Everyone in my family of origin, except me, has a broker’s license. It’s like a family gene I missed out on. Of course, this didn’t save me from hearing a LOT of real estate talk back in the day.
So, when I was buying my first, second and third homes, I sort of fancied myself somewhat knowledgeable about the whole process. But I think most financial transactions go more smoothly when money is in the bank and your savings and investment accounts are loaded.
So in 2009, during the depths of the Recession and the real estate crash, my ex got “laid off” at the same time he began his affair. Although I am sure the two events were unrelated. Whatever the case, this was our reality. To pay our fixed expenses which were based on his generous income while employed, we began to siphon money from savings.
Right about the same time I opened my eyes to the affair (because deep down I’d known), it became apparent that the house had to go. Even with no divorce we could not run on fumes. We had to, as they say in Jane Austen books, retrench. So, in the midst of the worst days in memory, sell we did.
Or should I say, sell I did? Because what’s-his-name was in the middle of a fun love affair and was nowhere to be found. So, while I went to paralegal school, borrowed from Peter to pay Paul, met with divorce attorneys and did a pretty pathetic job at mom duty, I somehow put the house on the market and sold it while other homes in our community sat on the market for up to a year or more afterwards.
Here’s how I pulled this off:
1. First and foremost, I priced that sucker to sell. No games. No B.S. It was priced to sell fast. I knew the odds in that market and I knew what I had to do, so I did it and did not cry over spilled milk. I had enough to cry about already. Of course, the market is much, much better now, which is great news! However, my advice would be to know if you can stand to let your house sit. If you can’t, you need to go lower in price at the get-go.
There is a weird psychological thing that happens when a house is overpriced and sits around too long, and only then is the price slashed. It’s like the buyers smell blood. Furthermore, if buyers catch wind that there is a divorce or some other compelling reason for the sell other than a happy trade-up for a bigger and better home, the result for the seller is not good. Price it as close to your margin as you can if timing is important.
2. I hired good agents. One had been a friend. She was one of those friends who backed way off after news of my situation. That hurt (a lot) but I knew it was deadly serious to sell that house quickly, so I tolerated the pain of having her only show up as an agent wanting to make money in a market that was hard on her family, too. Also, I knew she was good. I knew her tag-team partner was good. Plus, and here is where I am not stupid, I knew that because she would feel guilty about how she was treating me (not as a friend anymore but only as a client) combined with her desire to make money, she would go above and beyond to sell my house.
A side tip here is: take care of yourself when everyone around you is doing the same. Turn around a hurtful situation in a way that helps you dig your way out of your hole. (i.e. the friend who backs away but may still babysit to help out, etc.) Anyway, in my case I knew I wasn’t hurting my agent friend, but I knew psychology. I knew she’d work hard. And she did.
3. Get a temporary storage unit so you can de-clutter more easily. I got a couple of PODs and hired kids in the neighborhood to help me fill them. Then the POD company picked up the storage boxes and stored them until I moved, at which time they delivered the units to my new house.
4. Follow your agent’s advice on staging your house. They know what they are doing. Our house looked awesome and nothing like our actual house! My agents did the staging themselves. I was thrilled.
5. A fresh coat of paint might as well be love potion for your house. My agent had a whole slew of contractors she could call to do various things. The painting crew was in and out in one day. We judiciously selected key walls that needed to be refreshed so I could economize. As I said before, the house was gorgeous by the time we put it on the market.
6. It is true what they say. The first offer is likely to be your best, unless you get a real outlier kind of offer, as in, “Will you accept eight cows and a mule?” In most cases, though, you want to take that first offer seriously. Work with them to reach agreement. A bird in the hand…
7. Take drugs. The legal kind, of course. I survived a great deal by allowing myself to take Xanax for about 5 months. Just so you know, I am one of those people who hates taking anything and I am always experimenting with “natural” cures to avoid pharmaceuticals. But I have learned that there are times when I need pharmaceutical help. Xanax made keeping the house spotless everyday MUCH less stressful. Mommy was chill so she didn’t freak out when her youngest kept putting her dirty underwear behind all the toilets. I managed simply to tour the house and whisk the pipsqueak sized undies into trash bags. Xanax helped me to decide that it was more efficient to go to Target and buy a new set for 5.99 than it was to wash them while we were pretending that ours was a house that just simply never had dirty laundry. If you buy it, you too will never do laundry again.
8. I didn’t do this, but if you have what could be called “extreme junk,” then you can do what a friend of mine did and hire an estate sales agent to come in and dispose of the junk. There is a good chance you will get a nice check as a result. These people know how to use eBay, estate sales events and other means to get rid of every last bit of it. In my friend’s case, the agent’s fee came out of the proceeds so that he never paid her a dime. What he earned through her efforts was far more than he could have gotten himself.
In addition to the above, the best thing I can say to you is, “Better times are coming.” Besides, the market is working in your favor now. Good luck!