Contrary to popular belief, selling your home doesn’t need to be an overly stressful time, fraught with fear and uncertainty. Yes, you need to keep your home pristine, just in case a potential buyer books a last-minute viewing. Sure, you need to price your home competitively enough to attract buyers, but not leave money on the table. But the stress involved with listing and selling your home for the best possible price can be greatly reduced if you follow these five smart tips.
Tip #1: Don’t be too proud
Have you ever heard the saying: “House proud”? It refers to a person that really, really, really loves their home and shows this love by keeping the place in tip-top shape. But being proud of your home has its drawbacks. It can prevent you from seeing the true market value of your home and this can lead to the need to overprice your property when it comes time to list.
Whether you are using a real estate agent or selling a home by yourself (known as FSBO, or For-Sale-By-Owner), you will need to do a lot of research prior to setting the list price.
If you’re working with a Realtor, this person can guide you through the process and provide explanations as to why a specific list price target it best for your home. Listen to this person. They know the local market and appreciate the competition. Remember, the agent’s goal is the same as yours: To sell your home for the highest dollar, so you both make money.
If you’re going the FSBO-route, you will need to do a lot of legwork to find the best price for your home. Examine recent listings and compare your potential asking price to the actual sale price of recently sold homes in your community or complex. Now, take a closer look at each sale. What similarities or differences does your home offer when compared to what has recently sold.
While you may be house proud, you need to remove your love for your home and look at market information objectively. What are buyers valuing in your neighbourhood and can you offer them these amenities?
For instance, some neighbourhoods attract buyers who really want an attached garage. If your home offers an attached two-car garage, and many of the other homes only offer an attached one-car garage than there is a good chance you can list your home for a bit higher than current market value in your area. Of course, the same applies to features your home may not have: If buyers in your area really like a weight-room and indoor swimming pool in their condo complex, and your building offers neither, then you may have to reduce your list price in order to entice buyers to consider the value offered in your unit.
Finally, consider how you will use price as a selling strategy. Some realtors will price a home aggressively — meaning they’ll list a home for less than market value — in an effort to spur on multiple bids. This strategy is used when a seller and Realtor are interested in getting multiple bids on a property because it’s a time-proven strategy that typically earns sellers top dollar for their home.
Whichever strategy you decide, remember, overpricing your property can squash even the most motivated buyers. To keep interest high and buyers motivated, remember to price your home competitively.
Tip #2: Perform all maintenance
Most buyers want to purchase a home that’s move-in ready, so before you list your home for sale, perform all routine maintenance and repairs on the property.
But don’t be surprised if the buyer adds in a home inspection condition. Since a property purchase is such a large acquisition, most buyers will want some assurances and this means getting an opinion on the home from a paid professional.
A property inspector will review every aspect of your home that is visible to the naked eye. But that doesn’t mean you should hide evidence of damage or a recent repair. Take this route and you could find yourself in court for covering up a “latent defect” — a problem with a home that is not noticeable during an inspection. Instead, be forthright about any issues. For example, if there were leaks, explain what you did (and when you did it) to repair the situation.
Quite often, if a property inspector finds more than minor repairs required on your home, the potential buyer will either ask you to fix these before the purchase is finalized or they will negotiate a lower price. To avoid this scenario — which reduces your sale price and delays the sale of your home — be sure to repair and replace all broken or worn components in your home. This includes but isn’t limited to:
- Faded, cracked, or peeling paint on the interior of exterior
- Stains in the ceiling where the roof has leaked
- Cracked or dirty windows; rotting wood window frames
- Stained carpets and flooring
- Inoperable light fixtures
- Appliances that don’t work
- Leaky basement
- Dripping faucets or toilets
- Creaky decks or loose patio pavers
- Bug infestations
Remember, your aim is to provide a move-in ready home to potential buyers. The less doubt, concern or problems your home has the more appealing it will be to buyers and this typically translates into a higher sale price.
Tip #3: Invest in powerful images
Over 90% of home buyers start their home search online. (It’s one reason why Zolo.ca has become one of the most popular listing sites in Canada.) The problem is that online you only have one tool to attract a buyer: pictures.
To compete, you must have fantastic images. Take photos when your home is freshly-cleaned and in natural daylight (but remember to turn on all lights anyway, this is what professional photographers do). If possible, have an unbiased friend or neighbour preview and give you feedback. Do they see weeds popping up next to the front door or shadows that mask a glorious entryway? Fix the issues and then take the photographs.
You can hire a professional or do the work yourself, just be realistic about how much time and energy you have to dedicate to this important component of selling your home.
Tip #4: Don’t make it personal
Once you’ve decided to sell your home, it’s time to start thinking of the property as an investment, not as a home.
One key factor is to remove remnants of your life from the property. This includes family photos, religious material, unique art pieces as well as kids art and personalized decor and memorabilia.
Essentially, you want to strip your home of your personality. This allows buyers to visualize living in the home, rather than p
Of course, once you strip your home of your personalized items it may seem a bit barren and disconnected. Not to worry. This is when the power of staging takes over.
Turns out professionally staged homes sell quicker than unstaged homes. According to a study conducted by U.S.-based Real Estate Staging Association (RESA), staged homes sold in 23 days, on average, compared to 143, which was the average number of days unstaged homes sat on the market.
This is significant. Given that most markets in Canada are now in a buyer’s market, it’s important to attract and secure an offer sooner, rather than later, if you want to sell your home for top dollar.
Keep in mind, though, that the impact and power of a staged home will vary depending on the type of home being staged. For example, the biggest impact will be seen in homes that are empty or have outdated furnishings and older paint and decor colours.
“Seeing a vacant house is like looking at yourself in the mirror naked – you see every flaw!” — Mustafa Abassi, President of Zolo Realty
On the other hand, very contemporary homes with up-to-date decor will probably not see a major difference in staging but will still benefit from a good decluttering and depersonalizing program.
For those interested in hiring a professional stager, you’ll need to shop around to find the right services for your budget. That’s because cost and services vary dramatically within each market (and for each goal).
To help you create a budget, estimate about $500 for a simple walk-through, while a complete makeover of your home may cost as much as 1% of the purchase price (per month of staging). This may seem like a big expense, but keep in mind that this cost goes towards the marketing of your home — and marketing is the art and science of attracting customers and closing the deal.
Of course, you don’t have to hire the services of a professional stager but before making that decision consider the following:
- Do you or does someone you know have design skills?
- Do you have the time and energy required to stage your home?
- Can you see beyond your memories and look outside the Pottery Barn catalogue to create a neutral but engaging image for your home?
If you can answer yes to these questions, you may not need to hire a professional stager. For tips, check out “5 Tips for Staging Your Home Like a Pro.”
Once you’ve staged and listed your home for sale, you need to turn your attention to keeping the property in magazine-worthy condition.
Before each showing or open house, be sure to clean your home really, really well. The details really matter, here. Make sure windows are free of smudges, the fridge is clear of sticky little fingerprints, fluff the pillows and remove pets and pet hair from furnishings. (It’s best to find temporary boarding for your pets while showing your home.)
Up the game by lighting the fireplace (if it’s cold out), turning on all the lights (a well-lit home invites buyers) and adding a vase or two of fresh-cut flowers.
It takes a lot of work and a lot of strategy to sell your home for top dollar. To be successful it takes careful planning, attention to details and a commitment to doing the work. Carefully preparing your property before listing will alleviate much of the stress, make selling your home sale a much more enjoyable process and, best of all, attract the highest offer for your home.