As I was getting my career ducks in a row, Luke and I were also figuring out what to do with the house. We met with our real estate agent in February and shared our goal of listing by April.
Pam gave us her thoughts on an initial list price, target sales price and sample closing estimate. We were competitive with other houses in our subdivision on price per square foot, and we have one of the largest backyards, so we were in a good position to sell. So what if the closing fees ate up our (anticipated) net profit? We weren't trying to make money, we just wanted to get back home.
We also walked through the house to identify repairs, touch ups and staging that needed to take place before we went to market.
At the end of the meeting, our to-do list looked like this:
- Restretch carpet on both floors
- Professionally clean first-floor carpet to remove unsightly mud stains
- Replace laminate flooring in the dining room or at least buy a rug to cover the scratched-up boards
- Buy new (matching, non-wobbly) chairs for dining room table
- Purchase new dining room curtains
- Consider new tile in the kitchen (current tile is dented and outdated)
- Replace broken garbage disposal
- Replace broken water softener
- Replace broken accordion-style doors in the laundry room and pantry
- Patch ceiling
- Repaint walls and cabinets in the kitchen and adjoining half bath
- Touch up paint in the living room and dining room
- Repaint all trim throughout the house
- Mount a mirror over the living room couch to make the room look larger
- Update bedding and install curtains in the master bedroom; purchase larger, matching lamps; consider buying nightstands that are not TV trays (hey, at least those match)
- Caulk and replace fixtures in the master bath
- Clean out master closet; move majority of items into offsite storage unit
- Repaint kids' bathroom
- Update lighting and fixtures in upstairs bathroom
- Clean out the garage
- Investigate personal loan options to fund renovations and/or cover closing costs for the buyer
Our best-guess total to complete these "touch ups" came to four thousand dollars.
Seeing as our tax refund went almost entirely to paying off our credit card AND seeing as we had no savings to speak of, the possibility of needing a loan was fast becoming a reality.
Hasta la vista, new family car. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, money for retirement.
"It's all worth it," I told Luke, even as my stomach dropped at the thought of taking on debt AGAIN and my husband's eyes bulged out of their frugal sockets. "If that's what it takes to get back home, then that's what we'll do. You can't put a price on family, right?"
Although DAMN if our dream of family togetherness wasn't going to land us in the poor house.
You'd throw a few bucks at these guys if you saw them on the interstate, yes?
So we got to work.
I pulled out my "House" notebook, and as is my way when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I started making lists. The projects most critical to selling the house, the order in which we would tackle them, the minimal amount of money we would spend (hint: NOT four grand), and a timeline for getting it all done. How much we could pay in cash and what we were willing to charge. Welcome back, V*sa bill, we missed you.
While Luke and I didn't have a hard date for leaving Indianapolis, Pam told us the best time to sell was spring, since couples with children would want to be settled in by time school started. Plus, we wanted to be rid of the house as soon as possible so I could entertain job offers up north.
Also, Kara was going to start kindergarten in fall 2013 (I KNOW, PLEASE DO NOT EVEN GET ME STARTED), and I desperately wanted this selling mess behind us by then so she wouldn't have to deal with changing schools.
I took a week of PTO in March to get the ball rolling, tearing through closets while Luke and his dad replaced lights, towel bars and toilet paper holders in our three bathrooms.
Not replaced: nausea, emotional fatigue, feelings of dread.
Meanwhile, I was talking to friends in Chicago about the going salary for jobs that were comparable to my current position and realizing I would need a huge raise just to maintain our very modest living expenses. To raise our standard of living, we would have to live in northwest Indiana and I would commute to the city. Or the kids would go to daycare so Luke could go back to work.
As I Dr. Philled our situation to anyone who would listen, I learned a lot of things. I realized we had a better support system in Indianapolis than we thought - people who cared about us and who were willing to help us out in a bind - and that maybe, just maybe, our problem was less about being removed from our "true" network and more about gathering the courage to ask for help. Plus, we were finally enjoying our quaint little town. And we loved our new church. And we most certainly were not ready for Luke to go back to work.
It was at the end of my week off, I think, that I posed a new thought to Luke.
"Maybe this move isn't the best use of our energy right now," I said.
And just like that, the weight was lifted.