Archive for September, 2009

The First 100 Days

It’s not that its hard work, it’s just that the timing is often difficult to manage.  My house has been on the market for about 100 days and I’ve had scores of showings.  The calls come at any given time of the day for showings – sometimes when I’m scheduled to be at work as well as when I’m not.  Regardless of the time, however, the house has to be in tip-top shape ready to be seen as a place where the visitor might be able to see him or herself living.  Traces of my life must vanish, at least for the hour that the house is scheduled to show.

It’s not as if keeping a clean house is difficult – but for the sake of the property showing well it’s important to keep the everything looking as if it’s a spec home.  The sinks need to be spot free and shiny.  The towels must be folded just right.  My usual stacks of notes, papers and magazines must be sorted and removed.  And because a request for a showing might come at any given time, it means having the place spotless every morning before leaving for work.  Its not hard work, it’s just antagonizing at times.

I’ve taken to turning on the lamps in each room to make the house glow in warm light though it ups my electric bill.  Some weeks I’ve mowed twice (weather permitting) so that the yard looks just right.  I’ve painted what I’d put off for a few years, finished applying the new moulding in the kitchen which I’d put off since the remodel was completed.  All of the windows have been replaced with dual thermal-panes, there’s a brand new roof, a new water heater, a 95% energy efficient furnace and added insulation in the attic and exterior walls.  The house has new siding and new front and side gardens.  I’ve also dropped the price by $9,000.

When my house went on the market in late May there were only five houses on my street for sale.  Now there are thirteen.  Granted, my street comprises the length of five city blocks, but out of 141 available houses, that’s almost ten percent – and just on my street.  As a friend and I discussed, all of us that have our homes for sale are competing, not necessarily on price, but for qualified buyers.  And it is a buyers market.

Because my move is being inspired by desire rather than necessity, I’ve not grown anxious.  I have, however, gained patience and understanding.

In Chicago the competition for buyers is far greater and it’s not uncommon to find a building that has multiple units available.  During the past weekend I viewed four of five units available in a twenty-unit building.  I’ve viewed studio apartments and three bedroom units.  I’ve viewed a one bedroom for $45k which had mold growing on the walls and I’ve viewed a $429k unit that had skyline views (the realtor called 20 minutes after my viewing to tell me that the price had dropped by $30,000 to $399k).  When a lake-front one bedroom on the 33rd floor showed up for $50k, the realtor was bombarded with telephone calls.

I’ve walked the neighborhoods in Chicago that I desire mile after mile and I’ve learned the bus and train routes that serve these neighborhoods.  I’ve talked to some of the neighbors.  I’ve stopped into various stores and shops to see who is shopping there – a very basic way to feel out the neighborhood without official data.  I dine at various neighborhood restaurants and coffee shops just to get a feel for who is there and what’s being said.

This is the first time I’ve lived through selling a house.  I grew up in the same house so I never experienced the waiting game.  Yet I remain confident.  Signs point to a stabilizing economy.  The Obama tax credit for first-time home buyers may likely bring a quasi land-rush in October.  Despite the number of available homes, my current house is one of the best cared for and most appealing on this street.  And as the deals for buyers get better and better in Columbus, they get better and better for me in Chicago.

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