Blog, Our Journey

Downsizing to an RV: How we quickly sold our house for a fair price – without annoying agents or nitpicky buyers

Getting out of our house and into our RV without losing our shirts (or our minds) seemed like too much to ask.

In 2005, the house’s reasonable price, proximity to work, nice neighborhood, fenced backyard for the dogs, and low property taxes seemed like good reasons to buy.

Sure, it was a big-ass house – way more than a single (at the time) person needed. It was even a bit much after Brian and the kids moved in in 2008.

At the time I bought, though, the advantages outweighed the drawbacks and I had what I needed to handle that big house on my own (ain’t nothing a big checkbook couldn’t fix).

By 2009, the only thing left to appreciate about the house was the fenced yard.


Lemme just be honest: We had too much house on our hands for the time and money we could invest in maintaining it. Consequently, if a thing didn’t involve flooding or fire it probably wasn’t gonna get done.

The place wasn’t falling down, by any means. What was wrong was mostly cosmetic and nothing that would cause a home inspector to fail it.

Like, 20-year-old carpet, multiple flooring styles, a cracked transom window, a room painted with peach semi-gloss (not us!), mismatched kitchen cabinets, warm/oak colored stair railings and hardwoods. All fodder for bitchy (a.k.a. smart) buyers wanting an excuse to haggle over price, if we left it all as-is.

If we didn’t want to take a hit for our maintenance failures at closing time, we needed to come up with $10-15K to make repairs and updates. While we were trying to prepare for life on the road by working like dogs, paying off debt and shoring up savings.

Every time I tried to think through how we were going to pull this off it went in circles.

Fixes cheaper than hit to selling price. Insufficient time/skill to DIY = no way to stretch $ for fixes. Paying full freight for fixes either a) depletes savings needed to fund our first months on the road, or b) causes us to go into debt and resulting in monthly payments whilst we are still figuring out how to ramp up/sustain our income.

We couldn’t possibly be the only ones with this dilemma, but looking at the available options it sure as hell felt like it.

Being on the market

As much angst as getting our home ready for sale was causing, there was something far worse.

Living in a house that’s up for sale.

The stuff

If you read the first half of this downsizing saga, you know about our estate sale. We had one shot to clear everything out before moving into the RV.

Lord have mercy was there a lot of stuff.

Until we could move into the RV (which had built-in everything), we needed a lot of what was in the house. We couldn’t move into the RV before selling the house, because we couldn’t afford to pay both a mortgage payment and RV park fees.

So we’re saving all this crap for our estate sale, which is supposed to go where while we’re trying to sell our house?

Round and round my brain this went, just like the dilemma of how to pull off maintenance.

Vitae interruptus

Where do you go when you work from home, but a buyer wants to come see your house?

What do you do about an elderly dog with bladder issues while your home is on the market?

How do you handle keeping a house clean enough for buyers while running two businesses, providing shelter for two big dogs (one with a faulty bladder) and preparing for radical life change?

Eh, doesn’t matter.

When a home is on the market and an agent wants to show it, you drop everything, tidy up and GTFO.

So suck it up, whiner. Or, have money and move out before putting the house up for sale.

And, you’ll pay us for your trouble

Not saying no agent ever earned his/her commission. But what I am saying is none of the agents Brian and I worked with ever earned their commission.

Sorry not sorry.

Those are specific gripes about specific agents. But we both believe the traditional listing agent/selling agent/6%, etc., real estate business model is ripe for change.

We’re supposed to pay 6% for the “privilege” of having agents escort a parade of strangers through our personal space, and figure out how to make it damn near perfect before/during else the buyer will bail or extract concessions?

I’m not all that forward thinking a person, but about five minutes after we decided to sell I felt it was time for the whole residential real estate paradigm to shift.

Unfortunately, every agent we talked to insisted it was not.

And that they, unlike our previous agents, would deliver value with the transaction.

Couldn’t fucking articulate just what value that was, though.

There must be a better way

One day I got this message from Brian:

Eh, what the hell, I thought. I sent one photo, briefly described our house, and about a half hour later I had a purchase offer in my inbox. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t a completely lowball offer.

The wheels are in motion / Wandering Porcupine – 8 April 2018

Odds are if you’re thinking there must be a better way, you’re right. Well, unless there isn’t and you’re gonna have to invent it.

Thankfully, I did not. Somebody, somewhere – with pockets much deeper than ours – came up with a service that addresses every. single. one. of our home sale gripes.

Direct home buying: The easy way to sell a house!

After sending Offerpad (a direct home buying company) ONE photo, we got a not-unreasonable offer. In less than an hour.

Holy shit!

In case you’re not familiar with direct home buying (we weren’t), it is 100% not a “we buy ugly houses” or house flippers business model.

Great views!

You know, those deals where investor-backed teams buy houses that are much nastier than normal, for ridonculously cheap prices, make a few calculated improvements, then resell for 5x what they have in it?

No, companies like Offerpad, Perch and Opendoor buy average homes.

