September 11, 2017

Selling our home in California: Part 2

Preparing the place

It takes me an hour, after several weeks of packing and shoving things into temporary storage, to hide away all proof we actually live here.

I could maintain a show ready house at all times if I got rid of a full storage unit of furniture, books, toys, comic books, records and junk, and I spent 2 hours tidying and cleaning every day.

No, thank you.

I fully intend to get rid of a good portion of that stuff once we’re moved. But as much as it’s nice that the floors are gleaming and all surfaces are clear, the result doesn’t bring me nearly as much joy as spending the time on something else instead. Like cooking for my family!

I managed to do take out on paper plates (the imagined “easy” way to do it) exactly once during the show season. The very next day I couldn’t bear it and whipped up a nutritionally balanced and even good-lookin meal. That’s where the satisfaction’s at!

Decisions with the California timeline

Our market in the Bay Area has cooled from a white hot frenzy to just a frenzy. The spring and summer were literally unbelievable. Homes were selling a couple days after being listed, even before the scheduled open houses!

Our sale period going into the fall, delayed from the original plan to list in the summer because there was a good solid chance I’d be checking myself into an institution otherwise, meant that we expected a slightly more sedate pace.

Even the slightly more sedate pace meant a great deal of planning for a ton of activity in a short ten day window, though.

First, identify all repairs needed. You wouldn’t think it was necessary given how much some of the literal teardowns were going for but again, we missed that period.

Second, gather all ye olde paperwork. We had seller disclosures to fill out, HOA documentation to hunt down, and a stack of papers to sign.

Third, this is where the timing gets tense – in the same week, and in this order: get the repairs done, the photographer in to take photos for the listing, decide on a listing price and dates and times of your open houses, write the MLS listing and post it, get the inspection done (why? See here), have the place deep cleaned and from there on keep your home spic and span because interested buyers may schedule a visit any time after you’ve listed.

*deep breath*

We listed on Monday, had a broker tour and inspection on Tuesday, and open house on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

Offers were due by Wednesday, 9 calendar days after listing.

You wouldn’t think that we would have time to take a breath, much less be worried, with such a compressed timeline. But I’m a pro at multi-tasking so not only was I keeping our home show-ready, my family fed, my work done, I was also being a Nervous Nelly and officially a wreck by Wednesday morning. I was convinced that my timing, and the horrible political situation, combined to mean that we didn’t have any motivated buyers and our pricing strategy was going to come back and bite us.

Thank everything (and everyone rooting for us) that I was wrong on that score.

The negotiation

We had some very solid offers. In keeping with the cooler market, though, no all cash offers for us.

We had a handful of offers, two stood out as good offers. They were good for different reasons and also not good for different reasons. Our strategy, after discussing all factors: price, contingencies, strength of the likely loan applicant, the lender’s experience with this area (because we’ve had some regional difficulties that have tanked loans in the past), was to ask the second highest offer (B) to beat the highest priced (A) offer.

I know that seems counter-intuitive but this is why it made sense: A’s lending situation seemed iffy. Asking someone to adjust their lending situation isn’t an easy ask, though, and the agent was also insisting that we do some unnecessary work, citing (wrongly) mandatory regulations which we already met. B’s offer was weaker because it had more contingencies and a lower price, but those are things the buyer can personally  choose to change if they really wanted to. Offer B also wasn’t wrongly insisting that we fix things that aren’t actually problematic, and their preapproval was with a reliable lender we’ve already worked with in the past.

Our other approach was to have our agent initiate a conversation instead of just writing a counter and sending it without comment. This allowed us to informally negotiate and come to an amicable agreement quickly and easily.

B’s agent and our agent hashed out the details and our agent came back to us with a much cleaner proposal. The follow-up matched the money A was offering, didn’t come with extra work, and conceded the appraisal contingencies. Given the pre-approval with a reliable lender, keeping only the loan contingency worked for us so we wrote up the official counteroffer and by the next morning, we had a ratified contract.

You wouldn’t think a “small” thing like asking for one repair would be a dealbreaker but in this market, it can be. With all the plates that we’re spinning, I don’t want to take on even half another thing to worry about, and their request wasn’t a small thing.

Now, what’s next? 30 days until closing.

We have to be appraised, their loan has to be approved, we have to finish work on our new place, and we have to move by the date that we close escrow.

