When I left off the story last week, we had found a new house and put a contract on it, but we hadn’t even begun to sell our house. To say that this was a little concerning to two worrywarts would be a great understatement. But within a few days, our house was listed and we just prayed for a quick sale.
We had five showings, two of them second-viewings, and after a week on the market, we had an offer.
Here’s where I’m going to interrupt the story for a moment. I have said a few times on Facebook that this was a quick, but far from easy, sale. Every day during the month and a half that we were under contract, I wanted to blog about how difficult it was, but I didn’t want to risk jeopardizing the sale (either with those buyers, or if that deal fell through, with whomever came next), so I planned to blog at length about the experience after it was all said and done.
But then, the stressed out, frustrated, worried me gave way to the relieved, relaxed, grateful me and I decided that it could have been so much worse. I need to be happy and thankful that it all worked out so quickly and that we’re not either a family divided now while we try to sell the house in Virginia (and while we pay two mortgages) or at the very least a strapped family wondering how long we can keep this up.
So instead of going on and on about the difficulties of the sale and the doubts we had, I’ve decided to focus on what I’ve learned in the process. Warning: This will be long, because I’ve learned a lot. 🙂
1. First and foremost, I have learned the importance of having a realtor that you trust. I completely understand the appeal of saving that commission, but the realtor’s role goes so much further than finding a buyer. Our reliance on our realtor’s expertise started with the offer. The buyers were planning on getting a 100% VA loan and wrote into the contract that they wanted a carpet allowance paid directly to them in the form of a check at closing. While this struck us as odd and concerned us for some unknown reason, we had no idea that this is actually illegal with VA loans. You cannot give cash back to the buyer. Then, when things got difficult, our realtor kept us informed and advised us of our options. Through the entire process, I had lines from Kenny Rogers’ song The Gambler, running through my head: “You have to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” Our realtor helped us know when to negotiate, and when to draw the line. She listened to our concerns, let us know when things were pretty common, and when she’d never seen this before. She gave us her opinion when asked, but never tried to tell us what to do or pressure us to accept a condition.
2. Timing is everything. It’s a cliché, to be sure, but one that is based solidly in fact. Just a few days after we were under contract, and just as the deal was starting to appear in jeopardy, our local school district announced that is was bankrupt and wasn’t sure it was going to be able to open the brand new, $70 million high school. It was the lead news story for days. It was all we could do not to panic. We had been told that our buyers’ kids went to private school, so these particular buyers may not have been too concerned by this untimely piece of news, but we were certain that if the deal fell through, most other buyers would be. In fact, our realtor told us (when we voiced a concern about the news) that she had heard many realtors say that they feared they had sold their last house for the year. She wasn’t going that far, but she did feel that the market in our county was about to slow WAY down. This issue certainly colored how we viewed the deal we weren’t sure we should have taken. We were most definitely afraid to rock the boat, so to speak. [In the end, the school system and the county were able to settle the issue and proceed with the planned opening of the high school.]
3. The demeanor of the inspector the buyers’ realtor hires can make a huge difference. When Jim and I saw the inspection report on our 16-year-old house, we were quite pleased. There was nothing that struck us as disastrous at the time. There was a mention of finding something that “may be mold” in the crawl space, but that wasn’t alarming to these two biologists. We figured we’d hire someone to come out to determine the microbial nature of the growth and go from there. We had no idea at the time that the inspector had gone through the house telling the buyers things like, “You never know how things can snowball on you,” etc. These buyers, who may have never purchased a home before (they were renting at the time) must have left the inspection feeling like they were buying the Money Pit, from their actions following (which I won’t go into). None of these warning statements the inspector offered to them was on the written report and none of the things he noted (except for the crawl space) was found by anyone else to be major or unexpected for a house of that age. [We did have the crawl space inspected by a remediation company and it was indeed mold, so we had to have it remediated for a pretty penny, but when they were done, you could’ve had a picnic down there.] Our realtor mentioned later that most realtors in the area don’t use that inspector anymore because he is known to be an alarmist. The buyers’ realtor apparently didn’t know that and he was the only one who was available that day.
