Posts Tagged ‘housing’


“They’d like to close on the 31st of March,” my realtor told me.
“That’s only 13 days from today,” I replied in a somewhat stupefied state.

After having had my house on the market for ten months and nearly taking it off the market because I was simply tired of waiting, the offer came, and came with a rapidly approaching time line.

Pursuing the sale of my house during the worst economic period in fifty years was a long shot and virtually everyone told me so.  At one point there were seventeen houses on my street for sale.  There were plenty of lookers over the course of those ten months – scores and scores of lookers in fact.

There were plenty of comments too.  “The kitchen is too small”, “the kitchen doesn’t have granite countertops”, “there is no garage”.   While the lookers and realtors continued to point out some of the [perceived] short-comings of the house, I continued to highlight it’s strengths.

Yes, I could have knocked out walls and installed top of the line finishes but instead, over the course of nine years, I focused my efforts on making my house energy efficient and thus a less expensive place to live.  To showcase these items I redesigned the brochure that potential buyers would take with them after viewing my house.

In addition to pointing out these not-so-visible upgrades on the new brochure, I included some history of the area and made mention of the community efforts of the neighbors.  I included the house’s “walk score” and access to public transportation.  I even stated that I’d intentionally left out certain upgrades for cost-saving reasons.  Yes, I admitted in print, that certain amenities had been left out.

Certainly not every home can appeal to every buyer, but I knew that energy-saving upgrades had value, I just had to appeal to the buyer who cared more for their long-term savings than to their subjective approach to visual appeal.  And yes, it often felt like an up-hill battle.

I also felt that it was important for a buyer to understand that in addition to buying a house, they were also buying into a sustainable lifestyle.  Rather than just seeing themselves living in the house, they had to understand that this environment was going to have a positive impact on how they lived within the total environment surrounding the house.

Call it coincidence or call it smarter marketing, but it was the first showing following the placement of the new brochure that led to the offer.

The offer and acceptance led to a whirlwind of activity – namely emptying a two-story house.  Now that I’m settling in to my temporary living arrangement in north-west Columbus (essentially “suburbia”) I’ll have time to continue writing.  And trust me, after a week in suburbia, there is plenty of social commentary coming to the surface.

The new owner of my house began moving in this past weekend.  She called me, in fact.

“Thank you,” she said, “for doing all the work you’ve done over the years.  I really love this house.”

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244 Days Later

When I put my house on the market 244 days ago I was overly optimistic, at least compared to my feelings now.  I’ll agree that my initial price was a bit too high, but after some feedback and exploration, the price came down to what I determined at ‘reasonable’.

Then the real-estate tax credit was extended into 2010 and my realtor and I came to the conclusion that dropping the price again would help.  And although the new, lower price made me feel dirty, whorish – as if I were trying to be the big blue box of housing stock, I knew I’d qualify for a tax credit as well.  The new lower price hasn’t stirred up any new interest and now I’d like to put the price back up to where it was before I started feeling dirty.

What I’ve found most interesting throughout this process is the fact that I don’t see realtors selling lifestyle.  I see them as trying to sell houses as though this were still 1969.  Chrome bumpers on Buick LaSabre’s are long gone and so is cheap fuel.

For example, there has been no mention of the walkability score of my house which comes in at 68, or 13 points higher than the average Columbus score.  The fact that virtually every type of good or service is within close proximity on foot or by public transit doesn’t seem to be important to the realtors.  And if its not important to the realtors how is it going to be important to the buyers?

And speaking of public transit, one realtor stated that living on a bus line must be noisy.  Do I really have to tell an adult that streets with cars are noisier than streets with busses?  Yes – and I did (sotto voce).

My house doesn’t have central cooling (mechanical) and the real estate market makes this out to be a detriment.  No where however has it been stated that the forty-foot maple tree and the two new trees in front of the house now provide enough shade to substantially reduce summer-time heat gain.  By not having central cooling, I have no costs for annual maintenance and my electric bill doesn’t soar in the summer.

Additionally, the attic blankets, thermal pane windows and ceiling fans have added to the energy efficiency of the house.  A small $200 window unit that I bought 8 years ago cools the house just fine when it gets really humid – which lasts about a week or two at the most.  The new owners get to keep it! (That’s $25/year to cool the house vs $250/ year if I had central cooling).

My house doesn’t have a garage which means that I never have to repair the door or worry about getting stuck when the power is out.  And my property taxes are not reflective of a building designed to protect a depreciating machine.  If I were a farmer, that might make sense.   Not having a garage is also tied to my walkability score.  It hardly makes sense to own one car let alone a garage for two.

Did I mention that I have laminate countertops?  This too, is considered to be a detriment to my price.  It seems as if a coffee maker and a bottle of wine somehow sit better on granite.  I find this humorous.  What does one do with countertops other than look at them.  By the way, this house doesn’t have a mechanical dishwasher either.  It never leaks or breaks and costs nothing to repair because it doesn’t exist.  I have two hands and I’m going to assume that the next owner will too.

The claw foot tub.  I almost forgot.  This ultra deep original cast iron tub with shower must somehow make humans less clean than would a shallow fiber glass tub and shower combination.  You see, I’m told that cast iron now seem to be less valuable than fiberglass.

All of these missing amenities make the cost of living in this house less.  Having less to maintain, less to repair and lower utility costs create expendable income – and the ability to walk to most everything means that automobile costs are reduced dramatically.  It is a way of living, not just a stand-alone building.

Jeeze, I almost forgot!  My house is on a park.  An expansive view out the front windows and from the front porch mean offer an uninterrupted vista filled with yet more trees.  Never will the owner of this house have to worry about what moves in across the street because it’s a city maintained park.

Wouldn’t it be wise for realtors to be singing the praises of sustainability first and foremost?  I understand that the house I’m selling is not the perfect house for everyone – I really get that.  But to have sub-urban style expectations for new-urbanist location is, in my opinion, completely off base.

Generally speaking I see realtors promoting the “keep up with the Jones’” mentality rather than ushering in the new concepts of sustainability and long-term cost reduction.  Certainly the rules have changed in the past couple of years and it only seems logical that realtors modify the way they market property.

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