This is a guest post by Andrea Ahedo, our Visual Media Producer/Head Photographer, who is sharing her experience with selling a house, her previous home in Idaho, for the first time.
We bought our very first house in October 2019. Built in 1960, it was a four-bedroom ranch-style home with creaky wooden floors, semi-updated ’90s oak kitchen, an untouched family room in the basement screaming for paint, and a great backyard for our 2-year-old (at the time) son to run around to his heart’s content. We had so much home pride, it was oozing out of our front door. Needless to say, being a first-time home owners while simultaneously starting my career as Visual Media Producer for Chris Loves Julia was the ultimate pairing! I took mental notes on paint sheen, curtain lengths, duvet covers, and deck stains. Then I’d go home and do something to make our old house feel more like us. Through many cans of paint, podcasts, and playlists, I gradually updated our living room, kitchen, downstairs family room, exterior, and backyard. All this without knowing our house would be up for sale 18 months after buying it.
Once we made the decision to move with the Chris Loves Julia to Raleigh, NC, we had to figure out our timeline. There was a very delicate balance between when to list our current home, and when to buy our next. It was spring of 2021 and the housing market was hot. It seemed that houses all over the country were selling within 24 hours of listing, for way over asking price. Cash offers you couldn’t refuse. Being a realist, I still didn’t think our humble abode would be one crowds of people would be lining up to see. It was an old house, only updated about 40 percent.
I still remember where I was when I called the real estate agency and they said, “Your house will sell within 48 hours with multiple offers on the table.” Our house?? But…the guest bath still has those really old built-in shampoo and soap dispensers in it! Within two days, our realtor was doing her first walk-through, grinning ear to ear and taking a lot of notes on her clipboard. I told her about what we did to the kitchen and watched her nod, smile, write more notes. I showed her the new fence we had just put in the fall before — more nods, smiles, notes. When we finished the tour, she energetically said, “I’m excited because this house is cute, and it’s going to sell fast! When should we list?!”
We decided to list one month later, on May 1. There would be open showings on Friday (attend with a realtor, no appointment needed) and an open house on Saturday (anyone can come; our realtor is at the house answering questions). That’s it. A couple weeks before our house went live, the agency sent a stager to walk through our home and give us specific tips on how to prep our house for showings. Some things I knew, like: Save every lamp and light on. Showing off lighting helps make your home feel inviting and can even allow home buyers to visualize what the house looks like in the evening.
Even though I was told there was nothing extra I had to do for the house, you know I couldn’t help myself. I went and bought a bunch of faux plants from Michael’s and decked the heck out of our deck. We hung our string lights in the backyard and made sure they were on even for morning showings. All the Puras were on throughout the house so bergamot and sandalwood would welcome the buyers right in. I put a big woven basket by the front door with a note on my favorite stationery that said “Please leaves your shoes at the door.” It’s all in the details.
Our house’s first weekend on the market was everything we were hoping for. The showings were non-stop. I anxiously texted neighbors for updates while I was at work, and was told that cars were lining the street all day. People were even walking to see the house from the next block over. There were only 41 listings available in the Idaho Falls area at that time, and our house was one of them.
After the first day of showings, we already received a jaw-dropping offer that was $45K over asking price. By the end of the weekend, we had 9 offers on the table, almost all over-asking. Let me just say, this is the most fun part of selling a house. The inbox chime, anxiously opening up a PDF, and scrolling to see how much they’re willing to pay to get YOUR house! It’s a rush! We accepted the highest offer from the weekend, but kind of felt like we needed to keep our excitement at bay. It’s as if we were “cautiously celebrating” because I didn’t think our house was worth that much. Someone can put a number on an offer to stand out from the pack, but if your house doesn’t appraise for that much, (isn’t worth that much) things get sticky. Accepting an offer is the first hurdle of selling a house. The next hurdles are inspection and appraisal.
