Maybe Matilda: Selling Our House: Getting it Ready + Our Current Status

Monday, March 23, 2015

Selling Our House: Getting it Ready + Our Current Status

Thank you so much for your support on my post about selling our first home! We’ve put so much work and love (plus a fair amount of sweating and swearing) into this house, and it is so encouraging to hear positive comments on it.

I thought I’d write out the work we put into getting it ready to sell—not all the changes we’ve made over the past 3 years, but our ‘sell this house’ to-do list from the past few months—plus an update on the current selling status.

A giant house selling to do list

The ‘Sell This House’ To Do List

1) Declutter. Kind of a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how much junk accumulates in a house. We spent a weekend going through everything and deciding what to donate, what to throw out, and what to pack and store. And the house looks so much bigger now.

2) Caulk. Such a little task that makes a huge difference. We caulked along the top of all the trim, between kitchen cabinets, etc. It really makes the house look more tidy and finished.

3) Transition pieces. One of the downsides of installing your own flooring, we discovered, is that you get tired of the process and decide you’re done before the job is really 100% finished. We had left a few areas on the floor without transition pieces because we were just tired of it, so we finally went back in and added them. Wish we’d done it earlier.

4) Clean up trim. I had no idea, until I got right down on my hands and knees next to it, how dingy and dirty our baseboards were. I scrubbed all the trim in the house, then repainted it so it looks crisp and fresh. Fresh, bright trim is a smallish detail that makes a huge difference in how clean and bright the house looks.

5) Corral the toys. Somehow, the kids ended up keeping toys in basically every room. I figured the house would be so much easier to keep tidy for showings if we a) got rid of some of their toys, and b) stored them all in one spot. I went on a ruthless toy purge and threw away anything that was broken or missing pieces, tossed anything that was cheap junk, or that they’ve outgrown or haven’t played with in ages. Some toys were donated, and a lot went straight into the trash.

Then I moved all the toys down to the basement into a cubby and baskets, and I make sure the kids put things away before they get out a new toy to play with. It’s a bit of a pain to force them to clean up as they play—it means keeping a near-constant eye on the toy count and what they’re playing with or abandoning—but it makes it so much easier to straighten things up quickly. Our little toy storage area is pictured below—all of their toys are in those baskets, and hopefully we can get the kids into the habit of tidying up as they play.

basement toy storage

6) Putty over wall anchors. Previous owners/tenants in this house sure loved plastic wall anchors—nearly every wall in the house had empty wall anchors poking out, and I’ve never bothered doing anything about them until now. We hammered them in, puttied  over them, and repainted those areas.

7) Clean blinds. The most unpleasant cleaning task, if you ask me. Blinds are such a pain to clean, but a good scrubbing left them looking much improved.

8) Scrape and stain the deck. The little deck leading into our backyard has been an eyesore the entire time we’ve lived here. Initially, we thought we’d knock it down and build something bigger . . . but we dropped that plan in a jiffy when we realized how much it would cost.

We hired a handyman last month to take care of the deck—he used a power sprayer to knock off all the old, chipped paint, then gave it a fresh coat of dark stain. It looks worlds better now, like a place you might actually want to spend some time.

dark stained deck

9) Basement work. Our little basement dungeon needed the most help (and was the most expensive project to finish). We had new carpet installed on the stairs, hired a painter (I could have painted it on my own, but once we realized what it would cost to hire this job out, it felt worth every penny not to have to deal with painting myself), and had the handyman replace the broken basement window and build out a window sill, as well as repairing a section of the ceiling that needed new drywall. It kills me—we never used that basement for anything other than storage, but it is now a fantastic exercise and play room, and I wish we had fixed it up years ago.

10) Clean everything. This was the easiest but most obnoxious task. You don’t realize until you really inspect it that every surface within the kids’ reach is just nasty. Areas that got a much-needed scrubbing include: every wall, from about chest-height down (so, as high as Forrest can reach); all the doors and doorknobs; light switches and covers; outlet covers; windows; the stair rail and banisters. All clean and shiny.

