Selling our home

THIS has been a roller coaster. Holy. Moly.

So, if you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve recently purchased a new home. And were selling our current house. When we went into this process, we put a lot of thought into how we wanted to handle buying and selling at the same time. This was a first for us. We’d both bought and sold houses before, but never simultaneously.

At the time that we decided to seriously start looking for a new home, the market here in good ole’ DFW was really hot and very, very competitive.   We knew that if we listed our house before finding another, the chances of us selling way before finding something that we truly loved was high. We were very picky about what we wanted in a new home and decided that we weren’t settling on ANYTHING.  This would hopefully be our last move (ever), and we figured that it might literally take us years to find exactly what we wanted.  Thus, if our house sold fast, we could potentially be homeless for an undetermined length of time.  So, we opted to house-hunt, then if we found a home that we couldn’t live without, we’d list our house. Even if it meant getting pre-approved for less by doing so. After speaking with our realtor about it, it was a done deal. He agreed that if we could do it that way, we should.

So, we searched for a house.  And after about nine months, we found THE ONE.  We put in an offer and after dealing with a bit of competition, our bid was accepted. Once we’d gone through the inspection process, and knew we were sticking with our contract, we listed our house. I was all nerves. What if it didn’t sell fast? Did we want to be stuck with two mortgages?! OMGOMGOMG. Saint Joey, as he is now known, put up with me beautifully (albeit with several deep-patience-breaths worked in there).

Fortunately, our realtor had given us sound advice.  Within two days of listing, we had 4 showings which yielded 2 offers. We were absolutely over the moon! Picture me screeching and doing elaborate happy-dances while Joey sat calmly nearby, telling me that he’d be more outwardly excited if I wasn’t hogging all the energy. I do that sometimes. It happens.

After discussing our options, we took one of the offers, signed the contract, and thought we were good to go. That is, until they bailed. Ugh. Turns out, the buyer of their house had terminated his contract, and because our contract was contingent on that, they had to terminate ours. UGH.UGH. So, we figured, okay… We’ll take the second offer. Our realtor contacted the realtor of the other couple who’d submitted an offer to see if they were still interested. But they had literally signed a contract on another listing earlier that morning. UGH.UGH.UGH!!!

So, here we were with two offers and no takers.  Now, I know I shouldn’t have been complaining at this point. We’ve had several friends who had their homes on the market for months at a time. My hats off to you, friends. Seriously. Keeping a home show-ready is legit. I can’t imagine having to do it for months. But alas, I’m a stresser. I can’t help it. It just is.  And the fact that I’m a stresser was compounded by the fact that I wasn’t sleeping. Insomnia makes everything more dramatic. I was truly afraid that we’d missed the boat by choosing the wrong offer the first time around.

That next weekend, we had 9 showings, yielding three more offers.   One was a good offer, but was contingent on the sale of their home.  The second was a total low-ball offer.  And the third, oh, the third.   The.sweetest.people.ever.   I actually got to meet them because their realtor had trouble getting into the house.  I had to return home to let them in.   They were an adorable young couple who were accompanied by her mother.   They seemed so grateful that I had allowed them to view the house as late as I did (it was nearly 8pm by the time I was able to get home).  They put in a great offer the very next morning. And it was not contingent (thankgoodness). They also included a note telling us about themselves and how much they loved the house and hoped we’d choose them.  They were engaged to be married and starting out their lives together.  This would be their first home if we chose them.    They even included a picture of themselves.  It was so stinkin’ cute.  And we were sold. (Note to buyers: Include a personalized note with your offer.  It works.)

We adjusted some of the finer points on the contract and accepted their offer.  

The home inspection went well since the house was so new. We had some minor things to fix, but fortunately, it was all stuff we could do ourselves.  And then came the appraisal.  At this point, we’d just closed on our new home and were itching to pack and move.  But, we needed to keep our home show-ready until the appraisal results were in.  So, we packed up the closets and anything hidden in the meantime. Being the impatient person I am… This was hard.  I just wanted to pack everything. Like, now.

And then we got the results of the appraisal. (Cue the sad foreshadowing music)

The thing about appraisals is, they’re luck of the draw. Most appraisers are good and want deals to happen, but then a few crazies enter the mix. And we got one. Even though other houses in our neighborhood – houses without wood floors, crown molding, granite countertops, backyard landscaping, extended patio, etc. – had been selling at or above our sales price, our appraiser deemed that our home did not make value. And not just by a little bit. By $9000. That’s a HUGE amount considering that our price point wasn’t super high to begin with. Everyone was shocked. Our realtor, their realtor, us, them. Everyone. Everyone felt that our sales price was fair. Everyone but the appraiser. And unfortunately, he had the say-so on the loan amount that the bank would award the buyers. Basically, his stating that our home was valued at $9000 less than the sales price meant that the bank would now give our buyers $9000 less money for their loan.

