By Dorota Wright-O'Neill, RE/MAX Editor
We thought we had it all planned out.
Ready to downsize, my husband and I put our lovely, old, equity-rich home on the market. The idea was to sell high (isn't it always?) and buy low (ditto). It would be an adventure, we thought.
We certainly were right on that account.
What we underestimated was the market. It's competitive. It's fast. It's great for sellers but a challenge for buyers.
Our first shock was the speed with which our house sold: It only took about an hour and a half! One of the first couples to see it on its first day on the market made an offer we simply could not refuse. Inspection and paperwork moved at warp speed. Before we knew it, we'd signed on to move out within a month.
That's when our adventure turned into a wild ride.
In our property search, we stopped by homes already under contract but still beckoning backup offers. Price wars were downright expected. We saw a ramshackle two-bedroom with watermarks indicating leakage issues, and a closet floor crudely cut out for a makeshift laundry chute. It sold within a day for a half-million dollars. (Note: This isn't Manhattan or Malibu!) We watched two different real estate agents furiously writing offers on their iPads just moments after their respective, and competing, clients toured the house.
The first offer we made on a house – a backup, because there were concerns whether the original offer would stand – set the tone for others we'd make. Our agent suggested I write a letter telling the sellers why we, and not the other prospective buyers, should get the house. I waxed poetic about the wonderful garden and other desirable features. It didn't work.
The second offer we made got us no closer to a purchase. Within 36 hours on the market, the home we targeted had eight offers and sold for a reported $50,000 over the asking price.
We hesitated for a couple of hours before we bid on a third house, and, of course, were a couple of hours too late.
Today, we're waiting to close on house number four, which, by the way, I still haven't visited yet. My husband saw it during its one day on the market and, with my blessing over the phone from work, made the offer right away. I can tell you that it looks great from the street and in pictures. Oh, and it's at the very top of our budget. So much for buying low.
Yet, after all this, I have no regrets. When I actually see the inside of the house, I'm sure I'll think it's my dream home. And if all goes as planned, I will be moving in just in time to plant tomatoes and put in new flower beds. It will be a great spring – and beyond.
Take it from me, if you're thinking of buying a house:
- Be sure you're really ready to sell if you're a current homeowner. With low inventories reported in many parts of the country, your home may be snapped up quickly. There may be little or no time for second thoughts.
- Even in this market, to get a great offer, your home still has to look good. Our house sold fast, in part, because it was move-in ready. Follow your agent's advice to de-clutter, paint and make whatever fixes are necessary.
- Find an experienced agent you trust. You will need your agent's knowledge to help you through this process as well as his or her commitment to keep you from making a costly mistake. The house with the self-made laundry chute would not have been a good fit for us, however tempting it might have been to settle for any place to call home.
- A sense of humor and patience will make this a lot more enjoyable! I still chuckle at the look on friends' faces when they hear I bought a house without stepping foot inside. At the very least, it makes a fun story.