Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lessons I learned from selling our house for the first time

We are officially homeless.


Our townhouse was recently listed, and it is under contract of mutual agreement -- or whatever the technical term is -- but basically, if all things go well, our place now belongs to a lovely couple we'll never meet.

It took just under three weeks. Not bad for a slow season.

Our family looks forward to moving on. 


This blog post might be totally useless to you.

Who comes to a beauty and fashion blog for real estate advice? But hey, you never know. Maybe the lessons below can help you in some way -- now or perhaps down the road?

Lessons I learned from selling our house for the first time:

1. Hire a good listing agent.

Actually, good isn't good enough. How about an EXCELLENT agent, who studies the market daily, knows the neighborhood like the back of her hand, has a network as big as the ocean, and will work, sweat and fight for you?

Selling your home -- especially for the first time -- is a huge deal. No matter how smart and savvy you are, it's something you have no experience with, and you'll need the best to stand by your side.

My husband and I were lucky to have met our agents -- the girls co-listed to provide 24-7 support and twice the marketing power -- and not only did they give us valuable knowledge and great support, they did their job with the utmost professionalism. For example, knowing that we needed our place sold before the holidays, they held three Open Houses, one for each weekend it was on the market. Not many agents will work that hard. 


2. One head, not two.

I recommend this for all married couples, because, unlike the old proverb, two heads are not better than one. In fact, two heads will bump heads.

Don't get me wrong, I trust my husband completely, and agree with him almost all the time. However, as far as selling the house goes, as a project, I managed every detail: interviewing agents, hiring contractors, setting deadlines, budgeting, etc.

My husband was the adviser -- he's the one with a higher emotional IQ anyway -- and I was the PM work horse :O) It was an effective arrangement: I made all decisions, weighing my husband's advice heavily, and in turn, he put his trust in me.

This was easier for our agents too. 


3. Move out, if you can.

If your place is vacant, you'll get more showings. That's fact.

We were fortunate. My parents let us crash with them. They are getting an expensive get-away for Christmas. 


4. Stage your house!

I've heard an ex-coworker discredit staging. He feels that it's better to see an empty room, so it appears more spacious.

I feel that he's narrow-minded. Neither he nor I are home-selling experts. However, I've researched, through various sources, about the value of home staging, and it has high ROI.

According to, a staged home by them sells for, on average, 17% more. ( Furthermore, because our family have been dabbling in the Texas real estate for the past 15 years, we have broker friends who genuinely rave about home staging.

By the way, you don't need to hire expensive stagers, just do it yourself. You'll need to clean like mad, and buy new decorations, but can use your own furniture.

True. Some people might prefer seeing an empty house, but statistics come from historical data, and they don't lie. At the end of the day, I still prefer a place with a plush sofa, fresh flowers and little nick-knacks that scream, "can you see yourself living here yet?" 

White looks crispier in pictures.

5. Price fairly.

Day-old fruit looks stale, and so does a house that's been on the market for too long. (I believe a month is the cut off.) Logically, it makes sense to price high, and then reduce as needed. But from a buyer's perspective: if you can't sell your house already, it must worth less.

Your listing agent should provide a comprehensive study of the market, including comparisons for your neighborhood within a recent time frame. They should also offer an analytical recommendation. (Brace yourself though, it's probably lower than you think.)

Our agents gave us a range, and the listing price I chose was right in the middle. 

Rolled towels - learned this trick from resort on our honeymoon.

I wish I knew how to arrange tree branches myself. There are plenty of dead branches in WA.


People have a tendency to inflate themselves, especially in Seattle. I've met CEO's who seemed impressive at first, until I found out that they are CEO's of a 2-man company that made no money.

When it comes to their home, people inflate even more. One neighbor told all the other units that they sold their house at listing price, which is jaw-dropping. Everyone dropped their jaws, and it was the TALK-OF-THE-TOWN. Then we looked online: the actual sale price was $20K less.

Another neighbor told everyone that their place sold before an Open House. Remarkable! But he also left out the fact that it sold for $15K less than what he originally paid.

When I priced our house, I listened to no one but our agent's market analysis, which has no ego to inflate. 

All pillows should be satin-y and plush. There should be a law!

