Posted by John on August 15th, 2013
Relax everyone. We didn’t sell our current house. We aren’t going anywhere. I’m talking about our first home. Lately, I’ve been a bit under the weather so we haven’t done a whole lot of home improvement work around here. I’ve been going through a lot of our old posts and noticed we never really discussed how we sold our first home. It’s worth writing about for three reasons: we sold it ourselves, we sold it in two days and we learned a ton from the process. So this post is about how we sold our home quickly and if you’re currently trying to sell your home or you’re thinking about it, I think this post may be helpful.
Before we Listed the House
For several months preceding the sale of our first house, we were looking for a new place to live. We loved our home, but in our hearts, we’re both suburb people. The house was located in the city and while it wasn’t “downtown” by any measure, it was still very much a city environment. Don’t get me wrong, the city is a blast and certainly has its advantages, but we were ready for a change of pace. So, we spent our weekends going to open houses and checking out builders. After not finding anything we loved, we had talked about just selling the place and maybe renting until we found something we loved, but that never really materialized. That changed one Saturday when we walked into the model home for our current home. Something clicked and we were suddenly very motivated. After giving it some serious thought for a few days, we signed a contract to build our current home. That decision was both incredibly exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. What if we couldn’t sell our home? Back in 2010, when this was taking place, the real estate market in our area wasn’t exactly roaring.
Properly motivated, we set out to finish all the home projects that were still hanging out. There’s a popular saying that you’re not finished working on your home until the day you move out. That was certainly true in our case. Thankfully, those last projects were mostly minor and we were able to wrap them up before our first showing.
Listing it Ourselves
We made the decision to list the home ourselves and went with Owners.com. Why sell it ourselves? For one, we weren’t thrilled with the idea of giving a seller’s agent 3% of the sale price. We also thought we could handle the showings and interacting with perspective buyers. Since we still lived in the home and didn’t have any kids, we could be pretty flexible with our showing schedule. Honestly though, the biggest reason was saving some dough.
The most important thing to selling a home yourself, in our opinion, is getting the listing on the MLS (multiple listing service). The MLS is what realtors look at for their buyers and it’s the database that Realtor.com, Trulia, Yahoo and other real estate listing websites get their homes. If we tried to sell the house ourselves just by using a For Sale By Owner sign or an ad on craigslist, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.
The Owners.com approach was pretty straight forward, and I expect this to be a pretty standard practice with other DIY realty sites (but verify it first obviously). You pay a one time flat fee of a few hundred dollars and not a percentage commission. These sites usually have some sort of package deal with varying price levels. Once you’ve paid, Owners.com sets you up with a local realtor that provides you the necessary paperwork to fill out. You fill out the forms and email some photos of your house and the realtor enters the listing into the MLS. That realtor’s contact information may also be listed on the MLS and Realtor.com as a point of contact, but they just pass along any interested buyers directly to you. That’s the extent of that realtor’s involvement. They don’t get any additional money from you or the buyer. They’re just a middleman in this model. Now, we did this three years ago, so some of this may have changed, but that’s how it worked in 2010. I’d like to add that if a buyer has an agent, they still get a commission. But paying one commission for 3% beats paying two for 6%.
How We Sold Our Home Quickly
At this point we had signed a contract for a new home and had just listed our house on the MLS. The listing hit the MLS on a Tuesday morning and by lunch time that same day, we had a few calls and booked a showing for that same night. The initial interest was a relief and Lisa and I were excited that people actually wanted to see it.
In a normal real estate showing, the owners of the home are usually out and the buyer’s agent accompanies their client for a walk thru. We know that because that’s how it worked when we bought that first house. We probably could have opted to do that as well, but we decided to stick around for the showing. We thought if there were any questions from buyers about the history or the remodeling, we’d be available immediately with answers.
The first couple to see it seemed to like it, but they were cool customers and didn’t show their hand. They thanked us and left. We had a second showing later that evening, but they didn’t seem very interested and openly talked about all the work they would need to do. Sometime after the second showing, the couple from the first showing called us and made an offer. We were thrilled. We played it cool though and told them we’d think about it. After a few phone calls going back and forth on the price, we accepted an offer we liked. That was Wednesday night.
Why It Sold Quickly
There are a lot of intangibles when it comes to fast home sales: Location, price point, schools, condition and age of the home, competition, on and on. It’s not easy to explain why some homes sell in a week and some homes sell after being on the market for a year or more. I can only tell you why I think our home sold quickly.
We Had an Aggressive Asking Price
After living in that house for six plus years, I knew how much money I thought it was worth, but that’s not enough. We had to look at comparable homes for sale in our area. We looked at houses that had similar number of bedrooms, bathrooms and central air. The second bathroom and central air were critical items in our area since most houses were older and even the newly remodeled ones lacked a second bathroom and not all of them included central cooling. Looking at these sample homes, it became obvious what price ranges weren’t selling. We needed to be below that threshold. More importantly, since we wanted a quick sale, we thought it was important to be clearly below what we thought we could get for it in an ideal market. That was a hard decision to make, but we hoped that we’d get some foot traffic because of it and maybe there would be multiple offers. We had real concern though that after already setting a low price we’d get low ball offer. Didn’t mean we had to take them though, so we marched on with our aggressive price.
