Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

March 21, 2014

Our Disappointing Real Estate Experience

Other than announcing the townhouse sold, I've waited to write about our real estate experience because I hoped that once we were settled in our lovely lakehouse I'd feel more zen about it.  And I do.  I see now that even though the experience felt crummy, we were really lucky.  I wanted to share now because when I felt glum and frustrated about what was transpiring, it was comforting to read about people having similar experiences.  It's nice to be reminded that something which feels horrible isn't always the end of the world.  As our lawyer plainly told us (while I dripped tears on our closing documents): "It's just bricks and mortar".


One important thing: I want to be clear that I mean no disrespect to the real estate agents we worked with.  As I'm sure they would tell you, there's more to a real estate transaction than what is seen from the client's perspective.  It's not my intent to undermine their abilities or integrity, or downplay the important role of real estate agents.  I want to speak openly (although this is still an abbreviated version), so I've changed the names of everyone involved. 

Unexpectedly Buying the Lakehouse

You likely remember that in June we bought the lakehouse.  Our buyer's agent for the transaction told us that the only way the seller would accept an offer was if it wasn't conditional on the sale of our townhouse.  Was that true?  We'll never know.  Frankly, I regret looping in that particular agent because the lakehouse was for sale by owner and, in hindsight, we likely could have sorted this out between both parties and saved a bundle of cash (we had to split our agent's fees with the seller for him to accept our offer).  I think what soured me the most was that our agent kept bemoaning how little money he was making (about $8,000), which really frosted my cake given a number of missteps made by him.  He also kept off-loading tasks (like communicating with the seller) to me, which really made his role very minimal.  I gently reminded him throughout the process that we found the house ourselves.  Some people take years to find a good lake property around here, but we knocked on his door with a listing in hand!  He really irritated me but we did land the lakehouse, in spite of another interested party, so who knows what kind of magic he worked. 

For Sale . . . 

We hurried to prepare the townhouse for sale.  In a rush, I interviewed four real estate agents and ultimately picked the agent who was most enthusiastic about the outcome.  Let's call her Emily.  Emily loved our house, proposed the highest list price, and was super confident.  She had sold one of the most expensive (but not the nicest) units in our neighborhood, so I thought she had the magic touch.  Her website was elegant and I liked her personality the best.  As a bonus, she said she might already have interested buyers (nope). 

First Offer

We told Emily that we knew we had missed the busiest time for real estate and were well aware we might have to wait until the next spring for the right offer.  We thought we were being realistic, but we were quite naive about the actual burden of owning two homes.  She told us not to worry and predicted that we would be inundated with traffic the first weekend - maybe even enjoy a bidding war.  We weren't.  Not a single call.  But the Monday after we listed someone toured the townhouse and immediately put in an offer, $15,000 below asking and with a closing date in advance of ours on the lakehouse.  We didn't come down in price much at all, thinking that this offer was the first of many that Emily had predicted.  In hindsight, should we have worked with the offer?  Maybe.  He ended up renting, so I'm not even sure how serious or eligible a buyer he was.  But his offer haunted us throughout the process.

Second Offer

Then there were crickets . . . 

The summer was slow for Ottawa real estate.  After a $5,000 price drop and almost two months, Emily presented a second offer - for the exact same price as the first one!  This time we listened to the market.  After some negotiating we met in the middle, making the price $10,000 below our original price, but $5,000 above both offers.  At this point, we were tired of showing the house; it felt really invasive to have stranger after stranger go through our drawers and use our bathrooms.  Many agents left the doors unlocked when they left, which terrified us.  We were anxious to sell - more anxious than we thought we'd be.  There was one hitch: this offer was conditional on the sale of the buyer's home (let's call her Amy).  We would be allowed to accept other offers, but Amy would have 48 hours to decide whether to waive her condition before we could accept a competing offer.  Amy and her husband had separated and were motivated to sell, we were told.  Amy's home would sell quickly, Emily promised.  She was so confident because it turned out she was Amy's seller's agent as well (something she said was not the case when we first signed the deal).  We were a little apprehensive because Emily had been confident our house would sell quickly too, but we wanted to believe her.

