Monday, July 18, 2011

Downsizing in Retirement...Stress/Trauma Explained

Tombstone AZ...did they die of gunshots
or were they just trying to buy a house?
In an article published on the AARP website called Downsizing in Retirement Stan Hinden spoke about the trauma and expense of downsizing during you retirement.  We have been going through the trauma of this decision for a month now.  In our case, trauma and expense could very well be a hyphenated word.

When we received an offer on our condo very near the first of July we were elated.  The fact that we had two offers in our hand only made it better.  All we could think was that the black moving cloud was going to by pass us this time.  We celebrated and began to pack in earnest.  All was going smoothly until the inspector came to call.  He found mold in our attic space and, because we are condo owners, we were not allowed to order the repairs.  The only way to resolve that issue was through our HOA.

So we went out to get a bid for more ventilation in the attic and remediation for the mold. We were instructed to take the bids to a special meeting of the HOA board held for the purpose of helping us with the problem.  It was the 4th of July weekend.  On that Saturday we made several calls and finally found a company that had their offices open on the holiday weekend.  Their name, 911 Restoration, led me to believe that they might be our go to people.  We made an appointment and a representative came out on Monday morning, looked the attic over and gave us a bid for $2000.  Because I had asked him if the cost for the remediation could come out of the closing and they had replied yes, I was surprised when they demanded payment upon completion.  We accepted his bid with the understanding that the HOA board would need to approve it first.  Gulp #1!

The roofer actually came out on a Sunday morning and gave us a bid while standing on the ground and taking a quick look at the roof from the upstairs deck.  The bid was for $400 for 7 vents.  This, he told us, would bring the attic space up to current state code standards.  We thought the bid was good and accepted it with the caveat that the HOA would need to approve the work first.  He wanted his money when he completed the work.  AND when we looked at the bid, we realized that the man could not spell! Gulp #2!

The meeting of the HOA board was set for the following Thursday and we were to prepare a letter for the board so they could be aware of the problem before the meeting.  We did that and included the bids along with the letter.  When we walked into the special meeting we were surprised to find a room full of people.  For some reason I did not realize how involved the condo owners were. I wondered if there was going to be a problem.   This is the way the discussion went:

HOA Chairman:  We are going to keep this meeting very informal so the audience can be allowed to have their say in this matter.  The matter is now up for discussion.
HOA MEMBER #1:  I am sorry but I cannot even consider this action unless we have at least 3 bids.
HOA MEMBER#2:  But these people will not be able to move if we delay to get three bids.
HOA MEMBER#1:  I don't care!
HOA MEMBER#2:  OH!  Well Member #3, didn't you have this type of work done on your condo.
HOA MEMBER#3:  Yes I did and the cost was about the same as this bid.
HOA MEMBER#2:  Well "b" (that's me) how did you locate this roofing guy.
ME:  He was recommended to us by another roofer that could not do the job for us.
HOA MEMBER#2:  I was just wondering because this roofer cannot spell!!!  Do you think he will do a good job?
ME:  I sure hope so! Gulp #3!
BOARD CHAIR:  I need a vote by each person.
#1 NO
#2 Yes
#3 Yes
#4 Yes
#1  I only voted no because the roofer cannot spell!

In the end the HOA agree to allow the repairs AND volunteered to pay for them. We called the roofer and the mold remediation companies with the good news and told them that they could bill the property management group the HOA used after they had completed the work.  They both said NO & NO!  We worked out a backup plan where we would pay the bills and the HOA would reimburse us.

The contractors both came on schedule and did a beautiful job.  We were delighted.  We paid for the work out of our own pocket and submitted the bill for reimbursement to the management company. Then we waited for the $2400 check to arrive in the mail.  We waited and we waited.  I called the management company and was assured the "check was in the mail!"  We waited but still no check.  Finally the management company called me back and said the check was returned to them...they had put the wrong zip code on the letter.  Gulp #4

We drove across town and retrieved the check.  Now, today after a long day on the phone with banks and loan officers, it appears the house may be ours.  Keep your finger crossed.

This saga does not even tell you about Social Security offices without a fax machines and answering machines that hang up on you without warning.  It does not tell you about our state retirement system that promises paper week in a few day and took two weeks to actually do it.  It doesn't talk about a system of laws that is so full of catch 22 situations that you cannot protect yourself.

Let me tell you though...I am not going to be denied.  Karma took a backseat in this process and we took control of our own fate.  It was hard but I do believe it is going to work!

The stress of this whole thing has had us both pacing the floors. My heart has skipped about every third beat.  The word "trauma" does not even come close to telling the whole story.  If two people as financially sound as we have been have this much trouble, my heart goes out to those people that have suffered big setbacks in this financial downturn.  Banks are so hard to satisfy and the days when you were judged on your reputation are gone.  Just shoot me if I ever consider doing anything like this again!

Thank you for listening.



  1. And people wonder why the economy is taking so long to get going? Sloppiness, inactivity, uncaring attitudes, and a general disregard for the individual are just a few of the reasons I can think of.

    You keep plugging away, Barb.

  2. I agree Bob but I will have to say that I am finding that people are being very creative.

    The problem in the financial world is not so much the people but the regulations the leaders in that world have put into place. The "big boys" are protecting their assets these days. As a result the poor loan officers are left with egg on their face.

    The day laborer market is alive and well. People have learned from our hispanic people that they can work for the day and survive until something better comes along. Now if the government can leave them alone, they will be okay until they get a job.

    Our real estate agent is a miracle worker...I cannot say enough about her skills.

    It is not all black and white...there are lots of shades of gray. In our case, a grandson was born with breathing problems and spent many days in NICU Because his father made too much money, the hospital would not negotiate a pay schedule. This caused our son to go into Chapter 13 bankruptcy court. We were caught in the middle because of a co-sign on a student loan. The catch 22 was that the bank holding the loan would not write us a letter and notify us of a delinquency caused when the court "ordered" our son not to pay his bills and any payment on the loan would have voided the Chapter 13 proceedings. It has been a nightmare. But everything looks good this morning.

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Incidentally our grandson is now 19 months old and in very good health. That is what is important.


    As a disclaimer here I want you to all know that this is just a quick overview of the problems. I have learned to ask lots of questions so I can be very clear about what those people in charge are telling me. AND I ask for help from those that know more than I do.

  3. All of us want to live comfortably as we get older. In order to make it happen, we must ensure that we take care of our tomorrow by careful planning today.


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