Hey guys! Thanks for stopping by for the transcript of Episode 56. If you’d rather listen to this episode than read 8,000 words, you can click the player below or learn how to get them on your phone (for free) here.
[Intro theme music begins.]
John: I’m John.
Sherry: And I’m Sherry.
John: We like home stuff.
Sherry: We like talking.
John: And we like the occasional game show sound effect. [pulsing sound effect] So welcome to Young House Love Has A Podcast, where we have deep and not-so-deep conversations about DIY, design, and life at home.
Sherry: Today we reveal the secret behind our most successful yard sale ever. We update you guys on the toy purge we did in the spring, and we share the giant mistake that we made when we sold our first house by owner.
[Intro theme music ends.]
John: Hey, everyone!
Sherry: Hello! Well, what’s new with me this week is that I went through another burst of wanting to pare down and simplify. If you guys have been listening for a little while, you might remember there was an episode where we went away on vacation for spring break, and I was reading this book about paring down. Then I came home and all the things got donated. I halved the kids’ toys. Halved. 50%. They play more and longer, and it was wonderful.
But I felt a creep. You know, it’s summer now, so it’s been a full season, and not one, but two of our children have had birthdays. In my head, I knew things weren’t as pared down as they used to be, and I thought, I need to just spend a few solid hours just going through the game cabinets and all of the baskets of toys.
John: Well, I think that the other thing that’s going on is with all the influx of stuff for the beach house, that it’s making the house more cluttered than we would like. We can’t really solve that right now, so I think you’re kind of trying to focus your energy on the things that could be fixed, like things would could pare down.
Sherry: Exactly. Well, I just wanted to make sure, and I felt like, oh, their birthdays came. It’s out of control. And then, when I actually looked at everything, it was not as bad as I thought. In my head, I had created this big anxiety ball, and then, when I looked at everything, I was like, oh, yeah. There’s a new jewelry-making kit, but our daughter plays with it all the time. A lot of their gifts, which was really helpful, were experiences. They got a lot of movie tickets or activities that they got to do as gifts, and so I think that really helped not create a lot of house clutter.
John: But I still noticed you were able to get rid of some stuff. I think I saw some—what were those? Some weighted bracelets that you use to exercise with?
Sherry: [Laughs] I did not get rid of those.
Sherry: Those were when I intentionally exercise. You guys might remember a few episodes ago, I revealed that I have now learned I like accidental exercise and not intentional exercise.
John: So, intentionally, strapping weights to your wrists is not—
Sherry: Yes. I used to go to the gym with my best friend, and we’d walk on the treadmills together on a high incline with weights on my hands. I just don’t do that anymore, and I didn’t need the weights. They were by the door in the cubby, like, to go out the door. So I moved them to a drawer upstairs in case I like exercise when I hit my 40’s or something. Something might change.
John: In case your wrists are feeling unnaturally light.
Sherry: [Laughs] Exactly, exactly. Well, the kids had fun playing with them.
John: That’s true. They got some exercise.
Sherry: But I did—yes, you’re right. I think I snuck maybe one or two garbage bags of donations out, just things I thought our three-year-old might still play with. We’ve learned in the past three months, since that pare down, that he does not. He’s outgrown certain things. It was like maintenance paring down. I think where I’m at, is I’m very excited to have the beach house in a more finished place, not only to furnish that and have the excitement of all that, but also, I think, our house feels like it can’t fully be pared down until the beach house is fully assembled. Because, for example, when I look in my shelf of six vases that I’m not using right now, I know I don’t need six vases, but my head goes to well, I might want two of those vases at the beach house, but I’m not sure which colors or shapes.
John: These are such important decisions. [Sherry laughs] You can relate to how we are just wracked with anxiety.
Sherry: [Laughs] I just think I’m in this limbo, where I feel like what I want to do is finish the beach house, put whatever I need there, and then donate and/or have a large yard sale. Then, when we were talking about a big yard sale—because we like to host those every few years if we have things we want to get rid of, the funny stories we both realized, kind of in unison, we were talking about a yard sale that’s—
John: Yeah. We’ve been through this before.
Sherry: We didn’t talk about our last yard sale to you guys!
John: Yeah. We had a yard sale back, actually, in the fall of 2015. May I use this as my “What’s New?”
Sherry: Yes. Take it away, John!
John: Okay. Thank you. Official transition to me! We had a yard sale, just kind of in advance of finishing that bonus room above our garage, which had been an unfinished storage room for pretty much all the time that we lived here. Obviously, you can’t finish a room when it is packed to the gills with extra pillows and furniture and stuff that you might end up using some day in the future. So one of our first steps before we could even start that bonus room project of getting the contractor in and putting up drywall was to just clear it out. So we had kind of, what I would say, was a super successful/fail of a yard sale.
Sherry: [Laughs] It was. It was good for some reasons and terrible for some reasons.
John: Yeah. Yeah. I would say the reason why it was successful is that we sold out of everything within an hour.
