If there's one thing for anyone to learn about publishing anything online, especially to a crowd of devoted (okay, in my case, maybe it's more like a I'll-read-what-he-has-to-say-if-The-Walking-Dead-is-a-repeat-tonight kinda devotion) readers comprised mostly of personal friends, it's to NOT bring up sensitive topics which might alienate some of them.
Good thing I'm a slow learner or else I wouldn't have anything to talk about this week.
Real-estate, huh? What a pile of grade "Z" Farmer Bob's pig snout and anuses bah-loney. No matter how you look at it or from whichever side you're playing it, it's a silly, sometimes nauseating little game. These scenarios sound familiar to anyone? Wait, so the buyers want all the garden gnomes to be included but they want all the sod torn up by when? Friday?! And my personal favourite: You know, they inflate the list price because they expect people will barter down. They're asking $350,000? We'll offer fifty thousand and go from there.
When did real-estate deals turn into a near-choreographed scuff-kneed ballet, where negotiations are nothing but fluff and filler until the final scene unfolds and both players exit the stage feeling vaguely satisfied at how things turned out, yet somewhat cheapened from selling out their deepest desires just in the hopes of getting it done. You say you've had nothing but super positive home selling and/or buying experiences? I say you lie, and I'm telling your mother. No matter how good a deal is finalized, there's always something that remains unsettled in your gut that inevitably bubbles back up in the form of unspoken doubts. Could I have counter-offered a bit less and saved a couple thousand clams? Sure it was cheaper than other places, but it's gonna cost me a few doubloons to bring it up to code. Should I be worried it's unclear whether I'm buying a boat or a house?
And fer cryin' out loud, who decided that a home's value will typically increase year after year? Does this make any sense to anyone? I may be too simple minded to understand the subtleties of monetary appreciation, but if something, like a home, is constantly being subjected to relentless wear and tear from outside elements (there are four main ones; rain, snow, wind, and rainbow skittles) and inside elements (also four; kids, adults, pets, rainbow skittles) with little to no added upgrades, then shouldn't the value of said home plummet like my stock portfolio? Wait, I'll buy on margin! Nope, at some point in this capitalist system it was generally agreed upon that homes would (in steady economic times, of course) just magically increase in value, often surpassing the rate of inflation by, oh, lots.
And why is that, you might ask?
Well, in my ever so humble opinion, people just feel entitled to getting money for nothing, or at least some kind of bonus for our trouble and to keep us coming back. Heck, we've all been there. We expect our Happy Meals to come with all the free ketchup we'd ever want. We expect free delivery to our homes if we spend a few hundred bucks on furniture. We all dance like drunken monkeys when taxes are lowered, yet we bitch and moan when that means government programs and services are reduced and cut outright. It's programmed into our social subconcious; we feel entitled to free money.
So, some clever individuals got together, exchanged grandmothers' recipes for lemon spongecake, and ultimately decided that homes would inherently increase in value. What? Some meek, squirrely kinda guy waaaaay in the back row would then ask But how can that be? Slick, silver-tongued salesmen that they were, these magnates of monetary mindfulness would mask the questionability of the inflated prices with nonsensical yet ear-tickling musings, sayings like this:
As more people desire moving to a particular area, home values there will increase.
Bull-pucky. You know what happens when places get crowded? Just that. Traffic increases, living areas are reduced to make room for fresh idiots, curious odors become rampant. Maybe it's just my anti-socialism seeping through, but an influx of people makes me want to get out of there in a hurry.
But if people want to move to an area, your home should fetch a higher resale value to interested buyers.
Horse-pucky. For decades on end, new homes were continuously being built, negating any such supply vs demand arguments. Some annoying gits would argue that builders were unable to keep up with demand for new houses at times, so existing houses would increase in value. Okay, that's economics 101, no argument there. But, if people were selling their homes to newcomers, then where would they live? They weren't selling their homes for profit then moving into cardboard boxes, you can bet on that. That would then suggest new homes being built all the time.
But as a house ages and settles it gains character and stuff, like a, uh, fine wine.
Gopher-pucky. The roof shingles are curling up, there are new holes in the walls, and the hardwood looks like it plays host to an NBA game every week.
Yeah, but don't you want to sell your home for more money?
Okay, I agree. Gimme free money!
