We've had our house in Washington on the market for 15 months. The housing market has been very bad this last year and the economy has been down, down, down. In all that time we had only 3 offers. If you've visited us in Washington you know it's a very cool property: a 2100 sq.ft. house on 1.16 acres with a detached 2-car garage, art studio, guest house, chicken coop, hot tub, outdoor fireplace, pond with artificial waterfall, as well as plum, pear, apple and cherry trees. It was the winner of a newspaper garden make-over contest, it's across the street from a river, surrounded by farms, and yet just one mile from downtown Ferndale and the riverwalk. We bought it for relatively little nine years ago and I was certain that in 20 years it would be worth half a million dollars. Last year it had a healthy value which plummeted in the bad market. We ended up selling it for $50,000 less than what we could had gotten had we sold it in early 2011. Ouch.
Selling the house while living in Norway wasn't an easy thing. It started with a good team of real estate agents, Bob and Linda Stull from RE-Max in Bellingham. They took care of all of the details, arranging lawn care, cleaning, fixing things that went wrong over such a long time. I was glad to have competent and reliable folks taking care of business for me. There was a constant maintenance cost I was paying along with the monthly mortgage payments (we'd had renters before but had a very bad experience with our last renters, so decided not to rent it while it was on the market). Bob and Linda's services, though, were all part of the commission they would receive – they got no extra pay for all their extra hours. I bet they didn't expect it would be this much work, but they never once complained!
We could handle most of the transactions over email. It was easy to set up my credit union account in Washington to mail checks to various people for various things. The craziest part was during the final offer when we was receiving offer and counter-offer documents while our family was in a cabin in the woods for fall break, up in northern Norway. I had to tether my laptop to my cell phone to download the documents, and then use Photoshop to digitally insert our signatures into the pdf files and email them back it again. It worked.
The final paperwork to the title company had to be original signed documents. We received them last week Wednesday via email and printed them out. They asked if we could overnight them. Ummm... you can't really overnight a letter from Norway to the US (well, I imagine you find a courier to fly overseas and hand deliver them). One company offers two-day delivery for $230. The post office has an express service that would get the envelope there in 4 working days for $100. Or their regular service would deliver in 4-7 working days for $13. I mailed it using regular service, crossing my fingers that it didn't get lost. It mailed Thursday morning and it got there on Tuesday (4 working days), the record time we've ever sent or received a package from Norway, and at the same cost as the express service.
The sale was completed today. We have many mixed feelings about this. Of course it a relief – the house was a constant financial drain and we were quickly running out of money. It was also a constant worry: things broke, it got broken into and someone broke a door and stole the washing machine, a light fixture disappeared at some point, the garage was broken into and that door damaged, etc. But it was a property we loved, and it was a strong tie to the United States, to the place where our friends live, our place we could always come back to. So there is sadness and a sense of loss as well. Still, Bellingham is one of our top choices if we decide to move back to the U.S., and I'm sure we could find a place we would love just as much.
It was a long wait, but we did it. Hats-off to our real estate agents, Bob and Linda! They were great agents and wonderful people as well. Need a real estate agent in Whatcom county? Find them at www.bobstull.com.