Monday, May 16, 2016

Sold, Sold...and Sold!

When Dawn and I formulated our plans for going cruising, it wasn't really with intention of completely imploding our land-based life. We love our house, enjoy our land-based (and air-based!) hobbies, like living near family, and we love Minnesota...well, for about six months out of the year! But we pretty quickly realized that to have the time to make cruising worthwhile, Dawn won't be working and I won't want to work much during the cruising season, which limits our budget quite a bit, which makes having a boat and a house and a bunch of land-based toys impractical. Renting out the house, like we've rented out our Washington townhouse since 2008, would be a pretty big distraction while we were thousands of miles away in the Caribbean. And really, if we're making a serious commitment to trying a completely different lifestyle for a few years, it makes sense to completely cut the apron strings and divest ourselves of the accumulated accoutrements of our land-based life.

The first step was selling our townhouse in Vancouver, Washington. We bought it in 2005, while I was working for Horizon Air, and only lived in it a few years, until I was hired at Compass Airlines in late 2007. Unfortunately we waited too long to list it, actually had it sold in early 2008, and then the buyer's financing fell apart - right as the housing market fell off a cliff. At one point we were likely a good $50,000 underwater on it. But we kept it rented out, the lessees steadily paid off the mortgage, and the market in the Portland area recovered pretty strongly in the last couple years. Shortly after we made the decision to go cruising, our latest tenants bought a house of their own and gave notice to vacate, and so we made plans to update the interior and list with Kim Nelson. She was our agent when we bought the place, and again during the turbulent and ill-fated first sale. She's always done a great job and this was no exception; the townhouse actually sold on its very first day on the market and for full asking price (about 15% more than we paid in 2005). This time the transaction went quite smoothly, and we closed in February.

Originally we were planning on selling our house next year. Kim suggested we take a close look at the market in Minneapolis and consider selling this year, given the uncertainty surrounding the election and the potential for higher interest rates afterwards. We were surprised to find just how hot the local market had become this winter, usually the slowest time for Minnesota real estate. Inventory was at historic lows, average time on market was astonishingly short, and tales of bidding wars were rife. It kind of reminded me of 2007, actually. So we decided to go ahead and sell. We interviewed several real estate agents and picked one we were comfortable with, Geralyn Mornson. She actually convinced us to list the house for considerably more than I had previously thought it might fetch, but also suggested we stick about $7k into new carpet, paint, and windows. We did what she suggested, but as luck would have it only the paint was complete when another agent in Geralyn's office asked to do a pre-listing showing. His clients loved it and submitted a full price offering - a full nine days before we were planning to go to market! We close on June 7th. Until Dawn and I move onto the boat, we'll be living in downtown St Paul, where we recently signed a short-term lease on a one-bedroom apartment in the historic Pioneer-Endicott Building. We figure the intermediate downsizing will help us get used to a smaller living space.

Another thing we reluctantly concluded that we should part with is our 1953 Piper Pacer. The worst thing for airplanes is sitting, I bought this one after a period of relative disuse, and it didn't seem fair to let it just sit unused during the 7-8 months per year that we'll be on the boat. We've been flying it around the country in stages since Christmas, and had worked three-quarters of the way around to Portland, OR by mid-April. We were planning to fly it to Montana in May, Idaho in June, and Alaska in July, where we'd sell it. It is, after all, a perfect Alaska bush plane. 

Alas it was not to be. I was having the annual inspection done in Portland when the shop gave me the news every plane owner dreads: they found metal in the oil, like lots of metal, and bronze and brass at that. Further investigation turned up a piece of main bearing in the sump. The engine was in the process of tearing itself apart those last few hours, while Dawn and I (and on the last flight, a friend and his two young boys) were flying over some very rough terrain where there probably wouldn't have been many good options following an engine failure. On one hand, this was a pretty big financial blow - probably the biggest we've faced thus far. An overhaul would cost $23k+ and only increase the value of the plane by perhaps $10k, or I could sell the plane for about $10k, a $13k loss off my purchase price in 2014. On the other hand, I felt extremely lucky that I found out about the problem the way I did, during a routine inspection, rather than through a violent engine failure in a very bad place. Money is money, but life and health are priceless - especially concerning a friend, spouse, or loved one that you're treating to a flight.

I initially considered rebuilding the engine and completing our planned Alaskan adventure before deciding it would be too expensive and too distracting considering everything else we have going on right now. I listed the Pacer on as-is for $10k, and it sold less than a week later to a mechanic from near Seattle who will be rebuilding the engine himself and then flying the plane to places like Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. That makes me smile. It was still sad saying goodbye, though - Dawn and I had some great adventures in our first airplane over the last 18 months.

So most of our big things are sold. The next will be Dawn's 2005 VW Jetta, which we'll be selling in the next couple weeks (we'll be keeping our Nissan XTerra for the time being). We've sold most of the big furniture that's going to be sold now to our house's new owners, friends and family, or on craigslist. The remainder we're taking to the apartment and selling when we move down to the boat. Of course there's a ton of smaller things left to be sold, donated, or otherwise disposed of in the next few weeks and months. Much of our bedding, kitchen appliances, etc are going to a charity called Bridging.Org. We will have a storage unit, but are hoping to keep it fairly small - most of what's going into it has personal value, like gifts or our artwork (all our own photography).
There are two major things we were originally planning to sell that we ended up deciding to keep: our motorcycles. We're planning on spending at least the first hurricane season up in MN/SD, that coincides with the riding season up here, and the bikes would be in storage most of the time we'd be on the boat anyways (and we have storage space with family). It makes sense to keep them, and will be one thing we'll have to look forward to for our first hurricane season off the boat.

1 comment:

  1. Sold in the first day on the market? That's wonderful! I know out East, where my parents are from, it can take months if not years for anything substantial to move. You both should feel grateful for the opportunities that this has afforded you. Have fun traveling: you're living the dream!

    Doyle Hunt @ Real East Van