Thursday, February 28, 2013

Misadventures in Real Estate

As some of you already know, Hubby and I placed our home on the market with the intent to move to North County. I’ve never had a house on the MLS before and boy is it ever eye-opening! In the space of about a month and a half, we’ve had close to 40 showings, 1 open house, and one offer.

Things I have learned in the process:

# 1 Low house inventory is causing frustration on both the buying and selling sides.

Renovated kitchen and property panorama
San Diego County has a smaller number of homes for sale than the historic data indicates. Consequently, buyers are vying for a smaller pool of homes that may or may not meet their must-have criteria. Buying realtors are attempting to compensate by showing their clients a wider variety of homes in a wider variety of neighborhoods. This can sometimes lead to a disconnect between buyer wants and neighborhood reality. For instance, my home in Bay Park is standard to the neighborhood: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1200-1700 square feet interior with 7000-10,000 square foot lots, built in the 1950s or 1960s, and have small bedrooms, bathrooms, and closets. This is typical of the era the homes were built and typical to the style of home: a mid-century ranch. Many prospective buyers want a house with more modern sensibilities: 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a master suite, larger bedrooms, bathrooms, and closets, larger interior square footage of 2000-3000 square feet, and a smaller lot size of ~6000 square feet to reduce yard maintenance. Bay Park homes have little to none of these modern amenities, unless a given home has been updated to that standard. Buyers are frustrated that they are not finding what they want; sellers are frustrated that the buyers are not making any offers. Takeaways: Learn the basic characteristics of the neighborhoods and tailor property searches accordingly. Realize that small inventory may not allow the buyer to meet all the must-have criteria on their property wish list. Buying the right home and selling one’s home may take more time than previously expected.

#2 Home maintenance is intimidating.

Renovated Bathroom
I’ve seen the crestfallen faces of some of our prospective buyers when they see my back yard. Yes, it’s big, it’s lovely, and it’s a heck of a lot of work! Home maintenance, including yard work, is intimidating because it takes so much time and money. Prospective buyers may or may not have the experience to take care of it. Hubby and I have completed a top to bottom renovation in 2 stages and we still have maintenance items that need addressing. But our experience pales in comparison to the reality of owning a home over an extended period of time. In over 30 years of home ownership, my parents have completed multiple interior and exterior paint jobs, multiple termite repairs, roof, window, and interior/ exterior door replacement, 3 bathroom renovations, 3 sets of carpet, refinishing and replacing wood floors, 1 flood remediation, a top to bottom kitchen renovation, and yard work up to the eyeballs (I am sure I’ve missed something)! I dread home maintenance, but it is a reality of home ownership.  Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a maintenance free home, whether brand new or 100+ years old. Takeaways: Accept that things will break and the home owners are responsible for fixing them. Create a contingency fund to address issues.

#3 Don’t allow your assumptions to rule your reality.

As buyers and sellers, people can make all sorts of assumptions about the person or people on the other end of the deal.  For instance, buyers may assume that the sellers are desperate to sell or are under financial stress. Sellers may view a under asking price offer as proof of a buyers inability to afford the home at a higher price. These are not facts, so why do we base our decisions on them? Buying and selling a home is an emotional experience, and many times we get wrapped up in our feelings.  Takeaways: Both buyers and sellers need to take a step back, quiet their emotions, question their assumptions, and take a look at correct data in order to make and accept reasonable offers.

#4 I really wasn’t ready for this process.

I didn’t fully realize how intrusive the process of selling a house truly is. The ease of getting started belied the difficulty of the long haul. It’s weirdly creepy having strangers touring your home day after day. Prospective buyers see some of the most intimate locations of your life: the bedroom, the bathroom, peeking in closets and cabinets, and come into contact with pets. The house always has to be clean for a potential showing and yet there is no time to clean it due to back to back showing on the weekends.  We’ve had comments from buying relators that range from “the house is beautiful” to “this house is overpriced and is in poor condition.” It is hard to reconcile such disparate ideas and no matter how hard I try to ignore the negativity, the comments irk me. I admit my fault in not being ready for this process and I also admit to not coping well with major changes in my living situation.

I am still very much emotionally attached to this house and I have not found another property that meets both my and Hubby’s criteria (again, the low inventory issue). I am scared that I will not be able to recreate my vegetable garden due to location, size, and soil quality. Ultimately, we have decided to pull our house from the market. I look forward to the opportunity to “bloom where planted” and be able to continue tending my vegetables, herbs, roses, plumeria, fruit trees, camellias, fuchsia, sweet peas, nasturtiums, and all my other much loved plants.
Outdoor living - can you spot the cat?

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