Sherry: People were pulling up and saying, “Where’s the yard sale?” And we were like, “You missed it!” [Laughs]
John: Yes. We had to put signs up saying, [sarcastically] “All gone. Turn around. Go home.” [Sherry laughs] It was certainly the most frenetic yard sale that we’ve had.
Sherry: It really was. You know that I Love Lucy scene in the candy shop where she’s eating the candy, and she’s trying to keep up with the—?
John: The chocolate factory.
Sherry: Oh, that’s what it is! The conveyor belt?
Sherry: That was me at the yard sale, guys. I was like, “Oh, I didn’t price that! Oh, you need this change back! Oh, I need to get the tape measure! Oh, I owe you a dollar!” I was running around like a crazy person!
John: And I think part of the reason for that success of it was partially because we were selling stuff that was in relatively good condition. It was just stuff we had not used in a long time. It was all these extra accessories or small furniture pieces that we had been keeping just in case. It was also things leftover from both of our books that we were no longer using, like some furniture projects that didn’t have a space when we were all done with them.
Sherry: Right. They were just for the book, to be photographed, and we tried to work them in. In some cases they worked. It’s a testament to when you do a project just to do a project, it doesn’t always have a spot.
Sherry: It’s the same thing as when you buy something because it’s a good price. It doesn’t always have a spot in your house. Don’t buy something because it’s just on sale.
John: I hope you pay attention to this [Sherry laughs] when you listen back, Sherry. This is an important lesson for Sherry Petersik!
Sherry: I’m also saying it to myself, to remind myself. Just because something is beautiful, doesn’t mean you have to bring it into your house.
John: [Sarcastically] Yes, Future Sherry [Sherry laughs], pay attention to these wise words that Past Sherry is saying to you.
Sherry: Thank you, Future John.
John: Um, this is Present John.
Sherry: [Laughs] So it’ll be easy to keep you all straight!
John: Because we are weirdos, when we were taking a picture for the Craigslist listing, we took some time to get good photos.
Sherry: This is why it was a success, you guys. You have to work hard on the pictures.
John: We were still, like, in residual book mode, and so we were taking pictures of some of the items that were going to be there. We ended up kind of like styling a little scene in front of our garage.
Sherry: I basically treated it as if I had a storefront. You know, I’ve always dreamed of window design. I dabbled in it a little in college and a little bit after. I love the idea of, oh, give me a big glass window, and I’ll fill it with something cool.
Sherry: What we used as the backdrop was our closed garage door, which is a deep, bronzy-black color. So I put all these things in front of it, and I stack them up. There were different levels.
John: Um, we. We did this.
Sherry: We. John Petersik helped. Then we photographed it with the nice camera.
John: Yeah. It was probably the nicest Craigslist yard sale listing photo that the internet has ever seen. I’ll put it in the Show Notes at younghouselove.com/podcast so you can see what we mean.
But this was the fail part. We were doing this in October, and we’ve never had one in the fall before. So we set the start time at 7:00 a.m. because that’s when we’ve set many of our other ones to start. You know, there’s always those early birds that show up at 6:45, asking to get the first look of things. Well, I forgot that in October, 7:00, it’s still dark.
Sherry: Pitch black, not like dusky. It was like full dark [laughs].
John: Like flashlight dark. Yeah, we realized as we were getting up to set up in the darkness, and then, people start showing up.
Sherry: In the dark! It was like, you know those restaurants you hear that they’re pitch dark so that you can experience the flavors and the scents of the food.
John: People were buying just by texture.
Sherry: Right. It was like feeling it, putting it in your car, and having some faith that your phone was illuminating it enough to see what it was.
John: Yeah. It was all very strange. My takeaways from it are: next time we have a yard sale, I will take a nice picture of the stuff that we’re selling. I think anyone who is doing a yard sale, that’s a useful thing to give people a sense of the type of stuff that’s going be there. Is it mostly clothing? Is it big pieces like furniture? I mean, obviously, you want to photograph your flashiest stuff. I think you can make any stuff look relatively nice if you take just a couple moments to put it on a clear backdrop, shoot it in good light, and maybe take a second on your phone to brighten it, or whatever, to make it a good photo so it looks like someone cares about the stuff that they are selling. That is a tip that I am going to carry with me from this. But I’m also going to remind myself to start it at a normal time when the sun will be up.
Sherry: Right. Just look up sunrise, guys. It takes a second on an iPhone.
John: Oh, and now, I’m excited to announce the return of everybody’s new favorite music—
Sherry: Because we have another installment of our favorite segment called “Can We Just Talk About?”
[the best intro music you’ve ever heard plays]
Sherry: Okay, guys. It’s a pretty exciting topic this time. We’re going to tackle…
John: The microwave under our counter. Can we just talk about it? Because it seems like whenever we share a picture that has it in it, someone, who maybe presumably has seen it for the first time, wonders why we put it there. Do we hate it there? Do our children use it all the time and put the dog in there? [joking]
Sherry: It’s not that people are mean—
Sherry: – it’s just the one design decision that every time we show it, without fail, there is the discussion of what the thought behind the choice was.
