Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Jun '09

Do Canines Dream of Smelly Sheep?

We had to be away for our open house weekend so on Sunday we took Serena to her new favorite place, Ewe-topia, a dog herding training facility. Serena is part Australian Cattle Dog (A.K.A. Red Healer) so we figured it might be in her genes to want to herd cattle. We heard about Ewe-topia from some other dog people and thought we’d give it a try.

First off, if you’re in a hurry, this is not the place to go. It’s 90 minutes south of Woodinville in a little town called Roy. On a weekday this would be a terrible commute but on Sunday it was smooth sailing. Once there, you pay $10 for a session and sign up on their list. Well, signups start at 6:00am – about the time I was rolling over in bed – with the first session at 9:30.  We left the house at 9:00 and got there at 10:30. We were #22 on the list. At about 5 sessions per hour that put us in the ring a little after 2:00 (thank goodness a couple people had to slip out because they signed up for multiple sessions and their dogs were tired.) To pass the time, though, they have a 4 acre off-leash area with lots of toys, water buckets, and horse poop. The dogs can romp and play until their turn. You can also watch the training going on to see what’s involved.

We seemed to be the only newbies. There were quite a few regulars training their dogs for competition (trials) and several who were there just a few times. Most of the dogs were German Shepards Dogs, Australian Shepards, Border Collies, and Welsh Corgies. There were a couple Cattle Dogs.

We were talking to one of the regulars just before Serena’s turn and when we told her it was our first time she chuckled and told us what to expect. One of us (me) gets to go in the ring with Serena. Since Serena has never herded before, she probably won’t know what to do. So, I get to show her. How? Well, I run after the sheep, “biting” their butts hindquarters with my hands, pushing them along, all the while yelling at Serena to “Get ‘em Get ‘em Go Go Go” and coaxing her along to do what I’m doing. I figured she was joking. Nope. That’s how it works. Fifteen minutes later I was herding sheep.

It took Serena a few minutes to “get it” because she’s always been taught not to chase things (cats, squirrels, etc). I was hoarse from yelling, my hands were dirty with the stuff from the back side of a sheep’s hind end, and I was quickly running out of gas. Then, there was an instant when something clicked and Serena figured it out. She started nipping at the sheep’s legs, biting them on the butt, and chasing them around the ring. The crowd cheered (really)! Our 10 minutes was up. Whoohoo! She’s a cattle dog!

And where was Valerie when all this was going on? Safely behind the camera!

Waiting for the stampede  This is how you do it

Catching on  Yee Haw!

You go girl!  Instinct

Jun '09

U Can’t Touch This

Living in our house reminds me of the 1990 MC Hammer song, “U Can’t Touch This.” Everything is staged—place settings at the dining and breakfast tables, a cookbook on a stand with ivy around it on the kitchen counter, “properly” folded towels on the towel racks, etc. etc. When we eat we have to carefully pick up the dinner plates, salad plates, and pretty napkins and stack them on the bookshelf (there’s space next to the perfectly stacked and leaning books), put down large napkins, eat, then thoroughly clean the glass top of smears and fingerprints and put everything back just so. Our vanities have small plastic totes on them to hold all our bath stuff so we can quickly pick them up and hide them when people come to see the house. Gotta have bare counter tops. And, whatever we do, we don’t use the bath towels hanging on the rods or we have to get a clean one out and fold it per Martha Stewart’s bath towel folding SOP.

We’re setup for a one-hour advance notice so a Realtor can call us and we can stage and clean the house and be out of here in one hour. The two calls we got this week gave us a couple hours, which was nice, because we can use every minute doing all the items on our evacuation check list—which includes me sweeping the decks and Valerie browning nuts in butter on the cooktop. “Gee, Honey, we should buy this house. The pine needles from all these large firs never fall on the decks and it always smells like someone’s baking.” Uh huh.

