One of the most exciting parts of adult hood is selling your first house and this past year we had the honor of doing just that. That first home had a very special place in our hearts. We bought when we were engaged, worked tirelessly on it, honed our DIY skills there, Jeremy carried me over the threshold on our wedding night and two years later we welcomed a little baby boy home there. We had originally put it on the market when we found our current house but only for one month during Christmastime and surprise surprise, it didn’t sell. We had an offer for a lease-purchase…leased it for one year but the purchase part of that arrangement fell through and since that time we have been renting it. Last year we decided to sell it for good and this is the post that will detail all the nitty gritty! This is how we sold our first house.
Let’s talk situation. Why did we finallydecide to sell? Well, over the past six years we pretty much broke even money-wise….sometimes having to pitch in for additional taxes or if there was any repairs that needed to be made….but it was not making us cash….we just had equity being paid in the home. It was basically rent-controlled. On the one hand, the equity in the house felt like a good thing…someone else was paying the rent…and we only had one major expense during those six years. That big one was when the roots of a tree had grown into the septic lines and we had to get the tank pumped and the lines cleared. But on the other hand, it was a ticking time-bomb….who knows when the roof would leak or the a/c unit would go out and we would have major expenses. Even though we had things that weren’t that old, you just never know.
When we tried to sell it originally, it was a terrible time and the market was not in our favor. We also couldn’t afford then to have it sit on the market for months while we paid the mortgage on our dream home and made living improvements there. But now we knew that the market had turned and we would be able to make a tidy little profit and sell it quickly since there was hardly any homes available in that school district. Also we wanted that weight off our shoulders. We didn’t have a management company handle this property for us. That meant that if anything went wrong, we got the phone call. Fellow landlords can understand….you dread those midnight phone calls saying that the toilet backed up or the fan is no longer working in the bedroom or the water heater is leaking. We didn’t dread spending the money on improvements as much as the inconvenience and the stress of finding someone immediately to fix the problems. The spending of the money was just salt in the wound.
THE STARTING POINT
Once we decided that we wanted to sell, we notified our renters. They were on a month-to-month rental agreement but we wanted to give them ample time to figure out their situation. We had already mentioned selling to them previously – that the property wasn’t a good investment for us personally (as the school taxes and property values were going up and increasing the rent was the only way of making it profitable and even then, the added stress was something we wanted to get rid of) and they said that they would be possibly interested in buying it but wanted to look at other rentals in the area too. They ended up notifying us that they had found a rental and we arranged to have an ‘end’ time based on their situation. It turned out to be perfect timing. As soon as they moved their things, we headed over to assess the house and see what changes we needed to be made for it to sell quickly. We absolutely knew that the exterior needed work….especially the siding on the chimney.
The rooms were quite dated with the paint colors and the carpet in the living room to the den was still sporting an unsightly seam. When we had made the doorway into the larger room, we didn’t replace the carpet with new….we simply patched it…so that definitely made the list of things we would fix.
The dining room carpet was also needing replacement so we added that to the things we wanted to fix. It’s a good idea to make all carpet on the same floor match. This room is across the foyer from the living room so we didn’t want mismatched carpet and hardwood would be much more expensive.
Most of the walls had small holes from hanging photos – that is considered normal wear-and-tear. The rooms also needed a pretty heavy cleaning since that isn’t normally part of the move-out agreement.
Moving also stirs up a lot of dust – so we had put a line item on our to-do list to clean everything from top to bottom. Some folks on instagram were very adamant that renters had mistreated this house….but I would like to clarify that we had talked to a bunch of different people in the area and according to them, this was all average cosmetic average wear and tear….especially after a move out. Our renters were very private and rarely called us. There were some things that they would call about – usually plumbing or electrical items but others we had no idea. Like that the siding was so bad on the chimney…all of our visits were at night and we didn’t know the extent. That being said – if you are a landlord and expect to be told about things….make sure you are VERY clear about what communication you expect. This was our first go-round and honestly we share this so that anyone in that situation will be better prepared for the future!
