Saturday, September 3, 2011

Housing Downsizing!

I don't write about the housing market all that much, because, as longtime readers will remember, I've been right in the middle of the crisis. I reported on the situation a couple of times, in my 2009 New Year's Day post, for example: "American Power in 2009." Well, I'll probably feel more comfortable blogging about housing now. My wife and I sold our townhouse and we've moved into an apartment in Irvine, nearby the old neighborhood, just minutes away. (And just as we got out, the housing market shows little signs of recovery: "New-home slump keeping door shut on U.S. recovery.")

Here's our old townhouse, in Tustin, just off Harvard Avenue and Irvine Center Drive. The location allowed our boys to attend Irvine Unified. Our unit is (was) the second from right, with the brick front wall. The architecture gained accolades at the time. The Tustin Field development was in the news for building some of the first New York-style brownstones in Southern California:

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Tustin Field was the first residential housing community to be built on the site of the old Tustin Marine Corps Air Station. The base is historic for the massive blimp hangers that are still standing (the hangers are a staple of automobile advertisements on television). We bought the house in 2005, about two years before the housing market peaked. The government's property at the base was being converted by the City of Tustin into a massive residential, commercial, and retail complex called Tustin Legacy. When the market crashed by 2008 or so, the city shelved plans for the development. Our old community at Tustin Field stands a mile or so from the blimp hangers, but there are a couple other developments that were built right in the shadows of the hangers. They were to be part of a huge redevelopment area of South Tustin, with a great park running through the villages along the lines of New York's Central Park. Not now though. Economic circumstances killed the grand vision. As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men meet such miserable fates sometimes.

Moving day was a week ago Friday. I've been too tired to write anything about this until now. This was the biggest move my family's ever made. If you notice the right side of the garage at the picture here, I'd just finished loading a pile of "Junk-to-the-Dump." Two Latino men loaded everything up, for $225. And that included bookcases, old computers, and my wife's old step-climber. And there was some old furniture and lighting, and a bunch of old toys and clothing. The guys loaded it up in about 45 minutes. They worked very efficiently. The truck driver spoke to his partner in Spanish. When I paid the $225 I gave them an extra $20 for "cervezas." They liked that. The gentleman thanked me, calling me "amigo," and said "God bless you." They were great guys. That's my youngest son sorting through some toys at the last minute. The pile on the left has a few family mementos so we couldn't pitch everything right then:

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Walking back inside, here's my office, now with the books all stripped from the shelves and packed in boxes:

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Walking back up to the second level, that's my Mom working in the kitchen. I've taken pictures of the kitchen area before so folks might remember the kitchen table and couch, a sectional over by the windows.

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Here's my Mom. She turned 75 in August. I'm going to be 50 this month, so my Mom was a sweet 25 when she had me. And she's doing pretty well. The main thing bothering her is her back. She had a fractured vertebrae a while back, and it wasn't healing. She thought she was going to have surgery, but the specialist put her on some growth hormones that are supposed to speed the healing. She can't do a lot of bending or strenuous activity. She helped in the house for just an hour and I took her back to my new apartment. She's helped so much throughout my life. She's been completely unselfish of herself:

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Going upstairs, here's the master bedroom. The movers are all done. We didn't have enough time to pack all that well. Normally, you wouldn't have that much stuff still around, photo albums, and what not. But we moved less than a half a mile away, so mainly we were concerned about getting all the big stuff over to the new place right then, when my wife had the day off:

