The Long Long Road to Tucson

Well, it’s been a while since my last post. A lot happened in 2019. I got laid off. I broke my ankle while landscaping our back yard in preparation for selling the house. We put the house on the market. The house was broken into. In the process they destroyed the flooring in a small area of the living room, and subsequently we had to replace 1100 square feet of said flooring. It was not a good time.

While I was still gimping around with my knee scooter, I was offered an interesting job… in Washington DC – beginning immediately. So that didn’t work out. A few month’s later someone called to offer me a six month contract job. Mid-December of 2019 we took the house back off the market, I settled into my short term gig, and we actually put a Christmas tree up.

Well, not really. We bought a small blue fir that wouldn’t mess with our staging and which would eventually get planted in our ginormous back yard. All in all, 2019 was full of unexpected experiences and a lot of trying to fit inside a pretend life that is the inevitable byproduct of having your house on the market if you want to maximize the money you make off that house. Since we had put a lot (a LOT) of money into the house, maximizing the sale price was important to our upcoming plan to move from Northern California to Tucson, AZ.

Why Tucson you ask? Apparently right now Arizona is the new It Place for people all over the US. It’s hot, sunny, dry, and full of all the things you find in a desert climate. Since The Wife and I lived for 3 years in the Coachella Valley, we figured we knew desert climates. More importantly, The Wife’s big brother and sister-in-law live there, and the food scene is HAPPENING. Tucson is diverse, friendly, eclectic, artsy, LGBTQ friendly, and easy to drive around. Plus there are wineries to the south of Tucson. Seriously. What’s not to like? So we were set on moving to Tucson, AZ… just as soon as we could sell our house in Modesto, CA.

Once the holiday season had passed, we put the house BACK on the market. (3rd time is the charm, right?) But it didn’t sell. We dropped the price $30K. Still nothing. Looky Loos of all shapes and sizes tramped merrily through the house because they needed something to do, and despite the 58 (FIFTY EIGHT) professional photos of the house from every possible angle, they just had to enter into the house and roam around. Whatever.

Then COVID. Mid-February I could already see the lay of the land. (having a background in health care policy, delivery, and administration will give you that extra insight into a looming pandemic, which should have been declared a pandemic by the WHO at least three weeks before they got around to admitting it actually was a pandemic.) But I digress… which is basically what this entire blog is about. We took the house off the market, stocked up on everything, then sat back while the rest of the world caught up. I say this not to sound smug, although obviously, I do. I say this because if little old me in the middle of nowhere with experience in health care but no MD or PhD to my name could see it coming… WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T THE EXPERTS? (and all the many many politicians who have experts coming out their ears to advise them) I can’t even blame The Donald for what happened in the US. Let’s face it, the response from the CDC and the WHO was a bit disjointed, and Don likes to think positively even when it’s obvious that this is the ‘magical thinking‘ approach to running, well… anything.

But human beings are really good at denial, and so… there we were, mid-March. Within a week the small health plan I was working for completely rewrote their philosophy and playbook around ‘work from home’ and by the time Governor Newsom declared a shelter-in-place I had the means to continue my work on my home computer from my home office with a view of Davis Park.

But all good things must come to an end, and by the close of June of 2020 my contract ran out. Along with millions and millions of Californians, I applied for unemployment. I never did hear back from them, although I did return-to-sender-not-at-this-address several envelopes mailed by the CA EDD to some stranger at my address (we were the 2nd owners, so it wasn’t even like they were being sent to a previous inhabitant).

But MEANWHILE, the real estate market in Modesto for big houses on large lots, got HOT. So back on the market we went for $20K more than our original listing price in July of 2019. Along with that were new pictures including the additional work that had been done since January, a 3D tour and a floor plan. In less than thirty days we had an offer and sold the house for more than our list price in July 2019. In the strangest of times of our lives, we had actually accomplished what we had set out over a year before to do.

So… in the midst of a pandemic, we’re going to pack, move, unpack, and get a new house ready to live in. We have Lysol spray. We have masks. We will ‘social distance’ from the nice folks who pack and unpack the truck we’re driving from Modesto to Tucson. No problem.

And it wasn’t… until we arrived at the house we had purchased using a local agent and facetime. The market in Tucson was just as hot as Modesto. More so for smaller homes. We made 12 offers, often 5-10% over asking. But having a contingent offer from an out of state buyer seemed like a deal breaker. Our offer on the house we eventually purchased was a back-up. When the initially accepted offer did not make it through, we knew there were going to be problems. I expected a fixer-upper. We had NO idea what we were getting into. I know that real estate agents are in this to make money, but there is a fiduciary responsibility to the buyer or seller you represent. Our agent failed us miserably, but the market made it possible for him to do so.

We could have tried to find a rental, but would have had even more difficulty because of our two small dogs and cat. Plus there would have been the expense of storing most of our things and paying for two moves. So we settled for a fixer, paying well above asking, happy to have a place to land. Surprisingly, the house appraised for our offer. That’s how hot the market is here. And we had a place to land with a back yard for the dogs, and no one had to be left behind with a friend while we house hunted.

More on the journey to life in Tucson at a later date.

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