How we finally got the house sold


painting by  Sergey Gusev

April has long held some significant dates for me. My wife’s birthday is April 9th. My daughter’s is April 1st. How I was hoping she’d also be born on the 9th so I’d have only one date to remember.

April 15th is Tax Day here in the USA. And now I have April 8th: The day our house finally sold. What a relief. What a saga.

A couple of weeks back I was sharing this tale with my pal, The Mad Fientist. He owns a house and, like the smart financial guy he is, he is thinking in advance about how to unload it when the time comes. Unless you plan to die in yours, you should too. It’s never cheap and it is not always easy.

Looking at our Settlement Statement, it cost us $21,000/5.68% to get out of the place, mostly the real estate commission followed by various taxes and fees assessed by the folks with a hand in the transaction. Of course, this doesn’t include the $5,500 we spent staging the place. Oh, and it cost the buyers over 15k to get into it.

That’s over $40,000 in transaction costs.

Lots of folks make money when a house changes hands. Just not you. This ain’t buying or selling no Index Fund.

But if the cost of selling is daunting, at least the process is tedious and unpleasant. You’re going to have to…

 kissing a frog

 …kiss a lot of frogs and…

  • get the place spotless.
  • keep the place spotless.
  • understand you are no longer living in your home. You are now living in a museum version of your home.
  • be ready to scramble to get it put together and ready to show at a moment’s notice.
  • understand every time it is going to have to be perfect. You never know which showing is THE showing.
  • accept an endless parade of strangers tramping thru the place. Nothing like coming home after a showing to find some potential ‘buyer’ took a crap in your master bedroom toilet. If they flush, by no means a guarantee, you’ll still be able to tell by the stink.
  • be ready for the Feedback. That is, the constant parade of people telling you what’s wrong with your house.
  • accept uncertainty. There is absolutely no guarantee that all this effort and grief will get you free. It took us two years.

We first started trying to sell in the spring of 2011. In late March we listed it at $434,900, knowing that was an aggressively high price. My thinking was this would give us room to come down substantially in the negotiations, the idea being that buyers like to feel they got a great deal. I know I do.

Of course, this felt low to us. At the peak, houses like ours were selling at 550k+.

Now, I’m rational enough to know that was then and this was now and then matters now not even a tiny bit. Still, we are all also emotional beings subject to what the psychologists call “anchoring.” And my anchor was way up there at 550k. So in my head I’d already come down over 100 grand. Such are the fevered imaginings of the anchored seller.

Buyers, of course, were having none of it.

We had a steady stream of showings, but nary a nibble. By now we knew the market was continuing to fall and we needed to catch up. May 1st we lowered the price to $415,000 in what we thought was an aggressive step. It was, but not aggressive enough. The months and the showings ground painfully on. Nothing.

Finally, we pulled it off the market and headed to South America for the summer. Some things are more important than unloading the house and by now we are now counting our blessings that selling for us is optional.

Upon our return, and after assessing our options, we re-listed it in September with the heartbreakingly low price of $389,000. Showings trickled in, but no offers. In December we pulled it again.

More reassessment and analysis. We were getting a few showings, but no interest. Clearly we needed to take this process to the next level. We came up with a three-step plan:

  1. Staging. If you unfamiliar with this process, as we were, here’s the deal.  Professionals come in, in our case two very artistic women, and proceed to very nicely explain to you what hideous taste you have and how they can make the place appeal to today’s demanding, hip and stylish buyers.  Which, clearly, you are not.  The most disturbing thing is, they are correct. Two weeks and $5500 later it is done and, oh my.  The place really does look spectacular.
  2. A new realtor. After spending all this money, We wanted a fresh approach and to be sure the marketing was top-notch. We found Blanche (not her real name). The brochure she produced and the pictures she had taken were souvenir quality. (I, in fact, still have one as a souvenir.)
  3. And, of course, a new and still lower price: $359,900.

Staging, excitement, a new realtor, slick marketing, 359,900. I figured it would sell in a week. So sure in fact was I, I put down a non-refundable deposit on an apartment.

Showings blossom, but still no offers. The weeks drag on. We lower the price to $355,000. Blanche gets discouraged. Each conversation now begins with her litany of what is wrong with the house and why this is not her fault. What in my world we call CYA (cover your ass) mode.  The listing expires. We head back to South America for the summer.

