July 2019

July 1, 2019

The good news is that we’re a month closer to moving to Mexico. The bad new is that we still don’t have an offer on the house. This is the fact that colors most everything we do.

The other overriding factor is the heat. I tried to get out early to walk the golf course but it was already 90 degrees. The humidity is also ferocious, really for the first time this summer. All in all, the only way to enjoy summer in Charleston is to be in the water. Near is not good enough.

July 2, 2019

Today was Lyla day. The beginning was rocky and naked. That’s what Lyla does when she’s not happy, she strips off her clothes. This time her bathing suit was bothering her. So she “snitted” for a while before finally getting in the pool with a top but no bottoms. Since the dress was casual, Lydia decided the lesson would be too, so I got to join in. She was here almost all day, most it very good. We played UNO and Go Fish - I won UNO, the very first time according to Lyla. The Internet was down all day so we had to go into the “little house” and use the BluRay to watch Shrek. We did this to get Lyla away from her “veevees.” These are videos she watches on the phone. The stuff is terrible. Adults playing with toys, I guess kind of blogging to kids, I’m sure sponsored by the toy companies. I don’t know if most of this generation will have an imagination, when they have to watch videos to learn how to play with toys. I probably sound old and grumpy… I own that.

July 3, 2019

The highlight of my day was hitting golf balls for the first time in 3 years. I was a little rusty but overall hit pretty well. I went with Bob to Charleston National. I used my ancient clubs and then tried some of Bob’s new Pings. What a difference. Now I have to decide what to do about clubs? I’m thinking about playing regularly again, something I haven’t done since my days in San Francisco, almost 30 years ago. There’s a nine hole course in Puerto Aventuras and an 18-hole course next door at the Hard Rock Resort. I really like the idea of playing nine holes, as I’ve always found it difficult to play 18 - too much time and too short an attention span.

Not much else happened today. Our very last AirBnB guests arrived today from Charlotte. A nice couple who come to Charleston regularly, it sounds like the beach and the Windjammer are their priorities. They leave on Friday and that will wrap 5 years of hosting, though we might do a little in PA, depending on our place.

Lydia had a long conversation with one of her swim lesson moms who is a psychologist. They were talking about a family member who might have a mental disorder. The diagnosis they discussed was Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and if accurate, this is not a good development. But after reading about the disorder and the major symtoms, it might fit. Something else to worry about!

July 4, 2019

This was always the big summer holiday for my family. As adults it was one of the two or three times a year we’d all be together. Lake Champlain was the gathering place when my parents were alive and for 3 or 4 days we’d have non-stop, competitive activities. Sporting events would include water skiing, though that faded as we got older, large and long games of keep-it-up on the sandbar - had to wear old sneakers to avoid clam cuts - around-the-house, hillside croquet - always challenging - wiffle ball and lawn bowling, on the croquet course. In the back of the house, blocked from the wind off the lake, we’d set up the badminton net and see who could hit the birdie the highest. At night we’d drink beer and play “Oh Hell.” Dad would then fall asleep in front of TV and us “kids” would head out to the porch to talk and listen to the lake lap at the mostly sandy beach. At lunch time we’d load the boat up for a picnic. Destination would depend on the wind direction. And finally, there would always be a daily game of tennis, usually round-robin doubles typically pretty cutthroat, and once or twice during the holiday we’d head to the golf course for the Pontius family’s version of sport torture, usually accompanied by at least one emotional breakdown and several children and adult temper tantrums. This was what our family was all about. Too competitive, often spilling over into anger, but, in the end, leaving us with a bounty of joyful memories.

I would always dread these reunions before hand, but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. To this day they are what we talk about when we do all get together, every other Thanksgiving or so.

Lydia and i spent this 4th with our friends Bruce and Diane, at their house on the Wando River. We boated. We floated in the river. We drank. We had a fantastic pot luck dinner at the neighbor’s, who always host the annual festivities, which include live music and fireworks. The location is spectacular. The Wando is as wide as a lake. And from their front lawn, as night descends, you can watch six or seven fireworks displays, from Dunes West, Isle of Palms, Mount Pleasant, all the way down to Charleston’s display at Brittlebank Park. We had a great time.

July 5, 2019

Recovery day. Pretty much rained all afternoon. We went to the movies with Kathi. Saw “Yesterday,” about a the only person in the world who remembers Beatles songs. It was a wonderful and even thought provoking film. A few tears but mostly just wide, wide smiles. And, of course, the best sound track ever: Beatles music.