Extensions

At the end of September, when the deal expired, Amy hadn't even listed her house.  With no other offers in sight for our house, at Emily's suggestion we offered an extension.  We were uneasy about this but felt stuck.  I figured we had to at least give Amy a chance to sell her house - maybe it would sell fast once it was listed.  Emily was confident it would work out, so we didn't discuss dropping the price on the townhouse.  We had a few showings but it was slow.  At one point Emily almost refused to show our house because she wasn't feeling well.  She said she would tell the prospective buyers to look at the other homes in the neighborhood instead and if they still wanted to see ours they could reschedule.  I was angry that she could be so cavalier.  In the end she showed the townhouse, begrudgingly.  She repeatedly told us she knew Amy would end up in the townhouse.  I told her a million things could happen (Amy and her Hubby could get back together for all we knew!), so I didn't feel comfortable banking on that deal.  We had to act in our best interest and try to generate another offer before the market really cooled.  She wouldn't listen.  Her website was updated to list our house as "Sale Pending," which we asked her to remove.  It felt like she was fighting against us trying to sell the house to anyone other than Amy.

Competition Sells in 8 Days

Meanwhile, we weren't kept abreast of developments in our neighborhood.  After another house with extensive updates was sold, we were informed of the listing.  It sold for our original list price, thanks to some updates the townhouse didn't have, like engineered wood flooring throughout (we had solid wood on the upper levels and carpet in the basement) and forced air plus air conditioning (we had radiant heat).  Again, we were frustrated.  Had we known it was listed (and sold!), we would have dropped our price and stayed competitive.  That house had a ton of interest and we could have received some of that deflected traffic.  The agent who sold that house (whom we later hired) told us that Amy's offer likely turned away most people.  Agents apparently don't like to show their clients a house that is tentatively sold.  If a buyer falls in love with it, then has to wait 48 hours for another buyer to either pull the trigger or pull the plug, and is then told the house isn't available, it isn't only a crushing disappointment but can really hold up the process.  Other fabulous homes can be listed and sold within that time, leaving a buyer with nothing.

Rejected Extension

With the market cooling even more as winter neared, the first refusal with Amy was again up for renewal.  Wearily, we offered another extension because now we felt immensely grateful for the price she offered.  At this point we really wanted to walk away from our agent who we felt was no longer working for us, but we kept being reassured that Amy's house sale was imminent and Amy desperately wanted our house.  If we left our agent, the whole deal would crumble.  You can imagine how shocked we were when Amy walked away!  Emily unsuccessfully tried to explain to us how Amy felt the situation was a lose-lose for her.  I believed it was a lose-lose for us: an offer from a buyer with no obligations to us, and yet the "pending sale" status made us undesirable to other buyers.  I felt there was something our agent wasn't telling us because her explanation made no sense.  At this point, we finally decided she really wasn't working for us and so we parted ways.

