|I’d been paralysed for around three minutes before my wife discovered me where I’d fallen, squashed between the toilet and the shower cubical, mouth ajar, staring wide-eyed into the abyss. It had taken another two before she’d revived me, at first calling me, shaking me, slapping me and eventually dragging me onto the bathroom floor. A seizure had had me in its grip – my reaction to having been oxygen-deprived for too long. I’d fainted and fallen, wedged upright, my brain slowly starving as the blood struggled to reach my elevated head.
The raspy, guttural sounds a person makes as they become a corpse had woken my wife around 3:00 am. She’d come into the bathroom to investigate, and at first thought I was leaning over the toilet, vomiting, until she got closer and saw my face, the death mask upon it — a vision that later kept her awake by my side until morning, and one that haunted her for weeks afterwards.
“What’s my name? What’s my name!” she’d screamed at me. At first her voice was just a noise to me – one of many sensations swirling together in the thick, black syrup of my consciousness. I’d heard her, but had made no connection with what her voice was – a noise amongst other sensations I couldn’t comprehend. It was the tone in her voice that eventually pulled me free – the utter desperation and fear in it.
As I grasped for the life-line of her voice, I started to make sense of the shapes and patterns around me. Where am I? Why does she keep asking me to tell her her name?
The shower cubical came slowly into view. Why are my shampoo bottles on the ceiling? Some of the swirls melded together to form the bathmat, which for some reason had been hung like a tapestry. Why doesn’t she know her name? I hope she’s ok. A pool of water clung to the wall, seeming to defy gravity. I was trying to make sense of my environment, but this customised version of Burning Giraffe was starting make me nauseous. Soon my brain had received enough signals to make sense of the situation; I wasn’t casually leaning against the bathroom wall at all, but lying on the floor. Well, that explained the bathmat. Sigh… Not again.
“What’s my name?” she hammered. Yes, yes. I’ll get to telling you your name! Just give me a chance to pull myself together.
I propped up on one arm, and turned to look at her, her blurred features coming into form. The expression in her voice paled in comparison to that on her face. Something awful has happened. But what? And why has she forgotten her name? I needed to brace myself for bad news, and be there to support her. It hadn’t occurred to me that I was the cause of her concern. I looked at her. Yes… I know you – you’re my wife. Now… what exactly is your name?
“Leisa. It’s Leisa!” Her name came out of me, but was somehow disconnected as if spoken by another voice. Thank God I’d gotten that right. Truth be told, I hadn’t known her name – not consciously, anyhow.
“What’s wrong? What’s happening?” I’d asked, now sitting upright on the tiles. Leisa explained how she’d found me, and what she’d gone through in trying to revive me. But I’d only gone to urinate. I started to think back to what I’d eaten that day. What could have made me ill like that? I certainly hadn’t felt ill.
Leisa begged me to call an Ambulance, but I resisted. I’m supposed to be invincible. I talked her out of it, convincing her that I felt fine and just wanted to go back to bed. By this time I’d convinced myself too – that although I was feeling a little dazed from the experience, I was ok. And I was tired. It was only after I’d laid my head on the pillow that my head began to swim again, my mind numb with a kind-of painless pins and needles. It was a sensation not unlike coming down off acid – a party had taken place upstairs, but now it’s over, the room is hazy, and you know you had a good time but can recall only fractured memories. When I woke later that morning, I was still feeling numb upstairs. I should probably go to the hospital now.
That sensation subsided over about three weeks, but it’s never gone away entirely.
The morning after my ‘episode’, they hooked me up to the ECG and did a bunch of cognitive tests. I passed everything. They’d even asked me if I’d taken any drugs. “No!” I’d protested, feigning insult. “Do you have any?” I’d wondered.
By mid-morning I’d left the hospital and gone to my GP, who also couldn’t make heads or tails of it. And how was I supposed to explain the odd sensation in my brain? Yeah Doc, you know that feeling you get coming down off acid? He did what any good ‘general practitioner’ does when they don’t know for sure – he ordered a blood test.
One thing the doctor had been absolutely certain of was that I’d been only two-to-three minutes away from brain damage, and then death. Seems I dodged a bullet.
I passed out again while giving blood at the pathology lab the following morning. I’ve never liked needles, or surgery or doctors, or anything related to them for that matter, but I’d never passed out from an injection before – it had never bothered me. I’d wondered if it was a blood pressure thing. Turns out I was low in iron – an odd thing for a man, but not uncommon. But the doctor couldn’t be sure if I’d been low in iron and this had caused me to faint, or that the fainting and subsequent seizure itself was the cause of my low iron count.
…and I’d forgotten to tell him that I’d experienced a similar incident approximately four years earlier, having blacked-out one night, falling onto the bath and bruising my arm. That time I’d woken up from it.
There was a five-year gap between visits to my GP. In that time I made some changes to my lifestyle, including giving up smoking, reducing my drinking (why is there no way to say that without sounding like I have a problem? lol), reducing the amount of crap I eat, drinking lots more water, eating lots more fresh fruit, and starting and maintaining a serious exercise regimen.
