Saturday, May 5, 2012

House For Sale

We've put so much into this house so it hurts to admit, but we're selling.  Niall has a great job opportunity up in Scotland, so we're relocating.  At nine months pregnant, so it seemed like the perfect time to sell.

I've known for a while we might have to move, so I read and watched as much as I could about selling houses.   We had a couple of agents come and look at the house to get an idea on commission, etc.   We decided to try selling our house ourselves using an online agent, rather than a local estate agent.  We were open to using a local agent if the online one didn't work.

We ended up using because they allowed us to pay monthly and got us listed on all the major property sites (including rightmove and findaproperty which is like MLS in the US.)  They arranged the viewings for us, handled negotiations and were reasonably priced.  Using them saved us thousands of pounds.  (The local agents charge between 1.5%-4% of the selling price.)

We paid extra to get a sign and put it up ourselves.  (I had to call a sign company for help, but basically we drilled three holes in the sign, drilled it into a baton with small screws and washers.)  Our neighbor still had his sale sign from a year ago.  He let us take it off his hands and we used his baton and fixings.

I used existing holes in our front wall, put in some plugs and drilled the screws into the wall.  I know we got at least one viewing from the sign and it let the neighbors know we're moving.

Before putting the property on the market we made a list of all the things that needed to be fixed in the house and started doing things one by one.  Most things we could do ourselves, but for a few we hired professionals.  (A handyman for a few bits and pieces and an electrician to install fire alarms and fix a light.)

We tried to improve the curb appeal.  Removed all the weeds, power washed the front, had a handyman freshen up the paint, resealed the front door tiles and washed the windows.

We wanted to put a double bed in the loft room to show how much space there is.  (I kept reading that having furniture in a room is better than not.)  Since we didn't have an extra bed, I used this as guidance.

We got 15 moving boxes from a local company and used them to declutter the house.  I took down all the personal photos (except two Niall made me keep up, both of him!), religious items, and things we wouldn't use over the next few months and put them in the boxes.  We (meaning not me) took all to the loft and used them as a base for a double bed, covering them with a duvet.  We put the air mattress on top and made the bed.  It looks so comfortable every time I'm up there I want to lay on it!  (See the boxes?)  But it's not the most stable of places.

We did market research on our street (luckily most of the houses are fairly similar so it's fairly easy to get a valuation) and checked with local agents to make sure our valuation was on key.  

Through the online realtor we paid to have someone prepare an EPC report and floorplan.  We took several rounds of photos trying to get the best light.  I made a two sided flyer and had it printed through  It was £26 for 50 copies, about 45 too many.  Originally I thought we'd give them to potential buyers that viewed the house and put them outside the house for any curious people passing.  (But it turns out it's hard to find the outdoor brochure boxes in the UK!)

Luckily people started calling for viewings really soon after we put the house up for sale.  The plan has been to keep the house clean so it wasn't too much work to get things ready.  Just before each showing we mopped, vacumed and tidied, and then stashed away the bathroom rug, garbage cans and any other items.  Niall handled the viewings, alone.  We'd make ourselves scarce, going for a walk or a drive and then Niall called when the viewings finished.  

Within a week we got an offer we were happy with.  We're keeping our fingers crossed that the sale goes through and (so far) keeping the house on the market until contracts are exchanged.

Back Yard (Garden) Clean-up

Folks, this is nothing short of a miracle.  Here's the garden as it currently looks.  It's finally decent!

I've had big plans for our back garden.  In my scenario the garage would go, so would the pavement.  Here's the backyard about a year ago.

My plan was to put in a long garage door (there's back lane access and off street parking, even if unused by us, would be a selling point in the future), lay a nice big paving stone patio and build a covered pergola. I spent the winter collecting ideas on pinterest

But, things changed and we needed to sell our home.  In speaking with estate agents and others, we wouldn't recoup money invested on my proposed back yard makeover (it would cost a few thousand at least), so we did a modified version.

It has been a process, beginning last year.  It started with removing the satellite dish and some wires running from the garage into the house.  And getting a lawn mower and some other gardening tools.  Can you see how crazy overgrown the apple tree is?

With all the house construction the backyard has been a dumping ground sometimes.

And the tree and surrounding area a nightmare.

The apple tree we haven't learned how to handle (yet), and with a bumper crop of apples there were loads left rotting on top of the garage roof through the winter.

For Christmas we got the tree pruned by a tree surgeon.  It was one of the best Christmas presents!  The garage isn't great (the roof is corrugated plastic) and with a very wet winter  and a few major cracks and holes everything inside was rusted and ruined.  So a few weeks ago we decided to put in some effort.  Can you see the garage full of, erm, stuff?

How about now?

We borrowed a power washer from a friend.  People, the secret to yard work in the UK is a power washer.  I could NOT believe what a change it made to the back pavement.  I was sure I would be using brick acid and scrubbing on my (very pregnant) hands and knees.  But Niall managed to work wonders.  Sorry for the glare, but here's Niall in action.

I wanted to show how much difference the power washer made, but this picture doesn't show it.

Maybe this one does?

After cleaning the pavement (it took about two days), some missionaries from church kindly volunteered to come over and help us.  For six long hours we cleaned out the garage (four trips to the dump with our little car loaded with dirty garage junk.)

I never got a very good picture, but in the back corner there was an open compost pile that has been an ongoing eyesore.  Here's a photo from before we replaced the back gate.

Then Niall and the missionaries worked on clearing the compost pile. I guess yard work is a lot of fun for a toddler.

I bought a composting bin from the Council (£5, thank you Cardiff Council) and we used some gravel to fill in the area (some we picked picked up for free, the rest we purchased.)

We had a handyman make some repairs to the garage (replace some rotten wood, repair some broken roof panels), did some painting and had a garage door repair team fix the garage door.  (Our garage door is an up and over.  A replacement door was in the region of £500, so we were very happy the repair guys could get it working again!)  A little girl was pretty excited about the change.

Niall painted the windows and was proud enough he took a photo in the process.

It's not perfect, but the back garden looks much nicer and is pretty safe for toddler play.  An almost empty garage has been a bonus and it turned the backyard/garden from a selling liability to a nice little asset.

The total cost for the garden makeover this Spring was about a week of work and came in under 500 pounds.  (Assuming the increased water bill from the power washer doesn't kill us.)

Compost Bin:  £5
Paint:  £5 (on clearance from Homebase, bought months ago!)
Tree Surgeon: £120
Handyman (including supplies):  £150
Garage Door Repair:  £85
New Garage Door Lock:  £17
Pizza for missionaries: £30
Gravel:  £11

Total:  £423