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Our Experience Selling a Home for the First Time

We’ve purchased 4 properties since we’ve lived in Chicago, but have never listed any of them for sale. Today we’re breaking down our experience (so far) being on the selling end of a real estate transaction.

Our refreshed condo with fresh paint on the walls and cabinets, refinished oak floors and new lighting.
brass light | pendant light (similar) | faucet | stools

A Brief Timeline

We purchased our Chicago condo in 2007, then lived in it for 6 years (and subsequently started this very blog to document our projects!) until we were ready to make the move to our current home. The selling market wasn’t great when we moved on in 2013, so we became accidental landlords and rented the space out until our last tenants’ lease expired this May. (If you’re still doing the math, that’s 8 years of renting our condo!) A one month whirlwind renovation involving fresh paint, refinished floors and a totally revamped kitchen followed and our listing went live at the beginning of July. That’s the abridged version, but the important bits are there!

brass light | pendant light (similar) | faucet | stools

An Exercise in Patience

When we first announced that we’d be listing the unit, we were flooded with messages about how our timing was great! The market favored sellers in a big way. Bidding wars were getting more common. Units in our exact neighborhood were selling in a matter of days! We were feeling encouraged!

Scott and Catfish walk through the refreshed condo space with fresh paint on the walls and cabinets, refinished oak floors and new lighting. | via Yellow Brick Home
 faucet | stools | brass light | pendant light (similar)

Well, as of the writing of this post, the home has been on the market for about 6 weeks. Not only is the condo still for sale, but we’ve reduced the price and hired a staging company and we still haven’t received a single offer. We’re reminding ourselves that the incredibly hot late spring market has cooled a bit. Our timing also pitted us against busy holiday travel schedules as weddings and vacations have resumed for many. We weren’t exactly prepared for the result, but we’re doing our best to understand it.

Working With our Awesome Realtor

While we haven’t received any offers so far, we’re still very confident that our realtor, Jen, is the best in the business and is the best fit for us! She’s working incredibly hard and is keeping us informed every step of the way. Below are just a few notable actions she’s taking:​​​​​​​

Our realtor’s actions:

  • Hosts open houses nearly every weekend
  • Personally attends almost every showing
  • Has learned the unit inside and out and can highlight all features to potential buyers
  • Connected us with a trusted staging company to help display how the space is best utilized
  • Enlisted targeted digital marketing to amplify the listing
The built-in office nook and open shelving in the second bedroom. | via Yellow Brick Home

Jen has helped us fill our rental units multiple times and also helped us in our search to purchase our Two Flat. She continues to work her tail off for us and we’re confident in her advice!

Tip: If you’re looking for a realtor in the Chicago area, you can find her info and more helpful advice right here.

Staging the Unit

The condo has one of those compact, efficient city apartment layouts, but it’s not huge. While we lived there, we (and our friends that lived in the buildings’ other nearly identical units) dialed in the furniture layouts to find the best way to utilize the space. We realized early on that it’s not always easy to envision layouts without furniture, so we invested $2,000 (for up to 4 months) for a staging company to bring in furniture and inject some life into the condo.

Although we’re still without bites, we’re confident that contracting the staging company has been worth the investment. The unit shows well and placing furniture in the spaces displays how functional the floor plan can actually be.​​​​​​​

Pup sleeps outside | via Yellow Brick Home

Showing Feedback

Overall, feedback from the showings has been overwhelmingly positive. People like the building and the location and have largely glowing reviews of all the updates that took so much time and energy for us to accomplish. The floors, kitchen, motorized blinds and lighting fixtures have all been mentioned as highlights!

The refreshed kitchen space featuring new cabinets, tile backsplash and motorized blinds. | via Yellow Brick Home
brass light | pendant light (similar) | faucet | stools

However it turns out that the cozy bedroom sizes – which were one of our favorite features of the home! – are a dealbreaker for most people. Let me explain. Both bedrooms are on the smaller side, but we personally loved the cozy cocoon feeling the compact spaces brought us. They fit a queen bed and dresser, and each room has a large-ish closet.

