Real Estate – What in Heaven’s Name

My husband, Vinny Sal and I have completed the sale of the house that was our home for the last 28 years. We moved in a few weeks after our wedding and our home where we raised our two sons. It was the longest span of time that either of us have lived in one place.

Even thought it was not our intent to sell our home now, although I had spent the last few years while our sons were away at college to declutter, discard, and donate stuff I have hoarded over the years. Our sons are now independent, living on their own, and establishing their careers. We are too young to retire, however, COVID-19 and my leukemia diagnosis caused us to look at how and where we want to spend our lives since we are both able to work remotely during the pandemic.

Why wait?

The real estate market is hot right now. I convinced my husband that the time to sell and get the most out of our home is now. After receiving some disappointing news in early March from my leukemia lab tests, I expressed my desire to move to our second home near Lake Michigan. “I have things I want to do yet in my life, and it is there near Lake Michigan that is my happy place where I am most active and inspired,” I further reasoned.

Interviewing Real Estate Agents

I cannot recommend strongly enough to thoroughly interview real estate agents. A real estate agent’s selling philosophy, marketing strategy, and preparation recommendations are critical in attracting not just buyers but the “right” buyers. Initially, we were a bit at odds with our real estate agent’s recommendations in preparing our house for sale, but in the end; we were extremely satisfied with the results – 67 prospective buyers viewed our home in less than 3 days, 30 offers with our agent only showing us the top 8 offers, and the winner was a cash sale $25,000 over list.

Although we give proper credit to our real estate agent, once we made the decision to sell, I had a written timeline on what, when, and how each room in our house would be packed and ready for moving day. My timeline and organization were critical to getting the house on the market by the first week in May. We closed on May 25th with the buyers, providing us two weeks of free rent only because we could not find a moving company that had availability. It was our only hiccup in our timeline.

Heaven’s Vineyard

In 2006, we purchased a little white cottage with a detached garage on a hill that I affectionately named, Heaven’s Vineyard. It was our family’s vacation home. We have special memories of that little cottage on this hill near one of the state’s largest state parks. It helped me get through an extremely difficult time in my life after losing my career as a result of the economic crisis of 2008. Somehow, we were able to hang on to that little slice of heaven, even when I was struggling to find contract work and more because the home’s value was underwater. Eventually, as the boys went off to college and no longer seemed interested nor had time to spend at Heaven’s Vineyard. We sold the cottage in the fall of 2018.

Heaven’s Lighthouse

I was afraid of losing my slice of heaven by the shores of Lake Michigan and potentially frittering away our proceeds from the sale of Heaven’s Vineyard. I convinced Vinny Sal to buy another house  with the full agreement that it would be the place where we would eventually retire. Shortly after the sale of Heaven’s Vineyard in the fall of 2018, we bought another home, which I named, Heaven’s Lighthouse. It was our safe harbor and the beginning of life’s new phase as empty nesters.

We bought the home from an estate of a WWII veteran who was going to live with his daughter in Wisconsin. Our focus was renovating the 2-bedroom, 1 bath into a new heavenly oasis. Much to our surprise, hidden under carpeting where wood floors. Vinny Sal and I had so much fun remodeling this home into Owl’s bliss!

Heaven’s Lighthouse was my safe harbor during 2020.

When COVID-19 caused us all to go into lockdown and working remotely full-time in March 2020, I took advantage of working and living at Heaven’s Lighthouse. It was a dream come true in the middle of a horrific pandemic nightmare. The summer of bliss would end in a diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia.

Fast forward to March 2021, we made the decision to sell our home in southeast Michigan and make our home full-time at Heaven’s Lighthouse. There were so many factors that made the timing for selling and moving the right time in our lives. Mindful of what 2020 taught me during my summer of the owl’s bliss at Lake Michigan, I knew God was directing this move, and once again, I was following His lead.

New set of decisions, however, became apparent as we prepared for our move to Heaven’s Lighthouse.

Add-on or find a new Heaven’s Lighthouse.

