The Learning Curve

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A beautiful December up in our meadow

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks thanks to one more island re-charge and then the fact my brain is full.

I have learned so much these past couple of months having active offers representing both a buyer and a seller in the real estate world! It has kept me guessing and it has kept me drinking red wine.

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Aloha!

But first, the island re-charge!

Its true, we were just on Kauai for my annual veterinary conference at the end of October. It might seem a bit extravagant to return to Hawaii a couple of weeks later but it was the best decision.

We flew to the Big Island for a 5-night stay at the Hilton Waikoloa (“Dirty Disney”) on an all-inclusive holiday. It was truly a holiday because it was the first time since starting to go to Hawaii that neither of us had a conference.

No agenda.

No need to be anywhere at any specific time.

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Island Al, our first morning

Except the golf courses.

The breakfast buffet was terrific, although it was teeming with families with young children. I hadn’t thought much about it being Thanksgiving week when we booked this trip a year ago but, wow. That was the most kids we’ve ever seen at one time at any resort on the islands.

They weren’t at the golf courses, at least.

We played the Kings Course, Makalei, Waikoloa, Hupana and the Beach Course.

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Makalei. Up the volcano, then down the volcano. And repeat.

The weather was perfect, the meals were terrific, the courses weren’t crowded, the evenings on our lanai with martinis and wine overlooking the dolphins and ocean were magical and we are completely full of Aloha.

Dirty Disney is a pretty cool place to go. Its such a vast resort that it actually has its own  monorail and boat system to get around between the towers.

It is also where I spent a heartbroken week during last year’s veterinary conference while Alistair stayed home so he could be with UB when he died from suddenly-diagnosed lung cancer.

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Sweet UB. I miss you so much.

We toasted our little Bostonocker Sperrier during our recharge to the Big Island and I’m a little overwhelmed by his memory right now.

Alas..

Onto the uptick in my already upticked learning curve!

One of the two transactions I was involved in was just way too easy.

No, really, it was sooooo smooth. I kept waiting for something ridiculous to happen but it didn’t.

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My first listing ever and now my first closed transaction!!!

It was that adorable house in town I listed for a friend who had been a great veterinary client. My first listing ever as well as my first Open House! I love that house and, without any issues, the buyers are in and the transaction closed on Nov.30th!

(Well, the poor buyer locked herself out on the chilly morning of closing- in her jammies- and had to make her way to our office where a colleague could give her a code to get into the lockbox and I wasn’t checking my phone where her frantic husband-in-North-Dakota had been texting me because, geez, I was going to meet my seller in Missoula for the closing where my seller told me, for the first time, that there were spare keys to the side door under the mat in front of it.)

So perhaps there was a bit of a glitch after all…

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Bye-bye, super cute house!

The second transaction, where I represented a buyer from Missoula who I had met working the floor this summer, wasn’t quite the same.

We were getting into a lake house on a private, gated lake near my own house and the home inspection came back with a few issues.

The issues led to some work that had to be done including radon mitigation and pumping of the septic tank and a few little things here & there. We were also set to close on Nov.30th but the one main thing I’ve learned since joining my realty team is that nothing is closed until its closed.

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“Mummy, are you telling them about the issues at Big Sky Lake?”

We had negotiations about electrical panels that went somewhere until they went nowhere and caused some frustration and perhaps even anger to the seller and confusion to the buyer and myself and the other realtor involved, Greg, had to step in a bit to make things right.

(Another thing I have learned is that realtors are often “stepping in” to make things right.)

So Nov.29th, when the radon mitigation was being finished up and my buyer and her two sons drove up for a walk-through, it was discovered that nobody could find the septic tank despite there being 3 septic permits associated with the property.

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At this point my brain took me back to my happy place from the week prior…

I actually drove home that night thinking that the sale was going to fall through and nothing would close.

And I was actually okay with that.

Because life is too short to wrap yourself up in shit you can’t control. And, believe me, I could not control this one. Nor could I negotiate a fix for it all.

I could, however, support Greg, who is a former veterinary client and friend, who assembled a team for the following Monday. The team included the local septic guy, his son, an excavator and a guy to work it, another septic guy with a camera to find the tank and us agents.