On the exterior we called our main man Carlos to see if he could group everything together to make it a bit more budget friendly. We can’t tell you how much we love Carlos. He is someone we trust and we know that he is going to be 100% honest with us. We did our original walk-through with him on the house and he was the only person we really needed to hire for any of the house improvements!!! We always do our research first and come up with a budget in mind. Grouping the items together and having one person do all of it can save you tons!
Our first move was to meet Carlos at the house and tell him all the things we needed on the exterior. First and foremost – all the siding needed to be fixed and replaced. We had one small area on the front of the house where the siding came off…it was one section about two feet long. On the back side the chimney had all sorts of issues. We honestly didn’t even know to what extent it would be until Carlos’ crew started removing the damaged siding.
He called us in true Fixer Upper fashion and told us that the structural part of the chimney needed to be reframed and it would cost a little extra. We were happy to agree for him to do it right then and there.
They ripped out all the rotten wood and replaced it and fixed the rest of the siding and any trim boards for an extra $400. That’s an amazing deal!
Once that was repaired we had a long list of other exterior things that needed to be done.
Oh and need I remind you that this was not a DIY job for us…..not three stories up. No thank you.
Our exterior to-do list was pretty long and extensive. The whole house needed to be pressure washed, the roof needed to be cleared of any leaves, the gutters cleaned, the siding, windows and doors caulked, some broken window glass replaced, all the panes needed to be reglazed, the house had to be painted, the shutters had to be painted and new doors had to be installed and painted. The deck also needed clearing and pressure washed. Any rotten fascia boards or deck boards also needed to be replaced. Like I said – extensive! The exterior items cost $2800.
All that had to be done in order to take a photo for the listing. The rest of the work would be inside. We went with the same color as before – white with black shutters and doors as this was a really clean and classic look that would show up well in photos. We read that unique colors turn people off from buying a house…..and it saved us money because changing the paint color would have cost more for more coats.
We were very happy with the overall effect. It looked fresh and clean and ready!
Then came time for yard clean up. In general, the front yard needed a refresh….bushes needed trimming, yard mowed, new pine straw, the lowest hanging branches needed removing from the trees. In the backyard, we just needed the grass mowed and then all the trash removed.
We hired a friend’s landscaping company to come do the majority of the work and it was well worth it. I was overdue with Ella and couldn’t really move and Jeremy couldn’t devote the time away so having a crew of guys do the landscaping was worth it. That cost $600 but included a whole bunch of pine straw so definitely worth it.
The last thing we did before listing was to meet with our agent and arranged for a walk through date. She immediately put a sign in the yard for any drive-by traffic and we set a date to have the house ready by.
The interior of this house was in decent shape….like I said – we needed to replace carpet and repaint but in general, we didn’t want to over improve and blow our budget. Budget is everything when it comes to making improvements. Our budget on the inside was $6000 to get everything done in here and we did a good job coming in under that amount.
Basically every room on all three floors needed to have holes filled and be repainted. There were also the first floor ceiling and the upstairs hallway ceiling that needed repainting.
Also there was issue with the doors. These doors were original to the house and we knew that we needed to replace them as any homeowner would request replacements. The front door, the door to the deck and then the door from the basement all needed knew ones. Jeremy bought the doors at Home Depot before Carlos installed and painted them.
The front and basement door were solid wood version and then the back door to the deck was one of these 9-lite 2-panel ones.
The carpet on the first floor was going to be replaced (because of the fore-mentioned patch job and then also to make it look cohesive on the first floor) and the upstairs carpet and stairs were all going to be cleaned. We told Carlos what we were looking for and he had a buddy who worked at a carpet liquidators….they gave us an amazing deal and had it installed right after Carlos was done painting.
Every single space got a fresh coat of paint – even the garage!
This is the same room as before – the dining space – just now with fresh paint and new carpet.
And the living room was rid of the brown paint and the orange accent wall and got fresh new paint too. AND the biggest bang for our buck was seeing that carpet flow so nicely from the living room into the den. Should have done that when we lived there!
The kitchen needed a deep cleaning but in general, everything we had originally chosen in this space still looked great. That is the benefit of using mass-appealing items like stainless appliances and subway tile and granite….they never really go out of style.
