He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
~Clarence Budington Kelland
If you’ve been following the story of our recent life changes, you know that we just bought a home about two and a half hours from where we live now in order to take advantage of a new opportunity even though it meant taking out a much larger home loan. When I last updated you, we still needed to sell our current home. We put the house on the market a couple of days after that post and sold it 5 days later.
Since this is a time of year when a lot of folks are looking to buy and/or sell a home, I thought some of you might be interested in how and why we sold our home so quickly. This is also the time of year when we think about the fathers in our lives, and there are a couple of fathers in my life who helped make selling our home a lot easier. Here’s the story:
First Impressions & Fascism
The real estate agent who helped us sell our home happens to be my Dad. He’s helped us out with all of our real estate transactions over the years and, like most Dads, he’s not short on catch phrases or clichés. And, like most clichés, the ones he shared with us are still around because they reflect tried and true wisdom. Two of them stand out to me:
1. “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.”
2. “When people walk through your house, they’re not looking for a reason to buy it. They’re looking for a reason not to buy it.”
The implications, of course, are clear: Don’t give them any reason not to buy your house.
Well, fortunately (or unfortunately) Mr. Cents took these pearls of wisdom to heart. He was nothing short of dictatorial in his determination to polish and present our home as the jewel we all know it is. No crumb was left on the carpets, no faucet left unpolished, and absolutely no superfluous objects were permitted to appear on any surface. With three boys aged 16 and 12 in the house, you can imagine the “challenges” this presented.
Fortunately for my sons and me, my husband’s fascist regime was short-lived – unless you include the weeks we spent painting, washing walls and repairing the most minute faults imaginable before we put our home on the market. But guess what? It worked. Within 5 days, our house was sold.
Waiting for a Better Offer
During the course of the 5 days our home was on the market, we had about 7 formal showings as well as an open house that garnered quite a bit of traffic, especially considering that the weather was awful that day. But the couple who bought our home in the end was the first to go through it.
A lot of people have asked us “Why didn’t you wait for a better price?” I’ll give a few details below, but the real answer is just another one of my Dad’s stock sayings:
“Your first offer is often your best offer.”
Now don’t get me wrong. If the purchasers had offered only 75% of our asking price, we would not have accepted the offer. After a couple of counter-offers lobbed back and forth, we settled on a price that was a little more than 94% of our asking price. My Dad had told us that houses in our region had been selling for about 95% of the asking price on average, so we felt like we got a fair deal.
The offer we accepted had no conditions attached to it, so it carried some pretty sweet bonuses:
- We wouldn’t be stuck waiting around to see if the buyers sold their current home.
- The buyers didn’t need to get financing approval.
- No more house showings.
- We could immediately move ahead with plans for moving, preparing the new house and getting set up in the new city.
- The end of Mr. Cents’ Reign of Terror.
How to Sell Your Home in 5 Days or Less
OK. I couldn’t resist the cheesy subtitle. But seriously, selling our home this quickly was probably only partly based on luck. Regular readers know that I don’t believe in luck. I think we make our own luck.
In this case, Mr. Cents the Terrible made our luck. He forced us all to clean up our rooms, our closets and perhaps serendipitously, our acts. And he worked harder than any of us.
We learned that there really is a place for everything – even if it’s in the garbage. Just when we thought we had everything looking ship-shape, we were sent back to make it even better. Kicking it up a notch is my husband’s specialty. Here’s how you do it:
- Price your house right: Know your market. What are comparable homes selling for? What percentage of the asking price do they sell at?
- Every surface must be dust-free and shiny clean
- No cracks, dimples, or paint chips on the walls.
- No clutter – anywhere.
- Floors – clean, shiny, debris-free
- If you have an asphalt, stamped, or specialty concrete driveway, seal it
- Landscaping and lawn freshly manicured
- Kitchen – toaster, sinks and faucets shined; no dishes in sink or drying tray; counters wiped
- Freshly vacuumed floors/carpets/stairs
- Aged, marked, or damaged furniture is either tossed, repaired or temporarily exiled to a friend’s garage/basement
- Make sure your rooms look as spacious as possible. Temporarily relocating some items may be necessary.
If you still want to sell your home once you’ve got it looking this pristine, you’re ready to go.
Where’s the Champagne?
Leaving aside the fact that I don’t like champagne, we didn’t exactly celebrate the sale of our home. We thought we would. We had a bottle of “better” red wine tucked away for the occasion. Why no cork-popping?
For one thing, we were absolutely exhausted. In fact, I couldn’t even bring myself to write a single word about the experience until a few weeks after the fact. For another, Mr. Cents’ uncle lost his short battle with cancer around the same time. For another, we were also really grieving the loss of this house.
We chose every tile, fixture and paint colour in it. We designed our unique driveway and landscaping. Our sons went from ages 8 and 4 to 16 and 12 while we lived here. This is home.
On the financial side the house we bought, which is (at least to us) inferior, will end up costing us about 40% more because of the area it’s in. After coming within a hair of paying off our mortgage, that’s a tough pill to swallow. And yet, the new city offers the potential for much higher income. [Sigh.]
That leaves me wondering about home. What makes a home? While I love the look, layout, and feel of our current home, I know that when I was out of town looking at other homes, it wasn’t the brick colour I missed. It was one son’s latest hippie rant. It was another’s hilarious (if slightly nihilistic) life observations. It was the third’s smiling face and breathless stream of news. It was sharing a meal and some music. It was family. I guess that’s home.
To all of you: I hope you get a chance to ponder the unique gifts the fathers in your lives have given you.
To Dad and to Mr. Cents: Thanks for letting me watch you work. Happy Father’s Day.
Comments on real estate, home, and fathers are welcome.