Moving, Selling, & Buying
Ok, so today our house looks like this:
We did get Clara’s room pretty settled though (we want her to feel right at home – and light blocking curtains are a must to get her to bed). We left nearly all of the curtains in our old house, but we wrote these guys into the listing as coming with us since she picked them out. And as for our new place, she LOVES it – probably thanks to doing lots of fun things with her here leading up to the move (like painting castles and a big piece of fabric for her birthday photo). When she came running into her all-set-up bedroom for the first time, she laughed, squealed, and skipped right to the window and played with her dolls. That’s my girl.
But as for the rest of the house… woof.
So – spontaneous decision! – while we get settled and find our underwear, this week is going to be moving week! Turns out you guys still wanted to hear a whole lot about the sale of our current house. So let’s do the dang thing. Here’s what we plan to cover in honor of Spontaneous Moving Week:
- How we staged/sold our house (including a glance at our real estate flyer, a list of what we changed before showings, etc)
- What we made when we sold our house vs. what we put in- budget breakdown included!
- Empty house pics (dude, it’s trippy to see your house all echoey and vacant, but it’s pretty awesome closure too)
- Moving day photos of our new house (we love having this Day One post from our last house to look back on)
- A house hunting post about a few other homes we casually checked out (sort of like these that we did last time)
- Other stuff that I’m forgetting right now because our house looks like this:
So onto the first bullet! We got a lot of questions like this:
“Did you stage your current home to sell it? I’d be interested to hear if you’ve made any small changes/put things in storage in order to make it seem less personal to potential buyers.”
“Would you be willing to share your For Sale flyer (obviously without any too-personal details like price and address)?
So here’s the little double sided flier we made in Photoshop (minus the address, price, and our contact info). Just click the image below to see it larger.
And here’s the back (again, just click it to see it bigger).
Turns out we’re not really staging rule followers in the traditional “neutralize and de-personalize” sense. The whole repaint-rooms-so-they’re-all-neutral-and-remove-all-personal-photos-from-the-wall approach isn’t really something we subscribe to since we sold our first house by owner without doing that, and it seemed to work out for us again this time around.
So when we were showing our house to potential buyers our frame hallway was still very much intact. We think it’s helpful to show off how cozy and personal a home can be. Chances are that it could “speak” to a prospective buyer more than a stark and stripped down house might anyway.
But that doesn’t mean we didn’t do anything at all before a showing. Instead of taking things away, we mostly focused on making things look their best. Here’s our list:
- We over-seeded the lawn a few weeks prior and let the rain do its thing to help the grass look fresh and green.
- We mulched the garden beds and planted a few annuals (it definitely ups curb appeal and sends a “this house is cared for” vibe)
- We organized closets, the attic, the basement (basically any nook people could peek into should look functional and not stuffed-to-the-gills)
- We wiped down counters in the kitchen and bathrooms and quickly polished the faucets with some Mrs. Meyers so they looked and smelled clean
- We rolled up the rug in the cooking part of the kitchen and stashed it at the new house, just to show off the cork flooring a bit more
- We mowed the grass and used a leaf blower on the driveway, patio, and deck to clear off any errant pollen/twigs/leaves/acorns
- We touched up any paint that was scuffed in doorways, baseboards, etc
- We also tucked Burger’s food and water away since it’s stored in our walk-in closet and we realized that might be weird for non-dog-folks who were trying to feel at home.
- We removed Clara’s bath toys along with her potty seat and sink stool from the hall bathroom so people without kids didn’t just see it as a “kids bathroom” (we left her other toys in baskets in the living room, nursery, and playroom since those seemed easy enough to see past)
- We removed the bath mats in every bathroom to make them seem more spacious and show off the tile (matted stepped-on-with-shoes bath mats aren’t always that pretty, which tends to happen during showings).
- We vacuumed, dusted, and generally cleaned things up (this included following Clara around for the last half-hour before the showing and singing the clean up song about a million times while we dumped stuff into bins and baskets)
- I took a damp rag with a bit of mild soap (Mrs Meyers) and scrubbed the front door, which was still glossy and yellow, but had a haze of pollen. It really made a difference and only took five minutes!
