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Alyssa Powell / Insider

Here’s what: I learned a few things buying 2 houses in 2 years

The week before my house went on the market, I experienced a night of pure panic. Cold sweats and all. The house is beautiful, good even, but I was overwhelmed by a terrifying thought: what if no one wants it?

My husband and I had just made an offer for a house we loved in our dream neighborhood – an offer below the asking price of $10,000 – and with just a little negotiation on the price, we were under contract in about 24 hours. Smooth sailing.

What would become of my house then, I wondered, with its complete lack of closets, its comically small bathroom, and its neighbors so noisy it couldn’t be real? If that other house – that nice house in a desirable neighborhood‚ could stay on the market for several weeks without any offers, would my house in a worse neighborhood stay on the market…forever?

My ever-soothing real estate agent, Allison Fegel of Philly Home Girls, told me it probably wouldn’t stick around indefinitely. But if it sat around for a while, we’d find it – lower the price, consider turning it into a rental, Something. We had options. However, we had to nail the listing photos first; the more people we could attract, the more likely we would be to get an offer.

I’ll tell you, it was a royal pain to “declutter” my house for these photos and then get my whole family out of the house for the photographer, but they ended up gorgeous. And guess what – we received four offers in the first three days, all above the asking price and even one in cash.

The experience taught me two things.

1. Ad photos are important

I don’t have scientific proof of this, of course, but I’m convinced that my ad photos sold my house (or were at least a big part of it). They were bright and beautifully composed, emphasizing the good and minimizing the less desirable (like the closed house three doors down). Within a day of hitting Redfin, our house was a “hot house”.

Our new house, on the other hand, had atrocious listing photos. I’m talking about mirror selfies in the bathroom and gritty, lopsided kitchen shots. Again, no scientific evidence, but I think the bad photos probably prevented potential buyers from visiting and making an offer (my real estate agent agreed). I would have scrolled down the list if my real estate agent hadn’t sent me the link and told me she spotted some nice details, like gleaming hardwood floors and original railings.

Which brings me to lesson #2.

2. Hire people who understand you

When we bought our first home, my husband and I talked to a few real estate agents before meeting Allison. When we did, we knew she was the right person for us. She understood what we were looking for and we never felt judged for our tastes or budget limitations. Although we ended up selling our first home, it had nothing to do with our experience with Allison; in fact, we worked with her again on our second home. She had helped us get an amazing deal on our first home and helped us through a complicated buying process.

Same goes for our mortgage broker – we’ve worked with her on both of our homes because a) she’s incredibly quick and responsive, and b) she knew when to push and when to back off. She even locked in my mortgage rate for me just before the Fed raised rates in March. That’s what I call service.

— Stephanie Hallett, editor of Personal Finance Insider

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