Returning to New Hampshire it is now the Fall of 2012 and we are burned out on this house selling business. Or, more accurately, this house showing business.

We’re now down a cool 80 grand from where we started. Except for the first, each time we went with the lowest price suggested by any of the realtors we interviewed, looking for a quick sale. But we’ve not been able to get ahead of the falling prices. We decide to forget about it for a while. Maybe revisit the idea in the Fall of 2013.

But time heals wounds quickly and by December we are already talking about taking another run at it. We really are done with the hassles homeownership and ready to move on. For our remaining time in NH we want to be in the city, renting and walkable.

By late January we are once again interviewing realtors. When Blanche took the listing the year before she boldly said: “If I can’t get this sold, you shouldn’t hire me again.” We take her at her word.

This time we notice something different. Realtors are now no longer recommending a specific price, but rather a range. It occurs to me that recommending a price to home sellers is a tricky business. Too low and you don’t get the listing. Too high and the place doesn’t sell. Or it takes months to sell, which is not in the realtor’s best interest. Better to move it and move on to the next.

Ann (her real name) impresses us the most and her suggested range is from 340k to 355k. We go with $339,900.

We’re now down a cool 95 grand from where we started.

My thinking is that we’ve been chasing a falling market and the time has come to get under it. At this level I’m pretty sure we are and, I’m hoping, if by too much we’ll attract multiple bids.

Once again we spit-shine the joint and on Thursday February 14th, Valentine’s Day, it goes on the market. By Sunday we will have had over 45 showings and two offers. What a zoo. If I’d had any idea, I’d have left town for the weekend.

The first offer comes in Saturday morning and it is for 330k. At this point, I figure the house is sold. We are 10k apart and after the negotiation dances will likely land at what I guess to be the buyer’s real price of 335k. Not what I want, but what I can accept. They want a response by Sunday.

By Saturday afternoon we get word that a second offer is coming. The day has had wall-to-wall showings. We go to bed feeling pretty good about things.

Sunday morning I open an email sent from Ann late the night before. It reads:

“Attached is the second offer. Let me know what you think.”  Mmm. What fresh disappointment is this? I open the attachment and go right to the price line:


I sip my coffee. I look again. Still:


I start reading, looking for the ugly contingencies. There aren’t any. I look again at the price:


I figure I better print this out. I do. There, in ink and on paper:


I call Ann. What do you think? she says.

I think, I say, I’d like to know if bidder #1 would like to up their offer.

Evidently the way this works is that active bidders who have been outbid are contacted. They are told there is a higher bid and they are asked to put forth their “final and best” offer. But what is interesting, and what I don’t entirely understand, is they are not told how much the higher bid is. So they have no way of knowing where the bar is.

In our case the bar is now $15,000 over the asking price, 25k more than their original offer. Probably far more than they’d step up to from their starting 330k, even if they knew. Not knowing, they come back with 337k. An aggressive bump in their minds I’m sure, but bidding blind they never really have a chance. It seems unfair.

Sunday evening we accept the $355,000.

Over the next few weeks, as is often the case, we get to know our buyers a bit. They are a very nice young couple with two little girls right around the same age our daughter was when we bought the place. He’s taken a job that is moving them from Philadelphia. She grew up in our little town, and her parents still live here. So she’s coming home and the kids and grandparents will have far more time together. No wonder they are excited.

26 Lancaster

“The One”

They knew our house was “the one” the moment they saw it. She loved it for all the same reasons I did back in the day:

It’s in a kid-friendly neighborhood, but the house is set back and on a hill. The woods and wetlands are behind and the pond is the view from the front. Community with privacy, except for the wildlife that comes to visit.

So the old place is passing in to good and appreciative hands. It surprises me, but turns out this crusty old financial geek likes knowing that. Who’d-a guessed?

Having that first offer on the table is what, I thought, motivated these folks to up their game. Turns out, they didn’t even know about it.

Instead their motivation was that their own house had sold in a single weekend for over the asking price, ours was packed with other potential buyers when they saw it and they figured it would go quickly. They wanted it and they put in an offer they figured would assure them they got it. It worked.

