Comprehensive Home Seller’s Guide

So you’re thinking about selling your home. There can be a wide range of reasons why someone might be looking to sell their home, but one thing is true across the board: you want to get a great price, and in a reasonable time frame. Selling your home can feel overwhelming, and it’s true that there are many things to prepare (finances, documents, the home itself). So WRX Property Group has endeavoured to lay out what you’ll need to do, and how to do it, in our Comprehensive Home Seller’s Guide. Let’s dive in!


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Pick a Real Estate Professional You Trust and Get Along With

Selling your home is an undertaking and a journey, and you’ll want to ensure the real estate professional and team you work with will do everything to both ensure the journey is a smooth one, and that there’s a positive outcome at the end of the road. There are a few ways to go about this: first of all (and this is going to be a theme throughout the article), do your research! See what a given real estate team provides – do they seem professional? Are they well-informed about your specific market (region, city, and neighbourhood) and the overall trends in national and local real estate? What have other people said about them in the past? Are they online-savvy? Marketing, and market research, is very much tied to a realtor’s ability to effectively use the Internet, and knowing your realtor understands how to make effective use of things like MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and sites like Realtor.ca, is vital. The more your real estate team offers, the better an experience you’ll have.

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Beyond research, it’s important to get in touch with a prospective realtor – whether by email, by phone, or in person (in order of significance). Emailing is great to get an initial idea about a real estate professional and what they can bring to the table, but talking on the phone or meeting in person can establish something just as important: do you get along with them? Being able to communicate with your real estate team is a big part of how well your overall experience will go, so it’s good to find out early on if you’ve got a good rapport. And in addition to good rapport, you’ll want to know if you can get in touch easily, and when you need to – selling your home can be a stressful time, but knowing you have a professional on your side makes things that much more manageable. If you’d like to read more about this important decision, we’ve got additional articles on the Top 6 Characteristics to Look for in a Realtor, and How to Find the Best Realtor. Once you’ve got your real estate team picked out, there are several things to get started on. Let’s start with what documents you’ll need.

Facts, Figures, Documents, and Deeds: Things to Figure Out and Things You Need

Home ownership (and property ownership) can seem complicated at the outset, and when you’re selling your home, being sure you have everything you need (and knowing what you need) can help everything go smoothly. One of the first things you need to address is: what’s your plan after selling your home? In other words, where do you plan to live afterwards? If you’re looking to buy a new home, it’s a good thing to get pre-approved for financing; you don’t want any surprises! If the home you’re selling is still under a mortgage, you should also meet with your bank or lender to go over the details and next steps – these will vary based on the type of mortgage (Open versus Closed, for example), and what your preference is going forward (whether you want to look into transferring the mortgage, paying it off with proceeds from the sale, etc.). Next, it’s good to plan out the financial side of the selling/buying process: how much do you need to invest in the sale itself? How much will the new home cost? You can find out all about the process of buying a home with our Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide.

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Moving back to the selling process itself, there are a number of documents and details you’ll need to gather. Both your realtor and real estate team, and any prospective buyers (and agents acting on their behalf) will want to know details about the property beyond the specifications of the property itself. Things you’ll need are: Utility Bills (water, hydro, gas); details of your mortgage; any warranties; tax information (property tax); details of any renovations; and surveying information. If you’re renting out an apartment, or several apartments, in your home, you’ll want to have all the salient details ready: Residential Tenancy Agreements (leases/contracts), amount of rent (current and past), and any relevant documentation.

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How to Prepare Your Home

As more and more studies continue to emphasize, first impressions matter – and this is as true in selling your home as in anything else. There are several major ways in which you can ensure a positive first impression when prospective buyers come to see your home, which we’ll break down and discuss.

 

1. Get rid of any and all clutter!

 

What qualifies as clutter, you ask? Well, anything that is at risk of toppling over with a slight breeze qualifies as clutter. Anything that impedes your ability to walk around your home safely is probably clutter. Areas and surfaces overflowing with objects to such an extent that it’s visually distracting are cluttered. A good rule of thumb when preparing to sell your home? If you have to ask whether or not an area is cluttered, it’s better to assume it is and tidy it up! One way to go about this is deciding what things you want to keep, what things you want to give away, and what things are to be thrown out. Moving is perhaps the best time to cut down on extraneous possessions – sure, that decorative pink flamingo with cowboy boots may be a sophisticated conversation piece, but do you really need it?