Kathi came back and we had a version of a Lowcountry Boil, only without the sausage, which is mostly what I eat. Then, for some reason, Lydia decided to ask Kathi to help her rearrange the furniture in the living room. This is something Lydia and I do periodically, but other than getting rid of some pieces to de-clutter for house showing purposes, we haven’t done anything since we got back from Mexico. At any rate, I watched as they moved everything around, mostly at Kathi’s direction. She was going for a cozy look, which is something we’re not really into, and definitely something the real estate people have told us to avoid. So once Kathi left we put most everything back where it was, but did switch the two couches, which was an improvement.

July 6, 2019

Today represented kind of bitter sweet milestone. Our friends, Jamie and Jason, who had moved to Montana last year returned to Charleston, permanently. So Lydia and I threw a welcome home party for them and their kids, Lotus and Rhone. We’ve known these guys for a very long time - over 20 years. Lydia first met Jamie when they both worked as concierges at Charleston Place Hotel, then an Orient Express property.

It was great to see them again and introduce them to a few new friends and to renew their friendship with some of our old buds, like Bob and Ginny and Lynn Toth. The word “few,” though, was one of the bitter pills. Our parties used to be frequented by 20, 30, sometimes even 40 guests. Today we had a dozen, and not because people couldn’t attend. Now granted, we didn’t invite all of our local friends, but the fact is that we just don’t have that many left here in Charleston. Many have moved away, others we’ve lost contact with. And, of course, we have friends scattered around the country and the world, but in our hometown, our friend base has definitely shrunk.

Still, it was a great time. The food was excellent, as were the beverages. Some of us enjoyed the pool, others stayed dry. Overall, the level of activity wasn’t high, but I’ve been noticing that trend for many years. We used to attract a pretty broad age range, from friends of Matt’s, to neighbors and younger co-workers. So games were set up and participation was high. Today, with the exception of the guests of honor, we were all pretty old. The weather cooperated, cloudy but without rain. I cooked a Boston butt on the rotisserie, with help from professional chef, Jason. Guests brought side dishes. It was like old times, only smaller.

Maybe the days of big festive parties are gone, but I kinda hope we recapture a little of that with our move to Mexico!?

July 7, 2019

The last day of this extra-long holiday weekend was spent doing mostly nothing. Lydia went to church with Sally and then on to lunch with a group from the church. Meanwhile, I watched the women’s World Cup final, then swam laps, relaxed in the pool and, when Lydia got back, we binged-watched “Queen of the South” for about 6 hours.

Watching the soccer match was much more engaging than expected. I thought I’d have it on as background, but I actively watched the entire thing, possibly the only soccer match I’ve ever watched from beginning to end. I admit that the U.S. star’s, Rapinoe’s, interactions earlier in the week with Trump made me curious. Sad to say that politics plays a role in almost everything these days. What I found most admirable about the American team, though, was their closeness. It was a tough match, though the US dominated, and most of the game was played in the Dutch end of the field, with a lot of missed opportunities. But there was never any finger pointing about missed assignments or foiled attempts. They played with a confidence, some call it a swagger, that was most impressive. Some in my generation probably find the team’s self-assurance a bit off-putting because, I think, we were taught that humility as the ideal. But it’s different for Millenials. This is the generation that was rewarded for participation. We endowed them with an out-size sense of self. So, all things considered, I really appreciate the members of this team, because, more than anything else, they identify as teammates instead of individual stars that happen to come together once every four years. I like ‘em a lot and I hope they go on to great things after their sporting careers are over.

July 8, 2019

Mondays are tough because it’s the day we get our weekly report on real estate activity, but it doesn’t come until the very end of the day. So we spend much of the day wondering why the house isn’t being shown, much less being sold. In today’s case we’re also wondering what the people who saw the house on Saturday thought of it. Our friend, Jon, and his new group of been pretty unresponsive and this only deepens our worry. Though we periodically offer our advice and even do some of their work for them, they don’t seem to understand that we need to be kept in the loop. But here we are again, just left to wonder and worry, waiting for them to spoon feed us very limited information.

And sure enough, when the report the finally did come in, it raised more questions than it answered. The people who saw the house like it (4 of 5 stars), whatever the hell that means. The have an elderly parent, so the guesthouse they liked. When contacted later, their agent, who lives in Snee Farm, said that our price was “not spot on” and the our renovation work was not on a level, or something like that. I immediately emailed Jon and Emily to ask for more detail. For instance, did Jon think to ask what price this agent, who says she knows SF, would approve of, or what she meant by the renovation comment? The answer came back “no,” Jon had not asked any follow ups. But he would and get back to us. Are you kidding! One showing in two weeks and we get nothing from it. It’s infuriating.

