Category Archives: Selling stuff

Costs of selling a home mount up

Yesterday I did the deed. Or more accurately, I paid Chicago Title a queen’s ransom to do the deed. For them to guarantee that there were no liens against my property I paid more than $1,500.  I also paid the realtors (mine and the buyers’) a commission of $21,000 and (state and local excise) taxes of $7,500.

In other words, it is very expensive to sell a house. Nobody mentions this when you’re in the lustful phase of buying a house. When you sell all those fees you avoided up front as a buyer come back to bite you. Too late you realize they should be figured into any profitability equation.

The pain in my purse would have been less if home prices hadn’t plummeted in the past couple of years.  To console me, my realtor brought a bag of handmade chocolate-coated toffee to the signing.

Ah well, what’s done is done.  I loved the house, I loved transforming it into a thing of beauty and functionality, I loved living there. The money I lost is just the money I lost.

Right now the house is empty but for the stuff I plan to carry in the car during a two-month stint of staying at other people’s house. So today is about packing the last remnants and final cleaning.

Here the kitchen looks as pristine as the day I finished the remodel.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Rent or buy?, Selling stuff

How am I doing?

People who know how much I love this house ask me how I’m holding up under the impending sale and move (of my stuff) into a storage unit.

Surprisingly, astonishingly even, FINE. I’ve been too busy to get emotional – or something like that. It’s been a process that I’ve thought about for a few years and began actively working on this summer. At this point the edge has softened and it’s just WORK.

The endlessness of the work and the logistical organizing of what needs to be done when is the most stressful. I am not good in the logistics department, so I’ve been fortunate to have friends and family members talk me down and through some mental tangles.

Once you start getting rid of stuff, and once you realize how little other people value your stuff when you try to sell it, it begins to lose value in your own eyes. It becomes, well, STUFF.

After my mini-sabbatical in California after the house closes on 12/11 I’ll be back in town, staying with dear friends, taking my time to figure out what’s next.

What’s clear is that my friends and family are my greatest treasures. All else is just STUFF.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Inspiration & encouragement, Priorities, Selling stuff, Spiritual lessons

Come ‘n’ Git It! Everything must go!

Late this afternoon about 30 friends passed through my nearly empty house for a “Come ‘n’ Git It” party.

My friend Judi and I arranged on several tables all the stuff I wanted to free myself from.  I’d invited people via email and Facebook a few days earlier, asking that they bring food or drink to share as well, since I had packed my kitchenware.

My cleverest idea was to let everyone know that half of the proceeds from the moving sale would go to a local charity we all support. Guests were asked to donate into a basket what they thought was a reasonable price for their take-home treasures.

We had a fun party and because a good cause was involved my guests probably paid twice as much as they otherwise would have. The educational foundation “I Have a Dream” got $220, I got $220, and Goodwill got the last of the stuff, kindly delivered to them by one of the last guests.

Everybody wins, and I’m rid of yet another buttload of Stuff. Another dent in the mountain.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Inspiration & encouragement, Selling stuff

The case of the McGuire furniture

There is a time and a buyer for everything: witness the McGuire furniture saga.

You may remember my humongo McGuire desk, the logjam in my early efforts to downsize during the summer. It took up an acre of physical space but was way too valuable just to chuck. Or so I thought.

I listed it several times on Craigslist, each time significantly reducing the price. Not one nibble until I PAID two boys to move it down to the garage for me and listed it for free. Then a couple from the coast drove 2 hours each way to fetch it.

Meanwhile, I’d kept the leather, cane and wicker McGuire desk chair that went with it, because… well, because.

Last minute I realized that of the THREE desk chairs I had, it was my least favorite. It had to go.

I listed the chair on Craigslist for $60. Very quickly a woman called from Seattle to say “Hold it for me. I’ll be there in three hours.” She gave me the $60 without a moment’s haggle.

Then she asked about The Desk.

Turns out she loves McGuire furniture. She had seen the desk listing and would have happily paid $500 for it, but to her chagrin she had just gotten a new desk.

Moral of this story: if you want to get rid of unique items of value, be patient. Start early and list often.  Otherwise, figure on giving it away.

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Filed under Art & antiques, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Furniture, Selling stuff

Auction results. Feh!

The auction house sent me a preliminary statement from last week’s sale.

My art deco sideboard sold for $650. The six place settings of lovely thoroughly modern looking 100-year-old china? $150. The antique clock? $350. Then the auction company takes 20% of that for commission.  Some stuff didn’t even sell.