Once you’ve gotten rid of the things you don’t want and/or need, it’s a good idea to get started on packing. Earlier is better, as it often takes longer than you’d expect, and it is beneficial for staging the home. Cardboard boxes are tried, tested, and true when it comes to decluttering and getting ready to move; sturdier, reusable containers are even better. In any case, reducing the amount of extraneous objects in each room is always a good thing. And it’s not always enough to just cram things in closets and cupboards – potential buyers will often want to look at the available storage, and if they’re all overflowing, it doesn’t send the right message. So just to reiterate: cut down on clutter, and pack as early as possible. Another immediate benefit to doing this is it will make cleaning easier.

 

2. Keep it clean!

 

You want prospective buyers to feel comfortable and uncontaminated as they tour your home, and a clean home makes a markedly better first impression than a dirty home. Vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping the floors until they look like new; dusting the counters and cupboards (and all the other places where dust and house hippos might hide) so everyone can breathe easy; keeping windows and mirrors smudge-free; and generally watching out for anything that looks untidy – all of these things add to the home’s overall appeal. Kitchens and bathrooms are of particular importance when it comes to ‘keeping it clean’ – these are both areas that tend to get messier, and they’re both rooms that prospective buyers tend to be distinctly interested in. So put on some music (or a podcast), and get going on some spring cleaning (even if it isn’t spring)!

 

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3. Make the great outdoors great!

 

No matter if you’ve got a small property, or sprawling front and backyards, making the areas outside of and around your home look nice is important – particularly the areas visible from the curb (curb appeal is an idiom for a reason). Potential buyers approaching your home from the street might be thrown off by a wild, overgrown forest (unless you’re going for a sort of woodsy-aesthetic – but even then, it should look intentional, rather than untended to). You want your front yard to look pleasant and inviting, and to frame your home in a positive light. Your backyard, too, should look both functional and cared for. Potential buyers should be able to imagine themselves having barbecues out back, or cultivating the garden of the dreams – they shouldn’t be nervous about an imminent raccoon attack. Keeping the lawn mown, the hedges trimmed, the weeds weeded, the outdoor furniture neat and tidy, and pests under control (a giant wasp nest is liable to scare off all but the most steadfast of apiarists) makes a good first impression. Check over the exterior of the home, too (as well as garages and/or sheds) to ensure they look as good as they can, and if they’re in need of repair.

 

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4. Stage your home!

 

What, you might ask, is staging? Why, it’s no more and no less than preparing your home to look as open and inviting to potential buyers as it can. In practice, this means arranging your rooms, as well as the furniture and décor within them, to look like a place that would be nice to live – that’s all. It’s also not a bad idea to make the home seem like a blank slate – in other words, less family photos with you in them, and more generic decorations: this way potential buyers can envision themselves living here, rather than feeling as if they are in someone else’s space.

Light is incredibly important when it comes to staging your home. Have you got big windows? Great – keep the curtains open wide, and let sunlight flood in! Maximizing light however you can should be a top priority, when it comes to staging. Every overhead light receptacle should have the appropriate number of bulbs, and especially if you’re having viewings in the evening, you should make sure rooms have enough light fixtures (it’s worth investing in table and floor lamps to keep rooms from looking dark and dreary – Ikea, for example, has many affordable options). Adding ambient lighting to areas without access to natural light is another way to ensure your home is shown in the best possible… light.

Essentially, staging your home is about making potential buyers feel at home. Removing clutter, and keeping things clean, makes your home a nice, pleasant, and obstruction-free place to wander through. Focusing on neutral colours and designs, and de-personalizing your home as much as possible, will make it as appealing as possible to the widest number of people, and it will enable them to imagine their lives in your home – indeed, it will enable them to imagine it as their home. Other positive ways you can present your home in the best light is using soft, fresh fragrances to liven it up. Citrus aromas tend to connote cleanliness, and they last a fairly long time, and softer smells like vanilla are pleasant while not being overwhelming. Catering your fragrances to the season is also not a bad idea at all (such as pine during the winter months). To summarize: people should leave your home wanting to come back; staging helps bring this to fruition.

 

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5. Renovate, refresh, and repair!

 

This is the final point in our list on ‘How to Prepare Your Home’ only because not everyone will want to do it. Every home for sale can benefit from points 1 through 4, but renovation isn’t always applicable. That said, those who have repairs that need doing, and those who want to commit to renovations, would do well to start the repair/renovation process as early as possible. Sometimes repairs and renovations take longer than expected, and if you’ve got a specific timeline in mind for the final sale, you’ll be glad to have gotten started right away. In terms of repairs, some are smaller (or easier) jobs that you can do yourself (touching up the paint, covering over holes in the walls left by picture frames, tackling that leaky faucet), while others may require professionals. In terms of renovations, you’ll want to put research into what sorts of renovations get the most return on investment (kitchens and bathrooms are among the best), and arrange the finances to ensure everything goes smoothly. Renovating an out-of-date part of your house can make it much more attractive to potential buyers, and can ultimately result in a faster sale, for a higher price – it’s worth looking into! Speaking of price…

