Moving to Abilene

I spent a chunk of my weekend in Abilene, performing one of the most onerous tasks known to mankind: Helping my sister and her husband move.There's nothing better to remind you of your poor fitness - and remind you of your mortality - than to feel your heart nearly explode after you've lugged a 50-pound air conditioner up two flights of stairs to a dusty attic. It's especially fun to contrast your own conditioning with that of the high school cross country runner who zips up and down the stairs past you with full loads in each arm, barely breaking a sweat.On the bright side, though, there's also no better way to use your long-forgotten high school physics classes than to figure out how to get a 1,000-pound piano from the sidewalk to the front porch, then into the house. Suffice it to say the word "fulcrum" was bandied about an unusual number of times Sunday afternoon - to the point where, punchy from exhaustion, our small team of movers kept making jokes with "fulcrum" as the punchline.You probably had to be there.The best news: No hernias, though not for lack of trying. I keep checking myself over, every couple of hours, just to make sure.(Meanwhile, my father, who actually spent part of his youthful years as a mover - and the early part of his professional career as a moving company executive - has, upon entering his 50s, declared his retirement from helping his children move. He spent the weekend herding grandchildren, then riding around Abilene with my mother, looking at houses. I'm not sure how to feel about that.)As for the house itself: A wonderful old two-story Victorian thing, built in 1884 -- at least, that's what the brass plaque out front says. It has the original door knobs, a wrought-iron fence and one of those cool old toilets like the one where Al Pacino found the gun in "The Godfather." It needs some new wallpaper in a couple of places, but otherwise is in fine shape.I like to think that during their All-American youth, Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower might have paused in front of the house, during a moonlight stroll, to steal a chaste kiss. But who knows?There's a reason I describe the house in detail. I found that I've started looking at real estate through Lawrence goggles. Good taste and the preservation of family relations prohibits me from mentioning how much my sister and her husband paid, but their nice Victorian home in Abilene probably cost about the same as a two-bedroom fixer-upper bungalow here. They probably would've had to pay an additional $100,000 for the house if it had been in Lawrence.Which is kind of depressing.On the other hand, I'm not interested in living in Abilene. So I'll stick in Lawrence, expensive housing and all.And on the bright side, it means I won't have to move. It saves my heart from exploding.


Michael Austin 16 years, 4 months ago

Living in the city sucks. I have been looking for houses for 2 years now. Overland Park is out, you could get a bigger tent for the money.

I love old houses, but they are all in the slums.

North of the river is ok, but the neighborhoods can sometimes be hoods...

I hate house shopping.

Terry Bush 16 years, 4 months ago

If you are TRULY interested in buying a home, new or used, I would like to recommend getting a "buyer's agent". I've bought 4 homes in my life, some with and some without a buyer's agent. Things always went a ton smoother when I had my own agent; someone hired to be on my side, and to keep an eye out for me. You can tell the agent what you want, and can afford, and let them scout out the market for you. Even if it takes a year or more, they'll eventually find the right place for you, at a price you can afford (if you remain flexible enough).

Sure, they get a share of the selling price (on commission) in return. So they have a bias towards selling you something (eventually) and won't always be that keen on getting the price reduced by too much. However, the really best (good and well-established) agents know that it is in their long term best interests to keep/make you happy; so that you will use them again if you ever move or so you'll recommend them to your friends. Since the going % rate received by an agent doesn't usually vary (but rather is shared by buyer's and seller's agents) it's not going to really impact the over-all costs too much.

Since real estate prices in Lawrence ARE so very high (compared to other locales) you might as well get an expert to help you make the most of your money!

And no, I have no relatives etc. in the business. I'm just speaking from personal experience(s)!

cee 16 years, 4 months ago

I second getting a buyers agent. Best decision we ever made. Plus, even if you act agent-less, the sellers' agent sometimes has a deal where he/she will get the percentage that would have gone to the buyers' agent anyway. This is especially true on newer homes.

When we bought our house 6 years ago, we got much more house for the money in JoCo than we could have afforded in Lawrence. It was very very sad, but since I was working in JoCo anyway, we bit the bullet and made the move. The price and the maintenence of an older house was just too much for us at this stage in our lives.

alm77 16 years, 4 months ago

Can I plug the agent we used?

We were buying in Lawrence from over 300 miles away. I tell everybody to go with him.

Aileen Dingus 16 years, 4 months ago

I love my agent- if anyone needs one let me know.

That said- Lawrence prices are PEANUTS compared to my last home- I could have purchased my 1200 sqf duplex (Just my half mind you) for a bargain price of $280,000.

If anyone feels the need for a realty (get it- REALTY) check- go to and type in zip code 89434. See what you can get for under $150,000...

Aileen Dingus 16 years, 4 months ago

Oh- sorry- I just did that. There isn't anything available in 89434 for under $150,000... try $250,000

Fowler 16 years, 4 months ago

Some gentle rules for asking friends to help you move:

You may ask friends to help you move if:

  • You've never asked before, or
  • If it's your first home (or if you've moving from a rental property to a property you own), or
  • If you're under 30.

You should spare your friends and pay for a mover if:

  • You've hit them up before, or
  • This is not the first home you've purchased a home, or
  • You're over 30.

You should never ask friends to help you pack. Get it done before moving day. You should always reward your friends with a meal or beverages at the end of the move. My strong buddies crave ice-cold beer.

Joel 16 years, 4 months ago

Interesting take on the etiquette, Fowler.

I'm moving into a new place (in town) in about a month ... and my brother -in-law gets to participate in the process. It might be a bit early to cash this particular chip in -- I just don't have as much stuff -- but I'm eager to do it.