These changes were not a reaction to my incident (not consciously, anyhow), but more to do with my not being happy with aspects of myself and my life at the time, and having grown tired of it, forcing change upon myself. I’d figured that whatever it was I’d been doing before had not been making me happy, so I may as well try something else.
There’s no doubt each individual change has been beneficial, but I’ve seen the most benefit from working-out.
I work out every weekday, starting at 5:30 with a 45-minute brisk walk on the treadmill, or out with the dog. Then in the afternoons I do another 45-minute session, this time with various weights programs on a multi-gym, following that with another 45-minute session of floor exercises (the Spartacus Workout) or occasionally on the Ab-Circle Pro (yes, in combination, they work).
It takes enormous dedication. I balance it with a healthy diet of chocolate mud cake. Seriously though, this dedication to fitness makes me sound like a gym-junkie. But I’m not; I do eat the odd sweet, and I’ve not given up coffee (not a chance). However, it has been (and must be) a lifestyle choice – if you slack-off for a week, it sets you back two.
And it’s not just a matter of maintaining the exercises, the discipline. I’ve had to introduce dietary supplements, such as drinking protein powder, because having a burst of protein after a workout helps to repair your muscles faster, and this prevents you feeling wiped-out for the rest of the evening – only half an hour after busting out a heavy workout, I feel great; full of energy, and alert.
Making radical changes like this hasn’t been all good, though. One of the run-off effects I’ve experienced is having a few family members and friends accuse me of suffering mid-life crises – like I’m doing this in an attempt to reclaim some lost youth. It contributed to the breakdown of my marriage.
Reclaim lost youth? One can’t reclaim what one hasn’t lost. Hell, I’ve never grown up – I don’t even know what it means to do so, apart from what appears to be the relinquishing of everything that brought you joy. I own a house, have raised a child, have a respectable career, pay my taxes. …and in my spare time I play video games and collect toy robots. That ok with everyone? If being mature means I have to be bored, soulless, passionless, I’ll stay a child forever.
These ‘friends’ also tried to attribute my behaviour to schizophrenia, as if I’d been consumed by an alternate personality – someone they’d not met before. In a sense they were right – I was (am) different, but by my choice. You don’t like your life? Yourself? Then make a change or stop complaining.
I’ve made these lifestyle choices because I wanted to improve the quality of my life, not because I’m trying to extend it, not because of any fear of death.
I’ve never feared death. Dying, sure – I don’t want to die in an horrific, painful way. Nor do I want to die in a pathetic way, such as lying wedged upright, over the toilet bowl, having a seizure. Sterling died like he lived – like an arsehole.
I don’t fear death at all. It’s partly because there’s no point in fretting over what you have no control over. It’s mainly because I have absolute belief in an existence beyond this ‘life on Earth as a human being’ thing.
That’s a story for another day, and it has nothing to do with any sense of a higher power, other religious or spiritual belief, or even ‘blind faith’. It’s more to do with my sense of ‘self’. …or more-precisely, my sense of everything else. …with a little technology throw in.
In any case, whilst I don’t fear death, I don’t welcome it either. Given a choice, I’d live forever – the universe is well big enough for me to take an eternity exploring it – what would I need with a life after this one? So, I’m trying to improve the quality of my life, not dodge death – there’s a little difference there.
The most important thing for me is to be happy, and I believe that happiness is just a chemical reaction in our brains, one that can be induced by ‘good’ experiences, but can also be induced by feeling ‘good’. Being fit and healthy makes you feel good, and that makes you feel happy. It really does.
If my life ever became bad, if I ever became diagnosed with a terminal or debilitating illness, or became blind, or deaf, or immobile, I’m hanging myself from the nearest tree (which is going to be difficult, if I score immobility. lol). Seriously.
Likewise, if I simply don’t want to be here anymore, or if I find myself incapable of being happy.
I’m sorry, I know how that might upset a lot of people, but I’d rather be dead than bored. Really, the thought of living a mundane life void of joy and happiness is worse than having my testicles eaten by bears. And, seeing as I don’t fear death… well, it wouldn’t make sense to stay here when I have a pretty good exit strategy available to me. No?
So, five years later I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, and he’s writing a referral for me to have some blood tests. They’re just routine. After all, I’m in my 40s now, and I’m supposed to be getting worried about aging. I’m not. …’cause I still think I’m invincible. …and he’s just told me that I’m in “phenomenal” health for someone my age. Phenomenal? Nice! …and I’m peering over his shoulder at my clinical record on his screen, and embedded amongst the various measurements and diagnoses are the words ‘Potential stroke candidate’.
What the fuck?!
When I’d been up at the hospital on the morning after my ‘episode’, the cognitive tests I’d participated in were designed to ascertain if I’d suffered a stroke. That had been explained to me at the time. However, my GP had ruled it out. …or so I’d thought. Now, seeing those words on the screen was, well… sobering.
