Expert Tips On Selling Your Home

Portrait of a happy young couple sitting on their living room floor on moving day

For many people, a home is the most significant investment they will make in their lifetime. When it comes time to sell your home, you want to get the maximum out of that investment, so you’ll want to look at some expert strategies to get you the best return.

Decide if you’ll go with an agent or see it privately

You can sell your home privately. Others will hire a real estate agent to help steer them through the process.

The main advantage to selling your home yourself is that you aren’t paying commission to an agent, which can vary between two and six per cent depending on your location. But if you sell it yourself, the downsides can be all the time involved, all the paperwork and the marketing costs you’ll be responsible for.

Good agents know what’s going on in the market and can help steer you through what can be a complicated process. They’ll provide market stats and analytics. They’ll take care of marketing features such as virtual showings.

“It’s important to remember that most people who sell a home also have to buy one, so there’s a domino effect,” says Christopher Alexander, chief strategy officer and executive vice-president at RE/MAX of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “With this in mind, sellers should discuss their goals with their real estate agent to determine the best approach. For some, their comfort level will dictate that they should buy their next home before selling their current one – which is a common strategy in a seller’s market.

“For others, the peace of mind of selling first goes a long way. The circumstances around selling a home have a lot to do with the market fundamentals, but there are lots of personal circumstances that need to be considered as well.”

Secrets to selling high

HGTV Canada host Brian McCourt, who also runs a home renovation company called Brian McCourt Design & Build, had nine successful property flips under his belt by the age of 25. His basic selling tips include:

  • Give your home a fresh, clean look: de-clutter, de-personalize and paint. “Never underestimate the value of a well-organized front hall closet because buyers will notice the entrance storage situation as soon as they walk in,” McCourt says.
  • Add a bedroom. “If you have the ability to increase the stats of your home from a two to three bedroom (or three to four) without too much trouble, do it,” he says. “You’ll show up in more real estate searches, in turn increasing traffic, and in turn, increasing value.”
  • Know your target market but appeal to the masses. If you’re selling a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in a nice neighbourhood with schools nearby, make sure the home suits a small family.
  • Make the main areas count. The kitchen and main floor living areas are where first impressions are really formulated. Something as simple as a designated coffee station in the kitchen has an impact. “They say the smell of fresh cookies sells a home, but I think coffee does it better,” McCourt says.
  • Stage the house. Spending a few thousand dollars to have the right furnishings in the right place can make the space feel larger.
  • Show the potential of a space, even if you’re using it another way. For example, add a crib to a small bedroom or a work area to a small space off the kitchen, so that the potential buyer can see the potential.
  • Make a bold statement strategically. McCourt says you might want to consider something like a striking light fixture, as opposed to new tile or backsplash, which is less expensive and can be swapped out more easily.
  • Make outdoor space more appealing. Simple measures can have big rewards, such as laying fresh mulch in garden beds or rejuvenating a grey, weathered deck by pressure washing it. “I’ve seen old decks look incredible after pressure washing the weathered layer away,” McCourt says.
  • Watch your budget. It’s not like everything in the house needs to look new. As McCourt says, sometimes potential buyers will look at that dated bathroom or kitchen as their own renovation opportunity.

To renovate or not renovate?

Renovation potential is very much a sales hook. Home has taken on an entirely new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic and Canadians are looking to personalize the space they’re now spending more time in.

RE/MAX released a Renovation Investment Report recently that revealed more than half of Canadians renovated their home in 2020 with the intention of living in it. The report indicated 16 per cent renovated their home to increase market value to prepare for a sale over the next three years, and 59 per cent said they always consider the return on investment that a renovation will have on a home’s market value.

Renovations of kitchens and bathrooms can have substantial returns on investment. A $2,000 to $18,000 investment to update a bathroom or kitchen can mean a $25,000 to $50,000 increase in value, says Katherine Minovski, a broker with Royal LePage. Other spaces that have become important to buyers in the pandemic are offices, dens and exercise areas.

Alexander says there can be big payoffs with lower-budget upgrades as well, such as exterior landscaping.

Curb appeal goes a long way,” says Minovski. “Fix up anything that would otherwise attract negative attention to your home before you sell in a hot or cold market but take extra care here in a cold market.”

Before you renovate, talk to your insurance company to ensure your policy covers the renovation.

Let the market dictate your selling tactics

Knowing the current real estate market is important in selling your home because the strategy will vary depending upon whether you’re in a seller’s or buyer’s market.

In a hot market, Minovski says, discuss an offer date strategy with your realtor. That’s where the seller sets a firm date, even a time slot, where all offers for the home come in. That could spur a bidding war. Just be careful not to underprice it, in the hopes of generating a bidding war. Pricing closer to fair market value will ensure you get qualified prospective buyers.

In a colder market, Minovski says to listen to feedback and adjust accordingly – and do not purchase prior to selling. If it takes longer for you to sell, you might be carrying two mortgages.

“Calm and steady will win the race!” she says.

This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as legal or insurance advice.