Our House On The Market: Month Three

by Elizabeth on May 21, 2012 · 22 comments

Let me tell you: I am done having our house on the market. D-O-N-E.

It’s now been three months since we first stuck the “Home for Sale” sign in our front yard, and to be honest, the last four weeks have been the toughest. I now understand why people find this process so exacerbating. It’s a frustrating process, one that is not only a physical inconvenience but an emotional undertaking as well.

(If you’d like to catch up on how we got to this point, you can read my first and second installments of our house-selling saga.)

The Stats

  • Asking Price: We started the month at $163,900 – two days ago, frustrated with the lack of traffic, I initiated a price drop of $4,000, bringing us down to $159,000 (more on this later)
  • Online Views (at my Realtor’s website): 73 (less than half of what we had last month)
  • Showings: 2 – well, sorta (more on that later, too)
  • Offers: 0

What We’ve Done

Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada. This is partly due to the fact that we’ve been lazy, partly due to the fact that we’re frustrated, and partly due to the fact that we’ve done just about everything we can to the house at this point. No need making it a money pit.

Comparables

Our Realtor told us that spring would be a busy time in the real estate market, and it has been. In our neighborhood, two more properties have come on to the market in the last month.

  • Comparable #1 (Comparable #1 in my month two update): no change from last month. They are still $158,900 and still a slightly larger – yet slightly less desirable – floor plan.
  • Comparable #2 (Comparable #2 in my month two update): no change on this property either. However, I did learn that my intuition about being on the soggy end of the neighborhood was right. One of my husband’s coworkers is friend’s with the current owner (who has rented the house out for the last several years); like a game of telephone, we heard the house has a mold issue. I can’t imagine that’ll go over well if or when that house ever goes under contract.
  • Comparable #3 (Comparable #3 in my month two update): again, no change here. My friend who owns this house told me she hasn’t had a single showing in the two months she’s had her house on the market, so at least we’re ahead of her. Whoopee.
  • Comparable #4: This is a new property that came on the market in our neighborhood about three weeks ago… and went off the market about three days ago. Yup, at $162,900, it was on the market for about two weeks before getting an offer of $162,000. The floor plan is similar, the lot size and shape is similar, and the square footage is similar to ours. I’m wondering if they sold their first-born son right along with the property.
  • Comparable #5: This is also a new property, also located on the soggy end of the neighborhood. This house is on the market for $147,000, despite the fact that it’s roughly the same size as my house. We spoke with the owners last week, and they told us that they’d had it on the market last fall without much traffic, and decided to wait until spring to put it back up for sale. They’re being aggressive with the price because, after a long winter mulling over their unsuccessful fall sale bid, they simply want the house to sell ASAP.

Emotionally Maxed Out

The start of the month actually looked really promising. That first Saturday, we had a scheduled showing – during my son’s nap time, of course. We devoted our entire morning and early afternoon to mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, and organizing the chaos that is inherent with two children age three and under; we even skipped our weekly exercise class at the Y to get it all done. Then, we bundled our incredibly fussy 11-month-old in the car with his sister and the dog and set out to spend an hour away from the house. When we returned 70 minutes later – with an even fussier baby – we didn’t see any tell-tale signs of potential buyers: no footprints on the newly vacuumed carpets, no Realtor business card on our kitchen counter. We’d been stood up.

The next Saturday, we got a call for a last-minute showing, giving us scant time to once again mow the lawn and clean up the house before the buyers arrived. My husband and I felt good about the showing: surely, we wouldn’t get burned again, especially with an agent who called a mere 90 minutes before the requested showing. 45 minutes in to the appointment time we got a phone call: cancelled. We’d been stood up AGAIN.

At this point, I’m starting to wonder why people don’t like our house. I fell in love with it the moment I first saw it almost six years ago, like a bride-to-be falls in love with her wedding gown. I knew it was the house for us. It has an expansive front yard, a nice, flat driveway – perfect for little ones learning to ride a bike or older kids playing basketball – we have neutral paint colors throughout, plus many high-end finishes like solid counter tops, plantation blinds, and under-mounted sinks. What’s going on here?

