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Home For Sale. It’s Much Too Large.

We’re getting closer to putting our house on the market. Of course this presents challenges. It’s only easy on TV, where they edit the bejesus out of months of footage, have “low” budgets larger than the cost of my first home, and multiple buyers whose lowest offers are above full price.

As much as I can see through all that crap, I still stress out over how far we deviate from it.

I know, I know – I should just lighten up. I try. Really I do. It’s easier with alcohol, but that’s probably not a viable solution. Most of the time.

We (OK mostly me) are struggling in a few areas around selling our house. Writing things out helps me make sense of them. Sharing that writing disrupts my tendency to imbue challenges with power. Maybe it’s even the equivalent of therapy.

Please don’t send me a bill, though 🙂

It’s not that we clash…

Like any good partnership, Brian and I have complimentary strengths and weaknesses. For example, I’m extremely detail oriented, while he tends to get things done quickly and well enough without getting bogged down in the details. I notice flaws. He overlooks a lot. I’m more creative, he’s more analytical.

I look at our house with a critical eye, because I know buyers will. They probably won’t ignore all the great things about it and focus on the negative like I do when I get in a funk. But there are definitely drawbacks.

At the moment the house is a cluttered, dirty place we can’t quite keep up with given all the other things we have going on. I once only half-jokingly referred to it as a hovel, and Brian about lost it. I admit it doesn’t meet the strict definition of a hovel, but remember he misses a lot.

I clean things he never realizes are dirty, as well as things he thinks just a tad messy. Greasy smudges around light switches signify filth in my mind. Ideally I’d vacuum the most-used areas of our house daily. That way the detritus tracked in by our combined 12 feet wouldn’t build up on the wall-to-wall carpet. I let that go these days, at first because of shoulder pain and now because…futility?

When we used to have “normal” jobs (you know normal was a lie, right? or at least just a bubble), we had time for DIY home projects and repairs. After Brian opened his gunsmithing shop in 2009, his 10 – 12 hour days six days a week and our near-poverty-line (which is also a lie, BTW) budget at times meant shit didn’t get done unless it was critical.

I bought a near-perfect (in my mind, anyway) house, and managed to keep it that way for the first few years. I struggled through most of the next several years of kids, dogs and a hubby with a dirty job, trying to return it to that state or at least get close.

More recently I’ve realized I bought too much house. I finally figured out that the cleaner this big house is the fewer meaningful things I do. Brian has understood for years that when it comes to paying the bills, honey-dos don’t.

Even as I physically accept these realities, I think of the way it used to be and believe that’s how it should be.

And Brian yells at me: “Negative Nelly!”

What fixes make sense?

I rarely watch TV. We don’t even have cable at our house, or an over-the-air antenna. Yet every time I go for a pedicure I’m sucked into one or another of HGTV’s house-flipping or DIY shows playing on the salon’s large flat screens.

People in these reality shows have large chunks of money to play with, or they’ve borrowed it, so same-same. They make fixes and upgrades from a knowledgeable perspective, expecting either a direct return on their investment or that it’ll at minimum help a house sell faster.

We do not have a large budget for renovation. Actually, the would-be renovation fund went completely into the RV. Some fixes are no-brainers, but we’re not sure about others’ ROI. Right now we don’t have money for any of it.

If/when we have some money to work with, we’ll do the no-brainer stuff. We know if leaving the cracked window, fractured sink and missing shower door doesn’t deter a buyer it’ll encourage lowball offers.

Question is, what is a must-do and what can we leave for someone else to do their way, with their money, as we ride off into the sunset in our RV?

Getting real about realtors

After public hand-wringing on the “what do we really need to fix” topic earlier this month, a friend connected me with a house-flipping neighbor who offered us complimentary professional insight.

I guess if we don’t mind a little public humiliation, it pays to be open about our shortcomings.

So, this house-flipper has already paid us a brief visit. He wants to return with his realtor wife to take a longer look, make recommendations about what to fix, and (he’s hoping) secure a listing.