John: Yeah. What the heck were you thinking? [sarcastically]
Sherry: If it’s annoying for John because we know he’s tall.
John: So we figured, let’s address here, not that that’s going to solve the problem entirely.
Sherry: Nope. You’ll still notice every time it’s on Instagram people will probably ask.
John: Well, it’s mostly just that I’m surprised that it’s still a conversation piece, maybe because you and I, granted we did put a lot of thought into that decision, but now that we’ve lived with it for so long, it’s like a non-issue for us. I actually quite like it.
Sherry: I know. I would recommend it.
John: I would recommend it too.
John: Officially on record, we recommend it. I mean, admittedly, microwaves are kind of weird sometimes. You know where you’re going to put your fridge. You know where you’re going to put a dishwasher. A microwave is often an afterthought, I feel like in a lot of kitchens, so it ends up on the counter or you mount it above the stove. We wanted to try to avoid both of those things. So we put there in the island, and I’ve actually learned to really like it.
Sherry: I love it.
John: It’s really convenient. I mean, we don’t use it a whole lot, but, for instance, I use it every morning when we make smoothies because I pop the frozen ingredients in there for 30 seconds to soften them a little bit. I find it makes the smoothie smoother. [Sherry laughs] A little side tip for ya!
Sherry: Smoothie smoothing expert over here, John Petersik [laughs].
John: I like having it right there because it’s super convenient. If you think about it, most of your appliances live under the counter. Like your dishwasher, you lean down to use that. Unless you have a wall oven, your oven is usually something you lean down for. So it’s actually kind of in the same zone of all those things.
Sherry: Right. I’ve learned that the fastest way to communicate to someone what it’s like is: “if you have problems unloading your dishwasher, and you wish your dishwasher was above your stove, then you might not like this.” The other way I describe it is if people ask if the children get into it or get hurt. Well, we just tell them not to touch it, just like we taught them not to touch a hot stove. The stove is within their reach, too, and they don’t put their hand on it. I actually think, in talking to someone who is like a childproofing expert, they were saying that at different age levels, it’s actually nice to teach your children what not to do instead of just keeping everything away from them. Because if they’re ever in another person’s house, for example if they’re on a playdate, and someone has a magnetized knife strip above the counter, your kids might be like, “Cool, a knife!”
John: That’s a good idea, yeah.
Sherry: So, basically, the child expert was saying, “Listen. You don’t give knives to two-year-olds, but as they get older, you just teach kids not to touch dangerous items.” It’s the same way you’d hate if you went to someone’s house and your kid didn’t know not to touch a hot stove. You just need to teach them.
John: And guess what! We’re putting it in the same spot in our beach house!
Sherry: We have such confidence in it that we’re doing exactly the same thing. It’s really nice, I think, to us who value the beauty of a kitchen and the effect you have when you walk in, like the “wow” factor of the kitchen, to get to put a hood over a stove. I think that just looks so nice. It’s not that a microwave looks bad, it’s that a hood elevates it. It’s like extra credit to get a beautiful hood. So in the beach house, we want to do the same thing. We got that cool pink stove. We didn’t want to have a silver or white microwave over the pink stove. So it became, let’s get a great hood, and we’ll put the microwave in the island again.
John: In case you haven’t seen the pictures of our microwave under the island in this kitchen, we will put a picture of it in the Show Notes at younghouselove.com/podcast. Thus concludes this installment of “Can We Just Talk About/We’re Going to Make an Impassioned Plea for the Undercounter Microwave.” [Sherry laughs] I realize it turned into that.
Sherry: It did. Well, I feel like people aren’t giving it it’s due.
John: The unsung hero.
Sherry: It is! But enough about that. I have a quiz for you, John. I have done research, and I have my notes in my hand. [rattles papers]
[Fun quiz show music begins.]
Sherry: This is an article published by Lonny. It’s called “Twenty-Five Interior Design Trends That Are Better in Theory.” I think someone actually sent this to me and said, “This would be a good ‘What’s Not’.” And I was like, “Shh, don’t tell John.”
John: People! These are supposed to come to me!
Sherry: But sometimes I like to take over and quiz you. So I’ve broken the rules of five, and I’ve picked seven things.
Sherry: One’s fake. The rest are really from the article. They’re all things that you might consider to be interior design trends that are better in theory. Number one, fiddle leaf figs.
John: I don’t understand a fiddle leaf fig in theory. [laughs] Okay? I’m going to have trouble wrapping my brain around this. I can tell.
Sherry: Number two, styled coffee tables.
John: Okay. Well, that I could see, yes, because, I mean, we have nothing on our coffee table, well, our ottoman, because it wouldn’t stay styled very long.
Sherry: Right. Feet go on there. Number three, shag rugs.
John: I could see that also. Is this things that are like in reality aren’t actually that functional or practical?
Sherry: Essentially, that’s what they’re saying—
John: Because I should be good at this!
Sherry: Yeah! They’re saying these are better in theory, but not always as good in practice.