I like red. I like red in the bedroom more :O)

7. Keep yourself distracted.

I was a nervous wreck after our house listed. Mainly because my husband entrusted me with the project, and I didn't want to fail.

You, too, will be a nervous wreck. So find whatever distractions you can. I went shopping, took up running again, and even went out of town. Anything's better than waiting around. 

Saying goes: stainless steel and hardwood are immediate equity for your house. Hope that's true.

The Joy of Cooking is a fantastic recipe book - I highly recommend.

8. Don't haggle.

Negotiation is a fine skill but haggling is for losers.

I hate hagglers. Always have. Why bicker over minute stuff?

When an offer came, it was lower than listing price, but still high enough to exhibit serious interest. Plus, the buyers have minimum chance of terminating for financial reasons -- husband's a CFO, wife's a controller, and both have been pre-qualified -- and closing date is in as soon as two weeks. Pretty much, they are cream-of-the-crop buyers.

Of course I wanted to make more -- more proceeds means more money down on the next house -- but a few grand of a six-figure sale (and purchase) makes tiny difference. Also, and a lot of people forget this, selling your house and buying another one are TWO SEPARATE TRANSACTIONS.

In the end, I put my emotions aside and used logic: yes I will take the offer. It made less proceeds than I expected, but still made one. Last time someone paid me to live in a townhouse for four years was, um, never. 

This picture was taken by a professional photographer. It turned out so much better than mine.

Wide lense makes a huge impact.

This was my first time selling a home, and I probably could have done better.


 But I did it, and for the most part, had fun.


I hope the lessons from my own experience helped you in some way.


If not, I hope you enjoyed reading this awfully long post anyway.


Have a wonderful weekend!



  1. Congrats! It is such a big project of getting your home sold, especially if you want it sold within a certain time frame. Very helpful tips. Being married to a realtor, I know how important to get a good agent to get the results you want.

  2. Glad it sold and you're moving on! Best wishes!

  3. Great tips! We sold our first home in 6 days 5 months ago. I personally think the market is so much better lately. Congrats and hope you'll find your new home soon.

  4. love the entry, very helpful... =)

  5. this is a great post. so many helpful tips! your house looks so pretty!

  6. Thanks for sharing! It's definitely very useful... I've just followed you on GFC, looking forward to your next post love!!

    xoxo, Mango ❤
    MangoRabbitRabbit's Blog | Holiday Party Outfit: Little White Dress

  7. I actually enjoying reading your post, so interesting and loads of great advice ! I wish you good luck on your future plans :) Kisses

    Fashion and Cookies
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  8. Congrats! And best of luck on this new chapter in your life!

  9. Awesome tips babe! I regularly stage homes for realtors that I work with (as an interior designer)...
    Can't tell ya how IMPERATIVE it is to allow the space to speak for the potential buyers without saying anything about the current owners. Most sellers forget that crucial aspect!

    Thank you for visiting love, hope to see you back soon!

    Peace. Love. LOL!

    Haute Khuuture Blog

  10. i love watching those real estate reality shows, lol! i definitely agree on staging the gives buyers a vision.

    anyways, just wanted to drop by and wish you guys a happy holiday season!!

    Love & Sunshine Giveaway!
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    Libi & LoLa Giveaway!

  11. Congrats on selling your home!! I think the staging was perfect! Really great taste :)

  12. These are great things to know, thank you for sharing!

  13. Thank you so much for linking up. That was way cool of you. Congrats on being homeless, in the good way as you are. Please come on back and visit my site more and more. I miss you!

  14. Great tips, changing a place is sometime like a new start. I wish you and your family a wonderful life in anew home.

  15. I knew some of these tips before (for example the fact that the empty house doesn't sell well), but some are new to me. Anyhow, it was a fun post to read. I hope you'll enjoy your new house and a fresh start!

  16. Your tips are good. Have to admit that in the future they could be very useful for me. Your house is gorgeous, wish I bought it!:) Kisses! xo

  17. This was actually really interesting although I do not own a house! My boyfriend bought our apartment though and it might come in handy when we decide to rent it in case we wanna move somewhere :)

  18. It's an experience nonetheless! I think you did an incredible job. It's very frustrating to buy or sell a home and the fact that you did it within 3 weeks is a happy transaction for you and the couple =D


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