Topping the financial headlines this week were stories about a new round of “stress tests” for the “too big to fail” banks in the United States. Unlike the CEO’s of America’s behemoth financial institutions, Diane and I have more to lose if something goes awry. Having endured the last few weeks of vendors poking, prodding, cleaning, inspecting, painting and washing, the process finally came to a rather uneventful end yesterday with the staging of our house. Looking more like a show home than an occupied residence, the house was professionally photographed and is ready to be officially listed for sale.
As you may recall, it all began on November 1st, 2013 with my unexpected layoff. Enduring almost 17 months of life as a House Husband, it’s been a long and rather boring road except perhaps for an incident where I totaled my car but somehow escaped injury. Because of unfavorable financial ramifications for MM2H applicants not yet 50 years of age, Diane and I decided that waiting it out on one salary for an extended period made the most sense. Having endured 2014 as a “semi-retiree” with not much to do in this quiet suburban enclave, preparing the house for sale began a few months ago with a landscaping project. Fully engulfed with selling our possessions, greeting and paying vendors, and careful budgeting, I think working would have been less stressful. Discovering the semantics of our monthly bank statements today, we also learned that we’ll be able to send the MM2H Visa application package on April 15th and begin our experimental overseas early retirement in Penang, Malaysia soon after that.
Wishing to share our transitional process with everyone, this post is a visual display of what you get when you pay someone to “stage your house”. Believing the process is a waste of money, everyone here swears that staged houses sell faster. With limited supply and almost no competition coming to the market in our area this weekend, our agent believes we should be in contract talks by a week from Monday after having one “broker’s tour” (where all the local agents with potential buyers come by on a weekday) and one public “open house” next weekend. Leaving this weekend for special “advance showings” for selected clients only, we have to disappear for the day after leaving the house in pristine “show condition”.
As promised, here are some pictures. Starting with the family room, this is what buyers will see. None of the furniture in this room is ours
Moving on, this is the “living room” which we stepped foot in about three times in seven years since it has no cable hookup:
Clearly one of the hardest parts is putting together the ridiculously perfect and fake looking collection of pillows, sheets and bedding every morning. Sadly for me, Diane has no time to do this next week because she leaves too early for her job. Located only 24 miles from our house, that translates into over two hours on a busy day here in the land of too much traffic so that leaves me to put it all together. Yesterday I spent an hour comparing my Ipad photos to the way I put it back together for the photos.
Leaving the kitchen minimally furnished, we had to remove our coffee maker. Naturally, neither of us can function without coffee every morning so that means I get to remove it and wipe the counter spotless for the next 11 days.
Allowing us to use our entire dining room set probably saved us a few hundred bucks so it’s a good thing we pretended to be yuppie suburbanites back in 2007, shopping only at Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel. Renting the furniture for a 30 day period, the most expensive part of staging is actually the delivery and labor and union rules prevent anyone from helping the delivery crew.
Last but not least are the bathrooms and utility rooms where we have our washer and dryer. As a white man married to a Chinese woman, I know better than to attempt a shared bathroom. Unfortunately, mine needed major grout work (big surprise, eh?) and is now so spotless that it mandates me using Diane’s shower for fear of leaving behind countless small hairs that I shed like a puppy every time I step foot in a shower. Finding a solution to this problem, Diane has been showering at the gym.
And there you have it, folks. This is what you get in a 1,623 foot square foot home when you hire a “stager”. Mind you, she’s not even a professional although her business card does cast her as “accredited”, whatever that means. Coming now is the waiting and hoping. Still finding it hard to believe houses sell almost instantly with multiple offers, we don’t know how any middle class families can possibly afford living here in Walnut Creek. But honestly, we don’t really care. Looking only to the next step, I can’t wait to begin sharing posts of expat adventures, mishaps, new experiences, delicious foods and anything else one might expect to find in a blog titled “Experimental Expats”.
Understanding you’re all probably sick of seeing the “transition” category show up over and over, please stay tuned as we spend our last weeks in North America wrapping up the logistics and then figuring out what to do when we arrive as homeless expats on a tourist visa to a country we’ve only enjoyed for its spectacular rainforest. Thanks for reading !!
To any expats recalling the stress and uncertainty of the future: Please share your stories and comment !!
Obviously, you’ll all be the first to know when we are “sold” and then I promise a few hundred great pictures from our expat destination research vacations that somehow didn’t make it to previous posts.
Hopefully that serves as adequate “filler” while we waste a month with relatives in Canada (hopefully, it’s not as cold as our last time there)