He doesn’t believe I’ve suffered a stroke, simply because I don’t show any of the typical signs – no cognitive loss, no loss of motor function, no difficultly speaking and so forth. But he, like the staff at the hospital, can’t work out exactly what happened. I’d just needed a reboot, but how was I to explain that? Just to be sure, just so I’m not diagnosed a medication that could be dangerous, he’s flagged me as a stroke candidate.
My grandfather died from a stroke. There’s a chance I will, I guess. Knowing that’s a possibility is kind-of a rip-off – I mean, it’s not very glamorous, is it? I’ll be just walking down the street one day, blah-blah-blah-dead.
I’ve heard having a bad stroke, a massive stroke, is somewhat like being hit in the head with a baseball bat. …and I’ve had two ‘episodes’ so-far. Will it be third-time-lucky? Third time’s a charm? Three strikes and I’m out?
There is some comfort in knowing this. After all, to extend the baseball metaphor, when you’re running the bases, there are three to pass before you can come home. If I am a stroke candidate, and third base is on the horizon, it’s not so bad really. …I’m really quite looking forward to going home.
|This is part two of a two-part post on my experiences with selling/buying houses. Part one was about selling my house. Part two is what I’ve learned about buying houses. I know there’s heaps of info online about this, but when I went looking for it myself, I didn’t see many first-hand accounts, anyone sharing their personal experiences. So, here is mine. Obviously you’re not to take this as professional advice of any kind.
The Basic Premise
My favourite house is a bizarre white-washed Art Deco place with rounded corners – it looks like a segmented lighthouse.
I’ve loved this house since I first saw it in the late 90′s, and in 2011 missed out on several opportunities to buy it, as it repeatedly went to market and/or had contracts on it fall through. If I’d sold my house earlier (read that sad state of affairs here), I’d be living there now.
I love period houses like this, particularly that era, and one day I will find myself living in a place like that. In fact, during my recent search for a new home, there were a number of similar houses that I considered. Those choices were more due to the fact that I can’t afford much – I certainly can’t afford a new(er) house – older houses fit my budget.
But in truth, I actually prefer these older places – they have so much more character, and I love the old fixtures and fittings, and intricate plaster cornices, and angular art deco mouldings. I’d want to put my stamp on it though, fitting the house with modern accompaniments, turning the space into something akin to a Steampunk research centre – my little piece of Rapture.
That’ll have to wait though, because when I was ready (able) to buy, my favourite house wasn’t on the market anymore. …and also, someone once said to me, “Buy with your head, and not with your heart.” Easier said than done, but I took that advice.
During the process (read: waiting) of selling my house, I’d been watching the property market for a little over a year before I consciously started looking ‘to buy’. I was fortunate that I had time to do this, and monitor trends, and get a feel for what was selling, what wasn’t, and gain some understanding as to why.
I was also fortunate that the buyer of my house had needed an extended settlement period (he’d asked for 60 days, instead of the standard 30). At first, that actually frustrated me, but it offered me a greater opportunity to shop around, to research, to take my time, and to be patient (that’s so hard for me – I have zero patience). Given that I needed to find a house within 30 days of my sale settling, in all I had about 30 days to spare. It went quickly.
Work Out Your Budget
Work out your budget early, and stick to it. I had very little money to play with, and once I’d been able to estimate what I was going to be left with from the sale of my house, I knew what sort of deposit I’d have for my next house, and therefore how much I could borrow. Don’t frustrate yourself by getting online beforehand and looking at what you want, and then trying to work out how to afford it.
If you need to borrow, go see your bank manager early, and get them to give you verbal confirmation of how much they’re prepared to loan you. You won’t need anything in writing at this early stage – they’ll sort out all the formalities later, when you actually have a contract on a house. For now, you need to know for sure how much you can borrow, and afford.
Once you have this figure (your deposit + your loan amount), stick to it, and keep it to yourself. Never tell a real estate agent how much money you really have to spend. That figure is your maximum – it’s the maximum amount you can spend on buying a new house. That doesn’t mean you can start looking for houses to that value just yet – you need to keep in mind that there are costs involved in buying a house.
For example, legal fees will be $1000s (it costs me around $6000 in solicitor’s fees just to purchase my new house, not to mention the fee for selling my old one). In Australia, we have a Government tax on buying a house too – more $1000s. Thanks, Government; thovernment.
If you need to borrow more than 80% of the value of the house, your bank may charge you mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance has got to be the biggest rort of all time, and this is how it works: your bank makes you pay insurance to protect them if you default on the loan, and in the case of my bank, it just happens to own the insurance company that underwrites the policy. How convenient.
So, if you can’t pay off your loan, the bank keeps your house, sells it to pay off the loan (and possibly profits from that sale), and claims the insurance to cover the expenses involved with this process (which the insurance company would no-doubt claim as a loss on the company’s tax return). Then, the insurance company comes after you to reclaim the money anyhow. Remember that, next time you see one of those bank ads where they claim they’re all about being in-touch with us. You have to be right behind someone, before you can stab them in the back.
