Other VanOrden Posts

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to get Ready for a Home Inspection

Our home inspection has passed without major problems.  Oh, what a relief that is.  Everything noted can be fixed to the satisfaction of both parties.  A few plugs need rewiring, some sheet rock needs to be installed under the stairs in the basement, a couple of roof shingles need to be replaced due to a wind storm a few years ago, and a slowly-leaking pipe in the storage room downstairs needs a plumbers attention.  A few tips: 

Stage the house like a prospective buyer is coming to visit.

Unseal the attic access. 

Replace any burned-out light bulbs.

Make sure the gas fireplace lights on demand.

Service the furnace. 

Don’t try to anticipate every possible repair prior to the inspection or you may spend some money you don’t need to.
Leave some obvious cookies and milk; just kidding. 
After making the requested corrections, the final two selling steps are the Appraisal and the Closing. 

The appraisal shouldn’t be a problem since similar homes in our area are selling for similar prices.  We have a 90% letter from the buyers bank which means he probably will qualify for the loan.  So it looks good from here, but the fat lady hasn’t quite sung her tune yet, or in this case I should probably say the fat "guy" since I still need to lose some more weight. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Moving on, to the Future---A Very Good Thing

We spoke with our financial planner yesterday.  We are about 45 days away from being “retired” and the application process is feverishly going forward.  Everything looks good for take-off into retirement. 

It’s a bit scary but the cash flow looks “sufficient” for years to come.  We are glad to have a good financial planner who protects our investments. 

My career position in Alaska has been taken over by a young energetic educator who has new ideas and enthusiasm.  It has already proven to be right that I am getting out of the way to let things go forward with new eyes. 

Church Education has come a long way since I first came to Fairbanks Alaska in 1983.  Back then I think there were 2 stakes in Alaska and now there are seven.  Release-time seminary is established and progressing toward reality in two more locations in the state. 

My Master’s Thesis at the University of Alaska in 1987 was about the development of Release Time Religious Education in the state.  The program has proven to be an essential cog in the protection of our youth in Alaska, where most of the social wandering by young people is due to substance abuse and premature sexual exploitation.     

Two LDS Institute facilities have been built for young single adult members of the Church, one in Fairbanks, and the other in Anchorage.  Young Single Adult Wards have grown from zero to five. I was instrumental in establishing two of those YSA Wards.   I had the privilege of dedicating two new chapels.  Priesthood leaders have seen the wisdom in allowing Seminary & Institute programs to go forward.  A key person in all of this was a pioneer Church Educator Dennis Kendall, who spent his entire CES career in Alaska.   

An LDS Temple has been built in Alaska and expanded.  The Mormon Church is a bulwark of strength and safety for Church members and their Alaskan communities.  It has been a privilege for us to be a small part of these accomplishments.  But all good things must eventually come to an end so we are moving closer to our family and out of the long dark winters.  OK---there you have it, I have admitted this last winter finally did me in. 

Above all good things have been the people we met and served with.  They are true Alaskans, friends, and pioneers.  They will always be a source of happiness and strength as we remember mutual experiences.  Hopefully we can visit with you when you travel through the Boise Idaho area where our retirement home is being established, or perhaps when we sneak back up to Alaska for a visit.  You have had eternal impact on our lives. 

I am referring literally to 100’s of people.  We have been so blessed to meet and become closely affiliated with so many of you.  We extend a heartfelt thank for your friendship, kindness, dedication, and prayers.  We wish we could do this personally with each and every one of you.  You will be in our thoughts and prayers for evermore.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hold the Presses---Looks Like Our Home is Sold

Stop the presses.  Just about the time we decided to lease our home for three years, we got a call from our real estate agent begging us to show it one last time.  Since we still had not received the $2000 security deposit from our potential lessee, we somewhat reluctantly gave in and started to clean up as much as possible. 

We told our agent the house was full of boxes.  We had started to pack for moving.   He told us the buyer was super motivated and it probably wouldn’t matter, so one last showing after two months of staging our home for people to see.  Bingo:  by 2pm the next day we had a good signed offer.  

We did a counter since we could walk away and still lease, and it was accepted by that evening.  We are getting very close to full asking price.  WOW, so now we get ready for the dreaded “inspection” and appraisal.  Then serious packing and complete cleanout of 14 years of accumulated stuff.

One little hint that may help if you put your home up for sale:  have a huge beautiful stainless steel refrigerator in the kitchen that any potential buyer would love to have.  I suspected it would be attractive and intentionally left it off the listing since we wanted to take it with us to Idaho.  But secretly I knew an offer would request the fridge as part of the negotiation.  So we “gave-in” and are leaving the fridge for the new owners.  It turned out to be a good bargaining chip. 

