Small houses and storage

There are some advantages to owning a small house:

  • Less expensive to buy
  • Lower heating and cooling costs
  • Fewer rooms to furnish
  • Less square footage to clean
  • lower maintenance costs

Those are some of the obvious advantages.

Most of us see having less storage space as a disadvantage but it doesn’t have to be.

Do we really need to own a lot of things that we never or rarely ever use but that we store? What about things that have sentimental value that we look at now and then?

Most of us don’t even know what we have or where it is. Have you ever run out and bought something that you already own but couldn’t find?

Living in a smaller house with fewer belongings can be life-changing. Having fewer belongings can mean more freedom. Downsizing from a larger house can be hellish, but is easier if you think in terms of having less stuff rather than about having less storage space.

We have small houses in St. Paul. They were built long ago during a simpler time when people had fewer belongings. People did not need huge walk-in closets. If you are planning on buying a house this year consider thinking small.

Also, see Still obsessed with tiny houses

Plan ahead, downsizing isn’t easy

Minimalists have more space

Will our children ever take their stuff?

Adult children leave stuff behind

Having less is hard work

What is clutter?

Staging in an era of minimalism

There are various ways to stage a house. Hiring someone to come in and furnish every square inch of the home isn’t the way to stage a home.  The goal of staging should be to make a room look more inviting or in some cases to show how the room could be enjoyed.

Often when I see professionally staged homes I see too much stuff. Too much furniture and too many objects, a cluttered look.

Having less in a room makes it look larger and can help the buyer imagine the potential of the room.

Personally, I think empty or nearly empty rooms can really show off living spaces. Once the stuff is gone I notice the lighting and the layout and I start to imagine the room with my belongings in it.

Some of my clients feel the same way. The idea of minimalism and of smaller houses with smaller rooms is more attractive than rooms filled with furniture.

Recently I have read a raft of articles about the advantages of living without furniture. The articles include pictures of rugs, mats, and pillows. There may even be some health benefits in sitting on the floor vs. in a chair. I’ll keep my furniture but I won’t ignore the trend.

Furniture is expensive, it takes up space and limits how a room can be used.

I am not ready to get rid of my furniture but I am open to the idea that houses are not about furniture.

Often removing items from a house make it more salable.

Sometimes removing some furniture and re-arranging what is left can make a big difference in how a room looks. Rooms with some rugs and a few pillows, a chair or rocker, end table or coffee table and some window treatments are enough, especially in some of our older smaller St. Paul homes.

Moving into the dumpster

I can understand how it happens. People have to move in a hurry, or maybe they got evicted. For whatever reason, they decide not to move their stuff and throw it in the dumpster instead.

Towards the beginning of every month, I see dumpsters filled with furniture and household items. Those items won’t be recycled or re-used, they will end up in a landfill.

It costs money to move. Stuff costs money. Having space for stuff costs money.

There are many, many organizations that accept used household items. Some organizations will even come and pick up your reusable furniture. I have occasionally pulled furniture from the alley behind my house and donated it to the local thrift shop.

There has to be a better way. A more environmentally friendly way and a way to get these household items back to their owners or get them in the hands of someone who can use them.

real estate commissions are always negotiable

You may have heard or you may believe that REALTORS and real estate agents all charge X%.

The truth is we are not allowed to know what other agents are charging and there is no central data repository where commissions data can be collected and analyzed.

Some real estate companies tell their agents to charge X amount. Real estate agents are independent contractors and can say no or move to another company.

Real estate commissions are always negotiable. It isn’t always easy to negotiate with real estate agents. We negotiate all the time. Most of us wake up unemployed each morning and spend the day looking for clients. Those of us who survive get to be pretty good at negotiating.

If you find real estate agent who will not negotiate find one who will. There are like a zillion agents who are qualified to sell your home and who would do a good job. There isn’t any reason to settle.

You want an agents who is easy to work with and one who can negotiate.

When negotiating commission agents are taught to tell homeowners that agents who will discount their commission will likely get less for your house. There is no data to back that up. It is the sellers who have the last word about which offer gets accepted, not the agent.

Some agents will tell you they are worth “X” % and show you a list of services they provide and ask you which services they should cut so that they can work for less. Go ahead and challenge the agent to tell you how much each of those services cost.

Buyers agents usually get paid by the seller through the listing agent. I for one have never asked a buyer to pay my commission directly but I certainly could.

If a home buyer asked me to give them part of the commission I would probably say no. What some buyers do not realize is that working with a buyer is a lot more work than working with a seller.

Finding a home for sale has gotten fairly easy but is only a small part of the job. Learning to handle the multiple offers, negotiations during the inspection period and getting it all the way to the closing table can be challenging.

When choosing an agent a home buyer or seller should be choosing an agent who has experience. Agents with no experience can charge as much as experienced agents charge.

When looking for an agent ask your neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers for a recommendation. Talk to a few agents and ask them how much they charge. Also, ask about any fees charged by the real estate company in addition to a commission.

Also see Oink!

How not to chose a real estate agent

Sell it as it is

Houses can be sold “as is”. Often estates are sold this way but any house can be sold as is. That means not having to worry about making repairs even if home buyers ask for them. There are always people who will buy houses that need some work or maybe just some TLC.

If making repairs and getting a house ready for sale seems overwhelming. Put it on the market as is. The house should be marketed accordingly so that buyers understand that the seller will not be making repairs.

living room