Moving Has Made Me More Empathetic

Over the last 30 years, I have handled more residential closings than I can remember. I have grown pretty numb to the process that my buyers and sellers go through. While I like to think that I patiently answer all their questions, I know that deep down, it should be routine and obvious. How come, I subconsciously wonder, they don’t know how to transfer utility accounts, change addresses, deal with condo and home owner associations or obtain insurance? Why can’t they provide lenders and landlords with proper financial information?

During these 30 years, my family has moved only 2 times. The first time, it was just my wife and me, just before the birth of our first child, from a 2 bedroom apartment into our first house. This was not a big move as we didn’t have much. It was difficult only that my wife was 7 months pregnant. But, packing and unpacking was a breeze, and we had lots of help. The second time we moved was 5 years later, after we outgrew that house. Our 2nd child was 2. This move also was not so hard. We were still accumulating stuff and were more than doubling the living space. The grandparents watched the kids while we packed and unpacked and waited for new furniture. Actually, furniture arrived for many years after we made that move. I navigated the details of those 2 moves fairly effortlessly. Simple to do lists got me through it and our real estate agents and my secretary kept me on task.

Now, 23 years later, the kids are grown and left us with an empty nest. We have sold the house and have downsized. We decided to rent a much smaller townhouse to give us time to decide what is next. But this has been overwhelming. We have accumulated so much “stuff”. We are the definition of what downsizing is supposed to be. How to sort through and dispose was a tremendous challenge. We had only 6 weeks from signing the contract to closing in which to clean out closets and cabinets and donate furniture. Multiple pickups had to be arranged and coordinated. But the decisions….

To do lists were endless. Last time we moved, there was water, electricity, phone and cable. Now there is satellite, internet, alarms, gas and more to add to the list. Turn it on and turn it off. Insurance. Changing addresses on all kinds of accounts. Where did we get so many credit cards? And banks and other financial accounts? How many visits does it take to get the internet to work?

The packers and movers did a great job – right up until they got to the end of the truck. The new townhouse is an urban three story walk up. We never measured our furniture. The living room furniture is too big to make it up the narrow stairways (with a turn) as is the queen box spring for the second bedroom. Two hours of twisting, manipulating and cursing and the guys gave up and put it in the garage. So no furniture in the living room and no bed in the second bedroom.

The easiest parts of this process are the closing, which my assistant is handling expertly, and the lease, because we have been fortunate to have a very nice and helpful landlady. And, in both cases, our real estate agent has been a trouble shooter. But as a seller and a renter, I now truly understand and empathize with my clients. I see why they get stressed and sometimes ask obvious questions or forget to do simple things. After all, I am that guy right now. Someone has to keep me on the right track.

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