We already know we won’t get out of the house what we put into it. Even if market prices are back up around where they were when I bought in 2005 (they’re actually not far off, in our area), we added around $25K in improvements. We’re not expecting to profit. We just want a fair deal.

Part of a fair deal is not paying a 6% or even 5% commission to realtor(s) who don’t earn it.

Why I resent realtors – Agent #2

Nowadays most of us shop for homes online, only calling a realtor when we’re ready to physically step inside a home. When I bought the house Brian and I currently live in, I found it after setting up saved searches and alerts when Agent #2 – “my” agent – couldn’t find more than three or four houses for me to look at.

Agent #2 was also the listing agent on the home I sold to buy our current home. He never showed the house himself. Beyond recommending a price, he offered no marketing advice. He did take photos, but they did not show the house in its best light. I supplied better ones, but it took more than two weeks of hounding to get him to replace his mediocre photos on the listing page.

Ultimately, my neighbor and I brought the buyer.

All Agent #2 did was sit back and collect a check. Two, actually.

Why I resent realtors – Agent #1

I hired Agent #2 because I bought into his “top agent” advertising, and because I didn’t want to work with Agent #1, the realtor I used ten years earlier to purchase my first home, which I was now selling.

Agent #1 was new at the time, and hungry. I had an impossibly low budget to work with. Together we looked at homes that even Brian would call hovels. Back then there wasn’t much of anything online, and I depended on her to find and show me listings. Week after week for six months she worked until she found “The One.”

At the time, Agent #1 was a feisty young girl. She drove a little red sports car and cursed drivers in the way of our 90-mile-per-hour tours of West Georgia. I liked her.

Agent #1 certainly earned the vacation she took instead of attending my closing. Another agent in her office handled the paperwork. Where it fell apart was in actually being able to move my family into the house I just bought.

I could not forgive her abandoning us after I used my last dime (I was a working single parent and full-time college student) to buy and pay to move to the house. The seller was an out-of-state investor who also decided to take a vacation at closing.

I get that there are people in this world for whom real estate transactions are no big deal. But Jesus freaking CHRIST – right or wrong, to the rest of us they are a major life event. Not to mention tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and the biggest expense we ever have in life.

I anticipated having to wait for the seller’s signed documents to arrive via FedEx. I didn’t, however, expect a week of homelessness for the kids and I while he sipped mai tais on the beach somewhere. While Agent #1 wasn’t responsible for the seller’s vacation, she should have negotiated a rent-back or something for me.

Damn straight I held a grudge. I also remembered the combination to the lock box on the door of the house.

We moved in as planned. A week or so later, I got a call from Agent #1.

“It’s official. We received the seller’s signed documents so you can move in now.”

Right.

So, until a realtor can convincingly articulate how they will earn the commission they seek, I’m not signing with them. The plan is still to use a flat-fee realtor to list, but we will pay commission to whoever brings a buyer.

We’ll meet with the realtor/house-flipper couple and give them an opportunity to change our minds.

HGTV “reality” is a fantasy

I don’t know how the hell it’s come to be standard practice to market nothing less than a spotlessly clean, perfectly staged house that appears completely unoccupied except for the potential buyer’s future self. That this is the norm these days is the message I get from reading sales tips on real estate websites or agent blogs.

Yes, I can appreciate the wow factor of a home that looks like a five-star hotel. How realistic is it to put up that front, though, for people with such gauche habits as cooking, eating, sleeping or taking a dump? Even less likely to happen with folks like me and Brian, who have dogs that shed, and pee and poop in the yard (mostly).

A post on the Trulia blog suggests we “send our pets on holiday.” Are you kidding me??? Even if we could afford it, how is it OK to send John Lee and Laurie to doggie jail because home buyers now have HGTV-induced delusions?

A couple of years ago, when Brian and I were exploring options for a New Hampshire move, I chatted with an agent I met in a co-working space.