As for non-real estate events today, I walked the golf course (4 miles) in 92 degree heat, then spent the rest of the day guzzling water and thinking about guess what: THE HOUSE.

July 9, 2019

Today was a great day! But it began horribly. I woke up at 2:30 am and was unable to get back to sleep. I read and then lay awake worrying about the house and finances (both related). This is by double-whammy, assuring me of sleeplessness.

I started the day with a walk, still hot but not unbearable. When I returned, Lisa was already here with the grands waiting for swim lessons. They had just returned from a big friends and kids vacation to Orlando, so she was full of news and stories about that. I sat in my soaking t-shirt and listened while Lydia finished with another lesson. This it was Miles’ turn. He hasn’t been in the water with Lydia for several weeks because of his finger. But he did everything she asked him to do and seemed to be enjoying himself. He’s such a different kid from his sister. He just kind of goes with the flow. He’s not afraid of the water, and has no problem in putting his face in, etc., but, as Lydia says, he doesn’t really love it like Lyla does.

As usual, Lyla was pushing Lisa’s buttons. Her latest approach is to strip naked whenever she doesn’t want to do something. This bothers Lisa. Then she complains that the clothing bothers her. We do know that she is sensitive to textures, but, personally, I think a lot of the problem is that Lyla has just learned how to get to her mother. that whole tug of war has been going on for quite a while. Today, like last week, is over swimsuits.

Once in the water, though, Lyla transforms. She just loves it and has thus become one of Lydia’s best students. Every week she does something new. Today it is was floating on her back all by herself. She also spent hours pulling floats and diving for toys. What I like about my time with her in the pool is that she still needs us for rest stops. So there’s a lot of physical contact, which I know won’t last long. She also is just full of smiles when she’s swimming. Just a beautiful, smart, fully engaged child! And I must say, that it adds extra joy for me because of what Lisa’s dad told Lydia when lessons were first starting. He actually told Lydia that she wouldn’t be able to teach Lyla. Ha, Vic!

Lyla spent the whole afternoon with us. Mostly in the pool, but we also played some games and watched the “Trolls” movie. Matt picked her up on the way home, so we got to spend a little time with him. Also, usually a highlight. He’s bringing the kids over on Saturday, so I have that to look forward to. All in all, a great day!

July 10, 2019

It was a mostly dreary day today, both in weather and mood. Neither one of us deals well with gloomy days, and right now lack of sun casts an even longer shadow on our inability to sell the house. The highlight of the day was Matt telling us that he was going to start “charting” the kids behavior today. We’ve been talking about this for a while and finally told Matt the other day. The fact that he saw the logic in it, especially for Lyla, who really responds well when presented with expectations and rewards, was good news. The fact that they’re going to start immediately was even better news.

I have another client who wants me to move his site to the squarespace platform. Ordinarily, this extra work would not make me happy, but as long as we’re stuck here, we need the income. So I have two of these projects to work on.

Tomorrow we’ll start thinking about a new listing agent for the house.

July 11, 2019

The lowlight of the day was finding out that our listing contract has another 90 days to run. While we had “assumed” it was a 3 month contract, in the back of my mind, I was worried that we were wrong. Sure enough, I finally dug it out. Damn! Though I’d rather not change agents in mid-stream, we’ve really lost confidence in Jon and his group. And last night Lydia came back from her class and said one of the ladies is a realtor, who happens to have a client for who might be interested. Unfortunately, she had no knowledge of our listing. She went on to tell Lydia that Jon should be talking - not mass emailing - to agents who have clients in our price range. This just points up our overriding concern that Jon just really doesn’t know this market. Why did we pick him? He’s a friend, Lydia has known him forever and I didn’t think it was going to be a difficult sale. From the beginning, we’ve talked about our house being a step up for Jon, but again, Snee Farm was so hot that all we had to do was sign the listing agreement. Which is also why we didn’t bother to read it carefully.

So I wrote Jon a polite but pull-no-punches email. We weren’t sure how he’d respond, but, to his credit, he asked for a meeting tomorrow (Friday). That, then, is today’s highlight.

I spent most of the day working on the Elephant Moving site. I’d rather not be doing this, but we could use the income, and I can use the distraction. I cut and trimmed the lawn. Lydia had a few lessons. And that sums up another day in LIMBO.