11) Spring-ify the yard. An inexpensive and easy job—we added fresh mulch to the flowerbeds, tidied up the bushes, and added fresh flowers to our planters.

Okay, I’m cheating—this picture is over a year old. We have since replaced the outdoor lights, and of course there is now fresh mulch and different flowers in the planters. But I’m too lazy to go out and take a new picture, and this one gets the point across just fine.

yard for spring

We hired a handyman for some of the tasks—mainly the ones that required any skill at all. All the stuff that was within our realm (like cleaning and organizing) we did ourselves, and it was a pain. It’s so hard to get anything done with kids in the house. We plowed through as much as we could each weekend for a few weeks in a row, and I fit in whatever cleaning/organizing I could every day.

The Current Status

Our first day on the market was completely insane—we had showings all day long, and after leaving the house with the kids in the morning, we couldn’t come back home until after 8 PM. The final tally for that first day was 10 showings (although our realtor admitted she lost count, and it may have been higher).

We had 5 showings the following day, spaced out just enough to be terribly inconvenient and leave us stranded out of the house all day again. We were running on two straight days of fast food for every meal, crappy naps (if any!), and overly late bedtimes for the kids. We were all getting pretty cranky after a mere 2 days.

By day 3, I was hitting my limit (already! it only took 3 days to break me!). A number of showings were scheduled for the day, and I was getting frustrated. It felt like we couldn’t live in our own house anymore—we hadn’t been home in 3 days except to sleep, and I had no time to cook or do laundry or get anything done between showings. None of us had eaten a decent meal for 3 days straight, and we were running out of places to go to pass the time. During one interminable mall visit, Forrest asked, “Is our house selled-ed yet? I just want to go home.” Me too, kid.

Extra depressing was hearing feedback from some of the people who had seen the house. Our realtor talked to 3 people who had come through, and none of them liked it. It felt like a huge blow—after all the work we’ve poured into this house in the past 3 years, no one had a single nice thing to say.

None of their complaints were anything I should have taken personally, but of course I felt crushed anyway. Someone didn’t like the floors, someone else thought the bedrooms were too small, etc. We honestly believed this was a great house for the price range, and it was a big letdown to hear 3 negative comments in a row without getting any positive feedback.

I was all sorts of depressed about how chaotic and stressful selling was turning out to be, and was actually near tears as I complained about it to my mom, right when the realtor called with some awesome news. Two offers had just come in.

One was a pretty lousy offer—way below asking price, requiring us to cover closing costs, and with some crappy contingencies. It was kind of insulting, to be honest.

But the other offer was solid. It was below our asking price, but the buyer was covering closing costs, and our realtor is representing him as well as us, which reduces her commission. When we factor in the money we’ll save on the realtor’s reduced commission as well as not having to cover the closing costs, it comes close to being a full price offer.

Update 3/24: Well, never mind. The buyer cancelled his offer before we even had a chance to move forward. So disappointing!

We took it. We are currently under contract, and if you’re the praying type, would you send a prayer or happy thoughts or good vibes or whatever you happen to believe in that everything goes smoothly from this point on? We don’t expect anything big to come up on the inspection, but of course I’m in a panic over it anyway (that’s just what I do, and I’m so very good at stressing that it would be a shame not to). If all goes well, we’ll close at the end of April.
house exterior

The question now, of course, is where we’ll be heading? Frankly, we don’t know. We’ve gone out with our realtor a few times, and I am just not loving anything yet. There are lots of houses that feel okay to me, but nothing that I’m really crazy about so far. And I don’t want to rush into buying something I don’t love, just because we’re in a hurry and feel like we absolutely have to make a decision RIGHT NOW.

At this point, we’re leaning towards building, which means we’ll probably rent while we figure out if and where we’d like to build, and get that process started. Everything feels very hectic and overwhelming right now, but we’re trying to keep a level head and make decisions based on what we really want long-term, and not just what seems like a quick solution in a stressful time.

In the meantime, cross your fingers that the next few weeks pass really quickly . . . and without any unpleasant surprises.

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