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3 Painful Lessons I've Learned From Selling My House

By Chris Neiger – Updated Oct 18, 2016 at 5:40AM

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Find out three big mistakes that many homeowners make when it comes time to sell.

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I'm smack-dab in the middle of selling my old house, and honestly, it's been one of the most stressful things I've ever experienced. Some of that is my fault; some it is the problem of my local government authorities, and some of it I chalk up to just simple bad luck. 

If you're selling a home, or ever plan to, hopefully you can learn a few things from my experiences and avoid some of the stress that comes from selling one of your most valuable assets. Here are three of the things I'd suggest for anyone looking to sell.

1. Don't accept an offer with a strict government loan

Government loans, whether federal or through local governments, can be a great thing for home buyers. They often come with interest rate benefits (sometimes a bit lower than the going bank rates) and low down payment terms. But there's a dark side to them too, as I've learned.

The buyer of my house is receiving a mortgage through the county my home is in, which didn't raise any red flags with me or my realtor when I received the offer. But it has since proved to be one of the biggest reasons for both delaying the closing date and driving up my costs. 

When someone buys a home, they typically negotiate to have a few things fixed in the house so they don't buy house that needs lots of repairs. After a home inspector goes through the home, there's usually a back-and-forth between the homebuyer and seller as to what items will be fixed, and what won't.

Unfortunately, my buyer's government loan requires that all items listed on the home inspection list have to be fixed before the sale can go through. Some of those items make sense, but others -- like replacing the light bulb in the attic and adding a single screw to the back gate -- are a bit of a head-scratcher. 

Sure, I probably could have said no to all the reqairs the county loan demands, but at the time, it was the only offer I had, and I didn't want to lose it. Next time I'll wait for an offer with more traditional terms. 

2. Do upgrades and repairs along the way

I've waited to take care of a handful of repairs, like an aging deck, toward the end of owning the house -- and now I'm paying for it all at once. 

When I lived in the home, I made a handful of improvements along the way. Most of the work I did myself to save money, but I should have put that savings aside for other projects that I knew were likely to pop up and that I couldn't do myself.

Instead of planning ahead, I'm now shelling out money to have a contractor do the work before the closing date. Planning out one or two major repairs every couple of years would have put me a much less stressful position. 

3. Don't move out of the house before it's sold

I moved out the house a while ago and rented out the home for a year. That went relatively smoothly while the renter was in the home, but when I got the house turned back over to me, there were some significant repairs that had to be done. The renter's security deposit covered some of them, but the rest came out of my pocket.

While that was unfortunate, it got worse now that I'm paying the rent for my current home and carrying the house's monthly mortgage payment. I know, I know -- not smart. Luckily, the house went under contract several weeks after I put it on the market and the closing date is (hopefully) right around the corner.

As an added stress, someone broke into the house a few weeks ago, and now I'm spending money to fix the things they vandalized. If I had stayed in the home a little longer and sold it while I was living there, I wouldn't have had to spend extra money making repairs after the renter left, there would probably wouldn't be any vandalism repairs, and I wouldn't be paying for two homes at the same time. 

One thing I did right

While selling my house has been stressful, I know I'm not the only one who's ever been intimidated by the process, and there are plenty of other people who've had it much worse. 

If there's one bright spot I can point to in the process, it's been the fact that I've hired a good, experienced real estate agent. She's already spent countless hours renegotiating terms, helping set up contractors for work, and working in the background to push this sale along. I briefly considered selling the home myself, but after this experience, I can't imagine not using an agent in the future. 

If you find yourself putting a property up for sale any time soon, I hope the lessons above will save you some time and money -- and maybe even keep a few new grey hairs off your head.

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