For us, listing at $339,900 was a gamble. As it happens, that worked too. But for all the showings and excitement that weekend, we only had two offers and only one of those was over asking price. Luck played a role. It always does. Our buyers could have gotten sick, or busy or any number of things and missed ever seeing the place.

My guess is had we listed 10k higher, an option we considered, it would have been too high for the first people and the second, who really wanted the house, would have simply made a full price offer. So the gamble was worth 5k. But who knows? Maybe they’d have come in at 360k.

More important is the analysis of what I should have done differently when we first listed it two years ago. I made two mistakes and failed to appreciate something critical. The two mistakes were:

  1. Pricing at a level I knew was high in a market I knew was falling. I did so figuring that buyers would need to get a big discount to pull the trigger. I know I do. But that’s just me.
  2. Not fully appreciating the fact that buyers will pay more than asking for something they want and that they think is under-priced. It’s something I have never been able to bring myself to do. But that’s just me.

So, more generally, my mistake was in thinking potential buyers think like me. You’d think by know I’d know. Very few people think like me about much of anything.

The thing I failed to appreciate was just how fast the market was falling, and how important it was to get ahead of (or under, if you prefer) it.

Looking back, if I had a do-over, in the spring of 2011 I’d have started at 389k and skipped the 5.5k staging cost. That would have been below even the lowest suggested price any realtor presented. This would have made it, at the time, a very compelling deal and very likely would have gotten it sold in that first round.

I would have saved myself the work, frustration and grief of the endless and fruitless showings. I’d also have had 39.5k more in my pocket, and that’s money that would have been very profitably invested during these past two years. VGSLX, the REIT index fund where I would have then and have now invested the sale proceeds, is up 29% in that time. That’s another 11k missed.

I’m not sure what sweeping lessons can be drawn from all this for you. Who knows? In a different market my “price it high and negotiate it down” initial approach might have lined my pockets even more.

rain on the window

Night Rain on the Window

Photo by Amanda Means

But sitting here now with the night rain beading on my apartment window at 3am on this Thursday morning I sure wish I’d priced it low, let the market bid it up, got it done quickly and moved on with my life two years sooner.



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  1. Linda says

    Hmmm, very interesting post, thanks! I can sympathise with the regretful feelings with regards to pricing decisions – should-have, would-have, could-have….

    What I’m taking away from this, is that owning a house can become a major source of pain and $$/time sink when you’re trying to get rid of it. Thanks for yet another reason why we shouldn’t run head-long into buying right now!

    If that’s a photo of your house up there, that is one sweeeet home at a really great price! And look at that big lawn! I guess you can’t wait to move into a low maintenance apartment?!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks Linda…

      If we are going to make mistakes, and we all are, it pays to take a moment or two of analysis as to what happened as an inoculation against repeating it. As our reward we get to wallow a bit in regrets. 🙂

      Those are both good take-aways. Sometimes houses are worth owning for lifestyle reasons. Ours served us well, at least for the first 11 of the 13 years we owned it. I’m sure it will serve the new owners well for many of the same reasons:

      But houses are expensive to own and work to operate. Until you really need one, financially you are almost always better off renting:

      Yep! That is the actual house! The picture is a bit deceptive in that the lawn really isn’t all that big. Down the hill directly behind where the photographer would have been standing is the pond. You can see the woods behind the house in that shot.

  2. Mad Fientist says

    Ever since we talked about this on Skype, I have been kicking myself that I didn’t record our conversation because it would have made such a great podcast episode. Now that you’ve written this excellent post, however, I can finally forgive myself for not pressing the record button.

    It’s a very interesting real estate case study and it provides a few interesting strategies to consider when selling your home. I’ll definitely read this again before putting our house on the market next spring. I know already that it will be very hard to price it lower than I think it’s worth but as you said, getting out, getting on with your life, and investing that money somewhere more productive may be well worth it.

    Great post!

    • jlcollinsnh says


      Had you done that it would have saved me the hours it took to write this!

      At least I had our email exchange discussing it for reference points.

      I look forward to reading your selling saga next spring.

      BTW, thanks again for your help on the blog last night!

      Everybody: That cool new “Share-Bar” you now see between the post and these comments is courtesy of Mr. MF’s efforts and there due to the suggestion of our mutual pal, Shilpan, who has his own blog here:

      • Mad Fientist says

        Haha, it was worth your effort.