The House was Turn Key
Even as soon as a year before we sold it, we avoided large drawn out projects that would take forever to finish. We kept adding improvements, but most of the projects we did at that point were smaller. We concentrated on paint colors that had mass appeal, simple decor that complemented the size and age of the home and avoided clutter. The goal was to not have any conversations with potential buyers that sounded like: “Well, we meant to get to that” or “All you need to do is fix..” There was literally nothing left to do.
We Took Great Photos
I wish we still had copies of the photos we used for our listing. They were great. We took photos of nearly every room from multiple angles, so there was nothing really unknown from the listing. Looking at homes online ourselves, it drove us crazy when a house had a great asking price in a sweet neighborhood, but only had a couple photos. To me, if a listing has a few photos, it means the seller is hiding something. The more pictures the better. We didn’t even have an SLR back then. Our point and shoot worked fine, but if you have a friend or relative with an SLR, that’s even better.
We were Motivated
Like I mentioned earlier, we signed a contract for a new home. We were itching to leave. If we hadn’t had that pressing need to get out, there’s a chance we may have held out for higher offers or a bidding war. The fact of the matter is, we took the first offer that came along. The offer was solid though and it had no contingencies.
So that’s how we sold our home quickly. I’d like to emphasize that home sales can be long and difficult regardless of the circumstances. Just because you’re doing everything right, doesn’t mean it will work out. This is just what worked for us.
Posted by John on February 7th, 2013
Happy Friday everybody! Hope your week has been a good one. Last Saturday we celebrated our daughter’s 2nd birthday with a small family party. I guess small family is kind of a relative term in this case. Plus we had a few neighbors. We decided to go with a Wiggles theme since she’s a HUGE fan of the show. Lately she’s also into Caillou. It’s not my favorite show, but she lets me watch hockey whenever the Flyers are on and I let her watch Caillou. I think that’s only fair.
In case you’re not familiar with the Wiggles, it’s a group of Australian dudes that wear colored t-shirts and sing and dance. She’s a big fan of their music. There are few things cuter in life than watching a 2 year old try to dance along with a TV show. They each wear a different color: purple, red, blue and yellow. So, the challenge for decorating the party was to try to incorporate those hues into the party decor.
Instead of using our house like we did at her party last year, this year we rented out a local small school house. It was ideal. All we had to do was some light cleaning afterwards and we were set.
For food, we had a decent variety with pasta and potato salad, lunch meats, tomato pie and Chik-Fil-A nuggets (jackpot).
Lisa made some Wiggles colored cake pops for dessert to supplement the birthday cake.
She didn’t stop there either. She also had time to make cookies! Everyone got a little cookie baggie as party favors. The best party favors are ones you can eat before you get to your car, IMHO.
My favorite dessert also made an appearance, pretzel donuts!! While they may look like your average glazed donut, make no mistake, these donuts are something different. They are amazing. I’m convinced they alter the part of your brain responsible for decision making. I’ve seen people snort them. One of the neighbors that attended is now a full blown pretzel donut addict. The thing is, these donuts may not even be the best product this bakery makes. Scary.
We also put together special little goodie bags for the other little kids in attendance.
All the invitations, the cookie bags and the kids’ party favors had these custom made Wiggle graphics. Lisa took a stock Wiggle image, added the stars background in Photoshop and printed them all up. Fun stuff.
So, I think Lisa and I are both hoping that this time next year we’re not posting about a Caillou themed 3rd birthday party. I’m not even sure what that would look like. I presume it would involve a lot of whining and disappointment as is the overarching theme of that cartoon.
What are your weekend plans? Any foods you’re addicted to or is that just me (and now Mike)?
Posted by John on December 5th, 2012
Things are a bit busy at the moment. Work is hectic, which is typical before the holidays and I’ve got about a week left in my grad class. I’m really enjoying the course, but it does eat into my free time like a son of a gun. Looking forward to the Christmas break. I’ll have something like six weeks until classes resume. Two more classes after this current course and I’ll have degree in hand.
As a consequence of our recent schedule, we’ve been somewhat lax in our Christmas decor. We’re looking forward to posting on all the holiday cheer we’ll have in our home shortly. We DO have our tree up.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share some holiday photos of our beloved schnauzer/wolverine Finnie. Finnie isn’t big on wearing shirts or sweaters. They make him a bit nervous. That’s a shame, because we have a bunch of dog sweaters. (He’s actually really chill when he’s got one on and he doesn’t mind getting them on that much.)
Here’s Finnie back when he was still a puppy…
This was his first taste of Christmas cheer ala dog sweater. He was somewhat ambivalent on the whole issue, but Lisa and I were big fans because a.) he looked good b.) he stopped chewing on our cabinets when we was donning his gay apparel.
After the success of that first year, we naturally diversified his holiday wardrobe somewhat..
This maybe my favorite one yet. He looks like Chewbacca wearing a Japanese kimono.