…oh, and a AU$200,000 loan will set you up for about $6000 in mortgage insurance, which the bank tacks onto the loan itself, thus increasing the loan as a whole, and therefore the interest they charge you. Scum-sucking gutter-dwellers. If that’s not incentive enough to shop conservatively, I don’t know what is. Fortunately for me, I bought a very cheap house, and saved myself the reaming to my back-pocket.
The Artful Agent
An agent’s job isn’t to sell you a house – an agent’s job is to sell their client’s house to you. As a seller, when I enlist an agent, that’s why I enlist them; I want them to sell my house, as quickly as possible, for the highest price. That’s not to say an agent won’t be friendly, courteous, generous of their time and so on, but never forget that they’re not out do you any favours, unless in doing so they can get a sale.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not out to flame real estate agents. In fact, every agent I saw during the process of looking for a house was very professional and displayed good customer service. In amongst that bunch of maybe a dozen, there were a few who excelled, who went out of their way for me – really excellent people whom I’d absolutely recommend, and would deal with again when I next go to buy, and more-importantly when I go to sell.
You must never forget that an agent is out to sell you a house. They’re never going to tell you anything bad about a property unless it’s so obvious you’d trip over it, or otherwise find out eventually. For example, one agent was open with me about how a contract on one place had fallen through because of old termite damage in some floorboards. The floor was sound, but the buyer had been scared-off because they’d intended to extend the room, and after seeing the damage thought it would be too expensive. As it was, the damage was minimal, and didn’t bother me at all.
An agent will try to have you see a property at the same time as other prospective buyers. Obviously this is so they don’t have to make multiple trips out to the house, but also it’s a lovely added bonus for them to instil a feeling of competition. Some agents would tell me that there were going to be others out there before or after me (and every time, we pretty-much arrived at the same time – circumstantial, much?), but others never said anything.
If you do find yourself out on site whilst others are looking over the property too, and you like the house, and you’re worried about competition, by all means have an open conversation with the agent about all the concerns you have with the house, and make sure the others hear it. However, don’t make offers to the agent whilst you can be heard – they’re not going to want to reveal to you that the seller might be able to drop the price significantly, when your competition has the potential to pay closer to the advertised price. If you do want to make an offer, but others are around, simply tell the agent to give you a call to talk further when they’re free.
Asking an agent if there’s been any other interest, or any offers made, is futile – they’ll all tell you “yes”. To say otherwise would open the door to you making a ridiculous offer (in the hope that the seller is desperate), and that sees the agent doing their client a disservice. One question I did have answered a few times was “Has the seller turned down any offers?” That at least gave me an idea of what the seller would not take. If an agent suggests that there’s been interest from other parties, ask those questions; ask if there have been any offers and what the seller has declined. It’s actually a pretty good way to find out if there’s truly been any other concrete interest – if the agent can’t give you a figure instantly, it’s a clue that they just made it up.
Don’t be pressured into competing with other bidders. For example, one agent told me that my offer was going to be considered by the seller, but that there were other offers on the table, and asked if I was prepared to go higher. I figured that if there truly were higher offers, the agent would have told me immediately, or more-likely not told me at all, but simply phoned me back later to tell me that my offer had been passed-up for another, and that the house was now under contract, that I’d missed out.
In this particular case, I’d not budged from my offer, and the agent emailed me the following day to let me know that if I wanted to make an offer, he needed it in writing by 3pm the next day. I let 3pm come and go, and late in the afternoon when the agent called to find out where I stood, I explained that I wasn’t prepared to go higher, and that if I were to be out-bid, so be it, and that’s why I hadn’t bothered to send in my offer in writing by the deadline. The agent responded that the seller hadn’t made a decision yet, and was still waiting on my offer. Ha ha ha… yeah, sure there were higher bids. Nice try, guys.
Learn to Negotiate
Never pay full price for a house, unless it’s a total steal. I’ve yet to see any properties that were worth their advertised price (in my opinion). If you’re watching the property market, waiting for something that you love to come onto in, and/or you have little time in which to shop, this is going to leave you with a dilemma: sellers of newly-listed houses are unlikely to want to drop their advertised prices much, if at all. I know that from personal experience, as a seller. You’re much more likely to get a good deal on a property that has been on the market for a while.
There was one lovely little art-deco place, brick, approximately 60-70 years old that was advertised for $250K, and sat on the market at that price for months and months. I’d had it listed in my ‘favourites’, but never bothered to look at it because of the price, which was simply far too expensive considering the competition it had at the time. As the time for me to secure a contract on a house grew nearer, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the property and enquire as to whether there was any flexibility on the price.
As it was, the owner lived in another township, and had set the price according to what he’d been lead to believe were trends in this region, despite being told otherwise by the local real estate agents. He hadn’t been able to sell it. I don’t know why he didn’t just drop the price. I’d said to the agent over the phone, that in all honesty I thought his asking price of $250K was too high, and that without having seen the property first-hand, I’d put it at maybe $225K, but I might even offer less once I’d taken a look – it would depend. I figured I’d save the agent and myself a lot of time by telling her up-front what I was prepared to pay.
