So thrilled with my new life, in fact, that over the last four years, I've been wandering around away from Utah and have left the house intermittently empty for over two of those years. It was time to move on. Six months ago, I listed the house for sale and came to Tucson. Three weeks ago, I loaded two-thirds of my worldly goods into a storage pod, gave away the other third, went to Hawaii for a week, finalized the sale of the house, blocked the new owner from taking possession until her loan came through, slept at a neighbors' house for two nights, then headed back to Tucson.
When I lived in Tanzania, I had several bizarre house hunting experiences. You can read about those here and here. You can read about the bad results and all kinds of drama around the last house I lived in there by clicking here. But it struck me last week, as I was driving back to Tucson all exhausted and trying to shrug off all the stress, that this recent house sale in America was just as dramatic.
It started getting weird within a couple of days of the listing.
I chose a husband-and-wife realtor team who had been selling houses in the neighborhood for over 15 years. They even remembered decorating my house and setting up their sales office in it. It was the model home for awhile when the developer first started building. I figured people who wanted to buy in the neighborhood would seek out these realtors.
Meanwhile, a neighbor--let's call her Susie --found herself alone in her parents' house, after her father's death. I stopped over to offer my condolences one evening when she and her sisters were out on the back deck. Susie told me she'd just lost her job, and planned to get a realtor's license so she could control her own professional destiny. I asked if they'd be selling their house. They said yes, but not for awhile. Susie would continue to live in the house, get her license, and then sell the house. I said I was going to sell my house, too, and move to Tucson. I encouraged her to get that realtor's license. She said she'd sell both of our houses! Her first sales after she got the license! I didn't say much to that.
I listed my house a few days later, just before I left for Tucson. I hoped to capitalize on the last few weeks of summer because buyers are not as busy shopping during the winter up there.
Sadie continued to demand that I move out earlier and earlier and played the old lady card several times. In the meantime, her lender demanded more and more documentation and delayed the closing four times.
Sadie told her realtor that as an old lady under incredible stress, she would cancel the whole deal if I didn't vacate by Friday and asked her realtor to start finding her a house to rent for six months. That sounded pretty good to me by this point. But I said I could vacate the house by Friday at 1:00, just not the driveway. The pod would stay until Saturday. Sadie's realtor said that I was an angel. Gee, thanks.
I continued with my feverish packing. (Literally feverish. I'd picked up a virus on the plane coming back from Kauai. Because if you're stressed and exhausted and riding on a plane, you will always get sick a few days later.) A few friends stopped by and helped (thanks Marsha, Carol, and Hannah!). The two movers I hired showed up right on time and packed everything into the pod. They were incredible--worked fast and efficiently and were geniuses at the three-dimensional puzzle of cramming all my stuff into the pod. They were from Smart Move in Salt Lake City.
I signed closing papers. My realtor explained to me that the money from Sadie's loan, once her lender funded the loan, would go first to her title company, then to my title company, and then into my bank account.
Sadie signed closing papers.
The next morning my door bell rang at 8:30. I opened the door and there she stood in all her glory. No, not Sadie. Sadie's realtor--let's call her Sybil. She was a plump forty-year-old with a buoyant mass of blonde hair falling past her shoulders. She was encased in black spandex tights and scoop neck t-shirt, accessorized with knee-high leather boots and leather vest. "I hope I didn't wake you," she said. "I'm Sybil, your buyer's agent."
"Yes, of course," I said. "I recognized you from your photo." She wanted a key. My realtor had put it in a key box in the bushes so that she could meet her client at the house--after the loan was funded--and get the key out of the key box. She preferred to take it with her so she could pass it to her client at the appropriate time without returning to the house. I showed her the key box.
A few minutes later, my realtor called. "So you had a visitor this morning," he said. He knew who it was because the owner of the key box sees a record of who opens it with their code.
"Yes," I said. "I opened the door and there was Sybil in the flesh. And she was showing a lot of it." He put me on speaker phone and made me repeat that so his wife could hear it, too.
Friday morning I was cleaning the house with help from a neighbor. I had a pile of things in the garage that I needed to load into my car. I drove out to the U-Haul store to return unused boxes for a refund. $40.55! As I returned to the house, I realized I hadn't heard anything from my realtor. I called and asked him if the loan was funded. He said it would be at least another 90 minutes, maybe two hours. This meant that, although I had agreed to vacate the house by 1:00, Sadie would not own the house until about 3:00. He assured me that Sybil would not give the key to the buyer until the loan was finalized. Ha!
At 12:55, a moving truck pulled into the cul-de-sac, circled around, and parked in front of my house. Three young men hopped out and opened the back. I ran outside and told them it would be two hours until they could unload that truck into the house. They tried to be polite, but they laughed a little bit.