There’s going to be a lot of breath-holding while all this is happening, you already know that. Even though this seems like a good buyer and loan situation, anything can happen and that little catastrophizing prepper voice of mine won’t stop reminding me of that until the money is in our hands. Thankfully it’ll be evened out with keeping busy and reminding myself that it’s just a tense time but worrying over it won’t help anything.

I haven’t even touched on how much I hate change, so this entire process has had all my switches flipped to “NOOOO” for weeks. That’s probably why the catastrophizing voice gets so loud these days.

:: Have you ever had to sell a home before? What’s your least favorite thing about moving? Most  favorite?

Read Part 1!

Swagbucks: Swago plus Spin + Win

Swagbucks is hosting a Swago (like online Bingo) to celebrate reaching $200,000,00 in gift cards and cash being given away. Starting Monday, September 11th at 9am PDT, ending 12pm PT/3pm ET on Tuesday, September 19th, fill in as many squares as you can

Sign up here.

The concept is simple: fill out squares when you earn points on their site. Fill out the board in a pattern, and submit your board pattern to redeem your points. You can choose any pattern to submit but make sure to submit before the game ends or you won’t get your SBs.

Bonus 1: Each activity you successfully complete on your Swago Board will give you anywhere from 1-20 spins on the Spin & Win Wheel.

Bonus 2: when you submit your board for a bonus you’ll get additional spins.

Bonus 3: If you sign up through me this month, before the end of the month and earn 300 SB, you’ll get a 300 SB bonus!

Here’s a handy tutorial if you’d like to join Swagbucks and earn. I track my earnings here.

September 7, 2017

Just a little (link) love: raccoon + lab edition


Katharine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil – I should have learned about her at the same time I learned about NASA and our forays into space but I’m so glad to learn this now.

Tomorrow is definitely not promised – this is why I have to keep reminding myself over and over, tomorrow is not promised. We have to wring the most out of every day, today, that we can, make the most of it, best we can.

Ms FAF’s struggle to find the balance in their marriage with some commentary on Asian traditions that are really just misogyny run rampant. Though my parents managed to raise me as a total feminist and seemed to have a happy marriage, I remember there were times that I had to roll my eyes at the ingrained misogynistic attitudes.

Dad once told me that he gave up dancing because Mom didn’t like to do it, and he wouldn’t do it without her. He didn’t want her to be alone at night while he was out having fun, and particularly, with other women. It wouldn’t have looked or been right. Good story, right? He then tells me that if my husband doesn’t like fish sauce, I shouldn’t eat it either. He was (I don’t know WHY, it’s not like we had just met) shocked when I said that if my husband has an issue with my eating fish sauce just because he doesn’t like eating it, then he can go find himself another wife. There’s a huge difference in choosing, for yourself, to sacrifice for the good of your marriage and expecting your partner to give up something they enjoy when it has *absolutely no effect* on you. 

Thankfully, with a lot of work, patience, and a few misunderstandings on our learning curve, PiC and I do really well keeping equality in our relationship.

White Americans Have to Make a Choice. The fight over Confederate monuments is a fight over who this country is for. And only white Americans can end it. – hattip to Cloud for the link, Jemelle Bouie is right here.


I thought this was The Onion, but no: Terry Pratchett’s unfinished novels destroyed by steamroller

Lessons that more boys and men need to learn: feelings and emotions are part of being human. I may hate them but they’re essential to our ability to survive and be part of a functioning society. What is society without compassion? Not one I’d want to live in.

Mrs. Picky Pincher on Frugality Does Not Solve Poverty – tis true. I have lots and lots of thoughts on this and they’re slowly getting organized.

September 4, 2017

Net Worth & Life Report: August 2017

Money and Life Report: August 2017

On Money


Our normal income comes from two full time day jobs.

We experiment with earning money on the side, including minimal cash flow that we don’t touch from an investment property and investing in dividend stocks.

Some side income comes from Swagbucks, selling clothes on Poshmark which is hit or miss, and Achievemint (my introduction to it). Any purchases you make going through my Amazon links keep these blog lights on.

The long term goal is to replace our day job income before my health declines enough to prevent me from working.

***   ***   ***

Chase bonus! That last $150 bonus for opening a savings account in PiC’s name and keeping $10,000 in there for 6 months has finally hit our account. I’m leaving the cash in there for now because we’re going to need alla that and then some for taxes. That’s just a guess. An educated guess.

It’s actually quite awesome having the money set aside for taxes long before they’re due, and even making some money doing so, so a new tradition may have been born. In a few months, our coffers will be rebuilt and then it’ll be my turn to open a savings account to generate some income. Their scheduled transfers function is a nightmare to work with so I may have to skip the delicious checking accounts bonuses, though.

