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Holly Swanson: 'How was your move?' is a Loaded Question

by on July 04, 2012 6:41 AM

The question is appropriate and innocent enough.

"How was your move?"

I’ve been asked this at least a dozen times in the past few weeks, mostly by friends with a sadistic streak who enjoy hearing about other people’s misery.

Because if you have ever moved yourself, you already know the answer to that question: It was lousy.

My husband and I have moved five times in the past eight years, sometimes across the state and sometimes across the town. Even when a move goes smoothly, the entire process is a terrible lesson in helplessness (or so I’m told, since I’ve never had a move that didn’t involve at least a few snags.)

Most of what happens, especially when a home purchase is involved, is completely out of our control. We sign the papers and get the money to where it needs to be. Then we wait while other people, most of whom we have never met, push those papers around, sometimes for weeks.

A real estate transaction has too many people involved and too many opportunities for trouble. When you consider the real estate agents, mortgage representatives, underwriters, appraisers, attorneys and tax authorities who are all involved, it’s amazing any closing happens on time.

And although everyone involved in the process wants it to go well, at the end of the day, it’s the buyer and seller who are inconvenienced if something falls through.

Our new home is in Lemont, known for its charm and small town feel. Part of that charm, I've been told many times, is its post office. For reasons that remain unclear to me, most of Lemont's residents are required to get their mail delivery at a P.O. Box rather than at their homes.

This seems like a minor nuisance, but I’ve been assured that over time it will become a fun part of my routine where I can chat with neighbors.

And that's about where our trouble started. The contract for our home listed the zip code for the mailing address at the post office. The appraisal listed the zip code for the house itself. Our mortgage folks noticed this the afternoon before our closing.

The zip code slip up – which was only a one digit difference--made the underwriter balk. He wanted the numbers to match. Several dozen phone calls later, everything was worked out at 4:40 the afternoon of our scheduled closing. But, 4:40 is about 40 minutes too late to get a real estate transaction completed on a Friday afternoon.

The closing was scrapped until the following Monday, which meant we had to return to our already-packed house and wade through boxes for several more days. The weekend when we should have been busy with moving and setting up our new house was instead spent watching the few DVDs that hadn’t been packed (Home Alone 2 and Blades of Glory).

The delay also set off a chain reaction of other cancellations, including our phone and satellite hookups and appliance deliveries. Our moving company was sympathetic and managed to get us scheduled for Monday afternoon, just an hour after our closing finally went through.

Watching a group of men whom I’ve never met before load all my things onto a truck is nerve wracking. I’m not saying I didn’t trust them, or even that a truck packed with my stuff is worth taking, but watching it drive away is the worse part of a move.

Until that truck drives away empty from the new house and I realized we’ll never find a place for all of our things.

The moving men were fast and efficient – perhaps too fast in some cases. Every box made it from house A to house B unscathed, though almost none of them ended up in the correct room.

Forget taking the time to label each box with its contents and destination, none of it seemed to matter to the people doing the lifting. Boxes marked "attic" ended up in the living room. Boxes marked "bathroom" were in the kitchen.

We just took it one box at a time until we had enough space to actually start living in the house. The remaining boxes got pushed into the closets and the garage, where they remain a month later.

The things that we haven’t yet found are instead being repurchased. There is a nice toaster oven trapped in a box somewhere that will hopefully retain its resale value when I find it in a few years and list it on eBay.

So how was the move?

It was fine.

Recent columns:

Holly Swanson is a State College-based freelance writer. She is on Twitter @statecollegemom and can be reached via email at [email protected]
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