If you haven’t read last weeks’ blog post telling my story of selling a condo while buying a house at the same time you need to go back and read it here before reading this one. In this post, I’m going to give you the tips and tools I used to get through buying and selling and “the move”. I’ll also tell you what I should have done differently and what I learned from it all.
While we were in escrow we were lucky that the new house was being lived in and the realtors gave us access to measure, plan and have contractors in to get bids. We got referrals from our realtor, the seller’s realtors, and friends and we had some people who had done work for us in the condo.
Now, this house, as I mentioned in part one, was very neglected and had only been owned by the original owner from 1968 when the house was built. Not only did it have the previously mentioned wallpaper in four rooms, it had popcorn ceilings and no one knew if those had asbestos under it or not.
I started having contractors and painter in for bids. They’d meet us at the new house after I got off work. None of them could tell me if the ceiling was asbestos or not but if it did, we were talking an extra $5,000.00 to deal with it. I also got quotes for taking down the wallpaper that were at absolute opposite ends of the price scales. It was amazing! They were all looking at the same house but you wouldn’t have thought so based on the numbers. The amount of time that they estimated it would take to get it finished varied wildly too! One painter sounded great but he worked alone and it would take him two weeks to do it – we were only going to have ten days including the weekends before we had to move out of the condo so that would not work at all. I kept an excel spreadsheet of all the bids, listing both the prices and the time frames but that asbestos question was really still an issue. Finally, a contractor that a friend of mine at work had recommended brought a portable asbestos tester and checked it. Hallelujah! No asbestos! What a relief!! He also gave me the best prices and would have a crew that could do it in the timeframe I needed. His prices on some things were a little higher than one of the others for taking down the wallpaper and texturing the walls but the time element offset that cost.
My biggest tips and takeaways so far:
1. Tap into all your contacts for referrals and interview all you can.
2. Keep a spreadsheet of each one with their contact information (business cards are too easy to lose), prices and time estimates.
3. Weigh both the cost and the time elements in your decisions.
Next came the carpet and flooring. While most of the contractors gave me quotes for the carpet and flooring I also shopped around and contacted a company who had carpeted the condo for me. I knew how good their installer were and their customer service in general and when they also gave me the best price my decision was easy!
My tips and takeaways:
1. Don’t be locked into getting everything from one contractor or business.
2. Shop around.
So, we closed escrow on August 16, 2017 but didn’t get the keys until the 17th which cost me a day. No I’m down to nine days which included a weekend. We had to move on August 26th – the buyer of the condo was moving in on the 27th so that was our drop dead date.
Every night after work I’d go by to see how it was going and it didn’t look to me like it would be finished in time. I kept stressing to the contractor that we had to move in on the 26th but another thing that I learned is that contractors work on their own schedule no matter what you say.
So, now it’s Thursday, August 24th and the painters aren’t hardly started when I go by after work and I have the carpet scheduled to be put in the next day. I call the contractor and he just tells me too bad, I’ll have to move all my stuff to storage and Mom and I into a hotel until they finish painting and the carpet installers will have to wait. Nope, not going to happen. The carpet installers are booked weeks in advance and there was no way I was going to hire movers twice so I called his boss. I told him this was unacceptable and that I had told him from the start what our drop dead day was. We have to move in on Saturday. There is no other option, so what can we do to make that happen? What if we sweeten the pot so to speak and I pay an additional $1000 to get it done in time. He agreed that he could divide that between the workers for incentive to get it done on time so I said fine. It would have cost me more than that to move twice. I go to bed on Thursday figuring everything was going to be finished on time tomorrow.