Fresh Start

We tracked down the agent (let's call him Bob) who had sold the home in our neighborhood lightning fast and listed with him.  He seemed great: honest, enthusiastic, previously successful.  But once we signed, he pulled a bait & switch and we primarily dealt with his business partner (let's call her Cathy), who was far too chatty and never listened to us.  We never would have hired her, not in a million years.  Before we lost contact with Bob, he talked us down quite a bit in price: $25,000 below our original list price and $15,000 below Amy's offer.  I really fought to list even $5,000 above his price (which had been recommended by other agents I interviewed at the time), but he was really adamant that his price was right.  He pointed to our growing puppy and asked if it was fair to cram her in our tiny townhouse.  He then scared us by figuring out how much it would cost to hold onto the townhouse for six more months, and warned us that housing prices could drop if we waited until spring (which we'd thought was our plan B for a sale).  He also said we'd need to subtract our monthly carrying costs from any price we got in the spring so even if it was higher, the money we'd make would be the same.  Hmmmm.  He made a good case: we were burdened with the two mortgages and other costs.  When we figured out on paper whether we could carry the two homes, we decided we could, but it certainly was a whole different story in real life.  Unexpected costs arose and budgeting so tightly (can we afford cheese? nope) was stressful and draining.  We had to dip deeper into our savings than I felt comfortable with.  The new low listing price put us below some of the truly terrible homes in our neighborhood, including former rentals with commercial grade carpet.  It was disheartening, but of course our price created a flurry of activity with multiple showings a day.  Within a few days, Bob brought by his own clients (let's call them the Smiths) who, coincidentally, could not afford a penny more than the listing price he was so adamant about.  We really, truly want to believe this was a coincidence.  All of a sudden, other showings stopped and his clients presented an offer.  I kept pressing for feedback from other showings and was provided none, only the offer from his clients. 

Old Friends

The day we received the Smiths' offer, Emily contacted Bob to tell him Amy wanted to put in an offer again.  Can you believe it?!?  She had finally sold her house and was almost ready to purchase ours.  She must have been so thrilled that our house was now on what I jokingly referred to as "clearance".  She came in with a price only slightly above the offer we had on the table (about $13,000 below her previous offer), but because Bob was offering a discounted commission as the representative for both parties it worked out to be more or less the same.  She offered to match or beat any price they offered but we just couldn't do that to the Smiths.  They had supposedly experienced a disappointing turn of events trying to buy their first home and we felt some camaraderie.  From our point of view, Amy had enjoyed months of putting our house on hold like a sweater at Winner's, only to change her mind, so to me it felt immensely unfair for her to benefit from the poor bargaining position we found ourselves in because of her ongoing offer.  Ultimately we knew it wasn't her fault, but we also thought that we'd feel oogie about her getting the townhouse for such a steal after all that. 

The deal hit some snags, but ultimately the Smiths bought the house and moved in at the end of January.  Afterward, Emily told us that Amy would have gone back up to her original price.  Why even tell us that?!?  That's just salt on the wound, and there is no way to know if that was even true.  I don't believe it.  After Bob had spoken rather harshly to Emily, I emailed Amy to apologize.  In case the Smiths backed out, I didn't want to burn the bridge that Bob felt so comfortable lighting up.  It's at that point Amy said she would meet/beat the Smiths' offer but she made no mention of offering even close to her original price.  If she had, I'm not so certain we could have made such an ethical decision regarding the Smiths - I likely would have wanted to ditch them and go where the money was!  Amy could have had the townhouse for her original offer.  In the end, we shouldn't have made such an emotive decision: the Smiths turned out to be truly unappreciative of the sweet deal they had snagged and how lucky they were that a bidding war was stifled.  After an unpleasant incident, I regret doing them any favors.  We shouldn't have empathized with them.

In any case, Bob certainly did not encourage any type of bidding war either - or even entertain Amy's offer.  Was he trying to ensure a sweet deal for the Smiths?  He knew they couldn't afford a penny more.  At the end of it all, we felt unsettled.   We sold, yes, but for much lower than we thought.  And, eerily, in the end Emily was right: Amy sold her house and could have ended up in the townhouse.  If we'd stayed with Emily, we might have ended up with a better price.

We met Amy when she bought some furniture from us and she seemed really sweet.  She ended up renting a little apartment and Emily told me she was deeply disappointed by missing out on the townhouse.  Amy and I had such similar aesthetics, it was truly a good match.  I genuinely hope she finds a beautiful home when she begins looking again.  I really wish her the best.  And I really wish I could have met her during the process, just sat down with her and chatted.  Keeping things so anonymous, with dribs and drabs of information filtered down to us through Emily made it easy to cast someone as the "bad guy" and feel affronted and frustrated.  Without the anonymity, I think perhaps we all could have gotten what we wanted.
      