There it is. It’s a “deck the halls” sweater. Look at him. He loves it. I think. Honestly, I’m not sure where his face is in this pic.
But wait, there’s more…
That’s a candy cane and snow flake sweater in case you were curious. It’s times like these that I wish he was a real person, just so I could whip these photos out to show his first girlfriend.
So do any of your holiday traditions involve your pets?
Posted by John on October 28th, 2012
Hey guys! Hope this weather filled week finds you well. Lisa and I are pretty much smack dab in the middle of the path of Hurricane Sandy. It’s not supposed to get terrible until sometime tomorrow. We’ve heard the eye of the storm will make landfall around Ocean City, NJ sometime in the early hours of Tuesday morning (1:00 AM or so). This is really the first major hurricane we’ve ever experienced. Last year, we had Irene, but I think that was a tropical storm by the time it reached us. Here’s how our Hurricane Sandy preparation is going…
1. We rounded up all of our flashlights and bought extra batteries. We have flashlights both downstairs in our kitchen and also in our bedroom in case the power goes out while we’re sleeping.
2. We did all of our laundry ahead of time. If the power goes out for a few days, it’s a bad time to be out of clean socks and underwear! Having a ton of clean clothes available means I’ll be able to get to work even if the power is out for an extended period after the storm.
3. We ran the dishwasher one last time and will be switching to disposable plates if we lose power. This is so we don’t have a ton of dishes sitting in the dishwasher. We could still wash dishes in the sink too if needed, but who wants to do that??
4. We cranked down the temperature of the fridge and the freezer. That switch will likely cause some of the items in the fridge to freeze, but it will extend the life of those same items if the power is lost. Also, keep the fridge doors closed and only open it for essentials. Don’t loiter with the doors open!!
5. We stocked up on ice. Lisa has been making ice like it’s her job and then emptying the trays into a gallon sized ziploc bag. If we lose power and it’s out for a good day or so, Lisa can dump the ice into a cooler with essential items like milk….. and bacon.
6. I went around the perimeter of the house and brought in anything that might fly or be blown away in high winds. Since we don’t have a deck or deck furniture, this amounted to a couple pumpkins ;).
7. I unplugged my landscape lighting’s transformer from the exterior outlet.
8. Both cars are in the garage.
9. Lisa stocked up on some baby formula that has a long shelf life if we run out of milk. Lisa and I can stick with water, but the baby needs her nutrients!
10. We also stocked up on a good amount of non-perishable food items and Lisa baked some last minute items like biscuits..
11. We do have beer in the house, so nobody panic. Remain calm. It’s not an Octoberfest, but we go into power outages with the beer we have, not the beer we want.
12. We’re keeping our phones charged constantly.
13. Most importantly, we’re keeping a close eye on the news and weather reports in case we need to evacuate.
If you noticed, we’ve been down to about 2 posts a week for the past few weeks. Things have been busy around here lately and we have a lot of catch up posts to share. But for now, if you’re affected by Hurricane Sandy, we hope you stay dry and safe!!
Hopefully we’ll be able to post again on Tuesday for the Pinterest Challenge!
Are you in the path of the storm? What are you doing to stay safe and dry?
Posted by John on August 16th, 2012
In our last post, we talked about the first day of our Washington DC trip. Today, we’re going to show you the great time we had on our second day. Amazingly, we pretty much did everything Kristen and Joe did from Popcorn on the Stove, just a day earlier!! Can’t believe we didn’t run into them.
After gorging ourselves on room service Thursday night, we awoke refreshed and marched over to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum just as it opened. Our daughter slept in her stroller the entire hour we were in there, which made it easier. If you’re a sci-fi or air and space geek like me, this place is pretty much the place to be. I could’ve spent DAYS here. There is a ton of interesting displays and historical pieces. The gift shop was awesome.
Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis? Check.
NASA Apollo 11 and Gemini capsules? Check.
Now apparently there are two Air and Space centers. The one we visited on the National Mall and another in Virginia. I believe the one in Virginia has larger items, like the Space Shuttle Discovery. Must. go. there.
After we left the Smithsonian, we headed over to the National Archives building and saw the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Worth checking out. No photos were permitted, so we obviously don’t have any.
Across the street from the Archives is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Lisa wanted to show our daughter some dinosaur fossils. The only dinosaurs she’s seen to date are on Dinosaur Train, so this was a rude awakening.
Our last stop was one Lisa was dying to check out for a while. We went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. While the gallery of presidents can be mildly educational, the rest is just media personalities. Lisa thoroughly enjoyed herself. She pretty much goofed off for a half hour.
There’s no way Tom Cruise is this tall in real life. Uh uh.
As for me, I got to poo-poo the people I’m not a fan of and thumbs up the one’s I like.
Not a fan of the Capitals. Not even a little.
Since I don’t want this to be a political blog, I think we’ll leave it at that.
We had a great time in DC and are hoping to get back down there again sometime soon. There are a bunch of sights we didn’t get to see that are still on our list. Amazing how many things there are to do there.
Have you ever been to a wax museum before? Did you take stupid pictures too?