Does it all work to sell the house? Not sure. Our work-a-holic Realtors have had three consecutive weekends of open houses. I don’t know of anyone ever doing that so they are earning their paycheck. We have a couple very interested parties. One that was here last week returned for two hours today! Michael called with a question about the gas fireplace chimney (so we know they were walking around the house) and he also told us they ran the shower to check the water pressure. That’s more than a passing interest. Their problem is they have to sell their existing house which they bought at the peak two years ago. He’s going to visit them on Monday. Another couple, both Microsofties, spent 90 minutes at the house yesterday and said they’d be back again with their Realtor this week. They supposedly have cash as they just sold a condo.

Maybe it’ll happen this week. If it does, we’re gonna run around the house messing it up and putting fingerprints on everything! I CAN touch this…

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Jun '09

Home Again, Home Again

The reason for the blogging hiatus was that we were out of town for 12 days. We didn’t want to advertise to the Internet crooks that we weren’t home. Our Realtors held two weekends of open houses and two weekdays of broker open houses and we figured it would be best if we weren’t here to deal with all the commotion. We flew to Indiana to spend a week visiting Valerie’s family, stopped home for a day, then drove to Cannon Beach, Oregon, for three more days.

Word from our Realtors is that we had good open houses. There was lots of interest, lots of nosey neighbors J, and at least three very interested families. One family we don’t know much about. They came through with their own Realtor. The other two, though, have houses they need to sell and, unfortunately, they purchased their current houses two years ago. They are likely underwater and would need to make a contingent offer and bring $$ to the table if they sold. Michael is going to check out their houses and give them a current valuation. He calls it “The Michael Reality Check.”

Our house will be advertised in the paper this weekend and there will be another open house on Sunday. This time we won’t be leaving town but will only be away during the open house.

It was good to see the Himes/Rocap/Merringer family again. We spent the weekend at the Rocap’s family “retreat” on Lake Maxinkuckee in northern Indiana and visited Valerie’s Mom and Dad in Martinsville for a few days. But, as you all probably know, after a family visit you need a vacation…so we went to Cannon Beach to unwind.

The Hallmark Inn allows pets and is right on the beach in front of Haystack Rock so Serena had a great time. She ran and ran and splashed and ran and played with other dogs and ran and sniffed to exhaustion. You want to know where the term “dog tired” comes from? This is it. Oh, and, we had a fantastic time, too.

Running in the Waves  Shodow People


Dog Tires Starfish on Haystack Rock Haystack Rock

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Jun '09

Our House, Is a Very, Very, Very Fine House…

After five months of hard work making this house shine, we’re officially putting it on the market at noon, today. We’ve busted our behinds refreshing every square inch — from Valerie remodeling two bathrooms to me running around with an artist’s brush touching up paint chips. We’re utterly, totally, exhausted…but, modesty aside, it’s a showpiece!

Our Realtors are holding a public open house both Saturday and Sunday. There’s an open house for the other Realtors in their agency on Monday and there’s a broker’s open house for all Realtors on Tuesday. Meanwhile, people can make appointments to come see the house anytime with their own agent.

Here’s a link to the full description on the Realtor’s website…

We also just learned that two houses of similar size, age, and price within a mile of us just sold – and they were only on the market for two weeks. That’s two people who won’t buy our house but it does mean that buyers are out there and they are buying.

Wish us luck!

Our House Is A Very Very Fine House

P.S. Now that the song is stuck in your head, you might as well listen to it. Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young…

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Jun '09

Details Details Details

I spent the day examining the latest draft of our house plans. This is the set that was sent to three builders for bids. It’s not 100% (as you’ll see, below) but it’s close enough for them to work up pretty close bids. Once we select a builder, we can iron out the details, make minor tweaks, and he can then adjust his price accordingly on the the final draft. We’ll also work with this builder to do what our architect calls “value engineering” — translated, that means figuring out where and what we can cut to get closer to our budget.

