Selling a house. Selling our house. It sounded easy enough and we needed to consider doing that as part of our plan to move to Panama next summer.
We thought about keeping it and renting it out, but after discussing the options with our financial advisor, it actually made more sense to sell it. We have a lot of equity in it and we’ll need that money to cover our first five years during our Roth IRA conversion ladder.
That said, we’re not moving to Panama until next summer so we can let our daughter finish out the school year. So why not wait and just sell the house in the spring?
That was initially the plan, but with the real estate market as hot as it was this summer, I started getting antsy. I didn’t want to take the chance of the market heading downhill if we waited.
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but what if the market continues to stay on track and actually gets hotter?”
I considered that, but I was willing to pass on some potential gains in exchange for cutting out a possible loss. Basically, I’m content with where the real estate market currently stood. There’s no better time to consider selling a house than in a seller’s market.
It’s too early to tell, but it looks like that may have been a good decision. Although the market’s still hot, it’s starting to cool down.
So in August, we decided to put the house up for sale.
Unfortunately, we were still late to the game and missed those peak spring and summer months. It went up for sale right about the time kids started going back to school and that’s when selling a house becomes a little tougher – not impossible, but just a little tougher.
I’m not the best handyman, though I’ve come a long way over the years. I’m willing to try fixing different things, but I also know my limits. Some tasks seem to come as second nature to a lot of hands-on folks… not me.
When something says it should take a few hours to do, I plan on a full day’s work. I usually figure it out, but I’m not the guy you’d be calling in to fix things at your house!
I was able to take care of the minor repairs before the house went up, but then during the showings, I felt like everything continued to go break. Nothing major, but just one stupid thing after another.
It’s funny how the house seemed to be just fine for the past 10 years and suddenly the issues crept up all at the same time.
First Mrs. R2R lets me know that there’s water all around the toilet. Crap. Well, I learned how to replace a toilet seal. I went with a waxless seal and, boy that was easy – highly recommend!
Then we had possible water issues in the basement wall. We brought in a few basement waterproofing companies and each had a different story on what the problem was and how to fix it. All solutions, of course, were going to cost thousands of dollars (of course).
Then the last company came in and after checking everything out, the guy (an owner) tells me I don’t have a problem with the wall. The dampness is actually just from condensation forming on the insulation. He then proceeded to show me what was in fact going on.
That’s how to do business. I saved a fortune this time around, but I’ll be sure to recommend his company to friends and family looking for a referral.
We also had the front window sills starting to rot away. We brought in a handyman to take care of that and he did a really nice job. So we had him paint one of the ceilings while he was there.
Showing after showing after showing…
If you’ve considered selling a house before, you know you’re going to have to deal with people coming through the house to look at it. This becomes a pain in the butt over time.
Everything in the house needs to look immaculate at all times because there are plenty of last-minute showing requests. We’re generally pretty tidy, but we’re not perfect and this becomes a real nuisance – especially with an eight-year-old in the house.
And then before every showing, there are all those stupid little things we have do. Every window blind needs opened to let in the “natural light” and every bed needs to be made to look perfect. I’m sure we vacuumed that house 736 times over the course of the selling process.
On top of that, most of the showings seemed to fall on weekday evenings. For a naturally frugal family like ourselves, that wasn’t great because that meant quite a number of evenings eating out.
I’m definitely glad the showings are done – that put a burden on all of us.
Updates – sorry, not here
I’m a pretty easy guy. I could live in a dorm room and be just fine with no complaints. In fact, those were some of the simplest days of my life.
That also makes it easier to work toward financial independence when you aren’t pouring tens of thousands of dollars into updates into your house.
But… that doesn’t bode so well when you’re selling a house. People like the latest and greatest when buying a house – granite counter tops, ceramic tile floors, fancy appliances, and more.
The feedback we got from most of our showings is that they really liked the house and felt it was priced right. However, they didn’t like that we hadn’t done any major updates to it.
Our house was built in 1998 so it’s about 20 years old. That’s really not too bad for a house, but the place is no spring chicken either. Our house has that natural wood color molding throughout the house, original appliances and vinyl flooring in the kitchen. Not so impressive, right?
We’ve made minor changes to the house, but definitely not anything too impressive. For instance, I replaced all the brass light fixtures, faucets, and knobs with nickel. Not as great as a kitchen makeover, but it made a huge difference throughout the house… but not what most folks were looking for.
Then you have to consider that the roof is also 20 years old… it’s about time for a replacement. It’s not leaking or anything, but I watched this summer as quite a number of other residents in the development were getting their roofs replaced.
All in all, although the house is just fine, it wasn’t what a lot of buyers were searching for. That said, we’re still in a seller’s market so we finally hooked someone who was interested after about a month of it being on the market.
Selling a house takes some negotiations
All sellers want the most money they can get when selling a house. Not a problem except for the fact that all buyers want the best deal they can get when buying a house.