The upstairs bedrooms all looked pretty fantastic too. If you are wondering – the carpet cleaned up really nicely. SO glad because replacing it would have blown the budget.
Another quick and effective improvement was the countertop in the master bathroom. We had installed this butcherblock countertop years ago and it looked pretty bad from the years of not being sealed and having water or products leak on it. BUT with a little sanding and some dark stain, Carlos brought it back to life. We simply dropped off the refinishing supplies and he made sure to seal it up again after so it should be good for many more years to come!
The other bathrooms just needed paint and cleaning.
This first floor half-bath still looked so good after all these years! Did you know that this little bathroom was the VERY first room that Jeremy and I ever DIYed anything in? Yup. It’s true. After closing on this house in 2007, we removed wallpaper in here! Also, there was a sink that looked like it belonged in a gas station bathroom that we removed later. Ahhhh memories!
Probably the most sentimental of the rooms was Will’s old room….the one with the pallet wall.
This sweet pallet wall was probably my claim to fame. My most genius idea. I had never seen it done anywhere with pallets (this was pre-pinterest) and I loved the look and the price. I actually talked Jeremy into doing it because pallet-crafting was just starting to be a thing and we decided on a rustic vibe for Will’s nursery. I was later asked to be on Nate Berkus’ show because of that wall.
So of course, I had to get a pic of all the boys in front of that baby before selling the house!
Will had such a good time in here wrestling….it was truly a full circle moment for me 🙂
Once all the interior improvements were made, our agent got the photos, updated the listing and started open houses. Our agent’s name is Angela and she was very quick to respond….we couldn’t recommend her enough!
Here are the listing photos….
We decided on a listing price of $189,900 because we felt like that would be an amount that would make us some profit and cover the expenses of renovation and it would still move really quickly. I wanted to have multiple offers in a week and get more than asking price. That was my goal. Jeremy couldn’t wait to get rid of it. He was the one that always handled the mortgage payments and the phone calls when we rented and I think that paying another month of the mortgage was the number one thing he dreaded.
To say that we were over it….understatement. I think in our hearts we were so sentimental about the IDEA of that house but in actuality, we didn’t love the responsibility of it anymore. We had moved on. It wasn’t the house….it was us. Making the needed improvements wasn’t an absolutely necessary thing for the buyers….I think we would have been able to find someone who loved the house even before the changes if the price was right. But I think that we wanted to make sure the house left our hands as we remembered it….in good condition and as a special place for a family to live.
In one week, we got our first offer from Interested Buyer #1….a lowball of $170,000 and we would pay closing. Ummmmm. Awkward silence. No. No thank you. Nope.
This is when we questioned our listing. Surely the people saw our purchase price ten years earlier of $169,900. Right?! I think both Jeremy and I scoffed at the idea of selling it at such a low price and that is AFTER we made all the improvements – hardwoods, granite, finished basement! We immediately said no and didn’t counter.
The very next day we got another offer from Interested Buyer #2….full asking price and we would pay half of closing.
Immediately, another offer from Interested Buyer #1 came in the door….over asking price and we would pay half of closing. It was very obvious that they really wanted the house.
We accepted offer #2 from the first interested party. It was for $191,000 and closed in a few weeks time. Now we just prayed there would be no hangups to delay the closing!
After the offer was accepted, we had to go through inspection. Since the loan was an First Time Homebuyers loan, there was a set of requirements that otherwise wouldn’t have been necessary but we knew that if we had those done, the rest of the house was in good condition. Some of the fixes were very small….like the doors that Carlos installed had to swing freely….they couldn’t stick (even from fresh paint) so a little sanding and boom! done!
Another fix we had to do was to add another railing on the basement steps. Jeremy installed a short banister on the left hand side in a half hour and that was a quick fix.
A big FHA requirement is smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. That took us all of ten minutes and most of the time was just figuring out how to open the package of batteries 🙂
Another small fix was the kitchen faucet….it had a small drip from the base and so we replaced that in a jiffy.