Of course, the size is something we simply can’t change, so we’ve done our best to maximize the feeling of the bedrooms with the aforementioned staging. Here’s how the room looks empty, which gives you a feel for its small size:

The primary bedroom with new paint and custom motorized blackout shades. | via Yellow Brick Home

Keeping the Listing Fresh

Under Jen’s advisement, we’ve – meaning ​​​​​​​Jen(!) – has done a few things to keep the listing fresh and keep the showings coming!

We’ve…

  • … Had the unit professionally staged
  • … Had new listing photos taken
  • … Lowered the price and re-listed the unit
  • … Fresh targeted digital ads were purchased
  • … The refreshed listing was distributed throughout Jen’s Realtor network
Kim and Scott in the kitchen they made over! via Yellow Brick Home
brass light | pendant light (similar) | faucet | stools

In Conclusion

We’ve been collectively surprised by the lack of offers, and as we move forward, we’ll need to carefully consider our carrying costs (mortgage, insurance, condo association fees etc.) and the potential value of another price decrease.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ That said, we deeply feel that the last year of our lives has forced many of us to envision what our future holds – and for many, that may mean a bigger yard, more space, more family togetherness. We envision this home to be purchased by first time homeowners, who have taken the leap in a city they love with their whole heart. A place where they can lay down roots and flourish.

View from the kitchen looking into the living room | via Yellow Brick Home
brass light | faucet

So! While we don’t have the best news to report on the condo-selling front, we do hope sharing our experience is helpful to some of you! We remain optimistic that we will find the right buyer, it’s just a matter of how long we’re comfortable holding out and whether we’ll need to decrease the price yet again. In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted on progress! If you know of anyone looking for a refreshed 2 bed/1 bath condo in an incredible location, we just might know a place…​​​​​​​

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  • Erin8.18.21 - 8:51 AM

    It looks great. Do you have a link to the listing somewhere? I seem to be missing it if it’s above… :-)ReplyCancel

    • Scott8.18.21 - 9:23 AM

      Hi Erin! We haven’t posted the listing for privacy reasons, but if you or someone you know is interested, please feel free to send us an email via the contact form. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Jenn C8.18.21 - 8:51 AM

    I can relate! We put our house on the market in early June-which is after the school year for us and the beginning of Summer Vacation. We were told of stories with showings and cars waiting around the block, homes selling in less than 24 hours with bidding wars and huge over bids. While we did go under contract in two days, we didn’t get any of the things people mentioned in this “crazy market”. We only had 8 showings (still good!) and two offers that were modestly priced and definitely not a huge overbid. I started to question my renovations and the work I put in for the home sale. But it all ended well and with a good profit. I would say hang in there but it looks like you already have a great attitude. Your great offer will come. Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Linddy8.18.21 - 9:26 AM

    We also had a less than favorable listing experience recently despite what *everyone* told us about how ty were convinced our house would go for over asking, we’d have multiple bids, etc. We ended up lowering the price and then getting two offers. Oh, well. I wonder if folks moving out of large cities to more affordable smaller cities and states has anything to do with it too? I feel like big cities haven’t been as desirable since the pandemic started. Although I have zero evidence to back that up… just a thought. ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.18.21 - 10:12 AM

      True, it could be that. Single family homes seem to be more desirable, but the ease and accessibility of a city (walking and biking everywhere) is wonderful. It’s tough to say, but we only need one person who loves it!ReplyCancel