Party at the lake house!

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Working on the septic issue….

The camera-guy found the tank! Yippie! Okay, everyone, lets unearth it, get it cleaned and close this deal!

Oop, wait, not so much….

You see, as kind of shown above, we all realized that the tank was brilliantly buried beneath concreate.

Yeah. Concrete.

There was, perhaps, half an hour where Greg and I and everyone else had no clue what we were going to do.

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Oh, goodie… we found the tank….

Again, images of the signed papers floating off into the sky crossed my mind but Norm, the local septic guy just started digging.

And digging.

And the excavator guy got going in his machine again and half of a wood pile had to be moved and texts were flying between Greg and his seller and I watched and waited and wondered aloud if this was going to turn into one of those, “Hey, who is the littlest person here? You, there… in the hat… you’re going in” situations and we all laughed then we laughed again when someone said, “No shit! Literally!” to a comment and damn it, Norm got to the tank and was able to pump the thing!

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Not the best view but I’m behind the half-removed wood pile, standing on the treads of the excavator.

And the next day Greg and the excavator guy got some pressure-treated posts under the ground and they beefed up the support for the biffy that’s in the little out-building there and my buyer is happy.

And we closed! We closed in Missoula on the 7th and I celebrated with a hair cut and color to hide the greys that accumulated this past week at an exponential rate and life is good.

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In the car wash post closing, coloring & cutting… no “steadily depressing, low down, mind-messing” car was blues for this realtor!

I’m moving on right away to clients who are looking at listings all day with me tomorrow so they can relocate for the husband’s new job in Seeley Lake.

And I am chomping at the bit to get going on my fourth book.

And I had an all-day bling-thing yesterday at the local steakhouse with several other local small business owners.

And the cute little ice rink in town is actually coming together and people have already asked about skating lessons.

And there’s a few pets in town due for their vaccines.

And I did another Rouxbe cooking school lesson that led to me basting my first ever eggs this morning and I’m going to try a fabulous-looking new chicken and mushroom dish tonight!

And we adopted a new cat who adopted Alistair in Bismarck (Higgins!) and there could be even more Fyfe critters because, come on, who actually believed it was all going to end with Attrition?

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Ahhhhhh

And because of the potential for insanity in the weeks ahead I’ve gone ahead and already booked our next trip back to Dirty Disney in a few months although this time it is for a conference.

Neither of us cares.

We’re going to need it!

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Good times!

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Hiking around the Hilton

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Where do you want to look at the ocean and dormant volcanoes and play golf today, Honey?

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Mummy and our new, adorable, friendly, loving, purr-ball stray, Higgins!!!!

 

 

 

 

 


 

Suddenly August

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The remains of a particularly hot zone from last year’s Rice Ridge Fire… more on this later

July whizzed on by with bug bites, the return of the grasshoppers, golf games, blistering sunshine, realtor reality, insurance claim insanity, the tourist take-over of our community and hazy skies once again.

Throwing myself into a brand-new career has taken over my brain a lot of the time (and its been murder on my plan to play in the LPGA someday!) which has led to a brief absence from the blogosphere. No worries, though- clearly, I’m back!

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Previewing a particularly lovely home

I am really enjoying all of the learning happening even if my brain feels full much of the time. The learning that occurs on sunny days over clear-blue lakes surrounded by pristine forests when previewing and taking pictures of magical listings is some of my favorite.

I have amazed my directionally-challenged self (and Alistair) in my ability to kind of, sort of be able to navigate around the Double Arrow Ranch. I surprised myself when I was able to confidently reach for the correct flyers for our current waterfront listings the other day. And I somehow set up my shiny new wireless printer all by myself and was able to print off MLS listings for “Jim”, from Arizona yesterday when I was on floor duty.

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One of the most adorable (and affordable!) homes on the market right now- I want to sell this house!

I’ve managed to squeeze in some golf, which I prioritize when Alistair is here. I think I’m doing alright in the work-life balance department, which has always been important to me and one reason the real estate world seemed attractive.