Thus, if we still wanted our contracted sales price, the buyers would have to make up the difference in cash. Which they didn’t have. So, here we were. Owners of two houses. Finding out that our appraiser had royally screwed us over. #badday

Our realtor spoke with the appraiser, simply to find out the appraiser’s motivation for valuing our house so low.  He pointed out why our house was worth the sale price,  (ie: the MANY available comps and the fact that our house had all the bells and whistles (where the others didn’t)).  But, it didn’t matter.  I just couldn’t believe that there was black and white data available to clearly back our sales price, but instead of choosing to use that information, the appraiser chose to screw over perfectly good people instead.  Most of us involved in the transaction would lose out based on the appraisal report.

At this point, our realtor informed us that our options were (1) drop the price, (2) end the contract, put the house back on the market, and hope for a better appraiser next time, (3) hope that the buyers could offer us SOMETHING… Meet us in the middle. Just SOMETHING so that we wouldn’t lose money (as we would at the appraised value after closing costs and fees). He talked to their realtor and we waited. It was absolute torture.

In the end, all parties ended up contributing something to make the deal happen. The buyers added money, both of our realtors gave up part of their commissions, and we ended up sacrificing over $4000 in sales price thanks to our shoddy appraiser. All of these factors basically added up to is splitting the difference between our sales and appraised prices. Ugh. Better than the appraised price, obviously, but still… UGH!!!  That $4000 would’ve gone a long way towards the improvements needed at the new place.  All because of one turd person.  You can probably guess that the non-sleeping-issue continued for me throughout this entire process.  It was pretty exhausting.

In any case, everything else went okay and we closed on Wednesday. Thus, I’m happy to say that we are the owners of two homes no mo’. (Hallelujah!) So, now all of our stuff is officially at the new house, though I refuse to say that we’re “moved in” until we’re able to actually enter rooms without doing the moving-box-shuffle and/or complete any given task without a “wait, where did we pack that?”. So, this weekend we will be unpacking fools. And then the real fun begins…. (Mischievously rubs hands together)

 

12 Tips for staging and showing a house

Hello all!   This is me.  Typing on my computer.  Eagerly awaiting the getting-of-the-keys for our new house.  The sellers will be out on Wednesday… they negotiated a 7 day lease-back after closing to allow them time to move.   It’s so weird to know that the house is ours, but we can’t visit it yet.  A deal is a deal, though… but, dang, is this torture (forme).  So, in the meantime, we wait.  And as I wait, I’ve thought about our lives over the past 6 weeks.  A large part of which was spent was prepping and staging our home to be sold.   After having our home on the market (and having seen many homes on the market), I definitely have a fresh appreciation for staging. We’ve gone through the process of listing a house twice at this point, and I’ve learned a ton each time. So, I thought I’d share my favorite tips. You may have heard a few of these before, but I can’t emphasize their importance enough.  Seriously, they’re worth the time and effort.  So, with that said, here we go…

1. Organize!!  You saw this process first-hand when I organized No Man’s Land, the craft closet, mud room and Lucas’s closet. I also organized our master closet, hall closets and drawers/cabinets as time allowed. I just didn’t write posts about them. I started this process WAY ahead of time. I knew that we were house-hunting, but I had no idea when we would actually find something. So, better safe than sorry. And I can’t even tell you how glad I was that all of that was done when we found our new house. It made staging our home so much quicker.  Plus, because our secondary closets are small, I’m especially glad that I staged both Lucas’s closest and the craft closet in different ways to demonstrate their usability.

2. Purge!! Get rid of anything that’s taking up precious space.  If your rooms are cluttered with extra furniture or tchotchkes, clear them out. You want your home to look put together and cozy, but not cluttered. With our first home, we actually rented a storage unit and moved any excess furniture, boxes, and extraneous stuff there.. It helped a lot. Especially with the closets. We only kept items in the closets that we used frequently to allow them to appear spacious and organized. All lesser-used items went into the storage unit.

3. Plants. Although you want an uncluttered space, you don’t want it to appear cold. Keep out some nicer accessories as well as house plants. Plants warm up spaces and make them appear loved. So, include them. Also, our first realtor told us to leave a bowl of green and red apples on the kitchen counter or table. She said it evokes a feeling of health and well-being, so I did that both times.  Whether or not it had an effect is beyond me, but I figured it was worth a shot.

4. Personal pictures. I know that most experts say to remove all personal pictures/accessories. I’m personally on the fence about this as I think it depends on how the pictures are displayed. Huge poster-sized wedding pic above the fireplace?? Yeah, I’d probably change that out. Something like our asymmetrical frame wall??

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I left it. Why?? Because I felt like the overall style and placement of the gallery wall was the star of the show here. Not the personal photos so much. Since the larger frames contained more neutral art, and only some of the smaller photos were of us (and theses pictures were artsier candid shots for the most part), I felt like the frame collage only enhanced the space and showed how this wall could be used. Now, I will clarify that this is the only place in the house that we have family pictures. If they were displayed in every room, I’d definitely consider changing some of them out so as not to overwhelm the buyers with our smiling faces.