      • Sara8.27.21 - 1:44 PM

        We had this experience the first time we tried to sell our last house and became accidental landlords for several years too. And then we listed in the fall of 2019 and it took some time despite many showings and excellent feedback. I do think Linddy’s point is likely true. I live in a small city (75K people) with very close proximity to Manhattan. We are in Realtor.com’s top 10 hottest zip codes currently. Our median sales price has increased by more than $50K in a year. People accustomed to much higher home prices are making cash offers, paying transfer taxes, offering appraisal bonus payments without an inspection because our housing prices seem so cheap to them. It is bananas. My friend tried to do a cash out refi for a kitchen reno in January and the appraisal was too low. She just sold her house and it appraised for $25K more than in January. She did nothing to the house. So, I do think it is very regional plus a realignment of pandemic priorities. We are a walkable city, but you can get a yard and the space so many desire after this year. Best of luck! I am confident you can find someone like my brother who is staunchly a big city person. It really is a beautiful space and the staging looks great.ReplyCancel

  • Laura C8.18.21 - 10:21 AM

    Hopefully the staging will do it – I do think people have a hard time envisioning furniture in an empty space, and while counterintuitive, empty spaces look smaller than thoughtfully furnished ones. ReplyCancel

  • Amber8.18.21 - 10:48 AM

    I think Delta is impacting a lot of offices reopening, meaning the pull to move back to cities seems to have waned (at least in the SF Bay) from earlier in the summer. The 4th wave in general, I think, is making people really scared of committing to small spaces. Tulare spring felt like victory and sales and comps reflected that… The unit is gorgeous though and I hope the right buyer finds it soon!ReplyCancel

  • Miruska8.18.21 - 11:08 AM

    I think your apartment is beautiful. When you sell, as i have no doubt you will, i would be curious to see pictures showing before and after staging to understand the impact having furniture in an empty space makes. I have never had trouble envisioning how the place would look furnished but maybe the scale is not easy for people to get in an empty space. It would be a good learning to see that.ReplyCancel

  • Susan L8.18.21 - 11:17 AM

    I looked at the new listing on your agent’s instagram site. Love the staging and I think it really will help potential buyers envision their new home. I’m one of those people who cannot picture the potential from an empty room!! Fingers crossed for a speedy saleReplyCancel

  • Hannah8.18.21 - 11:30 AM

    It’s so funny I was just telling my partner whenever people come over they ooh and ahh at how large our bedroom is… but I wish it was much smaller. I find a cave like feel to help me sleep much better! (My first apartment bedroom I swear was 11×11 😂) And cleaning up the room is SO much faster because there’s less space to make messy. ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.18.21 - 12:12 PM

      I wish others saw it that way!! We LOVED that condo bedroom for those very reasons.ReplyCancel

  • Barb8.18.21 - 11:52 AM

    We sold a townhouse in northern Colorado a few years ago.  It was on the market 36 days , and we dropped the price once by 15,000.  I only wanted to do it one time.  It was a brutal 36 days.  First of all, it is a different group of people buying condos!  Way different than house buyers.  It takes more time. Be positive!  Be patient!  I always tell people…There is someone out there who wants your house!  They just haven’t seen it yet!
    It will sell.  Worry not.  Where in Chicago?  I grew up in Winnetka!  Have you ever been there?ReplyCancel

    • Scott8.18.21 - 12:01 PM

      Yup! Some friends of ours lived in Winnetka for a time. We’re in Logan Square on the NW side.ReplyCancel

  • Meredith8.18.21 - 12:25 PM

    So appreciate you sharing your experience – especially when it is different from what you may have expected. Fingers crossed you find the right buyer sooner rather than later!ReplyCancel

  • Andie8.18.21 - 12:38 PM

    We can totally relate. We just sold our home in Austin, TX. What is supposed to be one of the hottest market. It was listed for almost a month which is unheard of and we ended up going with Opendoor to sell our house. They are known to super lowball you and their buyout was only $20k under our asking price. So it’s not like we listed too high? To us that was worth it since we wanted to move on a certain timeline. We had an amazing realtor too! We were so confused what happened. Makes me a little worried for the housing market…. but glad we were able to sell and move forward. ReplyCancel

    • Scott8.18.21 - 12:52 PM

      ‘Hot’ real estate markets can be so confusing, right?ReplyCancel

  • Amy8.18.21 - 1:52 PM

    Bummer guys!  We’re rootin’ for you!  The upgrades you made speak for themselves, but we can attest to the fact that it’s THE BEST place to live, for anyone that might be interested.  ReplyCancel

