Selling Mom’s House and Growing Up

In the throes of prepping a house to sell, always a bit daunting. After my Mom’s death January 2012, her house isn’t the same. My brother and I made the deliberate decision to leave everything of hers “as is” weeks after she died – moving toward week six, eventually gaining the emotional energy to begin a new transition – from Connie’s home to Connie’s Trust.

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Connie’s Place, Circa Jan 2012

Connie gave my brother and I the gift of all gifts a parent can give their children – a living trust. That’s not the focus of this post, though relevant for a number of reason, some of which I’ll share another time. That said, nothing quite prepares a kid (even middle-aged ones) for the death of a parent. Whatever age, growing up takes on a new life of its own.

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Connie’s Place, Circa Jan 2012

To understand her death is to understand her life. She LOVED her house. I mean, the woman truly loved where she lived – Newport Beach, CA. Far from the east coast shore the Jersey girl grew up in, she found her west coast rendering of the shore in the early 70s years after my parents moved west.

Upon my parents divorce in 1972, going back to work as a newbie real estate agent, the single mom of two young kids scratched and saved every penny, first purchasing a 6 unit apartment building on the peninsula right between 10th and 11th streets on Balboa Blvd. Selling the apartments five years later, Mom and a friend, pooling their financial resources, together bought a 1933 bungalow on West Bay Ave. Ten years later, in 1988, buying her friend out, the entire property was newly titled in Connie’s name only – an incredible accomplishment considering she did most of it on her own.

Which brings us to today, the year 2013. After months of deep conversation, lot of thought through the tears, my brother and I have decided to sell Mom’s beloved home. Has not come easily; mixed emotions, of course. Grateful Mom left her gift of a trust, it’s increasingly expensive living in Newport  (currently we both reside on Mom’s property – he in the main house, me in unit behind, an apartment upstairs) In addition, my brother and I are heading down our own individual paths moving forward.

Never having had the experience of coping with the death of a parent until last year, all of this is still new, unexplored, a bit unsettling and at times, overwhelming. Are we doing the right thing? Should we sell now or wait longer? As a real estate professional myself, the challenge lies in remaining pragmatic, not the easiest when the emotional ties lie within the lathe and plaster of a structure.

My Hero
My Hero

She’s gone, yes, though I find I talk to her much more these last few weeks;  the need to find the right buyer, asking her to share her wisdom and indelible capacity to use that amazing common sense of hers. Her main wish for my brother and I was to experience just five minutes of peace (her wonderful Jersey accent and sarcasm) in one form or another. Ultimately, her gift, a home she worked so hard to attain and keep, her children, now given the opportunity to do with it what would be best for us. She stressed over the never-ending house payments, property taxes, changes throughout the city, the growing number of people visiting Newport each summer, trash left in the alley and litter on the sand. Despite these issues, despite she could have sold during the peak of the market, make more than enough dollars to retire much earlier than she did, Connie wasn’t going anywhere. Point in fact, she’s still here. I have no idea what it’ll feel like when the house sells yet  I’ll always feel closest to her on the beach. Difference now, I’m a little more grown up.