3 Things We Did to Sell Our House in a Pandemic

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About 2 months into the pandemic we realized our wonderful little DC townhouse wasn’t for us anymore. With parks closed, we needed a yard. So we decided to move, and we managed to sell our house. In Fall. During COVID. How we sold our house could be boiled down to 3 tips.

Tiny-House-with-keys
Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

1. Get An Experienced Realtor

I feel like Captain Obvious by saying “Get a realtor.” However, it’s a sellers’ market and it’s tempting to try to go it alone.

A neighbor a couple of doors down from our house put his house on the market a month before we did as a FSBO (For Sale By Owner). He felt that since we were in a hot neighborhood and a hot market he could save on Realtor fees by DIYing the process. The problem was his house didn’t get on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). Sadly the only people aware of his house were the ones who looked at one popular realty website. His home was on the market for a month and sold for about $20K less than what he wanted.

There is a lot involved with selling a house. Because of the pandemic we were trying to do childcare and work in the same place at the same time. A good, experienced realtor takes care of everything. Our realtor dealt with the contractor, listed our house on the MLS, handled the showings, and later, all of the negotiations.

If we had tried sell our house by ourselves, we would have made mistakes. There were some things I wanted to do, like replace the powder room sink, that our realtor advised us was unnecessary. Our realtor suggested other things to do to prepare the house that hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Our realtor lived in and was familiar with DC. But he was collaborative and asked us to tell him what was great about our home and neighborhood. He used that information to describe our home. He listed our house at a price higher than what I thought we could get. Funny thing was it was the same initial price as our FSBO neighbor. However, unlike our neighbor, we got more than our asking price, had more showings, and we were able to sell our house less time.

2. Get Out

We moved out of our house before selling because of two major factors: our son and COVID.

During viewings, strangers will open your refrigerator door. They will peruse your closet space. They might even use your bathroom. While there are safety protocols for buyers and their agents for how they should behave when viewing a home, it was an added risk.

I did not want to even think about trying to keep the house tidy for showings. Our son was a high energy 2 year-old going on 3. He was also the source of many stains and wall gouges. Typically, you’re given an hour warning to get out so potential buyers can come take a look. It takes us 30 minutes just to get Junior ready to go, and with COVID closures, where could we go?

We found a furnished month to month through the neighborhood grapevine. I’ve noticed other families find a new home first, then put their home on the market. For financial reasons, we decided to rent while we sold one home and looked for another.

By moving out we were able to accomplish several things. For one, the house was empty so a stager could come in and make our home look like a cool, sophisticated, childless pad. Secondly, I didn’t have to spend time trying to keep the place pristine or worry that Junior would undo a new paint job. Lastly, we could limit the risk of infection between potential buyers and ourselves.

3. Prepare Our Child for the Change

We weren’t sure how much Junior, our then 2 year old, would need to know. As we started putting things in storage and preparing to move he did notice. So we started talking about the decision to sell our house and move to a new home in age appropriate terms we hoped he could understand.

Since our temporary housing was in the neighborhood, we walked by it and pointed it out to him. We told him before moving day arrived he would have the same bed but a new room in the “new house”. Junior seemed okay with it all.

He didn’t begin sharing his feelings about the move until after it happened. He expressed sadness and missing the “old house”. Sometimes he would just say he did not like the “new house” and cry.

We would visit the “old house” while it was on the market after checking with our realtor to avoid bumping into buyers. Those visits helped him to say goodbye. They also confirmed that moving out was for the best, because he wanted to touch, grab, pull, and climb on things during our visits.

Once our “old house” sold we explained to our son that Mr. X was the new owner. Sometimes on our walks we would run into or see Mr. X. When we passed Mr. X’s house we would talk to Junior about how it is now someone else’s home and how we have a new home. On the odd occasion, Junior or I would “forget” and muscle memory had us heading for the wrong house.

We are settled in the new, though temporary, house. We love that we remained in the neighborhood, surrounded by familiar faces. Junior continues to interact with adults he’s known his whole life and we were able to reestablish some pre-COVID rhythms and routines.

It is very possible to sell your home and keep your family safe in this pandemic market. Our realtor remarked that COVID just made everything weird. Yeah, it’s weird. Not everyone will choose the same route, but we are glad we decided to sell our house when and how we did!

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