The agent got back to me with the revelation that the poor owner had recently fallen ill, and now needed to sell quickly, and that my suggested price hadn’t put him off him at all (and that would have been my best offer – he may well have taken less).
As luck would have it, because he hadn’t been able to sell the house, he’d decided to rent it out, and the new tenants had been signed to a twelve-month lease. If I’d had the extra cash I would have bought it as an investment property. Sadly, I didn’t get a bargain, he didn’t get a sale, and the house has now been taken off the market.
This is a good example of where you can get a good deal, if you’re fortunate to have the time to watch the market. In my case, I’d forgotten about the dear little house, and missed out on it by all of two weeks. I’ll watch for it to pop up again though.
From my experience, having been looking at properties up to AU$250K, I’ve found that most sellers will decline offers of >$10K less than their asking price, if the property has been listed for less than 1-2 months. You may get a little more flexibility after that, but you’re also running the risk that the house will be sold from under you if you wait too long.
I looked at many houses around the $220-250K range, and with those made an offer on, I was offering $15-25K less that the asking price. Every one of my offers was turned down. At the time of this writing, all but three of these places are still on the market. The owners are making the same mistake I did as a seller by not taking the first, best offer. I feel for them, because as a seller, how on earth do you know what the ‘best’ offer is? Do you take the first offer you get and run the risk of missing out on a better one? One agent said to me “The first offer is often the best one”. This is the gamble you take as a seller.
Similarly as a buyer, you’re taking a gamble that the seller will accept your first offer. Because if they don’t, and you then make a second offer, you’re running the risk that the seller now thinks you’re so keen that they might be able to squeeze a further increase from you, or worse still they think that others will come along and make even better offers again, thus turning your second or third offer down.
Really think about what offer you want to make, and once you’ve made it, stick to it. Be very sure to tell the agent, that the offer you’ve made is your ceiling – that it is literally as high as you can go – it’s all the money you have to spend. Otherwise, you will only get a response of “no”, followed by a request (or other manipulation) to make a higher offer.
You must be prepared to walk away if your first offer is rejected. Do not “um” and “ah…” about it, because that is a dead giveaway that your heart is in the decision, and once you reveal that, you’ve lost all negotiating power. There would have been a half-a-dozen occasions when my offer had been rejected, only for a day or so later to be contacted by the agent with a counter offer from the seller.
For example, one house I really liked was priced at $249K. I’d made an offer of $235K, explaining to the agent that whilst I didn’t want to insult the seller, there was just too much competition on the market, and pointed out a few houses that were cheaper or as expensive but with better features. I also explained that $235K was my absolute ceiling.
My offer was rejected. The agent said the seller was prepared to come down a little more, but then declined to actually give me a figure. I stuck to my offer.
Later that day, the agent contacted me again with a counter-offer of $245K. I rejected it. Personally, dropping the price by a whole $4K was not my idea of a discount, although it did fit my secret budget. I simply told the agent that I’d already been clear that my ceiling was $235K, but thanks anyhow. Two days later, the seller dropped his advertised price to $239K. At this time, that house is still on the market, and I think he’d easily take my $235K today, perhaps less. I actually considered making another offer of $237K on that house, after I’d seen the price drop, but then I found a much better place, and negotiated a great price on it.
Don’t disclose too much of your personal position. For example, don’t tell an agent that you have a limited time in which to buy. Don’t tell them about any conditions you might need the seller to agree to until they’ve accepted your offer. For example, one of my conditions on buying another house was that the house I was selling had to reach settlement (because without this happening I wouldn’t have any money to buy another house).
Once a seller has accepted your offer, they’ll probably not care about such conditions, provided they’re reasonable. However, you don’t want to give the seller any reason to be inflexible with their price – you don’t want them to meet your conditions, but at the cost of not dropping their price as much as you wanted. Get the price-drop first, and then talk about conditions of purchase.
Buy with Your Head, and not Your Heart
I could have bought half a dozen houses, and paid the asking price for all of them, had I bought with my heart. Following, is a summary of what it is to buy with your head, and not your heart. This is in essence what this whole post is about
So, who’s in da house?
|This is part one of a two-part post on selling/buying houses. …at least, it’s myrecent experience of such. I know there’s heaps of info online about this, but when I went looking for it myself, I didn’t see many first-hand accounts, anyone sharing their personal experiences. So, here is mine. Oh, and obviously you’re not to take this as professional advice of any kind.
How/Where to Advertise:
So, how do you get listed on realestate.com.au? By listing with an online agency, such as For Sale For Lease. They gave me three months free advertising on realestate.com.au, domain.com.au and a bunch of other sites – no catches. I was even able to upload all my own photos and write the blurb, and it was very easy to use their interface.
They do make a commission, but it’s all of about $2000, and only owed to them if you sell the house. If you don’t sell in the three-month period, there’s no charge whatsoever. In fact, they offered me the opportunity to continue the advertising after that if I wished, although I suspect that they’d want to take a serious look at why you hadn’t sold by then (perhaps price is too high, for example). This was really excellent value, considering that I’d been quoted between $15-17,000 commission for selling my house from three bricks-and-mortar agencies.