        Hopefully you won’t read about my selling saga but will instead read about a quick, triumphant selling experience instead. Fingers crossed.

        My pleasure!

        My thanks to Shilpan as well for the suggestion on the Share Bar because I ended up putting it on my site too.

        By the way, I liked this post so much that I used the handy-dandy Share Bar to tweet about it this morning and it worked great!

        • Cody says

          I would love it if you guys would team up again for another Mad Fientist or even a series of them. I’ve listened to episode you guys did dozens of times. Brandon, love the podcast. Jim, I love the blog. Keep it up you two. Hope to see another podcast with both of you in the near future.

          • jlcollinsnh says

            Thanks, Cody….

            I’d be game if Mr. MF would have me, but I’m not sure what we’d discuss, or if he’d have me. 🙂

            I do know he has more coming that I’m personally very much looking forward to listening to. Especially his next.

            But I won’t spoil the surprise.

          • Mad Fientist says

            Thanks a lot, Cody!

            I’d love to have Jim on for another episode of the podcast so I’ll speak to him about it next time we chat on Skype.

  3. JTH says

    Yea, pricing it right is key. Our price and the market price are two different realities. We interviewed 3 different realtors. We went with the local. Put the house on the market with no expectation that it would sell (no central air), old 1920’s house and willing to wait. No staging, but clean and a great kitchen (which we still miss today). Put the old soul on the market on May 4th, 2012, sold it for cash on May 10th, 2012. Only $14g lower than asking. OMG, now what? We moved and are now thoroughly enjoying retirement, with FU money, in the great bluegrass state! It works, if you work it, without expectation! Congrats to you and your beloved. Enjoy life, no regrets.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      And congrats to you, JTH!

      Sounds like your selling saga came together sweetly and smoothly for you.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yep, and mostly unpleasant work at that.

      As I said in the post, in my do-over I’d likely skip the staging and focus on a compelling price point.

      That said, I was just reading an article aimed at home buyers urging them to see past the staging most sellers are doing these days. (94%, according to this piece) It seems the truth is, most people can’t in fact see past it. Of course this means they also can’t see past any clutter either.

      This tells me two things:

      Staging can be a very powerful tool
      with 94% of other sellers doing it you might need to just to be competitive.

      So, maybe. But not $5500 worth.

  4. Mr. Risky Startup says

    Rule #1: Make damn sure that you are going to be living in the house you buy for at least 7-8 years and you may have a chance to break even.

    Rule #2: Primary residence is NOT an “investment” as your bank would have you think.

    Rule #3: Even if markets are great and house value appreciates, all other houses appreciate in value as well, so you are not really moving forward relative to other houses. Don’t buy primary residence and convince yourself that you will somehow magically come out with bunch of money at the end. If you have a large mortgage, and house that is too big for your family, equity will be built by a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

    Rule #4: Unless you are starting a Bed & Breakfast, having 3 “guest rooms” is a waste of money. Same is true for the pool in the northern parts of this continent, 3-car garage…

    Etc, etc…

    • RobDiesel says

      WHOA THERE SPARKY!!!! A 3-car garage is an investment. 😀

      It keeps the motorcycle and car safe from the weather, minimizes washing and wear and tear, and lowers the insurance rates on them too. It also allows me space to change my own oil, do my own electrical and other repairs on the bikes and cars that have passed through my hands over the years.

      Well, ok, so I only had a 2-car garage, but the points remain. Of course, they remain less if you (general “you”) end up using the garage as storage for crap as most people do.

      • jlcollinsnh says


        While I haven’t yet my guess is the garage will be one of two things I’ll miss in not owning the house.

        The other is the screen porch for lazy summer afternoons.

        • RobDiesel says

          Well, if you’re going to tinker on the Triumph (was it?) it’s nice to have some tools and a place to work on it at home. Of course, you can always rent a house/condo with a garage later if you find that your life sucks without one.

          The convenience of just going out there, and coming back in for a drink or a sandwich and then go back out is priceless.
          Unless you don’t do enough of that stuff, in which case there’s a price on it. 😀

          That goes right back to the rental place. If you develop different wants, you can just rent a place that suits you better.