John: Okay, okay. I’m on board now.
Sherry: Number four, Persian rugs in bathrooms.
John: Oh. I don’t know much about that.
Sherry: Tiny houses.
John: Well, okay, yes. That has to be on the list.
Sherry: Fresh flowers.
Sherry: Those pesky fresh flowers.
John: Yeah, I’m really going back and forth on this thing.
Sherry: And number seven is wheeled desk chairs.
John: Well, the wheeled desk chair stands out because we’ve found, in practice, those didn’t pan out as well because the wheels left scratches on our wood floor. So I could see you coming up with that as a fake. It was nice in theory because we could move around, but we were not willing to put one of those plastic pads down. That’s why we took the wheels off and put pads on them instead. They still move.
Sherry: And they swivel still. But they don’t scratch the floor anymore.
John: I also feel like the tiny houses, although I agree in practice, are not probably as good as they are in theory. That one is a little bit incongruous with the rest of the list. Okay, I’m just going to go for the last one, and says wheelie office chairs.
Sherry: You’re right.
John: Yes! [applause sound effect]
Sherry: I thought too hard about what to put in there that we could teach someone about, and it was so obvious to you that it was the one that was planted. [laughs]
John: Yes. I saw you lay that teaching moment out, and I took it, and I taught.
Sherry: [Laughs] But don’t you think some of them are funny, like fresh flowers and fiddle leaf figs?
John: Well, I mean, I could see how a fiddle leaf fig and a fresh flower are under that category of, like, they do take some care, and so they might look really gorgeous in a picture, but they do take upkeep, and they may not last as long as you hope they would.
Sherry: Other things I thought were interesting is I didn’t understand the Persian rug in bathrooms because I’m like, it’s just like any other rug. But they just said, “Not a great combo for bacteria.”
John: How’s that different from another rug?
Sherry: I don’t know. Maybe it’s because you couldn’t wash it or you’re not supposed to wash a Persian rug.
John: I guess so.
Sherry: I just thought it was funny that they were like, “Bacteria central.” [laughs]
John: Yeah. Well, I think the obvious thing for a bathroom is you want a rug that you don’t have to worry about, and you can throw in the laundry to just clean or freshen up a little bit. Maybe a Persian might take a little bit more care, especially if it’s an antique.
Sherry: Exactly. There’s 25, so you can check them all out. We’ll put the link to this article from Lonny in the Show Notes. Again, it’s called “Twenty-Five Interior Design Trends That Are Better in Theory.”
John: Well, since it’s been a while since we’ve taken a listener question, we are going to turn to our voicemail and answer this question from Keira.
[voicemail from Keira]
Hey, this is Keira from Richmond. I was hoping to sell by owner instead of involving a Realtor. I saw on your blog that you guys have done the same before, and I was wondering if you had any tips or if you wish you did involve a Realtor. I am not sure if it’s worth the cost because I am able to do video and photography and some light design. So I’d love your thoughts, if you guys could tackle that. Have a great day! Bye!
John: So short answer to her question, would we sell a house by owner again?
Sherry: We’re never selling our houses. [laughs]
John: Okay. If we had a house that we were selling.
Sherry: Yes. Yes, we would!
John: Yes. We sold both of our first two houses by owner, and having gone through that experience, which was not a flawless one in either case, so we have learned some lessons, it’s still something that we would give a go again if we were in the position of selling a home.
John: If you’re thinking we were able to sell our house by owner because we have our blog, that was not what ended up doing it in the end. We did have some extra showings because people who read the blog wanted to see the house, but in both cases, the final owner was not someone who had any clue who the heck we were.
Sherry: Yeah. Definitely didn’t read the blog.
John: So it certainly can work for you whether you have a blog or not, but it doesn’t always work. I don’t think it’s a perfect answer for everyone, or every house is a good candidate for it. For instance, there’s one just down the street from us right now that I noticed was for sale by owner for two or three weeks, and it just switched over to being listed by a Realtor.
Sherry: Yeah. Really, it has to do with the market. It has to do with how hard you work. I think what people overlook sometimes is sort of entering with a splash.
Sherry: I think some people want to tiptoe into it, like, “I’ll just put it on Zillow Make Me Move,” or “I’ll just put a sign out front, but I won’t put it on MLS.” Those aren’t things that are entering with a splash. Pricing it wrong. These are all these things that you kind of have to do at once and then burst onto the scene.
John: Well, it certainly depends also on your patience or your lack thereof. If you have a few months to figure it out, sure, why not? But if you are in some urgency, you might want to think twice about it. So I think, actually, the most helpful way for someone like Keira and anyone who’s considering the for sale by owner route, is to think about what you might gain from actually using a professional real estate agent, and then to ask yourself whether you can either do those things yourself or whether you can live without them. We’ve certainly come to appreciate the skill and the value added by a professional Realtor over the years. As we’ve talked, we’ve got several friends who do it, and they work very hard. So to think that you can just roll in and do exactly what they do, I think is not a fair assumption.
