7 Steps for a Successful Sale by Owner

fsboNo, we are not giving up and selling our house.

After putting an offer on our current money pit we started the process of selling our condo so that we could afford to renovate our new home.  We decided to sell it ourselves and were so glad that we did because we needed every cent we could get.

We thought others out there would benefit from our experience.

  1. The first thing you need to do is get your home in shape to show to prospective buyers.  My advice is to watch a bunch of episodes of HGTV’s Designed to Sell.  The show covers how to upgrade the look of your home on a budget.  A little paint and a lot of organization will go a long way.  When you take photos of your home make sure you removed clutter.  All those nik-naks you love will just make your home look smaller, so box them up and store them in the closet or better in a storage facility.  When we had an open house we would put stuff in our car.  There are apps that allow you to take panoramic photos of a whole room so they look spacious.
  2. Create a blog on WordPress or some other free blogging service.  You can present all the information that potential buyers need in a clean efficient manner.  Things like taxes, utilities, maintenance fees and you can even feature highlights of your neighborhood.
  3. List your home in MLS.  All the real estate websites feed off of MLS.  You need to do this through a realtor service.  We used Clickit Realty and it cost about $500 for 6 months.
  4. Clear out during the open house.  If you have kids or dogs, get them out of the house while one person hosts the open house.  The last thing you need is your pet growling at prospective buyers or worse your child telling them she saw a cockroach the other day.  We once went to an open house where the owner was in the front room laying on the sofa apparently sick.  UNCOMFORTABLE.
  5. Curb appeal.  Even if you live in a condo make sure the hallway or entryway is clean and smells good.  Pick up any trash in the front of the building.
  6. Clean your home.  Really clean your home.  I’m talking q-tip detailed car clean. You should give your home a complete once over before your first open house and then as needed.
  7. Price your home accurately.  Check out real estate in your area and make sure your property is not listed too high or too low.

The extension takes shape

Partially due to weather and partially due to working through structural details we’ve had a number of starts and stops with our extension over the past 2 months. In November, I posted about the pouring of the extension’s concrete foundation walls. These were completed in December and we have built up CMU block walls for the 1st floor and poured the cement slab for the floor of our future master bedroom.

12 14 12 038

While most of this was complete in December we ran into unexpected delays with the structural work that was only resolved this week. Our extension requires the removal of the rear brick wall on the first and second floors of the building. This is a lot of brick, one large container full, and some civil engineering was required to safely support the remaining 12,000 lbs of brick in the 3rd floor wall.

The original plan was to use 16 foot steel channels anchored to the rear wall and supported by the brick in the party walls shared with our neighbors. Unfortunately, after opening up the walls in December we discovered they are only 2 bricks wide instead of the assumed 6. Two bricks are not enough to support the wall so back to the drawing board we went and after a few rounds with our civil engineer we have a new solution.

The solution involves 2 long steel channels anchored into the brick of both party walls and 2 channels running the width of our building on either side of the 3rd floor brick wall with large bolts running through the wall to anchor it. It was quite an install process involving welders, epoxy pins and large drills but it’s done and we have happily moved forward with framing out the extension and installing the subfloors for our kitchen extension and terraces.

channels and rear wall

Here is the right party wall channel and the 2 rear wall channels. Note the metal plate welded to the underside of the channels to provide additional support for the brick wall.

before channel install

Here is the kitchen before the final channels were installed. In the background you can see the framing of our kitchen’s future door and window openings. In the foreground there are jacks and temporary beams in place to support the brick wall while the channels are installed.

back parlor floor

Here is what the room looked like when we first purchased the house. Seems like that was over a year ago. Oh wait… it was over a year ago.


Thanks to iOS 6 and the panoramic photo feature here is the left and right channels as well as the ones attached to the 3rd floor rear wall. We were able to keep most of the ceiling shown in the before photo.

This was by far the most exhausting and challenging part of our project and has held up the progress for about 6 weeks. If you’re ever planning a similar project be sure to double check the party wall size. Had we done this last summer when planning the project we would probably be moving in now.

What to consider when refinishing floors.

We recently visited The Merchant’s House museum and can’t believe we’ve lived in NYC all this time and did not know about this house.  If you are renovating an old row house, we would recommend you see this piece of history.  It is one of the only houses (open to the public) that has been changed very little since it was owned by the family that purchased it back in 1832–before the days of Landmark Preservation Commission.  One very interesting thing we learned was that typically houses at that time had basic wood flooring laid down (rather than detailed high-quality wood flooring) because the fashion at that time (and symbol of wealth) was to carpet from wall to wall.  This struck me as funny since everyone fusses about original wood floors in older houses.  Here is a photo of the carpet from the Merchant’s House (it is newish but an exact reproduction of the original).

Merchant House Museum 016

Another interesting tidbit we learned was that the family room, where much of their time was spent, (not to be confused with the formal parlor room, which was for entertaining) was located on the garden level next to the kitchen.

Anyway, back to our reality:  One of the very first things we did after closing on the house was to go over and rip up the linoleum to see what was underneath. The back of the parlor floor (which will be the kitchen) had the best floors in the house with only one thin layer of linoleum.

parlor floor back

The rest of the parlor floor had mostly been stripped when we looked at the house but still had layers of a black paper-like substance that was used as an adhesive (luckily not asbestos – it was tested).

parlor facing south

Our contractor had some major concerns about how difficult it would be to remove and what the floors would look like after.  So we priced out new flooring and decided that we liked the old weathered look after all!  Actually, we do like the look of older flooring and we were a little disappointed that there was not wide planks–but you get what you get.  We were told the floors were pine sub-flooring in the front and oak finished flooring in the back (second photo above). When we researched pine, the pictures we saw were finished in a light golden color when stripped down to its natural color as in the photo below.

pine floors

Our contractor did a test patch to see how it would look sanded.  We were happy with the condition of the floor although we still have to decide if we want to put a filler in the cracks.  It was unexpected that the floors were so amber/cherry colored (there is no stain on it here).  We are not a big fan of red coloring in floors.  After a little research we learned that gloss oil-based polyurethane, like that used by the contractor, actually adds a slight amber color to the floors.

floor sample

We did a little more research and found out that water-based finishes do not add an amber color to wood and are less likely to darken or turn yellow over time.   We intend to use a product called Bona Traffic (or a similar brand like Basic Coatings) that is a water-based polyurethane finish in a matt or satin finish.  Other benefits include the fact that it typically has half as much VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) content than the traditional oil-based polyurethane finishes, it dries faster and is easier to clean when mistakes happen.   Some sources say it is not as durable and point out that it requires 2 or 3 coatings (which negates the fact that it dries faster I guess).  We like the pros more than we are concerned about the cons.  Since this product is more expensive, make sure you note its use in your original bid for contract–or else your contractor may charge you extra.