A beautiful kitchen is what sells a home to prospective buyers.  The first of four similar sized competing homes to sell on our street this summer went quickly because it was decked out with real fancy appliances and granite counter tops.  So make your kitchen as irresistible as possible.  By the way, ours does not have granite counter tops.  We did put in a new floor covering for the kitchen and carpet throughout the house.  So there’s more than one way to make it attractive.    

We did find another home just like ours, minus the walkout basement for the young couple who almost rented ours.  Selling rather than leasing is best for us so we don’t have to worry as landlords 3000 miles away.  Tender mercies continue to come our way as we make progress toward retirement and our trip down the Alaska Highway.

Shhhhhhh---don't tell my wife:  I might just start looking for a small cabin so I can keep a small portion of Alaska to come back to and visit.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Secrets: While Leasing Your Home to Strangers

THE NEWS---We are in process of considering a lease of our Alaskan home for 3 years starting July 1st.  Who knows, maybe we will decide to move back someday.  If we can keep it leased for long enough, our oldest daughter and her husband want to buy it for their home once they retire from the Marines. 

Now here are some details that have come to light as we have pondered this decision.

1) If we live in the home for 2 years during the 5 year period prior to it selling then we will not have to pay capital gains tax.  Those two years don’t even have to be consecutive.  So if we sell it prior to June 30, 2015 we will satisfy the tax man without giving him more of our money.

2) Finding a good family to lease the home wasn’t terribly difficult once we made it known we were thinking about doing so. Word of mouth brought us three potential renters. 

3) With the help of a good friend I found the lease agreement online which spelled out all the necessary details to protect our investment. 

4) If word of mouth advertizing doesn’t work,  a good online system to seek applications is through the military housing website: http://www.ahrn.com/index.php

5) You can list your home and all the parameters you wish to set for renters, such as, no pets, non-smokers, etc. 

6) Try to meet the potential renters in person and let them see the home before deciding if they want to lease it.  This really helped us make up our minds to go ahead and do the lease to a young military family.  He is a dentist and she is a gem.  They have two young children.   

7) You should check with a tax accountant to figure out if rental income will affect your tax liability. Ask about the potential for depreciating your home while it is a rental unit.      

Large family homes are hard to find for rent in the Anchorage area right now as of June 2012.  They are renting for approximately $1.00 per square foot.  Do the math to make sure you have sufficient rental income to cover all expenses; mortgage payment, taxes, and repairs.  Utilities can and I think should be the responsibility of the renter.

Check back in a few years and I will be able to tell you if we found being a landlord a good experience or if it just brought us too many headaches. But for now, we still have a foot in the door in our beloved Alaska.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Leasing versus Selling our Alaskan Home

We have lived in our beautiful 5 bedroom Alaskan home for 14 years as of July 2012.  All but our oldest two sons “grew-up” here along the Eagle River in one of the most amazing river valleys in the world.  It is the home we will always remember as our real home.  Over 38 years of marriage we never came close to staying in the same house this long. 

Two months ago we reluctantly put it on the market to sell.  It’s painful to have people looking at our beloved castle with a critical eye.  Most have loved the home, but it is a pricey venture to buy a 3200 square foot river-bluff property with all the moose and bears that come with it. 

On Monday a fine young couple came through the house to see if it is the one they would like to rent while they are stationed here in Alaska. They raved at the entire tour and especially the mountain views out our third floor bedroom window.   He is a dentist in the military and needs a 3 year lease.  I prefer to sell, but really liked this young couple and think they will live lightly with no pets or smoking in our home.  So we are now leaning toward leasing. 

Here are the issues with changing our property to a rental:

1) When we eventually sell we will have to consider capital gains taxes.

2) About 20% of rental income needs to be put aside to pay for potential damage and/or maintenance. 

3) Worrying about a property 3000 miles from where we will be living in retirement will bring some stress no matter how well it goes.

4) We have to consider whether we will depreciate the home for tax purpose while it is a rental property.

5) Will our new carpet survive renter?  etc, etc. etc... 

Looking carefully at all the ramifications and consulting our tax accountant are necessary steps as we evaluate.  But it is looking like we will lease and we are feeling good closure from that leaning.  Confirmation is always a comforting step in these big decisions.   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Building Our Cozy Log-Cabin "Retirement" Future

This post was one of my originals 8 months ago.  Read the PS at the end for the rest of the story...

