How I Prepared for My Condo Sale

How to Sell Your HomeFor most of this year’s summer months, I’ve been in the midst of selling my condo. From hiccups with neighbors to uneducated demands during the home inspection, there have been a lot of bumps in the road but I’m happy to say that we’re in the final stretch. Next Thursday, July 25th, I should know for sure whether or not the buyers’ mortgage commitment has been set. Once that happens, it’s a smooth ride to closing for August 9th.

It’s been nearly a month since I posted that I received an offer for $30,000 over asking price. While the market in Boston has truly been gangbusters as I mentioned in that post, I think there are a few more reasons why I was able to fetch such an awesome price for my condo. For me, it came down to the following actions that ensured I had my condo as ready as possible when it came onto the market:

Mentally Prepare for the Selling Game

Above all, before you decide to sell (or even buy), make sure your head is in it for the correct reasons. No matter if it’s a buyers’ market, sellers’ market or something in between, there shouldn’t be an external factor dictating your decision.

For me, this was a decision I have been contemplating for months now (obviously, not something I had shared here!). The biggest factor had become my lack of joy with the neighbors. I no longer felt comfortable, even in a home that I love and worked so hard to have/renovate/make mine. What began with them vandalizing my brand new BMW morphed into a complete lack of common courtesy and the neighborhood-like vibe I thought existed when I moved there three years ago.

I’ve also decided that I want to move closer to the city (I’m subway accessible, but it’s more North of the downtown area than I’d now like). All of these factors combined with my lack of a desire to become a landlord led me to decide that I was ready to put my place on the market.

Educate Yourself

Once I knew I wanted to sell, I dove head-first into learning everything I could about selling a home. I vetted multiple realtors, brushed up on what was happening in the local market, and even visited some open houses to get a feel for what was out there. Another important learning piece was understanding all of the costs associated with selling.

As a home buyer, you don’t have to pay a commission to your realtor–that is covered by the seller, which is now me. I also have to pay some closing costs (tax to the city, lawyer fees, fire department inspection, etc.). While these closing fees aren’t nearly what the buyer will pay, it was still an additional ~$2,500 that needed to be factored into my planning.

Being an educated client has helped me with my realtor as well. He’s able to focus less on the “sales” aspect with me because he knows I’m an educated person, so there’s less gray and much more black and white conversation. This is invaluable to me as I hate when someone attempts to talk circles around me; especially when any selling is involved. We have a mutual respect and understanding that has helped navigate all the bumps in the road along the way and there’s not much I’d trade for that peace of mind during this process!

Don’t Get Greedy

Pricing your home can be an emotional time, but it’s important to be objective and realistic. It’s easy to understand that if you price too high you’ll run the risk of lowering it and that if you price too low you’ll risk losing money. The actual reality of the pricing strategy is far more complicated.

We spent three days fully reviewing the area comps, discussing possible options, and critically evaluating my condo before setting a price. Of course I had my own preconceived notions about how my property should be valued, but I’m thankful that I had the strength and maturity to trust my realtor’s expertise.

When we set the price, it was something everyone was comfortable with. The proof in the pudding (that I had done this correctly) was having 7 offers–including three over-asking–come rolling in within three days of listing. Take your time to fully investigate options, listen to the experts, and check your emotions at the door when you’re deciding on what price to sell your place for. Trust me, your bank account will thank you later.  :)

Clean, Stage, Shine

The name of this blog, The Happy Homeowner, is right on the money when describing how much I love being a homeowner. I’m an HGTV junkie (even though I don’t have cable…haha!) who appreciates DIY projects, upgrades, renovations, and generally anything that comes with the process of making a house a home. Needless to say, my place was in great shape for listing because I’d spent the past three years improving and upgrading things and creating a cosmetic, homey feel that usually involved anyone who walked in the door uttering a few renditions of “Wow!” “This place is amazing!” “Can you be my decorator?” :)

I had to laugh when my realtor brought over a stager before the photo session (part of his services that are free to any seller!) and she just sat down in the living room sort of stunned as she explained she couldn’t find anything I needed to change–”Not even a book is out of place; How did you learn how to do this?!” We exchanged some warm fuzzies about our mutual love of decorating and design and she eventually headed on her way. My realtor even joked about printing up some business cards for me before the open house.