          • jlcollinsnh says

            My Triumph does need some tinkering at the moment. It is in a buddy’s garage waiting.

            He has the willingness, work space, tools and skills needed to help me do it. Much better than my own garage.

            As you say, one of the beauties of renting is if you decide you want/need something different change is simple and cheap.

      • Mr. Risky Startup says

        Indeed, I make exception for those who actually use their garages for something useful (just keeping the car in it is, in my view, too expensive if you have a mortgage and reasonably priced cars).

        However, just a simple walk through my neighbourhood shows that vast majority of people use garages to store incredible amounts of stuff they acquired and rarely if ever use. Just yesterday I walked by one of those 2-and-a-half (?) car garages that was almost comically stacked wall-to-wall, floor-to-celiling with stuff. Three cars were parked in the driveway of course 🙂

  5. Andy Fracica says

    Great commentary Jim! I think we will be putting our house up for sale soon and I like the way you framed this problem. I think the key was under-valued and priced to get multiple offers.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yep, that’s what finally did the trick.

      But, truth be told, we also have an improving market around here. Never hurts to have a bit of wind at your back. 😉

  6. RobDiesel says

    Weeell, a real estate agent makes a percentage of the sale. If they work through an office, they make a percentage of the percentage that the office takes home on the sale of your house.

    The difference in what the agent him/herself takes home is pretty small for your extra $50K. Basically, there is no real incentive for the agent to show the home a whole lot more for a month or more LONGER to collect an extra couple of hundred in commissions.

    So they tell you do drop the price, sell the house quicker and move on.

    What YOU might do to sweeten the pot is to make a deal with the agent and say “if you can sell the house for $450K instead of $430K, there’s an extra $4K in it for YOU, as a personal check” and see them make quite the effort to make sure your house shows, sells whatever.

    I’ve mulled over that meself, if I shouldn’t get a real estate license for myself just so I can learn what it takes and then do my own buying/selling if that’s what I end up doing.

    I’m still torn on if I should buy something if I ever land in a place where I want to stick around for a long time. Owning gives some benefits, mainly in if I want to paint, garden, invest in a sprinkler system, plant some trees, install crown molding or replace the windows… basically, if I want to do it, I can.
    BUT, that costs money and would detract from the retire-and-quit-this-bitch thought in the back of my head.

    An alternative might be a slightly larger house setup to rent out part of it and have someone else pay the majority of my costs. Ahh – we’ll see. Right now I’m renting out my house and renting a house myself and that works out well save for the improvements I’d LIKE to do to the house but won’t since it’s not mine.

    Glad you sold yours. A burden off your back, it is.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks RD….

      I actually thought about using that “sweeten the pot” technique. In the end, I decided against it.

      Once the realtor enters it in the multiple listing service and does some marketing to spread the word, it is really out of their hands. So I wasn’t convinced there was any added value they could bring.

      • RobDiesel says

        I’d like to think there is. If they stand to make a nice under-the-table profit, I am sure they’ll talk to their friends and at the dinner table and at the book club and any place they can think of, to make YOUR sale happen.

        It’s like lobbying your congressman. It works a whole lot better if you fly him and his family to Hawaii for a week to make your case than if you just ask nicely. hehe

  7. Trish Rempen says

    Jim, I’ve sold about a dozen houses over the years. You’ve been in a number of them. And bought about 18. Never “staged” anything, and I’m not in favor of it. The buyer wants to come in and make his/her own changes. I know I do.
    And I know why my parents preferred to sell their homes – to someone they knew. No staging, no showings, and – they even left the furniture and the stuff in the garage they didn’t want to take with them!
    The lower price was worth it many times over.
    (Hey, wanna buy a cabin in the Jemez mountains? Less than it should be – and no staging. The real deal!) (And I won’t have to flush some random person’s stuff down my BR toilet!)

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yep, and you’ve owned (own) some really cool places!

      But your comment is a little misleading. You have an exceptional design sense so, in a very real way, your houses come pre-staged! 😉

      That said, your approach certainly has greater appeal to me. I should have bribed you to switch house with me until you got ours sold. Meantime I could have been enjoying New Mexico, I place I’ve always wanted to live.

