It's been a while, hasn't it? When we left off, we had managed to separate hydro and reduce the maintenance fees by a modest amount. Since Corey and I had energy efficient appliances and were relatively conservative with hydro, we were fairly certain our costs wouldn't increase overall. Still, we knew that the average hydro cost per unit was roughly twice the amount of the maintenance fee reduction and we worried that some of our neighbours would not be happy.
In this chapter, I'll talk a little about what it was like to finally
Please remember that I am only human and something about that condo brought out the worst in me near the end. This is exactly the type of scary condo situation that makes me extra careful when my buyer clients are considering purchasing a condo but our own story (luckily) does have a happy ending.
Angry Neighbours and Mischief
Despite all the drama and nagging worries, I was still excited to list our unit for sale. I had always been frustrated that units in our building hadn't been appreciating and were severely under-valued for the market and I deliberately listed before the spring market (in January) so that I could take advantage of a lack of competition from other unit owners. We listed at nearly 30% higher than the next highest sale. (FYI, the next highest sale was pretty close to what we purchased our unit for three years earlier. Not so great when you consider the $800/month we had also sunk into maintenance fees. To sell at that price would make me feel like I should have just rented so I had to try for more.) It was ambitious and I didn't expect to get our price but I thought I'd give it a try.
I sent copies of our listing to the board and to many of our neighbours in the interest of full disclosure. I knew people would find out anyway but I hoped that by being upfront and honest, I may even convince people that a high sale would be good for them as well. My neighbour across the hall (with a mirror-image but otherwise identical layout) even mentioned that she was also tired of the low sale prices and said that she may list high too and together we could try to set a new record.
My photographs were beautiful, my descriptions perfect and showing requests from potential buyers began to trickle in. I told Corey that we couldn't expect our unit to sell overnight but I knew the showings were a good sign. Unfortunately, there were many people who couldn't stand the thought that we may leave and they did what they could to sabotage our sale.
It began with garbage and dirty tissues being constantly scattered around the common areas. They made our building look dirty and poorly cared for and I resented this after all my hard work to finally ensure that we were managed properly. I learned to run downstairs with a garbage bag to do a quick tidying before showings. My good friend, Alex often helped me.
I wish I could say that it ended there but next came the angry notes posted in the elevators directed at our board and management and suggesting that the separate hydro metering was some sort of scam. While annoying, this was okay too. It was just something else for me to tidy before my showings.
Eventually, hydro bills began to roll in and we were pleasantly surprised by ours, which we saved in case any prospective buyers should ask. Unfortunately, many of our neighbours were practically breathing fire as they waived bills for as much as $800 in the first month and a half through the halls. When approached by these angry people I often asked innocently if they were perhaps running any major appliances that had not been approved by the building. Usually, this ended the conversation. As property management worked to ensure that all the meters were running properly and to provide people with education on energy efficiency and heating and cooling alternatives, the witch hunt eventually subsided.
Did I offend you?
Aside from a few bad apples, most of my neighbours were curious about my unit and wished me luck for a high sale price. The odd one nearly cried and clutched my arm begging me not to leave...
One expressed surprise that I worked in real estate. You see, she was racist and assumed from my Portuguese surname that I cleaned houses. She then suggested that I would likely be good at cleaning houses. Corey laughed when I told him because I'm probably the worst housekeeper ever!
I waited for a reaction from the Kingpin and her friends... But they didn't say a peep.
Everything was going well with our showings. We were getting some good feedback but most buyers were just beginning to venture out from hibernation and were not quite ready to make an offer. Still, I felt hopeful and I knew it was just a matter of time.
Then it happened. My neighbour across the hall (The one who had said she would also list high...) decided to list low and undercut me by about 25% of my asking price. S&%T!!! I was angry, not only because of her stupidity but because I had been very upfront with her and she had done the opposite to me. I knew her agents had sold several units in the building and I partially blamed them for keeping our property value down by listing low for easy sales. I was even less impressed when I heard that they were comparing their listing to mine and saying my price was insane.
I put on a brave face for Corey and assured him that ours would still sell... only we'd have to wait for their unit to sell first. They had an offer in under a week (which was a first for our building) for under list and they accepted it. Again, you'd think the speed at which the offer came might have signaled the agent or seller that they had listed a little low... but I didn't care as long as our competition was gone. We were back in business!
... And Another
Within days of the sale, our optimism was challenged once again when another unit (like ours only a few floors above us) was listed low. Again I assured Corey that everything would be fine as long as we could just be patient and wait until they had sold.
Once again, it sold within days and Corey and I just shook our heads. What was wrong with our neighbours? They complained about the lack of appreciation and yet they didn't realize that buyers were jumping at their low prices and they could easily be asking for more!
The final straw came when within days yet another unit listed low. At this point, I felt my first pang of doubt. What if this kept happening? I already knew that staying in the condo was not good for my health and I knew we were ready to buy a house. Screw it! Corey and I dropped our price significantly (and we were prepared to drop it again, if necessary) knowing that we could not compete with a constant stream of sabotaging neighbours.
