By: John Miro, Co-Owner
The other night I got home late. I had been out of town three days for work. Though it was dark, the neighborhood glowed with the brightness of five inches of snow, which amplified all light sources.
My front yard also glowed, but it was the sign protruding from the frozen ground that was causing it.
FOR SALE! it said, catching me off guard.
Three days earlier we had put our home for sale, but seeing the sign in the yard for the first time, white with blue letters against the white background of snow, made it seem more real.
Though it was night, the inside of my house also glowed. As I stepped through the threshold into our mud room, I saw the house as a potential buyer might see it, bright and shiny.
That’s because we are now living the “Home for Sale” life.
What is the “Home for Sale” life?
If you've ever sold your house, you probably already know what I'm talking about. While the “for sale house” seems to be the same one you bought, it is markedly different. As human beings with busy lives, there's no way to live every day as if you were expecting guests, but when you put your home on the market, you must wake up every day to a home that is ready for visitors who will be looking in every corner and judging everything.
In addition to keeping the house clean every day, we must also take great care to finalize all those little repairs and cosmetic upgrades we've been too busy to get to. Now that we are selling a home for the second time, I am again reminded of that feeling of “why didn't I just make this upgrade when I bought it, that way I could have at least enjoyed it.”
When we push ourselves to finish all those little presale projects, we are improving our own home for someone else's enjoyment. Waiting until you put it for sale to spend the money on upgrades doesn't save you any money, it just costs you time and enjoyment.
So Why Do We Do It?
Maybe you didn't have the cash flow for needed repairs when you bought it. Maybe you chose to prioritize your cash flow and make it work towards debt payoff. That's what we did.
One of the main reasons we bought our house was because it was move-in ready and needed no major repairs. In fact, most of the house remains exactly as the previous owners left it.
To our advantage, they put in a sizable amount of cash making upgrades that the neighborhood would never allow them to recoup. It's a nice neighborhood, but every street and every house has a ceiling of value. For many upgrades, you will never get the cash back when you sell.
So we are the lucky ones who were able to enjoy granite countertops, undermount sinks, newer appliances and fixtures, and a master bathroom and walk-in closet the size of a bedroom.
Although the previous owners bore almost all of the cost for our enjoyment, there is a price for us to pay.
You've probably heard the old adage “Never buy the nicest house in the neighborhood; better to buy the most affordable home in the nicest neighborhood.” Because we were so tired of working on the home we owned before this one, we violated the adage
The price we will pay for this is that the house will probably sell for very close to what we paid for it four years ago, meaning we won't make much on the sale.
But I'm OK with that.
So How's It Going?
As I type this, the house has been on the market for five days. We had one showing on the day it was listed, and our agent said it showed well. The next day we had five inches of snow dumped on us, so I imagine that people would rather stay at home until it melts away before looking at homes for sale.
At least that's what I tell myself to feel better.
Part of living the “Home for Sale” life is that nagging fear that the home won't sell. For us, we have to move in a few months for my job transfer. We have no desire to rent it out and be landlords, mainly because my wife doesn't want to be a caretaker for someone else living in the house she loves. For that reason we chose to make a clean break.
While we would all love to live in the cleanliness and beauty of the “Home for Sale” life every day, with a clean sparkling house, that is a luxury only for the stay at home spouse or those who can afford live in help. The reality is that for a period of time, many of us will live differently in order to convince someone else that this is the house for them.