So you’re thinking of selling your house? Heed this warning:
Don’t ever sell a house.
The exhortation again: Find a house you love, in a place you love, and never sell it.
Or just rent.
In No Particular Order (This is not a top ten list):
- It is unlikely that you will get out of your house what you’ve put into it. Forget about all those stories you’ve read or seen about house flippers, HGTV renovators, or just regular people making a mint in real estate. It may happen once in a blue moon to a professional, but IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO YOU (shouting, yes). Even if you’ve lived in the house for twenty years and the mortgage is paid off, if you have done routine maintenance and updating — new roof, new kitchen, new baths — you’ve probably put in twice the amount it will sell for. Especially if you have added on or done an outstanding job with a basement or patio remodel. And if you’ve done landscaping or gardening, forget it — the new owner might not be a gardener and could rip out all the plants you’ve lovingly planted.
- If you haven’t done routine maintenance or updating, you’d better start now. That roof you’ve ignored? Fix it, or you will be required to by the inspection services. The room(s) you have just put up with because you didn’t have money or time (or both) to fix? Update them now, and at least you’ll have the benefit of enjoying the new room(s) for awhile. If you are normal people in a normal house, it can take you up to a year and a half to get your house ready to sell. Update a bathroom; remodel the man cave; buy a new awning; re-do the upstairs attic bedroom; put in a new sewer line ($$$$); replace a cracked glass block window; spruce up the driveway; cut down and trim the trees; put down new mulch; clean and paint the back basement; and paint every room but the hallway. (Are you tired yet?)
- If you don’t know how to do things yourself, you’re really in trouble. You need to have on hand ready for any and all emergencies: a plumber, an electrician, a roofer, an HVAC repair person, a landscaper who works all seasons, a glass-block guy, a remodel company to update your bathroom and/or kitchen, a tree company, a radon company, and a good painter if you can’t paint without dripping and splotching. All these people are expensive. And once you get ready to actually sell your house, you need to find a realtor who is your trusted friend.
- Be prepared for your beautiful house — that you’ve loved and sweated over — not to sell right away. Or perhaps someone will love it and make you an offer that is so low it is almost insulting. Or perhaps someone will love it and not be able to get financing. Or perhaps someone will love it and ask you for seller assist. Or perhaps you will be almost ready to show your house and the dining room ceiling caves in. Or perhaps someone will make you an offer as well as a simultaneous offer on the house down the street. Or perhaps no one will offer to buy it at all, and you end up taking it off the market.
- Showing your house is very hard. Be prepared for people to be critical. The bedrooms are too small; the stairs are too steep; the driveway is gravel; only two bathrooms?; ugh, the kitchen has OAK cabinets; there aren’t enough closets; there isn’t whole house air conditioning… Yes, the gap between the house people want and the house people can afford is very large. And your house stands in the gap. HGTV should have never been invented. Do you have children? Keeping your house neat at all times is almost impossible, even without children. Sometimes you have an hour’s notice that someone wants to see your house. And you do want them to see it, don’t you?
- Generally, you are selling your house because of a life change, and you don’t need more anxiety. A new job, a new baby, marriage or divorce, a death, retirement — they are all reasons for selling a house and those reasons themselves are enough to provoke Life Change Anxiety. You don’t need the frustration that lies in wait around every corner of selling a house. Whether you have to sell your house fast, or you have time to wait for a
perfectbuyer, there is nothing rewarding about selling a house. Let the seller beware.
- Inspections. After you have a prospective buyer, you have the joy of having your house inspected by someone hired by that same potential buyer. In other words, they are hired to find everything possible or potentially wrong with your house (that you’ve recently put into tip-top shape just to put it on the market, right?) You are fairly confident that you have done everything but the radon test, and you expect that. But what you don’t expect is a 35-page report of everything that could possibly go wrong with a house. If you are a first time home-buyer, just read one of those inspection reports — you will go back to renting forever.
- Negotiations. Nothing more needs to be said here, except this is where your trusted realtor friend is invaluable.
- Spending more cash to do what the prospective buyer wants. If you weren’t broke after you fixed up the house to get it on the market, you will be now.
- Trying to decide what stuff to keep, boxing up all your stuff, getting rid of all your stuff, moving all your stuff, arguing with your spouse about all your stuff… Yeah, that says it all, too.
- Waiting on the closing can take forever… You, the seller, are at the mercy of everyone else. The closing can be postponed again, and again. And after everyone has taken their cut, you, the seller are left with just about the amount that you spent to get it on the market. The only other person on the list who deserves every penny is your trusted realtor friend, who walked you calmly through every crisis. Thanks, Linda! :-)
There’s more. You will have unexpected emotions that come out of nowhere because of friends, memories, and events that have happened in your loved house. But the chapter on the house finally finishes, and you leave behind those good friends and memories.
And you can finally turn the page for the next chapter… (unless you are too exhausted.)
(A clarification: Not all the problems listed here happened to us; some happened to neighbors and friends and relatives, but they all have happened recently to real people)