July 12, 2019

Today we met with our realtor, Jon. We basically confronted him about his lack of success in marketing the house, particularly regarding the lack of showings. We got a lot from him about the market, which basically no one understands right now. The low end appears to moving, as is the high end, but in the middle, where we are, is pretty dead. Only 11 houses in our price range sold in Mount Pleasant in June. So Jon believes that buyers are being very picky. But our concern is that no one is looking at the house. They’re seeing the llisting in MLS but that traffic isn’t translating into showings. What do we do?

Jon’s short answer was “I don’t know.” Honest, but not too confidence inspiring. So we decided that the first thing we had to do was get other realtors to see the house. We believe that it is pretty unique in the market, and we also know it has several weaknesses, but we don’t know how all of that adds up. If we can get realtors to come to a wine and cheese and start talking about the house, it will give us some hard feedback to go on. We hope. For instance, is it priced too high? Do we need to do some more work on the house? How does it compare to the competition? How much is Snee Farm worth? Who’s the house going to appeal to? If we have some answers to these, we can at least take the next steps.

July 13, 2019

Today was a great day. Matt brought the kids over while Lisa had her hair done, etc. The kids are usually pretty good when they’re here with Matt. Lyla still messes with Miles, but overall they’re pretty active, obedient and less whiny. It was very hot, so we spent most of the day in the pool. Miles’ finger is good enough so he can get it wet, though it’s still heavily bandaged. And now that Lyla is an absolute fish, it’s really fun to be in the pool.

Lisa arrived later in the afternoon and stayed for a little while, leaving before dinner, because she wasn’t feeling well. Steaks and burgers for dinner. Great potato salad. A good time was had by all. Chris and Diedre, from next door, even stopped by with Davis and Pepper for a little while. We haven’t seen nearly as much of them since they finished their own swimming pool.

July 14, 2019

Finally, a day of doing almost nothing. We watched the Wimbledon Men’s Final all morning. Great match between Federer and Djokavich (sp?), two of the greatest players of all time - might in fact turn out to be the two greatest. In the afternoon (I don’t think the tennis was over until almost 2pm) we floated in the pool. Then we somehow worked up the energy to binge “Queen of the South.” Just what the doctor ordered.

July 15, 2019

I walked the golf course this morning. Tried to beat the heat, but that’s been impossible the last couple of weeks. 90 degrees by 10 am. Today my house selling thoughts focused on investment. I’m not a good salesperson because I can usually think of all kinds of reasons why someone shouldn’t buy. But I can sell myself and I could sell this house. What would you rather own, a property that really can’t be improved or one that can altered and expanded in many, many ways. I get that there are people out there who are just content, and maybe they won’t buy are place. But anyone who wants to grow their investment beyond what simple appreciation may do is crazy not buy this house.

Not much else happened on Monday. I spent the afternoon working on the Elephant Moving Company website.

July 16, 2019

We were busy today getting work done. Lydia focused on getting closets cleaned out and organized and I worked more on Elephant Moving. We’re trying to get the place “staged” for the realtor open house on Thursday. We’re both really looking forward to our first real feedback on the house in the 3 months we’ve had it on the market. Our concept is to “take away” as many of the little things that someone might focus on so we can get more meaningful input on price and any bigger things that would be worthwhile for us to do to aid the sale. We’ll see. The place looks great, at least from our vantage point.

Lydia taught her water aerobics class in the evening while I watched MSNBC. This was the day that Trump tripled down on his attacks on the 4 freshmen Congresswomen who call themselves “the squad.” It will be interesting to look back next year and see if these last few days had an eventual impact on the election in 2020. I want to believe that there enough people of good will in America who won’t vote for a demonstrable racist. Of course, I also wanted to believe that there were enough people who wouldn’t have voted for Trump in the first place. I think it’s now pretty evident that Trump is trying to fuel the fear that uneducated white people, especially men, have of living in county where they’re not the majority. It’s also now clear that Trump is an unrepentant racist. So my question is, will those on the fence, who may not like the policies of the Democratic nominee, hold their nose and vote for Trump again? Or can the Democrats so drench Trump in his own racist filth that people with a conscience vote to get rid of the man? We shall see. Hopefully from Mexico.

July 17, 2019

I find that as the summer progresses I have fewer and fewer frames of reference. My focus is the house and if nothing happens regarding its sale then the day was uneventful. That goes for today. We had a nice time with Kathi during happy hour at Mill Street Tavern. It was too expensive, but I can say that about pretty much every place we go. Other than that, the day just was not memorable.