“How can I make sure our house meets buyer expectations while maintaining my sanity?” I asked.

“Oh…” she said. “You mean you have to live in it while it’s on the market?”

“Well, yes,” I replied.

“That’s tough,” she offered.

Sigh…thanks for the advice, lady.

Right now the house looks like someone dumped their yard sale inventory across a couple of rooms. That’s because every time I decide we can live without a thing, I place it among all the other stuff that didn’t make the cut. So obviously that’s unattractive to a buyer and has to go before the house goes on the market.

Our plan is to have an estate sale. When we do that, it’ll be to the walls, y’all. We won’t keep anything except what’s going into the RV. No bed, no dining table, nothing to sit on. The estate sale will clear out the house in a jiffy. Obviously we can’t do that until we have alternative arrangements.

Oh, hey – we now have a super awesome RV we could live in. Except…

We can’t move into the RV until we have a place we can park it. Moving into a park would cost us at least $500 – $600 per month. We can’t do that on top of our mortgage and other house expenses.

Our friends offered us a spot on their land, and we could run a water hose and 110 electricity to the RV from their house. But if the weather is over about 80° the RV won’t be bearable without air conditioning, and we can’t run the air conditioners on 110. So this “moochdocking” is probably not doable in our area until late October.

That’s right about the time the leaves start falling off the trees and our house and yard start looking a helluva lot less awesome.

If we could get ourselves and our houndies out of the house, and sooner rather than later, it’d be a saner way to get through cleaning, painting, repairing and selling it. I’m not seeing how to handle that at the moment, but something will give. Sho nuff 😉

A nearby camp hosting position with a free site and maybe even some cash on top of that would solve a lot of problems. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Homeowners’ insurance FTW

Amid the uncertainty, uncleanliness and undone honey-dos, we’ve had a wonderful development. We are getting a new roof. I know it doesn’t sound sexy. But when you want to sell a house a new roof is like the second best thing ever (the first being a killer kitchen).

I stressed out over the roof big-time, for I don’t know how long. I’d find shingles in the yard. Several times roofers looking for work knocked on my door to tell me I had missing shingles. We repaired the roof here and there, but it was clear its 25-year lifespan was cut short by windstorms.

Well, it was clear to Brian. He kept telling me to call the insurance company, and I hesitated because there wasn’t a defined event, and because we’d repaired some of the damage. Eventually he got through to me, and I put in a claim, half expecting it to be denied.

That’s not out of left field, by the way. A hellacious hail storm came through several years ago, and many of our neighbors (including our complaining neighbors) got new roofs, while the one-and-only claim I’d ever filed in my life at that point was denied.

Now, not only will we get a new roof, but we’ll also get some interior damage repaired. Two of the three damaged areas are simply water-stained spots. One involves sheetrock repair I’d agonized over for months. The contractors will paint the ceilings in all the contiguous areas so everything will match. This amounts to probably 25% of the ceilings in our living area.

The ceiling work is a double blessing in the kitchen, where the previous owner must’ve had some sort of fried chicken explosion, and where we ripped out an inefficient pantry. The kitchen ceiling was yet another thing I let stress me out, because I knew painting it would kill my neck.

Even though we’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars in premiums without the insurance company paying out for a single claim, this still feels to me like the universe cut us a break 🙂

It’s tiny house week!

As I write, it’s Sunday morning and past the time I normally publish my weekly post. For the two-and-a-half people accustomed to reading it first thing, sorry, y’all. We were so busy getting ready for our trip that the post was only half written until about 4:23 AM this morning.

The Dutch Star is in the driveway, mostly loaded up for the week we’ll spend at a nice little park in west Georgia. It’s near enough that Brian can do it without closing the shop and losing revenue, but since it’s a holiday week he’ll get at least a little break. Three days in a row off – woo-hoo!

