Thinking about selling a house in Toronto? Below is our advice and what to expect:
Step 1: Pick A Date to Sell Your House
Homeowners ask us all the time when the best time is to sell. Here are few key considerations to make when determining the right time to sell.
Current market conditions – will have a lot to do with how in demand your house will be. In a hot market, there are more buyers than sellers and consequently more people wanting to see your house (and ideally make an offer). In a slower market, there will be more houses for fewer buyers to choose from, lowering the chance of getting an offer let alone multiple offers. Unless you need to sell, waiting for demand to go up will be in your best interest.
Timing – Real Estate in Toronto is seasonal due to cold winters and summer vacation. You will often hear Realtors refer to the “spring” and “fall” market. We have found that buyers are most motivated to buy February through April & September. Listing early gets you in front of the buyers while other sellers (potential competition) are stilling getting ready to list.
Competition – Buyers are typically looking for a specific type of property and will often be looking in 2 or 3 neighbourhoods. You will want to know what other comparable houses are on the market competing with yours. It will have an impact on what day you list, your offer date and possible list price.
Step 2: Declutter, Stage & Clean
When preparing your house for sale, keep the following in mind:
Declutter to maximize space. Remember how much space you had when you first moved in? If you’re like us, you’re probably wondering when your walls closed in and the closets shrunk. It’s time to pack up those personal items, extra furniture and anything else that could be distracting to potential buyers. Smaller furniture will make your home look bigger, so consider swapping out your oversized sectional couch with a smaller one. If your king size bed has you stepping into your closet when you get out of bed, you might want to try a queen size bed and add a couple night tables. Empty out the closets and donate anything you don’t plan to keep.
Stage your entire house. It’s ok if you’ve been using that extra bedroom as a dressing room or personal gym, but we recommend converting them to bedrooms while your house is listed for sale. Buyers generally aren’t very good at visualizing, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right pieces in the right place. A good Realtor will be able to tell you who your target audience is will help you stage your house to how they will want to see it.
Get your place squeaky clean – and keep it that way. Next to staging, nothing will turn a potential buyer off more than a dirty or untidy house. That means you need to keep it in tip top condition at all times. Buyers will be looking at your storage and closet space. Keeping these areas in order will allow them to see how much storage they could have. Wash your dishes and put them away. Make the bed. Put everything back where it belongs. And that means keeping the floors and counters clean too.
While having a professionally staged house that is spotless will go a long way in helping you get top dollar when selling a house in Toronto, there are additional items to consider that will add to a buyer’s overall impression.
Here are some additional items to consider:
Curb Appeal – What you house looks like when potential buyers walk up to your house will set the tone as it makes a first impression. Having a well kept yard, painting touch ups, clean windows and getting minor repairs done will go along way. A lot of buyers will make their decision based on the outdoor/backyard space alone.
The Basement – Older homes may have low ceilings in the basement and can be down right spooky. If your basement isn’t finished, tidy it up so that buyers can visualize the space as a potential wreck room or additional storage space.
House Mechanics – At the price of property these days, buyers will see any additional cost as a reason to offer you less money or even consider buying a competing house over yours. Make sure that things like your furnace, electrical and plumbing are in good working order. Make sure to tell you Realtor about anything that isn’t working.
Repairs – We all have small repairs that we haven’t gotten around to fixing. Now is the time to blow to dust of the tool box or have a contractor in for a day to fix it. Buyers can tend to focus on the little things and not see the bigger picture – help keep the focused on what matters.
The Backyard – We have seen outdoor space make or break a lot of deals. Consider getting some slick new furniture, planting new flowers in the garden and re-doing the deck. If you’re selling in the winter, give your Realtor photos of your backyard in the summer to help buyers see what’s under that 3 feet of snow.
Step 2.5: More Prep Work
Make a list of renovations and repairs that have been done to the house while you’ve owned it. Buyers will often ask what work has been done to the house. If there are any current issues with the house, it’s better to share that information with your Realtor rather than get sued for it later.
Provide your Realtor with recent copies of your heating, electrical, utilities and tax bills for the year. An important part of owning a house includes accounting for ongoing costs, maintenance and upkeep. Potential buyers are going to want to know what it costs to run the house on an annual basis.
Make an extra set of keys. Realtors will be showing your house when you’re not home and will need access. Have an extra set of keys made that will be kept in a lockbox provided by your Realtor.
