Step #1 – Decide When To Sell Your House
If only there was an easy answer to the oft-asked question: When should I sell my house? Important considerations include:
- Time of year – Real estate in Toronto is seasonal, with December, January and August historically being the slowest months. We find that the best months to list a house for sale in Toronto are February, March, April and September, when buyers are motivated and the other sellers are busy preparing to list their homes for sale in the “spring” or “fall” markets.
- Current competition in your neighbourhood – At any given time, there are only so many buyers looking for the kind of house you have. If those buyers have a big selection of houses like yours to consider, you can expect to have fewer showings and fewer offers, which will usually result in a lower price. Conversely, if you are the only renovated three bedroom house with a garage for sale in your neighbourhood, more buyers are likely to show interest in your house.
- Current competition in similar neighbourhoods – Most buyers have two or three target neighbourhoods they want to live in, so it is important to consider what is for sale in neighbourhoods similar to yours too. Similar neighbourhoods are not just those that are physically close but also those similar in quality of schools, proximity to parks, restaurants, services and transportation and in terms of the type of people who live there (singles, couples, families, retirees, etc.)
- State of the real estate market – Interest rates and consumer confidence affect prices, and while the Toronto market has been on an upswing for a long time, like any other type of market, what goes up usually comes down. What’s going on in the market right now?
- Your personal needs and goals – If you are moving out of the city or have already bought a new house, that timing will likely override everything else. Likewise, an upcoming baby, need for live-in nanny, wedding or divorce might affect your timing too.
Step #2: Get Ready: Declutter, Stage and Clean
When preparing your house for sale, keep these three goals in mind:
- Declutter to maximize your space and allow potential buyers to imagine living in your home. Remove personal items, extra armoires and anything that could distract potential buyers. Smaller furniture will make the rooms look bigger, so consider swapping out that king sized bed that takes up the whole bedroom for a smaller one, and replacing the L-shaped couch with a more compact version. Clear out closets, donate items you do not use. Most of our house sellers end up calling a junk removal company or storing some of their belongings offsite during the sale. We love 1-800-GOT-JUNK and Pods for storage).
- Make sure every room is staged to its optimal use It is ok if you are using two of your three bedrooms as offices, but convert them back to bedrooms while the house is listed for sale. A good REALTOR will spend time identifying your house’s target buyer and will guide you to stage your home to reflect how they would want to live in it.
- Clean, clean and clean again! The cleaner your house, the faster it will sell. Buyers will not just look at surfaces – they will look inside your closets, kitchen cupboards and bathroom vanity. Make sure everything sparkles!
Special Considerations for Houses
- Curb Appeal – More than once we have had buyers pull up to the front of a house they were interested in and instantly decide to go home. How your home looks from the outside – the porch, door, walkway, gardens – will set the tone for how a buyer feels about your home. Give it the attention it deserves.
- Basement – Buyers love basements, so make sure to showcase yours to the fullest. Clear out the clutter and make sure that buyers and home inspectors can easily reach the electrical panel and furnace. If your basement can be used as a second apartment, make sure that’s obvious to buyers too.
- The Big Mechanics – While buyers are often swayed by granite counters, hardwood floors and fancy appliances, the mechanics of your house matter too. The furnace, A/C, hot water tank, electrical, plumbing, roof and insulation are all important: make sure your real estate agent knows every unsexy detail about your house.
- Termites – If you live in a termite area, consider getting a termite inspection. Dealing with any problems before listing your home for sale, or, being able to provide a clean termite report can add real value to your home.
- Backyard – Many houses have been sold because of the outdoor space, so make the most of your backyard. Consider re-staining the deck, updating your gardens, fixing the fence and getting some stylish patio furniture. If you’re selling your home in the winter, provide summer photos of your yard to your agent – everybody loves to imagine hosting a BBQ.
Step #3: Get Set: More Prep Work
- Get your documents together Your agent will be asking you for copies of your heating, electrical and utility and tax bills, so take the time to photocopy or scan them. Any current warranties and manuals should be gathered too.
- Make a list of renovations and repairs Compile a list of all the renovations and repairs that have been completed since you have owned the house. Be prepared to discuss with your REALTOR any current issues with the house – it is better to disclose any ongoing issues then get sued later.
- Make an extra set of keys You’ll likely have a lockbox at your house so that real estate agents can show your home to their buyers, so make an extra set of keys.
