Alas, it has come to this. My house is up for sale. My home is up for sale. Once upon a time I heard a saying, “Never love something so much that you can’t let it go.” Maybe it was a Buddhist lesson in non-attachment. This lesson isn’t being forced on me, but being financially prudent means being willing to sell my largest asset to free up money to pay for life. One thing I keep in mind. Giving up things, even houses that are truly homes, is frequently reversible. Another thing I keep in mind is that sometimes giving up something precious is necessary to find something even greater.
If you’ve sold a house, you’re probably familiar with the exercise in patience punctuated with moments of eager anticipation. Hurry and scurry preparing the house to sell. Make it look clean and tidy. Mow the lawn. Whack the weeds. Wash the windows. De-clutter throughout the house. My house and yard are cleaner now than when I am ready for a party. Then wait. Wait for the phone calls from agents who want to schedule a time to show the house to potential buyers. Even in a fast market when the house had over 200 visits, there was a lot of time spent between calls doing very little. Keeping a house as a showroom is counter to starting projects, so sit and read. Then, when the call comes in, leave the house and hope their thirty minute visit stands out amongst the other five or ten houses they’ll see that day.
So, here I sit, hoping to get this blog post done and uploaded before a buyer shows up, and hopeful that a buyer shows up unannounced and eager. I can always finish the post later.
This will be the fifth house that I’ve sold. Recent history has tarnished the image of real estate as an investment. I admit that it has rarely been an obvious choice for me. I invest in stocks because I can buy and sell them based solely on financial terms. Buying or selling a residence has the added complications of life. As I posted the news of the sale on Facebook many of my friends wanted to know where I was going. I don’t know. If my finances dramatically improve I might not move anywhere. Some people sell because they are moving. I will be moving if the house sells. Every time I have bought or sold a house it has been based on life choices, my needs and wants; not on market timing or purposely buying low or selling high. About half the time it has worked well, and that half has been countered by the other half that have not worked so well. This time looks to be a flat trade. The house price is the same that I paid five years ago.
Housing data encompass so grand a scale that individual stories are anecdotes instead of data points. And yet, each house is unique. Each seller and buyer have unique stories, wants and needs. Anecdotes aren’t data but they are slices of reality. The national housing numbers seem confused. Sales are up but prices are down, except that some areas have turned around, and some types of homes are selling better than others. Fortunately, I am a fan of small houses. Mine home is less than 900 square feet and it feels luxurious. Anything more for a single guy like me and the house would begin to own me. It already does that to some extent because buying a house is a way to acquire responsibility and without sufficient funds I can’t properly respond. Bigger houses are bigger responsibilities. That’s one reason people are downsizing, and may be why small houses are doing so well. I’ve already had a showing and the house has only been for sale less than 36 hours.
There is great uncertainty in my life (which I’ll probably go into in another post.) Stocks, business, jobs, lottery tickets, etc. work into so many scenarios that it is difficult to see which is the most likely path. There is great uncertainty on the grander scale. How will global climate change change our lives? That’s definitely an issue for houses at sea level or in the desert. How will the global financial crises (note the plural) trickle through from the macro to the micro to the individual level? Some anticipate most currencies collapsing. Some see the dollar as resurgent because it is the best of a poor lot. In answer I know people who want the small house away from the city so if there’s a major disruption they have a place to grow food (and in my neighborhood fish) while still being within the realistic reach of urban civilization (hello Seattle.)
Ah, but the anecdotes. I mentioned them before because they are so prevalent now. News reports may compile vast databases, but the neighborhood grapevine is much more focused and nuanced. It’s also a bit unreliable because it is delivered with gossip, but that’s the nature of our social species. Small houses seem to be selling. Real estate agents are busy. I know of two that have been working into the evenings throughout the week. Multiple offers are coming in. I feel sorry for another friend who finally was able to write up several offers only to be outbid on each. I suspect that there are a lot of long-delayed moves finally breaking free. We’ll be stirring the population pot, which is usually a good thing.
I feel sorry for every honest agent when there are this many uncertainties. Old rules may no longer apply. Buyers may want something different than the progression to ever-larger houses, but they may not know what to look for when downsizing. A lot of re-education will be going on.
This has been my dream home in many ways. I can always think of something I’d like better, sometimes here, sometimes on another piece of land. There are some days when owning my own island sounds great! I’ve tried creative visualization, active imagining, and precise planning. Maybe those efforts will produce what I want and need. Maybe that will happen here because my finances, my liquid net worth, dramatically improve to the point that I don’t have to sell. Any maybe the money shows up, my home sells, and maybe I move on to something grander that is revealed and available.
Except for money, this is one of the best times of my life. So, I am trying to fix that one remaining element. I’m working to make more money through the business (consulting is fun and my books and photos receive very nice compliments). I’m applying for jobs (and go back to my previous post for that story.) I think that most of my stocks are dramatically undervalued, and would probably be buying if I had money to spare. These last nine months have been financially dismal though. The one bright spot is that the market value of my home has returned to what I paid. Selling my home at that price gives me enough money to get out of debt and provides me with about a year’s living expenses (I’m glad I am comfortable with frugality) outside of my severely drained IRA. I’m willing to give up something precious. I hope it makes my life better.