I get up early on Friday and head over to the new house. The painters are just starting to work when the carpet installers arrived. That’s when I had a rebellion on my hands. Here I am at 5’2” standing on the front lawn with a very tall Hispanic painter, another very large contractor and an even larger Hispanic carpet installer. All three have their hands on their hips and are yelling at me that: “ they can’t do this”; “they don’t work together”; “the paint needs an hour to dry before they can install the carpet”; “they refuse to do this today.” Standing up as tall as I could and I looked them all in the eyes and said; “yes, you can work together and you will”. I looked at the painter and contractor and said: “I just paid your boss $1000 extra so you would do this today so you will”. Then I looked at the carpet installer and said I’m giving you and each of your guys $100 cash directly to get it done so you will also”. The painter kept arguing that the carpet needed time to dry before the carpet could be installed so I said: “this is a 2400 square foot house so the painters can start at one end of the house and the carpet installers at the other end and it will be done today!” They all walked away grumbling but they went to work. That is all except the painter – he grabbed his cell phone and went into the house and called his boss who told him confirmed that he was being paid extra. Oh, and btw, that conversation was all in Spanish so I couldn’t understand but my Hispanic housekeeper was there helping me clean the kitchen and she understood every word – including the names he was calling me. He hung up the phone and she told him off in Spanish and told him that everyone knows this happens all the time so to quit making a scene and to get to work – and that he better treat me with respect or he’d be sorry! You should have seen his face! He walked away and I asked her what she had said and when she told me we both cracked up!!!
Not only were the painters, contactor and carpet installers there on Friday but the Alarm company and the cable television people also came that afternoon. I couldn’t even tell you how many people were there in the house but somehow it all got handled.
My tips and takeaways:
1. Don’t be bullied into backing down.
2. Unfortunately, money talks so if you can use it to your advantage, do so. The carpet installers cost me $300 in tips and they did a great job! The painters cost me $500 and they did a really lousy but passable job but we moved in when we needed to.
I learned shortly after the close of escrow that moving companies get booked way in advance. I’m talking weeks! Like most people we assumed the major names in the business were the best but when I started researching them I found that now they are all individual franchises and when I checked the Yelp reviews for the local ones none of them had more than a 3 star review. Great, now what? Remembering then that the seller’s realtors mentioned a local private moving company that they thought was wonderful, I checked them out on Yelp and they had nothing below a 5 star review and the comments went on and on about how great they were. We were sold on Mathis Moving so I called them right away and they were booked for the weekend I had to move. I had no other choice of days since the person buying our condo was moving in on that Sunday so I started looking again. Later that afternoon, I got a call from the girl at Mathis who said that she felt sorry for me and was able to move someone else to another date so they could do our move. Now, I’m really impressed!! They also, for a very reasonable price would send two guys over the day before to pack all the kitchen and my Mom’s curio cabinet and drop off all the wardrobes for our hanging clothes. That way I wouldn’t have to try to pack everything on my own and the breakables would be packed better than I could do it. Boy, that was well worth the money. Two guys showed up on the Friday afternoon with boxes and wrapping cloth in an 2 hours had everything in the kitchen and all of Mom’s curio cabinet packed and labeled.
Tips and takeaways:
1. Do plenty of research on movers and don’t assume the big names in the business are the best option.
2. Ask for prices on all their services. If I hadn’t asked about all their services I wouldn’t have known that they would pack for us. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
Since I work in the construction industry we get a lot of boxes so I started bringing home empties as soon as we sold the condo the first time. Every evening after work and on the weekends I would spend time packing things that we weren’t using at the time and didn’t see us needing before the move. I got different color labels for each of rooms in the new house. Each box got the appropriate color label that listed what was in the box on all 4 sides of the box and I also wrote on each side of the box. I tried to make sure that they were not over loaded because I was the one moving them out of the way in the garage until moving day. I made the mistake of asking our housekeeper to pack all the books in Mom’s bookcase and when I came home they were all in 3 boxes that I couldn’t begin to lift.
The house was pretty organized so it was a big job but not terrible to pack but the garage….. We’d lived in that condo 18 years and when we bought it we had moved from a large house to this small condo so the garage was packed with things we’d just brought with us and kept in the garage and all the other things you accumulate in 18 years. I spent an entire weekend cleaning and purging it which just so happened to be the weekend the condo association had arranged for a large trash bin to be on premises. Little did they know that I filled up that whole thing!!! I found things that were broken; things that were outdated and pieces of furniture that we didn’t realize were out there and when I was finished it still looked like it was packed to the max. When the two movers came over to pack the kitchen the day before the move I showed them the garage and said I was worried about it and they assured me that it wasn’t that bad and they’d seen a lot worse. By this point there was nothing more I could do.
Tips and takeaways:
1. Start packing as soon as you can so you don’t wear yourself out at the last minute – you will anyway but this at least will help.
