Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Super-Long Saga of Real Estate Woes and New Hope

Our house has been on the market since May.  When we decided to sell it, we asked the agent who sold it to us to sell it for us, and she accepted.  Given that we've never sold a house before, we didn't know what to expect.  We knew that her commission was the standard rate, so we signed a contract.

We spent the month of May working on the house - new shutters, new paint in the first floor rooms, cleaning carpets, and packing up and moving our things to my dad's house.  We told ourselves it would only be for a few months, and we very quickly found a house we wanted to move into.

We soon had some reservations about the process.  The pictures that the realtor took (some with a cellphone) were blurry or at odd angles.  I retook the pictures with my camera and emailed them to her.  It would take a couple of days for her to email us back with any question or comment we had.  Our first open house had only two visitors.  One was immediately uninterested (they had severe cat allergies and would have to rip all of the carpeting out).  The other, we were told, was considering a contract!  We packed and moved MUCH more of our things anticipating leaving at any time!  But we had patchy communication from our agent, and two weeks later, found out the interested person chose to continue renting her house, which is fine.  Next one, right? 

We had two showings.  After each showing, we had to keep hounding our agent to give us any feedback at all from the showings.  What could we do to sell this house??  We were facing a very scary deadline - I was due in August.  We wanted certainty about where this baby would be born.

We scheduled another open house six weeks after the first, and no one came at all.  We had three more showings.  Again, no communication from our agent.  I've been asking since July - should we drop the price?  Put in new carpet?  Offer closing cost help?  She was very non-committal about all of it.  Mr. B and I put a lot of work into making flyers for his workplace (nearby with about 200 workers) and posting on Facebook about our house, but we couldn't do it often.  Was this what people usually have to do when they hire someone to sell their house?  All in all, we had five showings in four and a half months with no contracts and no real feedback.

The final straw came when our neighbors put their house on the market last week.  They put it on at $5,000 more than ours, but with an extra half bath, hardwood floors, and central air.  Over the fence, I saw their real estate company taking pictures - a real camera!  And I looked at their listing online.  Their house looked amazing.  I've been inside of it before, it's not *that* different from ours.  After all, we're in a townhouse.

I was despondent.  We'll never be able to lower our price enough to attract a buyer.  We started looking into refinancing, but that would add $10,000 back to our loan, and put us right back where we started with this house five years ago.  Not to mention, we only have two bedrooms and there are four of us now, with hopefully more in the future.  I asked our realtor to give specific steps that she has taken and will take to sell our house.  She posted the listing in a couple of little papers (though not the major papers in the area), and listed them online with places like Zillow and  She said she might considering taking different pictures to put the listing back up the top of the sales pages, and maybe dropping the price more.

I'd been avoiding looking at our listing, but I wanted to see what we had compared to the neighbors.  I looked at the pictures online, and I was appalled!  Those were not the pictures I sent her.  They were completely washed out, blurry, and cropped.  They only showed half of the front of our house (the bottom half). 

We solicited selling agent recommendations from friends, and one came over Monday night.  For the same commission, they have a staging service tell you what needs to be done, moved, painted, etc.  They have professional photographers come with lights and special lenses to accurately capture the room.  They use social media to promote the house and the events associated with it.  They call or email us at least once a week to check in and give a progress report.  The list goes on.

While I felt badly about letting our agent go, we had to do what was best for our family.  Monday night we asked to terminate our contract, and will be pursuing a new contract with a different agent.  While I have been stressed about this house for MONTHS now, I'm finally feeling hopeful.  Someone can guide us and tell us what needs to be done instead of me fumbling in the dark, always feeling inadequate and wondering "should we repaint that again?  Take more things out?  Replace carpet?"  Rather than thinking we might have to pay for someone to take our house, we might break even or - dare I say it - make just a little on it.  I don't need a lot, I just need out.  And, God willing, we might be able to stop living out of boxes at my dad's house and call a new place home before Miss C has her first birthday.


  1. How frustrating! I bet things will go better with your new agent. How could they go worse?

  2. I hadn't thought of it that way - you are absolutely right :-)