5. Clean EVERYTHING. And keep it clean. I started this process several weeks prior to listing our home.  Begin with the less frequent tasks like cleaning your oven, windows, fridge, etc. Clean your fridge even if you’re taking it with you. Buyers look at everything and you don’t want anything to turn them off. Plus, it’s less for you to do later. Knock a few chores off your list each day until you’re left with your more frequent tasks. Then keep those up. Not much of a cleaner? Hire someone to do a deep-cleaning once, then simply maintain it.

6. Fix anything that’s partially done or needs maintenance. We had a water spigot and some drywall that needed repair in the exterior/garage. We knew that an inspector would flag that during the home inspection and that if the buyers requested for us to fix it, we would have to hire a licensed plumber to stay in compliance with our contract. This equals increased expense. It was a simple fix that Joey was more than capable of doing himself, so he knocked it out before the house was listed. Now, don’t get me wrong… A licensed plumber/electrician/HVAC person, etc., should be hired for more technical fixes, so I’m definitely not recommending attempting something beyond your skill set… But this was an easy item that Joey had done a number of times. So, he did it himself to save a buck.

7. Come up with a toy system if you have kids. Pack up any toys your kids don’t play with regularly to reduce clutter. Lucas sort of did this himself this time around when he decided to donate most of his toys, but with our first home, I simply put most of his seldom-used toys in storage.  And seriously, y’all… he didn’t miss them.  Since the living room was/is his most common play-spot and his toys usually end up here….

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I grabbed an extra basket that I had on hand and had him put his toys in there when he wasn’t playing with them. Having the basket available was super handy if we needed to get out of the house fast for a showing. I just scooped them all in there and placed it under his white table. I also emphasized that he was to only play with one thing at a time. That he needed to put away toys when he was done before pulling out something new. This took a good deal of reinforcement (AGOODDEAL), but worked out in the end and made last-minute showing prep so much less stressful.

8. On that note, keep things available for an easy escape. We kept all purses, shoes, wallets etc. right by the garage door so that we could just grab ’em and go if we got the call. No more, “Lucas, where did you put your shoes??!” “Mom, they’re not shoes, they’re sandals!” (Arg! Beside the point, man!). We’d asked for one hours notice for showings beforehand, but that time goes awfully quick in a pinch.

9. Remove any attached item that you don’t want to sell. If you have a certain lighting or plumbing fixture that you want to take with you, replace it before you list your house. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to leave it. Also, in many states, if you don’t specify otherwise, all window treatments are included with the sale of the house as well as any shelves attached to the walls. This came as a total surprise to me the first time we sold our house. I thought only the window blinds conveyed, so I removed all curtains and curtain rods and packed them. Imagine my annoyance when I found out that those stayed. I had to unpack and rehang them, which was the last thing I wanted to take time to do in the midst of packing. This time around, I made sure to specify in the listing that the blinds conveyed, but curtains, curtain rods, and the shelves in both the living room and Lucas’s room were not included in the sale of our home. I don’t get why the buyers would even want your curtains, especially if they don’t go with their stuff.

10. Tout any improvements from the rooftops. Bring the buyers attention to these things… It helps them equate these improvements to the amount of work they DON’T have to do upon buying your house. Create lists, frame them, and display them prominently in your home…

I did this with the sale of both of our houses and it worked great.  In fact, after 3 weeks of having our first house on the market, I finally displayed a list of improvements, and our house sold to the very next showing. Success in my book (even if it wasn’t the list that entirely did it)!  This time around, since we had our house built, I created two lists… One was a list of upgrades included during construction, the second was improvements added since construction. I didn’t include dates this time around since we’ve only lived in the house for a year and a half, but the first time I included the months/years that the improvements were made.

11. Make your house smell good. Bake cookies, heat up cinnamon on foil in the oven, use a Scentsy, whatever. Be sure your home smells welcoming. Nothing is a bigger turnoff than a musty, stinky house.  So, don’t go nose-blind.  Take action!

12. Don’t underestimate lighting. Put on fresh eyes. Pretend the house isn’t yours and walk through with the eyes of a buyer. Add lighting to any area that seems dark or unwelcoming. Move a lamp, or simply make sure the lights are on when you leave the house for a showing. It really makes a huge difference. You want the home to feel light and bright from the second a buyer walks in.  I literally turned on every light/lamp in the house for every showing this time around.  The one exception was the overhead light in the master bedroom.  I wanted the master to seem cozy and serene and the overhead light just seemed glaring (plus, the wall of windows allowed in plenty of natural light anyways).  I simply turned on our bedside lamps in that space and called it a day.

So, that’s pretty much what I’ve got.  I’m not gonna lie… keeping a house show-ready (especially with kids) is no joke.  But it can be done.  Hopefully getting a jump on a few things will help keep the process easier to manage.

And with that said, I must return to my original obsession:  I’m positively antsy to get access to the new place so that I can take some house tour pics to share with ya’ll.   Hopefully, if I play my cards right (ahem! If I can tear myself away from our new, currently-internetless house for long enough), I’ll have something up later this week.   So, with that, I say adieu for today.  I hope ya’ll have a great week!  Catch ya on the flip side! 🙂

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