Lessons?

I dealt with most of the real estate business and I feel like I let Hubby down by steering us wrong.  I'd originally wanted to list the home myself but when buying the lakehouse happened so quickly, it felt like too much, too soon.  I wish I had gone ahead and tried, though.  But then, who know, that could have ended up worse!  I'm sure there are many fabulous agents out there - and Emily and Bob certainly have made other clients happy - but if we ever use an agent again, I have a self-imposed list of criteria:
  1. I'd never agree to my agent working as the agent for the other party as well.  We saved a lot in commissions but it felt like neither of our agents were really looking out for our interests.  
  2. I'd never pick an agent by simply interviewing them.  They all say the same things: "your house is beautiful, here is a slide show explaining how awesome I am".  From now on, I'd prefer to have a family or friend's recommendation.
  3. I'll try not to be so emotional.  I don't need a connection with my agent, I need someone who can deliver and work in my best interests!  My second choice had been an agent who was so talented he sold what looked like a meth lab for a seriously good price but I didn't hire him because he'd dropped out of his PhD program and I didn't want that bad juju around me so close to my defense date.  Now, of course, I feel ridiculous about that decision.  He had a proven track record, which I didn't value like I should have.
  4. Next time I'll take more responsibility for how the real estate transaction unfolds instead of relying on someone to make magic.  If we'd paid attention to the market and dropped our price by just a little earlier in the game, it could have been a completely different story - we could have sold for $10-15,000 more.
At the end of the day . . .

Ultimately we did sell (in about six months), so it's a success story.  We made back all of the money we put into the home (and the real estate agent's fees), but didn't make a dime on our sweat-equity.  Luckily we'd been overpaying our mortgage every month, so we pulled a lot of equity from our home which was a real treat (and lessened the sting).  More valuable than that: we learned a lot in the townhouse about owning a home, renovating and decorating, and buying and selling.   I feel a little more savvy.  Most importantly we enjoyed our time in the townhouse.  We'll always have fond memories of our time there.  I don't truly believe it, but sometimes it feels like things happen for a reason.  It's tempting to say we should have worked with the first offer we received, but if we had sold the house sooner, who knows if I could have successfully defended my PhD dissertation under the strain of packing and moving?  If we hadn't pounced on the lakehouse without listing the townhouse, who knows if we would have found something as perfect?  I've seen Sliding Doors.

We recently checked MLS and it doesn't seem many (maybe any!) homes have sold in our neighborhood since we sold.  I think our sale price really messed things up for our neighbours because potential buyers will, for the next year, say "look, this house had marble counters in the bathrooms and hardwood floors throughout and it sold for $5,000 less than this one with ratty carpet and 1970s laminate".  Sorry neighbours!  We feel pretty darn lucky that we sold and moved on when others did not.

We're happy in the lakehouse.  When the sun sets, and the snow covered lake glows pink, we know it was all worth it because it got us here.  And, hey, we can afford (wine and) cheese again!
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34 comments

  1. Isn't buying and selling a blast? You are spot on that next time you'll want an agent who isn't working both sides of a deal. We had great luck with the agent who sold our last two houses - he was exclusively a seller's agent, and other agents in his office worked with buyers. I really liked that because I knew he was focused exclusively on our best interests.

    Our most recent purchase was a short sale, which was a nightmare in many other ways, but at the end of the day, we got our house for a steal, so the headaches in the buying process were ultimately worth it.

    At least you're done with it, and learned something in the process, right?

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    1. I am so happy to have learned some lessons on a less expensive home, early in our lives, than get burned later in our lives when a financial misstep has a larger impact on our financial health. We're young, we'll recover, and we've already happily moved on. I feel more savvy for next time (although it will undoubtedly be a totally different set of circumstances).

      I have heard short sales are nightmarish, but I'm happy to hear you're through the other side and got such a great deal. That's wonderful!!

      Next time I will look for an agent like yours, who is only a seller's agent. That's a great tip!!