Cue the real-estate agents. Now, don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against real-estate professionals themselves. Heck, I've even got a couple friends who are real-estate brokers, and I'm not just saying that to be more popular like when I falsely claim I've got black friends so I can boost my street cred. BTW, not my fault regarding befriending ethnic groups; northern rural Alberta doesn't quite have the same demographic variety as the big cities down south.
It's the whole process of going through real-estate companies to buy or sell properties that leaves me feeling a little icky. At the time of this posting, my wife and I (and the little guy, he's part owner. He pays us in lint and crumbs he finds in the couches) just put our house up as an eligible bachelor on the housing market and, yes, we've hired a real-estate agent to help sell it.
Over the years we've bought and sold three other properties, all of which were done through a real-estate brokerage, which is what caused me to seriously contemplate selling our place myself this time around. Now, to my realtor friends out there (none of whom have ever lived in the same communities as us so we never worked with them so I can't attest to their methods and such), our brokerage experiences have never actually been bad per se, but they certainly never left us feeling like we got our money's worth when considering the outrageous commissions realtors are privy to earning.
So, I looked into options.
1. We could put up one of those shitty "For Sale By Owner" generic black and red plastic signs on my lawn that you can buy at your local hardware store, then patiently sit in my living room picking my nose, waiting for nobody to show up. Ever.
2. We could list on the MLS system (for those of you that don't know what MLS is, you must lead an even more sheltered life than me. Just know that it is wholly owned by the Canadian Real Estate Board) for a flat fee with promising sites like listmenow.ca to avoid traditional realtor fees. Now, living in a small town where people outnumber moose only by a ratio of 2:1, I'd be taking a chance with my property. Few people, even fewer interested buyers. When you list on one of these flat-fee discount online brokerages, you run the danger of alienating real-estate brokers who might be trying to bring you interested buyers if you aren't offering any kind of decent incentive commission, sort of like a finder's fee. Interested buyers will typically want to work with a realtor to find them suitable homes to look at. After all, realtors traditionally get their fees from sellers, so it doesn't cost a prospective buyer a single penny to have a professional working for them. Sadly, I've been reading accounts of people who have tried doing the flat-fee mls listing thing, only to have good reason to believe their local realtors were keeping prospective buyers from them since seller commission payouts weren't up to par. Some individuals even spoke of getting calls from realtors asking about commission rates given as finder fees, only to never hear from them again. There are also numerous cases where, after months of fruitless flat-fee listings with no interested buyers, people then hired local realty firms to represent their properties, resulting in numerous showings booked immediately afterwards. Fishy, fishy. Anyway, we live in a small town with a limited buyer pool; I can't afford to make enemies or we'll never sell. So, that's out.
3. We could hire a professional real-estate broker to run the show. Real estate boards make it impossible to negotiate commissions, so it's a take-it-or-leave-it kind of affair. All I can do is shake my finger in a firm but non-threatening manner as if to convey to our realtor that I want fair value for the obscene commission he'll receive should he manage to sell our home. Yeah. Feel the intimidation of my wagging finger, Mr. Realtor. Feeeel it.
4. We could set fire to all the other properties for sale in town so we'd ultimately be the only option in the area for prospective buyers. And with all those listed homeowners staring at piles of ash where their homes used to stand, we'd have ample interested buyers coming to our door with generous offers so they wouldn't have to wait two years for an insurance-funded rebuild. And, not to boast, but we have a nice place that anyone will love, so it's win-win, really.
Of course, we went with option number 3. I'm not saying I don't have any misgivings, but for our situation right now, it's clearly the best way to go. My and my wife's schedule is going to get weird in the next few months, so leaving this whole home-selling-thing to someone we can trust is vital right now. Sure, we'll be shelling out thousands of dollars in commissions, but hopefully our realtor will put some of that towards advertising costs, hosting open houses, and maybe get a gold tooth. I think he could pull it off. And though I might just be trying to rationalize it to sleep better at night, I remind myself that this realtor is the same guy we hired to show us countless properties years ago when we were prospective buyers to the community, where he was infinitely patient and very accommodating, and we didn't pay him a cent then.
Only time will tell if we feel like we're getting fair value for our real-estate experience this time. We've got a few months of breathing room at this point, so no rush for now. Still, I'm gonna go check on my supply of matches and lighter fluid, just in case.