Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Report Card Time!

Perhaps today is not the best day to do this, as I'm already in a bad mood over several other issues, but I may as well get this over with. I figure the best way to summarize the whole move is to present a report card for everyone we worked with.

Genesis Real Estate (Derek Mertz) - D+ : The main reason why I went with a realtor after our last experience is because I knew this was a bad time to be trying to sell a house. With my new job hitting crunch time and a wife trying to take care of three small children, the last thing I wanted was for us to have to handle all the work of real estate transactions. An agent was supposed to take care of all it, or so I thought. That's what they tell you in television spots.

Well, it didn't happen that way. I was way too involved in this whole mess, and it seemed like every time something was going wrong our agent was either nowhere to be found or not really interested in doing anything about it. If he ever picked up on my frustrations he never tried to be even sympathetic. The only thing he did well was to line up a mold removal specialist. Unfortunately, he did very little to set and manage our expectations, so it often seemed like one hit of bad news after another.

He forgot the little things. He didn't let us know that the sellers accepted our repairs request. He never did find us a copy of the subdivision CCR's, though I reminded him several times. If he ever did intend to tell us when to show up for closings, he always seemed to wait until after I'd given up waiting and called myself. It's as if the moment our offer on the new house was accepted his work was done and he couldn't be bothered. It just got easier to do things myself.

The last straw came last week on closing day. From what I can tell he was content to let things run their course without lifting a finger. He wasn't even aware there was a problem until I called him. And though he supposedly got immediately to work trying to find out what was going on, he didn't call back, even to let us know he wasn't able to find anything out--even that would have helped.

At any rate, this person will not be receiving any recommendation from us.

The Home Loan Coach - C+ : Our mortgage broker was a recommendation from our agent. I'll never know the whole story, so it's hard to say who was responsible for what, but the pains of the last day were mainly due to a network crash at the lender "Coach" lined up for us. While their follow up wasn't the best, at least they tried to get things straightened out. I'll never know if the lender just wasn't giving them accurate information or if they weren't passing on the truth, but I was told three different times over the space of six hours that the money had been wired. You can only hear that so many times and have nothing happen before you start to lose confidence.

The biggest problem was that they were out of state. That's fine when things go right. When they go wrong it's always nice to have someone you can strangle face-to-face. Plus I think I could have found a better rate locally. And I'll never know for sure who screwed up on the hazard insurance binder.

I would recommend them, but only if you really have NO time or desire to deal with mortgages, which doesn't take all that long, really.

Ness Construction, LLC (Air Quality Restoration) - A : The one thing our agent did well with. These guys came through for us. The inspector showed up the same day to inspect our mold problem. They came when they said they would, finished quickly, and hit their estimate.

I hope you never have a mold problem, but if you do, this is the guy to call.

Title One Title Company - A : Our buyers selected this one, and everything seemed to go smoothly for them. We had no problems. Our money came through on time. It went how I would expect things to go.

I'd probably recommend this company.

Pioneer Title Company - C+ : No one really selected them. Our agent preferred another office in another town (glad we didn't go THAT route). Our sellers didn't want to drive that far for closing, so they counter-recommended the most local office.

They were very sympathetic when things started going wrong, but didn't really seem to be trying that hard for us. I'm not sure that's their job anyhow, but who knows. They claim they never saw anything indicating our lender needed an insurance binder, but that sort of thing seems to be standard procedure, and I did find a form stating that the lender would not release funds without one in the stack of copies they gave me after signing. Something seems a little fishy, and I'm not talking about their huge salt-water aquarium.

I'm not sure I'd recommend them.

Adam Bramble Insurance Agency - A : He's our local Farmers Insurance agent. I called him last monday just to make sure everything was set on the insurance side of things. He hadn't heard a thing, which was not a good sign. But, unlike far too many of the others I worked with in all this, he simply said "I'll take care of it." And he did. Not a single delay was traceable to him or his staff not getting the proper documents to the right place by the right time.

There's a reason why he's our agent for auto, home, and life. If there's ever a problem in any of those areas, he's the guy I want to have taking care of me. And that's why I recommend him.

Space Age Movers - B+ : They guys that came to move us out of our home were great; very professional, very efficient, and communicated well. I felt we were in really good hands. The guys that came to move us in the following week were almost as good, but the extra team that showed up were a little flighty.

They were pretty good at work with us during the delay, but I'm still a little irritated that I couldn't get hold of anyone for an hour--and we were still billed for it. It did turn out for the best, though, as I had been calling to try and cancel them for the day, thinking we weren't going to get the keys after all. But then we got the keys and I was glad to still have them available.

