Best way to sell a house without improvement, staging, or agents?
February 10, 2015 9:29 AM   Subscribe

My mother is moving out of her house and wants to sell it with as little fuss as possible. She doesn't want to make any improvements, hire a realtor, have 'open houses,' or have any protracted negotiations. Her plan is to just take the best offer of a "fast cash buyout" home-buying company. That sounds like inviting a ripoff to me, but we both know very little about selling houses and don't know of any alternatives.

My mother is socially phobic and somewhat ashamed of the state of her house, so the thought of having contractors, real estate agents, prospective buyers, etc. going through her house gives her much anxiety. She also doesn't want to sink any money/time into the house if that weren't a problem (such as if I dealt with letting people in once she had moved out), fearing a never-ending morass of restoration. The house would need substantial interior work, entirely new fixtures, and more intensive restoration for a moldy bathroom and a kitchen with some water damage. I could probably manage to repaint a few rooms, but other improvements would be beyond me.

Are real estate agents able to manage the sale of such properties without pushing my mother into rehabbing, staging, and so forth? How would we approach them with our needs and expectations for how the sale would go?
posted by cowbellemoo to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Outside the cost of DIY painting, on the kinds of things you mention like bathroom and kitchen rehabs and fixtures you would only get back a fraction of what you put in. And you might have to wait a long time for it to sell, anyway. And you'd have to pay taxes in the meantime, and the realtor's 6 percent. I'd invite two or three fast cash buyers and see what they offer. You can always turn those offers down if they seems wildly out of line with what you think the place is worth "as is."
posted by beagle at 9:43 AM on February 10, 2015

Best answer: People sell houses as-is all the time. An experienced real estate agent has seen it all and sold properties in every state imaginable. Just find a good agent to handle it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:52 AM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Here's your problem. Everything has a price. Your mother may give up hundreds of thousands of dollars doing this. It's not a rip-off, it's knowingly giving up a shit-ton of money to not be bothered.

Is there a way she can move out now? Perhaps go to Florida, or whatever her plans are. Rent an inexpensive place for now while the house is on the market.

The house can be cleaned, staged not like a model home, but with minimal furniture, and sold and she needn't be anywhere near it. She can be in her new home, watching TV and waiting for offers.

If she's a hoarder or just has a lot of stuff, you may want to work with her to cull her things. She's downsizing, she won't need all that stuff.

As for repairs. It may make sense to do some basic things to make the house salable. Clean carpets (or take them up and expose hardwood.) Paint (pretty cheap, hire guys, your realtor can hook you up.) Deep clean.

If you have avocado appliances, fifties cabinetry, etc, so long as it's clean, you don't need to do much other than say, "If you're into vintage, you're in luck," or "ready for you to make your mark." Cosmetic stuff isn't really a thing, you will NOT get the money back on it. FWIW, my last house, I bought in all it's 1971 glory. I did all the rehab on it myself.

If there are roof problems, foundation problems, mold, long standing neglect, you may do well selling it as a tear down or for whatever the market will bear at that point.

The couple of months rent your mom will pay, if you move her out and clean the house will be MORE than repaid by the price you'll get on selling the place traditionally on the open market.

I will say that having a good Real Estate agent will be totally worth it. My agent hooked me up with great trades people who did the needed repairs for great prices. We sold our house in only 5 days on the market.

Agents are really worth it and good ones will tell you honestly what the home is worth, and what needs to be done to sell it quickly.

But really, moving your mom before the house goes on the market will be the best thing you both can do to get over this hurdle.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:52 AM on February 10, 2015 [12 favorites]

Are real estate agents able to manage the sale of such properties without pushing my mother into rehabbing, staging, and so forth?

Yeah. Probably, if you're clear with them. I don't know how you're going to get around actual viewings of the home (it doesn't have to be an actual open house, but buyers are typically going to want to actually see the property somehow).

There are very few 'cosmetic fixers' in our market, and in a perfect world, that's what we'd be after. There are buyers out there who want to do that kind of work to a home to make it theirs, as well as increase the value of the home. But yeah, to echo what Ruthless Bunny said, barring any actual structural problems, houses like this do sell.

But even with a house selling in 'as is' condition, you're going to get a certain level of traffic in the home; no way to avoid inspections and the like.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:55 AM on February 10, 2015

Oh, as for letting people in, actually sellers don't do that. A lock box can be put on the door, and realtors will being potential buyers to the home and let them in and do the showing. So neither you, nor your Mom needs to actually do anything once you've engaged the real estate person.

The preferred way of showing a house is with the occupants out of it. This way sellers feel comfortable telling the agent what they do and don't like.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:26 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

We have sold two houses in high-demand times, as for sale-by-owner. It helps to have a clean house. Move her, or get her down to what she wants to move with, and put it in storage if she can't afford to rent. To get an idea of what the house is worth, look for its clone or cousin in the neighborhood, look up the lot size, and see what the county land records or online tools will tell you about recent sales. If your mom has been in this house for most of her life, she may be shocked about its value. I helped sell the family home near market price and my mom thought I was defrauding people until 5 offers came in over the asking price.