2. Get color code labels for each room and list on the labels the contents
3. Put labels on all sides of the boxes so no matter where they get stacked you can see the label and tell where to have the movers put it.
4. Don’t pack your boxes too heavy and don’t let people who offer to help do so either. You’re back will thank me later.
The Day of “THE MOVE”
The movers showed up at 7am and finished helping me load all the wardrobes and then started loading the furniture into the truck. Since that left Mom with nowhere to sit I sent here and my brother who was over to help at the new house and I stayed at the condo. Of course, it had to be the hottest day of the year also – just to make it more fun.
They got the house loaded in about an hour and a half while I sat on a metal bench on the porch of the condo that was staying. Ouch, it was hot!! The movers started working on the garage and after about another hour and a half they came back to me and said I was right – it was worse than they thought. The poor guys were sweating and dirty and I felt so bad so I didn’t say I told you so. It was now after 11am and Mom was calling me asking when we’d be at the new house and that they were all hungry and told me that the air conditioning in the new house was not working. I had to wait until they got everything loaded so I called our realtor who gave me the number for the insurance company that handled the new home warranty policy for the first year. They first told me that they’d get someone out on Monday to fix it. Nope – I told them, my mother is elderly and we’re breaking heat records and that would not do. It was dangerous for her and I wanted it fixed this weekend. After talking to a manager and then his manager they finally got someone who would come out to the new house the next morning to fix the air. At about 12:15 the garage was finally empty – except for trash – and the movers took the truck and headed to lunch before meeting me at the new house. I grabbed something for myself since I’d told Mom for them to go ahead and eat and went to the new house. I really hated to tell these poor movers that there wasn’t going to be air at the new house but I did.
An hour later the movers where at the new house and they were amazing! The brought in each box and took it to the room on the labels. One of them unpacked all the kitchen and curio cabinet that they’d packed the day before, while the other three got everything unloaded and either in the rooms at the house or in the garage. They were finished by 8pm with everything and not one thing was broken or lost. Like I said, they were just amazing and when they gave me their bill I couldn’t believe how reasonable it was for all they did. I would highly recommend Mathis Moving if you ever need a mover in Southern California.
Tips and takeaways:
1. Plan on it all taking all day
2. Invest in good movers
3. Hope it’s not the hottest day of the year!
We decided it was too hot to do anything but what we had to get done to be able to sleep at the new house that night. We had all the windows open and while I got both of the beds made up (breaking my little toe in the process and completely falling apart crying feeling sorry for myself since I was so exhausted) it was just too hot to sleep in the bedrooms so we stayed in the on the couches in the living room in our underwear with all the windows open all night.
True to their word the air conditioning repair man showed up a 9am Sunday morning and got the air working again but informed me that that air conditioner was actually 10 years older than the seller had said and the unit said right on it that it needed 4 volt fuses and it only had 3 volt so we’d need to get those replaced or the unit would go out again. It was so nice to have air again that we actually let it get too cold in the house before we changed it back to a normal setting.
My wonderful brother came back over and spent the day helping Mom and I unpack and by that evening we could actually get one car in the three car garage. Our realtor called me and asked me about the condition of the condo I told him that the garage had a lot of trash in it. I knew that the woman who bought it was moving in that day but my toe was broken so I couldn’t put on shoes and certainly couldn’t clean it up. ( I actually sent him a picture of my totally black toe). He felt sorry for me and he went over and cleaned it up for me.
It took me 4 more days limping around to get everything unpacked and the garage organized enough to get both cars in but I did it and we’re very happy there now. Hope I didn’t scare you about your next move!!
Tips and takeaways:
1. When the inspector of the property that you are buying does his inspection and goes over it with you, do your own basic inspection also. He should have caught that the air conditioner had the wrong fuses.
2. Do some research on the warranty company that is insuring the repairs needed on your new home before you sign with them. When I called them about replacing the fuses for the air conditioner they refused to pay for them saying it was an upgrade and wasn’t covered. Even though the repair man they sent recommended the change and said if it was not done the whole unit could blow up.
3. Don’t try to do everything in one day. It just won’t happen and you’ll exhaust or hurt yourself! Make sure you plan on taking days to completely move in.