  8. SavvyFinancialLatina says

    We are going to buy a house pretty soon. So excited! I know a lot of people say don’t buy a house unless you are planning to live in it for 7-8 years. We are not sure if we are, but if we move within the area, we will probably pass on the house to my mom, who would be interested in living closer to me. It’s definitely a backup plan.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Congrats, SFL!

      That kind of clear thinking and your backup plan will serve you, and your mom, well.

  9. Anonymous realtor says

    I’m someone who works in the real estate industry and I’ll let you in on a big secret in case you haven’t already figured it out already. The listing agent doesn’t do much. People don’t buy homes because of a fancy brochure or the postcards that are sent out to neighbors. Open houses also don’t sell homes, they are just a way for the agent to generate new leads (same goes for the sign in the yard). In short, the marketing plan is a way to make it look to the sellers like the agent is doing something. The MLS listing is what sells the home.

    Not saying that an agent can’t add value. A good agent will help you negotiate the price, stage the home and give advice about how to react to inspection issues.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Very interesting perspective, AR, and pretty much the conclusion I’ve come to. Thanks!

      I know the postcards and open houses are just self promotion for the realtor. But I’ve always thought a nice marketing piece prospective buyers can take with them was important.

      I know when we’ve bought houses we collected these and poured over the ones for places that caught our attention. They also helped us remember which house was which after days of looking.

      In choosing our realtor, I insisted on having something like this as I saw it as an important tool in getting the job done. Right?

      Or am I again making the mistake of assuming other people buy the way I do?

  10. Jan Dieber says

    Agh! What an ordeal! Alternatively, you could be like me, living in a HOME that looks like a model house; having visitors “wow” and spread the “gospel” of what a fabulous house it is; and eventually having someone ask me, “Would you be willing to sell your house?” I negotiate up to a handsome profit, sell, and begin building my next one. This one is # 13. I love the house, my HOME, but am not overly attached. And I enjoy building. (No. I am not psychotic!)

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Well, Jan, I know you and I know for a fact you’ve done this. But it still seems like magic to me.

      Someday, we’ll have a cup of coffee and maybe you can teach me. Oh, and bring your unicorn too. I’d like to meet her. 😉

  11. J says

    Hey JL,

    When you say you have invested the sale proceeds into VGSLX, these proceeds fall under your ‘Ordinary Bucket’ as you mentioned in one of your previous posts. For a more tax efficient fund, why have you not added it into VTSAX instead, rather then VGSLX?


    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi J…

      Great question and I actually touched on it in a comment reply in the last post:

      I hold VGSXL in our IRA for tax reasons as it throws off a nice dividend. Since I count home equity along with the REIT as my RE allocation, I wanted the sale proceeds to go into VGSLX in the IRA. But, of course, I couldn’t put that money directly into an IRA.

      So, the house sale proceeds actually went into our taxable VTSAX fund. We hold our taxable investments in VTSAX because it is a “tax-efficent” fund.

      Then, in turn, I transferred an equal amount of VTSAX shares in our IRA to VGSLX also within the IRA. Net result, my allocation remained exactly the same.

      Make sense?

  12. CashRebel says

    Woe, what a saga. So it sounds like the staging service wasn’t worth it? I know I wouldn’t be able to arrange furniture in a hip way!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hey CR…

      Well the house sure looked great when they were done, but maybe a further $5500 price reduction would have been even more powerful.

      But as I said responding to Rjack above, if I did it I would do less of it.

  13. Mr. Risky Startup says

    Sorry, not really directly related to the subject of the post, but today I found craziest article… It shows how much money you would have if you purchased Apple stock instead of corresponding Apple product. It is basically best example of what consumerism does to us (I will admit that as a gadget freak, I had my share of iPods and iPads…):

    Could not help it – had to share… Anyone out there who purchased iMac in 2002 for $2000? Can you believe that if you purchased Apple stock, you would now be $150k richer?

  14. Shilpan says

    Wonderful article for anyone who wants to sell his/her home. I know how you feel now, pal! Indeed, you have to sell home to enjoy what life has to offer before it’s too late to do so.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks my friend!

      BTW, did you notice The MF and I were talking about you a few comments up?

