As I mentioned in my last post, one of the biggest reasons why our lives have felt so crazy lately involved the selling of our condo. We put a lot of work and time into finishing our renovations, 90% of which we did ourselves. And by “we,” I mean Mr. Dolphin since I fractured my tailbone in January and was very little help. I’ll focus this post on why we sold and some tips on showing/selling with small children, with a future post dedicated to why/how we downsized plus the move itself.
Why We Decided to Sell
There are a number of reasons we decided to sell our condo. While we really did like the layout of our condo and location (including walking distance to a metro station and just over a mile to the kids’ daycare) and the timing wasn’t totally ideal since we had only been there for four years, there were several reasons supporting our decision to sell.
First, we had new neighbors move in below us about a year ago. The way our condo complex is set up is that there is the ground floor where the one bedrooms and two bedrooms are, then you can walk up one level which is where all the two bedrooms plus lofts are. We lived on the second floor, in part because we didn’t want noise above us and appreciated the lofted space. Unfortunately, there is basically no insulation or soundproofing between the floors and I’ve heard a lot of complaints (from other parents who all seem to be on the second floor, as well) in our community about noise disruption. Several of our neighbors have kids Lion’s age and noted that their downstairs neighbors also made complaints, so I was happy to know that it’s not like our children were unnaturally loud. Even though we tried to mitigate the noise by discouraging any running or jumping, putting down foam mats in the living room, and trying to spend more time in the lofted space than on our main living level, we still got a lot of complaints from our new downstairs neighbors. Sometimes, they would use a broom to bang on the ceiling, other times they would text me to complain about the noise and they also left a somewhat nasty note on our doorstep. We felt like we were constantly walking on eggshells, even outside of community quiet hours which was stressful for us and for our kids. What really sealed the deal for me was when I got a text on Christmas Eve that basically said, “We know that this time of year can be exciting for children, but please try to keep the noise level down tomorrow” (we also got a similar text on Thanksgiving Eve). I felt like our kids weren’t being allowed to enjoy their own home and I hated being in our condo because I was constantly worried about the noise, even when they were just walking around.
While I do think we would have stayed in our condo longer if our new neighbors hadn’t made so many complaints, it wasn’t a forever home for us. I never liked how much we were paying in our monthly HOA fees ($400+/month) and we had talked for awhile about trying to get a house or a townhouse with a lower HOA, so that more of our monthly payment would go toward principal rather than to association fees.
Additionally, at some point we do want our kids to have access to a yard, if possible.
Rising interest rates also played a part in our decision to sell. While our interest rates when we purchase our next home will likely be higher than the interest rate we were paying on our old home, we felt like it was better to try to sell and repurchase now rather than a year or two down the road.
Getting Ready for Sale
We brought our realtor over last summer to get her thoughts on selling and get a rough idea of the projects we would need to do. When we first purchased the condo (I was about 6 or 7 months pregnant when we closed), we made quite a few updates. Mr. Dolphin demoed our kitchen, ripped up the carpet in every room except the kids’, installed laminate flooring, painted the stairs, put in trim, etc, so we were already working with a good number of updates. We felt like we had probably done all the major renovations, but wanted to see what else could help increase the sale price. Our relator was great and gave us the name of the handyman she uses for projects we didn’t want to tackle ourselves: the removal of a giant mirrored wall in our living room that was there when we purchased plus the painting of the ceilings that we couldn’t reach since our condo was lofted with cathedral ceilings. She pointed out a number of other small projects or things that we should replace, including our dishwasher since it was the only kitchen appliance that we didn’t upgrade when we had our new cabinets and granite countertop put in several years ago.
In early January, we had her over again to run through the smaller projects that she thought would make a difference in how well our home would do on the market. We went room by room, writing down everything. She paid a lot of attention to little details, including pointing out areas for Mr. Dolphin to re-caulk, scratches that we should paint over, etc. I honestly don’t remember everything she suggested we do, but the list was quite long and Mr. Dolphin spent many late nights finishing the projects. We also replaced some fixtures with ones that were inexpensive but made everything look more cohesive and updated. For example, instead of the standard silver towel racks that came with our home, we replaced them with oil-rubbed bronze looking ones to match other fixtures that we had replaced. We decided that we couldn’t really afford to renovate the bathrooms because we weren’t confident we would get it all back on resale, but we painted the bathroom cabinets slate grey and painted the walls a light grey to make it show a bit better.