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  2. Man that is crazy!! I am going to be selling in the fall, but Toronto is crazy so my place will actually go in about a week (seriously). I am definitely going to keep in mind your tips about emotional detachment! Also, I am fairly certain a real estate agent HAS to tell u in writing that they are working for both parties. that is just very shady....

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    1. Yes, I have heard Toronto real estate is totally nutty but that's awesome for you! I hope you make some serious coin!!

      I think that our agent working for Amy happened suddenly so I don't think she was lying in the beginning . . . it just sort of happened and we only realized when she sent us the listing. I didn't understand then what that could mean for us. Once I knew, I thought it might mean she'd work really hard to sell Amy's home because she was going to get three separate sets of commission and get a real payday.

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  3. Hi Tanya, I don't mind admitting that this whole post has given me the heebie-jeebies, given that we will soon be listing our house for sale! Actually, our experiences (this will be our 6th house bought and sold) have never been this bad, but I've been blithely unaware all these years of just what can go wrong!

    I do think we have been very lucky - we have had good agents, certainly never had one who hasn't locked the door behind them. Our worst experience was having a closing date a month after our move to Budapest. We heard by phone on that day that there was some problem with the buyers' finances (!!!) and we had to extend our insurance for a few days while they sorted it out. You can be sure that we raised a glass when we heard that it had finally gone through!

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    1. I'm so sorry to give you the heebie-jeebies!! I am sure you will be fine because you've had good experiences with agents and you're more savvy - you know what to look for in a good agent and you're more familiar with the process. This was our first sale, we were totally naive and painfully clueless.

      The agents who left doors unlocked were other agents showing the home. Some left the front door, patio door AND garage locked. Such careless - it made me so angry, and made us want to be done with the process much sooner. Emily was very careful, but Bob did leave the code to the lock box exposed after he did the home inspection with the Smiths and I didn't even think to look, so our house key was accessible for a week until Hubby came home from a business trip and realized. WHOOPS! That was terrifying.

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  4. This makes me feel SICK. Honestly - I would consider reporting both agents to the local real estate board. Neither of them had your best interests at heart. They were both pushing for their own interests (acting for both buyer and seller) and that is disgusting. I'm glad you are done with it and are in the lake house etc etc etc but I am seriously peeved just reading about how you were misled and (probably) misguided by both agents. UGH.

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    1. It's funny because when I interviewed another agent for the second go-around he said the same thing. Emily also shared the blog with Amy, which revealed a lot of private information but only in one direction. She became aware of our need to sell, our other property and also our professions, while I knew were some details of her divorce and her finances. I just don't have the steam to pursue anything - it's never been my intent to report either. They both have a list of happy clients so maybe it was just us . . . At the end of the day I take a lot of responsibility for not being a more educated client.

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    2. Wow. Just wow. I read through this entire post and all the comments and I second Janice's opinion here!! Those real estate agents all sound so conniving! I've never even gone through a home sale but I've heard enough horror stories that I'm hoping the place we move to after the condo is our forever home.

      Thank you for sharing this Tanya! It's very informative. I'm fortunate that my uncle is a real estate agent and I would definitely use his services, but this post is great advice for anyone.

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    3. I'm happy to share, even if someone reads it and thinks "glad that's not me," lol. I hoped it might help someone, but it was also cathartic for me to explain everything. I spent so many months saying in posts, "we're moving soon, I think" that it felt good to explain why there was such a delay and what the heck happened between buying the lakehouse and actually moving in. I'm so jealous your uncle is a real estate agent!! You will certainly get amazing, honest advice.

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  5. yuck, what an awful experience. I know one of the local agencies in my (former) hometown gives financial incentives to their agents to sell in-house products only. I've also seen (firsthand) how difficult it is to get sellers to understand that the market dictates pricing (obviously not in your case). So lots of reasons where a harried RE professional may choose to cut corners/employ poor practices. Still not an excuse.

