Adventures in Real Estate

During the dozen or so years that Bob and I have been together, we’ve sold three homes. So, on average, if I’m doing the math right, that’s one house every four years. Is that a lot? I’m not sure. We moved a few times while I was growing up so it doesn’t seem too unusual to me but Bob thinks I have ants in my pants. I think it just took us awhile to find the perfect place.

The first home we sold, Bob’s bachelor pad, was a cinch to sell, from what I remember. (We were wedding planning and new-house hunting all around the same time so things get a bit fuzzy.) I distinctly recall my parents helping us get the house ready by removing wallpaper and painting and aiding with general clean-up. We listed the property during the real estate frenzy of 2004 so buyers were circling in no time.

The sale of our second home, in Alexandria, was a bit more anxious. The bubble had burst and though our neighborhood was still in high demand, the pressure to perfectly prepare, market and time our listing was intense. We sidelined our move for a year when we found out we were expecting Millie. It didn’t make sense to move away from doctors we knew and helpful friends that were good with newborns. However, at that point, we had already been in touch with our neighbor, a real estate agent, about listing our house. She knew we would be putting it on the market after Millie’s October arrival. So, when she had a client looking to buy in our neighborhood that summer and they could not find the right property amongst the available inventory, she called asking if her buyers could preview our house even though it wasn’t technically for sale. Without thinking twice, I exclaimed, “Of course!” I thought it would be a great chance to get some feedback from actual purchasers prior to officially listing the house. I think I remember casually mentioning it to Bob on the phone but he was traveling heavily for work that year and the overall impression I held was that the showing was not really a big deal. I mean, what were the chances that they would like our house enough to want to buy it, right? Pretty slim.

The two things I hadn’t considered when I jumped at the chance to open our front door to prospective purchasers were 1.) deep cleaning my entire house while six months pregnant would be harder than I thought and, 2.) they might want to actually buy our house.


When our realtor called to say that the buyers wanted to tour our home a second time with their parents, I panicked. Everyone knows that getting your parent’s opinion is, like, Step 3 in the official About-to-Buy-Anything-of-Significance process. I had never really imagined even once that they would take more than a quick glance at our place and then rattle off the things they liked and didn’t like. To know there was actual consideration and number crunching going on kind of spelled trouble. It meant I had to tell Bob, who had been at work during most of the preparation, staging and showing, that it might be time to come up with A Plan.

Bob was… not amused that my prior promise of this exercise being “just for feedback” had become something so much bigger. It was bad. So bad. A sale meant we’d be moving before the baby was born and Bob was adamant that that was a bad idea (he was right). We spent a frantic weekend driving around looking at any rental homes we could find in a commutable neighborhood with half-way decent elementary schools while I chanted, “everything is going to be FINE,” over and over again as I rubbed my belly. And, everything did end up being just fine. Those prospective buyers chose the other house they showed their parents that weekend and my marriage was saved. Millie arrived and we sold our house a few months later, when everyone (Bob) was ready.

However, ever since that close call, Bob has been a little leery of my trigger-happy willingness to sell our residence to the first interested party that wants to take a peek inside. So, when the process of selling our home in Richmond appeared to be headed down a similar path, I knew better than to greet him after he arrived home from work with boxes and packing tape.

The funny thing is, for all of my grumbling about Facebook, Facebook is exactly how I sold our third home. Our Richmond neighborhood had a pretty active Facebook group that kept neighbors apprised of happenings, offered suggestions for contractors and babysitters and, as it turns out, ended up putting me in touch with someone looking for a home in the community.

We happened to be house-hunting in Northern Virginia when I saw a new post on our neighborhood’s Facebook page from a resident looking for a property for a family member. Their relative was trying to get into the development and if anyone was selling soon, they were to get in touch. I read it aloud to Bob in the parking lot of the restaurant where we had stopped for a break and asked, “Should we call? Are we ready for this? Are you going to be mad if I sell our house?” He agreed that it looked promising and even though we had not planned on listing for a few months, the idea of selling without having to formally market our home was enticing. I mean, what were the chances that they would like our house enough to want to buy it, right? Pretty slim.

The two things I hadn’t considered when I jumped at the chance to open our front door to prospective purchasers were 1.) deep cleaning my entire house with three kids underfoot would be harder than I thought and, 2.) they might want to actually buy our house.


We knew things were moving fast when they came back with their parents the same day.

Just like that, we had a buyer for our home. A fair amount of panic ensued which involved about ten hours of me Googling, “how to sell your house without a realtor.” It’s interesting because after going through the selling process without representation, I totally get why realtors are a thing. While it was really great to not have to live through open houses, short-notice showings and pay high commissions, there were times throughout our escrow that I wished longingly for a person to serve as a buffer between us and our buyers. It’s a lot different negotiating a purchase price directly with the purchaser than it is through two agents playing a version of the telephone game. It’s a lot of (sometimes very awkward) hard work.

In the end, it all paid off. We staged our home, successfully sold it and I learned the valuable lesson that you definitely are supposed to hire your own real estate attorney to prepare your side of the sales transaction. Even if you just assumed you were going to use the same settlement attorney that your buyers are using, you have to actually tell them that. Also, you should tell them you want to hire them more than four days before the closing date. Otherwise, they will think you are working with a different attorney and will call and ask where all of your paperwork is. And, then you will cry and wish you had just hired a realtor. See how much I learned?

Every time someone asks us if we can see ourselves living in our new home for a long time to come, I say, “Definitely!” just as Bob exclaims, “Nooooooo!” He thinks I’m going to want to move again. But, the joke’s on him because if we never move again, I never have to deep clean my house again. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.

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