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Andi’s Story: Selling a House for the First Time

September 21, 2021  —  Written by Andrea Ahedo 

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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.

First Time Homeowners

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.

Living room update

Deck refresh

 

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?!”

curb appeal

Prepping to Sell

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.

Other things I would have never thought of:

  • Remove all prescription medicines from your cabinets, and hide in a safe place.
  • Remove family photos off of ledges and walls, especially those that have your children in them. Your house will be photographed right before it is listed, so think about what is being shown online to the general public.
  • Remove stuffed animals off of children’s beds. Keep a child’s space feeling as de-cluttered as possible.
  • Remove all small appliances, canisters, and decor off of kitchen counters. You want them to look spacious and clean.
  • Remove bath mats and have your shower curtain or door open half way.

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.

Live on the Market

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.

What Comes Next

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.

screenshot of sale history

Terminations of Contract

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.

house with a sold sign

Re-listing

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!

Lessons Learned

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.

  1. Be upfront in your listing about what you are willing and not willing to repair. You can even list your house as “As is.”
  2. Include an appraisal clause stating that if the house does not appraise, the buyer has to make up the difference.
  3. Don’t be tempted to wait for the perfect offer. At the time, our second offer which was $35K over asking wanted $10K in repairs. In the end it still would have been $15K more than what our final offer ended up being. We felt we had room to negotiate, and we didn’t.
  4. Your house’s price and listing history is public knowledge. Re-listing is a red flag and can deter buyers from even looking at your home.
  5. Styling and staging matters! It helped home-buyers see our house’s potential because we had all the furniture, decor, and art in place.

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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What do you think?

  1. Correy says:

    Our house was listed as-is, purchase was agreed on “as-is” …. but our buyer was a realtor who twisted our arms and refused to sign the inspection contingency unless we credited them $6k for a cosmetic preference!

    The market shift has been so ugly. And I’ve seen a lot of realtors who don’t want to support the seller with re-listing (it’s not fun for the owner either!) but sometimes it makes for a better situation than telling a previous offer the first one fell through. At that point they know they hold the power and often use it.

    But also I WILL NEVER SELL MY HOUSE TO A REALTOR AGAIN. Really gross experience watching them manipulate the sale, threaten us, etc.

  2. Emily says:

    We have gone through the ups and downs of selling the last two months. We put in $7,000 of repairs (prior to listing), had an under appraisal, the buyers switched to a conventional loan, had a family crisis and had to then back out, we’re under contract for 24 hours when they backed out (they thought that they could rent it out and the HOA bylaws would not allow that), and we are now under contract again. We are hoping that 3rd time is a charm. We thankfully received the earnest money from the first offer, but are just praying this closes so that we can get to Texas. Thank-you for sharing your experience and letting us know that we are not alone.

  3. Dawn says:

    Andi, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. It was so stressful to watch roll out here in Michigan-I can’t imagine what it was like for all of you! I so look forward to seeing what you do with your new home. It’s beautiful!

  4. Jennifre says:

    Hello! More of a design question here. Do you mind sharing the color of paint in your living room (pictured above)? It’s beautiful. Thank you!

  5. Julie says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have been a Realtor for 16 years and always eager to learn from other peoples stories.
    My Sellers are often shocked when I tell them the highest offer is not always the best offer. If the Buyers don’t agree from the beginning to pay over the appraised value then you need to question how solid the offer is.
    In the end I am glad you sold and found a new home! Best Wishes!

  6. Heather says:

    Hi Andi, Thanks for sharing about your experience. I think you did well for a first-time seller, in a stressful year, and a crazy real estate market.
    This was a real learning curve!
    I hope that you and your family love your new home and new region of the country.

  7. Olivia says:

    That has to be so frustrating but I’m a bit surprised that your realtor didn’t advise you better about 1) preparing you house before the sale with repairs and 2) and the $10K repair request from those buyers. The roller coaster of emotions had to be hard. Congrats on getting through the whole process and getting a new home. I’m sure you’ll make it home in no time

  8. A. Cobb says:

    Hi! I fe l this in my soul from the buyer pov. We opened escrow on (my) ultimate dream house and they held firm on not wanting to help replace the roof. Inspection said it was on its last leg, owner thought otherwise. We walked away and I internally cried hard for weeks. Out of curiosity, I opened the zillow link for thelat dream house and saw that they took 8 months to sell their house at a price $65k lower than what we had offered, AFTER the cost of splitting the roof replacement with us. The new owner was an investor, flipped it in a few weeks but put a hearty bandaid on the roof, then sold it for $150k over the previous listing and in the early 2020 San Diego market, it sold within a week. I feel bad for the initial owner. :/

  9. DWF says:

    Your real estate agent should have told you to accept that $35k offer because it is poison to have a listing go on and off the market again and again with buyers wondering what is wrong with it. You would have ended up with $25k extra and not had to do more repairs. I am also very surprised that your agent didn’t have you fix all the obvious stuff (she didn’t tell you to fix a cracked window or tighten screws?) and have your own inspection (whose findings must be disclosed) beforehand so that you and your potential buyers would be well aware going into things. Live and learn.

