There’s No Place Like A Comfortable and Charming Home: This beautiful and spacious three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home is conveniently located on a corner village lot with stately shade trees. It is nestled in a neighborhood with a warm sense of community and just a short distance from parks, swimming, schools, library, restaurants, village center shopping and restaurants, and the train station. Enter through the gracefully arched front door into a charming foyer. From there, a hallway leads into the airy living room, dining room and updated kitchen with new appliances and crisp white cabinetry. Sliding glass doors lead to a shaded deck. In another wing are three bedrooms and two full baths that include a large master with en-suite. Easy pull-down stairs in the hallway provide access to a large attic storage space. Gorgeous hardwood floors grace the entire main floor that is awash in natural light from the plentiful windows. A family room with adjacent powder room, laundry and large walk-in utility closet complete the lower level, and a large two-car garage with built in closets and shelves add to the storage space. A new roof tops off this exceptional home. ~ Sample Listing Text
“Buyers decide in the first eight seconds of seeing a home if they’re interested in buying it. Get out of your car, walk in their shoes and see what they see within the first eight seconds.” ~ Barbara Corcoran
Welcome back to my series on selling and buying your home. Previous installments include: Part 1: The Decision, Part 2: The Realtor, Part 3: Decluttering and Sprucing.
Having accomplished the major task of decluttering and sprucing up our house, we were now approaching a turning point: the listing.
We had naively expected to list our home over the summer to take advantage of that busy house-buying season. Families with children want to be settled in a new home before school starts, and in cool climates buyers want to take advantage of the nice weather and summer vacation time to house hunt.
But as noted in my previous post, we greatly underestimated the time it would take to declutter! Now, as summer was waning, Paul advised listing immediately after the Labor Day weekend. Suddenly, after anticipating this moment for months, my knees became weak and I felt a trickle of cold panic. Okay, wait. Listing the house does not mean anything is carved in stone. Yet. Deep breath. Onward!
The Listing: Photos and Text
Before the listing could be posted, however, we had to have photos. And not just any photos. Paul arranged for a specialist who photographs houses, rooms and land for marketing purposes. Of course, that added more stress as I became obsessed over every detail, gasping at a smudge on a window or racing outside to pull a weed that was missed on the lawn. But I got through the prep with only a few nervous ticks and a mild propensity to startle if spoken to; Ted coped mainly by confining himself to his den.
After all the work, worrying and frayed nerves, photo day came and went in a blink. Paul was completely in charge and dispelled all — well, most — of our anxiety. He ensured that the shoot progressed smoothly, and the resulting photographs of our home were stunning. Then Paul, with a little input from me, wrote the all-important description of our house and photo captions for the listing. Like the photos, there is an expertise required in writing the text. Realtors know which words attract and interest prospective buyers and which words should be avoided. Finally, all was in place and Paul published the listing.
Looming before us were the showings and the Open House!
We learned quickly that once our house was listed our time — and to a certain extent our privacy — essentially was no longer ours. Showings in which strangers paraded through our home with the proverbial white gloves took precedence. And if we thought preparing for the photo shoot was stressful, it was a piece of cake compared to preparing for the showings.
A box with a combination was affixed to our front door that contained a key to our house, which we had provided to Paul for the purpose of admitting buyers’ agents to our home to show it to their clients (prospective buyers). The established routine is that the office of the sellers’ agent (in our case, Paul) will call the home owner (us) and make appointments for buyers’ agents to bring their clients to see the listing (our home). This provides an orderly process intended to drive house-hunters to our home while providing us with some control.
NOTE 1: Depending on the state you live in, a realtor may assume the role of either a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent — also called a listing agent — depending on the needs of their clients. Each agent represents the specific needs of their client in either looking to buy a home or sell theirs. Paul was acting as the sellers’ agent while selling our house, but would assume the role of the buyers’ agent when we were the ones doing the house hunting. It would be the buyers’ agents rather than Paul that accompanied prospective buyers to view our home.
NOTE 2: Homeowners typically are not present when their homes are being shown. It’s preferable to allow prospective buyers to assess a home without the homeowners hovering. For example, it can work against a possible sale if the homeowners are distracting or defensive as strangers ask certain questions or remark on the homeowners’ decorating taste! Paul explained that the buyer’s agent will know what the buyers are looking for in a home and can point out the features of our home that check off their preferences. As former house-hunters ourselves, we understood that perfectly.
So, while Paul’s office did a good job of booking appointments, sometimes it was not possible to give us a lot of lead time. Almost immediately after Paul placed our multiple listing, with those beautiful photographs, the phone started ringing and appointments began to be scheduled. Many house-hunters operate on tight schedules of their own, looking at many houses and often restricted to doing so on weekends. However, we had many requests for weekday showings as well. It was difficult to relax and impossible to schedule anything else.
Here are a few things we learned that may help you get through the listing and showing period:
- Keep your house pristine. You will not be able to live normally in your home — you just won’t — because everything must be in place and ready to show at all times. Expect occasionally to be given very short notice on a showing. You won’t have time to do a whole lot of tidying, and you’ve got to be ready to vacate quickly.
- Get lots of rest. This is a very challenging period, physically, mentally and emotionally. To have a fighting chance to hold onto your sanity, get enough sleep and stick to your routine as much as possible. Eat healthy, don’t forget to take any meds and vitamins and try to be patient and understanding.
- Don’t reschedule showings. Think of house buyers in terms of being retail customers; they must take priority in your life during this period or you could lose a sale; and sometimes you have to keep the store open late. Our first showing came up quickly with little notice at a most inconvenient time. We wanted to reschedule but Paul advised against it; these could be prospective buyers who will make an offer!