We made sure to make the most out of our time together when Alistair was here last. A day-ride in our trusty, dusty Ranger, “Steve” took us up to the famed Morrell outlook that I watched become seemingly consumed by roaring flames last summer. Exactly one year ago I wrote the blog, “The Coach Came Back”, which was mostly about my 2 weeks spent coaching high-level figure skating up in Manitoba but I touched on the then-young Rice Ridge Fire.

The next blog is “The Rice Ridge Fire” and going over it right now really took me back. It really slammed home the devastation of that out-of-control monster which we soberly got a first-hand look at last week.

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Looking through the hazy burn site towards our meadow.

We have the doors off of Steve right now and we could actually still smell the smoke in the charred forest surrounding us. It was humbling being within the blackened beast that raged towards our home and surrounded our community for weeks last year.

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Up at Morrell Outlook last week, looking back towards Rice Ridge, where the fire began last year.

At least it was fun getting out and spending time together on back-country gravel roads again. We used to do that a lot more before we became addicted to golf.

We also made time to get out on the canoe last week and have a truly Montana-type of day. After local June-berry pancakes (we had picked the berries the week prior) and Kona coffee for breakfast we loaded up our canoe for the first time this season and headed out to close-by Upsata Lake.

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Peaceful Upsata lake.

No fishing rods this time, just the sound of our paddles and the gentle waves rippling up against the canoe. A loon gave us quite a performance after a dog started barking on another small boat. I’ll try to load the video at the end if you have never heard a loon’s cry. Its a bit alarming, almost haunting-sounding and pretty unique.

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Our lounging spot.

We wedged ourselves up into some tall grasses and I leaned back and sipped wine while listening to Alistair read from his Rocky Mountain of Natural History book. Its a great book- you learn about one thing and then you just have to read more about something you just learned. Loons, elk, deer populations- you name it, they’re in there.

The skies started to cloud over and since being on a large body of open water during an electrical storm is a bad idea, we headed for shore.

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Views as we headed for shore.

We even managed to squeeze in 9 holes together after our canoeing adventure and it wrapped up a lovely Montana day.

I would be heading in to play golf myself now because the tourists generally get off of our course at this time of day on a Sunday but I’m attending a local function tonight.

Its the annual Seeley Lake Community Foundation banquet and seeing as how I’m a more prominent member of the community once again, its important to go. I’ve also donated a set of Chloe & Isabel jewelry as well as some fun Canadian-inspired goodies for an auction item involving a trip up to Fernie, BC. My good friend, Merielle, who has featured in this blog several times, happily shopped for kitschy-type things featuring the mighty maple leaf and shipped them down here to us last week.

Usually I over-dress for these types of functions because I love the opportunity to glam up a bit but this year’s theme is “Fire and Ice” (think: Rice Ridge fire and the Snowmageddon of this past winter) so I’ll actually be wearing this:

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vet school hockey jersey!

I’m whipping out my hockey jersey from vet school. Thankfully it doesn’t say that our team was called the Bitches In Heat but I giggled when I got it out today and remembered our team name.

I’ve been told by organizers that this is the perfect thing to wear (with a skirt, sparkly heels and over the top bling, of course!) because of some big announcement coming tonight. I’m pretty sure I know what it is and I think its a great thing. I worry, though, because I barely have time to be Me as it is- this big announcement might require me to get speaking my first language again while there are golf balls to hit, homes to preview, mortgage companies to call, lakes to canoe upon, bling to be sold, cooking courses to take, books to write, wine to sip, books to market, conferences to attend and a hubby, 3 cats and a dog to cuddle-up to.

I’m not going to worry about it right now, though.

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Jockey, chillaxin’ under a tree out back.

I know I’ll be able to find time to fit everything in. As long as I’m having fun I’m motivated to do these things and make it all work. It helps that Alistair and all of my friends are so supportive of all my endeavors right now.

I tell you, though, if someone would pay me to just write my stories or play golf, that’s about all I would be doing.

Here’s to August.

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Hazy Morrell Outlook that survived the fire last summer.

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Steve and I, up at the outlook

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“Someone” being funny when I’m all, “Hey, hon, lean for a cute couple shot!”

