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Homeless at Last!!

We put our house on the market in March, finally sold it in August, and closed mid-September. Hip hip hooray!

We were hoping to sell it earlier in the summer, but we made some big mistakes along the way that slowed the sale.

​ The offer we accepted also came with contingencies, which made for a lot of work and a hectic couple of weeks.

The buyer required us to replace the oil burning furnace with a new natural gas furnace and remove the buried oil tank.  Even though it was a lot of work we decided to accept the offer and do the work.  Natural gas had been connected to the house earlier in the year so getting a new furnace installed was just a matter of getting a few quotes and having a contractor put it in.Removing the oil tank on the other hand was a little more difficult.  First, we had to remove the remaining oil in the tank, then get the 500-gallon steel tank out of the ground.  To get rid of the extra oil, Tom put an ad on craigslist for free home heating oil.  Almost immediately we had someone come out and pump the tank out into 55 gallon drums and haul off the oil.
Getting the tank out of the ground proved to be more difficult. This was because of where it was buried. It was right next to the septic drain field, so we could not get a backhoe in and dig it out.  Luckily, we had some great neighbors who helped us dig it partially up by hand then use chains and a backhoe to pull it out from a distance.  Once out of the ground, we posted another free ad on craigslist and within days the tank was gone! ​

Thank you SOOO much to our neighbors Pete, Scott, Don, and Ross for helping and supplying the large machinery needed to complete this task! The new owners are lucky to have such helpful neighbors! ​
Another gracious neighbor, Don, helped us fill in the gigantic hole left in the front yard that was almost as deep as Tom is tall.
While doing all this work we had also decided to sell and change to a different RV. See the previous blog post for more on this. We went to Tennessee to pick up our new home and on our way back we got a call from our realtor asking if we were ready to close on the house in 2 days. Through a misunderstanding on our part, we thought we had about 2 weeks!  We said no way and pushed the closing to the originally agreed to date giving us 4 days.  We raced home and started packing, selling, donating and giving our stuff away.  4 days later we were homeless!  The only stuff we kept we stored in a 10 foot enclosed trailer.  Imagine trying to condense your entire home into a 10 x 5 foot trailer in 4 days!

​Lessons Learned
For sale by owner may not always be the best option.Prior to listing our home with a realtor we put it on the market ourselves and probably with a price that was too high. We think this tainted our home in the conventional real estate systems eye and made it harder for us to sell in the long run.

Realtors Matter

When we first listed with a real estate agent we selected someone who was referred to us by the program we used to list the home by owner.  He seemed legit: he had good reviews online and awards for selling homes including “top realtor”  – which we found out later aren’t really indicative of an engaged, motivated realtor. He was local but did not sell many homes the are area our home was in.  The house was on the market for 4 months with him and, while we had a lot of showings, we didn’t have any offers. He did little to market the home. He was hard to reach on the phone.

When we finally mustered the courage to fire our realtor we switched to the Remax agent we had originally bought the house with, Tom Strouse. We should have gone with him in the very beginning. He and his wife were a great team. We had 2 offers within a week, and sold the home within two!

Recommendations for finding a good realtor:

  • Get a word-of-mouth recommendation if possible. Don’t trust “real estate awards” and online ratings.
  • Get a realtor that is well-connected in the community you are marketing to. Remax of Midland had a huge presence and a huge reputation. Our agent knew or heard of all of the other agents in town, which we are sure helped sell our home so quickly.
  • Get a realtor who is honest (easier said than done) and will give you honest feedback on your home and price point.
  • Get a realtor that will have a realtor walk-through of the house where other agents come and look at the house, give feedback, etc.
  • Get a realtor that will have an open house, and knows how to have effective ones i.e. provides sandwiches and refreshments, doesn’t complain about having open houses, schedules them for a weekend vs. a weekday.
  • Get a realtor who takes good pictures and tells good stories with the pictures.
  • Get a realtor who will give simple recommendations for staging/improving your home for showing. This could be lighting, wall plates for outlets, or furniture arrangement.
  • Get a realtor who sends weekly stats of how your home is performing online – weekly views, clicks, etc.
  • Set communication expectations early – evenings and weekend availability are important.
  • Set results expectations too – tell them when you want it sold by and what you’d be willing to do to improve parts of the home.
  • If your realtor isn’t producing the results you want, you can “fire” them. Most times you will sign a contract with an agent for a 6 month period, however, most agents will release you from that if you just ask. No payment is typically required, but we did give him enough to cover his costs to list the home in the MLS.  The realtor will probably make claims on offers that come through from showings held prior to the termination. We had already met with our new realtor before letting our old one go, and he was very helpful in getting us through this process.
Consider resale when you purchase a home  Home style: We had purchased our home for the two of us and it was perfect.  It was a bi-level design that we really enjoyed.  The partially below grade second level was great for energy efficiency, but not so great for families that want all their kids on the same level.  This was a problem we ran into when selling. Also, when you sell your home it is appraised by comparing it to other like-homes. There were very many other bi-levels for sale, and none as updated as ours were, which made it difficult for us to justify price point and estimate what it really was worth.
School District lines: We didn’t have kids, so this didn’t really matter to us when we bought. However, the school district lines are very important.  Our home was on the border of two school districts. The school we were closer to was not a school of choice and would not allow anyone from our side of the road to go to their school.  This dissuaded a few local moves who wanted to be in the district and keep their kids in the same school. Essentially, we needed to market to the school district we were a part of, rather than the one we were closest to.If you’re down to a matter of a couple thousand dollars, just go with it.

Don’t let a sale walk away for a matter of a couple thousand dollars. While it seems like a lot of money on its own, in the big picture you’re getting most of what you’re asking for. We came to a decision point like this, and are so glad we went for it. The buyer got a good deal, and we still came out ahead with our home investment, so everyone was happy!  ​

How does it feel?
We stayed in our neighbors’ yard a few days after the closing of our house to wrap up a few things before leaving the area. In a word, it was weird.​It was very weird not pulling into our driveway and seeing someone else at our house. It was weird telling them all the tips and tricks with the house, all the things we had put into it. Telling them about the awesome neighbors they now had. And weird that we would never be going back to that house…our first house that we put so much blood, sweat, tears, and love into. ​It was also weird that we FINALLY DID IT! The burden of selling the house was gone! The woes of previous months are now lessons learned in a blog post.

It is weird that it is finally just us, the dogs, the truck, and this home on wheels.

It is a very very good weird feeling!

About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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