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.”
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.