Feeling like an eternity and three extra lifetimes have passed, The Experimental Expats have finally taken the first baby step towards retirement in Malaysia. Exactly 487 days after being rudely “downsized” from my crappy but reasonably well-paying job, we met with our real estate agent last night to discuss the pricing of our home. Probably one of the most exciting feelings, it’s actually not as easy as it sounds. Using comparably similar houses that sold in the last year (comps) as well as a series of minor mathematical calculations about price per square foot, our agent gave us a recommendation that was within what we’d be hoping to receive. With 41 days to go until we can file our MM2H Visa, the anxiousness is getting intense.
Those of you following our story for the last five months know that the boss (Diane) has laid down the rules about not posting our personal finances and I’m contractually bound to respect this request (Basically, this means our marriage contract may as well be void if I violated these rules). Understanding curiosity and a wish to identify with the story, I offer this link as a general guideline to the Overpriced Land of The Sellers Market otherwise known as The San Francisco Bay Area. I have no idea why this magical land of Utopia trounces the national average for home prices by at least five-fold other than the claim that “we have the jobs”. While statistically true, the “affordability index” is also dead last for all 50 states which means 95% of all buyers are simply living the typical American dream that requires working to the grave and two-hour commutes. And that’s just fine by me.
As previously noted in my earlier post, our real estate agent severely underestimated the dollar figure for how much it costs a seller to make minor landscaping and home repairs. Never mind that our inspections noted thousands of dollars of “work that should probably be done” due to age. We’re going into this market “For Sale As-Is”, baby! Putting aside the extra expenses, our agent did suggest listing in mid-March which allows the first wave of spring sellers to come on the market first. Attracting potential buyers to the area, this becomes a huge advantage since almost every home gets multiple offers after two days of showings .
Sure enough, two houses went up for sale this past weekend and today the sign says “Sale pending”. Strategically speaking, the idea is to price the house very close to the highest average price paid per square foot and receive multiple offers after only one “broker’s tour” (a weekday open house where all the buyer’s real estate agents with interested clients come by) and a weekend “open house” where the public gets a crack at it. Hoping to sit down on Monday, March 23rd and review offers, we’re told the process usually involves a “counter-offer” where the seller gets to jack up the price even more under the premise that there’s a “bidding war”.
Arriving ten minutes early to our house as we were finishing dinner, our agent sat down on one of the few pieces of furniture we’re allowed to keep as part of the staging. Jumping right in, we reviewed the mounds of paperwork we needed to sign in the country’s most litigious state. Having enacted dozens of new rules since the housing debacle that almost ruined the entire world’s economy, California enacted more laws than any state, mostly designed to protect the real estate agent. After the boring stuff, she told us her suggested pricing range. As expected, Diane opted for a number in the high-end of and I voted for a more conservative number. Chinese versus Jewish values at work. In the end, we compromised and settled for an even number halfway in the range.
Unfortunately, the vendors are still coming in droves and the checkbook keeps getting lighter so the pricing meeting was a ray of sunshine in a field of debits. Seller’s commissions and fees from the title company and the county rip into the actual settlement figure so much it makes you wonder why everyone wouldn’t choose real estate agent as a career. (Personally, I like steady paychecks better than commissions). After the window washers finish today, the carpet cleaners come next followed by the house cleaner and the grout guy. On Tuesday, the stager kicks me out for a day and does whatever she does for her ridiculous fee. Returning to what looks like a new house, the photographer comes next Thursday and the property officially gets listed.
Living on pins and needles is almost impossible and you can’t so much as pee in your own house without wiping down the toilet seat and floor to make sure it’s in “show condition” so we’re hoping one broker’s tour and a weekend of open house showings gets us enough offers to begin contract talks. Hopefully, we can close escrow by the end of April. As you probably know, we can’t file for our MM2H visa until late April after my 50th birthday and in this crazy land of too much money and credit, our home should be sold by that point.
Leaving the fun part for the end, we have not yet determined when or where we intend to actually leave for Malaysia. Having met our new friends who have already filed, we’re hoping to negotiate an extra month in the house and then drive the car to Diane’s relatives with all our possessions in two suitcases. Attempting to wait as long as possible so the visa application has time to pass it’s “selected stage”, we have no future address and no ties other than our new friends. But with cash in the bank from the sale of our beautiful old house, we won’t have to backpack and stay at youth hostels,
Please bear with us through the next two or there months as we find our way through the final stages and eventually turn the expat blog into a blog about real expats. Stay tuned for pictures of what you get from “house staging” and thanks to everyone for supporting the blog.
Calling all expats: We are still looking for ideas on what to do during our homeless period. Would you just go before the visa is approved or would you impose on relatives as long as possible?
Coming next week:
Our house is staged and ready for listing