    But the lakehouse is completely awesome!!!! (so jealous)

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    1. I had no idea some agencies give financial incentives to sell in-house only but I can totally see that.

      The lakehouse is pretty sweet and if it took a little hassle to get here, so be it. Want me to chat about some septic tank goodness to make you a little less jealous, lol? Ooo, but the foxes are back!!

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear about how awful your selling/buying experience was. It sounds like you had sleezy agents all around. I don't know what the laws are in Canada, but if I were you I would be reporting them to the realestate comisson or licensing board. It also makes me very glad my twin and I had my dad to be my buyers agent and the the sellers agent for our house was such a great guy.

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    1. I'm so jealous your dad is an agent!! Oh, it would be so nice to have someone you could trust completely. I don't feel good about reporting them because I don't think it was all their fault. We should have been more educated and paid attention to the market. This was our house, and our biggest investment, but we weren't on top of things. It's a job for them, for us it was much more and we didn't treat it as such - me, especially. I feel good about sharing what happened, though, so hopefully it helps someone else.

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  7. Oh wow Tanya - what an intense and stressful experience! I am so sorry both your agents were so shady (and I'm also feeling a bit angry on your behalf). Real estate is SUCH a hassle! I'm glad you're in your awesome lakehouse and things worked out eventually!

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    1. Awww, thanks for your concern (and anger!). I'm not going to lie: I feel unenthusiastic about the prospect of every selling again, but I do feel more informed. But honestly I feel good!! No bitterness, so residual anger - nothing. I'm cool as a cucumber. Everything worked out and I know people have had FAR worse experiences than us.

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  8. The last time I sold a house, the buyers evidently hired a very unscrupulous inspector who reported pages and pages of things "wrong" with my property in an effort to drive the price down. He claimed my fireplace was dangerous. I hired a company to check it and they said nothing was wrong. He claimed my roof needed repairs. The roofing company said nothing was wrong. Ditto many other things he said was wrong with my house. I had a contract on the house I own now and definitely didn't need to be throwing away money on unnecessary service calls on bogus "problems." Eventually we settled on a price that was less than my asking price but not nearly as low as they first offered me with that trumped up inspection. My partner Carl had just died three months earlier, and I didn't need that kind of stress. I'm sorry you had to go through a similarly stressful situation, but it looks like it turned out all right for us both in the end.

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    1. Oh Dana, that sounds incredibly stressful and the timing was just terrible. I can't imagine having to contact a roofing company and then a fireplace company to check things out, battle an unethical home inspector, and try to hammer out a deal three months after such a painful loss. I'm so sorry to hear about that, but, you're right, the house sales both worked out for us in the end. Seems we both needed to compromise, but at least we moved on. I still hate the people who did that to you!!

      I've had the opposite with my home inspectors, who have found NOTHING wrong with either purchase to please our real estate agents. That's a whole different story . . .

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  9. This is such a whirlwind of a story. It seems like you have come to terms with it and are taking the whole situation in stride. My partner and I are in the process of buying our first home right now and we've had some serious disappointments. I know what you mean about "everything happens for a reason." That saying is a big cliche, but some of the problems we've had with failed offers have made us more knowledgeable for future ones.

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    1. Buying a first home can be so stressful. We kept missing out - homes would list and our realtor would make an appointment right away and by the time we pulled into the driveway for the showing it would be sold! The ones that didn't sell were dismal. We ended up buying quite a bit outside of our desired area, but I ended up meeting an amazing friend only a few minutes away. We enjoyed more nature (including trails and parks) in our little burb than downtown, where we thought we wanted to be.

      You'll soon find your perfect home and be so happy that other ones didn't work out. And, like you said, it's a valuable learning experience. I wish you the best of luck and can't wait to hear that you've found a gem!!