  • Julie Marquez8.18.21 - 2:03 PM

    Thanks for being honest with your experience. It seems like we only hear about the extreme great stories, but I like to hear all sides. Do you ever consider putting it back on the rental market?ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.18.21 - 2:54 PM

      It’s crossed our minds, but now that the summer season is almost behind us, the rental market has slowed down as well.ReplyCancel

  • Lexie8.18.21 - 3:43 PM

    I love this little condo and if I lived anywhere near Chicago…. I love little spaces. Currently building a 700 sq ft ADU with 2 bedrooms/1 bathroom. Bring on the cozy.ReplyCancel

    • Scott8.18.21 - 5:48 PM

      Yes! Cozy spaces FTW.ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.18.21 - 6:03 PM

      That’s a near identical size to the condo! (The condo is a wee bit smaller, haha)ReplyCancel

  • Christine8.18.21 - 6:06 PM

    Hoping you get an offer soon! Would testimonials from your previous (great) tenants help?ReplyCancel

  • AJ8.19.21 - 1:56 AM

    I don’t know the Chicago market but I’m very surprised you haven’t had a bunch of offers already. Would your broker let you tweak the staging a bit and let you photograph it? I mean, photo presentation of homes is totally your thing! Throwing in a few beautiful close ups you’re so great at composing and capturing might do the trick. It’s all about drawing buyers in and making them feel the space is special and unique, not just another generically staged condo. When scrolling through property photos, young buyers especially need to be wowed, just like with blogs, ads and social media. Use lively shots of neighborhood hotspots too! People riding bikes around the area, shopping, etc. All that said, sometimes it just takes a bit longer than expected, even in a seller’s market. Hang tight, your buyers are out there!ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.19.21 - 9:02 AM

      Those are all great tips, thank you so much!ReplyCancel

  • steph8.19.21 - 8:30 AM

    Thanks for this honest update, and wow, I’m surprised by this too!? We are currently looking for a house (southern Maine) and have recently put in a couple offers- both 100k over asking!- and that hasn’t been enough…. Its mind boggling how this housing market is impossible to predict. Best of luck to you on the selling side, it really does only take one to get it done!ReplyCancel

  • Donna8.19.21 - 4:13 PM

    Thanks for sharing the real ups and downs of it all.  Will you post the staged living area and bedrooms?  I’m curious to see what kind of different perceptions the staging will cause.  ReplyCancel

  • Dianne8.19.21 - 10:26 PM

    It only takes one buyer.  Hang in there.  Your condo is lovely!  I would rather have the space in the living areas vs the bedroom(s).  Holding good thoughts for the perfect buyer to come along!ReplyCancel

  • Is8.26.21 - 12:02 PM

    Your condo is gorgeous! Hang in there! Some white collar employers have pushed return to office dates ( and with that some white collar employees have postponed looking for urban digs closer to work ). That said, in nyc, where I have been keeping an eye on condo market, both rentals and studios/small condos are getting some movement. In fact, some folks we know are going for smaller less expensive places in the city ( since they have rented and bought larger places in the country during work from home period ). ReplyCancel

  • Amanda8.31.21 - 3:16 PM

    Any big projects coming up with the HOA? Does the building allow unlimited rentals? Pet restrictions? How old are the furnace, air conditioner, and washer & dryer? Middle floor doesn’t have the convenience of first floor and doesn’t have the privacy/quiet of top floor. What is the nearby parking situation? Given how small the bedrooms and all the rooms are, it’s almost like a 1+ bedroom and may have to be priced as such. Don’t know if it’s possible, the cost, and if it’s worth it, but knock down wall to one of the bedrooms to expand it? Deck access would then be off bedroom which is always awkward. This unit is too small for a roommate situation and probably too small for a couple + work from home. But at the right price people will make it work.ReplyCancel

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