- We left the separate entry basement door unlocked during showings so people could easily check out that space without trekking down there and then finding themselves locked out
- We put a little note on the microwave cabinet in the kitchen and said “there’s a vented microwave in here!” so people knew where to look
- We tossed a runner on the table on the deck along with a few cups (even though the furniture came with us, adding some color and that sit-right-down vibe couldn’t hurt)
Most of those items just had to be done once before the first showing, and then keeping them up for the following ones wasn’t too bad. Sure, getting a toddler and a dog out of the house on time before each one was a little hectic, but we feel really lucky to have only had three showings this time around (we had 14 last time!). What do you guys do when your house is on the market? Any other tips for folks who are about to list?
Holy cow, did we just sell our house?
(I’ll pause while Sherry flails around since that sentence is a trigger).
Now that we’re through the inspection & the appraisal (and the closing date is officially on the calendar), we’re finally at the point that we feel safe enough to shout it to the interwebs (we waited until this point to share the “we sold our house” news last time too). Of course nothing’s guaranteed until we’re all signing on the dotted line in early June, but so far, so good…
First, some background: Sherry was set on selling our house FSBO (For Sale By Owner) again. She argued that we stood to save nearly ten grand – or even more – by not owing a Realtor the 6% commission. Even if we sold to a buyer with an agent (like we did last time) we’d only be out 3% instead of 6%… so the numbers were pretty compelling. But I still wasn’t so sure. I remembered the stress that we felt last time and was also curious to experience selling with an agent. We came to a compromise. We decided we’d try straight up FSBO for a week. If that didn’t work, we’d list it on MLS for a few hundred bucks ourselves (which is what got us a buyer last time) and if there still weren’t offers a few weeks later, we’d think about engaging a Realtor.
Now for the timeline details:
Friday, April 26: The Realtor who helped us buy our new house (Anne) checks in to see if our current house is on the market yet (she knew we were hoping to sell it sometime this spring). Turns out she has some buyers looking for a ranch and she thinks ours would be perfect. We tell her that we’ll be sharing the news/putting it on the market in four days. She says she’ll call us back if they want to see it then. This is a reenactment. And it makes Sherry cry laugh.
Saturday & Sunday, April 27 & 28: We spend the weekend furiously getting last minute projects done, on the off chance that we get any quick interest (we’ll write up a whole post about what we did to “stage” our house for a showing soon).
Now here’s where the days become a bit more action-packed…
Monday, April 29
- 2 pm: Anne the Realtor calls. Her buyers are very excited about seeing our house. She wants to bring them by the next day at 2pm. Yikes!
- 2:30 pm: Come down from the high of our first scheduled showing to realize we haven’t made a flyer or decided on a sale price. Uhh…. better get on that.
- 3 pm: Begin frantically cleaning the house. Since when did Clara have so many toys? And where would we be without storage ottomans?
- 9:30 pm: After some scrambling and looking at comparable homes for sale, we pick a list price and throw together a flyer.
- 12:30 am: Computer freezes while attempting to print flyer. File is lost. Too tired to recreate.
Tuesday, April 30
- 7 am: Up early-ish to recreate flyer and proofread our post with the new house news.
- 9 am: Flyer is printed. House still doesn’t look clean enough. More cleaning commences.
- 10 am: Post is up and comments are rolling in faster than we can keep up with them, but the caulk around the tub is too grimy. Where’s the caulk gun?
- 1:30 pm: House is looking presentable, but we’re a sweaty mess. Good thing Anne the Realtor will be doing the showing.
- 1:45 pm: Anne arrives early (as planned) for us to show her some of the improvements since she last visited.
- 1:55 pm: Buyers are early (not as planned) so we high-tail it out of there so they can look around without us hovering.
- 2 pm: Since we have Burger with us as well as Clara, we kill time at a nearby dog-friendly walking mall. We have some fun browsing places like Banana Republic (where Clara and Burger try out the three way mirror) and Build-A-Bear (without actually building a bear, which is a parental coup if we’ve ever had one).
- 3 pm: It’s a full hour later – and Clara’s naptime – but we haven’t received a call from Anne that we’re clear to come home. We try giving her a ring but our call goes to voicemail.
- 3:15 pm: Clara’s late for her nap and she’s getting tired of being at the mall. We assume Anne forgot to call us and drive home.
- 3:30 pm: We turn onto our street to see Anne and the buyers just getting into their cars. Wow. An hour and a half at a first showing seems pretty good. Maybe they liked it!