I guess the good news is that if I ever want to re-stock on furnishings, the auction house is the place to start for incredible bargains on lovely things.

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Filed under Art & antiques, Downsizing, Furniture, Selling stuff

What’s your stuff worth? (Hint: not much…)

Lenox plates

I delivered a couple of antiques, some lovely old china and several nice paintings to a local auction house today. The guy had come out a few days ago to eyeball my holdings and estimate what they might bring at auction next month.

It was really depressing.

P1000048This 2,400 year-old ceramic water jug from Greece, for example, was brought here from Europe by my grandfather in the 1930s. It was appraised four years ago at $1000. But the auction guy said cheap copies of such antiquities are now readily available, so no one wants to pay for the real thing. Besides, who wants to worry about the real thing breaking?  (!)  “Well, fine,” I said (suppressing harsher words), “I’m keeping it then.”

Then there is my Grandmother’s gold-rimmed Lenox china (see above). It’s 100 years old, and yet very modern and simple in design. 6 place settings plus platters, serving bowls, etc. all in perfect condition.  “Maybe we’ll get $200,” he said. I muttered something crude under my breath.

Becker clockA lovely Austrian clock from 1880 (which cost $600 at an antique store in 1976 – $2278 in today’s dollars – and is still in perfect working condition)? “I estimate $300 to $400…” This was something that should have APpreciated over time, not DEpreciated.

OK. I can deal with the indignity of being told my Preciouses are worth shit today. They’re just things, I tell myself.

And mostly I’m all right with the financial loss, knowing that someone will be happy to snap them up at a bargain price, and might even come to love them.

But then I had to deliver my art deco oak sideboard, which the auctioneer expected to sell for about what I paid for it back in 1975. It was one of my first major purchases for the house I bought after my first husband died (very young, of cancer). It anchored the dining room as a place where our little family could begin to come together in a new way. I kept our silver, placemats, napkins, and fancy glasses in it – and out of its capaciousness I set the table for many many family meals, holiday celebrations and convivial evenings with friends. (Not shown here is a lovely leaded glass cabinet above the mirrored back.)

P1000016

As we loaded it into the van I was surprised to find myself bursting into tears. Surprised because so far I’ve been pretty sanguine about the whole downsizing process. OK, I am indignant over the lowball prices, but this wasn’t about money. It was about meaning.

The auctioneer sees antique furniture and other family heirlooms like mine every day – to him it’s chopped liver. But to those of us who’ve lived for decades with the piece and imbued it with our energy and memories, it’s amputation. I walk by the place in the dining room where it’s always been and nothing is left but dust bunnies and a mark on the molding.

I suspect that as the house gets increasingly empty I’m going to want to speed up the process of getting out so I don’t have to feel the phantom pain any longer than necessary.

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Filed under Art & antiques, Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Furniture, Selling stuff

Downsizing begins in earnest now

Unpleasant realization:  I’ve still got a buttload of Stuff.

In order to show the house I had to move out a buttload –  and I did: actually sold, tossed, or donated (some of) it.

Unfortunately, the Stuff that came off the top was the easy Stuff – things that were ugly, unloved, unused, broken, obsolete, grubby, oversized. Like the humongo McGuire desk, for example. Or the books I should have read in college and still haven’t got to. Or the reports I wrote on the job three decades ago.

Easy, peasy.

Now comes the Hard Stuff. My Precious. My many Preciouses, actually. The beautiful bench my grandfather brought from Italy right after the Depression – almost too lovely to sit on. All those things that cost $$$$ and are now worth ¢¢.  The art on my walls. The art and gifts made by my kids. Cookware and tableware. Many more books and notebooks. The chair I rescued from the curb and reupholstered into a comfy beauty.  My Distinguished Toastmasters plaque. I could go on and on.

Some I will keep, but probably 60% of what’s left from Phase One must go.  And probably half of what I stashed in the storage unit to go through “later” must also go.

If I were a drinking woman, I’d be throwing back a stiff one about now. But I’ll wait till sunset for my little dram of wine. Sigh.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Selling stuff

Sold! In ten days!!

The sign is up; it's official.

Sign should now read "Sale Pending".

I am stunned and tremendously relieved. Yes, it’s a wonderful feel-good home. Yes, I feng shui’d the heck out of it. Yes, I think we priced it right. Still, in this funky down market, to get two basically full-price offers almost immediately is miraculous.

