Q: We live in a rural area near Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin on a 5-acre lot with a large ranch style home that was built in 1969.
We have had the home for sale for two years and are asking $239,900. We’ve had 5 offers so far, which have all fallen through due to the buyers’ financial problems.
This last offer we had was the worst. We are selling by owner and the prospective buyers had a buyer’s agent working for them. They asked that their offer be contingent on them selling their previous home and closing within 2 months.
We countered their offer by stating we would give the buyers three months to close, but no house sale contingency. They agreed, so we found another house, put all our stuff in storage and waited for the closing.
Five days before the scheduled closing in July, their agent called and said they couldn’t sell their house and the bank wouldn’t give them a bridge loan. We extended the date of the closing until the end of September and the sellers of our new house agreed also to wait.
In the meantime, we paid for an inspection on the new place, put all our stuff in storage, had the well and septic inspection for our current home, cleaned the fireplace and tuned up the furnace to comply with the buyer’s request.
At the end of September, they still hadn’t sold and withdrew their offer. We canceled our offer for the new home and dragged all our things back from storage.
The whole experience has cost us money we can’t afford to lose, plus we’re starting all over again trying to find a new buyer. Now my husband wants to take out a second mortgage on this house, put in some new windows, insulation and furnace. I have told him we will never get more for the house if he does this. The offer we got was $17,000 less than we were asking. We still have the “for sale” sign outside. What is your opinion?
A: Every time someone tells me how great the real estate market is in his hometown, I point to Michigan, Indiana, parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where sellers are having a really tough time. On top of that, you live in a rural area, which can limit the number (and sometimes the quality) of buyers who can afford to be there.
To find a buyer, you have to ask yourself who would want to live in your house. Is it a weekend retreat for wealthy people living 150 miles away or less? (That’s about a 3-hour drive, or the most that folks will typically drive to a vacation house).
Is there a large employer nearby who offers jobs that pay enough to afford a $239,000 house? You’d need an income of about $80,000 per year in order to reasonably make the mortgage payments.
Or, is your house ideally suited for a couple looking to retire? Once you identify potential buyers, you can start marketing your home directly to them. If your home is ideal for seniors, then I’d look at where many of the local seniors are coming from and try to find a way to talk to them directly, whether through a local senior center, or by stuffing mailboxes with information, or even taking out an ad in a local paper.
If your target market is a large employer, talk to the human resources department and tell them you have a house for sale that would be ideal for an employee just moving to the area.
I assume that you’re selling by-owner because you believe you’re going to save yourself money. As you can see, from five failed offers, selling by-owner doesn’t always work out.
If you want to give selling by-owner one last chance, then I’d sign up with one of the Internet sites that specialize in by-owner sales, and take them up on their offer of listing your property in the local multiple listing service. Offer a bonus to the agent who brings the successful buyer to your door. And, make sure you load as many photos online of your house, property and lake views.
You may even want to purchase a website specifically for your sale on which you show more photos and perhaps even upload digital video of your house.
If your property is priced correctly, and you’ve done all this and you still haven’t sold, you may with to consider hiring an experienced agent who can help you find a qualified buyer.
As for your question about fixing up your property, you have to decide what is the worst thing that could happen if you invest this cash. From my point of view, it appears that you could fix up the property but not get any of the cash back. On the other hand, it may enable you to sell your home whereas now you are unable to close the deal.
I would talk to several local agents about your property and whether they think it’s a good idea to fix it up. Then, ask them how they’d market your home. If you can’t sell on your own in the next 3 months, you might ask one of them to help.