Sherry: Yeah. Not very realistic. And as a side note about Realtors, always use a buyer’s agent, guys. Buyer’s agents are free for you to use. They’re paid for by the seller. The seller usually pays 3% to the buyer’s agent and 3% to the seller’s agent.
John: So if you’re the person looking for a house, that’s when you get a buyer’s agent, somebody to help you find that house.
Sherry: It’s great. They know neighborhoods. They know what to ask. They can help you negotiate at closings. Agents are amazing. We’ve bought four—no. Have we bought four houses?
John: Yeah, we have [laughs] bought four houses.
Sherry: That is so crazy! We’ve bought three homes and a beach house, and we’ve used a buyer’s agent every time. I’m telling you, I didn’t feel like I could do that myself. And I don’t need to. They’re there for free to help us. So always use a buyer’s agent. Side note over.
Sherry: Back to the five things that a Realtor can do for you if you hire them to sell your house or that you need to do for yourself if you don’t hire them.
John: They certainly probably do a lot more things than the five we’re going to say here, but these are some five general categories you can think about.
Sherry: Number one: pricing help.
John: Pricing. This is the thing that we really failed at on our first house because we overpriced our house big time when we first listed it on Craigslist and on MLS and all the other places we put it. We went into it thinking, well, this is what we paid. This is roughly what we’ve invested in improvements, and also the value that we would like to get back from it. We kind of approached it from a “me” standpoint, like, what’s the money I want to earn.
Sherry: Also, we bought in the bubble, and we sold in the lull. [laughs]
John: Yeah. That certainly didn’t help. So, again, eventually we did sell the house for much lower than we originally listed it, but we did miss out on possibly some early buyers because we had several showings where people came and saw that higher price. Part of me thinks that the reason they did not buy is because it was priced too high.
John: I think we literally got that specific feedback from one person now that I think about it.
Sherry: Yeah. I also think sometimes it’s just hard to have perspective when it’s your own home. You think that it’s better than everyone else’s. You think it’s amazing. You love the way it’s landscaped. You love the way it’s laid out. But you bought it, so you like it.
John: Yeah. A Realtor is someone who is going to come at it from a really objective, educated standpoint because they watch the market all the time. They have a sense of what’s out there and what people are actually paying for them, so they can bring some real expertise to pinpointing what is going to be a realistic price.
Sherry: If I was going to give you any advice, the most important thing about selling your house is the price. If you underprice your house, the market will usually rise to meet you. There will be bidding wars. There will be multiple offers. In our neighborhood—
John: “Usually” might be a strong word.
Sherry: I mean, in many cases, it will correct itself. If it’s too high, it will sit, and if it’s too low, many people will say, “Hey, that’s great!” Investors will come after it. Everyone will want it if it’s undervalued, and they’ll bid it up.
John: Yeah. At least what we’ve witnessed in our area, is that, at the end of the day, the homes tend to sell for what the market wants them to sell for.
Sherry: Exactly. The last two smaller homes in our neighborhood, they underpriced them. They both got bid up by like $20 or $30,000 from the asking price.
John: Yeah. Just know, if you’re going to sell by owner that you will need to do some extra work on your end to try to find a fair price, and you still may miss the mark because you may not have the resources that a Realtor will have. But moving on.
Sherry: Number two is they will give you an outside eye for staging and fixes to your home. They’ll come to your house, open all the doors, air it out and light a candle if they need to to make it smell good. They’ll open every single blind to let as much light into your house.
John: But you’re missing the other part, the part that you do, where you’re staging for photos, and the marketing materials that you create. I think it’s helpful to have an outside eye, and that’s sort of the service that you’ve provided to your Realtor friend by coming and staging these houses. You don’t always see the furniture piece that might be too big, or the room that might be too cluttered, or the way that you might be able to make your house more attractive to potential buyers.
Sherry: Right, but a Realtor or a stager can walk in there and say, “Oh, move the sofa against the wall. This room looks too small with the sofa in the middle of the room.”
John: Yeah. They won’t have all the emotional hang ups or functional hang ups that you have. You might be like, “Oh, no, but I need that there,” or “I access that every morning.” They might be able to give you the hard news, like, “Nope, that has to go if you want to sell this house.”
Sherry: Exactly. Even someone saying: “Listen, plant five bushes in the front of your house. It’s looking a little sparse.” You might not have noticed. You’ve stared at your house for five years. It doesn’t look sparse to you.
John: And granted, you might be able get some of that from another type of outside eye, like have a friend over or a neighbor or something, and just ask for their honest feedback, but they won’t necessarily come at from the experience that someone who does this professionally 24/7.
Sherry: Right. And I would say if this is something you’re going to DIY, try taking pictures of the rooms and staring at the pictures. That’s my tip. A lot of times when you’re standing in a space, your eye doesn’t register balance or scale as easily as in a photo. But in a photo, you might think, “Oh, that looks like a black hole. I should put a pillow on that brown chair.” Things like photographing it not for the listing, but just to study it. Then make your shifts, and re-photograph it for the listing. Those second round of photos will be much nicer than the first round because you’ll be able to tweak things to make sure the scale, the balance, the layout all looks as good as possible. If you can’t get fresh eyes, you can have fresh eyes by staring at a picture of a space.