Before I share the whirlwind we went through for the next two months with selling our house, I want to emphasize that real estate laws are legislated on a state-by-state basis. Buying a house in Idaho was starkly different to buying a house in North Carolina, and the same applies to selling. For example, in the state of Idaho there is no due diligence law in place, but there is earnest money. This means, when an offer is written and accepted, the home-buyer will then send an earnest money check to their realtor. This will be used towards their down payment, and is typically only $1,000-$1,500 dollars. If the buyer walks away at any time, their earnest money will be still be reimbursed. Basically, in Idaho, there’s no legislation in place that would protect a seller from having multiple offers walk away. Maybe you already see where this is going.
After we went under contract with our high offer, an inspection followed a few days later. The buyer pays for this and it allows them to get an unbiased, factual report from a third party who does not hold anything back. (Slightly loose screws in a switch plate will be on an inspection report) We were surprised, sad, and kind of embarrassed when they walked away after getting their inspection.
We had to sign a termination of contract and were told there are backup offers that still want to be considered. We went with the second highest offer: $35K over asking. Same song and dance: sign to accept their offer, wait for the inspection to be scheduled. Hold your breath. Did we know what was wrong with our house? I mean, yeah! Before you sell a house you fill out a full disclosure of everything you know doesn’t work in your home. In our case, the water softener, and A/C unit. Also, we had just had our own inspection 18 months prior when we bought the house. It was 61 years old, and was a rental property for years and years, with little repairs or improvements made over time.
Our second offer asked for $10K in repairs after their inspection. This would get deducted from the sale of the house. Our realtor had an in-house handy-man who would quote repairs after an inspection report so sellers could confidently leverage their counter offer. The repair quote came back around $5K and that’s what we counter-offered. The buyers walked away. Our little white house had now been on the market for a month with 2 terminations of contract, and not a penny more in our pockets. At this point, your only option is to re-list.
We did a team huddle with our realtor and decided to invest in some repairs we know are going to keep coming up. Two weeks were spent fixing a few aesthetic things around the exterior of the home: gutters, siding, exposed wires, dryer vent cover, etc. We also did a small list of repairs inside: leaky shower head, loose kitchen faucet, missing lock on sliding kitchen doors, crack in plexiglass basement window, etc. More than anything, this gave us a boost of confidence before re-listing our house, now over a month later.
The market was different in June. Instead of 41 live houses in Idaho Falls, there were now 138. There wasn’t a feeding frenzy this time, it was more like very slow snacking that lasted for four days. Seeing two terminations of contract on a house plus a re-listing is a red flag to realtor and their clients. It makes them wonder why people kept walking away. We got four offers that weekend, the highest being $15k over asking and we accepted. We went under contract for the third time, and kept our heads up feeling optimistic about the repairs we had done.
After the inspection, they asked for a new roof. *gulp* Not repairs, just a new roof! They also mentioned a termination of contract has already been signed if we don’t agree to repair the roof. *eye roll* We get it, and no, we aren’t replacing our whole roof which was quoted around $10K. Our last (and final) offer, sent in the same weekend as the other, was $10K over asking. “This one has to stick,” we thought.
It did! We complied with a couple repairs they asked for, one being the roof, and we finally reached the appraisal milestone! The house did appraise, thank goodness, and it finally felt like smooth sailing. There really is nothing left to do after that except wait for closing date and pack!
At the time it felt like things were out of our control and we were at the mercy of buyers, which felt really backwards in today’s housing market climate. But looking back, there’s things I would have done differently as a seller.
In just a couple months time our roles switched from sellers to buyers as we looked for our next home in Raleigh. After a month of putting in an offer every weekend, our fourth offer was accepted, and we move into our new house in one week from today! We finally feel our whirlwind of selling and buying is coming to a close and we are so ready to settle down and stay put.
PS. At the peak of frustration with so many contracts falling through, I actually made a reel to illustrate what kept happening. Check it out here.
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