Lazy summer days may be coming to an end, but there’s no time for lounging by the pool at our house! Now that I’ve cured my OMY syndrome and both kids are off to college, it’s time to put our snowbird housing plan into motion! The plan involves selling our house and downsizing into our “lake house” that was a rental (to the same tenant) for the last 22 years.
Our plan was to use a realtor and put our house on the market by the first week in July. We knew that even if the house sold quickly, closing wouldn’t be until late August. By that time, we’d be empty-nesters and our lake house renovation would be almost complete.
But our plan changed when we ended up with a few more DIY projects than we anticipated. We were fine with the delay because our plan had buffers. We assume things will take twice as long and cost twice as much as we originally think – and we are pleasantly surprised if we finish early and save money!
By mid-July we had refinished our hardwood floors, installed vinyl planking in the lower level, updated some landscaping, and painted almost every room in the house. We still had a few projects to do – but we hoped to list the house the last week in July. (And this was fine – because we hadn’t started renovating the lake house yet either!)
That’s when our friends stopped by and suggested sticking a for sale sign in the yard. What do you have to lose?
We weren’t really interested in trying to sell the house ourselves. We weren’t ready to take pictures, create an online listing in Zillow (“Make Me Move”), or list the house on sites like FSBO (For Sale By Owner). And even though we bought our Florida condo from an ad on Craigslist, we had no interest in listing it there either.
We also knew that to get our house out to the most potential buyers, we’d need to get it on the MLS (multiple listing service). You can pay a flat fee to do that but we didn’t want to do that either. We planned to use a realtor to save time and hassles while we continued to renovate our lake house.
But we found a “For Sale” sign in our garage and after adding a few key details (including the word HOUSE), we stuck in on our front lawn. What do we have to lose? Really – that’s the sign. It’s little and kind of ugly! The house wasn’t even ready to show yet, but we thought we’d take phone numbers if anyone showed interest.
We live at the beginning of a dead-end street, so our neighbors saw the sign as they drove by. We thought that they might be the best advertising we could get to send interested buyers our way. We also have a 23-acre city park in our backyard, so a few people who walked by wrote down our number too. But no one stopped or called that first day.
We weren’t surprised by that and we still planned to list with the realtor whenever the house was totally done. The lawn sign was just a long-shot until we were ready to call the realtor.
On Day 2, Mr. MSD was busy sawing some new stair treads in the garage when a man pulled up out front. He asked a lot of questions about the house and we showed him the backyard and inground pool. He loved it and wanted to bring a friend back to see the inside of the house the next day.
The house wasn’t totally done and we let him know that. But we decided to show it to him anyway because what did we have to lose? If he wasn’t interested, a few small unfinished projects weren’t going to change his mind. And after the walk through, he wanted to talk about a price.
We had some idea of what the house was worth based on local comps (recent sales). You can find (mostly accurate) information on recent sales on Zillow. But our house had features that many of the comps lacked – such as the inground pool and updated kitchen/baths.
We recently hired a property manager (who is a realtor) for our 8-unit complex and he had run comps too. He came up with an “aggressive” price, but we doubted it would ever sell (or appraise) for that value. And if it didn’t appraise at the number, it likely would never sell at that number – even if someone came in at the higher asking price.
Based on all the information we had, we gave the potential buyer a price. He countered at $5,000 less based on our assessment. We had built in a buffer, expecting that he would want us to come down. We agreed to meet “in the middle” to finish the deal. We also agreed that we’d use the same lawyer to try to minimize costs.
We met at the lawyer’s office to create and sign the purchase offer. The lawyer agreed to represent both of us and we had to sign a letter that we would both have to seek other counsel if we ran into issues with the sale. The buyer gave a down payment and included a home inspection as a contingency. We had discussed that with him prior to the meeting with the lawyer, so there were no surprises.
Within a week, the home inspection and appraisal were in process. The home inspection produced no significant issues and the appraiser suggested that from what he saw, the purchase price was aligned well with the value of our home in today’s market. (And Mr. MSD was excited that both the inspector and appraiser thought that he must be a contractor based on all of the equipment/supplies in our garage!)
The surveyors showed up a few days later and we now have to mow around those flagged sticks. We don’t close for almost 6 weeks, so things can still go wrong. We know it isn’t a “done deal” until we sign the documents at closing.
Did we make a smart decision by selling our house this way? You’re probably thinking that we saved thousands of dollars in realtor’s fees! And we would have – if we sold the house for what it appraised for.
But we didn’t – we sold it for less. Like I said, we had a really good idea of what the house would sell for so we took that number and subtracted the realtor fees (about $8,500 or 5% – since we would have ended up paying them anyway.) And that was the final purchase price.
It was a win-win for us and the buyer.
We sold the house in two days to the first person who looked at it. We avoided all the pictures, showings, questions, and nosy people who may have just wanted to walk through. It saved us a ton of time – at a VERY busy time in our lives. And saving time and hassles are worth a lot of money to us right now.
We also knew that a split-level house with an in-ground pool might be wonderful to some people, but would really turn off others. So we’d have a smaller pool of interested buyers.
And this buyer didn’t have “HGTV goggles” on. He understood that a 60-year-old house had certain characteristics you couldn’t change. We don’t have a master bathroom, vaulted ceilings or a dining room. And we only have a one-car garage. The house isn’t “open concept” and even though we have a nice updated kitchen – it is galley-style and it’s an eat-in kitchen (but it does have a great pool view!)
Much of this would have been a turn-off to younger families who have watched shows like HGTV and dreamed about all the great things their first home would have.
Did we lose money by taking the first guy’s offer?
Probably. Well, maybe. We won’t know I guess. We could have left the sign in the yard and hoped for more calls. Or we could have posted it online and marketed it more ourselves. But all of that would have taken a lot of time and kept us in our house longer – paying more taxes and utilities. And we are already paying for two other houses – our lake house and our Florida condo. Not to mention a new buyer may have had more contingencies or could have asked for more things to be replaced/fixed at our expense.
You have to look at the whole picture and at all the expenses (and risk) involved in waiting for a higher offer.
Carrying three houses costs a lot of money, so we stuck to what we thought was a fair price and we sold our house on our own terms.
We’ve loved our home and we have lots of great memories from the 12 years we lived here. But in my son’s words – it’s time for a new chapter and time for someone else to love it.
We’re ready to turn the page and move forward. But our lake house won’t be ready when we close the sale on this house. Will we rent a house or apartment until it’s done? Or head to Florida and let someone else do the work? Maybe we’ll live in one of our rentals? Could our new shed become a tiny house? Or could we have another idea? More on bridging our housing gap next week!
Have you ever sold a house without a realtor? How did you do it? Would you have put off the first buyer and tried to get more offers? Do you think a realtor could have closed the deal above the appraisal price? If you’ve sold a house – what price tag would you put on not having to stage, show, or keep your house in “show ready” condition?