The night before our closing, we went over and had dinner in the living room on blankets. It was just me and Jeremy and Ella and we talked about all our favorite DIYs and memories here. There were so many to choose from….bringing Will home here, riding mountain bikes in the back yard, maternity photos at the creek, hosting parties and showers and so many friends. I must have cried ten times and looked at every single room and cabinet and floor board and tile about four times – trying to engrain them all in my memory.
Also – I have shared this before but this little opening….the doorway from the den to the living room is the one DIY space that really was our starting line for the blog. Before we bought this house, we had done very little home improvements. Neither of us had parents that were carpenters or in any of the trades…Jeremy’s parents are a pastor, a paralegal, and a nurse, my dad was a teacher and then worked with computer software while my mom was a musician. When we bought this house, I wanted the floor plan to be more open and I told Jeremy that it would be easy to open this wall up. He cut through the paneling (yup no drywall here!) and found a single electrical wire across the studs. Both of us looked at that power cord and thought “well #$)%&!!!” But I told Jer that he could do it….just get a free book from the library and figure it out. And he did. He went out and bought a book about all things electrical, befriended an electrician at church and never looked back. We learned so many important lessons for DIY that way. We asked help from friends, we read books, we researched websites, and we drilled home improvement pros whenever we could.
We had no experience before that….we had no place to tell people how to do things….we had big dreams and a tiny budget and ended up blogging about it because we were just sharing our experience….not to make money or get attention or work with sponsors. We blogged because we LOVE diy. We were so passionate about sharing because if we could do it….literally ANYONE can….with the right information. And that is how Bower Power came to be….a spot for learning and sharing as we went….it is a place where a simple electrical line motivated us, taught us, encouraged us to take charge of our space and make it our own. I hope this encourages YOU….to tell you that some little speed bumps can be the very thing that changes the trajectory of your whole life!
At the end of the night, we tried to find a secret spot to write our names – a place where it wouldnt’ be removed any time soon. We ended up making a mark and held back ALL the tears 🙂
SELLING THE HOUSE
In November, we finally were able to sign the closing documents and hand over the keys. The buyer was so sweet and her real estate agents said that she had looked at hundreds of homes and knew that this was the one. I showed her some previous pictures of when we bought the house (that original kitchen!!!), pictures of the renovations and how we set up the furniture. I know that I was probably a little overzealous but I have no chill y’all.
In the end, we made a small profit on the house. Here’s how it all broke down….
- Selling price $191,000
- 6% commission for agent $11460
- Closing cost $3000
- Carry cost mortgage (1Month) $1150
- Carry cost utilities $130
- Carlos – exterior $2800
- Carlos – interior $3000
- Supplies and materials (paint, doors, caulk, etc.) $1120
- Carpet – $600
- Cleaning – $75
- Yardwork – $600
- FHA requirements – $220
That leaves us with $166,845. The pay off was $142,500 which left us with a little over $24k in profit. In truth, we probably spent about that much on improvements since the first time we bought the house (we renovated it as affordably as possible and did 99% of the work ourselves but there is still a lot for materials). But we were happy with the end result. We were able to have so much peace about it and pass it on in good condition to another family. So in the end, we were able to sell the house and pocket the net profit for another project.
WHAT COMES NEXT
And speaking of that next project, it’s actually something that we have slowly been plugging away at for some time now. It’s just finally getting some momentum. It’s our Monroe House and we are very excited to share more with you on that soon. We have made a lot of big decisions over there and are super excited with what is happening! So definitely stay tuned with that!
Also – I hope that maybe this post encourages some of you out there. I know that a lot of people are from different parts of the country and have different experiences when it comes to being a landlord or flipping a house or trying to sell your house….this is just our first time and probably our last. We don’t anticipate moving from our current house any time soon. And it wasn’t all stress and anxiety either – I think both Jeremy and I were enjoying that last month where we had Carlos moving and grooving and we made small improvements. It was fun to see all the moving parts of this sell come together and make a little profit. Who knows? Maybe one day we start a Sell Your House company and consult with people on how to make little tweaks to make your house sell faster. The point is – I hope this was helpful for you guys to see real numbers and to understand how it all works in real life time…not tv time. And I hope that for anyone out there looking to sell their own house, that you get some encouragement! Good luck you guys!!!