If at first you don’t succeed, try again #684

#684 in a series of true experiences in real estate

When Diane first called about selling her house and buying another one, she explained that she was doing a lot of dancing. She would need a big dance space and also a more private outdoor area. “And this time, she added, “I want a house that doesn’t need any repairs. Can I get that? How much will it cost?”

We started by looking at her house. It needed many things. The hardwood floors were gouged and paint-spattered; the entry room floor had been patched with plywood. Her kitchen and bathroom needed drastic attention paid to the badly damaged counter tops and shower walls, torn linoleum, cracked windows, and old paint. Outside the house was a weedy yard, and the stucco walls and windows were peeling and stained.

During the time Diane had owned the house, she had done some upgrading including having the house rewired and re-roofed. She also had started some foundation work but never finished it. “It drove me crazy dealing with the city and the contractor,” she told us. “I never want to go through that again.”

If she were going to sell, she would need a termite report, and from the looks of things, quite a lot of work would be called for. One way or another, these repairs would figure into the price.

Quietly, gently, because we did not want to offend her, we talked about making the house look better. We said that she could sell the house just as it was, but that some improvements would certainly increase the price she would get. We made a list of repairs we thought made sense and began to look for houses Diane might prefer to her present home.

It didn’t go well. Diane couldn’t believe how expensive and “all wrong” the available houses were. “This house isn’t any bigger than mine,” she told us. And “Even though the kitchen is new, and I guess the neighborhood is more expensive, the price is incredible. I’d never pay that much for this house.”

She wasn’t pleased with the bids she was getting for repairing her house either. About some repairs she said, “I could do that myself. Why should I pay $1000 for that?” And about other work, “I’ve lived with it this way, and it’s been fine.”

It had become apparent that it was going to be painful for Diane to change her house. She resented the idea that her money and time would be spent for the buyer’s benefit. Even if she got a higher price when she sold, it might not be worth the effort she would have to expend.

Worse, the only reason for going through the travail of fixing and marketing would be a house that suited her better. By this time we could all see that finding what she wanted for a price she was willing to pay was going to be nearly impossible.

One more difficulty came up during our conversations. Diane did not want strangers going through her house. We pointed out that exposing the house to the widest possible audience was the way to get the highest price.

“Never mind,” she said. “I’ll just stay here.”

It was about three years before we heard from Diane again. She was happy, positive, and in love. She and her new love were thinking of moving to Seattle.

“I want to sell my house and I don’t want to fix it. Can I do that? How much will I get?”

The house looked the same, maybe a little worse, but we knew it was saleable. We gave Diane our estimate of what it would sell for as is; we added that, given the kind of demand we’re seeing these days, if there was competition for the house, the price might be higher.

“But I still don’t want to show it, have it held open, let anyone in,” she replied. “What I want is to sell fast without doing anything at all. I know a couple who have been looking for a long time. They told me that if I ever sold my house, they’d be interested.”

“Call and ask,” we advised, and she did. Yes, the friends were very interested. They had looked at many houses, discovered how few they could afford, and were well acquainted with what compromises they would have to make if they were going to buy. They had an agent, and they would like him to represent them.

This was good news. We all wanted the buyers to have their own representation, particularly so in this case where we would have no chance to prove the market value of the house. Whatever price Diane and her friends agreed upon would have to be a guess, one that they all found satisfactory.

The friends were thrilled because there was no one else competing for the house. Before the price was finally settled on, Diane got a termite report and the buyers had a professional inspection done. Quite a lot of work, both structural and cosmetic, was going to be necessary, but this did not deter the buyers.

Diane understood what the buyers were taking on. She also knew that it was possible that even in its present condition, someone else would pay more for the house than the friends. She didn’t care.

Things moved along quickly. In a matter of days, the contract was written and the disclosures completed. The appraisal was made and the buyers’ loan approved.

It all worked, smoothly, happily. Why? Because by the time these people were in contract, each of them knew they were getting what they wanted. Not a small thing.

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