My Blog


     With the rebound of the housing market and low interest rates, many people are thinking about buying a new home and moving. The desire is understandable. Moving into a new house with new neighbors is like starting a new life. I know. I fell for the allure of the adventure myself. But I’m here to warn you. Don’t do it!

     I’ve started my second half-century of life. I’m old school. I wear my socks, T-shirts, and underwear until they have holes in them. So I was hesitant when my wife expressed the desire to move out of our home of twenty years. We’d worked hard, and spent a hell of a lot of money, to make our old home everything we wanted. I had a comfortable working environment to write. My daily routines were gratifying and set. I could have almost seen living in our old house for the rest of my life—almost.

    There were two things that made me agreeable to changing residences. One: The neighbors had rotated over the years, and many of them were, well, not neighborly. Their pride of ownership was lacking. They let their homes run down. Their kids ran amok. We were frequently attacked by loose dogs on our daily walks. In short, I loved the house, but I was beginning to hate the neighborhood. Two: I dearly love my wife of thirty years. And if I’ve learned anything about staying married, it's that you have to compromise on the important stuff. Once I accepted the idea of moving, I naively began to get enthusiastic about it. That’s when the fun began. The unrealistic fantasizing about living a new life can be ruined by starting it.

    My wife became lost in her enthusiasm for finding a new house, even obsessed. She pored over realtors’ websites every free moment, forsaking all else. We visited open houses, did countless drive-bys. After months of wasted weekends, we finally hired an exuberant realtor. More wasted weekends. Nothing satisfied our desires. Then, giving up on our realtor, we attended another freakin’ open house. Eureka! It had everything we wanted, seclusion, tons of land, county living, even nicer than Green Acres. Better yet, the owner was eager to sell and accepted our offer. They even did the repairs we requested. All was grand with the world. Well, almost.

    The sale was contingent on us being able to put up a backyard fence for our Husky. The neighborhood association immediately denied the request with a phone text. Funny thing was, I noticed the text came from the president’s wife, not the president. After much bitching by the sellers, and a hasty association meeting, it turns out the wife was the one that refused the fence. The association approved our request, but we’d made our first enemy. We hadn’t even moved in yet. Don’t worry. She’ll get hers when I egg and tepee their house on Halloween.

     With the closing only a month away, reality and panic began to set in. We had to hire movers, a home inspector, fence people, electricians, painters, pool table movers, security installers, a cable company, and get new carpeting. And you can’t just call people. You have to shop for the best companies and prices, get multiple estimates on every job. Just finding, calling, and scheduling these jobs was a nightmare. No one wants to work by your schedule. It’s all about them—especially when it comes to pulling out your checkbook. At the same time, we were scrambling to pack. I think I made 152 trips to Home Depot for boxes, tape, felt markers, bubble wrap, more boxes, more tape . . . I was stunned by how much stuff we’d accumulated in twenty years. Charities made their yearly quotas with the things we gave away.

     The fence was due to be installed the day after closing. Surprise! It’s a no go. Miss Dig, the utility-line markers, couldn’t find the house. Apparently they don’t have GPS. It took them almost two weeks to find a map. The fence was next scheduled to be installed the day before we moved in—like I didn’t have better things to do that day. Oops, the fence-building company delivered the wrong fencing. Another no go. We were stuck with an over-exuberant Husky on moving day. Not only that, we had to take her out on her leash every time she had to go—24 freakin’ hours a day. It was two weeks before they got the right fencing. I was completely bald by that point. The fencing coordinator wouldn’t even talk to me on the phone anymore. They finally installed the fence. They were installing the gate. Oops, the fence builders sent us the wrong gate.

    “Well, at least you have a fence,” the installer told me.

    “What the bleep-bleep good is a fence without a gate?” I asked.

    He shrugged, and left me to call the coordinator. Who, naturally, would only respond to emails by then. It was another ten days, and a couple million dog walks, before we got the gate. Then, after finishing installation five weeks late, the fence company had the nerve to send me an email demanding payment by PayPal that afternoon. I was tempted to tell them to sit and spin. Instead, I waited a few days and sent them a check by snail mail. I got an urgent email from them every day till they got their payment. Beware of fencing companies even with A+ BBB ratings.

    The rest of the contractors worked out similar to the fence company. The movers tore up our old basement drywall and drop ceiling getting furniture up the stairs. The paint company painted our new floors and driveway as well as our walls before overbilling us. The pool table movers showed up a week early, at the old house, while I was already bogged down with two contractors at the new house. The electricians wouldn’t work in the attic on hot days (not that I blame them), and rescheduled for whenever it got cool (In the summer?). The carpet company overestimated on our hardwood floors, and stuck us with five boxes of very expensive flooring they won’t buy back. Then, they delivered carpet with a fault in it. To this date they haven’t rescheduled the new stuff, and we already tore up the old carpet. I won’t even get started on my greatest nemesis—the cable company. That’s when the four-letter expletives fly and our Husky runs for cover.

    But moving day and contractors are only part of the stressful situation. Then there’s unpacking and finding room for all your stuff—which still isn’t done after five weeks. Half the problem is FINDING your stuff, even when all the boxes are marked. Even when I found things, I didn’t dare put them down. They’d simply disappear. Gremlins do exist. And let’s not forget the gazillion frustrating maintenance problems of moving into a new house. The disposal doesn’t work, the septic tank hasn’t been cleaned in six years, putting up new ceiling fans, fixing sprinklers systems, the lawn needs dethatched, de-grubbed and fertilized—the list grows daily.

    And buying a new house is only half the equation. Unless you wish to become the proud owner of two money pits, you have to sell your old house. It’s the same headaches all over again—painting, cleaning carpets, scrubbing floors, more maintenance, finding hidden problems you didn’t even know existed. In short, one giant, time-consuming, pain in the bum. Then there’re the buyers, the showings, the price negotiations—people trying to get everything for nothing. More stress, more frustration, heaped onto your already sagging shoulders.

    My point is: From the time you start planning your move, till the time you’re finally settled into your new house, your once-normal life is a hectic, scatter-brained mess—ruined. I’ve lost weight I didn’t want to lose. The only reason I sleep at night is because I’m exhausted. This is the first thing I’ve written in two months. My tenth novel is NOT going to be out this fall.

    But you know what’s funny? Knee-slapping hilarious? I’m glad we moved! Sometimes we get too comfortable with our settings. We just go with the flow. We might think we’re pushing ourselves towards our goals, but we’re not into extreme overdrive until circumstances demand it. This move has reawakened the urgency in my life. In the end, I’m old enough now to know this chaotic crisis will pass. The stress and hard work will fade into a distant, but hated, memory (not so much that I ever want to move again). And at some point, hopefully in the very near future, I’ll be very happy in our new home.

    But if you’re thinking of moving, be warned. It takes a strong body, mind, and marriage to come through it smiling. Hey, I think I feel the beginnings of a smile already.