I'd recommend them, but ask for Chris.

Idaho Self Storage - B+ : In spite of a flurry of rather minor problems, this proved to be a good choice. On the first moving day we suddenly realized we had more stuff than would fit in our storage unit. The site manager found me a second suitable unit right next to our first one, and gave me a decent deal on locks for both. He would have given me a good price, too, had the company policy allowed. They've been easy to work with, and they were quick to acknowledge their mistakes, which is fine.

It also happens to be right next door to my bank, which came in really handy when it came time to pay the movers the first time and I'd forgotten my checkbook.

Probably not the cheapest place in town, but they're good to work with.

Budget Host Inn - C- : Speaking of acknowledging their mistakes, these people really need to work on it. We'd reserved two motel rooms with a connecting door several weeks in advance. The reality was that the people they'd booked in those rooms the night before suddenly decided to stay another night. Had the motel told me this up front I probably would have understood and been happy to work around the problem.

That's not what happened. When I arrived they first made sure they billed my credit card up front for the entire week--non-refundable. Then they told me which rooms we were getting, with not even the slightest hint that it wasn't what we'd asked for. Not only were they not next to each other, they were on different floors.

When I called it to their attention they shuffled things around and found us two rooms next to each other. When I asked if it had a connecting door they admitted it did not. I told them that wouldn't work. Only then did they admit that they knew what I'd reserved all along and that it wasn't available. By that point I was mad. They finally agreed to get us into the connected rooms the next day when the occupants left, but they seemed determined not to budge an inch to help me unless I complained. They didn't offer to do anything at all to make up for the problem.

Housekeeping was spotty, at best. Richard hated the place. I wouldn't recommend them, not even if you have pets. All the free continental breakfasts in the world wouldn't make up for how they treated me.

Bottom Line
I'm glad it's all over. If there is ever a next time (and I sure hope not), I plan to be much more assertive about a lot of things. Ohhh, I'm so glad this is over. I realize my problems are pretty small compared to what's going on in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but then if they'd all payed what I shelled out to NOT have all the problems that I ended up with, THEY'D be ticked off, too.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Man's Home Is His Castle...

...and we took this one by siege. I'll tell you more of the hideous story some other time. It sufficeth to say that we are now in our new home, and while things are still in varying states of disarray, we're loving the place. When the results of our weekend spending spree at RC Willey arrives on Wednesday we'll be in the home stretch--as as far as moving in. Decorating, on the other hand, has yet to begin, in spite of the $200 we spent at Target during the same spending spree.

The good news is that we budgeted for all this. The other good news is that Terhi seems to be really enjoying the idea of decorating, even if she even dreams about it. Even if I didn't like our new home so much myself I'd love it for how happy it's making her.

Now if we could only get the kids and cats settled down. I think both groups suffered from the chaos of the last week and a half, and it's going to take some time to get them back to normal. We'll get there. They're a walk in the park compared to how our closing went. But as I said, another story for another time...

Meanwhile, I'm back!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I Can't Stress This Enough

We're still living in a motel, and while everyone is making the best of it, it's taking its toll. We're hoping we can move into our new home on schedule, but timing is tricky and balls are being dropped. Add to that the fact that I'm getting increasingly behind on the darned training program I'm supposed to have together by Friday.

I know, these are small things compared to what many people in the world face every day. But it's stressful, nonetheless.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The End of an Era

We moved out today. It's been two days of nearly non-stop labor getting packed, moved, and cleaning up. Let's just say it was a little disheartning to get to our motel to find that not only did they not have the two interconnected rooms we'd reserved, but put us in two rooms on different floors. And they weren't going to do anything about it unless I complained. Which I did. They're getting us the interconnected rooms tomorrow. Or there'll be fifteen kinds of H-E-Double-Toothpicks to pay.

But I digress. Terhi and I took one last walk through the house, amazed at how big it looked when completely empty. That led to waxing nostalgic, which led to tears. As small as our house was, it was the setting for a very important era in our lives. It seems the new owners will appreciate it, though, and that makes it a little easier to take.

Still, I'll miss it. So long, little house.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Dark Side of the Moon

No, I'm not becoming a Pink Floyd fan, and I'm surprised that I even know it's an album by them.

Tomorrow we're moving out. We'll be in a motel for as long as a week, though potentially a little less. I may post updates between now and then, but if I don't, that's why. We're in communications blackout.

See y'all on the other side...

Monday, August 15, 2005

...As...As...A Fiddler on the Roof!