So how do direct home buyers make money?

My guess is that even with smaller margins, direct home buyers can make enough money because they stick to good markets. We definitely had that going for us.

They also hedge profitability by charging a percentage of the sales price. Since we’d have paid at least this amount to sell traditionally – AND had to deal with all the home-selling hassle – we were more than OK with Offerpad’s fee.

If you were looking to buy, you could also buy directly (at least with Offerpad you can). So they’d make money on that end of the sale, too.

When compared with traditional real estate outfits, big multi-market direct home buying companies have a lot more in the way of in-house resources they can tap to reduce costs.

Even when they use outside contractors, the fact that they become the property owners and eventually sellers undoubtedly cuts down on costs as well as red tape. They can just get shit done without dancing around a home seller or his/her realtor.

I’m most familiar with Offerpad, but from the research I did when they initially landed in our laps, other direct home buying companies operate similarly.

What selling was like for us

After submitting a half-assed “let’s see what this is about” request to Offerpad resulted in a surprisingly decent offer, I got serious. I responded and said, hey – this is a little off, but not much. They came back and said send us more photos – maybe we can do better.

Even though they’re giving you a price sight unseen, it’s backed by a shit-ton of market data and CYAed by the ability for either party to back out if anything weird comes up.

So, I took pictures of everything – features, flaws, anything that would have affected a price.

After they saw all the photos they said yea, we can do $X. I forget the exact amount but it was like 5% more than the initial offer. Sold!

We got to pick the closing day, too. If we didn’t have to worry about downsizing all our stuff first we could have closed sooner than the two-ish months we actually took.

We sold our house without a single buyer walking through it

We never even met any of the Offerpad people.

They sent a home inspector that went over the house top to bottom and photographed everything. That was it.

No buyers interrupting dinner. No lock box. No realtor waltzing through our door unannounced (which happened when I sold my previous house). No stressing out about dog pee (or the lighter-colored circles on the carpet from cleaning up dog pee). No giant sign in the front yard. No struggling to clean up every little bit of dirt tracked in, every unwashed dish in the sink or any other housekeeping failures.

We just. fucking. left. BOOYAH.

We did not do any repairs

We disclosed everything we knew was wrong with the house. The inspector found a few more things we didn’t know were wrong. Expensive things, like replacing the HVAC system.

Wanna see what our house looked like when we sold? Flaws and all? Here ya go.

When Offerpad let us know the results of the inspection and that they would modify the offer, I began hyperventilating.

Almost as soon as the panic began, though, it was over. The concession they asked for at closing was less than half the amount I envisioned.

They gave us the option of doing the repairs ourselves, but that would have been both expensive and dumb. Since we are frugal and smart, no – the concession was fine, thanks.

Closing: The only annoyance in an otherwise perfect sale

Offerpad contracted our closing to a ginormous legal firm, who then subbed it out to (I’m guessing) an independent attorney with massive law school debt.

Except for getting them over with, nobody really cares about closings (self included). It’s not like the firm or the attorney are worried about making a good impression so you can insist on using them for your next closing in, like, ten years.

They just wanted to get paid. I just wanted an appointment at a reasonable enough time and place and with enough notice to enable me to make arrangements for our poor dog (who could not figure out WTH was going on…sorrynotsorry).

What wound up happening was it did go off on the appointed day – after finally tracking down someone high enough up the food chain to care about their contract with Offerpad.

There was also something that seemed wonky about the numbers at closing. The attorney couldn’t explain the discrepancy. It wasn’t big enough that I was willing to potentially derail the whole thing, but I wasn’t going to let it go, either.

It turned out to be a combination of crap with our HOA and the way the attorneys interpreted how our dues were collected, and we did get some of the money back.

For sale – but not by us

Here’s what our former home looked like when Offerpad had it up for sale. I would’ve had it pressure washed, but anyway…

Not my circus, not my monkeys 🙂

Would we use a direct home buyer again?

Hell yes.

I mean, if we’re ever crazy enough to buy/sell real estate again. We’ve talked about buying or building a port home for the RV at some point in the distant future.

That’s probably a long way off.

Should YOU sell via a direct home buyer?

We HATED everything about the traditional real estate sales model. Maybe you don’t.

We were in a market served by at least one direct home buying company. If you’re curious about your options, see whether Offerpad, Perch, Opendoor or someone like them operate in your area.

If you do have the option, see what they charge, and decide if it makes sense for you.

Rates differ (I’m guessing between companies as well as markets) so if you’re on the fence about the hassle factor vs. the cost, do the math.

Offerpad charged us 7%. Regular real estate commission would have taken 6%, and we’d have had to spend money for repairs and deal with all the traditional sales bullshit. No thanks.

Perch charges 8.5%. They have a pricing comparison on their website that makes doing a traditional listing/sale seem dumb:

What do you think?

Do you have questions about our experience? Would you sell your house this way? Leave a comment below and let us know what’s on your mind.

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