I’m extremely happy and relieved to announce that we have finally finished our move! I received a lot of questions over the last month about the move itself as well as our plans in Tampa - this blog post is going to cover the last two months and answer all the questions I’ve gotten about what took so long. I was originally going to include what happens now and what happens next, but the “WTF happened??” section ended up so long that I had to split it apart and the rest will be in the follow-up blog post, which will be coming soon.
NOTE: To help keep things clear, I will not shorten "Virginia" to "VA" because I'll also be mentioning the Department of Veterans Affairs, which I will shorten to "VA" - meaning, "VA" will always mean the Department of Veterans Affairs throughout this blog post.
We Had a Plan...
To put it simply, not a single thing went right during our relocation. A little background: I got a job offer in Tampa and they needed me to start as soon as possible. I had just spent a massive amount of money on inventory, so I didn’t have much cash in reserves. I needed to sell my townhouse in northern Virginia, move myself, Clare, Wallace and Dexter (our Great Danes), and Donna (Clare’s horse). I needed to get all of our personal stuff, our Redpants inventory, and our four vehicles moved 1000 miles. I needed to find us a place to live in Tampa and get us established there. There was a lot to get done, over a long distance, in a relatively short period of time. So I came up with a plan:
We get a container from PODS, load it up with everything we won’t need for at least a month, and send it to Tampa to wait in storage until we have a place to live.
I drive down to Florida in Clare’s Ford Fusion, loaded with everything I’d need to get by. I stay with friends while getting started at my new job and finding a place for us to live. One car down, I have a vehicle to commute with, and some of my stuff.
Clare drives down in one of the Astons, filled with as much as she can fit into it, we look at houses and finalize a choice. Then she flies back to Virginia. Second car down, along with some more of our stuff.
I fly up to Virginia, we load a U-Haul trailer with the rest of our stuff, put the dogs in the 4Runner which is also pulling the trailer, and one of us drives that while the other drives the second Aston. Last two cars down, rest of our stuff taken care of, and the dogs and us all get to Florida together.
Donna, Clare’s horse, gets shipped separately and independently of everything else. Clare just needed to find a good farm for her for boarding.
During this whole process, the townhouse is put on the market, sells, and we then turn around and buy a place in Tampa. Or, if we don’t find a place worth buying right away, we rent for six months to a year and keep looking.
The plan had a lot of moving parts, but it was straight-forward. It was a six-step program to relocating to Florida. If only it could have relocated my belly fat, too. Clare and I thought we were ready, and we got things going.
But here’s how it actually happened…
I put the townhouse up for sale and had three offers in as many days. I accepted one, and we were off to an awesome start. "Wow, this relocation is going to be easy." Famous last words.
We got a 16-ft container from PODS - the largest they offered - loaded it up with everything we wouldn’t need for at least a month, plus at least a few things we did need but couldn’t get to because we put it in the container. Woops. It was absolutely frigid when we loaded it, so it took a long time as we had to stop for breaks to warm back up. The container was picked up and shipped down to Tampa, where it would sit until we were ready to have it delivered at our new home.
I drove down to Florida in Clare’s Ford Fusion, loaded with most of what I’d need to get by. I stayed with friends while getting started at my new job… except the paperwork at my new job didn’t get done (supposedly the fault of severe personnel shortages due to the government’s funding issues). I couldn't start working for a few weeks. It was something of a blessing in disguise, though, as that gave me plenty of time to deal with the clusterfuck my life was becoming. Still, I was concerned about losing my new job due to an inability to start that job, which just added to my stress during the whole relocation. It was also nice to be able to work out in the sun rather than the single-digit temperatures of northern Virginia.
A week later, Clare drove down in the red Aston. We looked at some houses while she was here but didn’t like any of them. Our plan to have a place to live lined up fell through, and she flew back to Virginia. I kept looking for houses in Florida while she packed up the rest of our stuff in Virginia.
Clare told me there’s far more left in the townhouse than we realized. So we rented a U-Haul “U-Box” (it’s like a mini PODS unit). It cut quite the chunk out of my cash reserves. She filled that up and said there’s still far more left. We should've just gotten a second PODS unit.
