Preparing to Sell

Careful planning and thorough preparation lead to a successful sale. Here are some things to think about and do before your home goes on the market:

Should You Stage Your Home?

Staging your home before putting it on the market has become common these days, especially because it has been shown to produce superior results. Some people are hesitant to stage their homes because of concerns about the expense and time involved. If this sounds like you, don’t be concerned. Staging has been given different interpretations, but essentially, it means preparing your home for market to make sure it shows its best. It doesn’t necessarily mean renovating your kitchen or bathroom or renting furniture for your entire home. It also doesn’t mean spending tens of thousands of dollars to increase your price by only a few thousand dollars. That wouldn’t make sense, would it? It might only mean de-cluttering, painting a room or two and putting a few things in storage. Some homes look so good that a stager isn’t even required and others won’t benefit from staging at all. A good stager knows the difference and will tell you what’s worth doing and what’s not worth doing so your price increases by more than the amount you invest in staging. A good stager will also be able to help you arrange for whatever staging you decide to undertake (i.e. painters, handymen, movers, furniture storage and rentals, etc.). At the end of the day, staging will usually help your home sell more quickly and for a higher price. We’ll discuss whether or not staging will be of benefit to you and I can recommend a stager to you, but it’s your home so ultimately it will be up to you to decide how much or how little staging you’d like to do.

Should You Do a Pre-Inspection (homes) or Order a Status Certificate (condos)?

This is also something we’ll discuss because pre-inspections are becoming more common. If you’re not sure what a pre-inspection is, it’s a home inspection done by a seller before a home goes on the market. It has several benefits. First, depending on the area and the type of home, buyers may expect to see a pre-inspection. If one isn’t available, they might think there’s something to hide. Second, buyers may be more likely to make an offer if they don’t have to spend money on a home inspection, especially when there’s a chance their offer won’t be successful because they’re in a multiple offer situation. Third, most buyers won’t bother making their offers conditional on inspection when there’s a pre-inspection. This increases the chances you’ll receive a firm offer unless the buyers need to make their offers conditional on something else, like financing. And fourth, if the inspection reveals a problem, it’s good to find out about it before your home goes on the market so it can be rectified or dealt with. The fewer surprises the better, unless they’re good surprises. Some buyers may choose to do their own inspections, but most buyers consider a pre-inspection to be a benefit, and that benefit could result in a higher price and/or a quicker sale for you.

In the same way that it might be a good idea to do a pre-inspection if you own a home, it may be a good idea to order a current Status Certificate from your property manager before putting your home on the market if you own a condominium. Since most condo buyers make their offers conditional on obtaining and reviewing a Status Certificate, the benefits of ordering one in advance are similar to those related to doing a pre-inspection.

Documents We’ll Need (photocopies are sufficient)

If you can’t locate any of these, please let me know because there may be alternate ways of obtaining them.

  • Deed or Transfer.
  • Survey.
  • Lawyer’s reporting letter from when you bought your home.
  • Most recent Final Property Tax Bill. (Usually arrives in May, so the most recent one will be the one that arrived last May, even if it was May of last year.)
  • Approximate annual gas, hydro, water and oil costs (the easiest ways to determine these is to either add up your bills or call your utility companies and ask them for the figures).
  • Key to your home.
  • Home Inspection Report if you’ve had one done.
  • Receipts or warranties for work done to your home.
  • Plans or drawings for renovations.

If you own a condominium, add these to your list…

  • Condominium declaration.
  • Condominium budget.
  • Condominium rules and regulations.
  • Name, address and phone number of property management company.
  • Status Certificate (which will include all of the above information).
  • Amount of maintenance fees and what they include.

Chattels and Fixtures: What Will You Be Taking And What Will You Be Leaving?