4. I now realize how important it is when buying a home to remember that this is more than a business deal. The house you’re looking at is likely someone’s beloved home that they have put a lot of themselves into. While you certainly want to get the best deal possible (who wants to overpay?), you don’t want to make the sellers feel like you view their home as a piece of junk you’re offering to take off their hands. Balance is key and also difficult given that you are dealing through agents and not directly with the other party. I learned this from both sides this summer. We had fabulous realtors in both locations and both were looking out for our interests. Our realtor in N.C. had worked for several years as an appraiser and raised the concern that he didn’t think given the comps in the area that the house would appraise for the listing price (which as I said earlier had recently been lowered significantly). He suggested we go in with what I’m sure seemed to the sellers to be a very low offer. They responded by coming down about $100 on their price. The negotiations went along this way for a couple of rounds before they really seemed to take us seriously. We have learned that there may have been some posturing by the realtors as they had dealt with each other on the purchase of this same family’s new home, but it has also occurred to me that we may have offended the sellers. They had a very nice house and they had done some beautiful renovations. They may have felt that we were acting like their home was less desirable than it was, when in fact, we loved the house. We felt the same, from the other side, with the sale of our Virginia house. We had lived there for twelve years. We had both of our kids while we lived there. We had renovated the kitchen, the bathroom tile, had rebuilt the deck and added a patio, had replaced the siding with HardiPlank, etc. This was definitely not a “fixer upper”, but we were getting the impression (from what we heard third-hand through our realtor) that the buyers weren’t viewing this house as a dream home, but rather something, again, less desirable than it was. Their attitude, as perceived by us (in addition to some of their actions) caused us to stiffen and be less willing to give. We really didn’t want to sell our house to them, but by the time we knew this, we were locked into a contract. We had several discussions about refusing to budge at all and letting them walk away. We may never know what they really thought of this house that meant so much to us, but our realtor did mention that their realtor had told her that this family had been looking for a house for a year and this was the first house they really loved. That love, or even a small piece of it, just didn’t come across to us. In the end, we did sell to them, and we hope they are as happy there as we were.
5. Which brings me to: Unless you sell to someone you know (which has its own risks), you don’t really know what your buyers are like “in the real world”. I spent so much time disliking these people and feeling bad for our neighbors that we were bringing these people into the neighborhood that I never really stopped to think that I didn’t know them at all. And I failed to teach this point to my kids, until much later. Emerald heard from a good friend of hers in our old neighborhood that the buyers of our house had sent a note to everyone in the neighborhood introducing themselves, a very neighborly thing to do. When Emerald told this to me, she seemed very confused. “I thought they were mean,” she said. I have to say, this action by them was totally incongruous with my impression of them, too, which just showed me how completely limited my impression of them was. They could be the sweetest, most reasonable people in the world and they may have totally legitimate reasons for the moves they made in the buying process. I don’t know them at all, just as the sellers of this house don’t know us at all.
6. In any future moves, I will always, always call the moving company to confirm the dates. When the salesperson (as they call him) from the moving company came out to give me an estimate, he mentioned that since this was a fairly large move, the movers may want to come out on the Saturday before the Monday scheduled date to load the truck, but if not, they’d be there at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning. No problem either way. My mistake was assuming they would let me know if they decided to come on Saturday. We had asked that the moving company pack our large pictures and lamps, so we got a phone call about a week before the scheduled move that the packers would like to come out on Friday morning. Fine. I continued to pack up our other stuff while the very nice packing ladies packed pictures and lamps, while entertaining Sapphire along the way. That evening, I took the girls to a birthday party of one of Sapphire’s pals, while Jim stayed home to pack up electronics. He was beginning the freak out about how much we still had to do and was in no mood for a party break. I on the other hand had had my blood pressure checked at a routine doctor’s appointment that afternoon and was in need of an enforced break to avoid a potential stroke (I exaggerate, but my blood pressure is usually 120/80 on the nose and that day it was around 159/90-something — stress anyone??). While we were at the party, Jim called and asked me if I knew anything about the movers coming the next day to load the truck. WTH??? He had just received a phone call from the moving company saying that they were scheduled to come out the next morning to load up, but the packers had returned saying we weren’t anywhere close to being ready. Well, duh, we weren’t expecting the truck until 8:00 a.m. Monday. Jim told them that we hadn’t been informed they were coming on Saturday, so no, there was no way we’d be ready. The woman seemed annoyed, but said they’d be there first thing Monday morning then. Well, they weren’t, and the reason they gave is that they had to scramble because we weren’t ready when we were supposed to be. They wound up moving their arrival back a day. It all worked in the end, but it involved rescheduling a lot of other things (both for us and for the movers). If only we’d confirmed.
7. Murphy’s Law is the most accurate law I’ve ever heard. Our mishaps continued, the biggest one being that the moving truck broke down in our driveway. We had no idea when they’d be able to get the truck moving again. We were closing the next day and needed to be gone by early morning, so the buyers could do their final walk through. As it turned out, the truck was towed away to be repaired, and the trailer was picked up by another truck late that evening. The truck arrived in N.C. on Friday, rather than Wednesday as originally scheduled, but it arrived, and all of our stuff was present and in good shape.
8. There’s often a silver lining. The upside was those extra two days allowed the painters to finish painting our new house before the moving truck arrived. And boy was it nice to move into a newly painted home, with your color scheme already on the walls. The girls were thrilled with the colors they chose for their new rooms, and it made walking into the new house, more like walking into your home, whether the furniture was there or not.
9. And last, but not least, another cliché: All’s well that ends well. Now that it’s done, all the stress and “trauma” of the move seem far removed from our lives. We are so thankful to be moved. Jim started his new job late last week. The kids start school in the next two weeks and we’re off to new adventures.
Now we are watching the realty websites in Central Virginia, hoping our friends who are trying to sell their houses have luck soon.
I have one more part planned in this series, an interesting adventure we had with a colorist and the fun results. And then we’ll leave this move and see what other happenings abound in North Carolina.