I dreamed of retiring at 55 so I could build our own log-home and live simply. But that time came and we still had some of our children living at home and going to college. So I just kept working in a profession I loved as an educator.

I wanted to be physically capable of doing most of the building of our retirement home. I have many log cabin building books, and a whole library I accumulated over the years on how to set up a self-sufficient farmstead with a large garden and animals. It is likely to be an important part of how I choose to stay active when I "retire".

Retirement for me means starting a new career for the next 15 or so years of my life. I don’t plan on doing this because I have to, but because I want to. Becoming idle just doesn’t fit my lifestyle or needs. My wife is a cancer survivor who has sacrificed to live where my career took us and to raise a family of 5 outstanding children. I want to provide some extra "retirement" money so we can travel for three reasons; 1) visit and help family, 2) serve our Church and community, 3) just have some good fun.

My research concerning retirement over the past 5 years has helped me realize many essential and challenging issues needing our attention as we prepare. This blog and my website share what we have been learning.

I have over 2500 friends on Facebook probably due to my 34 years of teaching 100's of students annually. I figure there have been as many as 10,000 who have allowed me access to their brains as we struggled together to learn and stretch our intellect and spiritual muscles.

I enjoy writing. Thus far I have several places to publish and share; Facebook, http://saferetirementfreedom.blogspot.com/, and my website linked from my Blog. Hopefully this will continue to allow me to engage in the process of helping my friends and many former students continue to learn and explore together. It will be a great creative outlet. Intellectual curiosity has fueled many years of growth for me. It is one of the most satisfying things I engage in. I love the creative process and its congruence with spiritual processes.

For us, preparations for our future are ramping-up and the time for "retirement" grows near. The last ten years before retiring are crucial. But every year of our working lives should contribute to the preparedness with which we approach retirement, whether we are 25, 45, or 65 years young.

I hope you will become a part of our group and contribute to the discussion. Simply sign in to the left of this post.
PS update: as of June 2012---we bought an existing home in the Boise Idaho area so the log home became a short sale or sorts, since that was the best financial opportunity as the economy continues to languish. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

Lessons Learned as Retirement Approaches

Six weeks of getting better from some ailments related to getting “older” have taken a toll on both Jeannie and me.  After her struggle with pneumonia I decided to get vertigo due to a sinus infection, serves me right for going non-stop during the weeks while Jeannie was sick and while my work was winding up for the school year. 

Getting ready to retire and move has been more time consuming than we had anticipated. Staging the house for viewings, garage sales, prepping the motorhome for our trip down the Alaska Highway, cleaning, painting, yard work with grass growing more prolifically than ever before (yah, what’s up with that), and not having enough sunny days. All this has filled our time and slowed us down. 

If I had known how tiring re-tiring (pun intended, with a smile) was going to be I may have just kept on working my career as and educational administrator. 

One reason we bought our new home in the Boise area was so we wouldn’t wimp out of retiring and stay with our comfortable life in Alaska.  Once the new Ideaho home was a done deal we had no choice but to go forward.   For which I am grateful even though we are worn out.  I have crunched the numbers many times to make sure we can survive this change whether we live for 10, 20, or more years. 

Our family is getting ready to celebrate this big change by doing a Lake Powell house boat adventure in mid-August.  Everyone but our son-in-law Miguel (currently in training as a recon-Marine) will be there.  He will be missed but we will enjoy our children and grandchildren as we transition to our new life.  After stopping in Salt Lake City to spend time with my 87 year old mom, we will be back in the Boise area setting up our new home and preparing an organic garden for the next growing season. 

Some conclusion from recent experience:

1) Take extra good care of yourself while you prepare to retire, don’t overdo it or you may wear down and slow the process. 

2) Garage/Moving Sales are exhausting, get help and post loads of signs to bring in the buyers.

3) Don’t be too anxious to sell your best stuff to lowball negotiators who just turn around and sell on craigslist.

4) Just use Saturdays from 9AM-1PM for your sale.  The traffic dies down after that and you get too tired to stay out in the sun. 

5) Don’t accept first offers, they expect to have a counter offer from you before a price is settled on. 

6) Always know the original price and have a quick story about how valuable and useful the item is…such as “wow, you know that tiller was originally $700 and still works as well as the day I bought it. It’s a rear-tine tiller and churns up the ground with ease.  I could give it to you for (counter offer).”  

7) Rest as much as possible.  Keep exercising and eat well.  Manage the stress with your best routines; yoga, meditation, hot tubs, steam room, fishing, reading a good book, or whatever.  Pamper yourself…you deserve it.