I found the perfect house in Florida. It had a three-car garage, the right spaces for all of our needs, a nice backyard, plenty of space between us and our neighbors on either side, and was on a lake. Plus, it was over-built. No corners cut in its construction, super energy-efficient, and solid in every way. It was amazing. I made an offer on the house, it was accepted. I would be closing on my townhouse sale in Virginia and then closing on my new house in Florida two weeks later.
The buyer of my townhouse got laid off from his job, so the financing fell through right before closing. I had to get the townhouse back on the market and sold as immediately as possible or my house purchase in Florida would fall through. At the same time, I found out that I wouldn’t be able to get VA financing for my new house unless I also sold my house in Georgia. I bought that house in 2006 after getting out of the Marine Corps and it became a rental property five years ago when I moved from Georgia to Virginia. It was a perfect rental property - wasn’t vacant a single day during that whole time - so I knew it’d sell quickly. But this meant I’d need to sell two properties in two states so I could buy a third property in a third state. Just to make things that much more impossible, I needed to close on both properties in three weeks.
My realtor in Florida called me to tell me that the selling agent had just chewed him out and threatened to pull the plug on our contract because she said we never sent the earnest money for it. She went on about how they have a line of buyers ready to go and she’ll cancel the contract without hesitation and blah blah blah. I had sent the wire immediately and sent both confirmation emails to my buying agent as proof, and he explained that to her as well. She then realized that she had given us the wrong account information so we sent the money to the wrong account. Zero apologies from her later, the confusion was sorted out.
I got offers on both of my properties in two days, both above list price, and both closing in three weeks. Holy fucking miracle. But that still meant I’d need an extension for the house I was buying, and the selling agent didn’t seem like she’d be too amicable to it based on that previous earnest money incident. I wouldn’t be able to get financing on the new house until both of my properties had closed, so this was absolutely terrifying. I didn’t want to lose this house - it was perfect and I knew I wouldn’t find another anywhere near the same price, even if I could find one as good at all. But everything was on track for both properties to sell, so as long as I could get a one-week extension and nothing else went wrong, we’d be okay. Or so I thought.
My tenant in Georgia decided she did not want to vacate the property, despite the lease contract we had in place. Up until this point, she had been the perfect tenant. All of a sudden, she refused to vacate. I couldn’t sell the house with someone occupying it, and the only way to forcibly remove her was to either burn the house down or get a court-ordered Marshal to evict her. The court order would take 45-90 days. I had 20. Fortunately, my good friend Ryan, who was my landlord for the house, was able to figure out what was going on with the tenant. Turns out she thought I was trying to kick her out to make a quick buck, and she didn’t want to move out until a week after the lease was up because she was in the middle of closing on another house with her fiancé. She wanted to move from the rental straight into her new house and was very angry that I’d tried to inconvenience her for the sake of a quick sale. Ryan was able to explain that wasn’t the case - in fact, I was trying to salvage my house purchase and if she didn’t get out of my house, me and my family would be homeless. She agreed to vacate early so long as I paid for her PODS unit rental. Fine. My cash dwindled that much more, but at least the matter was settled after an extremely hectic couple of days.
Clare called me one night, worried about Dexter. He wasn't eating, he'd lost a lot of weight over the last couple days, and he had extremely little energy. I told her to take him in for an emergency vet visit, which resulted in several hundred dollars worth of tests and medications, and which we later found out only covered half of his ailments. But he did improve a bit, which was better than his condition continuing to deteriorate.
I flew up to Virginia, we loaded a U-Haul trailer with more of our stuff but we still had a ton of stuff left over. There was no way we could get everything in one trip, so we drove the 4Runner, trailer, and second Aston down to Florida and made plans to return for what was left. Once we got to Florida, we put both Astons in a warehouse and unloaded the U-Haul trailer into our storage unit.
The next day, Clare turned around and drove the 4Runner and empty trailer all the way back to Virginia to refill it with the rest of our stuff. She then drove all the way back to Florida (remember, it’s 1000 miles each way and she did it four times in four days like a champ).
While Clare was off on that second trip to Virginia, I had to take Dexter to a follow-up appointment and found out that the first appointment in Virginia was lacking in its treatment of his ailments, so a couple hundred dollars later he had more medications and needed yet another follow-up to check his condition again ten days later.
