Selling a home can seem daunting, but if you break it down it’s a predictable process. We’ve turned it into bite-sized pieces below, in the order they’ll occur, so you’ll know what we’ll be doing when the time comes…

It’s critical for you and me to know just how much money you have invested in your home and how much the bank has invested in it. Before we meet, pull together the following numbers:

  • Original purchase price
  • Land transfer tax paid
  • All renovation and upgrade costs

Do NOT include property taxes, legal fees and maintenance/repair invoices, as these are simply the cost of doing business. You’d be paying these regardless of what property you owned and they can’t be considered part of your investment. Once you have that total then find out:

  • The balance of your mortgage

Once you have these, email them to me. This will help determine your equity in the property and the total minimum dollar figure you’ll need to break even on the sale.

If you don’t already have one you will need a lawyer soon. They’ll need to know what you’re doing and be prepared to help if something comes up during the process. Your lawyer should take this opportunity to search title in order to ensure that it is indeed owned by you and that you have the legal right to sell it. They’ll make sure there aren’t any old Indian burial grounds, outstanding liens and work orders or environmentally protected zones on your property and confirm that the property as indicated in land titles is more or less the same as what you bought. It’s rare but it can happen that your lawyer discovers a problem with title. It’s best to know this up front and have any issues taken care of before you put your property on the market.

You should also take this opportunity to contact your lender and let them know that you’ll be selling your home. They should make you aware of any discharge fees and/or penalties you might be liable for when discharging your mortgage. These ARE negotiable despite what they might tell you. You have the right to negotiate a discount or eliminate them altogether.

Then you need to pass the names, email addresses and phone numbers of your lawyer AND your mortgage broker on to me.

It’s imperative that we both sign a contract or listing agreement at the earliest practical opportunity. This document is critical as it binds my brokerage to you and ensures that we are working with your best interests in mind. You have several options when working with a brokerage but the most popular are an MLS listing or an EXCLUSIVE listing. An MLS (Multiple Listing Service) listing is made available on the MLS system (website) and made accessible to all agents and the general public to view. Typically, most transactions are MLS listings. This offers the best form of advertising and gets your property seen by the widest number of people. An EXCLUSIVE listing is one in which the listing brokerage has the exclusive right to market and sell your home with no public advertising. Your property will NOT be loaded onto MLS and the listing will not be made available to other agents or the general public. Why would anyone go this route you may ask? Well, some sellers prefer NOT to publicize the sale of their home for a variety of reasons and rely entirely on the listing brokerage to sell the property in house within their own client base and by word of mouth recognizing that this might take longer and not be the most efficient way to sell their home.

The four most important pieces of information contained in the listing agreement are:

  • THE LISTING DATE – the date the listing becomes active and the house is officially up for sale.
  • THE EXPIRATION DATE – all listings must contain an expiration date so you know when the contract between yourself and the brokerage is no longer in effect in the event that your property does NOT sell.
  • THE COMMISSION – Ah yes, the dreaded commission. This is negotiable between you and me. Typically, agents charge competitive rates within a given city or region. I can best explain to you what I charge and what services you get in return and also how much of that commission the buyer’s agent will receive.
  • THE PRICE – This is the price that you and your agent decide upon together (see more below) which leads me to the next topic:

This is what I like to call the “Three Ps” of selling properties:

PRICE IT RIGHT

Pricing your property correctly is the most important first step in ensuring a successful sale. This is something that you and I should work on together and should NOT be the first question asked of me nor should it be the deciding factor in whether to hire me as your agent. Many sellers choose their agent solely based on the price the agent suggests the property is worth (typically a very high and unrealistic price) rather than assessing the skills of the agent and whether or not you and the agent will have a good working relationship. The pitfall here is that many agents will tell you what you want to hear rather than the truth. Before long you’ll be stuck with a property that’s not selling, an agent urging you to drop the price and you’ll end up feeling like the “loser” in this transaction. It’s important to note that the price does not have to be locked in stone. If prior to the listing date you or I feel that it needs to change, we can always amend the agreement to reflect the new reality. There are two basic options in Ontario when deciding on price:

