So, once again it’s been a while. That’s because blogging gets pushed down the priority list when you’re buried underneath 50 trillion moving boxes while celebrating your children’s birthdays while attempting a nugget of truth when you tell your five-year old that you are so excited to go get a tree and decorate it (and the house) while simultaneously realizing that you have yet to start buying them gifts two weeks before Christmas. A week after we moved into our new house Thanksgiving weekend, I was so far from being in a place where I could mentally picture bringing a tree into our already disasterous home that I remember driving to Target thinking of ways I was going to break the news to Ian that there would be no Christmas tree for us this year. A week, and 30ish (give or take) boxes later, we were driving up to the elementary school to purchase a tree. And it was all lovely, really.
By Christmas day we had managed to pull ourselves together with presents under the decorated tree and all. Most all the boxes were even unpacked. And, we actually had a really lovely day together, with yet more of that sunshine that has been oddly present so far this winter. Still, by Christmas night, I was done. A quick thought of, “I’m just going to take the stockings down…” turned into doing away with every single decoration and almost all of the tree decor. By noon the next day, Jeff was hauling the tree to the yard. I was renewed. And free to focus the rest of my time off this week on continuing to get our house in order. Speaking of houses…
Like many of us, I can’t help but spend sporadic moments during these last couple of days of 2011 reflecting on the year. A year ago, I was elated to see the end of 2010. It was a rough year in just about an all-around bad way. In so many ways, this year was also rough. But rough in a more acceptable way. First of all, it was self-inflicted. The thing that dominated most of our year was actually something that I think I mentioned relatively little in this blog. I guess that’s because so much of it I considered to be sensitive and not something I wanted out for public consumption for one reason or another. Yet it dominated so much of our lives. Most of you know I’m referring to the sale of our “old” home and purchase of a “new” one. Wow, what a journey it turned out to be that started last February and ended this month. There were so many times up until recently that we asked ourselves if we knew the challenges and emotional ride it would be going into it, would we do it again? Was it all worth it? The best thing is that sitting here on the sofa in the family room of our new home, we can honestly say that it was. Thank goodness.
Those not intimately familiar with the story might think, “Yeah, so you sold a house in a tough market. Welcome to the club.” If only. It was all the drama and emotional turmoil in-between that made it so “memorable,” shall we say. At one point, not all that long ago, I told myself that some night when I had the energy I was going to sit down and blog about what I like to call our 2011 Adventures in Real Estate and the people who made our lives the most difficult, namely our ex-agent, Dawn Meaney of John L. Scott in West Linn and our buyers, Doug and Sara Kienzle. However, I now realize that I could never convey the entire story here, nor should I waste the time and energy trying.
What I will do is post some words of warning to anyone looking to either choose Dawn Meaney as an agent or the Kienzles as landlords. While Dawn can be an extremely personable and likeable person, we found working with her to be extremely frustrating. Unfortunately what started as eventually letting her go in part because we found her incredibly difficult to work with, took a whole other turn when she ended up representing our buyers in the sale of our home, whom she had met when she showed them the home as our agent. At that point, we experienced some, in my opinion, very questionable practices, including using information she had gained as our selling agent in negotiations as the buying agent. Anyone who happens to read this and may be considering working with Dawn Meaney, I’m happy to share more about our experience with her if you want contact me through this blog.
Ultimately, it’s hard to say whose professional behavior was more questionable: Dawn’s or the Kienzles’. What began as frustrating buyers also ended up being questionable when they briefly became our landlords after they offered a “rent back” situation for us as part of their offer on the home purchase. The long and complicated story full of puzzling moves culminated recently with the Kienzles keeping our $500 security deposit for what we were told in an email by Doug to be primarily ($310) for “back rent” to make up the difference in what our legally agreed-upon rent per day was via the signed contract of the house sale (which we paid in full at the house closing) and what they later learned their actual mortgage cost would be – which would not be fully covered by what they had agreed to for the rent. So, they decided it was okay to take the difference out of our security deposit, and our request via email recently to produce proof of their right to do so or return the money went unanswered. The remainder was used to get their new house cleaned (removal of cat hair from the 60-day rental period was the reason provided), even though we had left the house quite clean (including time spent there by our house cleaner after we had moved out), much the way we always lived in that house.
Despite our negative experiences, I must say that Dawn did us a favor in that after we parted ways with her, we conducted a more thorough search/interview process for a new realtor than we had initially (we met Dawn and her partner, Steve, at an open house and signed up with them w/o doing our homework…shame on us). We selected Michael (Mike) Hensley of Hasson, who we could not recommend more. Mike thought of everything before we did and he never missed a beat. All of his references raved about him and everything they said was true. He also has experience as a home builder, which is incredibly helpful on both the sell and buy side. Even now he continues to help us with projects we are doing related to our new house, recommending contractors, setting up appointments for us and stopping by to make sure that everything is going okay. He was our savior in this difficult process.
Of course, I can’t deny that Doug and Sara did us the ultimate favor of buying a house we didn’t want to own anymore. In the few weeks we’ve been in our new home, I already feel it is a better fit for us than our previous home ever was. We had a contractor over the other day to talk about finishing off our laundry room. As many have, he asked why we decided to move in the first place. After we explained and said that we ended up in a completely different place than we ever thought we would, he responded with, “It sounds like you wanted a house that has soul.” It wasn’t the only reason, but it was certainly one of the main ones…and I thought that word summed it up perfectly. All of the neighbors we’ve met so far have been incredibly friendly and welcoming with hearty greetings and holiday treats at our door. We love that the house has more character and that we can walk outside and stroll around the lovely neighborhood and others say hello along the way. We didn’t have this before.
So, was 2011 a wonderful, easy year? Um, not really. It was more like the Giant Dipper. (Ah, memories of good times on the Beach Boardwalk as a child…) Yet I’m happy to report that the year is ending on an upswing. Besides our new home, we have so, so much to be thankful for in our lives. We look forward to what 2012 will bring. As long as it has nothing to do with a for sale sign.