Over the last few years we decluttered, downsized, donated a lot of stuff. It would still not be enough even if we ridded ourselves of our most valued treasures to fit comfortably into Heaven’s Lighthouse. We seriously considered building on but when the bids came back, we knew that building on would not be a good investment and it did not fit within a favorable timeline. The shortage and pricing of building materials, including the availability of contractors, we were looking at a finished remodel by the fall of 2022. Vinny Sal and I love and adore each other, but 2 people and 2 dogs in that tiny bungalow, well…. The decision was made. We would find a new heavenly home and sell Heaven’s Lighthouse.

God, without a doubt, has a sense of humor!

Our realtor helped us buy and sell Heaven’s Vineyard. She has helped us buy Heaven’s Lighthouse. Debbie gives her unabashed opinion on each house she shows. Some people may be put off by her approach to buying and selling houses. But she listens to her clients and seems to know more about what they want than they themselves know. Debbie has never disappointed us – experienced, knows the area like the back of her hand, professional, and one of the hardest workers I know.

We started looking at other homes with specific criteria – as close to Lake Michigan as we could afford with enough space for a comfortable retirement and retreat for our sons, family, and friends to visit.

Almost every home we visited had “view” in the address. Mindful as to where God was leading us, I wondered to myself if our new home would be named, Heaven’s View. I told Vinny Sal and our realtor, Debbie, I would know it was the right home when I saw it. And there were homes where I walked to the front door with an odd sensation. My spirit said, “this is not it.”

It is all about the “view.”

Debbie had given us a heads up that she would be listing a house not far from Heaven’s Lighthouse. It was another estate sale where this time an elderly woman was selling and moving to live with her daughter in Chicago. “Why not drive by and see if you like the location,” she said, “I will ask the owner if I can show you the inside before the listing goes live.”

I circled that house a dozen times. I told Vinny Sal this is it. This is the house. I feel it.

We were able to view the interior. It would need the same kind of remodel as Heaven’s Lighthouse but that did not sway us. With the sale of our primary residence in southeast Michigan, we had the financial wherewithal to have contractors do whatever work that needed to be done. The house had checked all the boxes and was 2 blocks from lakeshore.

As I stood in one of the bedrooms, I saw through the window and snickered. “Okay, God,” I whispered to myself, “You are very funny, indeed!” I finally got God’s joke, but I would not say anything to Vinny Sal until I was sure the house was ours.

Two days after submitting our offer…

Vinny Sal and I decided to go out to dinner. The first real dinner in a restaurant after the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions. Suddenly, my phone vibrated with an incoming email. Debbie was sending us a document to sign. “Vin,” I asked, “is Debbie saying the buyer accepted our offer?”

“She accepted our offer!” The day before the listing was to go live. Tears were welling in my eyes, but I held them back. I began to giggle. Should I let Vinny Sal in on God’s little joke?

Heaven’s Ferry

Over dinner that neither of us could eat now because of the excitement of hearing the news, I told Vinny Sal about my knowing the house on North Ferry  Street was the right one. I shared with him all the houses on streets that had the word, “view” and how I knew God was somehow inspiring and leading us to this house. The view outside of the bedroom was of the area’s historic cemetery. He frowned a bit when I said the house had ‘heaven’s view.’

I said, “Don’t you get it, Vin?” God knows I love hearing the ferry every morning at 9 am and its return at 7 pm. We are closer to the lake shore. This home on Ferry Street will ferry us into retirement eventually and beyond. While a portion of our view from a bedroom window is of the historic cemetery, the home has a beautiful backyard facing Lake Michigan. Our new home will be named, Heaven’s Ferry, the SS Owl.

Vinny Sal just shook his head as he usually does to my house naming, but he can see and feel the joy in the air.

So here we go again, another House for Sale.

While everything we own is still in storage and will be until some of the remodeling is done at Heaven’s Ferry, we are fortunate that we will not have to go through the same decluttering, downsizing, and donating at Heaven’s Lighthouse as we did with our primary house sale. Debbie already has potential buyers lining up for Heaven’s Lighthouse, and I am praying that God does not have another joke up His sleeve and the closing on Heaven’s Ferry goes as planned at the end of June.

Is naming an house a silly notion? Perhaps, but I am filled with joy and inspiration living here at Lake Michigan, which is heaven on earth to this old owl.


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