- Get a pre-list home inspection – Complete a pre-listing home inspection before you put your house on the market to help you identify any issues with the home that might be objections for buyers. For example: the home inspector may determine that your house needs a new roof. Armed with that information, you can choose to either a) fix the roof before putting the house up for sale, or b) factor it into your asking price. Be in control of how the deficiencies in your house will affect the price you get for the house. If you are pricing your home for a bidding war, making the pre-listing home inspection available to buyers will encourage them to make offers
Step #4: Pricing Your House for Sale
Pricing a house in Toronto is both a science and an art. Your REALTOR will discuss with you the pros and cons of pricing your home for a bidding war vs pricing high with the intent to negotiate vs pricing your home at market value.
In the end, the market decides how much your home is worth by deciding how much they want to pay for it. Buyers will consider:
- Recent sales on your street and in your neighbourhood
- Recent sales of similar properties in nearby neighbourhoods
- Properties currently on the market
- Current market conditions
- The size, finishes and condition of your home
- Location – schools, transit, construction, state (settled or up and coming)
Other things that can be important to Toronto buyers include:
- Parking and/or a garage
- The basement (whether or not it is finished or can be used as a second apartment)
- Closets and storage
Step #5: Marketing
One of your real estate agent’s most important jobs will be making sure potential buyers see your house. A comprehensive marketing campaign for your house should make people fall in love with your house. Real estate marketing should include:
- Photography/Videography – Professional photography is a must! Most buyers will see your home for the first time online, and if the photos do not capture their attention, they will move on to the next house. We have also had tremendous success in producing virtual walk-throughs of houses that allow buyers to picture hemselves living in your house.
- For Sale Signs – It is not unusual for buyers to cruise their target neighbourhoods in search of their perfect house, so a For Sale sign on the lawn is always recommended.
- Open Houses – Your agent may suggest hosting an open house on Saturday, Sunday or both days, so be prepared to leave your home for a few hours.
- Online Marketing – Being found online is critical! Make sure you’re working with a real estate agent who has heavy buyer traffic on their website and who knows how to use other websites to your and your house’s advantage.
- Email Marketing/Social Media – Top REALTORS promote their listings to other agents via email and have a network of potential buyers they can reach via email and other platforms. Do not forget, you can help with the sale of your house by sharing the link to your listing too!
- Print Marketing – Most agents will print feature sheets for your home so that the potential buyers who see it will have a takeaway of information and photos. Depending on your REALTOR and your ideal Buyer, your home might also be promoted in real estate magazines.
- Your ideal buyer is out there – they may be first time buyers, the parents of first-time buyers, an international investor, a recent divorcee, a newly married couple, seniors who have just sold their family home or a young couple with a baby on the way. Smart real estate agents will go to great lengths to profile your target buyer and create a marketing campaign to reach them.
Step #6: Showings
When buyers make an appointment to see your house, keep the following in mind:
- Leave your house! There’s nothing more distracting for to a buyer than having to walk around the owner.
- Be flexible with showing times – Most buyers look at properties in the evening or on the weekends.
- Board the dogs! Not everyone will love your dog as much as you do. At minimum, crate them during showings. Ideally, take them for a walk or board them.
- Cleanliness matters! It isn’t enough to have a clean house on day 1. You’ll need to wash the dishes, make the beds, wash the floors and weed the garden every day while it’s listed for sale.
Step #7: Offers
Sad but true: not every house seller gets a bidding war. While your agent will take you through what to expect come offer time, if there is only one buyer for your house, you can expect to see the following two conditions in an offer:
- A financing condition, which allows the buyer to confirm their mortgage qualifications with a lender
- A home inspection condition, which allows the buyer to bring in a home inspector of their choosing to go through the home. Home inspections generally last 2-3 hours.
Of course, there is a lot more to negotiate than conditions: price, closing date (the date the Buyer takes possession), inclusions (appliances, big screen TV’s, etc.) and deposit (usually 5% of the purchase price, paid within 24 hours of the offer being accepted).
In the event of multiple offers (more commonly referred to as a bidding war), offers will generally be “firm”, meaning there are no conditions. There are many ways for a bidding war to proceed – your agent will suggest different strategies to help you get the highest price.
Step #8: Closing Day
As closing day (the day the new Buyer takes possession) approaches, you or your lawyer will need to make sure to:
- Inform the utility companies of your impending move
- Inform the city so that you do not continue to pay property taxes
- Cancel your home insurance (to take effect after you have confirmation that the sale has closed)
A day or two before closing day, you’ll need to visit your lawyer and sign a lot of paperwork. When the property is transferred to the new owner, you will get the money via your lawyer (less real estate commissions, legal fees and any adjustments).
Still have questions about selling your Toronto house? Text, email or call us and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have about selling your house for top dollar.