Below you’ll find everything you need to know (and a little bit more!) about getting ready to sell your home. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of selling your home, congratulations - you’re completely normal! That’s why we’re here to help.
The first step is to create a financial plan. You’ll need an estimate of value for your current home (we can help with that!) and an estimate of the kind of home you want to buy (we can help with that too!), then you’ll need to speak with your mortgage provider to see what options you have. Nothing is worse than jumping the gun on selling your home only to find out you can’t afford the next one.
Selling and buying a home at the same time can seem complicated. You need to sell first so you’ll have the money to buy, but you need to buy first so you have a place to live when you sell.
Here’s how it works:
Your home is officially sold once you and the buyer of your home settle an offer. You put up the "sold" sticker and snap a cute selfie but the buyer hasn’t paid you, at least not yet. That happens later, usually within a couple of months. It’s during this time you’ll still be living in your home (even though it’s sold) so you go out and buy your next home. This allows both buyers and sellers to line up a purchase and sale together. As an alternative, your mortgage lender may recommend doing a “bridge” loan where you would carry both properties. This is perfect if you’re doing renovations or just taking your time to move in.
You have "konmari"-ed everything, and you still feel like you’re bursting at the seams. That’s a sign it’s time to weigh in on the costs and benefits of selling vs. staying put. This is something only you can decide so think it over carefully. Selling and moving is a very personal decision and it’s something only you will know when it's right for you. Just like buying your dream home, you just know when it’s the right one, you’ll just know when it’s the right time.
From repainting to replacing the roof, it’s important to know what repairs are worth it and what’s throwing your money away. In general, minor repairs such as filling nail holes, adjusting squeaky doors or replacing broken fixtures are almost always worth it. Bigger ticket items such as upgrading to double pane windows may not be. It's important to keep the potential buyers in mind; if your home will attract someone starting out, they likely won’t have extra money for even the smallest repairs because they’re putting everything into the down payment. On the other hand, if your property is more of a total rebuild, there’s no point in spending money fixing anything.
Nothing says "welcome" like a sparkling clean home! Actually, the biggest complaint we hear from home buyers while viewing homes is the topic of cleaning. Emptying wastebaskets, dusting blinds and wiping windowsills all seem superficial but it communicates that you care for your home. If you know you’re strapped for time and can’t do a good deep clean, you’re better off to hire someone. Anything you spend on hiring a cleaner will more than be made back because you won’t be wasting time with unproductive showings. If your home is clean when buyers see it, they’re less likely to ask for a cleaning allowance or make it a condition of the sale. Don’t underestimate the power of a freshly-cleaned home.
Home staging can be controversial, with the invention of virtual staging and non-standard size rental furniture built just for staging. You might be worried a stager will be using all these tricks and gimmicks, and you should be. Buyers don’t appreciate being set up.
The best approach to staging is by applying the timeless principles of good interior design. Showing your home as a functional, clutter-free space will impress any potential buyer. For vacant homes especially, it’s hard to envision what rooms feel like without the basic references we all use; couch, dining table, bed, etc. Our articles frame the way we live in a space.
Ahhhh the smell of freshly baked bread. Have you ever walked by a bakery just to enjoy a bit of “bakery air”? Given the rise in gluten-free diets maybe this a bad analogy but a welcoming smell is a great way to draw buyers in. Just be careful not to overdo it. A scented candle in every room will lead buyers to wonder what you're hiding! If you're worried about odours like pets, teenagers, or hockey gear, you're better off having the carpets cleaned and airing out your home by opening all the windows for 30 mins before a showing.
Most buyers will expect major appliances, such as, fridge, stove, washer, dryer and dishwasher. Also expected are blinds, entry keys, fobs and remotes for garages, fireplaces and ceiling fans. All foliage planted in the ground should stay, even if you planted when you first moved in. Furnishings are generally not included or expected but sometimes a buyer will ask for certain pieces if they’re custom-made or fit the space in a special way. Moveable kitchen islands and TV wall brackets often cause confusion so remember to always ask for the inclusions in writing.
Here’s a list of what not to do when selling your home:
Clean everything! Even things you think are passable. Put away any valuables, and personal items. Make sure your pets have a safe place to stay during the open house. If possible have parking available for guests. Don’t turn on the dishwasher right before the open house. Weather permitting, turn on the fireplace.
In a perfect world, no, people would not be showing up without an appointment. But the internet has done a fabulous job of making information available and once your home is marketed for sale, some overzealous buyers may show up out of the blue at your door. But under no circumstances are you obligated to let people into your home without an appointment and proper qualifications. Don’t feel guilty about turning people away, they know they’re supposed to make an appointment.
