Our real estate agent told us we had priced our house “realistically,” meaning the price was high enough for us to be willing to cut a deal and low enough for her to sell it. At the start of the home selling process, however, it seemed that a “realistic” price was one the buyer would pay if every house in the neighborhood burned down and ours was the only one standing.
I got this idea because the first offer on the house was from Mr. Lowball. That’s an investor, such as I would be if I had lots of cash, who wants to find out how desperate you are so offers a price somewhere south of 50% of what you are asking. The theory is that if you ask enough sellers, someone will be in bad shape enough to take your offer.
Men have used this theory for many years at singles bars to get laid. And similarly, in real estate, it works often enough for Mr. Lowball to keep pitching.
We rejected the offer and didn’t even make a counter offer. “We’re not one of those kinds of girls,” we were thinking.
Six more months of no offers and we might have become that kind of girl. But we had one critical fact on our side. We didn’t have to move. We had no other house that was contingent on this one being sold so we could stick around.
Fortunately (and believe me, I know we were fortunate) there were other more reasonable offers. I will not bore you with the ups and downs of negotiation. Anyone who has bought or sold a house or condo knows the drill.
Too low. Too high. A little higher. A little lower. The agents get together, decide on a price (or the amount of commission they are willing to give up) and they tell both parties the price. Deal done. House sold.
On the East Coast you then get the lawyers involved and go through escrow. This helps the lawyers make a living and takes more money from your pocket. On the West Coast, escrow does not involve lawyers. Instead we have escrow companies that do all the behind the scene dirty deeds. It still costs, but at least you know what it will cost up front.
Our house, then, entered escrow. This begins the long march to “closing,” which is when you close the door to your house for the last time, hand over the key to the new owners, and high tail it out of town, and, in our case, on to retirement living.
While in escrow, the new buyers get a chance to check out your house to be sure they are not getting a pig in a poke or at least to find out where the pigs are hiding so they know what it will cost (or what they will want from the seller) to remove the pigs.
One can avoid the inspection by selling your house “as is,” which tells the buyer “we don’t want to fix whatever needs fixin’. You do it.” You will then have to discount the price of the house for all the fixing up required. Even in that case, the buyer will want to have an inspection to find out how much fixing up is required and what it will cost. Which can lead to another round of negotiation, or fixing, or both.
Our potential buyer’s inspector was scheduled to arrive at 9 in the morning. Our real estate agent said to leave for about two hours because if we stayed we’d hear all the negative things about our house while the buyers were there and would feel like justifying every nit being pointed out which could result in an argument with the potential buyers which could ruin the entire sale. So we planned on leaving the house for two hours.
Much like during the home showings, we had to find a 2-hour hideout. The park? The library? A restaurant? Since the weather was good, we picked the park where we laid out a blanket and nervously tried to rest.
We returned home to find we had “passed” inspection. That meant that the house was habitable but that some things were found that did not pass inspection and had to be fixed – which was to be expected since the house was over 50 years old.
The biggest problem was a water pipe that went to the street. The big tree up front that provided delightful shade for the street also decided to send a few roots through the pipe. Rather than digging up the yard to replace the entire pipe we just said, “let’s make a deal.” When you’re ready to move, never let a few dollars stand in your way.
So, although we were a few dollars poorer, we now had an end date marked on the calendar. It was the date by which every stick of furniture and clothing would be gone from the house, we would lock the door, turn the keys over to the agent, and hit the road.