  15. Shilpan says

    Thanks! MF did the work so credit goes to him. I think your blog and its message should reach to as many people — especially those young folks who are about to earn money — because you have such an engaging style to make — otherwise a boring subject of money — entertaining for those who young adults.

    And, I only wish that I was as smart as MF at his age. 🙂

  16. Jake Erickson says

    What a great (and terrible at the same time) story about selling your house. My wife and I are contemplating moving soon, but I hope it doesn’t take us 2 years to sell our house. I think you probably needed a better Realtor from the start that was willing to tell you the price it would probably sell at instead of just listening to you throw a price out there. Oh well, at least you learned from it and it’s out of your life for good now!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks, Jake…

      My guess is your sale will go more smoothly. The market is better now and clearly you won’t be making that mistake of mine:

      In choosing that first realtor I intentionally went with one I knew would just follow my lead on pricing.

  17. Rob Robinson says

    A real estate client of mine who is also a climber (and whose home we just got under contract in one day at 98.3% of the list price and at 2.45% above appraised value) sent me this link to your blog post — which lays out in exquisite though painful detail — your time spent trapped inside the Home Seller Torture Chamber. I wish I had been your Realtor since, as a fellow climber, I’m sure you would have followed my real estate advice. Glad you escaped. I’m saving the link to your story to share with recalcitrant Sellers who refuse to listen to me…

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Welcome Rob…

      ..and congrats on the successful sale!

      Having been thru the process I described, I’ll certainly be more willing to listen in the future.In the, hopefully unlikely, event I ever find myself owning and trying to unload a house again. 🙂

      Just curious. Having read my tale, what would your advice have been?

      Oh, and just as a point of clarification, I’m not actually a climber. Unless you count the stairs in the new apartment building. 😉

  18. Mark ferguson says

    I am a realtor and real estate investor and it rarely if ever works to price a home high hoping buyers will think they got a deal negotiating. The buyers who want a good deal will want that deal based off market value, not the list price. Buyers know the seller can list a home for whatever price they want and it may have no indication on market value. Almost every buyer can see sold comps and get a decent idea of what the market value is and they look g many homes for sale which also gives them a great idea of market value.

    A home that sits on the market for a long time or is constantly put in and of the market worries buyers and they honk there must be something wrong with it. I have found pricing a home just under market value in a declining or stable market usually nets the best price and sells the home quick enough to avoi a stagnant listing.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Mark…

      Nice to have you posting on the blog.

      That’s certainly what worked for us in the end and my guess is it is the best approach in most markets.

      But, in a really strong seller’s market, I’d still be tempted to price high. Probably just one of my many flaws. 🙂

  19. Darrow@CanIRetireYet says

    Jim, here’s a delayed thanks for your excellent real estate posts. Your experience and advice really helped us make the right calls during our own transaction, which recently closed. Proper pricing and staging are essential — that is crystal clear to me now. And it’s also important to be sensitive to the unique conditions in your own area. We were fortunate to be operating in a somewhat stabilized real estate market. More in my post How We Sold Our House in 24 Hours. Thanks again!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Congratulations and welcome to the ranks of the home-free!

      Reading about your efforts in selling yours reminded me painfully of our own. 🙂

      When people buy houses I doubt they have any idea how much work it will take unloading them when the time comes. We sure didn’t!

  20. Kevin Vitali says

    Wow as a real estate agent this is refreshing to see a seller explain there selling journey. You made some excellent points that real estate agents already know but it is so hard to get sellers to understand.

    First is the anchored seller. No matter what you believe the price of your home is, it is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay.

    Second fair market value is a range it is not one number. Yet sellers focus on the one number.

    Third…. les is more. Couldn’t sell it at 359 but 339 got you the 355.

    And lastly, sellers put agents in a pickle. Forcing them to push the highest price possible to get the listing but that leaves no room for error.

    Good article. Thanks for sharing a real world experience that sellers never hear about. Yet agents experience these behaviors everyday.

  21. love says

    wow, i can feel your pain. thank god it is over . We are currently trying to sell our house and I asked my agent to lower the price to sell it quickly. It has been on a market for less than 1 week, 3 showings no offers and I am panicking already. We bought another house and this one needs to be sold asap. I am very stressed out. I guess the price is they key.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yeah, one of the key downsides of owning a house can come when you have to unload it.