Don’t bother advertising in the paper. I made this mistake. It cost $100s for a puny ad in the local paper, for two editions only, and amounted to exactly zero enquiries. The only market you’re advertising to consists of people who can’t or won’t access the internet. …and seriously, that tiny percentage of punters is not worth the investment.
Advertise on Facebook and other social networks. I don’t believe you can set up a dedicated Facebook page as such, but you can put a link to your property’s page from realestate.com.au on your Facebook profile and have friends share/like it. Social networking media (aka word-of-mouth) is a very powerful tool.
Erect a sign outside the property. A 90x60cm sign (which is enormous) cost me a fraction over $100 to have printed on coreflute (the same material the real estate agents use). I designed the graphic myself in photoshop and dropped the image into the printers. If you need inspiration, just take a look at some of the signs agents use – it’s a no-brainer combination of bright colours and bold fonts. I added a bunch of interior photos too.
If you do go through an agency, don’t get talked into buying one of their customised signs for your house. Their generic signs are free and they’ll mount one outside your property anyhow, but their customised signs (which have your blurb and photos on them) are two-to-three times the price of having one made yourself. Make your own sign. Be sure to add the web site address or property number for any online advertising you’ve arranged so that passers-by can get online later and get more info before they contact you.
Mount the sign on your fence. The local Council informed me that I can put as many such signs on my fence as I like. However, I cannot put signs like that up around the neighbourhood. You can’t even get a permit to do it, and they’re always ripping-up the real estate agent’s signs – even the agencies aren’t supposed to do it.
The one loop-hole to this is that you’re allowed to mount a sign on the footpath outside your property on the day of hosting an open-house. You have to take the sign down in the evening. I chose to host an open-house day every day of the week. You’d best check with your local Council’s rules first. Having a sign outside the house brought in a lot of traffic – much more than I had anticipated.
Make Listing with an Agency Worthwhile:
If you don’t feel courageous enough to advertise/sell by yourself, and decide to go with an agent, here’s some take-it-or-leave-it advice:
Never List as an ‘Exclusive’ Appointment.There are a number of different contract types agencies offer. Check your local Australian Office of Fair Trading (or relative Authority in your country) for information and variations.
An ‘Exclusive’ appointment gives the agency complete ‘ownership’ of the sale of your house, which in short means you can’t list your property with other agencies during the appointment period, and more-importantly it means that if you sell the house privately, you still have to pay the agency a commission. Not likely!
Also, be aware that if you choose an appointment that allows you to advertise with multiple agencies, you may have to pay both of them a commission when you sell! If you want to go this way, be sure to have the two agencies agree in advance to split the commission, and have it put in writing.
When I eventually chose to list with an agent, I chose a ‘sole’ appointment. This type had my property tied to them in an exclusive capacity (can’t list with others), but gave me the option to sell privately and retain the commission.
The key to this being successful is ensuring that you take the details of every person who makes a private enquiry, and disclose them to your agent. In this way you can prove that the buyer approached you first, and is your client. Later, I’ll explain how this ultimately didn’t work out how I’d planned. Nevertheless I would absolutely do it this way again.
Get a Second Opinion. Don’t just list with the first agent you speak with. They will certainly have you do that if they can, bringing all the necessary paperwork with them, ready for you to sign. I would suggest seeing three or four different agencies, at least. Get them to come to the house (obviously), and when they do, give them the grand tour, pointing out all the great features of your property as if you were selling it to them, because in a way you are – you need to them to love it so that they’ll show that enthusiasm to prospective buyers, and they won’t forget to point out all the neat features of your house as they’re giving others the tour.
Before an agent arrives at your house, they will have done some research to estimate the value of your property based on your initial conversation with them (over the phone, probably). They will have also looked at all the recent sales in your area, preferably for houses similar to yours, and factor-in that market trend when estimating a value on your property. It’s very important that you take this information seriously, because at the end of the day it’s the market that determines what your property is worth, and what it will sell for, not what you think it’s worth or even what an agent might think it’s worth.
In my case, this was the most problematic and frustrating hurdle I had to overcome. I had a number of different agencies view my property, show me the recent sales in my area and give me their estimate on its worth. None of them could give me a straight answer. This was because I had a unique property; a unique combination of location (close to the beach and shops etc.), a large block of land zoned ‘ResB’ (can develop units on the block), a large house with many features, an older house but restored with modern facilities. Unfortunately, there hadn’t been sales for properties like mine in the area for years, and the market had changed too much over recent years for any agent to give me a value based on comparisons – there simply weren’t any. Having said this, it was good to hear the different opinions as to what my house might be worth, and how we might go about selling it.
Negotiate the commission. I originally advertised my property at a price that would have had me paying approximately $15-17,000 in commission to an agent. That’s a shit-load of money for a house that I was repeatedly told would “sell itself” (a note on this later). You have the right to negotiate the commission, but be aware that agents hate that, and you may well turn a number of them away, as I discovered.
