Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Travel Baby and the House

Last night we met with our financial planner, just to let him know what we are doing, and also to see how feasible it is, and get his opinion. It was also a good time just to talk about the money we have, where it’s invested, and that age-old question—when can we retire?  The answer to that is probably not until 55 or 60, unless we can live a whole lot more frugally than he thinks, or we get some kind of windfall.  Which is a bummer. 

But the good news is that he says we can totally take a year off, cash-flow wise, and he’s going to put us in touch with their mortgage guy to refinance our mortgage.  Hopefully we can make this happen soonish, and that’ll help us when we have to rent our place. 

Speaking of which, we had a lightbulb moment over the weekend, realizing that we have a former neighbor who has a unit with the same layout as ours, who is renting out her place. David emailed her about it, asking who manages her property, what she rents her place for, and how it’s working.  She rents her unit for $1550, which if we could do the same, would cover our current mortgage, the HOA, and the property management fee.  If we refinance, we might even be able to stash a little away for the inevitable repairs that will be necessary after having a renter.

That leads in to her next point, which was that she felt the hardest part of the whole renting thing was that your renter doesn’t have respect or investment in your property, so things will get damaged.  She also said she allows pets, which she thinks helped her get her place rented (and re-rented—she just signed a 2 year lease with a new tenant) quickly. She said that getting a response from the property manager who manages the condos and lofts could be frustrating at times, as when you have a renter, time is of the essence when getting repairs taken care of.  So that was all good information.  She also said that she pays $250.00 a year for insurance against a renter.  I’m sure there is a deposit involved, and possibly a pet fee.  She did say they charge a percentage/fee? for getting the property rented, so there is a front end cost.

The other thing that David thought about was seeing if our friend Rob, who right now has a couple of properties he rents and manages himself, could handle it for us.  We would pay him, of course, but it might be better just to have someone who isn’t a friend do it.  We’ll talk to him and see what he thinks.  He’ll be a good resource for advice if nothing else.

There are so many lists, so much to do. So, so much.  But here is my house list:
1.      Sort out and begin packing up books. I think we have a bunch of books that we aren’t going to re-read in the next six months. We can make a shelf/stack of books that we haven’t read, and then pack the rest.  Keeping out the travel books as well.
2.      Sell some furniture. We have a queen size bed and two chairs in the basement that can go.  Sell the treadmill.  Sell/give away/donate some bicycles.  Those speakers that David never repaired.
3.      Donate, donate, donate. I need to go through my clothes (the sock drawer is off the hook) and set aside all the stuff I don’t wear, to donate. I don’t think my Old Navy t-shirts are going to be able to be consigned, so I’m guessing anything I still like/think I’ll wear, I can just pack up.  Then we need to drop it off, or call for a pick up. There are already several garbage bags of stuff waiting in the basement.
4.      The garage. Oh my the garage.  That needs some serious work.
5.      I also want to make a “borrow” list, possibly. Things someone could use while we’re gone, rather than just having them sit in storage.  My mom will benefit from some of this, including our KitchenAid mixer, I think. Although there is no way she can lift that thing, so we’ll see.
6.      Paint. We will need to paint. Definitely all of the trim, and the doors. I think I might be able to get away with not painting everything, and just re-painting the walls that need it, but we’ll see. It’s hard to match colors when you know the paint has faded over the years.
7.      Use up stuff. We have a lot of food, and it might take us six months to use it all up. So the goal is to stop eating out, and to not spend money on food that we might already have. Lots of pasta, lots of beans/rice/couscous/quinoa.  A lot of meat in the freezer.  And oh my god I have a huge bag of powdered sugar in the basement. But I suppose that’ll keep.  Anything we don’t finish, we can probably give out, but first and foremost we need to spend less and eat down what we have.
8.      Same goes for products like toiletries, soap—all consumables, really.  I keep looking at things and wondering if I can use them up in the next six months.  It’s funny how the way you think of things shifts. When I’m shopping now, I think about whether I’ll need it in the next six months, whether I’ll use it up in the next six months. Am I going to have to store this? Do I want to choose to store this?
9.      I also want to make sure all our CDs have been ripped to hard drives, and all of our movies have as well. It would be nice to take them with us—there will always be down time when a movie might be nice, and Netflix won’t work outside the US.  Once the CDs are ripped, we can pack those as well.

I think this weekend we’ll go through the house with a clipboard and try to make determinations about what to keep, what to sell, what to donate.

Six months. Six months isn’t that long, really, when you think about it. It’s two trimesters of a pregnancy. I keep thinking of the parallels in this experience to having a baby. I’ve even called this trip our Travel Baby, often.