    • Amanda says:

      I agree. That’s honestly almost a too-good-to-be-true offer considering it was probably listed as higher than it was bought 18 months previous and while the updates were nice, it was mostly just paint and the fence.

      • Christina says:

        But they bought it in 2019 and were selling in early 2021… totally different market. Houses with no updates appreciated crazily in that time.
        However, this is a really interesting article and most of the comments are super helpful. My main take-away is, don’t get sucked in by an enthusiastic realtor!

  10. Deena says:

    We sold in the Dallas market this year, and local realtors have come up with a standard addendum in this area saying that buyers are willing to waive the appraisal, knowing full well it won’t appraise for the current market values. The appraisal still happens for mortgage and lending purposes, but the buyer literally cannot walk away due to a low appraisal with a signed addendum. It’s nuts! I felt so much empathy reading this – we had a rollercoaster of a sale too, and went on the market on April 27. We’re buying a new build that should be ready in 2.5 weeks. I, like you, am ready to be in my new home! Cheers to us for surviving this market!

  11. cathy says:

    omg. LOVED this post!!! I am a renter, and know nothing about buying a house. Would love to hear more about the buying experience from somebody on the team as well, either a first time buyer or a seasoned buyer. Do you wait for your current house to close before buying a house? I heard this somewhere and wondered why. is it so you don’t wind up with two mortgages if things go wrong? so much for me to learn before becoming a homeowner.

    • Danielle says:

      Others can add their expertise, but I believe you close on one before purchasing the other because you need the money made from the sale of the first to use as a down payment on the mortgage of the second.

    • Rebekah says:

      You can do it either way. :) It is certainly a risk to close on the new house before selling your own…you may end up paying two mortgages for much longer than you wanted to.
      We just sold/bought the “risky” way because the market is so hot in our area, we already knew we’d be able to sell our old home. Plus we have young children & I’m pregnant…finding the new house first was far less stressful. If you sell your old home first, you will be living in that house while trying to show and sell it (big pain with little kaunder and then you will be under pressure to find a new place in a hurry.

  12. MC says:

    Selling & buying is so stressful! Even with great realtors, things happen. Andy, did you have to end up replacing the roof or just lowering the price of the house for the roof? Or going with the 4th offer? It was a little hard to understand.

    Obviously, things are different in various regions and cities but one example of avoiding all that craziness is what the city of Minneapolis had to implement about 10 years ago – a pre-sale inspection requirement. There, when you put your house up for sale, you already see the inspection report. If a lot of things are found, a seller will fix as much as they can/need and have another inspection before putting it on the market…or just disclose all those items. In Minnesota, it’s common to put down $5k to $15k as earnest money (in my limited experience). $1k to $1.5K is so little, I see why some people might just walk away if too much is found in the inspections.

    • Clare says:

      So true re: earnest money. Different country completely, but here in Australia, you’ll typically pay 10% on signing the contract. Which is often $100k in our biggest cities (which 80% of us live in). And at an auction, property is sold ‘as is’. when the hammer goes down, you’re on the hook for the house – no cooling off period at all.

  13. Kim says:

    This stuff is fascinating to me. Thanks for sharing this story!

    It’s interesting what our minds do when our coveted space and money intersect. If the second buyer had come back and said, ‘hey, it needs a new roof which is about 10K. can we knock 10K off our offer and have a deal?’, would you have taken it? (Honestly, that’s what a smart buyer would do anyway….I don’t want the seller choosing my new roof!)

    We’ve been shopping for a new home for over a year; this market is still stupid crazy.

  14. RC says:

    One thing that I’ve learned from John and Sherry at YoungHouseLove.com is you can have your home inspected any time. So inspect it before you even put your home on the market so you are not surprised by anything in the inspection report. You will be able to take care of small repairs and be able to list it with info about the age and state of your AC system, etc.

    • Sarah says:

      That’s how all of the Bay Area offers are… and it is so frustrating buying everywhere else that doesn’t use that protocol. Even in seller’s markets, for a buyer to waive inspection contingencies, it’s so much more reassuring to purchase a house that has had a reputable inspector review, and that you have an honest picture of your all-in price. As a seller, it’s much easier to say what was disclosed when listed, and minimizes the back and forth, and likelihood of things falling through… for $500. In markets where the seller is more vulnerable, it just doesn’t make sense to not be transparent and disclose.

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