Where the hell does the time go? Literally feeling like we just did this yesterday, once again empty folded boxes are sitting in our humble abode. Unlike the attachment one gets with home ownership, however, there’s no love lost on leaving our ninth floor condo and moving on to greener pastures. (Thailand is in fact actually greener). Now understanding what they meant in all the blogs, websites and articles that discuss why expats feel culture shock when they return to the homeland, we learned that moving, like almost everything in Asia, is a totally different experience. Having moved an entire three bedroom house from San Francisco to Calgary, back down to San Diego and then up to Walnut Creek, California, you’d think it would be routine but unlike in North America, the key word in Asia for almost anything is minimalism so if you’re contemplating such a move, you’ll need to adjust your thinking.
Goodbye old faithful used boxes.
First off, you’ll need to erase the memories of a Uhaul store and its fancy array of custom sized boxes from wardrobe to specialized art and five different sizes of square from small to extra-large. Hardly anyone in Asia owns 2500 square foot custom-built homes with three car garages, a large yard and room for a shed, pool and some specialized fruit trees. Therefore, we learned quickly that no matter who you call or how much you pay, the choices are standard box and large box. Alas, there’s no industry devoted to boxes, moving and packing either so if you’re thinking you’ll just buy new boxes, good luck with that. Stranger than as anything to us was the notion that hiring a “logistics” (moving) company in Asia means you’ll get empty boxes, packing material and tape delivered to your door by courier as soon as you put down a deposit.
Although I believe I’ve said this before, once again I ask you to please pardon the interruption to our regularly scheduled blog posts while we play the game they call Real Estate. Grabbing one of the few opportunities available to me, I’m posting this quick status update so we don’t fall off the face of the expat blog earth. Simply put, California makes selling a house an enormous pain in the ass by running a “broker’s tour” on the Tuesday before your first weekend open house. While technically open to the public, most people work for a living and can’t spend their weekday afternoons at open houses. Instead, 45 real estate agents trounced through our immaculately clean house and left stains, pizza boxes and dirt everywhere along with their business cards.
For our troubles we received a total of four showings during the rest of the week. Convincing us the intention is to create a bidder’s war by receiving multiple offers, it seems like a huge waste of time to me but according to everyone it will be worth it. Having sold a house in Canada after one three-day open house open to the public, this week of living on pins and needles is frustrating me to no end. Along with disappearing on a short notice, you have to leave on every light in the house, make the bedding perfect every day and shower at the gym. Hoping this weekend solidifies the deal with two real open houses, our agent has set Tuesday morning as the deadline to submit offers and remains confident we’ll have multiple offers above asking price.
Having returned from our trip to Portland where we met what will be our first new friends in Malaysia, Diane went back to work and I resumed House Husband Duties. Unlike all of 2014, there’s a lot to do before selling a house, trying to liquidate all your possessions and being home to accommodate the throngs of vendors that the real estate agent schedules. Creating a “Marketing Calendar” to keep track of it all, our real estate agent’s administrator’s job is booking vendors to get the house inspected, painted, cleaned, washed and staged. Almost wishing I was the one working, selling a house in the Land of The Overpriced is turning out to be an enormous pain in the ass.
Uniquely different from selling a house built six years earlier and occupied only by us, homes older than me usually come with pages and pages of recommendations for minor repairs, statutory code upgrades, cosmetic fixes and disclosures up to Wazoo. (Built in 1964, our house is almost new compared to many homes in suburban Contra Costa County). Needless to say, none of this comes cheap. Along with bearing the unfortunate responsibility of paying broker’s commissions, the seller of a home in Northern California spends more on vendor’s fees, title company bullshit and miscellaneous regulatory fees than most men spend on an engagement ring. Spending upwards of $10,000 is “normal” even though our real estate agent conveniently “underestimated” all these costs by at least a few thousand.
After spending a year that felt like an eternity as a house husband, 2015 is upon us and suddenly an overwhelming sense of finality has set in. While thousands of fellow bloggers have simply “sold all their stuff” and left for wherever, the concept is different for old people (over 40) that lived a 30 year cubicle lifestyle complete with two car garages, suburban lawns and two-hour daily commutes. While I never want to return to the boring work of being a financial services peon, I’ve almost grown used to being a useless suburban slug that spends his days exercising, food shopping and blogging. But with Diane growing tired of being the sugar-mama, it’s time to buckle down and start packing.
Slightly anxious, we spent last weekend at the local U-Haul store purchasing moving supplies. Deciding it makes more sense to put whatever we’d want for future use in storage and not send it to a port in Penang with no known destination, we kept the inventory to 15 medium boxes, 5 large, 10 small and one dishpack (mostly to save our Tim Horton’s collectible Hockey Hall of Fame glass set). Veterans to the U-Haul store, Diane and I have already had 7 addresses in 14 years of marriage, three in the San Francisco Bay area, three in Calgary and even a six month stint in San Diego (we hated living there). Having sent our stuff 2,000 miles by truck (Twice. And once from SoCal to NorCal), you’d think we’d be seasoned veterans. But moving is not the same as ditching everything for a new life in an unfamiliar continent across the globe and a certain degree of nervous anticipation filled my head.
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine but they say “time flies when you’re having fun” and today marks the one year anniversary of my unexpected layoff. Recognizing that the odds of unemployed workers in late career successfully re-entering the workforce are slim, the life-changing event was the final straw in our decision to push up early retirement and become overseas expatriates.
Choosing Malaysia over Thailand despite large financial requirements for the MM2H visa, a social entry visit pass allowing unlimited entry to the country, I developed a new sense of the expression “patience is a virtue” as we began the long 18 month wait to my 50th birthday. Reaching that milestone allows an individual and their dependents the right to file paperwork under a status that demands a mere $150,000 MYR fixed deposit. Owing a large debt of gratitude to my former employer for getting me out the rate race, I’d like to personally thank H*** M*** Capital Management for their horribly stupid decision that left them devoid of the best operations and support person they ever had. An example of the thanks you get for breaking your ass include the useless brochure seen here ⇐
What’s the difference between an American and a Canadian garage sale? Canadians buy things.
Realizing time flies, we participated in the annual neighborhood garage sale today. Sponsored by a local real estate agent, it’s designed to be a quick way to earn some cash for unwanted stuff. Realistically, it’s more like an eight-hour waste of time. With six months to go until the magical Malaysian visa filing date, we thought getting a head start couldn’t hurt. Unfortunately, almost nobody came and those that did wouldn’t part with $5 for an $800 bicycle. Continue reading →