Don’t let an agent attempt to guilt-trip you into paying the full commission by giving you a sob-story about how they spend hours every day, working on selling your house, including the time it takes to take people through it. Even if this were true (and it may well be) it’s your hard-earned money you’re handing over in commission, and from my own experience, they’re still making $100s per hour for “all their work”. *Waits for the barrage of Agent rebuttal*
Don’t be afraid to list with smaller agencies. Back in the day, you would have been taking some risk by listing with a small, independent agency, because they simply would not have had the time/staff/money to dedicate to the selling of your property. Now, with online advertising through sites like realestate.com.au doing all the work for them, the smallest of agencies has the same marketing power as the largest; buyers looking for houses online don’t even consider which agency the properties in front of them are listed with – they simply trawl through the list of offerings and make an enquiry when they see something they like.
Listing with a smaller agency could save you a big chunk of commission, because some of the bigger franchises actually have to pay the parent company a percentage (or sometimes a flat fee) on each sale, and of course that’s factored-in to the commission you pay. A smaller agency won’t have this overhead. Furthermore, a smaller agency may be more enthusiastic to get your business and therefore more receptive to negotiating the commission.
Never pay for advertising packages. Some of the agencies I investigated were very keen to sell me their advertising packages. There was one agent that opened his folio on my kitchen bench and started talking pricing before I’d even given him a tour of the house. Even the most basic package was in excess of $1000. Agencies make a good living, and they get discounts for bulk advertising online – there’s no reason for the ridiculous fees they charge for their ad packages – it’s nothing more than a way to extract money from you in advance of their commission.
Insist on having an open-house day. Most agencies will be happy enough for you to do this and an agent will attend and take names, and take people through the house for you. Don’t be talked into advertising the open-house date in the paper, unless it’s offered at no charge. Instead, have the agent update the online advertising two-weeks in advance. Plenty of people will see it. If you want multiple open-house days, do it. Agents might frown on this, but only because it means they have to spend another hour of their weekend at your house. I would suggest leaving it two or three weeks between dates.
Also, if on the day, you’re not getting a lot of people through, there must be some reason for it. As a buyer, I’ve been to a number of open-house days and was never alone – there were always people coming and going. On the second ‘official’ open-house I held, no-one came, despite having had favourable numbers visiting the web site and looking at my house online. At the end of the day, I believe price was the main reason for this.
Make Them Work. Some real estate agents I’ve met (and I’ve lost count of how many I’ve met over the past year or so) are fantastic, hard-working individuals. Others are totally lazy. You can find out pretty quickly who’s who, by simply calling them on a weekly basis and asking for an update. If they say to you that they’ve had lots of interest around the office about your house, ask what sort of interest. Ask why that interest hasn’t resulted in visits to the house. Ask why that interest hasn’t resulted in offers.
If they can’t give you detailed feedback from prospective buyers, they’re probably just lying about how much interest there’s really been. After all, if there had been such talk around the office, wouldn’t they have given you a call to tell you about it? If people are interested, but your price is too high, wouldn’t they have given you a call to tell you about it? As his contract with me drew to an end, I had one Agent spin me a story about how he and his team were working on some new marketing strategies for selling my house. When I asked him to arrange a time to present these strategies to me, he never responded. When his contract expired, I listed with another agency.
Preparing the House:
I chose to pack away everything I could and store it in my shed, ready for moving. In that way my house was virtually empty. If you can’t do this, make sure you put away everything you can – you need to make the house look like it’s just been cleaned by a professional cleaner – like you want it to look as if you saw it in a magazine. Hell, if you can afford a professional cleaner, hire one – cleaning/preparing my place was a mammoth undertaking (many thanks go to the beautiful girl who helped me – you really saved me a lot of grief).
Trust me on this, selling a house is all about two things: the right price, and making an impression, and a good chunk of that is subconscious.
People are so picky when they’re going through your house, as I have been when examining houses to buy. And I mean examining – you need to adopt the mindset that your house is being scrutinised. As a buyer, if I see dirt or grime anywhere, or broken things, it makes me wonder if this is an indication of how the house has been treated in general, and it leaves me wondering if that’s just the tip of the iceberg – if there are things that lie unseen, unchecked, unmanaged by the inhabitants/owners that might ultimately end up my problem.
I inspected a fabulous house that I’d considered buying – I seriously loved it. It had a huge lounge room, and king-sized bedrooms, a new kitchen, pantry and bathroom, and oodles of character. But the owner had been desperate to sell, and in his eagerness to get the house ready for market, had rushed a lot of the work. Paint was applied hurriedly, with sometimes only a single coat, or blotches left here-and-there. The tiles in the bathroom hadn’t been given a nice, smooth grout edge where they ended, up the wall. I could write a big list on the things that were left undone like this, and for the most part it was probably just laziness, but it was enough to leave me wondering what else had been rushed, that I couldn’t see. Suffice it to say, I didn’t risk it. I saw a lot of houses with quirks like this. As a buyer, it can be the ‘deal-breaker’.