I’m a firm believer that my attention to detail is what set my home apart from the other comparable properties in the area. I had that “wow” factor that can only come from appreciating the extra steps that can mean all the difference in selling your house and it languishing on the market. Here’s a quick checklist for those who might not be fellow HGTV junkies:

  • Clean ALL the things!!! Yep, shout out to Hyperbole and a Half :)
  • Re-paint where necessary. I had already changed my bright blue living room walls to a softer, lighter gray in preparation for the photos/open house–you want to make sure you have neutral colors that can appeal to anyone.
  • Update fixtures, switch plates, and knobs. I had already done this years ago, but I know that this can be a quick, cheap upgrade that can mean the difference for potential buyers.
  • De-clutter and de-personalize. The goal here is that you want the buyer to be able to picture themselves in the home. It’s quite hard to do that with all those family photos of YOUR family around so pack them up. Consider it a head-start on your eventual moving process. :)
  • Pay attention to details. When it’s time to sell your home, the devil is in the details. Walk around and look at your place as if you were going to buy it–what’s out of place? What doesn’t feel right? Is there mold/mildew in the bathrooms? You’d be surprised what small things to you could end up being a big thing to a buyer–especially a first-time buyer!


Have you ever sold a home? What did you do to prep for the sale?

What Price Would You Pay to Have it All?

Having Balance in LifeThe car, the house, the wardrobe. The exotic vacations, the gorgeous jewelry, the memberships to exclusive clubs.

These are just some of the riches society says you can have if you work hard enough; the rewards for years of blood, sweat, and tears spent to fulfill your career and success aspirations. If you believe it, you can achieve it. If you work your tail off, the world’s awash with luxuries and possibilities.

The thing is, I’m not “buying” it anymore

If you re-read those lists above, you might notice that they’re filled with material objects. And sure, those things are nice and would certainly allow for some pretty epic life experiences. But what about your interpersonal relationships? What about having love and compassion in your life? What about your sense of self and your dreams that entail much more than what you own?

As I work through my latest phase of personal development, I’m beginning to see ever more clearly that life is wrought with trade-offs. Some of them, such as working hard to keep up with materialistic desires in lieu of cultivating a more balanced life, I’ve certainly fallen victim to in the past. Now as I move forward, I’m taking a much different approach because I’m learning that having all of these things comes at a price I’m just not willing to pay for the rest of my life.

Having it All (as Society Defines it) is Detrimentally Stressful

We’ve all heard stories of the person who “had it all,” yet was profoundly sad or lonely or miserable (maybe all of the above!). We’ve also watched as recent opinions have flown regarding the debate about working mothers and the sacrifices they make to balance a family, be successful at work, and somehow keep their sanity. As society begins to dictate more and more that we are defined by our external success, it can be difficult to remember that the price of these achievements can often be the source of unbearable stress, confusion, and conflict.

If you’re constantly working to the point that you’re not spending quality time with your family/friends, that you’re missing the little joys in day-to-day living, and you’re literally watching your life pass you by, are you really living?

Having it All Comes with a High Price Tag

The more I hone my ability to decide what I truly want out of life and then take action to make it a reality, the more I realize that what I crave most is a full, balanced life. Yes, I do need money to pay my bills and travel because it’s a passion of mine, but I don’t need to be obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder or bringing in obscene amounts of money.

What I need is to focus on building myself from the inside out…and money can’t buy that. Money can’t buy me love, it can’t buy me friends, and it can’t buy my dreams. If I set my sights too much on money and achievement, the prices I pay might include the deterioration of my health and physical body, a lack of genuine interaction with other people, and the opportunity to miss out on the things in life that truly matter (such as good times spent with people, lazy days aimed at recharging the batteries, and relishing in the joy that is a day where there’s absolutely nothing planned).

Therefore, moving forward, I’ll be more focused on a balanced approach to wellness. My time will be spent on a variety of tasks and responsibilities that will nurture my mind, body, and soul–not just the vague, empty notion that I want “it all” in the terms society dictates.

The funny thing is, I have a feeling that I indeed will end up having it all–it’s just going to be in a way that works for what I want and the person I want to be. After all, why try to keep up with the Jones when they’re unhappy, miserable people under all that glitz and glamor?

What does “Having it All” mean to you?

Where My Goals At: 2013 Q2 Recap

Goal SettingI’m not sure where to even start this post, but I feel like there’s no time like the present to dig into my progress with this year’s goals. Of course, the majority of these have changed or are changing given all of the recent things happening but I feel it’s necessary to take some time to analyze what’s going well and what can be updated as we move into the second half of 2013 (seriously, where is this year going?!).

One of the biggest reasons I’m excited to write this post is that even though things are changing drastically and there are plenty more ‘misses’ than there are ‘hits’ with my goals right now, I refuse to make excuses about why things aren’t the way I’d hoped when I wrote this list in December and January. I’m dead set on not falling into any financial or emotional traps that could delay my progress, and I’m staying true to my theory that financial freedom doesn’t just happen; it’s earned.