 

 

What’s in Store

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The title of this blog is as much a statement as a question in regards to our house insurance claim thanks to the incredible amount of snow & ice we fought against this past winter.

 

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One of many photos of one of many adventures on the driveway with Big Red last winter

For a quick recap, we got buried a couple of times after days and days of heavy snowfall. It rained hard for almost 24 hours each time and then it froze. Our roof eaves took a beating and I chronicled it all with photos, social media posts and this blog.

I sent our insurance agent some pictures in early February, which was when I realized water was leaking down inside our walls and beneath the wood stove in our living room. (For the record, I’m not going to mention people’s or company names. Not yet, anyhow. I’m trying my best to protect them but if they don’t do the right thing I am willing to use my voice & platforms to drag them through the mud. Its not my style but it may end up being all that I can do.)

 

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One of the pics sent in early Feb of the water coming down our living room wall

Our agent is a friend who lives a couple of hours north of us. They didn’t get the amount of snow that we did but he could appreciate our situation, knowing that our community is fairly well-known for high snow volume. He initiated a claim the next day and the adjuster showed up a day or two later.

Since then I’ve shared the sheer joys of having heavy duty fans and enormous dehumidifiers running around the clock in our large house. I’ve shared my excitement at having strangers rumble through our world removing walls, ceilings and privacy. We laughed as we moved part-way into the guest bedroom and I’ve even started an entry in our guest journal.

 

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Some of the mitigation happening on that very same wall.

I wrote to our insurance agent and the adjuster expressing concern that the snow removal that was occurring as I typed was likely destroying some of our professional landscaping and plant life around the house and was told that we’d address it when the snow melted.

That made sense.

Which is why I okayed the offer of a second snow-removal effort with heavy machinery and large, beeping pieces of equipment after another dump of snow.

 

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Cleo inspecting the remains of our front lawn & plant life after the melt. Damage is from heavy equipment used to move snow/ice off of the roof and away from the house.

Since then the drama has evolved over payments and one of our two mortgage companies. Our primary mortgage holder has required form after form after form to be submitted by ourselves, our adjuster, and/or the restoration/construction company our adjuster chose out of Missoula.

The snow removal and mitigation that was done back in February totaled over 21 thousand dollars and the insurance check to cover that is stuck somewhere in limbo thanks to said mortgage holder. The main delay with it all has been the fact the mortgage company has never let us know, after each submission, when something else is required. (If I could bill for my time spent on the phone during all of this I would have the 21 K right now!)

With every call to the mortgage holder I then emailed or called the adjuster as well as the restoration company to let them know I was doing everything I could to get them their money. With all that I went through as a business owner I can certainly appreciate when you aren’t getting paid for work that was done!

 

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The lawn beneath the mountain ranges of snow has actually collapsed!

While leaping into a brand new job with a sparkling new career I’m trying to learn, and with Alistair back in Bismarck, the mortgage holder required even more paperwork and signatures and formal letters on actual insurance company letterhead 3 weeks ago. They also needed paperwork from the county stating why our ‘street’ name changed in 2007.) Each and every step, form or signature takes a minimum of 3 days as I  have to email or call whoever is involved and then they have to find or sign or complete whatever it is that’s been requested and then they send it to me and I figure out which department of the mortgage company to send it to. Throw in a mid-week national holiday to complicate the movement of things.

 

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Me, helping out at Clearwater Montana Property’s 4th of July celebration as our trailer passed by in the local parade!

After 2 weeks of the latest round of craziness our restoration company threatened to slap a lien on our house, which didn’t sit particularly well with me.

Alistair and I dealt with this in our long-distance style and without going into detail we got a personal check sent the next day to the restoration company and the lien will never be mentioned again.

Our funds are still held hostage but I’m really hoping that this week the mortgage company will have everything they could possibly want and they will release our funds.

This is what I mean by the title of this blog being a statement and a question. I’m sharing what’s in store and I’m also wondering about it at the same time.

The money isn’t the main issue right now, though, because I know its there and I know, eventually, they will run out of things to require (if they ask for my first born I’m hooped!) and the money willarrive.

