Saturday, December 27, 2014

12 rules for home buyers and sellers

As I have learned, having done it twice within 15 months, buying and selling real estate, and moving from one house to another, is stressful. There are, however, a dozen hard and fast rules you can count on to help take the uncertainty out of the process.

1.     The day you find your dream house and decide to make an offer, your realtor® will announce the market has heated up suddenly and that, if you really want the house, you’d better come in as close to the seller’s asking price as possible or, to be on the safe side, because there are sure to be multiple bids, over it.

2.     The day after your offer has been accepted and you sign the papers to place your current house on the market, the same realtor®, who assured you your home was so desirable it would sell instantly, will inform you the market has suddenly dried up (“This Ebola scare has people panicked”) and you need to list it for substantially less than he or she said you would get for it.

3.     The week you list your current house for less than you had been told it would fetch, three other houses on your block will go on the market, making potential buyers think there is something wrong with the neighborhood and scaring them away.

4.     The expert you hire to inspect the house you are buying will find two or three picayune issues the seller needs to take care of before the contract becomes official such as “loose closet doorknob” or “water spigot on north side of house shows signs of rust.” The seller’s out-of-pocket cost to bring the house up to snuff so you can proceed to closing will be approximately 1/546th of one-tenth of one percent of the purchase price.

5.     The week before you close on your new house (even though you haven’t even had as much as a nibble on your current one), you will learn that it is customary, according to the Board of Realtors in the jurisdiction in which you are buying, for the buyer to pay the cost of title insurance and you will have to cough up $5,000 you hadn’t expected to spend.

6.     The day you take possession of your new house, at least one major appliance that was working perfectly the previous day during the final walk-though – the A/C compressor, furnace, water heater, fridge, washer, dryer, oven or dishwasher  – will fail. After spending $500 to have a technician tell you it can’t be repaired, you will have to buy a new one.

7.     The week after closing on your new house, you will receive in the mail a notice from the county that your property taxes have gone up 25 percent and, if you live in a planned community, a notice of a special assessment.

8.  When, nine months later, having reduced the asking price of your current house three or four times, you finally receive an offer, the inspector the party buying your house hires will find things like “dangerous levels of cancer-causing radon gas present throughout house” or “sewer line has been compromised by tree roots.” (The beautiful tree in question, that you will learn needs to be removed in order to repair the sewer line, will be one of the primary reasons the buyer cited for buying your house in the first place.) You will have no choice but to agree to lower your price even more in order to proceed with the sale and to mitigate (a word you will hear over and over which basically means spend money) whatever’s wrong with the house. 

9.     After you have signed a contract to sell your current house and agreed to make the costly repairs the buyer’s inspector noted, but before the closing date, at least one major appliance – most likely one that is built-in and matches your kitchen cabinets -- will become inoperable. You will call in a technician who, after charging $500 for labor and parts in an attempt to fix it, will announce it can’t be repaired. You will have to purchase a new one for your buyer and hire a cabinetmaker to replicate the woodwork that covered it. After several days of attempting to match the stain, the cabinet maker will announce it is impossible, so the cabinets need to be sanded and restained -- reducing your take even more.

10.  The week before you officially close the sale of your current house, you will learn that it is customary, according to the Board of Realtors in that jurisdiction, for the seller to pay the cost of title insurance, reducing your take by another $5,000.

11.  There will be rain (and/or snow and/or hail and/or heat and/or cold) of Biblical proportions the day you move.

12.  The movers will gouge the walls and floors of the house you are selling as they move out, and you will have to write a check to the purchasers to pay for repairs. If you had improvements made to the new house before you moved in, such as new flooring or painting, the movers will gouge the floors and walls in that house as well.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The boy who said "Ba"

Until he was three, our son Stuart's vocabulary consisted of one word – “Ba,” short for “bottle.”

We spent thousands on speech therapists and specialists. All said there was nothing wrong and that, like Mr. Ed, he’d speak when he had something to say. But we worried ourselves sick nevertheless.

