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Home Sweet No-Sale Home – Positive Ways to Cope When the Economy Says Nope to Your Home Sale
As a home seller whose mint condition beach condo took eight months and three escrows to sell last year, here are some practical things I learned that will help you and your family positively cope when selling your own home in a tough economy, especially if you are still living there while it’s on the market.
Ace Agent. I can’t say it enough. Your home is likely your biggest financial asset and its sale should only be put into the hands of a star real estate agency. Educate yourself. Interview at least three agents. Ask critical questions and call their references. Collaborate with your mate and decide together. Seek skill, high level of practical experience, professionalism, and integrity of business practices. Make sure they have a full escrow support staff and find out how they’ll manage your sale when they’re traveling or on vacation. Like a doctor who does ten surgeries a day vs. one who does two, the more practical experience, the better your chances for positive results. Once you find the agent who has the skill level you are seeking, strive for a good personality match and then rely on your intuition to make the final decision.
R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Be respectful of your agent and their staff and expect to be treated respectfully in return. That being said, if you’ve made a sincere effort to work things out and it’s just not working, hire a new agent. It may not be comfortable, but your financial well being could be affected for years to come. I did this and my second agent was not only a gem to get along with, but he listened well, was a good negotiator, got the job done, and did it with professionalism.
Bug Screen. Find an agent who’s willing to screen prospective buyer calls and will only send qualified buyers to your door. While agents aren’t magicians or mind readers, they can do their best to find out ahead of time if buyers are qualified for a loan, can pay cash, or if they are simply people who go to every open house in the county as a hobby. Let the agent work out the “buyer bugs” behind the scenes so you can carry on with your daily life and work and continue to prepare for moving your entire household and family. If you interview agents who say they don’t have the time or staff to screen buyers, interview more agents until you find one who is happy to do it for you. My second agent offered to pre-screen buyer calls before I even asked.
Underwear Drawer Blues. If you’re a gregarious person who loves drop-by visitors and lots of people in your home, it may not bother you to have potential buyers peering into your cabinets, toilet, and home office, commenting on everything from your style of decorating to the shampoo you use on your hair. But for those of us more private personality types who prefer quiet evenings at home reading and being alone with our mate, it can be downright unnerving to feel like your whole life is under a microscope. Forgo a lockbox and ask your realtor to notify you at least an hour in advance of any showings. Leave your home during the showings so you don’t feel pressured to answer buyers’ questions and so you won’t have to hear their comments about your underwear closet.
Serene Showings. I learned to turn the time I had to leave my home for showings into something positive. I parked my car on the street so I could see the prospects come and go and would therefore know when I could return to my home. Like moms who wait in their car for their kids at soccer practice, I used that “found quiet car time” to read a book, make a call to a friend on my cell phone, or say a prayer. (That my house would sell!) I also kept a notebook in my car to record writing ideas, business brainstorms, and decorating ideas for my new home. Even though it was difficult to leave my home office so many times a week, I made my best effort to use the time wisely and stay in a positive frame of mind.
Clutter Buster. Declutter your home before the sale. Put possessions like trophies, awards, and family photos in storage. Buyers need to see the space well enough so that they can visualize themselves living there with their own furniture and belongings. Clean windows, new plants, and fresh paint are important. If your décor is dated, it may help to hire a real estate staging expert, but be cautious about anyone who advises you to spend huge sums of money. Have them walk through and give you ideas, and then implement their suggestions yourself as your intuition and budget guide you to do. Remember that if you decide to take your home off the market and it’s been staged, you may not feel comfortable living there and your personal things will be in storage. I hired a real estate stager, implemented her suggestions, and I felt it helped sell the property. But I also felt like I was living in a stranger’s house which was a downer for a homebody type like me.
Beautiful Experiences. Be sure to find something to do that will bring beauty and happiness into your life while you wait. Paint a picture, go see a play, hit some golf balls, or walk on the beach. Do whatever you find enjoyable for you and your family; it’s a tonic for the spirit. During our 30 day escrow, which lasted the entire Christmas holidays and disrupted our seasonal plans, I accepted a last minute writing assignment for an article that was later published in a popular national decorating magazine. Yes, really. By focusing on someone else’s beautiful home and telling their happy family story, it enabled me to remember that my home would finally sell and I’d have a serene home life once again too.
Plentiful Paperwork. Be prepared for an onslaught of paperwork and keep it organized. Legal documents abound during a home sale transaction and it’s best to start a file for them before an offer ever comes in. I purchased a brown legal size accordion file folder from the office supply store to store escrow papers as they arrived one by one. Once the transaction was over, I organized them into several labeled manila file folders and archived them to my storage closet. And I was thrilled when a few weeks after the sale I received all my signed escrow documents on a CD from my real estate agency and could file the CD right along with my own papers.
E-mail Elephants. Yes, a home sale will create e-mails in your in-box the size of an elephant. Accept that fact and plan ahead. I opened up a file folder in my e-mail program with my real estate agency’s name on it and every incoming and outgoing e-mail was put in that folder. It enabled me to stay on top of what was happening during three escrows, and it also helped keep track of forms that were attached to the e-mails and had to be signed and faxed back to my agent or his escrow officer. My agent and I worked almost exclusively by e-mail and it worked great.
Contented Kids. If you have to leave your home on short notice, it’s not always easy to “grab the baby and go with a toddler also in tow.” To make it easier, keep their stroller and a big bag packed with snacks, bottles, diapers, wet wipes, and other essentials as well as toys and books by the front door so you can leave on short notice and avoid cranky kids. If the weather is bad, head for the car and take a little drive. Depending on their age, present the move as a fun adventure, talking up positively that they will soon have a cute new room and a new school with great friends. Don’t let your own anxieties show to your children; they need stability, reassurance, and love during this time.
Weekend Getaway. Yes, really. Maybe you can’t afford to jet off to a tropical island, but if your in-laws will keep the kids for even one night so you and your mate can check into a nice hotel or B&B for some rest and romance, do it. Ask your agent not to contact you unless it’s an emergency. During our escrow, my hubby and I drove to Palm Springs for a getaway. The warm desert weather, watching old movies together, going for walks through the beautifully decorated Christmas shops, and attending a moving Christmas church service were a balm to our spirit and gave us grace to face the delayed holiday closing and the big move ahead. It also helped us get perspective and give thanks for our blessings.
If you’re in the middle of a trying home sale, keep the faith. With the combination of some advance planning and sweet serendipity, you and your family will be walking over your new threshold in no time and into the newest happy chapter of your lives.
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