We decided months ago that we’d be moving back to St. Louis. It’s been since the end of April that our house was for sale, although only a week since we have been selling through a realtor. I have had some interesting good times since we’ve been preparing our house. I’ve discovered that we can live in any kind of arrangement. Whether a room is rearranged, or completely unavailable, we just adapt to it, and it’s even kind of fun to take things out of a room in order to better fit for a minimalist room stage. I’ve learned that I really don’t love much of my stuff. I don’t love or need it so when it’s gone, I don’t care, I just do something else. We’ve put away a lot of things in boxes and our house is better for it. Still the basics are there, but we’ve made some rooms an avatar or symbol of themselves. Instead of a lived in room with clutter, we show just the minimum so people identify it and it’s appealing. More appealing than a hotel room, more home-like, but just as minimal. This allows us to enjoy looking at the room too. We get look through the eyes of a buyer, which is like looking as a guest in your home. And you see that you’ve been living with too much junk for far too long. I appreciate the rooms and our house a little more. I like being prepared for guests to show up unannounced like I am for buyers who need a good first impression.
The kitchen is absolutely spotless, because we want to be able to pick up in a moment’s notice. This subtle motivation to keep it clean also has shown me how much cleaner you can have it by keeping it clean all the time and saving time. We always liked surrounding our counter top with the things we use, like spices, sugar a couple appliances. But having them put away and only having a fruit bowl visible is so pleasing. The kitchen sanitized, but it’s calming rather than cold or empty. Pulling an appliance out of the cabinet is less of a hassle than I thought it would be.
Being a seller is not a good position though. A seller pays both his agent, and the buyers agent from a percentage of the sale. It is quite an expense. And when you see how much it really is, and you look at how much work the agent is actually doing, then like me, you may get pretty upset and disappointed. Not that being a realtor is super easy. But let’s face it. Some realtors might be making about $500 per hour when you look at time spent vs the big payoff. Buyers agents ignore your house when it’s a FSBO, for sale by owner. Even though they want to find a house for their client, they are getting paid by the seller. If the seller is a FSBO, then they know there’s no contract for paying the buyers agent. So you will be the last to be visited. If you are a FSBO, make sure and advertise that the buyers agent will be compensated. Be generous, even though you’ll see that agent one or two times, offer to pay them at least 0.5%-1%. Then it’s worth their while. And people will actually knock on your door. We had one buyers agent show up in 3 months because they and the client were walking the neighborhood. Unfortunately our house wasn’t ready to show, so we lost that opportunity.
We have a nice realtor, she’s friendly and helpful. But we are damn good clients too. We have done nearly all the suggested work, we’ve cleaned up and polished just about everything, we’ve staged rooms, gotten rid of clutter. An agent is motivating, because they create the push behind you, reminding you about your chances to sell. But I don’t think they are as big of a use as a $1000 consultant could be. If you pay someone to help you, you are a lot more likely to carry out with your own necessary work.
I feel like if I was to do this over again, I would start my own “properties” company and get a real printed sign and a dedicated phone number and answering service. Then I would spend a $100 bucks or more on the best books and follow all the great advice from them, from repairs to painting to cleaning, storage and staging. Then I would try to take a real estate class and find out what is required to qualify buyers. Then I would put myself on the MLS including several of the free databases. I’d start a house website and advertise it on craigslist. That way I’d be a lot more prepared and probably still save a ton of money over the eventual sales costs. Or if that failed I’d still be better off if I went with a regular realtor in the end. As long as buyers and their agents are showing up, you are gonna find one that can buy your house. And you can dump some of the savings you’ll have (from avoiding mainstream realtors) and either do more repair work, or just lower the price of the house.
I’m not saying it’s all that easy. I have a lot going for me in this area already. I work from home and control my hours, and I’m good at photography and multimedia so it’s nothing for me to take a well-lit shot or stitch a panorama together and size it properly for uploading. But I do believe that even without some of my skills, anyone motivated could do what these agents are doing and just pay the minimum paper work fees to experienced people. I feel as though, agents are good and helpful, but their interests in certain things are low and their pay grade is much too high. And they hold tight to their community so it’s hard for us diy people to work in the same market.
Speaking of DIY, I’ve become a little more experienced in working on houses. I’ve done wood trim (not so great, but not terrible) and I did a good job with tile grout. I’ve learned a little electric work, enough to be very dangerous. I know more of what to look for in a house, and more of what I like in our next home purchase. I know better what things will cost and easy ways to find good helpers. I’ve learned not to settle for cheap tools and that it’s very easy and better to borrow whatever you can from neighbors. You won’t know you really need a tool until you’ve borrowed it. Borrow it first every time you can. You might find you can get a better one than your neighbors and use theirs as a starting point. I’ve learned how much crap is for sale at hardware stores. Like I spent a few dollars on this rubber sanding block that is annoying to load with sand paper and that a piece of 2×4 wrapped in sandpaper was way better and faster. More than anything I’ve learned that you really need to learn how to mud and repair with all the varieties of it. Learn mud materials and you can fix so many problems.
I’ll offer this piece of advice that I actually didn’t take, but I might in the future. If you want to do something to your house that you think you should be able to do, and aren’t sure how. Call around and see if you can job-shadow somebody doing tile work, or installing windows and see if you can’t figure out how to do it from that. It might mean a lost Saturday, but you might learn a great life skill. You might still need to pay for it, but having the opportunity to ask questions and peek into what the pros are using, as tools and materials and technique might be just enough.
August 3, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Uncategorized | No comment