Moving Forward

Ultimately, my husband and I decided that the main deterrent to our house selling had to be the asking price. Our Realtor had professed faith that the house could – and would – move in the $160s, but I’m not seeing any proof of that. We need to do something to get people in the door, otherwise all the high-end finishes in the world won’t do any good. So, just a few days ago, I called my Realtor to tell him we needed to drop the price. Initially, I wanted to go to our rock bottom price – $156,000 – and drop all the seller concessions as well. However, he suggested we start in the middle, reducing the seller concessions without eliminating them completely, while dropping the price to $159,900. He hopes that at this price, we’ll start to see buyers who are searching for properties under the $160k mark.

But I’m not so sure… I’m losing faith in my Realtor. Why didn’t he initiate this price drop? Why is he so hesitant to price us more competitively? I’m starting to worry that he’s more interested in a higher commission check down the road than helping us sell our house NOW.

Reader, have you been in my shoes? What advice can you offer me as we go into our fourth month with our house on the market?

 

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Financial Samurai May 21, 2012 at 6:15 am

Sorry it’s been such a pain. What is the lowest you are willing to sell for?

When I list, I plan to put it up for 30 days max, set an offer date, and that’s that. If nothing good, then I’m keeping b/c I think housing will continue to get better over the next 5 years.

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2 Elizabeth May 21, 2012 at 11:14 am

I’d be willing to sell for about $5,000 lower than our asking price – and if someone would just make me a lowball offer, I’d probably take it!!!

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3 Jai Catalano May 21, 2012 at 10:58 am

I wish I could have known about this before. I did a video of my parents home and it was super cool with voice over text. First person who saw it love it and bought it. I am not saying that it was just because of me but it gives you a better chance because you stick out of the crowd.

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4 Elizabeth May 21, 2012 at 11:14 am

Jai, my realtor did that, too – where did you post your video? Maybe that’s the real trick!

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5 Practical Parsimony May 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

Have you asked the realtor who had clients that stood you up exactly why? Did they find something before they got to your home? Did they look at the outside and just keep going?

When we drove two states away and were going to buy a house that very day, I refused several times to even get out of the car, suggesting strongly that we not even turn in the driveway. Why? Once, a street was a sort of dead-end at the home, making it necessary to turn right or left. I was afraid someone would just not stop and hit our children in the yard. Another time, the driveway was too steep. At one house, the yard sloped from street to house. I have no idea what the inside looked like, but I didn’t have time to be polite and look.

Or, is the curb appeal lacking despite the yard mowing?

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6 Elizabeth May 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I’m absolutely asking the follow-ups – in every case, it’s been the size of our backyard, which we can’t change. We have a very generous front yard and nice sized side yards, but our backyard just isn’t deep. Truth is, none of hte yards in our neighborhood are big – it’s a starter home neighborhood, where just about everybody has less than 1/4-acre. Our house actually has GREAT curb appeal, with a nice flat driveway, maintained shrubs and potted plants (I don’t do flowers because I’m highly allergic to bee stings, and it’s just too risky to put them so close to the house). What would you do to get people into the house if you were me? I obviously can’t change the lot size, and “staging” it can only do so much.

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7 Judy May 21, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Try selling it yourself, since it sounds as if you’re doing the work for your realtor. I did that many years ago when we lived in Atlanta (granted it was a different economy but there are similarities now). All you need is a real estate lawyer at the end.

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8 Practical Parsimony May 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Maximize the side yards with seating or fencing/plants, a sight-barrier, to make it look like their is room for normal activities. I have 20 feet from back of the house to back fence, 6 ft high and covered with grape vines. The one side yard is soooo huge and has a retaining wall that drops 4 feet to the street. It is very private and huge with picnic table, swing, room for many activities. No one can see me from their yards or the street. A child will not fall off the retaining wall!

Can you move the grill, tables, seating? Put in a little patio area? I think the sight barrier for side of the yard and front of the house needs to be in place. I am thinking secret garden. I also think there needs to be a sight barrier from your house to house behind you. Get rid of your realtor, do the work, and raise the price back up!

If they don’t come into the house, how do they know how large the backyard is? Use language to intrigue when advertising. Have you thought of a blog devoted to your home? Or, have you considered using one of the house-selling sites? Ditch the realtor. You don’t need her/him. Advertise on Craig’s List once you fix the sight prolem. All you need is a real-estate attorney. We never used a realtor to sell!