Get a pre-list home inspection. Many buyers will get their own house inspection done when making an offer on a house. So if you’re a seller, why bother getting one done? Completing a pre-list home inspection before your house goes on the market will uncover anything that could need your attention before listing. Waiting for a potential buyer to do a home inspection could lead to lost interest, significantly lower offers or the possible need to go off the market to address the issue, resulting in significant delays in selling your home. We highly recommend not skipping this step.
Step 3: Pricing your house for sale
When selling a house in Toronto, pricing is very important. These are key items that buyers will consider:
- Recent sales on your street and in your neighbourhood
- Recent sales of similar properties in nearby neighbourhoods
- Properties currently on the market
- Current market conditions
- The size, finishings and condition of your home
- Location – what’s happening in your neighbourhood and how people expect it to change in the short and medium terms
Toronto buyers may also consider the following features important:
- Parking and/or a garage
- The basement (whether or not it’s finished or can be used as a second apartment)
- Closets and storage
- The style of your home (They might be looking for something modern vs character)
Step 4: Marketing
Photos/Video – Making a good first impression is important in getting buyers (and Realtors) to want to see your home. Having beautiful photos will go a long way in showing off your property and getting them through the door. Videos can be very effective for the right property and audience.
For Sale Sign – Many buyers will target multiple areas where they want to live and will visit those areas. A for sale sign will let potential buyers know your house is on the market.
Open Houses – The stats tell us that 6% of homes sell as a result of an open house. In our experience, we see closer to 15% or approximately 1 in 7. If marketed properly, open houses are a great way to get a large number people to see your home in a short amount of time. We have had many-a-buyers come back (with their own agent) to make an offer. We highly recommend doing open houses.
Online Marketing – The facts are simple – more than 92% of people start their search online. Getting in front of potential buyers (outside of MLS) is critical. Online marketing strategies should drive heavy traffic to the right age/demographic. Make sure you are working with a Realtor who knows how to leverage multiple website properties to maximize your homes’ exposure.
Email Marketing/Social Media – When selling a house in Toronto, top Realtors have an extensive network of other Realtors and potential buyers. They will promote listings to other Realtors by email and have a large potential network of buyers they can reach by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and email (among others).
Print Marketing – A snappy looking feature sheet with great photos will go a long way in showing off your home’s quality assets. Depending on your property and the agent, your house may be featured in a flyer or magazine.
Step 5: Showings
Be Flexible. Don’t make the fatal mistake of limiting when people can see your house. The most common viewing times are weekday evenings and weekends.
Leave Your House. If you’re home, most buyers will feel like they are inconveniencing you and will rush through the showing. Go for a walk, do some shopping or grab a coffee.
Take Your Dog With You. We love dogs too, but not everyone does. Be sure to take Lassie with you when you leave.
Consider Moving Out. If you’re in a position to move out while your house is on the market, we highly recommend it. It ensures your house stays in tip top condition and saves you having to clean up after yourself every time you eat, sleep or shower.
Keep Your Place Spotless. You guessed it. A dirty dish in the sink, improperly made bed or anything less than a spit polish shine on the sinks, floors and counters will deter buyers from seeing your home’s true beauty.
Step 6: Offers
While everyone is hoping for a home run in multiple offers, where their property sells for waaaay over asking, the reality is that not all properties see a bidding war. Location, timing, demand and marketing all play a role.
An offer will address all the fine print details including final price, deposit (typically 5% in Toronto), closing date (when the buyer takes possession), inclusions (appliances, curtains, etc).
Offers come in 2 sizes:
1. Single Offer
- Often contains a financing condition, which allows the buyer to confirm their mortgage qualifications with a lender.
- A home inspection condition, allowing the buyer to bring in a home inspector to identify any issues with your house.
2. Multiple Offers (a.k.a. Bidding War)
- When selling a house in Toronto, in a multiple offer situation, the offer you receive will be firm (no conditions). There are several scenarios in which a bidding war can play out and your Realtor will recommend the best strategy for your situation.
Step 7: Closing Day
Closing day is the day the new owners take possession of your house. In anticipation, you and your lawyer will need to:
- Let the utility company know that you’re moving
- Tell the city you’re moving and stop paying taxes on the property
- Cancel your home insurance (make sure it takes effect after the sale has closed)
There will also be a bunch of paper work that you will need to sign with your lawyer. Once the property is transferred to the new owners, you will get the money through your lawyer, less real estate commissions, legal fees and any adjustments).