In a flurry of activity the roofers descended on our house this morning. By the time I got home this evening they had everything replaced to the decking. Tomorrow they'll come back and shingle it all. At least I hope.

Meanwhile, the kids were thrilled and the cats were nervous. The cats have pretty much been nervous for the past several weeks. They know something's up. Something BIG. They're used to us packing, but not for weeks. I can only imagine what is running through their heads right now.

"Hmmmm...they just moved the sofa out. They've never taken the sofa to Finland before! They must really be planning a long trip this time!" They'll probably be basket-cases by the time we move into the next place. But then again, would we notice a difference?

It's starting to sink in that we're moving. Yesterday was the "Big Goodbye" at church. There were those who expressed their sadness as offense that we would dare to move, and those who simply said they'd miss us. I much prefer the latter.

There were plenty of "last time" moments. I'll miss our ward. But I have to admit that I probably won't think of it much after we get settled in. There are quite a few individuals, though, that I will think of often. There were a lot of people I deem "quiet heroes," who aren't the standouts, who aren't lauded for this or that, but just quietly go about their lives, do their best, and happen to be there whenever you need them. People who quietly volunteer for just about everything, seldom need reminding about anything, and always seem to be in the background, making sure things happen. People whose lives are a sermon in themselves.

I want to be someone like that someday. I'm not there yet. I'm still too selfish. I still pat myself on the back too much. I still don't volunteer nearly often enough. Give me...oh, a few more centuries might do it.

I'll miss those people. And I'll have very good intentions of keeping in touch. We'll probably even invite quite a few of them over to see our new house. And who knows. Maybe the friendships will last--maybe even blossom when we actually have to work at it, when we don't just see everyone each week.

Who knows. Anything is possible. Even me becoming someone like that someday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Learning Curves Ain't Smooth

Today I experienced one of those failures you can only sit back and learn from--and hope you keep your job long enough to do so. And of course it had to come on the day of my mid-year evaluation. The good news is that it can only be up from here--and that it's only the mid-year review.

Gah. I've been saying all along "if I can just survive August..." Ten days down, twenty-one to go.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I found this today lurking on the company servers:

Fight or Flight?

1. A gentleman traveling on a coast-to-cost flight
Was the kind of person who had real insight.
A five-year old youngster was really a fright
Running up and down aisles and giving a fight.

2. The people in business were trying to work
Near those who were sleeping, the youngster did lurk.
He yanked off the headsets of some music lovers,
And took all of the peanuts that he could discover.

3. The passengers complained, “He must be controlled,”
And threatened the flight crew to knock him out cold.
The flight attendant buckled him in his seat
But his screams and his hollers were less than a treat.

4. The passengers, desperate, want him bound tight and gagged.
“Arrest the boy’s parents, or let them be nagged.”
At last comes our gentleman, who spoke to the crew.
They loved his idea; into action they flew.

5. They found a seat for the boy in the front of the plane.
They were willing to do it to keep themselves sane.
They fashioned a steering wheel from a large plate;
A stick was a rudder’ he thought it was great.

6. Flying instruments were made from some odds and some ends.
The pilot came back; the two became friends,
The pilot then asked for help flying the plane.
Because it’d be tough if they ran into rain.

7. The kid was delighted’ he was taught how to fly.
Flight attendants all smiled; the copilot came by.
The pilot saluted and left the boy in command.
He kept pretty quiet and thought it was grand.

8. The passengers rejoiced; the gentleman was praised.
How did you think of it?” the question was raised.
The gentleman answered in a voice calm and low,
“It’s really quite simple, if you go with the flow.

You tried hard to solve your own problem, the noise;
But the problem I solved was that of the boy’s.”

© Janice Y. Preston, 1993. All rights reserved. Used with Permission

Monday, August 08, 2005

Visage Envy

We watched "Kate and Leopold", starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman over the weekend for our date night. I'm not one to compare myself with actors, but I have to admit that if I could pick my face I wouldn't mind looking like Hugh Jackman. He has a rather handsome, flexible face--flexible in that he can look gentle and charming or ferocious and manacing with equal ease.

Let's face it, Bill Pullman would have a bit of a challenge pulling all of that off.

I don't know if it's age, the part, direction, make-up, or what, but Meg Ryan wasn't as cute as she's been in this one. And it's not like "You've Got Mail" (arguably at her cutest) was all that long before this one. I suspect it was the part, largely. Kate McKay was not as lovable a role like Kathleen Kelly. And Hugh Jackman stole the show. Heavens, even Breckin Meyer, as Ryan's brother, was more lovable.