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How to Price Your Home

In terms of decisions pertaining to selling your home, the price is up there as one of the most important (you are selling it, after all). There are a few things you need to ask yourself, first: Why are you selling? What’s your minimum? And what’s your time frame? If you’re selling your home because you want to downsize to a bungalow or a condominium, for example, you’ll have different expectations than a growing family looking to get a more spacious home. If you’re selling purely for a profit, that is a different story than if you’re selling your home in order to relocate to a different part of the city – or a new city entirely. Different motivations come with different timeframes. If there’s a baby on the way, then you may want to sell your current home as quickly as possible, in order to move on to your next home. Conversely, if you’re downsizing and primarily hoping for the most money – in other words, if time is less of an issue – then different strategies become available. Let’s talk briefly about how pricing works in relation to time.


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Before we start, an important notice: it’s very helpful indeed to know your market (we’ll expand on that shortly). Alright, with that important notice out of the way, something every home seller should be aware of is the connection between price relative to market averages, and average time to sell. This fluctuates with your city and your neighbourhood (again, we’ll touch on markets shortly), but a good rule of thumb is that listing your home at market value will generate interest in just over 50% of potential buyers. Listing at 10% over the market average (or higher) cuts that number in half; on the other end of the spectrum, listing your home at 10% less than the market (or lower) pushes potential buyers willing to look at the property upwards toward 80% and higher. It may seem obvious, but it’s worth stating: using the market value of your home as a starting point, you can increase it or decrease the price relative to how much interest you’d like to generate (buyer interest being, of course, a major factor in a speedy sale). Do note, however, that listing your home for too much over the market value can ultimately end up costing you, rather than rewarding you – even if you’re willing to wait.

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Listing your home at too high a price generally means fewer interested buyers, and the buyers that do come may be looking for a home more in line with the higher price. The potential buyers for whom your home is a perfect match might never end up seeing it, as it might be out of their search range. Beyond this, listing your home at too high above market value can also cause the listing to become stagnant – after all, fewer likely buyers means less chance of a speedy sale. Compounding the issue is the frequent issue of the longer a listing lingers, the less activity it generates. Buyers notice things like how long a home has been on the market, and they begin to wonder why. Even if there is no reason beyond pushing the price a little too high, it’s not a good state of affairs. You’ll want to generate as much interest as you can between the second and fifth week of the listing going live – this is usually the most active window – as homes that have been on the market for over a month typically undergo a steady decline in interest. Declining interest may end up making you have to reduce the price after all. To note, though, it isn’t necessarily wise to start with a higher listing price with an intention to reduce it over time – pricing competitively from the start is the safest, surest path. And how does one price competitively from the start? Why, by knowing your market!

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To Thine Own Market Be True

This is an important one. Putting some research into the real estate market is one of the biggest favours you can do for yourself. Of course, if you’ve set yourself up with a thorough, professional realtor and real estate team, they will bring a great deal of expertise to the table. But knowing your market even before planning to sell your home can be a factor in deciding things like when to put your home on the market, and understanding what price range homes like yours typically sell for. Doing a bit of research on the state of real estate in your city, and in your neighbourhood, will help you make informed decisions. And we have a useful resource if you’re interested in doing that research: the WRX Property Group Monthly Market Report. We take the temperature of Kitchener-Waterloo’s real estate market, looking at distinct regions, historical trends, and the raw numbers (including average price, average number of days to sell, and more). Just as an example, a trend so far in 2018 has been lower quantities of overall listings; a consequence of this is multiple offers on a given property, and often sales over asking price. In other words, it’s a good time to sell your home in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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It’s also worth looking at different properties for sale in your specific neighbourhood, and getting a sense of how much they’re being listed for. If you decide WRX Property Group is the team you’d like to work with as you sell your home, we offer a free listing consultation. During this consultation, we’ll go over everything with you – active listings in your neighbourhood, prices similar homes have historically sold for, and more – and together decide what the listing price should be. To summarize, when you know your market, you know how best to become a part of that market. You’re selling your home – you want to get the most money you can for it!

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Conclusion

Selling your home has many steps involved, and one that should not be forgotten is your personal experience. Moving away from a place you called home can be difficult, even if it’s also exciting to get a fresh start somewhere new. So while you work through the aforementioned steps, make sure you give yourself space to breathe. You can do this. Selling your home, with the right team on your side, can be a positive experience! If you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact WRX Property Group. We’re always happy to help, and if you’d like us to be your team when it comes to selling your home, we would be honoured to be a part of your journey.

Written by Will Kummer

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