Comcast: I make it a goal to wrench back every penny they try to steal. This month was no different. Our equipment was sent back months ago, but they were still charging me a $2.50 fee monthly for … no darn good reason. If you too hate talking on the phone and have been avoiding dealing with them, use their chat function to demand your money back.


Our normal spending includes the living expenses for two households so this update ignores those ordinary living expenses. When buying anything online, I always check Mr. Rebates and Ebates for cashback.

Tiny surprises. I redeemed a Swagbucks deal for 100 free photo prints through York Photo. Then divvied them all up and sent surprise packets of photos to aunties and grandparents who were long overdue for an update. It doesn’t make sense to make them wait to get a photo once a year with the Christmas card, does it?

Eating out. We’ve had a house guest and, separately from the guest, under a great deal of pressure to get several extra things done per day over our usual workload so my concession has been to spend on food made by Not Me. Here’s an indicator of how exhausted I’ve been – I haven’t even bothered to keep track of every meal’s cost obsessively. It’s a temporary fix, and we’ve combined the need to eat with treating our guest to local delicacies. Win win?

Saving and investing

We max out a 401(k) and IRA every year. We normally save 20% of cash of our net salaries but that’s on hold while we get ourselves sorted out.

My secret stash is almost $6,000 right now which is a hoot considering how broke all the work is making us. But you know I can’t just spend without doing something to offset it. Plus, I have small amounts of our paychecks going directly to savings to make sure we never actually stop saving something. Some portion of that is going to pay for work that we had initially planned to delay but it’ll make life a LOT easier if we pay it now.

JuggerBaby’s 529 plan has gotten a couple of big infusions in the past 2 years and has since been sitting. I felt a bit guilty especially when I remembered that we have $1000 we consider untouchable for JB that hasn’t been invested yet. Duh! Vanguard’s automatic contributions plan has a minimum of $50 per month, so I’ve set up monthly contributions of $100 out of that account. By the time that money runs out, we should be in a position to increase the contributions comfortably.

Our net worth update: steadily dropping while reno is underway.

Links from this month

On Health

My steps average has risen by 500-1500 steps a day but my body is not thrilled with this increase. I’d hoped that gradually building on my average number week by week would build my stamina accordingly but gauging progress is complicated by the other aspects of my health. How do you tell the difference between “feels like crap because lots of steps happened yesterday” and “feels like crap because even though I was up to lots of steps yesterday, today is a fibro flare day”?

So far, I can’t tell. There’s no longer that distinction between good pain and bad pain. 

On Life

Breaking point. We’ve been doing a good job of keeping ourselves on an even keel despite all the disruptions but I can feel my body steadily losing its grip. My required recovery after each heavy work+reno day is getting longer and longer, and my body is not bouncing back at all, just trudging into the next day with a groan. It’s feeling a whole lot like those first really tough months after JuggerBaby was born – depressingly painful fatigue on top of the usual pain. I am not a fan. As little as I want to leave the place that’s been our home since I moved to the north of the state, my sense of self preservation does desperately want us moved and done before this wispy shell of my self shatters into a million pieces.

Sidebar: PiC joked we should flip this house, it’ll look so good when we’re done! I laughed. Then our (we haven’t even move in yet!!!) neighbor trespassed on our property to snoop around and check out our work. Now I’m considering it.

Extra sidebar: we discovered a second set of neighbors had decided to walk right in and tour the house uninvited. I’m on the verge of tackling the next intruders and calling the police. Just because you see an open door doesn’t mean you should walk in and track dirt all over my clean floors!


Moana! JuggerBaby is obsessed and it’s pretty awesome for us adults too. We’ve become a Lin-Manuel Miranda and co. household between Hamilton and Moana. The music is too clever to be annoyed by hearing it all day. (“You’re welcome!”)

:: How did you wind up your summer? Are you excited for fall or sad to leave summer behind? 

Read past monthly updates here!

Swagbucks: September sign-up bonus

If you’re not using Swagbucks and sign up using my link this month, then earn 300 total SB before 10/1/17, you get a 300 SB bonus.

It’s worth it if you have a few minutes a day to earn some SBs – I just redeemed my monthly $25 gift card for 2200 SB, and will probably redeem $50 in Paypal cash later this month.

Here’s a handy tutorial if you’d like to join Swagbucks and earn. I track my earnings here.

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