John: Well, and speaking of pictures, that is a good segue to our number three. I think a Realtor also brings a lot of expertise and help in the sort of marketing of a home, you know, the photos, the video, the listing, whatever the descriptions are. I think just like the caller said, we went into our homes thinking, “We can do this for ourselves. We have nice photos of our home. We are in advertising. We know how to sell something.”
Sherry: Right. We can say it’s pretty and nice and tell you all the reasons why you should buy this house because we bought it! We love it, and we know why!
John: Yeah. So I think that is something probably a lot of people come to the for-sale-by-owner process of thinking like, “Oh, I can do that. I can take care of the marketing.” But at the same time, I don’t think everyone has that skill to take the photos with a wide-angle lens that shows everything or know the key words that are really going to help people in your specific area find your house. What are the features that are going to make your house stand out? For instance, one of the things that ended up making our second house so attractive to the people that bought it is that it had two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms.. They were both on a single level because we had a ranch home. So the older couple that bought it really liked that it was all on one level, and that they had two main bedrooms. That was not something that Sherry and I were really keyed into when we were writing up our listing. Yeah, we thought it was nice, but we thought the renovated kitchen or the sunroom were the selling features.
Sherry: Yeah, and the new deck, the new patio – all the things we had added that made it so much nicer than when we bought it, so we’ll tell them all about the things we changed. Inherently, this house had a feature that people loved. And the Realtor, who was helping us buy our third house, our current house, this one we’re in right now, said, “Hey, I know someone who wants your house because don’t you have two en suite bathrooms?” And we were like, “Yeah, we do. Why?” She was like, “That’s going to sell your house right there. It’s all one level and there’s two main bedrooms with attached baths.” Literally, we weren’t even finished, and she kept saying, “Can I bring them over?” I don’t even think—did we hit MLS? I don’t think we ever fully listed.
John: No, we never had to list on MLS. And also, part of marketing that a Realtor does is the open house, which you can debate whether or not those are still valuable or not as a seller. We didn’t do that for either of ours, but we did have to be the people to receive people for showings. I think we, for some reason, especially in our first house, thought we should give everyone a tour, like they were our guests, not that they were potential buyers.
Sherry: Yeah. Not “we” though. It was just John.
John: Oh, yeah. Just me. And it turned out to be very uncomfortable for me.
Sherry: I would leave. I’d take the dog. I’d talk our daughter, and we’d just go. And then, John was like the tour guide. [laughs]
John: Yeah. It seems so dumb in retrospect. I was like, “Oh, this is where we eat breakfast. Blah-blah-blah.” And they’re probably like, “Will you get out of here [Sherry laughs] so we can talk about your house behind your back?”
Sherry: So yeah, hindsight 20/20.
Sherry: Don’t walk people around your house in an annoying, lingering way, but feel free to show them certain features. They’re going to ask you—for example in our area, the question is always like, “Do you have a heat pump?” or “Do you have gas?” There are questions—do you have gas [laughs]? There are questions about your house, not your body, that will come up [laughs]. “Are you on sewer? Are you on septic?” Give them that information. Even on TV, I’m noticing more Realtors who are like, “Here’s the kitchen. I’ll let you guys walk around upstairs.”
John: Right. I did give people time after I gave the tour to walk around themselves, so I wasn’t a total bozo about it. Another important part about the marketing skill that a Realtor might bring to the picture, and this is our fourth thing, is that they’ve just got connections and resources that the average person doesn’t have. For instance, we were talking to one of our Realtor friends the other day, and she was saying she had a client who was looking for a very specific type of house in a specific neighborhood. So she went on some special message board. I don’t know if it was a Facebook Group or what, but it was all Realtors. She was able to post a listing and say, “I’m looking for this. Who has this for me?” And someone was able to hook her up with it.
Sherry: It’s like a private message board for Realtors.
John: Like a secret club!
Sherry: Exactly! Why can’t the lay person get on there? But the truth is that you’re hiring these people because they do this day in and day out, and, of course, they’ve figured out ways to network. It is something to just think about. The way that I describe it is if you’re selling it for sale by owner, sometimes it feels like you’re standing at the pond with your little dinky fishing rod and one piece of bread. A Realtor is the person with all the lures and all the fancy fishing rods, and they can catch 30 fish in an hour. They can just bring the volume. It’s not to say you can’t do it yourself because, in two instances, we’ve been able to do ourselves. But just think about that and how they market things. They might have other Realtors they know. They might have client lists. They might have a Facebook page. I’m also going to tell you one thing, guys. Always pay to put your house on MLS if you’re selling it by owner.
John: Yeah, it’s necessary in almost every case.
Sherry: You’re absolutely crazy, like, you will drive yourself nuts if you stick a For Sale sign in the ground, and then say, “Here they come!” You have to put it on MLS because that is where everybody is looking.