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  10. Phew - what a journey you've been on! I think that selling/buying a house is emotional no matter how much you try to control your feelings. That said, I've only bought one house in my life. :) I remember being so angry when there were bidding wars and that was definitely not a game that I was interested in playing as a buyer. I would have happily rented if I hadn't found something that suited me. Tia from More of Everything also wrote a short post about the house hunting journey: http://moreofeverything.ca/flashback-how-to-compromise-and-still-buy-an-awesome-house/
    You both wrote about the emotional side of real estate transactions. The point now is to look forward and enjoy the great Lakehouse and the views that go with it! Ah-mazing!

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    1. You're right: it's an emotional experience not matter how hard you try to be level-headed. I just wish I'd been less emotive about hiring someone. That might have made the experience more straightforward. Lesson learned!!

      I would be scared away by a bidding war also, but as a seller it would have been nice to see my agent try to get us the best price. But then, who knows, maybe everyone would have walked away! The outcome could have been far worse for us, we'll never know, which is why I feel pretty content now.

      I'll have to read Tia's post, it sounds really interesting. Thanks for the link!

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  11. Thank you for sharing your saga, Tanya. My siblings and I are thisclose to selling our childhood home (one more inspection!), and your reminder to set emotions aside is a good one. You're also helping me appreciate our real estate agent even more; she and her team have shown outstanding devotion and integrity.

    Our biggest challenge has been sorting through my late parents' 50 years of stuff. I'm now a much bigger fan of the minimalist aesthetic.

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    1. I'm really happy to hear that your real estate agent has been fabulous!! I can appreciate how difficult it must be to sell your childhood home. It's so nice to hear that it is progressing smoothly and that you're so close to being done! The last thing you need right now is a real estate snag.

      I can't imagine having to sort through 50 years worth of my parents' belongings. I can imagine that would stir up a lot of memories and emotions.

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  12. So helpful to hear of your experience, Tanya, even though I was cringing and groaning in your behalf the whole way through. We sold our own townhouse in early December, after having had an experience similar to yours with our first agent a year earlier. When they don't show the place and tell you that you need to drop your price; when they bring in a property investor/friend who offers way, way less than the price you originally discussed with the agent... and they tell you that you ought to take the offer; when they give you chores to do and then tell you how little they are making (yes, that happened to us, too)... you know you need to let that contract run out and run far away. Our second shot was with an agent who was referred by a very new friend. Actually, I feel we simply got lucky. The man put together a wonderful slide show for us; he brought in a friend who staged the place so well I would have moved back in in a heartbeat; and when the bogus inspection came in, he rose up and told me what we ought to offer to do and what we should simply ignore. It worked out. We have a little more money in our pockets. And are we ever thankful it's over! And now... we can all get on with the really important questions in life, like which shade of white is the most wonderful, and why in the world would anyone not want a Danish modern sofa? :)

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    1. I'm so happy to hear that your second time around was successful!! It sounds like you had a fabulous agent who really made up for the terrible first experience. You raised concerns we never even thought of: the agent bringing an investor friend. Yikes. Can't believe another agent had the nerve to complain about how little he was making. Is that some kind of sales tactic? Now that I know how things should and should not progress (I love hearing positive stories from readers!), I feel more confident to just fire someone who isn't working, but at the time I didn't know there was greener grass elsewhere.
      Like you said: it feels so great to have moved on. Happy to hear now you've got fun decisions on the horizon! Did you track down a paint chip for Snowfall?

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  13. I just want to thank you for sharing your story. I know it can be hard to share negative experiences, but others - including myself - will have the benefit of learning from your experience, so thank you. We're planning to sell our house in the next year or so, and I can't believe how much my outlook has changed from when we bought the house three years ago. We thought of it as an investment then, but now I don't think I would buy another house unless it was one I truly loved and thought we could be in for awhile, since there are no guarantees when it comes time to sell!