In preparation for sale, we also knew that we would have to remove a ton of clutter in our home. Our kids’ closet was filled with baby items, which we’ve held onto in case we decided to have a third. We ended up selling some of it, but also put a good amount into the 5 x 5 storage unit we rented. We put some extra furniture into the unit, as well as other miscellaneous items. Because our realtor said that our closets should only be half full to give the illusion that there’s plenty of room, we had to make sure they were well organized and we put a good amount of stuff from there into the storage unit, too.
Showing a Home With Kids
A couple of weeks before the date that we planned to put our condo on the market, our realtor heard from another realtor about a buyer interested in our complex. We agreed to show it as an off-market listing and, I have to admit, I was really hoping to get an offer from that showing just because I didn’t want to deal with keeping our home “open house” clean. That buyer ended up not making an offer, though, because she wanted updated bathrooms and the price we planned to list at would mean she would have nothing leftover for renovations. She ended up buying a smaller condo in the complex across from ours.
We listed our home on a Friday and scheduled an open house for Sunday. While we put a lockbox on our door, our realtor put into the notes that our home would be shown by appointment only and we needed advance notice. We wanted to make sure that the home was looking its best, but also were trying to juggle nap schedules (we don’t have family in the area so really had nowhere to go when we couldn’t be home) and bedtime, plus the fact that I sometimes work from home.
Because we listed during a time with very low inventory, requests for showings came in immediately and I think there were seven people who came to visit on Saturday, the day after we listed our condo. Our realtor was great at being cognizant of the difficulty in doing this with kids, so she tried to lump the viewings together as much as possible and avoid naptime on Saturday, since we knew the kids would probably miss their nap on Sunday due to the open house schedule. We ended up leaving our home around 9:30 Saturday with the first showing set for 10am, and returned at around 1:30 since the last viewing before nap was at 12:30. We took the kids to the park even though the weather was a bit chillier than I would’ve liked, looked at apartments and had lunch. We came home for nap, then left again around 4pm, took the kids to the park again then did vigil mass to stay out of the house. We went to eat at the Whole Foods hot bar after mass, to allow the last appointment of the day to view our condo before returning home for the kids’ bedtime at around 7pm, which is slightly later than usual, but not too far off schedule.
We ended up having another two people come on Sunday before the open house, but our realtor scheduled them for just before the open house to help minimize the time we had to be out of our home. When we returned after the open house, our realtor said that around 50 groups of people came by, a pretty high number for our area. She set the deadline for offers for Tuesday, so we ended up having several requests from other people to see our home on Monday and Tuesday and needed to make sure our home was spotless when we left both days.
When we left the home each day, we made sure everything was picked up, sprayed down all surfaces and mopped. We kept a couple of canvas bags out to throw in any of our extra clutter and would bring it down to the trunk of our car, which was a lifesaver since there were a few items that didn’t stow nicely into cupboards and we wanted all of our closets to look open and spacious.
We also put out the items for staging each day, and packed them up (to keep them clean) when we returned. These items included a white tablecloth for our dining table, white towels in the bathrooms, a white bedspread and decorative pillows for our bed, large books for our coffee table, and some decorative jars for our countertop. We didn’t want to leave these items out while we were home for fear that they’d get dirty or break, so most of them went into a large duffel bag each evening. Ultimately, I think our system worked really well and it only took about 5 minutes to put all the staging items out each morning.
We kept a checklist that we referred to each morning which included the list of staging items we wanted to put out, reminders to do things like open all the curtains in each room, and a list of things to remove from each room such as the giant wooden cutting board that graced our kitchen counter but our realtor thought looked better if it wasn’t there.
Although it was a bit stressful making sure that everything was perfectly clean and all the clutter stowed away for those days, in the end it paid off because we ended up with multiple offers. We were relieved that we only had to deal with keeping everything totally clean for those four days (well, and then we had to clean again for the inspection and appraisal), instead of having a long drawn out process. To me, it was worth having to be out of the house most of Saturday and Sunday, even with the expectation that the kids would miss their naps on Sunday, because we only had to keep things clean for about four consecutive days.
We’re very grateful that our realtor made such a big push to make everything perfect and show as well as possible so we could get our condo sold quickly. She also advised us on the right timing, which helped because of the low inventory of homes on the market. We definitely felt like a good realtor was the difference in helping us get our home sold quickly and at a price we were happy with.
Flashback: 6 months pregnant with Lion and painting the condo.