I met Clare at the U-Haul location in Tampa where we had a storage unit and opened the trailer to find tons of water damage. We ended up losing almost all of our packing and shipping supplies for Redpants, plus had a bunch of damage to personal items, including broken wine glasses (*le gasp!* hashtag angryface) due to boxes getting soaked and collapsing. We unloaded the trailer into the storage unit and filled it to the brim, but still had a ton left over. So we rented a second storage unit, which ate up more cash. That one filled up, too, but we got everything out of the trailer.
After returning the trailer, I noticed my 4Runner was sounding pretty ragged. The engine is on the verge of letting go, but I guess that’s to be expected when driving a 12-year old vehicle with well over 175,000 miles on the original engine 4000 miles in 4 days while hauling a trailer. It’s still running, but I don’t know for how long. I should have seen this coming because I had said just before the four long hauls that the only thing that hadn’t gone wrong so far was that none of our vehicles had broken down, and my 4Runner quietly said, “Hold my beer.” A week later, a large, deep crack made its way across the windshield just to remind me of the point it had made.
We moved into an AirBnB, which would be our home until we closed on our house here in Florida. It was my first time using an AirBnB and I’d heard great things from all of my friends that had used them, so I was hoping it’d be a great place. Nope. We had water leaking from bad plumbing in the ceiling, there was a pillow that smelled so strongly of piss that I nearly vomited doing a sniff test to track down source of the smell, extremely spotty internet that only worked half the time and was slow as could be when it was working, and access was through a tight access road with a ton of dirt in front of the “condo’s” door that was impossible to keep out of the place, so the floors were constantly covered in dirt. Add in the random cockroaches and a questionable cleanliness of the “amenities” and it was definitely not a great experience. At least it gave us a place to stay while waiting for our house to close.
Flu season was especially bad this year, and lots of people have been hospitalized here in Florida and elsewhere because of it. I started getting symptoms, so I went to the doctor. He gave me Prednisone and a cough suppressant and sent me on my way. I diligently followed the instructions for the medicine and woke up the next day feeling like I was dying. Not a good thing when people were literally dying from this flu. I looked up the medicine he gave me and found out that it was an immunosuppressant - it actually made me more susceptible to the flu! Needless to say, I threw the rest of the pills away and loaded up on Theraflu, Airborne, Emergen-C, and multivitamins. I started feeling better a few days later, but the cough and breathing issues would plague me (literally) for weeks to come. As of this posting, the symptoms still linger.
The selling agent for the house in Florida wanted to close a day early than our original closing date because she was going to be out of town on the actual closing date. We still needed an extension, so we used this as a way to get it. We asked to reschedule to the following Friday, and she agreed. The week's reprieve was a huge relief, but it turned out we would need longer.
The townhouse did close on the morning of the 7th. I was expecting fanfare and a nice big deposit into my account. Instead there was silence. I asked my realtor in Virginia what was going on, and he did confirm that it had closed but was waiting to get the paperwork back from the buying agent. A full day passed, still more silence. I was incredibly nervous about the delay because how this sale went would be a good indicator of what to expect with my Georgia property, which would be closing after we were supposed to close on the house in Florida. The deposit hit my account later in the afternoon, so I breathed a heavy sigh of relief and planned to have the sale proceeds from my second property 24-hours after it closed (spoiler alert: nope).
Because we needed an extension to close on our new house, we needed a second AirBnB. Our stay at the first one ended on the 12th and couldn’t be extended due to someone else’s pre-existing reservation that started then. As happy as we were to be out of that place, it presented yet another problem for us as we needed another place to live for a few more days.
We loaded everything into our vehicles - each packed to the headliner. We each went to work and after I got out for the day, I went to the first AirBnB to gather up Wallace and Dexter and headed over to the new AirBnB. It was a very hot day, and between loading stuff and wrangling the dogs, I was soaked in sweat. The dogs needed water, I needed a shower… but no. When I got to the AirBnB, I was greeted by a bright pink tag on the door saying the water service had been shut off because the property owners hadn’t paid their bills. I told Clare, who was still at work, and she contacted the hosts. They said they’d pay it right away and the water would be turned on my 7pm. That time came and went, so we spent a few hours on the phone with AirBnB trying to get things sorted. To make a long story slightly-less-long, we ended up at a hotel about half an hour away and, although reluctant at first, AirBnB ended up refunding us our money for the uninhabitable rental, as well as a token amount to cover a portion of the price difference between the rental and the hotel room.