      In our case, a few years before we needed to sell, the market was hot and we likely could have easily gotten 150k more for the place. Sigh.

      Don’t panic too quickly. A week is nothing. Houses commonly take months to sell even in decent markets. Remember, it only takes one. 🙂

      • jlcollinsnh says

        Hi John,

        Thanks for your comment!

        Mr. Collins is currently traveling and unable to respond just now.

        We find for most questions, he has already covered the topic. Using the Search button might very well provide your answer.

  22. Mary Ann says

    I just came upon this article. We are actually moving TO NH when my husband retires the end of this year. Or so we hope. We already signed a purchase agreement for a little house to be built in an HOA development. Supposedly is to be completed by 11/1. but you know how that goes. The builder has several homes to build.

    Our house in NY is up for sale since 6/1/19. The realtor we chose wanted to list it at $339,000. One used car salesman realtor I interviewed wanted to list it between $350,00 and $400,000. I knew he was crazy. And another realtor I interviewed had it at $280,000- $320,00, which I thought was the most realistic. Probably should have signed with him. I told our realtor to try $319,00.

    The first week we had 6 showings and 1 offer for $310,000 with a pre approved mortgage, including a lovely letter about how much they loved our home- BUT it had a contingency of selling their home. Umm- No.

    Then they took that out of their offer and replaced it with a contingency to LEASE their house- which the realtor told me would be coordinated with the closing on our house. Our realtor thought it was a good offer. Why I don’t know.

    Again- we rejected it unless we could get more info.- like a letter from their bank and info. about their current house and what it could rent for, etc. Now the realtor tells us it was a good decision. Huh? Haven’t heard anything back.

    Been listed 2 weeks now and in the past 7 days we only had 1 showing- none on the weekend and none scheduled so far for this week- week 3. Last wee we did have a broker showing.

    We are using retirement money to buy the NH home cash and have no pensions or plans to apply for Social Security until we are 70. So we really want this house to sell before we have to liquidate our brokerage and savings account.

    I feel we should lower the price quite a bit but my husband is not there yet. I am thinking $310,000 or even $299,000.

    Our home is in pristine condition and has been updated these past 6 years, but some permit issues could come up for the wood stove and generator we have had for a long time. We also do not have an outlet on our kitchen island because the house is on a slab- so things like worry me.

    Meanwhile, we have lived here 31 years with no issues. Rural area and house is on 10 1/2 acres. Good school district. I want to get this done and just rent until our NH house is ready.

    I have a lot of anxiety over this whole thing already.

  23. Kristine says

    I’ve sold three houses. Each one totally different process. This year I sold my moms house after she passed away and I got it cleaned out. She was a hoarder of sorts, she bought and sold antiques but she didn’t buy wisely she just bought “stuff”. This house was the only one I didn’t dump money into it to sell. House was in a time warp the only update in 25 years was bathroom overhaul 10 years ago. Much to my embarrassment my realtor told me to leave it alone it will sell. I would have kept it but I have my own house, it’s small, paid for and quite manageable for me. Realtor was right the house sold in 8 hours due to it being a sellers market. I was thrilled to get this house off my hands. I added up the costs of needed repairs versus what I could sell it for after those repairs then concluded realtor was correct. I walked away with $107K and no headaches from contractors. After taking a few months to rest up I plan to sell my house and move to a town that offers everything I need plus being walkable. Due to this blog plus a few others I learned to not let emotions rule my thinking. The numbers don’t lie!

  24. Kristine says

    Thanks to every house article you’ve written and particularly this one. Because of you while cleaning out my moms house I debated how to price the house cleaned up and repaired or price it for ‘as is’ condition. Referring back to this article I priced it ‘as is’ and went for it. Lucky for me I sold the house in one day with 5 showings. A couple who flipped houses in my area offered me 10K below my asking price with zero contingencies. I jumped on it as I priced it assuming an offer would come in for 5-10K below, what I never expected was to get an offer with zero demands! I couldn’t sign off on this offer fast enough. To top it off they didn’t want inspections, all I had to do was wait for the appraisal to come through to close. I walked away with $107K. Thanks again!!!!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Kristine…

      So glad to hear it worked out for you! It is always a relief to get a house sold quickly and not have to live through weeks of showings. 🙂

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