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    1. I'm happy to share. I wish I could have had a more uplifting tale, and I hope I haven't scared too many people, but I think there's something to be learned from experiences that don't go smoothly. If anything, I wanted to show that even an unpleasant experience can be beneficial, because I learned so much. Also, I knew there would be sacrifices moving into our dream house and not making money on the townhouse because of timing was one of them. Most importantly, it's over and I'm happy with where I am now. That's the kind of advice I wanted at the time: reassurance that it would work out and the encouragement to look at what I gained, not what I lost.

      I'm glad you found my post helpful. I hope that selling your home goes MUCH more smoothly and that you're able to make a great return on your investment. I suggest meeting with agents now to talk about when is a good time to list. You're under no obligation to list with an agent you interview, and it might be a good way to prepare yourself (and you home) while you still have a year or so to go.

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    2. Yes, I did! Snowfall looks like it will be quite fabulous on my rainy Pacific Northwest walls... and guess what: Consumer Reports says that Behr paints are a "best buy" - the others with performance rankings anywhere near the same being more than twice as expensive. Good judgment on your part, I'd say.

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    3. Happy to hear that you like Snowfall! Buying Behr paint was a total accident at first and since then I haven't been loyal to it, but I do find it's a good quality brand.

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  14. I'm late to this point but I only found your blog via EQ3 a few days ago and I was doing some digging in your archives to figure out why your blog title referenced a townhouse when you clearly live in Thunder Bay. I'm a fellow Cdn PhD student (although you've reached the finish line, so congratulations!) and I've never found a blogger that I can relate to more. This post was particularly helpful since my partner and I are also carrying two mortgages while we try to sell our previous residence. Our new house needs a ton of work and I've been crippled by the mere thought of DIY stress and dissertation writing--your attitude has truly inspired me. I'm so sorry that your real estate experience was so unpleasant.

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    1. Sorry for the confusion! I've been slow to transition the blog name because I haven't decided what to do with the url. A new header, at least, has been started and should be live this weekend. I'm so terrible at the technical end of things . . .

      It's so nice to hear from someone doing their PhD!! Yep, it definitely sounds like you're in a similar place: two houses, lots of diy work, and lots of writing work. Not everything worked out for us as planned, but now that I'm through it I can say it wasn't that bad. For me the important thing was to not stop moving. If I stopped writing for a couple of days, it was so hard to get going again. Same with house projects. Even if I only did 15 minutes of writing one day, or painted part of one room, it was important for me to just keep doing some of it, every day. That kept things moving forward, and kept me from feeling too overwhelmed. I also tried to think about the positives - working on an empty house is easier than when it's packed with stuff! With selling the house, I wish I had stayed as involved but I sort of handed that task over to the realtor so I could finish my dissertation in peace. It was a mistake to remove myself so much.

      I'm so happy you left a comment, because it's nice for me to be able to relate to someone else as well. I hope you're able to sell your house soon, and that it doesn't impede too much with your writing. Can I ask about your dissertation topic? How far along in the process are you? My program sure made every stage was as stressful as possible, and my housing problems were no excuse. A little empathy would have been nice, lol.

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  15. We have bought and sold 14 houses, about half of which we lived in. I am almost always ticked off, when all is said and done, whenever I include an agent. Instead of managing two parties - the buyer and seller - I feel I am managing three (or four) parties needs. Those agents are human and have their own separate goals and they are so rarely my goals I always end up at odds. When I don't include an agent I do get shunned by the other agents unless I offer a more lucrative commission. The only trouble there is I tend to "get greedy" and put my price in the wrong spot so it is helpful to have professional help there. It's overall tough to find the flow and be satisfied but I still like the process a lot. I generally make money and each house teaches me something.

    Vanessa

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    1. Hi Vanessa,
      Wow, 14 houses!! Undoubtedly you've learned a lot about real estate. You've summed it up so well: agents are humans and, you're right, often have goals that may be different from their clients' goals. It's a good point to note that you've been shunned when you offer a lower commission - I had wondered about that and was fearful that agents wouldn't want to show clients a FSBO home also because they might be loyal to other agents and push their clients toward those listings.
      But, again, you're right: each time we learn something.

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