CONVENTIONAL LISTING STRATEGY – If you decide to market the property conventionally, then you’ll want to establish the maximum potential value for the property and price it accordingly. This is what we call the “retail” price. This should allow for some negotiating room on behalf of the buyer so that you walk away with what you want and the buyer feels that they had the opportunity to negotiate. Be careful not to overprice the property however as it’s critical that the property be priced within the range of comparable properties in the area so that as many potential buyers are exposed to your listing as possible. With the rise in popularity of the MLS system in the last 15 years, it’s now the #1 place that all buyers go to search for homes. Typically buyers will enter a price range when searching. If your property falls outside of the standard range for comparable properties in the area, then the largest available selection of potential buyers will miss seeing your property.

OFFER HOLDBACK STRATEGY – The other option is to have an offer holdback. An offer holdback is when you inform the public that you will consider any and all offers at a specific date and time after the property comes on the market. Typically that date is about a week after you put the property on the market in order to allow enough potential buyers to see the property but not too long that buyers lose interest or find another property. If you decide to have an offer hold-back, then you’ll want to list the property at the lower end of it’s market value in order to drive interest and allow for buyers to compete. This is what we call the “wholesale” price. Knowing what you have invested in the property and the minimum price you need to walk away with (Step #1) or are willing to accept is key.

This can be an effective way to market your property as it generally brings more eyeballs to the property and the competition between buyers can yield higher selling prices. The other advantage of this strategy is knowing that the anxiety of selling will be over reasonably quickly and you’ll be able to get back to your normal routine rather than not knowing when an offer will come in. The downside to this strategy is that if your property isn’t priced right, you may end up “stalling” with no offers on the offer day. If this were to happen, you always have the opportunity to re-list the property at a price that reflects it’s true value and wait for an offer to come as you would if you listed the property conventionally but it’s certainly not ideal.

PREPARE YOUR PROPERTY

This is where the real pain begins! We should do a walk through of your home as early as possible in order that the I may make a list of things we’ll need to do in order to maximize the selling power of your home. This can include simple things like de-cluttering and cleaning or more complex and costly suggestions such as renovations and upgrades to existing systems. Again, this will depend on the value of the property, how much you have invested in it and how your property is positioned in the market place. Once this list is established, you and I will determine who does what. To save money, you may opt to do some if not all the work yourself or you may opt to leave it up to me to manage the preparation on your behalf. I can recommend various trades and services such as cleaners, packers, painters, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, contractors, and stagers.

The goal here is that once the work is done, your house should be ready for the cover of a magazine. Then it’s time for the marketing materials. A good suggestion, especially if you’re considering an offer holdback, is to have a pre-inspection done of your property by a qualified home inspector. This will tell buyers that you have nothing to hide and give them quick and easy reference to the status of the major systems of the property. Once that’s done, the property needs to be professionally photographed. These pictures of your home are the single most important marketing tool you have: this is how your property is presented to the world and can make or break whether a potential buyer chooses to see your home. Floor plans and stylish and informative feature sheets are typically also prepared at this time and made ready for the web and printing. Remember: PEOPLE PAY FOR PRETTY!

PUT IT ON THE MARKET

The listing day has finally arrived. You are exhausted and stressed and you haven’t even had one buyer through the door yet! I will upload the listing onto the MLS system on the listing day as indicated on the agreement between us and it will be made available on this and various other websites including the brokerage website and my own website. The listing date is the day that your property is technically available for sale. If it is an MLS listing, as soon as this day arrives and it’s uploaded onto the Internet it must be made available for showing by prospective buyers and their agents. They can and will start booking appointments to view the property right away.

In advance of this date you and I should have discussed how showings should be confirmed with you, what times of day showings can be permitted and what directions my office needs in order to ensure that you are in the loop on what’s happening. It’s important, especially during the first week, to make sure that the house shows as well as when it was photographed. That means all beds made like Martha Stewart, no dirty dishes in the sink and no bath towels left on the floor. You, your kids and/or pets should ideally NOT be present during showings but again, this is something you and I will work out in advance.