John: Well, let’s not go so far to say you’d be crazy – but it can really help a huge amount. I think one thing you open yourself up to when you are on MLS, obviously, is that’s the thing that get’s you on Zillow and Realtor.com and all those sites, to get you the biggest pool, but it does mean you are going to attract a lot of people who are buying through a Realtor. So you, as the for sale by owner person, need to be willing to pay the percentage to the buyer’s agent.
Sherry: Right. So in both cases, when we sold our house by owner, we did pay 3% to the buyer’s agent. As a seller, you just always pay both agents (3% to the seller’s agent and 3% to the buyer’s agent). We bypassed having a seller’s agent in both of those instances, but both people who bought the first and second house had a buyer’s agent, so we paid 3%. You might say, “Well, if I’m going to pay 3%, I might as well pay 6%.”
Sherry: But, let me tell you, I did some math before this podcast episode. We have saved around $16,000 on those two 3% fees. So that, to me, is significant. Right? That’s a down payment on another house. It’s a car. It’s not $5. So out of all that money you’re saving, listen to me as [jokingly] I cup your face in my hands and whisper sweetly into your mouth [laughs]. Into your eyes? Where am I whispering? [laughs] Into your soul. I’m whispering into your ears. [laughs]
John: I don’t even want you whispering into my mouth! It’s so creepy. [Both Sherry and John laugh.]
Sherry: Whatever you do, please pay the $400, or whatever it is, to list it on MLS because of the amount of people you will be able to reach through that. It is absolutely a no-brainer. I mean, hit the scene with a splash. Have the right price out the gate. Have a beautiful flyer out the gate. Have ways you’re going to network out the gate.
John: And all that stuff is the kind of up-front things. But the last thing that I think a Realtor is really helpful for is the thing that happens after you have a buyer. All that paperwork, guiding you through the inspection process, the closing, all that that stuff might be really nice to have a professional help guide you and sort of manage your stress. I’ll admit, especially in the first house, that was a really stressful few weeks for us. There’s just a lot that is coming at you in terms of inspection items, and negotiations, and things that you might take personally because you’re the homeowner. I mean, that’s a stressful process, whether you have a real estate agent or not working for you, but at least it’s helpful to have someone else who is your advocate who can talk you off the ledge if you’re getting too stressed out.
Sherry: Right. Even saying, “This happens all the time. Don’t take it personally. Every single house I sell, they say this to the person.”
John: Right. “This is normal,” or “This is not normal, and you should push back against it.” It was hard not having those reference points, because it’s was the first time we’d sold a house.
John: Another thing to consider if you are going the for sale by owner route is that you may be able to talk to an agent, or an attorney, or someone who you could pay a flat fee or maybe a lower percentage fee to help you just with that backend stuff once you have a buyer. I don’t want to speak to exactly how that would work out because we didn’t do that in either case, but I do know some Realtors that have been willing to do that sort of thing, sort of a different arrangement. They don’t have to do all the frontend stuff. They don’t have to do all the marketing.
Sherry: Right. They’re not marketing it. They’re not doing all the showings. They’re literally just making sure the paperwork works, reading it over, and kind of being a sounding board for you in those harder situations at the end, like inspection and closing.
John: So, again, that’s our list of things that we feel like a Realtor really brings to the table, you know, the pricing help, the outside eye for staging and fixes, the sort of marketing you need, the photo, the listing, the showings, the open house, their connections within the local real estate world, and also their help with the paperwork and all the backend stuff. If those are things that a Realtor can bring to the table, but you still want to go the for sale by owner route, I think it’s helpful to be just aware of those to know that those are things that you may either need to do yourself or things that you will just be missing in your sale process. We’ll put some links in the Show Notes at younghouselove.com/podcast to some of our old blogposts about our for sale by owner experience so you can get some more tips there. If anyone else has a question they want us to tackle on a future episode, you can leave us a voicemail at (571) 4YH -LHAP.
Sherry: [Singing] And leave off the last S for savings.
John: [Laughing and kind of singing] And leave off the last S for it’s time to take a break.
Sherry: Oh, I thought you were going to say leave off the last S for Sherry.
John: No. But I’ve got an embarrassing “We’re Digging” this week.
Sherry: I don’t know if it’s embarrassing.
John: I just think it’s sort of me giving up on the world.
[Fresh funky beat that just makes you want to dance.]
John: So this week, I’m digging a new solution I’ve implemented for our garden hose out back. We previously had one of those big pots that you kind of coiled it in because it looks so nice and sleek and low profile. It kept the hose kind of hidden. It was a dark bronze color, so it was like…
Sherry: … it was like yard pottery.
John: Yeah. It blended in with the mulch nicely. Here was the problem with it. I got so lazy, I never coiled the hose in that thing, so instead, we had this pot with a hose sticking out in a big mess half the time.
Sherry: It was like a tarantula hose sticking out of the pot with 50 appendages.