Luckily, things on the money front have been stable and consistent. Where things took a bit of a nose dive are in the personal and household departments but I’m confident the recent things I’ve added to my life to make it healthier and more balanced are going to pull it all together before the year ends.

Without further adieu, the good, the bad….and the ugly…  :)

My 2013 Personal, Financial and Household Goals:

2013 Financial, Personal and Household Goals

Financial Goals:

  • Save $1,200/month in long-term savings: CHECK. I’m still making this goal, but I will need to step it up a bit for the remainder of the year. I’ve saved $3,000 in January, $1,310 in February, $2,500 in March, $1,300 in April, $1,490 in May, and $3,025 in June.
  • Double miscellaneous monthly income: CHECK. I’m doing alright with this–even with the crazy month that June was, I still am hovering at very respectable numbers for my freelancing income. Considering March’s monster sum of $10,000, I would like to ramp up my efforts in the coming months to see if I can break the $10K mark again. 
  • Have at least one month where extra income is $1K+  CHECK. So far, every single month has been well over $1K. Here’s to hoping this continues!
  • Fully fund trips to Kauai and Dubai. CHECK. Both of these trips were incredible. You can view my photo recap of Dubai and read about how I ended up spending an additional $3K to stay in Hawaii longer with my BF since we were having an epic vacation. The good news is all of this fit into the budget and it didn’t set back any of my savings goals.


Personal Goals

  • Run at least 30 miles/week. FAIL. Well, I was on track with this a few months ago, then I had a heart attack last month. Needless to say, this is at a standstill right now, although I was cleared to “jog” last Friday (clearly, my doctor doesn’t know me very well). This is now going to be replaced with the goals listed next and I will continue to run whenever I can, but I’m not going to put so much focus on counting the miles.
  • Attend yoga and meditation weekly. NEW GOAL. I’m now attending yoga classes every Friday morning, meditation every Wednesday night, and I’ll be volunteering at a friend’s yoga studio once/month to earn more free classes that will be sprinkled into the mix. These are possibly two of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, and they are already having a hugely positive impact on how I feel, how I manage my stress, and how I grow from the recent challenges I’m facing. I know in my heart that this is a life-long change that couldn’t be more welcome!
  • Complete another ultra marathon. AMENDED. Clearly, no ultramarathon is happening this year. But, I am signed up for the Disney Dopey Challenge in January (48.6 miles in 4 days), and I’m signed up for a regular marathon in October. I won’t be “racing” that marathon, but I do hope everything continues to improve with my health so I’m able to finish it.
  • Complete Q&A a day project. FAIL. I’m abandoning this goal in lieu of the next one…
  • Complete a daily gratitude journal entry. NEW GOAL. Part of what helps me triumph over the struggles and challenges I’m faced with is that I’m a genuinely happy, positive person. I’ve decided to celebrate that which I have instead of dwelling on what I don’t have in order to keep my positive outlook on life intact. This simple exercise will pretty much ensure I’m able to keep trucking along. And when I have a bad day, I’ll certainly be reviewing the past entries!
  • Improve blog stats. IN PROGRESS. I still want 2013 to be the year of The Happy Homeowner, but I need to get my groove back with blogging. With that will come an immediate need to work on further developing this blog. I’m looking to increase my Twitter followers, RSS followers, FB likes, Pinterest followers and link/SEO efforts. 
  • Cook my way through The Joy of Cooking. AMENDED. It’s too much to focus on right now–what I need to be putting my effort towards is consistently taking care of my body by eating healthy, whole foods. This goal will be tabled until next year. 
  • Write my business plan. AMENDED. Since I kicked the 9-5 to the curb in February, I’ve steadily been growing my freelancing efforts. I’m excited to announce a few new projects I’ve been working on, but I’ll save that for a monster post next week.  :)


Household Goals

  • Complete home office renovation. AMENDED. Now that I’m selling my condo, there’s no need to focus my efforts on any DIY projects for the current place. However….
  • Move into my new apartment and do a complete cosmetic overhaul. NEW GOAL. I’ll be moving into my new place (complete with garage and driveway!) in August. The place is huge, but it’s very dated. I plan to put my DIY skills to good use to give the entire place a facelift. It will be hard to not have complete freedom since I’m renting for the next year until I figure out my permanent plans, but I’ve already gotten permission to paint and decorate as I see fit.  
  • Cook at least 4 dinners/week. CHECK. They might not be from the Joy of Cooking, but I’m still doing a good job of cooking at home more than I’m going out to eat. I have allowed myself a bit more freedom in the past few weeks, but I’ll be right back to cooking 4+ dinners each week once I’m settled in the new place.
  • Complete kitchen renovation. AMENDED. See above–I’m selling! P&S was already executed, so it’s just up to the bank now…fingers are crossed!!!