Nonetheless, it was a good movie. We enjoyed it. I can't help but think the world would be a better place if we could find the time for civility and manners. And romantic dinners on rooftops.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Quality Time

My wife and I have been trying to get in "dates" with each of the kids each month. Today was my time with my older son. He loves the kids section at Barnes & Noble, so I thought I'd take him there after we picked up a few things for the move from Home Depot. In order to find the moving dollies we passed the lawnmower section.

We ended up spending the rest of our time there. He just loved walking around looking at all the different models and then picking out the one that looked just like ours. He was in heaven, and I can certainly think of worse things than hanging around in Home Depot. Especially when he is so excited. He's quite cute when he gets enthusiastic about something.

As further proof of Home Depot's superlative nature, they actually had a rack of "Tractor and Mower 2005" catalogs nearby. I picked one up for Walter's church-time entertainment tomorrow. Sure enough. He spent close to an hour today leafing through the catalog.

Of course I should have realized. Practically every day he asks me if I'm going to mow the lawn, and if I ever change in to my grubbies and not mow the lawn there is heck to pay. I don't quite understand the obsession, but what the hey. If you can't beat them, join them.

We capped the morning off with a donut from WinCo. A visit to the lawnmower section and a 43-cent donut--and I'm a hero. There are some things money can't buy. But I did pay for the dolly with Mastercard.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Round Four: Conclusion

We finally got our agent to admit today that the sellers accepted our request to fix a few things. I'm not sure if he'd thought he'd already told us or if he just figured it wasn't worth mentioning.

At any rate, it looks like it's full steam ahead. Now we just have to figure out whether we're going to hire movers, rent a truck and move it ourselves, ask some guys from church to help us, or some combination of the above. The weightiest (pun intended) matter is three little words that fill most people with dread: upright grand piano.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Independence Is Irrelevant. Resistance Is Futile

I'm about to take the last leap into the wired world. I've been resisting getting a Blackberry since I started work at my present company because the idea of getting work calls and emails at home appeals to me about as much as getting a mohawk via waxing. But I essentially have no office, and hence no place to make or receive phone calls unless I take over a privacy booth.

I get emails just fine with my laptop, but I guess a few times my fellow team leads have wanted to reach me in person. That doesn't bother me, frankly. It's a personal preference that they don't send me an email asking me to call them. But my wife can't reach me very easily in an emergency, either. And while we haven't had any honest-to-gosh emergencies yet (knock on...whatever this table is made off), there has been plenty of business coming up with our real estate ventures and no way to reach me quickly.

And so I told my boss today I either need a desk and phone here in this building (where I spend 90% of my time lately instead of my real desk) or a Blackberry. I guess the Blackberry's easier to arrange.

And so any day now I'll be receiving my Borg hip implant. I'm in I.T., for heaven's sake. I should be thrilled to death that not only do I get the latest fancy gadget, but the company will pay for it, too. I even hear they have an "off" switch that we're permitted to use after hours.

So why ain't I dancin' in the street?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Round Four: Update

The inspection report on our soon-to-be new home wasn't anything traumatic, and makes me wonder just what else they found with our current house that was never reported to us. We're requesting a few repairs, but nothing close to the scale of what we're doing for our buyers. Most of the things the inspector listed I never noticed, and I was reasonably thorough.

We're now officially in August, so everything happens this month. In less than three weeks we'll be midway between houses. Considering how quickly July went by, I should be a bit more panicked than I am. We've got lots of work to do still.

We spent most of the day Saturday organizing the garage, determining what we will sell and what should go in the pile for the garage sale. When faced with moving everything I'm finding I'm getting much more mercenary than I usually manage. I cut my paperback collection in half. I should do the same with my college textbook collection, but that's a little harder to do. It's hard to imagine anyone wanting to pick up "Biology: The Cornerstones of Life" at a yardsale. But it's also hard to imagine my ever opening that book again, even though I loved my Zoology class.

I'm starting to see why my dad has a bunch of outdated science and math books nestled in amongst all the other books on the huge book case at home. Is there out there somewhere an secret ancient textbook burial ground?

The kids are excited to be having a yard sale and moving. The cats are freaking out. They know something is up, but they don't know what. Little do they know that we'll be taking them with us--and that they'd probably prefer to be left behind this time. At least until we get into the new house. I can't imagine them being too enthusiastic about living in a motel for a week.

But then neither am I.

Heard In Passing...

I overheard my two-year-old son singing a song he learned at church:

"The wise man built his ho-ouse in a wok!"