Let the neighbors know that you are thinking of selling. They may know someone who is interested in the area and will provide a fair price. Just do your homework on what that is. Cleaning will get you closer to that number.
posted by childofTethys at 10:36 AM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: We got our house at a huge discount (at least $50k but probably more) because the owner decided to sell it herself. Some dumb things she did, so you don't do them:

1. Ill-considered listing price. The typical house prices in our neighborhood are $400k and up but our house was listed at $385k so a lot of people would simply not find it, selecting $400k as the lower bound for their internet searches.

2. Limited ad runs. Real estate agents don't skimp on listings because they have bulk subscriptions with all the major sites but our seller didn't want to spend a lot of money on advertising so the house was only listed on some sites, and for a shorter period of time.

3. Skimping on easy improvements. As just one example, the lighting throughout the house was 30 years old... dim, unflattering, shadows everywhere. Simply updating the lighting for a grand total of maybe $1k made everything look so much better.

It's easy to think of selling a house as being just like selling furniture on craigslist but it's quite an art. In our seller's mind, she priced her house for a quick sale, and saved money on advertisement and improvements. In reality, she left at least $50k on the table. Seconding everyone who encourages you to bite the bullet and sell through an experienced agent and clean up prior to sale... good luck.
posted by rada at 10:49 AM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]

Pay close attention to the values of other properties in the immediate area, because the cliche is true: what you're selling here is the location, not the structure. If it's a good location, then the property is worth a good bit regardless of the condition of the house (though a 'fast cash' buyer will surely tell her otherwise). If it's a bad location, then fixing up the place won't help much. Focus on not getting talked into giving away a valuable address.
posted by jon1270 at 10:51 AM on February 10, 2015

FWIW, I worked with an elder law attorney - and there comes a time when mom & dad aren't so great at keeping up the house. In many ways, your mom is normal, and all of these professionals have likely seen much worse. If she can clean - She could look at cleaning a room for a day as paying herself $100. Designate a location for donations (a yard sale seems unlikely) and get Saturday drop-off underway. Some places pick up, which may not be her thing.
posted by childofTethys at 10:52 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Let the neighbors know that you are thinking of selling. This.
When I moved my mother from Colorado, the neighborhood network found out and a good real estate agent had a willing buyer immediately.
The agent had great comps (this was a one-level townhouse, so there were similar units around), and we closed in under ten days with NO cleaning, new carpet, painting, what have you. Based on the comps, we gave up maybe $3000; a small price to pay for the lack of effort involved.
I'm sure some of this is luck, but if there's a good agent in the neighborhood, looking out for their clients - you may be lucky too!
posted by dbmcd at 1:36 PM on February 10, 2015

Best answer: Call around to a few agents and explain the situation to them. This really isn't that uncommon even in my very limited experience with real estate.

For a house like yours, if you get can your mom moved out and then let the realtor just take over the entire process from there, they will earn their commission.

I honestly think that a realtor has less to offer you if your house is perfect and shows well and is exactly in line with all the neighborhood comps, than in a situation like yours. Your situation is where a good realtor can do a little bit here and there (call in a cleaning crew, have the whole house spray-gun painted white, drop in cheap carpet, whatever) and potentially get you tens of thousands of dollars back.

Some realtors are going to want that job, some are going to run away. Call around, talk to people, don't agree to work with them unless you're sure you like them.

But sell the house empty. It is like a million times easier that way.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:07 PM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nthing that you need to hook up with the agent who is THE guy in your neighborhood. Our agent sent monthly statements about the properties in the neighborhood, he came to give an appraisal, told us exactly what to do.

Some neighborhoods always have buyers, champing at the bit to find any property. Our neighborhood in Atlanta was like that. I bought there specifically, and our buyer bought there specifically.

So find out if there's a specialist realtor in your neighborhood, that person is probably your best bet.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on February 11, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks very much, all. There's alot of common suggestions among your responses that I'll share/urge with my mother, including:

• wait until after my mother has moved (she owns the house and has some savings so this shouldn't be a problem)
• Find an agent that specializes in the neighborhood
• Make sure the agent is also willing to coordinate the routine, low-cost efforts (cleaning, painting, carpeting).

I also discovered Zillow's maps for showing what near-identical houses in the same neighborhood sold for recently (including the house next door), which will be helpful in determining whether any "fast cash buyout" is exploitative or not if she still opts to get a quote.
posted by cowbellemoo at 2:02 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To follow up on childofTethys' comment - we purchased a house that was vacant because the older gentleman who'd owned the home had passed away after a long illness. There was no way an 84-year-old with several forms of cancer was going to be keeping up with home maintenance. His inheritors didn't want to put any money into the house, because what was the point? They were selling it. We bought it because we loved the neighborhood, the house had good bones, and we had a really good home inspector check it out. Nearly all of the items that needed fixing were cosmetic, and we could see that. They were happy, we were happy, it all worked out. We had a realtor and they had a realtor, and they both earned their commissions on the sale - the selling realtor for doing the small bit of staging that was needed (mostly packing up family mementos) and our realtor for knowing what level of rehab we could handle, and finding the place.
posted by RogueTech at 12:03 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

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