Obviously, our price drop yielded a frenzy of showings and although we were still priced higher than the other units, ours was renovated and showed better and I was pretty certain that we would receive an offer quickly.
During the week of non-stop showings, we received a showing request from the agent who had listed the most recent under-priced unit. It was our only competition and I was furious at this agent for listing low in light of how quickly units at that price had been selling.
I'm going to preface this next part by reminding you how insane that condo made me feel. For nearly three years I had felt paranoid and now, I was finding that after all my hard work to improve the building, I would still probably have to take a loss on my unit if I wanted to leave. For some reason, my anger at the former property management, the kingpin, my neighbours who under-cut me and all the agents who had lazily under-priced units in our building for years culminated into a focused beam of pure hatred and it was focused directly at the agent who was requesting a showing.
How dare she??? I bellowed to Corey. She only wants to show our unit to use as a comparison so that she can sell her own listing by showing buyers what her unit could look like if it were renovated! Corey was sympathetic but reasonable and he suggested that we just let her show our unit and get it over with. At this point it was personal... even though it was likely not personal at all. I was in full freak-out mode and let's just say, there was plenty of swearing and name calling.
On a side note, whenever I have a client who feels overwhelmed by the selling (or buying) process, I can quite truthfully remind them that Corey and I are my most challenging clients and even we managed our way through it. ;)
I was so furious that I couldn't bring myself to let this agent into my home. Logically, I knew that she was only a very small part of my troubles but I had nobody else to blame and so I started to find that the showing times she requested were inconvenient. The thought of having her in my home made me feel ill so it wasn't a stretch that I wouldn't feel very well each time she called for a showing. I was officially being a stubborn baby.
Now, I know very well that in order to be listed on the public listing service, I could not just refuse showings... Still, I couldn't help it if she kept requesting times that didn't work for me... right? Riiight??? I knew I was being childish but I plead temporary insanity! I had just been pushed to my breaking point.
Finally, she insisted that I give my office an appropriate time and she would work around my schedule. I was practically shaking with anger at the thought of having to let her in and I told Corey that while we had to allow her access, we did not have to give her privacy. I was determined to stay in my unit because I was CONVINCED that she was just showing our unit to give buyers a sense of how much renovations may cost should they purchase her own listing.
Sometimes I am wrong...
When she arrived at the door, I opened it a sliver and demanded her card. I knew I had to let her in but I didn't have to make it easy on her.
I scrutinized her name and (playing naive) asked, "Aren't you the agent who listed that unit upstairs?" She seemed a little unnerved at my tone and she obviously knew exactly why it had been so difficult to secure a showing time. I had disclosed in the listing that I am both the owner and an agent, so she was likely anticipating some friction.
"Just sold" she replied hastily.
"Firm or conditional?" I demanded.
"Firm" she replied.
"How much?" I barked, knowing I was pushing my luck since the price was not yet published but hoping she would tell me in order to end our awkward conversation.
"Full list" she said.
I felt a wave of relief. There was, at the moment, no other competition in the building and these buyers may actually be interested in my unit.
"Hmmft" I snorted. "I knew that one was priced too low" I mumbled as I opened the door. I welcomed her clients and shot Corey a meaningful look.
Her clients were a lovely young family with a little girl who loved Barkley. When it became clear that they were genuinely interested in our unit, we excused ourselves to take Barkley for a walk, in order to give them some privacy.
As we were leaving, the agent walked us to the door and quietly hinted to us ("Just so you know...") that she thought her clients would make an offer but that there was another unit they liked as well so their offer would only be valid for a few hours and we would have to decide quickly.
I smiled sweetly and told her that we wouldn't require much time to consider her offer. "But just so YOU know," I added just before I closed the door, "We just learned that we no longer have any competition, so our price will go up tomorrow."
She brought us a full-price offer that evening. I signed back even higher and Corey hyperventilated as we waited for a response. They accepted our counter offer.
And I learned a pretty valuable lesson about making assumptions.
After I sold, Alex soon learned that she could not stay in the building without me. She had helped me throughout the years and in many ways, she helped me sell my unit. So I helped her sell as well. Looking back, I believe Alex and I were the two highest sales in that building ever. I believe we still hold that record, although I never check.
I remember one day, after I had moved out, I went back to visit Alex while she was packing. We had both sold and purchased new homes and we were ready to begin a new life. It felt like we were released from prison and we were excited to be friends on the outside. As I was leaving, we stood in the parking lot giggling like girls when I felt the hairs on my neck stand on end. I looked up and saw the Kingpin watching us from her balcony and for a moment, I imagined the sick pleasure she must feel to have a chance at running the building once again with us gone. It made me shiver.
Loyal readers, thank you so much for your encouragement as I have told this difficult story. This is not quite the end of the story so I promise to wrap it up with one final chapter. Soon.