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The Joys of Home Ownership: Part 2: Selling Your House

View Part 1 in the series here

Selling Our “Forever Home”

Most Colorado homes are in subdivisions and can easily be compared to their neighbors. Zillow can easily run algorithms to determine a fair price. Our house had over 5 acres of land, a mountain view, a large creek winding through, a 500+ square foot covered deck, high ceilings, a theater room, and was recently fully renovated. How do you put a price on all those “extras?”

In 2018, we met with three different real estate agents to give us a market analysis. We didn’t talk with the agent who bought and sold our previous house because we felt he didn’t do much. The new agents told us our house was worth around $800K-$850K. We thought they were crazy.

We decided upgrades would help make our house pop. We replaced all of our tile floorings with hardwood and updated the kitchen and master bath. We had no idea what the pandemic would do to housing prices.

In April of 2021, we met with a Redfin agent. We wanted to save the 1-1.5% on commissions as we didn’t see any agent adding value over the commission savings.

We felt like we could get $1.5M for the house with the new scorching seller’s market. However, the Redfin agent said that our house was worth just under a million dollars. I lost my cool.

It was like someone just kicked my dog.

The closest comparable sale was three houses away and recently closed for $900K. It has no basement, two fewer bedrooms, one less bath, is 10% smaller above ground, has no covered deck, no custom features, and is 20 years older. Yet, it still sold for over $400 per square foot. Our finished footage would value us at $1.4M. The agent valued our 40% finished walkout basement at $47k and our additional 2 acres for only $40k.

This is the danger of buying the “best house in the neighborhood.” The rest of the subdivision is much older and has plain old ranches and split-levels built in the 70s. Our house is 20 years newer with mountain views. They are completely different home buying experiences. But how does an appraiser account for them, and are there enough buyers for houses over a million dollars in the Denver suburbs? The house down the street sold for $900K, started at $985K, and sat for four months in a scorching market.

The question becomes, do you try to actually list at under a million and try to draw in everyone you can to try to create a bidding war? Do you list at $1.5M and sit for multiple months? Do we leave the house as an Airbnb occasionally and let it appreciate? We decided to shoot the middle and hope for $1.325M, and we’re fine with that number if we get few offers or have to wait for a little.

We met with a neighbor who sold a couple of houses in the subdivision and recently bought their own home only a few houses down from us. She was willing to take a partially reduced commission to help build recognition in her home neighborhood.

Staging

A house is perfect for the American economy because it makes you buy a ton of crap to fill it. Then you get a basement to keep the crap you don’t like anymore but can’t bring yourself to get rid of. So many electronic gadget purchases stared me in the face when I would enter the unfinished area of our basement.

When you sell a house, though, you need to make it clear that there will be plenty of room for the new buyer’s “stuff,” and therefore, you need to clean your stuff up. Thankfully most of it hasn’t been used since we moved from our previous house five years ago, but we can’t bring ourselves to get rid of it.

Packing is straightforward for things like silverware and pictures. But when you are packing an item like an old phone, you have to decide between keeping, selling, donating, recycling or trashing. Decision fatigue is real. You start remembering why you bought it or how it was a gift from someone meaningful to you. You think, “I could probably get $10 for this at a yard sale.” But, ultimately, most things for me just ended up in the trash.

You also need to go through all your closets and make it seem like you can actually survive with only a quarter of the things you actually cram in there. You also can’t make it seem like you use your bathroom or shower. So we became even more grateful for our robot vacuum.

Weather or Not

Colorado received more precipitation in the first half of 2021 than all of 2020. Then, the week we were hoping to list our house, we had a flash flood. The farmer’s ditch in the middle of our land overflowed and left our backyard with a newly minted pond. In our six years, this was only the third time it’s happened. The second was when I had ten guests over for two days.

We didn’t want buyers thinking this is a normal occurrence or something to worry about, so we decided to wait for the water to reside. I bought a portable water transfer pump to expedite the process.

After two weeks of drying out, we figured we were ready to list again. We were going to list on a Thursday. I got a 15-foot truck on Monday from UHaul to take a load of items we would not need over the next month, and then the rains came. Another downpour the afternoon before I was going to leave town. Standing water all over our front yard with a “Coming Soon” sign up.

I took my first flight in over two years to get back two days later. I didn’t want to leave my family deserted for our showings.

To Be Continued…

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