Unlike the first time we rolled our RV into our driveway, this time we didn’t have to back it up multiple times and leveling it was a breeze. Sadly, this meant almost no obnoxious beeping from the backup alarm. Although someone might have put it in reverse just to make sure the alarm still worked… 😉 #safetyfirst

I’m still stressing over how I’ll manage to get Laurie in and out of the RV to take care of business. Even when Brian’s there it’ll be a challenge as we figure out how to lug a long, heavy, frightened dog through our Dutch Star’s narrow doorway and down its outside steps. Those steps have a certain springiness to them that’s scary when carrying large loads. Fingers crossed that we figure this out without injuring Laurie or us!

The forecast calls for rain all. damn. week. But y’know what? Don’t care. This isn’t a vacation – it’s a preview. I can’t wait.

If you’d like to see the occasional photo of our test run, follow me on Instagram.

13 thoughts on “Home For Sale. It’s Much Too Large.”


  1. Wow you are really having a busy week! I can definitely understand the stress. I moved in secret as my family had expressed a thought of insanity in my direction…. So I cleaned and made multiple runs to goodwill and to a friends house to pass off sell-ables. He has a weekly yard sale. Must be nice to be retired lol.
    And it truly is a shame you could share the joy of your RV backing into the driveway and the beeping being cut short. Sigh.
    One thing about your dog and the steps. There is a Step brace you can buy that goes under the bottom step and is adjustable, comes in 2 sizes. Its about $15 on amazon, but I used a block of wood for a long time. It makes the steps a lot more solid and doesnt rock the RV every time somebody goes in and out. http://www.camco.net/?s=step+brace
    Have a great Preview!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for suggesting a step brace. Long before our trip I looked at several different ideas around the steps. I never even saw or thought of a brace. Brian ordered one when I told him about your comment. Might arrive before we have to break camp.

      What did your family think when you presented your new lifestyle as a done deal?

      Our parents are all gone and I think everyone else is used to the way we frequently buck the system. Deciding to move into an RV and travel probably came as little surprise to anyone.

      Neither the kids nor our closer friends were happy about our previous plans to move to New Hampshire. I think those living locally who are disappointed that we’re still planning to leave understand that, with the RV vs. buying a S&B house in NH, we can be more flexible. Living near Atlanta for as long as we each have, we do have more ties here than anywhere else. But we also have family and friends in several areas around the US that we rarely see. Who knows – maybe when we no longer live in the area we’ll see more of our local family and friends because they know we won’t be there long!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No Problem! Glad it helps!
        As for my family, well that is complicated. My Father was already a Full-timer for 10 years.My daughter and I were living with my Mother, who has always been “presentation” based. I think it’s a Generational thing. I sadly had to do everything in secret, so I didnt get to share my excitement. I had tried MANY times to talk to her about it, even about moving into my own place. She was not willing to listen. So the move was VERY sudden. She stayed angry at me for 2 years, but now thinks its “a cute little Tiny House!” It was the best move I ever made for my Daughter who is Autistic. Large homes and rooms are overwhelming for her. This has forced communication and she is very comfortable.
        The hardest part in my area is finding a place to park. I was parked on a friends farm, but the neighbor had us run out with code enforcement. Then we found out that unless its an RV park or storage area, we cant park there. Very frustrating because now I am paying $500 a month in rent with water, septic and electric. I considered Boondocking. My daughter and room mate were not up to the restrictions that came with it. I dont get much travel in with my work, but we are heading to orlando Fl in October. Yay Trip!!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Gotta love those complaining neighbors, eh? It’d be $500 or more for us to park anywhere around here, so I understand the financial impact. It’s less of a burden if it’s the only payment for shelter, but atop a mortgage or RV payment, it’s hard.

