Seven steps to Canada (3): Selling the house

For me, selling our little cosy house was mentally the biggest step within the whole emigration process. Not necessarily because I’d become so attached to it (those thoughts entered my mind only much later), but rather because the effort of selling a property to me seemed quite overwhelming. Thousand little things came to my mind: How do you actually sell a house? Will we find prospects at all? How do you deal with your bank and handle your existing loan? Would I have to renovate the totally gutted guest bathroom before selling? Would we make substantial financial losses? Gosh, and I didn’t even want to think about the whole moving out!

Short term landlords

Not very much time had gone by since we purchased the house. When we made the decision to leave Germany, our moving in was not even two years ago. A lot of work, money and time had been invested by ourselves and our very helpful in-laws to refurbished our home: new windows, modernized electrics, partly new floors and carpets, walls removed and replaced, new wallpaper all over the place, paint jobs, shiny new kitchen. Many of our furniture was new, too – bedroom, dining room, living room, and bathroom were almost completely furnished from scratch. I bought an impressive huge TV and put hours of work into a handmade lowboard to put the TV on. We moved trees around in the garden, cleaned tons of gravel, constructed and painted fences. I built a little workshop area into my garage, bought garden tools. Being a handyman wasn’t always the biggest fun (I am anything but a natural talent), but every little successful project made our house become a little more homely, even within only the two years.

Only about two and a half years ago: massive time and effort invested in renovating

But still: having the chance to go onto a new adventure abroad sounded so promising; and after all, there were enough things wich we didn’t like about being homeowners. The decision was made, actions needed to be taken. Renting the house was out of question (too many areas needed improvements which we wouldn’t be willing to handle from abroad).

To close the deal we had roughly four months. Would that be even possible?

House for sale!

But first things first: a notice of sale needed to be created. We wanted to present our home the best way possible; so we cleaned and tidied up the house and took tons of pictures on a beautifully sunny spring day. I composed an appealing but honest text, investigated and calculated the selling price we’d wish for. Ideally, that price should fully cover all oft he following: open credit including interests we paid; the bank’s payment penalty; the purchase of the kitchen; the equity capital invested; all costs of renovation. Would the real estate market development over only two and a half years be able to cover that at all?

Another questions was for how long we should run the ad – a week? A month? Two months? Longer or shorter? After all, the online classifieds portal we planned to use asked for a good three-digits fee… in the end we went for four weeks and went public.

Pictures we uploaded as part of our classified ad

The response was unbelievable. After not even 15 minutes the first replies came in. Pretty quickly I realized that this was going to be a rather confusing matter and created an Excel file to keep track about all the communication between myself and the prospects. I received more and more inquiries, giving me a hard time answering all oft hem. We decided to offer individual viewings the next Saturday and offered a total of twelfe appointments to the most interested applicants. After only 48 hours and more than 80 individual approaches I had to deactive the ad. I’d never expected that much of a response, and would have never expected the market to be so competitive. We didn’t even offer a cheap price… families with three children wanted to by a house with only two bedrooms and 110 square meeters (1180 square feet) living space.
Anyway, it never hurts to ask, and although we’ve put many informative pictures and descriptions online I was sure that one or the other prospect would change their minds once having seen the property in person.

State of the guest bathroom at the time the house was sold. Still some work left, for sure!

The viewings

That Saturday I won’t ever forget. Twelfe appointments, one every 30 minutes. And of course, each one would last a bit longer than that. The weather was great, the house was cleaned, and we welcomed the first prospects. Most oft hem were couples of different ages, but we also had families and singles visiting. One after another we walked through our little house, explaining over and over again the specifics and small blemishs (especially the fully undone guest bathroom) and eventually split so we could run viewings in parallel. What a day. Some of my work colleagues warned me about how depressive such a day might be, mostly due to people trying to badmouth the property in oder to cut the price. Nothing of that happened, though, and almost everyone seemed to be surprised about how nice and clean and stylishly and lovely furnished everything was. The size of the house itself was what made some people realize that the property might be a bit too small for their whole family.
At the end of the day both my wife and I were worn out completely. I updated my excel files with countless comments, notes and contact information. That first (and eventually only) viewing day left us with three of four seriously interested parties. One of them being a young nice couple.

…and sold!

The viewing day was the first time when I truly realized that a new stage of life is about to begin. We really would let go of our house. And the beautiful new kitchen! The spacious sheltered patio! The proximity to nature and to the local outdoor swimming pool! My workshop area in the garage! At the same time we were quite happy that the selling process went on smoothly and without any big issues.

A day later I did a couple of calls and we offered some of the prospects the opportunity to do a second viewing. The young couple was still the most interested party, the nicest, too, and the evidently most solvent. They were also fine with waiting to September for the handover (now it was May). After that decision was agreed upon, everything went on quickly and straightforward. I suggested to go with the same notary who concluded the purchase two years ago already. He received all our data and only a couple days later presented a draft purchase agreement. The young couple and we discussed some specifics (such as which inventory to include in the contract – like, for example, some furniture, TV, workshop area, gardening tools) and met up once more in our house. Not even two weeks after the first viewing the four of us signed the notarized agreement.

Our two-year old kitchen. Probably the room we’ll miss most.

Just like purchasing a house, also selling is quite an experience. It might not be advisable to do both within only two years, but I still glad I did. Our property found good successors, and I had overcome the biggest mental hurdle, making it possible to concentrate on new things: long-term preparation of our move!

It was only much later, that I started feeling a quite strong emotional attachment to the place I lived in for two years.


Continue reading with step 4: Relocation is near

Previous article, step 2: Time to quit!

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