Lots of stairs at the new place. Lots of stairs. I plan on buying a couch made of gold just before the move.

alm77 16 years, 4 months ago

Dazie, okay now I feel better. However, we moved from 61201. I DID own both sides of a duplex and paid less than half of what I paid for my 1100 ft townhouse here. :(

Fowler, thanks for the rules. I think I may have broken a few myself..... You're right, beer paychecks are the best.

OtherJoel 16 years, 4 months ago

Our buyer's agent was excellent as well. I admit we were a pain in the ass -- we wanted a lot and didn't want to pay much for it. She showed us at least 50 homes in two months, but we ended up with a place that exceeded our expectations while still staying within our original price range (barely). If she hadn't found it almost the minute it went on the market, we would never have found it (we were in a bidding war before it had been on the market one day).

And yeah, Lawrence (or JoCo) seem high, but it's all relative. I like to pick up job and home ads in other cities when I visit them whenever I start to think it's getting expensive here -- it puts things in perspective . In terms of income-to-house price ratios, this area is really quite good. Jobs on the coasts pay a little better, but the pay increase is dwarfed in comparison to your cost of living. Not to say it's easy to afford a home here because it's a huge and scary leap anywhere you go, but it's a lot harder in other areas.

Plus once you own the place, you might not mind the increasing cost of housing so much.

Besides, I thought you did buy a place, or is my mind playing tricks on me again?

OtherJoel 16 years, 4 months ago

Oops. I didn't read the earlier comment about your moving. Guess I am imagining things. Hello little flying mastadon...

Terry Bush 16 years, 4 months ago

As long as we're naming our favorite buyer's agent, Mary Lou Roberts saved me a lot of money and grief; she was harder on my builder/seller then I ever would have been and knew what to look for as far as issues or problems. I think it's a job for someone with experience and contacts; but who isn't too busy to take your calls or watch out for good deals. And just as with a seller's agent, if you aren't satisified with the service, when the contract runs out, don't renew it! But having someone who daily watches for just the right house, and is on the front lines of information, may help you eventually find the right house for the right money.

Buying, as opposed to renting, always makes more economic sense - for those who can swing it. The only time owning real estate is a mistake is for those who get in over their heads (house poor), which most lending institutions won't let you do, for their sake - OR when there is a sudden loss of value (think Dallas when the price of oil plummetted, oh so many years ago - or the Silicon Valley when the micro-chip business took its big fall). Most of the time, real estate is a reliable safe investment ; almost always sure to keep or increase in value. So, do it if at all possible, when you are ready to commit to staying in one place 5 years (or more)!

leslie 16 years, 4 months ago

Comparing and blogging real estate prices: I'd like to welcome Joel to middle age and middle class.

(That's what you get for telling me I'm twice as old as 17.5, bastard)

Joel 16 years, 4 months ago

Leslie: I'll remind you that, as of Saturday, I'm twice as old as 16.5.

Which is still younger than you, but I thank you for expressing my insecurities outloud.

(Did I really say that? Sorry. Didn't mean to be so bastardy. What I really meant to say was that you're half as old as 70.)

(But I'm guessing that last sentence didn't help me.)


mamam 16 years, 4 months ago

So true clayhill 70, Joel M. dad has helped move all his children (3), more than once. He semi-retired after the last move, where he helped lug books, furniture and such up to a third floor apartment. :) Love you, Joel.

Terry Bush 16 years, 4 months ago

My family (including my parents) helped me with every single move I ever made. That's about 10 times. In return, I've helped them out on almost all of their moves too. When dad felt like heavy lifting was not a good idea, he said so and ordered the young bucks around a little more. My mom and sisters were good at organizing little things (like kitchen ware). And the big strapping male friends or relatives were, alas, relegated to lifting and toting barges.

I also have helped scads of good or fleeting friends move. It's what one does - give a little. So I have rarely had any problem recruiting helpers when it came time for me to move (again).

Like most things in life, moving helpers have their quirks and pitfalls. In about the second move of my life, my good and highly neat girl friend Sylvia threw out my wedding boquet and my grade school autograph book, without my knowledge or permission. But having helpers (lots of them) can make a move fairly pain free. In my last move, I had at least 30 people helping - and didn't need to unpack much of anything the next day.

I have seen several people move with only themselves to do the job. Often (not always) they are disorganized beyond compare (throwing things in hefty bags and a few boxes on the day of the move and having no boxes in which to put anything else). I always wonder if they didn't know the move was coming. While some people may simply prefer the solitary move (because they don't want anyone to see how they really live?) or do not like to impose upon friends, I found that moving day went a lot more smoothly (and was happier) if I could enlist an army of family and friends, weeks in advance, and I had pre-packed all that I could get into boxes ahead of time. 3-4 trucks also don't hurt. Beer and pizza are a must.

I am now much less able and inclined to help people move; getting old does that to you. But in my day....

So my advice (for what it is worth) to all the 20-40 year olds out there - help each other move if you can. All too soon, you'll need someone to help you do the same thing. What goes around, comes around.

Joel 16 years, 4 months ago

Sorry: Should've been clearer. Dad's deserved his retirement. I just wasn't sure if I should feel jealous on Sunday, or if I didn't deserve to feel it since I haven't earned my retirement yet...

librarymonkey 16 years, 4 months ago

And, by the way, as much as Joel felt bad about not being as much of a stud as the cross-country runner, his help was GREATLY appreciated.

And, in my book, HE DA MAN!

Joel 16 years, 4 months ago

Finally, a friend or family member I HAVEN'T alienated...

thetomdotdot 16 years, 4 months ago

I can tell you how pleasing it is to be a multiple of 16 rather than 16.5 or (God forbid) 17.5!

Invigorating. Anybody need help moving? Better catch me before I remember the other factor.

thetomdotdot 16 years, 4 months ago

I love you, man. If I was a little older, I'd ask you out.

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