 

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I could seriously use some of this right now!

Last week, my Knight in Shining Armor got home and I greeted him with one of those “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news” statements. After 10+ hours on the road he chose the good news.

I cheerfully shared with him the fact I had learned, 30 minutes prior, that our adjuster had finally approved a full new roof. This is significant for every reason we can all come up with and has been in discussion for months. Every quote came in really high because of the size and scope of the project and our adjuster seemed to struggle with an answer.

They also approved the deck, which wasn’t really in question because, lets face it, the deck is a wreck!

 

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Top part of the deck is lower than the bottom… 

The bad news?

Apparently there is an exclusion clause in our insurance that states there will be no coverage for lawns, landscaping, and trees.

The quote our adjuster got for that (20 grand) is included with everything but then its crossed out because, obviously, our adjuster had thought it would all be covered until he found that clause.

I’ve since emailed our adjuster and shared our concerns. I get it that insurance companies have the right to mitigate further damage but they don’t have the right to destroy our landscaping. And I never, ever would have approved the second round of snow removal months ago (because as you all know, I can handle a bit of snow!) if I knew nobody was going to take responsibility for wrecking our lawn and shrubs.

 

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Water dripping through the T&G this winter

Nevermind that nobody seems to know what we’re going to do with the ceiling tongue & groove damage or the beams in the kitchen sunroom.

Now that I’m in the realty world (notice I didn’t write, ‘reality’ because, in all honestly, life has felt pretty surreal for 12 months now), I know that if we ever go to sell this home we will have to disclose this large insurance claim. That makes it harder for a buyer to secure great rates on insurance which effectively lowers our home’s overall value.

Add to that the fact that our lawn and landscaping looks like ass unless we fork out 20 grand to fix the stuff that was destroyed by people we didn’t choose who were hired by a restoration company chosen by our adjuster thanks to a claim we never requested.

 

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What our gorgeous landscaping looked like in June of 2017.

I’m hoping our friend, the insurance agent north of us, can help us make sense of what’s in store. He was out of the office all this past week so hasn’t had a chance to respond to any of this. He would only be finding out about the lawn & landscape issue and our subsequent displeasure now. He’s a heck of a good guy and we talk Labrador retrievers often and I hope he can go to bat for us on this.

And I’m not complaining. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge deal. I’m just putting some stuff out there and sharing Fyfe Life for the insanity that it is at times. I’m enjoying my new office and colleagues and I’ve got a lot of support from everyone on this real estate adventure.

 

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Practicing for when my new desk would arrive.  It eventually did & I’m typing at it right now.

I’m on “floor” duty today because summer tourists could actually walk in and want to learn about or even see properties and local homes. Tomorrow we will talk with our agent and hopefully move forward into what’s ahead. And hopefully I’ll never have to disclose company names and slag them to my readers and my homeowners who ask for my advice because that just isn’t my style.

An ambulance just went roaring past our office with its sirens blaring.

It reminds me that someone and their family are having a way worse time today than I could even imagine.

The sun is out and summer has arrived. Alistair is already on the golf course and I’m hoping I can meet him there again after work to play a few holes.

And our guest room is really quite nice so with the distractions of a new career, the optimism that our friend will help guide us in a way we can all agree on over the next few days, the beautiful properties I hopefully get to show people, a cuddly dog and 3 cats who provide comfort and peace just by letting us pet them and our shared wacky sense of humor, we are going to be just fine.

 

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One of our agency’s incredible view properties I get to share!

To paraphrase the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, though, we, as Canadians, are very polite. That doesn’t mean we will allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. We will stand up for ourselves when it is appropriate to do so.

So, again, grab the railings and hang on.

You never know what’s in store in Fyfe Life!

 

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“The Look.” Cleo’s thoughts on the whole insurance claim. (Photo by Merielle Kazakoff, one of our evacuation party attendees of last summer when she visited 2 weeks ago!)

 

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How we’ll get through all of this!

 

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Alistair’s favorite ‘float’ during the parade. 

 

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Another stunning, private property I got to preview last week!