The interesting thing about this project is that we are working with an architect via FedEx, E-mail, and phone. We’ve only met in person four times. That’s one reason that it’s taken nearly eight months to get to this point. Whenever Steve sends us a new draft of the plans we review it and comment on it. Steve takes our comments, sometimes he calls to discuss them, and rolls them into the next draft. To give you an idea of the process, I copied, below, the comments that I’m sending Steve tomorrow on  just one page of our plans. There are 15 pages. You’ll see why this is a non-trivial project…

1. Need some sort of crawlspace access under the Shop and under the House. Best place is probably under the deck.
2. Shop Door #107 is drawn as a 3'-0" but scheduled as a 2'-8". Should be 3'-0".
3. Shop Sink should be double basin utility.
4. The subpanel in the shop can be placed at the electrician's discretion for minimum cost in either the shop or the garage.
5. A1.1 correctly shows no windows on the east Shop wall but Window #70 on A2.1 needs to be removed to reflect that.
6. Why is there an "extra" deck rail post (denoted by "EQ.A") in A1.1 and A1.2? It is not shown on A2.1. We prefer not to have it.
7. The post under the Breezeway is not directly under the center post above it (and the three posts above need to be changed to one post. See A1.2.).
8. Put a hose bib (2 of 4) at Bath #2 shower exterior wall
9. Need a note stating that one 220V/30A circuit and one 110V/15A circuit are to be run to and terminated at the elevator shaft pit in crawl space.
10. Change elevator note to say "8" Pit" instead of "6" Pit". There are some elevators that only require 6" but many are 8". Don't want to be limited in the future.
11. Family Deck Door #101 is drawn as a 2'-8" but scheduled as a 3'-0". Space limits it to 2'-8" so change the schedule to 2'-8".
12. The dimensions lines 4'-0" and 8'-4" are not correctly denoting the center of Door #101. They seem to be remnants from a previous door position/size. Remove or correct them.
13. Three east Family Room windows are shown on A1.1 . Four windows are shown in Dining on A2.1. Need to eliminate Window #64 from A2.1 and Schedule.
14. Move Door #102 to the west to line up with Door #105. This eliminates the conflict between an open Door #102 and Closet Door #116. Having two doors side-by-side probably not cool so we're okay with eliminating Closet Door #105 and making this 12" deep open shelves. Expand Closet #116 slightly to the west to fill in the space.
15. Door #111 can be 2'-8" (currently drawn and scheduled as 3'-0"). The max size exterior door into this level is 2'-8" so that's the biggest piece of equipment that can come in.
16. Door #112 is drawn as a 2'-8" but scheduled as a 2'-6". Should be 2'-6".
17. Eliminate Door 115 (elevator) and make it a 3'-0" cased opening. A pinball machine is going in that hole.
18. At Door #109 (under stairs) what is the clearance at 32" into the opening? I'd like to put a 7' tall phone booth in there. If it will fit, then eliminate Door #109 and make it a 2'-8" cased opening.
19. Bedroom #3 Closet Door #113 can be some sort of French door but only if it won't conflict with an open Door #112.
20. In Bathroom #3, flip the tub so the faucet/drain is on east side - easier access.
21. Put a hose bib (3 of 4) at northwest corner near solar water heater placeholders.
22. Put a hose bib (4 of 4) anywhere at crawlspace wall under Bedroom #2.

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Jun '09

The Final Countdown

On Wednesday, we met with Michael and Dana, our selected Realtors, and Kathy, the stager. First topic of business, the price. After much research and looking at a couple dozen comp’s they think our house should be priced at $774,500 (max) and $769,900 (better). Although it pains me to agree, I do. Most of the houses in our area of similar age, style, and size are priced between $750,000 and $775,000.  Click here to see them… We’ve been to several. Some are in good condition. Some not. Some have not been updated at all in 20 years!  Sorry folks, brass lights and faucets went out years ago. We’re hoping that they’re overpriced for their condition and when people see ours and compare, it will be a no-brainer which to buy.