Typically, the day after the property is listed, I host an agent’s open house. This happens on a weekday from 11:30am to 1:00pm and allows all the agents in the area to check out your property and report back to any and all prospective clients. The first weekend is typically reserved for public open houses. Usually held between 2-4pm on Saturday and Sunday, this is the general publics first chance to see the property if they haven’t already booked an appointment to see the property themselves. With the advent of the Internet, many buyers prefer to check out open houses themselves before involving their agents so they can pre-screen and pre-select which properties they would like to pursue.

Again, it’s critical that the house show it’s best from the time showings begin in the morning until that last showing time in the evening. Showings will continue during this time up until the day of offers (if we decide on an offer holdback) or until the property sells (an offer is accepted).

Yes, that day will come. Eventually, depending on your pricing strategy, you’ll get an offer or multiple offers. If we decided on an offer holdback, we will meet at the appointed time and place to review the offer(s). This will be determined in advance but I typically advise that the date be no more than one week from the listing date and that offers be reviewed at my office. If there is no offer holdback, we wait till an offer is made and then agree where and when to meet. We’ll review the offer(s) together and make a decision on how to proceed.

Remember that you are in the driver’s seat. You and you alone must feel comfortable with the price and terms of the offer. It’s my job to offer professional advice but the final decision rests with you. Once you’ve accepted an offer, all parties to the offer sign and the contract becomes firm and binding (if no conditions exist) or conditional by the buyer.

Typically, conditions placed on an offer are financing and inspection and the buyer(s) must set a date with which these conditions must be fulfilled: typically 3 to 5 days. A conditional offer means that the buyer can back out of the deal if the condition(s) they have placed on the offer are not or cannot be met.

Obviously a firm offer is preferable but depending on the circumstances, a conditional offer may be acceptable. A serious buyer will rarely walk away from a deal unless they really can’t fulfill the terms of the their conditions. By this point, buyers are usually emotionally invested in the process and want to make it work if they can. If not already firm and binding, once the conditions are met, the property is now SOLD!

You need to email or fax the final binding offer to your bank right away so they can start work on discharging the mortgage (if there is one). As mentioned above, make sure you negotiate any discharge fees or penalties that might be payable by you to dissolve your mortgage. These ARE negotiable so please fight hard to reduce or eliminate these fees.

Once the deal is firm, you need to fax or email it to your lawyer so they can handle the closing and connect with the buyer’s lawyer to make arrangements for transfer of keys and money.

Now is a good time to inform all your utilities, insurance broker, alarm company and Canada Post that you’re moving and make sure that as of the closing date, everything is being re-routed to the new address. Send out a change of address email to all your friends.

This needs to be done well in advance. The good ones get booked ahead of time and you don’t want to find out on closing day that you and your Subaru are the moving company.

On the closing day or very shortly before, you will meet with your lawyer to review the deal and settle the finances. The lawyer will have determined how much you owe including your share of taxes and utilities (called ADJUSTMENTS) and he’ll present you will the final bill. You’ll need to keep in mind that you’ll need to pay the closing costs, which include adjustments, legal fees and real estate commissions. Typically you should have at least 7% of the sale price on hand to meet these obligations.

You’ll hand over a bank draft, money order or certified cheque (as determined by you and your lawyer in advance) and all of the keys/pass-cards/fobs and codes required for the new buyer to access the property. You and I can also make arrangements to have another set of keys left with the brokerage or at the property in order to make moving day smoother for both yourself and the seller.

You should keep in touch with your lender and make sure that the funds are transferred to your account on the closing day. Many banks get tardy with this and it can cause a lot of panic at the last minute. Again, communication with your mortgage broker is key. Keep in touch.

Also, remember that I have been through this more than a few times and have good resources for trades people that you might need to help ensure a smooth move. I have all sorts of names up my sleeve so keep in touch and don’t hesitate to call me for assistance.

Cheers and Good Luck!

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