Apr 26, 2010

The Perils of Owning Two Homes While Waiting for One to Sell

If you can swing the financing, moving into your new home before trying to sell the old one offers many distinct advantages. The painters and repair-people have easy access to everything, you can stage the place with select pieces of beautiful furniture and not have to hide the toothbrushes and kitty litter, and real estate agents can bring in prospective buyers at any time of the day (thanks to the magic of the lockbox, where only an agent can access the key).

I recently sold my house this way, and everything turned out great. But that's not to say there weren't some nervous moments in between.

For example, consider the fact that your house will not only be sitting empty, but very obviously empty, full of beautiful things (which, if you've hired a stager, you're probably liable for if they're damaged or stolen).

As if to invite thieves -- who have been known to break in and steal the staging and fixtures --  you'll have a big "For Sale" sign in front, every light turned on to make it welcoming for visitors, and the security system turned off (again, for the sake of those visitors).

Even after we'd asked the Postal Service to forward mail, packages and letters continued to arrive. And of course there were the ubiquitous pizza fliers,and stray bits of trash that came to rest right where they looked the worst.

I took to driving over every morning and evening. (Good thing we'd moved only a mile away.) That gave me a chance to switch the lighting and make the place looked its best. I'd wipe up the footprints of the previous day's visitors (we were selling during the rainy season), deal with cupboard doors that they'd opened or things they'd moved around, and refill the birdbath. (Ok, maybe that was for the sake of the birds as much as for the buyers.)  

Even with all, as the days ticked by, paranoid thoughts infiltrated my brain. How -- or by whose hand -- did that flower get draped over the fence in the back yard? Do the earthquakes happening everywhere on earth else mean that we're due for one -- probably a day before the closing, with us nowhere's near to turn off the water if a pipe bursts? And how long can the place sit vacant before the homeowners' insurance runs out? (It's usually 30 days, but negotiable with your insurance company.)

I breathed a huge sign of relief when closing day came around with no disasters. And you will too. Without the constant driving back and forth, I feel like I've gained hours in my day. But I sometimes find myself thinking I should just swing by the old place to make sure everything is okay . . . .