- Have someplace to go. It can be tedious to be forced out of one’s home time and again, usually for 30-60 minutes at a shot, even if it is for one of the most important transactions in one’s life. But it’s a lot easier if you plan where you will go during this time. For us, it was hanging out at one of our favorite spots, the village coffee house. Sometimes we managed a quick shopping trip or errand. Or we drove somewhere scenic; fortunately, the September weather was still summery.
- Don’t return to your home too soon. Keep your phone handy and wait for the call or text from your realtor that the coast is clear. You want to let the buyers’ agents and your realtor do their jobs!
- Consider your pets. If you have dogs, it would be best to take them with you and if the weather permits give them an extra long walk or take them somewhere where they can run and get a good workout. If, like us, you have cats, make sure your realtor advises the buyers’ agents and print an advisory sign, especially if they are indoor cats and you don’t want them straying outdoors. It’s difficult to lock cats in a room unless that room contains their litter box and the visitors have access to the room. The same goes for birds or any pets that require special care. And be sure that any litter boxes, cages, aquariums, etc. are clean and odor free!
The Open House
Open houses are important to allow other realtors — those buyers’ agents — as well as prospective buyers themselves to view the listed house. And it provides an opportunity for the sellers’ agent to point out the features of the house to a multitude of house hunters. So shortly after listing our house, and in the midst of the individual showings, Paul planned a weekend Open House, from 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Of course, we had to treat this event as though we expected to host a large party, because in a way we were, even if we would not be there. Paul would be the host and would show off our home. Of course, the flip side is that many people would be browsing through our home, closely examining it silently — or maybe not so silently — critiquing it and judging our style, taste and housekeeping skills. Thinking about it transformed the butterflies in my stomach to B-52 bombers. I also was aware that in addition to serious buyers (if we were lucky) there potentially would be casual observers, curious neighbors and passers-by traipsing through our house. I know that because at one time or another I fit into each of those categories!
As I mentioned earlier, we had concerns about our indoor cats. Would they be safe? Who would watch them so they didn’t wander outside with people coming and going? Would a child poke one of our cats in the eye? Would one of our cats poke back? Would someone arrive home to find a cat in her bag? Again, Paul was reassuring. He would keep an eye on everything and would have an assistant to help. No one would walk away with our cats, linens or toilet paper.
Thinking that we had the morning to put the finishing touches on the house, we were slightly thrown to get a phone call from Paul in the morning with a request to bring someone to see the house at 11:00 a.m. We had planned to vacate the house at 12:45 p.m., not 10:45 a.m.! But Paul explained that this was the only time these buyers had in their schedule. Naturally, we scrambled to vacate early. At Paul’s request we turned on all the lights, opened all the window treatments to let in even more light and turned on the air conditioning. By the front door, we placed a basket of disposable booties provided by Paul; with many people (we hoped!) walking through our home we wanted to protect the floors from dirt and scuffs. Then we took a final look around, checked on our cats, and departed. We headed for the aforementioned coffee house, where patrons were welcome to hang out as long as they desired.
We waited for Paul’s text that the showing was over and hurried back to the house. After quickly setting up refreshments consisting of lemonade, iced tea, pastries and cookies and doing another final look around, we rushed out again just as Paul was returning to greet attendees. (Note: for an Open House, offering seasonal-appropriate refreshments is a gracious gesture that can make your home feel warm and welcoming.)
We headed back to the coffee house. This time, we had two hours to while away — plenty of time to worry about what was going on at our house. Were the cats okay? Did a good number of people show up? Did they love the house? We also drank a lot of coffee, ate some delicious biscotti, read the paper, checked our emails and texts, chatted with some fellow patrons and generally tried (unsuccessfully) to think about the open house. We stretched our legs by walking around the village for awhile, and then headed for our car.
Paul texted to say the last of the visitors had left and he was packing up the signs, brochures, business cards, etc. Everything went well, he said, there was a good amount of traffic, and…the cats were fine! We were eager to go home and relax! But as we walked through the door, we barely had time to kick off our shoes before Paul called to say he had another buyer who would like to see the house at 6:00 p.m.!
Nine days after Paul listed our house he called to ask if he could come over to discuss the offers that had been submitted on our house. Offers, plural.
A confluence of factors had elevated us to this position, including market conditions (high demand for houses in our area versus the supply) and Paul’s expertise. Although we were listing past the prime seasons of spring and summer, a competent and savvy realtor like Paul knows how to set the price and present the house to pique buyer interest. After all the prep Paul guided us through, we were delighted and grateful for such a quick turnaround. We were in the middle of one of those legendary bidding scenarios!
Paul laid out the various offers for us to look over and discuss, and was helpful in talking us through the pros and cons of each offer. We took Paul’s sage advice that he ask each prospective buyer to submit their best and final offer by the weekend. While this can be one of the most exciting times of the house-selling adventure, it can also be nerve-wracking. The weekend came and went and we received the final offers. One offer in particular stood out: it was over our asking price, but more importantly we loved the fact that it came from a family that seemed to really want the house and would love it as we had loved it for so long. We made our selection and popped the champagne. We were ecstatic!
Of course, this was not a happy ending; it was just the beginning. If we had been on a roller coaster, up to this point we would have been slowly climbing to the top and were now about to plunge down at a breathtaking and terrifying speed, careening around a lot of twists and turns! I hope you’ll continue to come along for the ride!
Until next time,