  • Appliances.
  • Light fixtures.
  • Window coverings.
  • Is your hot water tank rented?
  • Home entertainment equipment: televisions, wall brackets, projectors, screens, built in speakers, amplifiers, etc.
  • Remote controls for garage doors, air conditioners, stereos, etc.
  • Alarm system: Do you own the equipment? Is it a lease to own? Does the alarm company own the equipment and you pay a monthly monitoring fee? Do you have a monitoring contract? Is it month to month or is there an expiry date? When does it expire? How much is the monthly monitoring fee? Can the monitoring contract be assumed by the buyer? Is there a fee for the buyer to assume the contract? Will you have to pay a penalty if you cancel the contract early? (Easiest way to find all this out is to call your alarm company.)
  • Is any other equipment leased i.e. your furnace?
  • Is there anything attached to your property (usually by screws; hanging on a hook is not considered to be attached) which you would like to take with you i.e. bookshelves, closet organizers, switch plates, wine racks, water filters, swing sets, stained glass, mirrors, etc.?
  • Is there anything that is not attached to your property that you’d like to leave behind i.e. the sofa that won’t fit up the stairs, storage units, garden shed, etc.?

Other Information We’ll Need

  • What’s your ideal closing date? Are you willing to close earlier or later? If so, what are the earliest and latest dates you’d consider in an ideal world?
  • Is your front pad parking space legal? Do you pay an annual fee to the city for it?
  • Do you have a street parking permit?
  • Which features of your home do you think will be most attractive to potential buyers? Are there any special features that aren’t readily apparent?
  • Will you be taking your mortgage with you or paying it off? Is there a penalty for early prepayment?
  • If you’re buying first, have you looked into bridge financing in case you need it?
  • If you’re selling first, have you looked into rental accommodations in case they’re needed?
  • What major improvements have you made to your home and in which years were they completed i.e. kitchen, bathrooms, roof, furnace, air conditioning, wiring, plumbing, additions, waterproofing, swimming pool, landscaping, etc.? Do you have receipts? Did you receive any warranties? Are they transferrable? Was the work done with permits? Have all permits been closed off?
  • Do you have any plans or drawings relating to major work done to your home?

How Showings Work

Most people have very busy schedules and fit house hunting in amongst their other activities. For this reason, it’s important that your home be as convenient to show as possible. I’ll explain how showings work to you in more detail, but in the meantime, start to think about the following:

  • Are there any times of the week or day when you absolutely don’t want your home to be shown? For example, if you have a baby that naps between 1 and 3 every afternoon. (The fewer of these times the better.)
  • Do you want advance notice for showings? (Half an hour, an hour, 24 hours – the less notice the better as some buyers may want to come at the last minute.)
  • When do you think your home will be ready for market?
  • Will you be staying in your home while it’s on the market or staying somewhere else in town to make it easier to keep your home clean?
  • Will you be out of town while your home is on the market? If so, we should prepare a Power of Attorney for you to sign pursuant to which you grant signing authority to someone who will be in town.
  • If you won’t be staying in your home while it’s on the market, it’s preferable that someone come by in the morning to turn all the lights on and open all the blinds and at night to turn the lights off, close the blinds, pick up the mail and make sure the doors are locked. This could be a relative, a trusted friend, a neighbour, or you if you’re staying somewhere else in town.

What Should You Do During Showings?

Buying a home is an emotional decision. People like to “try on” a home to see if it feels comfortable before they buy. Anything you can do to put them at ease will increase the chances of them buying your home.

  • Best thing to do: Be absent during showings, if possible.
  • If you can’t be absent, be invisible by staying out of sight and not talking. If you do have to talk, be friendly, but don’t talk about why you’re moving. Talk about the weather and try to avoid any questions about your home so you don’t inadvertently disclose information that could come back to hurt you during negotiations.
  • Whenever you leave your home, even if there are no showings scheduled, you should assume that it’ll be shown while you’re away so please make sure the lights are on and the drapes and blinds are open before you leave.
  • Turn on the air conditioning (summer) or the heating (winter).
  • Play quiet background music.
  • For security reasons, please don’t allow anyone to show your home unless they’ve made an appointment through my office. I have a special service that allows agents to make appointments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so it’s very easy for them to do so.

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