- 3:31 pm: Anne calls to say they really liked it and they were going to sleep on it, crunch some numbers, and get back to us.
- 4 pm: We’re excited and relieved, but have tons of comments to catch up on. Plus, we’ve had a few other house-interest emails from locals. We’re a pretty even mix of grateful, tired, and nervous.
- 8pm: We’ve sent out a few other flyers via email and have scheduled another showing for 11am the next morning. How did this house get so messy already? Oh yeah, our three year old…
- Midnight: House is reasonably clean again. We crash for the day.
Wednesday, May 1
- 5 am: Sherry can’t sleep thinking about all of the new house projects and potential buyer excitement. She begins drafting a Q&A post for you guys.
- 5:30am: I get up to go to the gym before the girls wake up. Clearly I missed Sherry rolling out of bed already.
- 7:30am: I’m back. Clara’s up. Time to get her fed and ready to go on an adventure with Grammy.
- 10am: Post is up. Clara’s with Grammy. Counters need wiping down post-breakfast. House is ready for its second showing.
- 11am: Potential buyers show up with their agent. Sherry, Burger, and I go for a walk (pretend this is a picture of Sherry, me, and Burger instead of a shot with Clara and no Sherry).
- 11:30am: Get a call from someone that we sent a flyer to last night while we’re out on our walk. They want to come see the house that afternoon. Woo hoo!
- Noon: Second showing is done. Agent says they liked it a lot, and have to talk to their lender with some questions. I let the agent know there’s another interested buyer but that no offers have come in yet.
- 2:30pm: Clara is back from Grammy’s and the third potential buyers show up. They don’t have an agent, so I show them around the house while the girls go walking with Burger. Sherry’s getting lots of exercise today!
- 3pm: Third showing is done. They seem to like it, but don’t appear as interested as the other two families.
- 3:30pm: Anne the Realtor calls. She’s sending us an offer from the first couple who walked through our house yesterday. It’s strong, but $5k below our asking price. “Thanks so much! We’ll get back to you soon!” is our response (while we sweat profusely).
- 4pm: We think things through and discuss everything a few dozen times. I call the buyer’s agent from the morning showing just to let him know that we have an offer on the table. He asks me to hold tight, they’ll have one for us within a few hours. Whaaa?!!!
- 7pm: Second offer comes in. It’s not as strong as the first. Bummer, but at least it helps make the decision clear. We call Anne back, tell her we have another offer, and ask if we can meet in the middle on the price ($3k above their offer, which is just $2k below our asking price).
- 7:15pm: Anne calls to say that the buyers have agreed to the new price and she’ll be bringing over papers for us to sign in an hour!
- 8:30pm: We sign about twenty papers with our minds spinning. Our house is officially under contract! And it’s less than 36 hours after our first showing. In our heads we’re doing a celebratory Elaine-from-Seinfeld dance, but in reality we’re too tired to move.
Now we just have a bunch of little things to check off of our list (a few inspection items, ordering a final termite inspection, and of course packing things up and getting moved into the new house). Should be a busy month!
I can’t tell you how grateful and relieved we are at how quickly and smoothly this second FSBO process has been so far (just like last time we’ll pay 3% to the buyer’s agent, but we saved nearly 10K by marketing the house ourselves and acting as our own seller’s agent). We hear the market is really coming back and it’s a great time to sell, so for anyone wondering, many other homes in our area seem to be getting contracts within a week or even a few days of listing them assuming they’re priced right and show nicely. So hopefully that’s good news for everyone!
We assumed we might end up selling our house to a reader who came to us through the blog, but hilariously enough, just like when we sold our first house, our buyer isn’t a blog reader and didn’t find out about our house because of our site at all. It was just coincidence (serendipity?) that we kept our Realtor in the loop and she happened to have a buyer looking for an updated one-level ranch like ours. So it might also be nice to hear that you definitely don’t need a blog to sell your house, although I’m sure the updates that we did certainly helped us sell it.
So far this experience feels like a stark contrast to our first time selling a home back in 2010. That took us 14 showings over more than 3 weeks, and a variety of promotional attempts (craigslist, forsalebyowner.com, MLS, a sign out front, etc). It was stressful, but even then we were grateful that it didn’t drag on for months. So we certainly are counting our lucky stars for the speed at which things happened with this house! As of right now we’re planning to move to our new house in around three weeks. Holy cow, we better start packing!