Some folks are great at negotiating and some people actually enjoy the game. I’m not one of those people. Stop the stupid back and forth and let’s just get on with it.
In the end, we negotiated a price that was $9,000 less than our asking price. It’s tough to get a lot less than you’re asking, but considering the lack of updates, this seemed like a fair price and put it in the right range. Additionally, the price we got was still an increase of about 15% over what we bought it for 10 years ago.
So that’s it? House sold and we’re good, right?
Not quite. We still have a couple more pieces that needed to be done first.
Home inspection – no stress here… uh, maybe
You’d think the stress of selling a house would end with the purchase agreement, but not so fast. Almost every home sale comes with the contingency of a home inspection being done.
That’s fun because you don’t really have any control. You let an inspector and the buyers spend hours going through every nook and cranny in your entire house with the sole intent of looking for problems… problems you don’t even know exist.
You also don’t know if the inspector is going to be someone who points out every stupid little thing, misses important details, or falls somewhere in the middle. Regardless, there’s nothing you can do except let them do their thing.
So, we left the house on the scheduled date and let ’em at it. And then we waited.
They brought up a few items that they felt needed attending to such as flashing on the roof, issues with the radon mitigation system, and concerns with the furnace and hot water tank.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything that was pointed out, but I was already a beaten man at this point and just wanting to be done with this whole thing. Unfortunately, that’s not a good position to be in when you’re selling a house.
The concern we had with addressing the issues ourselves was that it’s very possible that we could start to fix an issue and discover that something bigger would need to be done (replace the whole furnace or roof for instance).
So we worked with the buyers and decided to let them handle the fixes. We negotiated on a number to take off the purchase price, which ended up being a couple thousand dollars.
Ok, now we’re done, right? Close, but not quite.
And then the appraisal…
The last piece of the selling process was an appraisal. If the house doesn’t show an expected appraisal price, it’s very possible that the buyers wouldn’t be able to secure their loan without a bigger down payment. And, of course, we have no idea what type of financial situation the buyers are in (except that they were pre-approved for the loan).
So, an appraiser came over and did a walk-through of the house taking pictures and measurements.
Then he left and guess what we got to do… yup, wait… again.
This seemed to take forever, but eventually came back (in about a week and a half!) and everything was good. Thank goodness!
We’re finally done and have a closing date in a couple of weeks. Now we’re onto the last stressful part of the equation… moving.
I hate moving
By selling now instead of the spring, we gave ourselves plenty of time before our move to Panama. And in the meantime, we’re planning to move to an apartment just a couple of miles away from the house we’re selling. That keeps us close to our daughter’s school for the current year.
This will be the 10th time in my life I’ve moved and you know what – it’s getting old. On top of that, I’m getting older. Yeah, I’m only 43, but I’m no 20-year-old anymore.
So this time, I decided we’re hiring a moving company. We actually just decided today that we’ll let the moving company handle moving all the furniture and heavy stuff and we’ll try to get everything else moved beforehand. This should save the movers a lot of time and, since they charge by the hour, that should help our pocketbook a little bit.
The apartment we got was the only one becoming available in the complex. Just to add a little twist of fun though, it doesn’t become available until 5 days before the official closing date.
That doesn’t give us a ton of time to get everything moved and done. We’ll make it happen, but it’s going to be one more stressful event to add to the mix.
Renting vs buying
There are arguments from both camps on whether you can come out further ahead by buying a house or renting. Obviously, a lot of variables come into play on the differences – how long you live in a place, your mortgage rate, taxes, closing costs, repairs, etc. Feel free to use an online calculator to get a better idea of which is better for your own situation.
I’m not looking to dispute which is better. You can fill up the comments below talking about how much equity we’ll lose out on over the long run. But for us, I’ll be content with selling our house and renting from here on out.
The apartment makes sense for us for now since we’ll only be there for about 9 months. However, once we move to Panama next summer, and even if we decide to move back to the U.S. down the line, renting is the only thing on my mind for the time being.
It’s possible that I could change my mind at some point, but the amount of stress we’ve had in the past few months of selling our house makes me think that’s not going to be a likely scenario.
Selling a house isn’t easy. In fact, it’s one of the biggest pains in the @#$ that I’ve dealt with in a long time.
However, the fun’s just about wrapped up. We’re scheduled to close in just a couple of weeks.
The day after we close, we leave for a trip – a cruise – which, some of you know is my favorite kind of vacation. This should be a well-earned rest and the best news is that selling our house puts the biggest hurdle out of our way.
We’ve sold off a ton of our stuff and plan to sell or give away most of the rest of it over the next several months. Then we’re free to move about the world without feeling anchored to one place.
It’s a weird feeling to get rid of everything, but it’s also so freeing and liberating. One step closer to the Panama move!
Was selling a house ever something you’ve had to do? Easy peasy or a real pain in the butt?
Thanks for reading!!