I’ve been following a local realestate blog called Seattle Bubble that has a really scary analysis that compares Personal Income (wages) vs House Prices in King County.  Historically, the average house price in our area has averaged 5.3 times the average wage. That’s higher than the national average of around 3 but is typical for a large city on the coast. The graph in that entry shows that around 2001 prices took off compared to wages (likely driven by giving mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them) and those prices are now coming back down to their historical average. BUT – they have another 23% further to fall to get back to that average! If our house is worth $775k today, it could be worth $596k next year. SELL SELL SELL!

Anyway, part two of our meeting was for Kathy to walk around the house and plan what needs to be done to stage it. As you may have read in one of my previous posts, I’m not sold on the whole staging thing, but I’m willing to try something/anything if it’s reasonable and cheap and might help sell the house. We spent about two hours walking around the house, looking at each room, moving furniture to-and-fro to make the spaces look bigger or more inviting. We discussed the color of plates to set the tables with (complete with plastic pea pods on the salad plates) and what additional art and chotskies we still need to buy. We wrecked the family room, turning the couch diagonally, and will be relocating Valerie’s chair, ottoman, and two end tables to the crawlspace. And, the coup de grâce…we’ll be renting another chair and a glass coffee table for 30 days because our chair and ottoman “have seen better days” (quoting Kathy). Valerie will go buy some dishes and a few accessories on Monday. Kathy is shopping for a couple comforters and will be bringing some things from her inventory.

If the pseudoscience of staging is not enough, perhaps I should expand my belief in the supernatural and bury a St. Joseph statuette in the front yard…

Bottom line. Monday the maids come. Tuesday we stage with Kathy. Wednesday the photographer comes. Thursday we review the flyer and sign the contract. Friday the house goes on the market. Saturday and Sunday are open houses. Monday is an open house for the John L. Scott Realtor’s office. Some other day that week is a broker’s open house for all Realtors. And, there will be another open house the following weekend. Where we’ll be, mentally and physically, we have no idea. Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on.

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Jun '09

“Out, Damn’d Spot! Out, I Say!”

Quoting Lady MacBeth seemed appropriate, although she was talking about blood on her hands, not stain in her carpet. Over the ten years that our player piano sat in our basement, part of its bottom was apparently touching the carpet and the mahogany stain from the wood leached into the fibers.

Out, damn'd spot!

This is Berber carpet which, supposedly, is virtually impossible to stain. Everything that we’ve thrown at it over the years (red wine, coke, glue, cat and dog pee, etc) has come up without a ghost of a spot being left behind. Well, wood stain did it in. I tried bleach, turpentine, acetone, three types of carpet cleaner, soap, you name it. I knew there was no hope because no matter what solvent I used, the white cloth I used to wipe the stain came back perfectly white. There was no sign of the stain coming up. It was fused into the fibers.

Our Realtors saw the stain and said that we needed to fix it. I suggested putting a couch over top (we are going to do that anyway for showing the house) but they said that a stain that large is a material defect and if we covered the stain and sold the house without revealing it to the buyer, that they could come after us for not disclosing it.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any scraps (many years ago I threw out the one scrap we had because, well, that Berber carpet just wouldn’t stain and we didn’t need it. Doh!) Home Depot told us that this carpet is no longer made – they think the company went out of business. The only “extra” carpet we have is on the stairs. The landing, at roughly 3′x4′, looks to be large enough to steal. Because of the foot traffic on the stairs that carpet is dirtier and more crushed down than the rest of the carpet but we might be able to clean it up and make it work.

A few days ago I went shopping for carpet remnants. The plan was to just replace the landing with some “accent” color – green or burgundy – to match the walls and the threads in the rest of the carpet on the stairs. Four stores. No luck. At Carpets to Go they had a commercial-style carpet with the same colors, but more brown, so I bought a 12′-12′ section, enough to do all the stairs and the landing. Today, John, from John’s Carpet Repair,  is coming out to patch a piece of the landing carpet into the stained area and re-carpet the stairs. I hope the new owners appreciate this!

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