How are you doing with your 2013 goals?

I Sold My Condo for $30K Over Asking Price

Life is a Roller Coaster RideI can’t help but think that I should start this post with something along the lines of welcome to the roller coaster ride that’s been my life for the past month!  :)

As my previous posts have alluded, it’s been one of the scariest and most stressful times in my life. Luckily, I’ve somehow managed to keep a smile on my face for most of it, even if it has been slightly crooked and paired with tears.

I firmly believe that staying true to my positive self has helped the universe throw me a pretty huge bone–yesterday, I accepted an offer on my condo that was $30K OVER asking price!!! Needless to say, it was nice to regain some of my footing as I realized that this time of trials and tribulations is slowly but surely working itself out.

Good-bye, Condo

There’s not much I can say to describe the Boston housing market other than it’s absolute crazy town right now. From renting to buying, prices are climbing quickly and inventory is scarce. Most people I’ve talked to are struggling to figure out how to find places they can afford and act fast enough to actually snag them (leases are being signed and offers written on the spot while at first showings–if you like it, you get it then or it will be gone).

Of course, this is great news for sellers like me and yesterday was the proof I needed to believe my realtor’s claims of “You’ll be fiiiiiine!”

For a quick recap, I listed my place last Friday. There were two open houses over the weekend; one hour each on Saturday and Sunday that brought over 60 people/couples to the property. On Monday, my realtor had 9 showings for people to see the place again. Yesterday, Tuesday–four days later, was our offer deadline (seriously, we got to set a deadline for offers!). When I met my realtor later in the afternoon, he was all smiles as I walked in the door.

Offers Galore

When he sat me down in the conference room with a stack of papers, my heart began to flutter with excitement (we did have to take breaks so I didn’t throw my monitor out of whack for next week’s follow-up visit with my doctor…haha). I’d received seven offers. Two of them were immediately thrown out because they were below asking price, which meant there were FIVE that met asking or went above.

Eventually, we settled on three finalists who were all above asking price. There was one very strong offer, so my realtor suggested going back to all three to get their best and final offer. I thought this was fine, but I didn’t really expect him to come back with the news he did: The best offer increased their bid by another $10K, bringing their total to $30K above asking! Not only that, but their financing and terms were in tact so it was a no-brainer for me to accept.

The Race to Closing

Now begins the fun adventure of getting to closing. This means getting through the appraisal, the inspection, and the mortgage requirements. Fingers, toes, legs, and arms are once again crossed that it all goes off without a hitch.

We have great comps to present in our package for the appraisal and my realtor is confident that we shouldn’t have too many issues provided the buyers’ financing works out. It’s always a gamble at this stage, but the ace in my pocket is that I might still have two more over asking offers to go back to if things fall apart with this one. While I don’t want to have to go that route, I do want to be realistic and understand that until closing day, nothing is set in stone.

Hello, Profit!

The icing on this pretty little real estate cake is that the current offer is just about $90K higher than what I paid for the place in 2010. If everything stays as it is, I will have a check (or direct deposit–not sure how it works) coming to me that will be over six figures thanks in part to my hard work to pay off as much of my mortgage as possible.

When I factor in the original closing costs I paid, the renovations I did on the property and even my closing costs for refinancing even though they’ve already been recouped through the lower monthly payments I’ve been making for the past year, I stand to clear no less than $65K when all is said and done. Considering the less than desirable neighbors and all the heartache and mess that exists in the place I’ve loved for the past three years, I couldn’t be happier to be moving on in such a great way both emotionally and financially.

Score 10 for making a wise investment!  :)

New Apartment, New Chapter of Life

Oh, and I’m not going to be homeless for those of you who have asked me–I’ve already found a fabulous apartment in the city. It has a driveway for my car, is in a great location and the landlord has already approved my request to do a cosmetic overhaul once I move in (of course I negotiated money off the rent for materials and labor!).

Speaking of rent, it’s less than half of what I was paying for my mortgage. :)   I’ll do some more posts to explain the details but my plan is to squirrel away as much money as possible over the next year so I can begin making some much larger life decisions.

Phew….happy to be getting back to my happy self and so thankful to be able to share some GOOD news with all of you.  :)



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