House stalking isn’t weird, it's recommended! Although it sure feels weird when you're selling your home to see cars driving by and slowing down like they’re casing the joint or parking across the street with the lights off like a stakeout. But no, it's really not that weird - they just want to buy your house.
Legit, savvy buyers are trying to figure out what the neighbourhood is like at all hours of the day and night - they’re trying to picture themselves living their lives in that spot. What route will they take to get their kids to school, or themselves to work? How long does it take to get to the nearest grocery store? Believe it or not, they’re not trying to spy on you.
There is no question that packing up kids and pets and spending the morning getting your home "show home" ready is disruptive, but buyers seeing your house is a necessary next step towards selling. Try and keep it in perspective; this is a temporary step towards your goal. Prepare the whole family so you can work together as a team. You might even find it enjoyable to come back after the open house and spend some time in the clean and tidy show home you have prepared!
Open houses are a popular home selling strategy, but they may not be necessary. Attending an open house gives buyers a gentle way of easing into the home buying process and it might even motivate them to contact their own agent to book a private showing or better yet make an offer. But with photos, floor plans and detailed listing info available online, any buyer is able to decide if your home meets their needs and a serious buyer will arrange a private showing. If you're away for the weekend or you're selling your property whilst living somewhere else, that is the best use of an open house and least invasive to your life.
It’s stressful putting cats in crates and begging a friend to walk your dog but while they’re oh so adorable, it can easily derail a buyers' showing when the buyers are focused on your pet rather than your space. If the buyers have allergies, they may skip the showing altogether. The best-case scenario is to have pets (including all evidence of pets - think water dishes, scratching posts, leashes) not visible during showings. This means your pets visiting a relative while your property is on the market or you run down to the car to hang out together while showings are in progress.
You’ve cleaned up, you're ready to go, you're excited to see what guests the open house brings - now what? Conveniently, most open houses are held at the same time as yours on weekend afternoons, which means you’ll be free to view other homes while buyers are viewing yours. Running errands, visiting with a friend for a play-date, dropping in at your in-laws are all good options - and what about getting yourself invited to a bbq!
Your realtor should be your partner; a firm advocate when it comes to negotiating on your behalf and a trusted advisor when it comes to planning your next move. You want to know you're getting honest advice you can take to the bank (literally!). Your realtor will be your liaison, they’ll help you navigate the legalities that stand between you and your dream home.
The industry jargon term is "closing costs"; the things you’ll be paying for on your closing/completion day. Your lawyer or notary will prepare a detailed statement of adjustments (a fancy name for a bill) that they’ll deduct from the selling price before passing on the balance of the money to you. If you're using the money from your sale to buy your next home, they will apply it towards your down payment.
Although nonfinancial, the real hidden cost of selling your home is the emotional work of letting go of your home and passing it on to the new owner. Memories aside, when embarking on such a large financial decision, you should obtain advice from a tax lawyer and accountant who can best assess your personal situation. In general, Transfer Tax, GST, Capital Gains and Estate Tax are some of the more common extra taxes that may come with real estate transactions.
Before you place your home on the market, you’ll need to make sure you're legally eligible to execute the sale of the property. Although it’s rare that a homeowner wouldn’t know if their home can be sold, it does happen, and recent changes to property taxes have made it more common to add family members to a home’s legal title. Your home’s title shows any legal encumbrances, court orders or other orders that may prevent you from selling. Don’t worry if you have no idea where to find your legal title, we can help you get a copy from the registry.
To start, we need to make sure you’re "you" and that you have the right to sell your home. You’ll need a valid photo ID such as your driver's license or passport, any citizenship documents and for Canadian Citizens, a valid SIN. You may also need probate (if you have any), power of attorney or proof of ownership. If you belong to a strata, you'll need two years of strata meeting minutes. You'll also need any property tax records, survey certificates, occupancy and building permits, or warranties, and appliance manuals. Basically, anything you can think of related to the property you're selling is helpful to dig out in advance.
Selling your home means saying goodbye, but it also means saying hello. Keep the focus on what is exciting about the next chapter of your family’s life. Throwing a goodbye party, or keeping a "moving" scrapbook are some good ideas - some families even book a professional photographer to capture their favourite home memories as a keepsake. The lives we live are undoubtedly built in the spaces we live in. When it comes to your home, it’s so much more than a purchase and sale. Allowing what once was your dream home to become someone else’s dream is a natural part of the stages in your life.