July 18, 2019

This day makes the point I made yesterday. Today was the agent open house. So all day was about the house. Emma’s crew came first thing in the morning to clean. We went to breakfast and to the store. Breakfast at the local bagel place was not good. In fairness, though, we were both nervous and not in a mood to be impressed with anything. This, we hope, will be the biggest day yet in the sales process. At the very least it will be a day we get our first real feedback on the house from agents who have been showing houses in our price range. When we got back from errands, Lydia was upset with the cleaning crew. She called Emma who had them come back to redo the floors. It was bad, looked like some hadn’t been cleaned at all.

The afternoon kind of dragged while we waited to 3pm, when Emily was to show to get things ready for the party. She came and we both helped her with preparations. She did a good job with this, including creating a clever theme: “Sip and Si.” Since we’re moving to Mexico, she put together a Mexican theme with Margaritas, chips, salsa and guacamole. Everything looked as good as we could make it. Jon came at 3:30 and we left a few minutes later. We were going to go next door to see Wanda, Chris’ mother who is watching the kids for a few days. Instead we ran a couple of errands and then grabbed an appetizer and a cocktail at nearby Ember. Then we stopped next door and waited for Jon to call.

The party went well. About 16 people showed and all were pretty forthcoming with their comments. There was even one potential buyer who was down house hunting from Baltimore. Jon had everyone fill out comment cards, which included questions about price and the house’s strengths and weaknesses. After Jon left Lydia and I went through all the cards. The price suggestions and comments were all remarkably similar. Everyone loved the backyard and said that it was the strength. Everyone was OK with the interior though most wanted to see one type of floor and one color on the walls downstairs. The guesthouse drew mixed reactions. For price, most agents the house should be listed in the 690s and sell in the 680s. This, of course, was lower than we’d like, but these were agents working with buyers, and they have a vested interest in getting their clients the best price. We plan to meet with Jon tomorrow to go over comments and decide where we go from here.

At last something happened!

July 19, 2019

This was the day after the big day, but in a way even a little bigger. Today we talk with Jon and make decisions regarding the house. Lydia and I have tried to talk about pricing, but it’s a difficult subject. She thinks that I am too willing to give things away. I, of course, see the same thing as being pragmatic. She’s right, though, that I tend to let go too easily. On the other hand, I think my analysis is more accurate than hers. She approaches decisions like this more emotionally, which sometimes forces her to over value. I would have set our opening price a little lower than she wanted. And our decision today to drop from 759 to 735 was also a compromise. Jon wanted us to go to 729 and I probably would have agreed. I just think 729 sounds considerably less than 735. On the other hand, that extra money gives us a little more room to negotiate. Most importantly, though, we’re going to keep the price here for the foreseeable future. We also decided that the house need no additional work. We know our color palette is not drawing rave reviews. Lydia likes bright colors, while it seems young people prefer a more muted approach. We also know the floors downstairs are an issue. We remodeled this house over 18 years and one of our flooring choices was discontinued. Also, the guys who put in the kitchen floor years ago didn’t do the best job. But even if we wanted to fix these problems, what colors and flooring do we pick that will please everyong?

In the evening, Wanda (our neighbor Chris’ mom) brought the grand kids over for a swim and dinner. Chase and Davis were well behaved. Burgers were good. And we found out that Wanda is very involved in Democratic politics back home in Roanoke. I wish we knew that sooner.

July 20, 2019

One of the laziest Saturday’s on record. The British Open is this weekend and that means morning golf. but on Saturdays morning golf stretches into the middle of the afternoon. And I pretty much watched the whole thing. I did get in some swimming, followed by lounging in the pool. It was a tough day but someone has to do it. Saturday night was spent enjoying our gift certificate from Chris and Diedre at Cuoco Pazzo, our favorite Italian place. We took Kathi, who had never been, and she was duly impressed. The place is great.

July 21, 2019

Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday, but it started out on a high note with a showing being booked for Monday morning. That was followed by another booking for later in the week. We don’t know if this activity has something to do with the agent open house, but it sure is welcome. Now if the showing on Monday could only result in an offer. Then we could negotiate from our current price before we officially lower it.

I watched golf all morning, until about 1:30pm. Then lazed in the pool. Kathi came over and we lazed some more. Then Lydia and I watched TV. No exercise - oh, I watered plants. Doesn’t get much lower key than this.

July 22, 2019

I’m writing this on Tuesday morning so I can say that our showing for Tuesday afternoon was just cancelled. Our showing on Monday went off without a hitch, though we haven’t heard any feedback yet. Otherwise the day was really uneventful. I took my golf course walk in the morning and spent the rest of the day trying to catch up with hydration. The rest of the day was spent working on JIV taxes, so “uneventful” is an understatement.

Mike Pontius