Two weeks ago I sold my house and bought another. I had been thinking about it for about six months as for the past few years I have been struggling with a large mortgage. The process is by no means over – until contracts are signed there is still the potential for either deal to fall through.
This is what I have found out so far.
- It takes about six months to decide finally to sell. You veer between saying shur I’ll get a lodger and spend nights awake imagining your house full of strangers who will pay your mortgage for you. Then you wake up at night worrying about what the strangers will be like and what you are going to do about the two young adults who also consider the house their home and who need to be able to return to their home periodically for the foreseeable future. And you realise that the figures still won’t add up. And you imagine being utterly frugal for yet another year or so until your children are sorted and either pay you rent or have their own places. And you still won’t be able to travel or go to literature festivals or writing events without the cost of everything ruining your enjoyment. And you will still be awake at night worrying about debts building up when someone in the house needs a doctor or a dentist or your ancient car develops yet another problem. Selling seems like the way out some nights and other times it is unthinkable. It’s your children’s home after all. The young adults tell you they don’t mind actually since with college and travel they are getting used to living in different places and actually might even like the change. As the idea of downsizing and living a mortgage-free life takes shape and assumes a reality in your imagination you see a light on the horizon and the gloom of constant debt lifting.
- Things happen very fast once you make the big decision. The third auctioneer that came to see my house impressed me with her professionalism and her positive attitude and I decided to go with her. That was on the 21 April. By Tuesday 2nd May the house was up on Daft.ie in all its glory. By Monday May 15 the house was Sale Agreed.
- There’s a lot of cleaning and decluttering and hiding things in cupboards and the attic involved. You clean and tidy before the auctioneer comes. You declutter and clean and tidy some more and hide stuff before the photographer comes. There’s nothing much you can do before the BER person comes so you just worry instead and you try to clear a space in the attic so he can see how wonderfully it’s insulated. You clean all the places you previously disguised before the first viewers come, and you place rugs, ornaments and pieces of furniture strategically to cover bad spots.
- You don’t sleep much for several weeks. During your sleepless nights
You stalk other houses on daft.ie to see how the owners present them.
You keep looking at the photos of your house on daft.ie admiring it. As if you haven’t lived there for twenty five years.
You Google the property price index; you Google how long similar properties have been on the market .
You Google BER certs and auctioneers and sheds and ‘advice for selling a house’ sites.
During the day you stalk real houses you are interested in by driving and walking around the estate. You try to identify signs of the neighbors being crazed drug fueled party-goers/ religious sects/wife/husband beaters etc.
- At first you are uncomfortable with the thought of people tramping around your house. It feels like an invasion of privacy. Then you realise it’s not really the house you lived in- this is a clean and tidy house. Sometimes when you wake in the morning you wonder where you are.
- You are amazed at how bare a lot of the gardens are. You thought everyone spent time on their gardens. Most of them don’t. The photographer tells you that the saddest gardens are the ones where the couple are splitting up. In those situations it seems nobody cares about the garden. You think the line about the saddest gardens is a great title for a short story. (***copyrighted: don’t even think about it!) You think of another title-‘ the summer of the dandelions’ – because so many gardens are decorated with pretty dandelions.
- Auctioneers vary greatly. You get three different ones to come view the house and they give you three different suggestions in relation to price. One is 50 k less than the price you need- in the end you go with the one who seems the most in tune with the market and the most professional. She has a strategy worked out to get the price you need, and it takes only 13 days to pass that out and accept a bid.
- It’s a worry curve in steps. Each step once climbed leads to the next.
Worry about whether to sell or not;
worry about what price, what auctioneer,
worry about cleaning it up for the photos, worry and how it will look online.
worry about getting a BER and other stuff.
When that’s ok worry that no one will want to buy it,
when buyers materialise worry that you won’t get the price you want, that they will lose interest.
Worry that you won’t get a house when your own sells.
When both deals are agreed worry that yours will go through and the one you are buying won’t and you will be homeless.
Worry that a structural survey will show something wrong with your house even though you know it’s well built and you’ve never had any issues.
