Selling My Townhouse

Back in May Debbi and I bought a house together. But since I already owned a townhouse (which I bought in 2001), that left the question of what to do with the townhouse. My agent suggested I consider renting it, given that the market for homes is still pretty soft, but after considering it I decided that I didn’t want to be a landlord: Even with a management company doing the work of managing the property, it wasn’t something I really wanted to be responsible for. Besides which, the complex is quite small, which means we all shared the load of doing work for the homeowners’ association, something I didn’t really want to continue with – maintaining our new house is plenty of work (even split between the two of us), and I didn’t want to keep having to chip in on the old place.

So, to jump to the end of the story, I sold my townhouse on Tuesday.

As for the middle of the story…

We spent the first two months after we moved unpacking, buying stuff, hosting an open house, and generally enjoying our new house. Then at the end of June my agent prodded me (gently) into moving on the townhouse, since it was just sitting there empty accumulating property tax obligations and HOA dues payments.

I guess I’d expected that preparing the place for sale would be a whirlwind of remodeling activity which would all be a blur but would be done fairly quickly. In fact there was less work to be done than I’d expected (mainly making sure the unit was fundamentally sound, and making it more presentable), but it took quite a bit longer than I’d expected. Here’s what we did:

  1. A chimney sweep came in and cleaned the chimney. This was pretty easy, and he even found a part which needed to be replaced. (I’m going to miss having a wood-burning fireplace, as our city prohibits newer homes from having them, as they’re big sources of pollution. The gas fireplace we have is nice, though.)
  2. The unit was painted. We got estimates from a couple of places, and then I had to choose the colors. Of course, my feeling was, “pick whatever makes the most sense for selling it”, since I certainly didn’t plan to put my own stamp on a unit that I soon wouldn’t own, but still, it was up to me. We had them come back to touch up a few things, too. So this took quite a bit longer than I’d expected. (The paint looked great once it was done, though!)
  3. The carpets also needed replacing, since they were 10 years old or more. We got a couple of estimates, picked a company, picked a grade and color of carpet – and then things got delayed due to a family matter at the company we’d chosen. Not really anyone’s fault, but it was a little more time added in. By this time we were deep into August.
  4. We had a landscaper come out to tidy up the back yard and lay down some wood chips, as well as stain the bench back there.
  5. A pest inspector examined the unit, and found some cracks in the flooring under the washer/dryer closet, and a crack in the pan of the master shower, which led to concerns about possible water damage underneath.
  6. We hired a contractor to fix the water damage, including replacing the master shower. The damage was minimal-to-nonexistent, happily, and the replaced shower stall looked great. However, this actually took us up to the beginning of our vacation in Hawaii in September.
  7. While we were in Hawaii, a home inspector checked out the unit. While it’s comforting how thorough home inspectors are (especially considering that there are many parts of homes that can’t be inspected), it’s also worrying in case they find something really serious. Fortunately,they didn’t find any such thing.
  8. Along the way I filled out disclosures about the unit, gather information from my records, and get the HOA to provide information about the association to my agent to add to the disclosures. This involved a lot of reading, looking things up, and signing.
  9. And finally, it went on the market smack in the middle of our Hawaii trip.

So it wasn’t that anything went wrong, just that all the work and a few delayed added up to more time to get it on the market than I’d expected. I’d originally figured it would be on the market in August, when in fact it went on in mid-September.

Surprisingly, an offer came in on the place the weekend before it hit the market – the day before we flew to Hawaii. We deferred the offer for a while because I just didn’t have the mental bandwidth to deal with thinking it through at the time. However, that did mean I spent bits of time during our trip communicating with my agent.

In the end, though, that unexpected offer was the one I accepted. The buyer was apparently very interested in a unit in that particular neighborhood (hard for me to argue with since I liked it quite a bit myself, especially the great freeway access), and kept in contact with my agent while the place was going on the market.

While the market in our city is pretty good – everything sells, and things which take longer to sell tend to be overpriced, and sell once the price drops – it’s still a pretty soft market; prices are nowhere near where they were in 2006. But then, they are a little above where they were when I bought the unit in 2001, so it did go for more than I paid for it. Even with the soft market I’d expected it would go for a little more, but it didn’t turn out that way. Still, I’m okay with the price it went for – I haven’t had any recriminations about it.

So the unit went into escrow in late September, and finally closed on Tuesday. (It is a lot less stressful to be on the selling end of escrow than the buying end, as most of your work has already been done just getting the unit listed.)

It is a little sad to no longer own the unit. Whenever I went back to the place it seemed a little more alien as all the decor changed. I kept thinking of my late cat Jefferson whenever I went there, since it had been his home longer than anywhere else, and it was of course his last home – I’m not going to have any memories of him in the new house.

I made multiple sweeps of the place during escrow to see if there was anything we’d forgotten. We made a trip to the county’s household hazardous waste drop-off to get rid of a bunch of old paint and similar items, almost all of which had been left there by the previous owner and which were now out-of-date, if they were even still any good at all. And I found a couple of piles of stuff in the garage which I hadn’t realized were there which I either threw out or brought over to the new place. I finally went through every closet, drawer and shelf in the house one day and didn’t find anything else, so I think I got it all.

Debbi suggested we leave a card saying “welcome to your new home” for the buyer, so I did that on Monday, and left the keys and the garage door opener as well. Then I let myself out one last time.

It was the perfect house for me for many years, and really it was mainly that Debbi and I had outgrown it that caused us to move. I hope the new owner enjoys living there as much as we did.

But we like our new house an awful lot, and really, I don’t have any regrets about making the move.