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9 Elizabeth May 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I’m pretty close to ditching the Realtor anyway… he’s not helping his cause…

We’ve thought about doing something more in the backyard, but putting in fencing or a patio really wouldn’t be cost effective at this point. Barrier plants might help, but… I just wish you could see the configuration of our backyard! It’s hard to explain, but we’re the 2nd house from the corner, so our lot is kind of shaped like a pie, with the backyard much smaller than the front. We have a huge tree back there – a perfect tree for a swing (which we have!) – and that gives us a great visual barrier from our “backyard” neighbors. In a $160k house, it’s just a matter of cost efficiency at this point. I’m just ready to give the house away! Any takers?

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10 Practical Parsimony May 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm

“there” is correct on first line….grrr

The sight barrier will serve as a sound barrier, also.

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11 Practical Parsimony May 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm

My mother had the pie-shaped yard. But, it was soooo deep. A wooden fence is cheaper than coming down another $5000 and giving a fat commission to the realtor. Don’t let the realtor see it coming, just make sure you have not signed something with an automatic renewal. A friend did that and almost never got rid of the realtor, stuck like a leach! The tree is good, very good. I think the yard is not interesting enough to people. I see the immediate good, the bones, the possibilities of homes and yards! Some people need you to color it in for them.

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12 Elizabeth May 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm

YES YES YES! So many people can’t see what’s right there in front of their faces unless you point it out. So frustrating. Our contract with our Realtor is up in early August – and he’ll be gone!

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13 Practical Parsimony May 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm

leech

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14 AverageJoe May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I think the problem with most realtors is that they don’t communicate enough. I have a realtor I’m thinking about switching on a rental house 900 miles away. She never initiates any contact. When I call her all of my ideas are “good idea!”‘s. I don’t need that kind of help.

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15 JAMES May 22, 2012 at 9:06 am

3 months and you are done? I have posted $20 items on ebay that have taken longer than that to sell. You are selling a very expensive item. . Be a little more patient. As for the realtor. Anyone can take a real estate course and become a realtor. There is no stringent set of requirements, so there are a lot of terrible realtors out there. The best way to sell a house is to have a realtor with a lot of connections. Realtors who have been in the game for over 15 years have a lot of connections and they get the house sold. Switch realtors after your contract with this one is up and you will be amazed at the difference.

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16 Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter May 23, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Yuck, I am sorry. Sounds frustrating as hell. The day we found our builder and picked our dream home (the one that is taking 4 months to have built, ick), we ended up only seeing 2 of the 7 houses we had planned. Now I feel like I need to call those last 5 people and apologize for the no show. I truly hope our realtor gave them a heads up as we were looking at floor plans…

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17 Roshawn @ Watson Inc May 25, 2012 at 7:17 am

Oh no! I COMPLETELY empathize. At a certain point, you just want out. However, if you make a deal that is too sweet for the buyer, you may have some regret in the end, as you know you would have left too much money on the table. Oh well, I wish you both well in this frustrating life experience.

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18 Tom June 5, 2012 at 10:06 am

It sounds like you have a lovely house. I don’t think that is the problem. Here is my advice:

1. At least get a price estimate for putting up a privacy fence in the back yard. It may not cost as much as you think.

2. Drop your realtor in early August. Then put up for sale by owner, and find a realtor that will just get you in the MLS for a flat fee of around $300 to $500. In your MLS listing you will agree to pay a buyer’s agent 3%. This saves you the 3% from the listing agent side. Then put out an Info Tube with information sheets in your front yard along with your for sale sign. You will be surprised how many people drive around neighborhoods looking for a house. Realtors often don’t put out the info sheets because they want the calls.

3. Subtract the 3% you are saving from the listing agent from your price. As you make the painful decision to reduce your asking price, consider both the financial carrying cost (mortgage + utilities + anything else) as well as the emotional carrying cost. Realtors like to say “Location, Location, Location”. I say “Marketing, Location, House, Price”

4. I would not recommend trying to sell by owner without getting the house listed in the MLS (step 2 above). The quality and readiness of buyers seem to be better with the MLS listing, based on my experience of trying both ways.

Good luck and keep us informed.

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