The average time on the market in my town was 158 days in August. I told my realtor that if the house didn’t sell by Halloween (75 days from listing) I would take it off the market because living in a house that’s on the market is like living in a museum. That’s about 60 days over my good behavior limit as Miss Super-Anal-Tidybutt.

When you live in a house that’s on the market  you can’t touch anything because at any moment the realtor could call with a client. You must make your bed the moment you climb out of it, clear the sink of dirty dishes the instant you finish eating, mow the lawn obsessively. You can’t cook odiferous foods. I loaned out my dog because she tracks in dirt and turns her corner of the carpet gray overnight.

One of the two offers wanted to move in in just five weeks. EEEK. (Also Repubicans – which doesn’t really fit the vibe of the house).

The other offer came from the Democratic State Rep in whose district I live – and for whom I hosted a fund-raising coffee here last fall because he’s a great guy. He has two little girls, 5 & 8, who think that there may be fairies in the yard.  My kind of family.

They wanted a closing date of December 15, which suits me fine, because I’ve got to unload a LOT of STUFF.

But that’s a topic for the next chapter in this down-sizing epic.

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Realtor reality check. Ugh.

Birdtoes' rats

Birdtoes' rats

Yesterday I showed my house to the first of three or four realtors I’m interviewing to see who might best represent my precious place to the most appropriate buyers.

IMHO my house is special – beautiful grounds, mature landscaping and trees, beautifully remodeled, uniquely inviting, views from every window, secluded and quiet yet close in….  etc etc.

The realtor and her business partner oohed and ahhed at all the right places, but when it came down to talking about price, they suggested a price about $100k below what I might have asked a couple of years ago. There’s such a glut of homes on the market that buyers are focused most on how cheap they can go, they said.

I knew it was bad, but I didn’t expect it to be that low.

“Well, you can ask more, but nobody will bother to come see it. Pricing it right is everything…”

Then they proceeded to tell me all the things I could spend thousands more dollars to fix it up so there’d be nothing to trip up a sale deal.

OK. I’ve already ordered a replacement for my front door unit  because it’s irredeemably wonky for years. I know that the turquoise wall color I chose for the upstairs bathroom is a little too wild – and I’m willing to repaint it something more muted (it’s small…) but I’m not going to re-roof or install air-conditioning.

They suggested I replace my current big desk with something dainty and unobtrusive so my office looks more massive than my desk.  (Humongo* desk – my other desk – used to sit behind the chair of my current big desk – aren’t two big desks better than one?  Of course.)

They also said, “The less you have in your closets, garage, bookcases, cupboards, rooms the better. So sell it, give it away or dump anything that won’t fit into your future 100 sq.ft. home.”

Ulp.

Check.

Then they said, “And have it ready to go on the market ASAP – no later than mid-August, because by mid-October buyers go into hibernation.”

They had to revive me with smelling salts. Three weeks to sort through a lifetime of treasures? I was moving at a six-month pace.

The boxes and cabinets of history on paper are what scare me the most.  I’m a writer…paper is my stock in trade, and I also have family photos going back a hundred years. Plus all the scrapbooks, kids’ mementos. The mind boggles.

I need a nap!

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Filed under Downsizing, Emotional issues, Furniture, Paper and books, Selling stuff

Craigslist observations (so far)

Bye-bye oak dresser and table

Bye-bye oak dresser and table

I listed 8 items on Craigslist Thursday night. Five were instant hits – lotsa calls, the other three….total silence.  Of course you always hope for the serendipitous possibility that your listing of the stuffed armadillo and the one stuffed armadillo collector in the universe happen on Craigslist at the same moment, but most transactions are very mass-market-ordinary.

Here’s what I’m learning so far.

1. What’s hot is hot, and what’s not is not. Combine the word “antique” with “furniture” and add a cheap price – that’s hot.  Describe an item that’s large, unique and (relatively) expensive – that’s not.

2. “Free” is hot. Whether folks NEED the thing or not. So my next strategy with the !@#$ humongo McGuire desk is to offer it free. (I’m very close to taking that experimental plunge.)

3. Cheap is hot. People love a bargain and will travel great distances for it. The folks who hauled off my two antique oak dressers drove about 40 miles each way.

4. Selling on Craigslist is time-consuming and not terribly profitable. So far I’ve netted $398. Better than a stick in the eye, but at some point I will consider my friend Gretchen’s suggestion: have a big party (friends) and invite people to take what they want, leaving some money if they wish, or not.

Until that time, enjoy this song about Craigslist by Weird Al Yankovic, who is still going strong.

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