The hotel we ended up at was a La Quinta Inn and Suites. They had one room available, and we took it. It was the only room available that we could find within an hour's radius from my job. While booking the room over the phone, I made sure they were certain we could have our two Great Danes. I love our dogs, but holy crap they're a logistical nightmare. Turns out, the lady working at the front desk of the hotel made a mistake, our dogs weren't allowed. But the manager said they were far better behaved than the other dogs that were allowed, so he let us stay. Besides, we were only supposed to be in the hotel for four days...
To complicate things (as if they weren't already), the dogs couldn't be left unattended. That meant one of us had to be there in the hotel with them - or take them with us when we went anywhere. Since Clare doesn't get paid if she doesn't go to work, I opted to stay with the dogs. I'm now in the whole for a full year's worth of Paid Time Off (PTO), but again it gave me time to do what I needed to do handle the myriad emergencies that kept popping up each and every day. For a week and a half, I was stuck in that hotel room, or had to take the dogs with me when I ran an errand. When we went out to eat each night, the dogs had to be with us there, too, which usually meant leaving them with the back window of the 4Runner down and parked so they could watch us as we sat in a restaurant and ate.
I knew the timeline for my three property transactions was very tight - I’d be closing on two property sales and buying another all within about one week. If anything went wrong with either of the sales, the purchase would be derailed. Miraculously, the two sales closed just fine. But of course I should have known better to believe things were good to go. My lender had told me early on that there wouldn’t be a problem closing on a property purchase immediately after closing on a property sale. I found out two days before our one-week-delayed closing date that that statement was not true at all. We had to wait three days between closing on my second property sale - our last hurdle (or so I thought) - and closing on my house purchase, which created a new last hurdle since we were supposed to close the day after in Florida and didn't have three days to wait.
The morning of the closing on my property in Georgia, I got a call from my realtor there. He explained that the buyer was extremely pissed off because the washer and dryer weren't the ones they were supposed to get. My tenant had put her own in the house, which were the ones in the property while it was on sale, and she took them when she left. That could have been manageable, but the ones that were put back into the house weren't mine. They were some pawn shop specials, one was white and the other was beige. The buyer was pissed, thinking I was trying to pull something over on him. I explained that I've never owned a beige appliance in my life, and that one of my tenants had taken my original washer and dryer. In the end, I had to pay $750 and my realtor there contributed an additional $400, for the buyer to buy a new washer and dryer. The whole episode delayed closing by a couple hours and cost me even more money, but the house did close.
While the house was closing in Georgia, we got a 1-business-day extension for the house closing in Florida. The one day was actually four calendar days due to a Federal holiday. While the extra time would seem like a blessing, it actually wasn't because everything was closed - the banks, the lenders, everyone. Plus they'd have an extra-busy Tuesday getting caught up from being closed on Monday, which would make it more difficult to get things done. We hoped that somehow, since everyone knew how important and tight our timeline was, each involved party would get things done. Oh, how naïve I was.
I told my realtor in Florida that I needed the paperwork from the sale immediately after closing so I could submit it to my lender in Florida. I got it, which was great, but the check for my property sale in Georgia didn’t arrive when it was supposed to. It was a Friday afternoon, and I called the title company to ask about it. They said I’d have it on Monday, which was absolutely not okay. I asked them to wire it and the lawyer laughed, saying they never do that because wire fraud is way too common. I told him I had included a voided check with the paperwork so there wouldn’t be any fraud concerns, and that I had just sold a property the week prior and they wired me my money without issue. He brushed it off and said the money wouldn’t be available for several days anyway, but would overnight the check so I’d have it first thing the next morning. Um, that means they hadn’t even sent it in the first place.