John: Well, and the pot always got filled with leaves in the fall that then would rot, and the hose got all black and gross. It just was not as pretty as it had promised me to be. So a few weeks ago when we were at my aunt’s house working on her backsplash, I had to use her hose outside to fill up my wet saw, something else I have dug in the past. She had this hose reel. It’s one of those actually coiled, wind-y things with a handle, so you can actually pull the hose right out when it’s time to use, and then wind the handle back. It kept it completely tangle-free the whole time.
Sherry: It’s one of those things you’d see an infomercial for, and it be like, [in a commercial voice] “Are you tird of having a tangled hose?” There’d be a man literally dropping it, tripping over it –
Sherry: Spilling his coffee, maybe his glasses fall on the ground.
John: Right. Exactly. That was me. So I just went out and got one of these things. It is not super pretty. It is a little bit tall and obnoxious. It does not blend in as well as the hose pot. But you know what, it works. And I am happy it is there because my hose is no longer all over the ground. So I guess, actually, technically, I have improved the aesthetics of the situation.
Sherry: Right, because it never looked clean and nice before.
John: Yes. I will put a link to the one that I bought in the Show Notes at younghouselove.com/podcast. There are some fancier, heavier-duty ones. I didn’t get a super expensive one. I think mine was like $25 because I just wanted to give it a go before I put $50 into this thing. So who knows if it will stand the test of time? But so far, so good.
Sherry: And this week, I’m digging something that is me secretly, covertly giving up, but from an outward stance, it looks like I haven’t given up.
John: Well, that’s a good thing.
Sherry: And it is Havaianas flip flops.
Sherry: I think that’s how you say it. So for my whole life I was calling them Havannah, like Savannah. And then my friend was like, “No.” There’s an I-A in the middle of that word. It’s not—
John: Oh, yeah. Okay. I know these.
Sherry: Do you know what I mean?
John: Yes. Yes, definitely not Havannah.
Sherry: They have these flip flops that look like flip flops, right? They’re rubber, and they look like flip flops, which is kind of—I’ve given up. Right? And I wear them.
John: What do you mean “given up?” They’re flip flops!
Sherry: I mean, I wear them most of the summer, but you don’t look cute. When you’re going to the PTA function, all the women have little slides or sandals.
John: Oh, I see.
Sherry: And sometimes I’m the only one in flip flops, and mine are covered in yard dirt. It’s like a little bit worse than just a clean flip flop.
John: I was going to say, I look plenty cute in flip flops.
Sherry: I know. You do. And there’s like a Kate Spade leather flip flop among the other moms, but there’s not a rubber dusty flip flop like mine. So I discovered through my friends that Havaiana also makes these secret flip flops, and they look more like sandals. They’re still made of the rubber material, but the shape is not just like the V that goes through your toes.
John: It’s not the thong?
Sherry: Exactly. Well, they make a super tall thong, if that makes sense? But it has an ankle strap and like a long strap that goes from your toe to the top of your ankle.
John: Like an anklet.
Sherry: Kind of. And it’s called the Freedom Sandal. I think it’s funny [laughs] because it’s freedom from real sandals, and it’s a rubber flip flop sandal. I’m going to link these in the Show Notes because I’m going to tell you two names, both of which are not very easy to stay in your brain. The other one I love is called the Flash Urban. This one is really hard to describe, but it wraps around your ankle almost in a snakelike way. It’s much dressier, but it’s still made of the rubber, and it’s still a flip flop. But if you saw it on someone’s foot with like a long skirt or shorts, it just is more dressed up than the traditional, boring rubber flip flop.
John: Okay. So it feels like a boring, old rubber flip flop, but it doesn’t look like one.
Sherry: Exactly. Exactly. I’m wearing flip flops, but to other people’s eye, I’m not. It’s like Pajama Jeans. [laughs] I don’t own Pajama Jeans, but I’ve always been intrigued by the concept. They’re basically a pajama with the jean printed on top [laughs].
[Outro music playing.]
John: Thanks for listening to Young House Love Has a Podcast. I convinced Sherry to let me say that this week.
Sherry: Which means I get to sweetly ask you to share our podcast with a friend or family member that you think might like it. You know, just gently cup their face in your hands and whisper it into their mouth. [Sherry and John laugh.]
John: Oh, no. Not this again!
Sherry: Keep telling us on social media what you do while you listen. Like Lucy from Scotland, who was listening when she got interrupted by a phone call with the news that she got the flat she wanted. Congrats on becoming a homeowner, Lucy!
John: Don’t forget to check out younghouselove.com/podcast for all the bonus links, photos, and info from this episode, like more details about our for sale by owner experiences.
Sherry: And that ridiculously styled photo of our yard sale stuff.
[Theme music ends.]
Sherry: Our voicemail is 1855 [laughs].
John: [Laughing] Not even close!
Sherry: 1494 [laughs]
Sherry: Oh, yeah [laughs]
John: Sherry’s just going to say all nine digits, and then I will edit together into an actual phone number at the end. [Sherry laughs] It’ll be like Siri. It’ll be like, [in a digital voice] 843.
John: No. 571 [John and Sherry crack up]