End of an era

Here is more than anyone would ever want to know about our move to Parish and back.

Back in 2000, after a long and painful process (which eventually involved lawsuits), we bought a house at 3840 Griffin Road in Onondaga, about half a mile from Heather’s grandparents’ house at 3949 Griffin Road. Marty and Mary had bought that house in the 1940s along with about 115 acres of land. They raised six kids (five daughters and a son) there, and for a time Marty’s father and Mary’s grandmother lived with them too. They sold off some acreage along the road for development leaving them with something like 60 acres on the east side and 45 acres (including the house) on the west. In around 1993 they gave 15 acres on the west to their daughter Fran, who built a house there and still lives there with her husband.

In 2001 Mary died. Mary, then about 85, was left on his own in the house, though of course with a daughter next door. Family discussions led to the feeling that it would be good if someone could move in with him, and so, in summer 2002, we did. We kept our house at 3840 until spring of 2003, at which point we decided things seemed to be working out fairly well and we sold our house.

Unfortunately “fairly well” didn’t last. By mid summer Marty’s mental state had deteriorated quite a bit. He was not only forgetting things but imagining things and believing himself to be in places he lived 60 years earlier. His behavior and personality started changing. Eventually he started making passes at Heather. At that point we decided this was a bad environment for a four year old.

We asked the family whether there was any prospect of Marty going into an assisted living apartment or nursing home. They said no, they weren’t going to do that. So we went house shopping. We found a house that had pretty much everything we wanted, except it was too far from Syracuse — on the border between Parish and Albion, about 35 miles north of Syracuse University. Property north of Syracuse is even cheaper than property in the city and south (which, by comparison with much of the rest of the country, is itself pretty cheap.) The house we found, about 2400 square feet with 8 acres of land, was listed for about $100K. We decided to buy it. Heather was about a year away from finishing nursing school, after which she could look for a job in that area, Kenny would be in public school there, and I’d have to do the commute. We didn’t see anything closer in that we liked as well, and we wanted to move quickly.

Just after our offer was accepted and the home inspection was done, we learned Marty was going into an assisted living apartment. In fact he moved out before we did.

Things would’ve been a lot different if we’d known that was going to happen. We still would’ve wanted to move, because the house effectively became Heather’s father’s (Bill’s), and he was going to want to move there eventually from his home in Syracuse; also what we thought should be done in terms of maintenance and repair conflicted with what Bill wanted, so living there was somewhat stressful. But we could’ve stayed another six months or so and taken our time to find a house closer in.

Fast forward to early 2006.

Heather was out of nursing school and working… in Syracuse. Kenny was in private school… in Syracuse. I was still working in Syracuse.

The house had been gifted to Bill, with life tenancy for Marty for legal reasons but Marty was in a nursing home, in full blown senile dementia. Bill was living in the house, though he still had his house in the city. But he was having hip trouble which led to his having to leave his job on disability. He was coming to the conclusion the house and property were more than he could physically deal with. So he offered to let us move there and he would move out. We’d do maintenance and repair in lieu of rent, and he’d let us do as we liked with the house. (Heather’s his only child, so the house will be hers someday.) All that had to happen was for Marty’s children to divide up and remove Marty’s furniture and possessions, and for Bill to get a place and move.

You wouldn’t think that’d take nine months, would you? It did.

But earlier, in about September, we talked to a realtor about putting our house on the market. (At that point we still thought we could move in October or November.) The realtor we’d worked with in selling our house on Griffin Road and later buying the house in Parish, Betsy, worked near Onondaga but was willing to hook us up with a realtor in Oswego County. We thought she meant someone she knew personally but it turned out it was just someone with the same realty company who she didn’t know. His name was Derek. He came with Betsy to our house, barely looked at it, and announced it would probably sell for high sixties, low seventies. We told him we’d paid $100K and he said it’d been overpriced. He was smarmy and annoying and kept saying “I don’t want to be the Voice of Doom but…” Betsy’s jaw just dropped. We told him we’d think it over.

The last of Marty’s furniture was taken out in January, and Bill moved before then to a senior apartment. We figured we’d wait until spring to move. We’d decided the house was too much of a mess to put on the market while we were still there, so we’d move out, clean it up, and then sell it.

In early February we got ten feet of snow in one week. The lake effect snow band stayed either on top of us or south of us for most of the week. Weather reports kept saying things about near whiteout, extremely treacherous conditions on the roads into Syracuse, and we stayed home. At the end of the week the snow band shifted north of us, and we threw some belongings into the car and headed south. We camped out at 3949 Griffin Road and have been living there since. It took until early June before we got everything moved out or thrown out at the Parish house. At that point we met with Karen, another realtor Betsy had suggested. We liked her a lot better. Better personality, and she actually took an interest in the house. She said she thought we could list it for about $110K and there was a good chance of getting something close to that. Derek, she told us, never does market analysis; he does everything by the seat of the pants. She had a couple under contract looking for a house in our area and she thought ours would be just the thing for them.

She did want us to put in some carpeting first — we’d pulled up some nasty, filthy carpeting (ashes and cat hair) in four rooms before moving in and had never gotten around to putting anything else down on the hardboard subfloors. That, thanks to Home Depot’s incompetence and/or dishonesty, took several weeks longer than we thought it would, but it got done on July 18. We listed the house on July 19. Remarkably (I thought), her prospective couple were still in the market for a house. She showed it to them on July 24, and on July 26 we got an offer.

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