In the Suburbs / Taking another stab at downsizing
For the second time in two years, we've reluctantly taken the risk in this miserable housing market and put our home up for sale. Why? Like so many others in this area and around the country, we're struggling and want to see if we can get out from under our more expensive mortgage payment and downsize to a more affordable home in this area or further up the line, if necessary.
Ours is a wonderful home in a lovely neighborhood, that has given us so much space for entertaining, a fenced-in yard so the dogs can roam freely and cozy winter evenings by the fireplace. But despite the up and down market here in Fairfield, we needed to try again to sell. The last time we tried, we certainly had interest and showings and came close a couple of times to an offer. But in November of 2010, after nearly a year, we ended our broker contract and opted to take the house off the market.
This time, with alternative ideas and guidance from our new broker, we did so much differently, including the inevitable lowering of the price to accommodate the market we're facing. Ironically, my original mortgage broker had warned us five years ago when we refinanced and the house appraised at a booming price. "Just don't take much out to pay off everything," he had advised. "Two-bedroom houses like yours in Fairfield are selling at $100,000 below this appraisal."
And that's where we priced our home this time -- in the two-bedroom house range. The broker had offered two price ideas: A fire sale at nearly $100,000 less than we had listed for in 2009; or a longer-on-the-market price. We settled on the latter, because we have to come away with enough equity to try and buy a smaller, more reasonable house with enough space to accommodate two quilters with enough material to fill a McMansion.
Of course, all of this is contingent on our being able to sell the house this time and then hope that some kind mortgage company or bank will give us a mortgage. We've already started making inquiries, and now that our house is officially on the market, we will start looking to at least see what's out there.
Once our broker's staging people came by, we received a real wake-up call about how much more we'd need to spend on improvements to make the house more saleable. And we had to accept that in any market -- good or bad -- if one is realistic about the need for curb appeal, interior paint, drapery or blinds and masonry work, just to name a few things, one can (not will) stand a better chance of selling.
So we spent our already tight dollars on improvements, and the house looked wonderful for the broker open house this week. Our broker assured us that the house showed well. Of course, the brokers identified drawbacks -- they always do -- but we'll have to hope that enough folks find the house and come to our public open house in a couple of weeks. From there, it remains to be seen.
Our window for the fall market, I'm told is still just about 2 months and then we face the long winter. But the exercise has been worthwhile. We've packed more than we ever did two years ago. Breakables are mostly packed and pictures and paintings are off the walls. All of this has been moved to our lower level storage area, which is the same size as our upstairs.
We've gone through clothing and linens and packed or given away a lot of things we no longer wear or use. And my wife managed to get her entire collectors nest of quilting books, material and cook books decluttered and moved to the lower level. Our den is so empty, we don't feel like we live here anymore.
As I walked through the house this week, all I could think of, yet again, was now we live indefinitely in a goldfish bowl, relegated to perpetual cleanliness and regular junk mail dumps. I can only hope that our time in the bowl will be short and this time we'll be able to sell for a legitimate price.
Meanwhile, we'll continue to build the equity every month and do our own house hunting. As our broker pointed out, we need to start letting go of this house and hope it will sell so we can really see what's out there. I heard today that price contraction in this area seems to be slowing up, and that's one of the more favorable trends, despite this miserable housing market.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: email@example.com.