Shortly before Christmas, 1989, my wife, Judy, sat down and wrote the following story that turned out to be more than a worried mother's gift to her son who, I’m happy to report, grew up talking just fine. It's a gift for all children who are different and to the parents who love them. 

The boy who said “Ba”

There once was a boy who could only say “Ba,”
Much to the dismay of his mother and pa.
He said “Ba” for his supper and “Ba” for his blocks.
He said “Ba” for his spoon and his toothbrush and socks.
If he wanted his wagon or wanted his sled,
The single word “Ba” was he one word he said.

His parents were worried for they’d never heard
Of a vocabulary of only one word.
So they tried all solutions: They took him on trips.
They read him fine books, and they tickled his lips.
They fed him rich custards of ripe ba-na-na.
And he thought it all over, but still just said “Ba.”

They went to the doctor who shrugged as she said,
(After looking him over from toe up to head),
“Don’t worry, don’t scold him. He mustn’t be shushed.
He’ll speak when he’s ready, he cannot be rushed.
This isn’t an illness, no strange mania,
You just have a healthy young boy who says 'Ba.'"

But people would shake their heads, “My what a shame,
There’s the boy who says ‘Ba’ instead of his name.”
And mean kids would snicker, they’d giggle and ha
At the funny young boy who would only say “Ba.”
Which made the boy sad and he sometimes felt blue.
But a boy’s gotta do what a boy’s gotta do.
So all that he witnessed and all that he saw
He only expressed by the single word: "Ba."

And then one December, before Christmas Day,
The boy’s church put on a Nativity play.
Each child had a costume. Each child learned a part.
Each child had a message that came from the heart.
But the boy (yes, you guessed it) was cast as a sheep.
And because of his “problem” was told just to sleep.
“Until,” said the teacher, (who choked her guffaw),
“At the end of the play, Sheep, you have one line: 'Ba.'"

For days they all practiced each child’s special line.
And at last, they were perfect, with polish and shine.
But the boy who said “Ba” never practiced, it’s said.
(After all, why rehearse the one word in your head?)
And there, almost off-stage, beneath all the straw,
Crouched the sheep-costumed creature,
The boy who said “Ba.”

Well no one knows why, on Nativity Day,
But an air of disaster encircled the play.
The angel forgot what had once been foretold.
A wise man unwisely spilled out all his gold.
One shepherd got clumsy and tripped on his staff.
Another got nervous and started to laugh.
The doll in the manger fell out with a thud.
The cow stubbed his toe and it slowly drew blood.
Joseph’s eyes watered, he started to sneeze
Sending Mary’s veil flying, struck broad by the breeze.
The donkey got hiccups and started to hic,
And the innkeeper rushed from the stage, feeling sick,
Somehow catching his robe on the stable’s front door,
That made the whole structure crash down on the floor.
And there in the midst of this massive faux pas
Came a voice loud and clear – one sweet glorious “Ba.”

And slowly it swelled like a thunderous hurrah,
As the young boy stood stage-front and sang out his “Ba.”
And then, if by magic, the sweet “Ba”-ing grew.
It swelled from the rafters and shook every pew.
Each flickering flame on the candelabra
Felt the pulsating note of the little boy’s “Ba.”
And each person present remembers the chills
As the sound bounced through windows,
Across fields and hills.

It’s said they could hear it from Alaba-ma,
Way up to the snowbanks of Minneso-ta.
It jiggled the racecars in India-na.
And startled the lizards in Arizo-na.
It melted an iceberg up in Alas-ka.
And slivered the cornhusks out in Nebras-ka.
And down in the jungles of Argenti-na
To the uppermost province of north Cana-da,
(And even, it’s whispered, down in Austral-ia),
They could hear the faint echoes of one heartfelt “Ba.”

The young boy smiled broadly. Today was his day.
For the first time his “Ba” was the right thing to say.
And imagine the pleasure, just think of the awe,
For the one child who knew his lines:
He who said “Ba.”