800 Miles North: Escaping
by Doug Roberson
In July 2007 my boss shared the news: The company was
consolidating five offices in
The job is fun and I've been with the company since 1996,
starting in our
I'd been in an apartment for two years, after selling my condo in September 2005. I made a profit on the sale, but I would have preferred to keep the condo without the ridiculous assessments and taxes. I decided my next property would be a single-family detached home, with a garage for my winter hobby equipment and fishing gear.
The housing bubble made
Once I learned we had an office, I decided to buy a house immediately, rather than finding a rental and then house-shopping. I don't like upheavals in my life. Following an 800-mile move north with another move when I found a house wouldn't work.
Over the prior three months, I paid down my credit card balances
for my optimal credit score. I arranged the down payment, estimated cost of
living expenses in
I needed a real estate agent to partner my search. I admit I'm not an ideal client. I want a lot of information quickly. When a Realtor pulls five MLS listings, I've come up with a list of ten other properties. I'm a bachelor, so schools and shopping are not important to me. My top priority was garage space for my Jeep CJ-5 and other projects.
My plan was to assemble a list of properties and rank them according to overall price, price per square foot, distance from work, insurance and tax costs, and other details. I had a strict price in mind, knowing I'd qualify for more, but I had a budget target to meet. I hoped to make just one trip to pick out a house since I dislike traveling.
After dumping an agent that didn't answer my emails for a week, I hit the jackpot. I'd searched through listings using Internet tools, and a site I liked was Bev Femia's. I've never worked with an agent as efficient, attentive and thorough as Bev. She helped me assemble the list, previewed properties for me, lined up Justin, a SunTrust manager, for exactly the mortgage I wanted, and even gave me a pep talk once . . . I was worried about leaving Beaver, my cat, alone during the trip. Beaver's spoiled and has never been alone longer than overnight.
I flew into
We had a list of 21 potential properties to cover in one day. The first eight were in my price range but didn't interest me. The problem with each was garage space.
The ninth stop was a Realtor's nightmare. It was an REO, on a muddy, pitted gravel road and completely wrecked inside. I never noticed. There was a large workshop in the back, with a covered carport large enough for me to work on three Jeeps at once. I ignored the ponies and mobile homes fenced in next door, the exposed electrical wiring and pipes, and the missing floors. Bev and Russell were so worried, based on my reaction to that workshop, that Bev pulled her ace in the hole. (I'm pretty sure that their original plan was to run around all day until I was worn out. Then I'd be manageable.)
We drove from the shack in the woods directly to Eastbrook Estates in Leland. There was a three bedroom, two bath with a two-car garage that Bev wanted to show me. It was built in 2005 and was currently vacant. It was priced $8 per square foot less than any property within 25 miles of my office. I made a beeline for the garage. Russell made a crack about Christmas and how I hadn't changed since I was five years old.
The garage glowed. The walls were finished, the floor was perfect
and there was a slight echo because of its size. It was bigger than most efficiencies
I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to take a single picture of the home.
Russell suggested an appropriate starting point for
negotiations and then we split up. Russell drove home to
From that point forward, life was a constant blur until after I moved. Work was busy. I had to pack my apartment, my office, my tools and equipment, and several aquariums, including a 180-gallon saltwater tank in my living room. There were papers to be signed and faxed, papers to be notarized and sent overnight, and constant worries that Beaver would flip out while we were driving the U-Haul. I didn't even have time for one last afternoon of fishing before I left.
Bev handled every little issue that came up relating to the sale. She took pictures of the house and set up a virtual tour to "motivate" me to get the packing finished. It was tough, though, because of how much I hate moving. I regretted the short timetable I'd set and several times I wondered if I really wanted to move at all.
The day before Good Friday, I tried to cram my office, my home and everything else into a U-Haul. My best friend had offered to tow my CJ-5 for me, since I'd be towing my other Jeep behind the U-Haul. The CJ is a real beast and is always cranky. It broke down just before loading, so I had to push it onto the trailer while my friend steered. Thanks to a (pre-existing) ruptured disc, I managed to toast my back the day before an 800-mile move. Bev attended closing for me that morning. Long before I locked the U-Haul, I owned the house.
I managed to make the drive, and the worst trick Beaver played
was sitting on the dashboard, watching miles roll by. I worried about unloading
the truck since I was in a lot of pain, but Uncle Russell stepped in to save the
day. He and other family members came from
Since then, Beaver and I have settled in. The lawn needs serious work. I haven't organized the garage yet. I seem to find new chores every day. Soon, though, I should have two or three fishing spots explored and started fixing up my CJ-5.