us in the room and all of them recoiled in horror.  Except me, that is.  My response was, “Do I get the meat?”  The others were horrified, but when my friend read out the supplemental questions, the first one asked “Do you eat meat?”  

Even today, 25 years after first hearing about this book, I believe it’s one of the best I’ve ever read.  If you can find a copy, go read it.  Maybe it’s even available for download, I don’t know, but definitely get it.  

Another book that tops my list is called “How to be a Canadian (Even if You Already Are One)” by Will and Ian Ferguson.  Hands down this is the funniest book I have ever read.  Truly!  The first time I read it, I would generally get time to read in bed at night.  My husband would be there beside me trying to read his motorcycle magazine and I’d be laughing out loud enough that he would ask, “What’s so funny?”  So I’d flip back a page and read him the passage that had me chuckling.  The only problem was that by then it would be a full blown laugh.  Sometimes I’d be laughing so hard I would have tears streaming down my cheeks.  Eventually I ended up reading him the entire book. 

As an example, the book talks about “getting carpal tunnel clicking your way up the satellite channels to APTN (the Aboriginal People’s Television Network) where…” and at that point in the story my husband interrupted my reading to say, “they’re skinning some dead animal.”  Well I’ll be damned if that wasn’t exactly what the book said!  

The book covers the gamut of politics, regional differences, how to tell Americans from Canadians…you name it.  And you laugh through every page…especially Chapter 14.  It’s witty, sarcastic, and so entertaining you’ll recommend it to everyone you know.  In fact, if I can offer another bit of advice here…never lend the book to anyone.  You’ll never see it again and will be forced to go and buy another copy for yourself.  I’ve lost the book twice that way and refuse to lend it anymore.  

Other than that, I’ve got so many books that I’ve read and re-read, I can’t even list them all.  

I read the Millenium (think “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) series twice now.  Good long books but really interesting and gripping.  I saw both the Swedish and the American movie versions and prefer the Swedish one for the most part.  

Diana Gabaldon wrote a series about Scotland and time travel, with the first one being “Outlander” and I’ve read the series two or three times now.  The books are long but well worth it.  I would pick up the book, open the page, tell my husband I was “off to Scotland” and I’d get so wrapped up in the books that he’d have to tap me to rouse me back out of the book because I wouldn’t hear him speaking.  But he understands me.  At Christmas one year he got me “The Outlandish Companion” and it was a good pick.  It’s almost like reading Ms. Gabaldon’s concordance.  A very helpful book for sure.  

John Saul, my all time favourite author, writes horror stories.  Now of course we all know that any kind of fiction calls for a certain amount of what writers call ‘suspension of disbelief’.  What this means is that the story draws us in enough that we accept that the unbelievable is now believable.  For me, some authors are pretty okay at this (i.e. Stephen King, Dean Koontz) and some absolutely suck at it (no names here) but John Saul is a master.  That’s what makes his books so completely scary and horrifying…you believe in your soul that this scenario is possible.  I’ve been reading his books since he started with “Suffer the Children” in 1977.  I was 11 years old at the time and he scared me pretty good.  Someone had given my mother the book and she was one of those people who did not like horror or thriller novels at all.  So it was lying around the house and I picked it up.  I’m sure she would have turned grey if she’d realized what I was reading, but I was hooked.  I’ve read every single one of his books several times.  In fact, when a new one comes out, I pick it up and try to force myself to savour it over a few days, stretching it out as much as possible.  The truth is though, that once I’m involved in the story, natural instinct takes over and I keep reading until I’m done.  So instead of three or four days, I get a day and a half to read the book.  That’s okay though, because it gives me a few days to mull it over before I start my next book.  

Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts, Jeffrey Archer, John Grisham, Tami Hoag.  The list goes on.  As I once said to my husband, if you’re not sure I’ll read it, just open it up.  If there are words on the pages, I’ll read it.  

I’ve even read a few really bad books.  Now I generally love the printed word, so for me to say a book is bad…well…you can take it to the bank.  One in particular that sticks out in my mind…time has lost the title of it now, but the female lead (I can’t call her the heroine because she didn’t particularly do anything, but rather the story revolved around her) was such a pathetic and compelling creation that I made my way through the book from start to finish before actually throwing it in the garbage.  I’ve only done that twice in my entire life.  She married a man she was obsessively in love with, and he was an astute businessman around the turn of the century.  The book goes into great detail on the politics surrounding the cause of World War I and the benefits to business and stock markets in general. (After working my way through the morass of unnecessary detail, I decided to skip these dissertations later in the book just to get through it sometime in my lifetime.)  Her husband dies just before the great stock market crash and subsequent Depression, but his sound investing policies ensure that she and their children are left well cared for.  She raises their very selfish children, who eventually reveal that they really don’t care for her at all as she’s nearing the end of her life.   

I have a Kobo e-reader now.  The e-reader is a great addition to the personal electronics of anyone who loves to read.  I’ve put some of my old favourites in it, along with lots of new books.  The best thing about these readers is their portability.  Some authors I like, (such as John Saul, Stephen King, Jeffrey Archer) I prefer to purchase the hardcover versions of their books so I’ll have them in good shape for a long time to come after many re-readings.  Now I also have them in my purse to cart around without ripping my shoulder off.  Also, if I’m close to the end of one book, I no longer have to haul around two books while I finish one just so I can start the next.  They’re both in the reader.  That’s not to say I don’t still buy books the old fashioned way, because I do.  After all, just because I have the CD of “Dark Side of the Moon” doesn’t mean I’m throwing out the vinyl LPs. 

I’ll always love the printed word.