At 1:00, a car pulled into the cul-de-sac and parked across the street. Sadie's daughter and son-in-law were ready to help their mom move in. I explained that this was not the legally appropriate moment for them to take possession of the house because the loan had not yet been funded. At 1:02 another car pulled into the cul-de-sac. Here was the stressed-out feeble old lady herself. And she already had the key to my house! I explained to her that she did not yet own the house. She explained to me that she was paying the movers $100/hour so she didn't want to wait two hours. She was incredibly polite--let's call her obsequious-- and kept calling me by name and looking sincere.
I flounced away across the lawn and called my realtor again. He said Fed Ex had messed up a delivery of papers and the first title company was still waiting. If things extended much longer, the money wouldn't reach the second title company by close of business. And it was Friday afternoon, so the loan wouldn't fund until Monday!
Sadie followed me after a moment. Still very polite, she called me by name again and held out the key. "Here," she said, "I'll give you back the key, Barbara. That would make me feel better, Barbara. I think it'll make you feel better, too, Barbara." I think she wanted me to refuse the key and say it wasn't necessary to return it. I held out my hand and said, "Yes, that would make me feel better."
After consulting with my realtor, I agreed to let Sadie's movers unload the truck into the garage, because she said they needed to get another load at her old house, which they could be working on while we waited on the loan. Sadie and family left to go to lunch. I got the movers' advice on how to place some ceramic lamps in the back of my car. They began unloading the truck, and mentioned that just as she left, Sadie told them not to go get the second load because she didn't want to pay for anymore of their time. I locked all the doors leading into the house. The movers said they wouldn't be surprised if Sadie had made a copy of the key already. And that she'd been yelling at them for two hours that morning, demanding that they keep loading the truck even after it was full. I told one of the movers he couldn't use the bathroom until the loan funded. Ha ha! Then I let him inside.
I hid the key in the end of a downspout. My realtor said he'd tell Sadie's realtor where it was when the loan was finalized. I went up the street and out of sight to a neighbor's house. Forty minutes later, my realtor called to say the money was at the first title company, and that it was safe to let Sadie into the house.
I said, "I'm mad now. Let's wait until it hits the second title company. And then I have another 48 hours under the terms of our contract."
My realtor said, "Now, Barbara. We don't want to do that." He has a very soothing voice when his clients start going over the edge.
As soon as we hung up, I realized I still had the garage door opener. I sprinted to my car and drove fast back to my house. My plan was to slip the door opener into the downspout next to the key so I wouldn't have to talk to Sadie again. But, although it took me about 90 seconds to reach my house, Sadie and family were already there. Either she got the call first, or she really had made a copy of the key! All the doors were open. Sadie was enthroned on a chair by the fireplace, directing her daughter and son-in-law and the movers as they carried things in from the garage.
"Barbara!" she said, as I came up the front steps. "Barbara!" Again, the extreme politeness. It was in such sharp contrast to the way she'd treated me over the last few weeks that it just felt manipulative. Her daughter complimented me on some of the decor she'd noticed in the house before I moved out. She was being nice to compensate for her mother's behavior. I gave her the garage door opener. I managed to say, "I loved living in this house. I hope you'll enjoy it, too." Then I wished I hadn't gone to the trouble the day before of hauling out my giant ladder and changing all the smoke detector batteries that are up in the 14-foot high peak of the ceiling. Which I had done because a feeble old lady was moving in and it would be hard for her to handle it. Ha!
I slept at a favorite neighbor's house that night. I intended to make an early start the next morning driving back to Tucson, but I woke up still exhausted. And then my neighbor cooked bacon. And I ended up sitting and talking with her for a couple of hours because we are going to miss each other and it was hard to say good-bye. Lucky she's Mormon and doesn't drink coffee. I was drinking some no-caffeine instant-imitation-coffee beverage with my bacon, so that drove me out eventually. Then I stopped for a couple of hours on the way out of town to visit with a couple I will also sorely miss.
I only made it as far as Cedar City, Utah the first night. I like the Holiday Inn Express just off the freeway by the south exit there, so I checked in. It's on the edge of town, right next to the Springhill Suites, with nothing else nearby. I put my bag in my room, combed my hair, and went out for dinner. Man, I was tired! But there's a Mexican restaurant in that part of Cedar City that I love--Lupita's. I thought I felt recharged after eating a plate of chicken mole.
I drove back to the hotel, rode the elevator up to the third floor, realized I'd forgotten a map in the car, rode the elevator back down, got the map, rode the elevator back up, went to room 328. It seemed like the room was on the wrong side of the hall. I tried the key card a few times and it wouldn't work. I went back down to the lobby and showed the girl at reception my key and said, "I thought I was in Room 328, but the key won't work. Can you check my room number for me?"
She smiled gently and said, "You're in the Holiday Inn next door. This is Springhill Suites."
So...I was still stressed and exhausted and it was really a good thing I had stopped driving already.