So many things still to worry about.
- You decide to keep a diary of all the stages – you are a writer after all and it might be good for research later. You are too tired so you Google houses for sale instead and promise yourself you’ll do it tomorrow.
But because you are a writer you manage it once:
My house has been on the market since the 2nd of May- 11 days. Two people are bidding on it and on Friday it reached the figure I had in mind for it, and it’s now over to the other bidder for the weekend to see if she wants to match it or raise it as she is a cash buyer and the other people have not even sold their own house yet.
So on Monday morning I may have agreed to sell my house.
On Monday at 4.30 I am going to see another house. If it is as it looks in the brochure I definitely want to buy it, but how many others will be viewing and what if it goes above the asking price? If I sell my house for the price I had in mind I will have some leeway but not a lot. You tell yourself not to panic, that there will always be a house, but when you discover that the ones you ring up about are ‘Sale Agreed’ and when you see the small and daily diminishing number of houses available it is hard not to panic. Because suppose prices keep going up? In six months you may not be able to afford anything at all in the area.
You don’t sleep much when you are about to sell your home it seems. At 4.30am on Thursday I was obsessively scrolling through houses for sale in Newbridge, then widening the search to include Naas and Kilcullen and Athgarvan. Looking at the pictures of each house and each room, and garden over and over. Taking a special interest in ones with proper sheds. My sister said to me you are obsessed with a shed – and it’s true especially if it’s got electricity and water. If I move to a smaller house I want to have a proper studio at last.
Each time you wake up during the night all the thoughts and worries come back. Last Wednesday night/Thursday morning was the worst. I had spent days driving around estates that had houses for sale. Driving around the estate trying not to look like a potential burglar as you slow down and stare into houses. Parking down the road- for some reason you didn’t want the neighbours to notice you looking at the house for sale. Strolling past trying to see into the garden and wondering if you dared look in the windows if the house seemed to be empty. Looking at the house next door for evidence that it was not owner occupied or inhabited by some crazy drug fuelled sect that would play rock music into the small hours and be of the opinion that ‘what’s mine is yours ‘mi casa your casa’ type of thing. I toyed with the idea of getting a house that needed doing up for a cheaper price so I could put my own stamp on it. I brought my daughter with me to see a house that looked to have great potential online. By this time I was bolder and parked outside. The place was dilapidated as expected but the attached house was just as bad – weeds all over the place even in front of the door and an accumulation of debris deposited by the wind in the porch. And across a small green area in front of the house you could see the back of the church with the grounds of a primary school beside it and a collection of lads standing at the back smoking and drinking and generally hanging out. Doing nothing wrong but not opposite my house thank you. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
Estate agents – I discovered some interesting things. I rang up about one house which had a price above my target price but it’s been on the market for a few months so I figured maybe I could get it a bit cheaper. The girl on the other end of the phone said – ‘oh we won’t be having viewings of that again until next week.’ When pressed for more information she said she didn’t know when but took my number. I was really glad I hadn’t gone with that auctioneer. No wonder it’s been on the market for months I fumed if that’s the attitude. I went to view a house in Kilcullen last Thursday- the only success from my phone calls. When I rang the office the girl put me on hold and when she came back told me that 4.30 the following day would suit. I was delighted at first but a bit miffed when a short time later the website was updated to state that there was an open viewing of the house the next day at 4.30. One other person turned up to the viewing. It was a nice place- but the houses are built so close together that it was offputting and the auctioneer while he was friendly enough didn’t bother to ask for contact details to follow it up. This house has also been on the market for some time- and I couldn’t help being thankful that the auctioneer I engaged is so focused and committed to getting the house sold.
That is the extent of my house sale diary so far.
As you have gathered my house sold on the Monday- to the other party. I immediately put a bid on the one I viewed on Monday and didn’t sleep until Wednesday when my second bid was accepted.
I’ve had some sleep since then.
There’s lots more to worry about now – solicitors, house surveys, whether dates will coincide, packing, and lots more to Google like movers and storage and ……sheds. The house I bought doesn’t have one.