      I may be reading between the lines, but I wonder if your parents are divorced and your mom may have overreacted to your desire to live like your father instead of in a way she considered proper. Sounds like she’s since come around 🙂

      I can imagine how your daughter must feel, though I’m glad my loathing of big stores and weariness of big houses are only a minor impediment for me. The RV did not get small for me during our week in it – even though I was inside, stepping around Greyhounds every time I needed to move >_< 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She definitely didnt like the Idea at 1st, But now that she has seen so many Tiny Houses, she is not against it. We are just around the corner and we visit a LOT!
        I have discovered that “spring cleaning” in an RV happens several times per season to keep from feeling cramped. RVs are organized SO well compared to houses. I spent quit a bit at Campingworld.com and the local RV place getting organizing things. Like the under counter paper plate holders and such. I find my RV just right and it sounds like yours is too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely better organized. I thought I appreciated this facet before, but after spending a week in the RV and then coming back to the house I REALLY miss it!

        I suppose it’s good to have the exercise, but I have to walk from room to room, upstairs, downstairs to do anything or put things where they belong. And then sometimes I walk into a room and get distracted by something, forgetting what I went in for in the first place.

        I’m developing a premature understanding of the phrase “senior moment” :O

        Like

  2. We just celebrated 4 years of full-time RV living and as we enter year 5 we don’t see a foreseeable end. And we embarked on this adventure on a whim. I still have two large storage units full of crap 😖Oh, how I wish I could get a ‘do over’. Best of luck with the transition. Wish I could say it’ll be easy but I can say it’ll will be worth it.
    BTW – we usually spend about 3 months during the winter camped at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix, AZ, just in case you’re unfamiliar with the range.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nope, no do-overs else we’d have to forego the lessons we learned that help us make different choices down the road. Just because it’s a platitude doesn’t mean it’s not the truth 😉

      Yeah, if we had to do it over I think we’d have RVed a long time ago instead of struggling to build/maintain a life that didn’t fit. So cool you guys did this on a whim and you’re still going strong. I appreciate your encouragement.

      Curious about Ben Avery. Neither Brian nor I had heard of it. I checked out their web page and it looks like it’s event-centered camping. Would like to hear more about your experience there if/when you have time.

      Thanks for reading and commenting Ingrid 🙂

      Like

      1. July 1 Ben Avery implemented new campground rules so not sure how that’s going to go. We ended up making reservations at a nearby RV park instead. My husband occasionally works corporate shoots at Ben Avery and he pulled a tag to hunt Elk near the Grand Canyon for this December. We go to the Texas Gulf Coast every January for duck hunting. I never share guns or hunting on my blog. That’s hubby’s thing, not mine. Feel free to email me if I can offer any suggestions or help as you transition into the new lifestyle.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Ingrid. I think where we’ll need the most help is insight into camping locations. That’s why I was interested in your Ben Avery experience. Well, that and it’s at the intersection of RVing and firearms, which is something we hadn’t really thought about.

        With Brian’s current setup at the shop, there’s good money to be made from competitive shooting. But all that is going away. What he can do to help shooters the most requires equipment/tools that aren’t really portable.

        Brian’s never been a hunter, and the longer he’s worked on guns the less enthralled he is to play with them. My thoughts, not his words. So I don’t know what the future holds for us vis a vis guns. Especially since he thinks it wouldn’t be practical for us to bring along the rifle I started learning to shoot with :-p I am definitely no expert (though you will die if I shoot you…it’ll just be a slooowwwww death :O ).

        While we both believe regular folks should have the ability and skill to defend themselves with a firearm, and I haven’t shied away from the politics of that belief on this blog or anywhere else, I’m more interested these days in writing about the larger idea of finding/having freedom to live as we choose.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yeah. BTDT. No t-shirt, though – we weren’t there long enough.

      Missy will not be having any ramp, thanks. We got a portable plastic ramp with safety tread and round corners, yet she still managed to slice a vein open avoiding it when I tried to insist she use it.

      Guess who won that battle?

      We’ll sell the ramp in the estate sale. I don’t think it’d help her even if it wasn’t that steep, because she is a freaky dog in some ways. But in order to make the incline less obnoxious and possibly acceptable to a less-freaky dog we’d probably have to get something so long that it wouldn’t be very portable.

      Thank you for trying to help, though!

      Liked by 1 person

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