Thursday, August 27, 2009

Update on our move

So, my last post about moving I took down because we were looking into refinancing the house. Advertising a move overseas isn't the best idea while doing this, but we ultimately decided not to go that route. A lot has happened in the last few weeks, but our moving plans are set. We leave in January for Britain.

About a month ago we decided that it was time to look into renting the house, so we signed up with a property manager. Then we decided to see if we could refi to get the mortgage low enough to be covered completely by rent. It is possible to do, but not cost effective in the end of the day because of the fees. During the time we were looking into this, we took the house off the market, and boy am I glad.

Because about two weeks ago, I snapped. I had *had it* with our realty company. I swear, if anyone says "keep your fingers crossed" to me about anything, I might just fly off the handle (okay, no, I'm not really that moody). But I was sick and tired of the attitude that listing our house on an MLS and chatting with other realtors in the rare instance they brought someone by was this great service deserving of over ten thousand dollars come closing. I think a total of about four people ever looked at the house. Now, I know the market's slow, but here's the kicker, just about everyone else we know who tried to sell a house this year managed to do it.

Ultimately I did some research and found that our house was overpriced (this was not my job, to figure this out and I had asked our agent over and over and over about it). When we asked our realtor about renting, she suggested we "take the house off the market for a year and then relist it." Apparently she thought it was a good idea for us to burn off some savings with the house rented (we bought at the peak of the market, so our mortgage payments are a little higher than we can earn through rent, given we'd also hire a property manager) then somehow get the house in show condition from 6,000 miles away. We'd then have to try to sell with diminished savings, which would restrict how low an offer we could afford to take. This, I have to say, makes no economic sense. The house value won't appreciate by enough to justify this kind of cost. I think this is just holding out for the good old days when it was a sellers market. It isn't anymore, and I'm over that. You win some you lose some, this house was a loser. Best to just take the loss and move on than to hang onto this thing while trying to make ends meet on Trevor's stipend overseas.

I made the mistake of choosing a realtor based on personal connections. I went with whom everyone said was one of the best realtors in town, and didn't interview. When we decided to try to rent too, this company told us they didn't want us to try to sell or rent at the same time. In short, they want us to keep it simple for them and weren't willing to go the extra mile to get us what we need. We wanted to move in October, and to sell the house early and take our loss then. That way we could've bulked up our savings again by living in a cheap apartment or my parents' basement. We aren't happy with having to push our move to January. I think our goals could have been met if the house had just been priced more aggressively. This second time around, I called realtors and interviewed them on the phone.

The one we're listing with now is very impressive. She came in with a big checklist of what to do to stage our house, gave us a comprehensive market analysis and named a price that is significantly lower than what it was listed at before. Given the data, I think she's right on target. She even put us in touch with a gardener to get the front yard show-worthy. Our neighbors have no doubt noticed that it is now possible to see more of the front of the house. She'll be in while we're at Bubonicon to take pictures - she is very picky with the lighting and composition and will move furniture to get the shot she wants, and that's exactly the kind of attention to detail we need.

While we were in the process of moving out pieces of furniture and taking down pictures, our property manager called to set up a showing with a prospective tenant. We told her that we'd be willing to lease month to month with the house still on the market, and she tried to talk us out of that. In the end we also agreed that we would take the house off the market if the tenant signed a three year lease. The tenant seems willing to consider that and came to tour the house.

So, we're in a much better place than we were a month ago. If anyone living in the area wants details on our realtor or the gardener she uses, drop me an email. I'd highly recommend both of them. We may not have the house sold or rented by January, but at least we won't have that sinking feeling that we could have done more.

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