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We hired "Starving Students" for the move. They charge a base fee and then by the hour. My wife hired three men so the move would go quickly. They team arrived about 8:30am. It was two Latino men and a young white guy, tall, probably in his early 20s. First thing he says to my wife is that he doesn't feel well. He asks for some Tylenol. I get him some and then he goes back out to the truck because he's too sick to work. This was a Friday morning, so who knows? The guys was probably hungover after heading out to the sports bar the night before. The movers call for another man to come work with the team. About an hour later a young black guy named Michael comes. He's really friendly and energetic. But he whined and complained, especially when they moved the deluxe queen-sized bed into the new apartment. The bed has a shelving unit built-in at the base (two large shelves, his and hers, at each side). The bed must weigh a ton. So when we tell Michael that it goes upstairs at the new place, he let's out a big moan, "Ohhh, whhaaahhhaaa!!!" I couldn't believe it. If you hire on as a mover you move stuff. That's your job. My wife said she smelled marijuana on him, and he complained about how thirsty he was, so maybe he had cottonmouth. It was in the 90s last week so it was hot, but the other two fellas, both Latino, complained not a bit. The Latino men, from immigrant stock and bilingual, worked way harder than the American men, one white, one black.

Okay, still upstairs at the townhouse, here's the master bath area:

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Here's the second bedroom at the third floor. We first used it as a second office, but then put twin beds in there so my boys could sleep closer to us:

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My dad's painting at the top of the stairs, oil on canvas, and a baby picture, ages 6 months and 5 years:

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Now here's the stairways, from the third floor down to the second, and then the second down to the first floor. That's a lot of work chugging up and down moving all that furniture, and the two Latino gentlemen just keep moving on:

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Okay, back downstairs, I'm ready to take a load over to the storage unit we rented. My kid snapped this shot:

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Here's the storage:

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We had a couple of more loads to do. I was so tired after everything, I think I went to bed about 8:00pm all this last week, on worknights. I'm rested now and getting ready to finish unpacking. I'll post pics of the new place when we get it all set up. Until then, here's the view from the kitchen window, out to the parking lot looking South:

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It's beautiful. There's a pool down the walk, and for the first time in over 10 years we're using a laundry room to clean our clothes. Reminds me of the old days, when I was in graduate school, and that's okay. It's good to be out from under that toxic mortgage.

8 comments:

Jason Pappas said...

Best of luck in the new place. I hate moving ... but you seem to be handling it. Keep that computer plugged in!

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Jason.

I'm doing fine. The mortgage was underwater, so getting out from that was a big deal. We lost our "investment," which was 5 percent down and whatever else we put into it, like blinds and things. Would have loved to make money on the house and have moved into something nicer, but that didn't work out.

The Lonely Conservative said...

Moving is the worst, but there's nothing better than having a big move behind you. Good luck in your new home, I hope you and your family are happy there.

Opus #6 said...

This housing downsizing post has to be my favorite American Power post of all time. Probably because I downsized in June. And the kids and I, though a little cramped in our 3-br rented condo, are enjoying the community pool with lots of friends to play with, way less stress worrying about bills and repairs, and extra money in the checking account. I also loved seeing your mom. You and I are in the same generation and our parents are on the same track. She looks lovely. And a sweet nurturing woman is a blessing to any family.

I pray that you and your family enjoy the new digs. That you have many happy days in your new place, lots less stress and building character as your kids observe you handing the changing nature of our society and economy not with bitterness but with courage.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks L.C.!!

Donald Douglas said...

That's a very sweet and warm comment, Opus. Thank you, and here's wishing you well in your move with your family.

Amusing Bunni said...

I agree with Opus, this is a delightful post, and all the hard work you put into the move sure shows!
Best of luck in your new abode, Don.

Lots of people have to downsize, I'm thinking about it too, and have been cleaning out the garage and basement. It's VERY VERY hard work, esp. in the heat. I put old things in the alley, and the scavenger trucks drive by and remove within hours, so that's good for me. If I ever get out of here, I"m NEVER owning a house again....too much work, and bad uncertainty. I look forward to renting and never doing yardwork, etc. again. Guess I'll have to wait, though.

Billy Ray in Cowtown said...

No doubt we are underwater here in Cowtown, TX after 8 years but if ya'll see Seven Days in Utopia, you will understand how I could look forward to downsizing by just walking away from the mortgage in a few years. We will move into my late mother's littel 4 room house on the Sabinal River. Utopia's population is about 250 and that's just about enough for me. Mornings at the cafe, evenings watching the kids' rodeo club, ball games and gardening or hunting. 'Nuff said.