The same day my check didn't arrive, our PODS unit and U-Box were delivered to the house. The seller's daughter wouldn't allow us to move anything into the house until we'd finished closing and actually owned it, so everything sat there on the street for a full week. Meanwhile, the utilities had all been shut off a week earlier, so the grass was overgrown and dying and most of the amazing landscaping's plants were completely dead.
Also the same day my check didn't arrive, I was told by my lender that my "absolutely done, certain, and ready to go mortgage" was in fact not. They told me I'd have to sell one of my Astons in order to be approved. Long story short - and I had to really dig to figure this out - they were counting $1700 per month in losses against my personal income for Redpants. Basically, up to this point I've reinvested all the money I've gotten from sales. I work a full-time job with benefits and everything else, so I didn't need the money to pay bills, so I reinvested the money to expand inventory. I started off with some oil catch cans and a couple hundred dollars worth of oil filters in January 2016 and built the business to keep a ton of parts in stock and ready to ship. The net result was an on-paper loss of over $20k for my first year because they counted expenses but not assets. Meanwhile, the lender wouldn't accept Redpants' assets because I wasn't personally pulling any money out of the business for myself and hadn't been in business long enough to count the business's income at all. They also wouldn't count any of Clare's contributions to our living expenses and, in the end, the lender's debt-to-income calculations were skewed so I was grossly over-leveraged.
I was desperate at this point and reached out to two of my best friends, Michael and Sharon - they're like parents to me (they even call me their illegitimate son). I hate asking favors of people, especially large ones like this, but they agreed. They would buy my red V8 Vantage and hold it for me so I could get the mortgage, then sell it back to me once things had settled down. A couple hours later, I went to the bank with Sharon and she wired the money to my bank to clear the car loan on the red Aston. We were almost clear to close, only some routine paperwork remained. Or so I thought.
I got an email that night saying that the underwriters needed account statements showing the car had been sold. I checked my bank account, and all traces of the loan had disappeared. I called the bank and asked about it, they said the account goes away once the loan is paid off, and that it would take 24-48 hours to get a pay-off confirmation letter mailed out. I explained I needed the letter emailed to me immediately. I waited, and 6pm came and went. The bank was surely closed - but at 630pm, the letter arrived in my email inbox. I forwarded the letter to the underwriter and thought that was that. Nope. Her response was that she needed the market value of the car that I had sold - the value of an asset I no longer owned, which was all the more ridiculous because they didn't care about the value of assets I do own. I called my mortgage officer and immediately asked, "Is she fucking with me??" He looked at the email and took care of it on his end, putting the matter to rest.
All of the car stuff was happening on Tuesday, which was also our new new closing date. The Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA") still hadn't sent my Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) to the lender. The CoE is the document stating that the VA would back my mortgage, and the lender cannot legally approve the mortgage until they have the CoE from the VA. That means it's an important document to have before closing. We didn't have it. The seller's daughter, who basically controlled the seller throughout this whole process, refused to grant another extension. All she would give is until Friday, but not in writing, and she had a closing scheduled with another buyer on Saturday should we fail to close by then.
Because my lender couldn't get anywhere with the VA, I called them myself to try to get the missing CoE sorted out. The representative at the VA said it was my lender's job to get the CoE and that I shouldn't be doing it. I explained that I was living in a small hotel room with my girlfriend and two Great Danes, we'd been living out of a suitcase for two months while trying to buy this house, and if my lender didn't get the CoE immediately, my family wouldn't have a home to live in. It was Thursday morning, and we had to have it that day to close the following day, or all would be lost. I said the person at the VA dealing with my mortgage officer and his underwriter wasn't helping at all, and asked for some help. He put me on hold for about five minutes, which felt like an eternity. When he got back on the phone, he said the lack of update was the VA's fault, he had fixed it, and he had sent copies of the CoE to me, my mortgage officer, and the underwriter. I got off the phone with the VA, called the mortgage officer, and asked if that was it. He said, "Yes, we close tomorrow." I hung up and cried.
Closing was mostly uneventful. Waze dropped me off at the wrong address - I arrived at an abandoned bank rather than the real estate office where we'd be signing the paperwork - and there was a tense moment when the selling agent said no money had been received even though it all had been wired the day prior. But everything went through and I bought the house!