In preparing your house, vacuum and/or mop every surface. If you have timber or vinyl floors for example, actually mop them – it makes a big difference underfoot. Visitors won’t be conscious of it, but they will be if the floors are dirty. Clean both sides of every window. Again, it’s dirty windows that get noticed. Clean your toilets and sinks/basins. Clean your oven and stove-top – people will actually open your oven to take a peak
We all know that in reality, it’s not going to make much of a difference if someone has a dirty oven – I’d just clean it when I moved in, regardless. However, it’s really important that you do these things. If people come to inspect your house, it’s because they’re already interested in it. If the price it too high, they don’t bother enquiring. Likewise, if they don’t like sound of the house from what they’ve read in your ad, they don’t come. If they’re in your house, they’re interested in it. Once you have them there, the idea is to show them all the great things about the house that you wrote about. The idea isn’t to give them reasons to dislike the house, to have reservations or doubts, to give them leverage in negotiating a price with you – “I really like the house, but it looks like it needs a little work…”
Clean your yard thoroughly. Your house could be fantastic inside, but if you have a half-assembled car on your front lawn, it’s going to really put people off. I have literally continued driving past houses that I wanted to look at, because when I got there the yard looked like a disaster zone. You might not have a very interesting yard, but simply mowing the lawn does wonders. Weed the gardens, trim any hedges/bushes, put tools away. This is really all no-brainer stuff, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it.
Keep it Clean. This is really hard – there could be weeks between visits from buyers, but you have to maintain the property anyhow – you just never know when you’re going to get that call.
Try doing it for over a year! It took me fourteen months to sell my house, and as irony would have it I sold it sight-unseen to a businessman who bought it as an investment property – he’d actually never step foot in my house. Sigh
What’s it Really Worth?
When I first advertised my house, I priced it at figure based on other houses on the market, the uniqueness of my property (which in itself has an intrinsic value), and the range of estimates a number of agents had speculated. I’d been told that I could get anywhere from “high X’s to low Y’s”, so that’s where I priced my house – at the high X’s, with the idea that I’d get a decent return for the investment I’d made over the years, and a quick sale (being priced at the lower end of the professional estimate).
At first I got a lot of enquiries, but no offers. At the time I wasn’t too worried about that, because I did have a unique property, and had received many compliments on it over the years – some years ago I had actually received a letter in the mailbox from someone enquiring if my house was for sale.
I figured that I would sell the house yet – it would just take a little longer. After a month or so I was made an offer of $50K less than my advertised price. I turned it down – it was almost an insult – there was no way I was going to take that much off the price!
That mistake cost about $70K and a year of my life.
The property market collapsed; banks stopped lending money, interest rates rose, house prices plummeted, and with a house priced at a higher end of the market (for my region), I’d missed the boat. I was also competing with new housing estates that had been completed a year or so earlier, that were now struggling to sell too. These houses, although smaller, on smaller plots, blocks away from the beach (where as I was about 100m away) were brand new ‘designer’ homes. Anyone with that sort of money to spend, who didn’t care about location, were buying into these new estates – I simply couldn’t compete with that. It took a whole year after that and a massive price-drop (nearly $100K less than my initial price) before finally selling the house. So much for “This house will sell itself”. I later learned that’s a phrase agents use all too frequently.
In hindsight, I faired ok – the run-off effect of a poor property market meant that as a buyer, I in-turn profited from someone else’s loss, getting a very good deal on a lovely house. The sale price on mine gave me enough to pay off the mortgage, pay the commission, pay the legal fees, pay off my car, and leave me with enough for a reasonable deposit on another house. I have to be grateful for that.
Having said that, the price I got on my property still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, and it has also left me feeling wounded and remorseful. It was such a wonderful house to live in, it’s been really good to me – I just can’t help feeling a loss. I wanted the house to be worth more for its sake. The spirit of the house has been insulted by this terrible property market we’ve had to endure, and now it’s been bought by an investor who will never live in it himself, never enjoy the lifestyle it provides, and ultimately level it for a block of units, I imagine. It makes me want to cry.
…and this is perhaps the most important information I can share with you; that your property is only worth what someone else is prepared to pay for it. What you think, what an agent thinks, makes absolutely no difference. I understood right from the outset that this was the case, but it’s very hard to accept and see it in action, regardless.
I have since spoken with a number of agents about my loss, and what the house eventually sold for, and they can’t believe it either. They believe that I did everything right to sell the house, and even think my pricing (and subsequent price drops over the 12-month period) were realistic, and cannot understand why I hadn’t sold it earlier. At the end of the day, you can do everything right and still come out bruised – that’s the joy of the property market.
…oh, and I nearly forgot: why did I end up paying a commission to an agent, when I sold the house to my own client? Because after I’d turned down the buyer’s first, insane offer, he contacted the agent instead, hoping that they’d talk some sense into me. They didn’t. We eventually agreed on a price-drop, and the agent and I negotiated on a commission, because despite technically not owing them anything, I was so exhausted and emotionally drained from having to endure the past year of living here, I was happy to buy my way out of any more grief involving solicitors.