I went straight to the house and let the pups run free in the yard. They'd been waiting patiently in the back of my 4Runner for a few hours by the time we'd arrived at the house and deserved to run amuck for a while. Once they expended some energy, I unloaded the 4Runner, then moved on to the PODS unit. Well, I tried to. The door was stuck. Turns out something has moved while in transit and was pinning the door so it couldn't open. I called PODS and they sent someone out the next morning to fix it. They even gave me an extra few days of free use since I couldn't get into the unit, which was awesome.
Clare and I rented a 20-ft moving truck from U-Haul and unloaded our two storage units into it. Since nothing was going right, we should have expected some problems. In this case, it was a massive rat problem, with rat shit everywhere. We had to throw away all our pillows, scrub a ton of stuff, clean everything, and sort through every single item in the units. The rats even chewed into boxes so we did inspect literally every single item in storage.
One of, if not the, best thing we did was hire movers to unload our U-Haul truck, U-Box, and PODS container. It cost me $350 for three guys for 2 hours and they had everything unloaded and into each room in an hour-45. It would have taken Clare and I two days, and some of the things (like my bar, Steve) we wouldn't have been able to move on our own regardless. I was hesitant to hire anyone because my last experience with movers was awful, but these guys were [mostly] great. One was a bit haphazard in his speed, but the other two were diligent about keeping him in check.
This weekend we found out that not all of the rear reflectors in our Exterior Lighting Package were made properly - they don't conform to the curve of the bumper - so we have to get all of those remade and replaced. So far our customers have been understanding and patient, but having to deal with it at all isn't helping with everything else we have going on right now. Plus, my shipping system wiped out all the shipping info for all the orders we've had since I first left Virginia, so pending orders have been a mess to get fulfilled.
All of this happened over the course of two months, and doesn’t include the random small stuff like my sunglasses being stolen, or the daily struggle of living out of a suitcase for so long, or anything else. Ironically, the one thing that went well was moving Clare’s horse from the farm she was at in Virginia to the one here in Florida. It was scary at one point as the original transporter had to cancel, but luckily she made arrangements with someone else to cover for her. I’d joke around with people before we got this whole process started about how much we had to do, “even a fucking horse!” But in the end, the horse was by far the easiest part of our relocation.
So That's That...
We're still getting settled in - lots of stuff to sort through still - and are getting closer. We're still sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I still don't have my office set up. We need to get a fence in the backyard, paint in the house, organize and count our Redpants inventory, sort all of my tools and garage stuff... not to mention getting Florida drivers licenses, registering all our cars, etc etc etc.... Progress is being made.
I called my last blog post “All I Need Are Three Miracles and Two Favors” because of all the shit that had gone wrong during our relocation. Turns out I needed far more than that. I couldn't have done it without the amazing support of those around me. I think we're in a better place now, so the relentless onslaught of obstacles was worth enduring. The environment is much better for us here, and I think I'll be able to get back to my natural state of being - to how I was before the cynicism took hold of me in Virginia. And, frankly, if I can't find peace here, I don't think I'll find it anywhere.
Clare is much happier here with the warmth, the close beaches, and especially with the house. Not being in a fishbowl complex of townhouses is a huge stress-reducer in itself. Wallace can't get enough of it - he prances through the yard when I let him out each day when I get home from work. Dexter is doing much better, too. He's back to healthy and getting his weight back, and his personality has cheered up quite a bit from that and from having a yard to wander around. Donna's still getting used to her new farm, which is a really lovely place so that's going fine.
In my next blog post, I'll be going over what's happening now and what's happening next. I'm hoping to have news about OEM parts supply, updates on our products like the lug nuts and coilovers (and replacement rear bumper reflectors!), and an outline of projects that are getting ready for preproduction. I've also created a content schedule to help me better keep on top of posting blog entries and YouTube videos, so expect more on those plans, too.
I say it quite often because I really do mean it: I sincerely thank you all for your patience and understanding! Redpants is one hell of a challenge, and adding things like a big relocation into it just makes it that much more so. Every bit of encouragement we've gotten, and every message of understanding of delays and issues, has really been helpful and has kept us going.