There aren’t many (any?) reasons I can think of where as a person selling your house you wouldn’t want to sell your house quickly. Real estate statistics show that the peak interest in a house on the market falls between weeks 3 and 5 and after this time a listing starts to become “stale” and interest in the property will steadily decrease. Last summer while we were buying a home together we had not yet put our house on the market. This means we were going to carry two houses (2 mortgages, 2 sets of utility bills, 2 sets of property taxes) which is not an ideal situation. We knew that in order to sell your house quickly we would have to have a home selling plan prior to buying our current home.
Call on Expert Advice
Our first step, which we performed before we had even firmly decided that we would be buying a home in the spring/summer was to pull on as many resources as we could for knowledge and advice. So, it was off to the Internet for myself. Originally I was researching how to sell your house without a real estate agent and this led to discovering all sorts of websites that provided advice on how to sell your house quickly. Like a sponge I started to absorb everything I could find to read on the topic.
One thing I discovered during the research was that many real estate agents are willing to provide free real estate assessments with the hopes that providing such a service will put them in your good graces and employ. We decided that as part of this assessment we were going to ask the agents to give us ideas and tips on improvements they would suggest we make to speed up the sale of our house. The real estate agents were more than agreeable not only provide us with this advice and a price assessment they also freely provided lists of comparable properties in that neighbourhood which they used to assess the house’s value. You see, the real estate agents want to sell your house quickly, assuming they get your business. They understand the longer a house sits on the market the harder it becomes to sell and the longer the agent is spending time on you as a client instead of focusing their efforts elsewhere. We had two well respected agents come through our house and they gave us a lot of useful pointers.
The final step we took in our research was to call in a wedding gift offer from one of my groomsman. He offered to come to our house and do some work for a weekend as a wedding gift. Given he has skills I do not, this was a great gift. Jim came to our house for a weekend and spent a 1/2 day assessing all of the projects we could undertake and what he thought the Return on Investment (ROI) for each would be. As he had recently done a pretty major reno of his duplex in Toronto he had a lot of insight on material costs, labour efforts and the ROI. Jim, being the great friend he is, then offered to come back 3 additional weekends to help us as there were tons of projects to do. He figured we’d need 2 months to get the work done (working evenings and weekends).
Remove the “Issues”
Our second step was to take Jim’s advice (which I also read online) which was that in order to sell your house quickly you have to realize that the proliferation of home improvement and real estate television programs has made buyer knowledgeable but also extremely picky. This means you need to remove/reduce as many potential road blocks, problem areas or issues that a buyer can find or will notice. And they will notice! Are their maintenance projects in your house that you just hadn’t gotten to? Fix them. Buyers don’t want to see “work” when they walk into a home. The home improvement shows have moved buyers to expect a finished product. We had a slew of “issues” and mini-projects that we needed to fix just to ensure our house was in working order.
Beyond fixing the minimum problem areas, our house was straight out of the 1980s in terms of decorating. We had a choice to leave the house dated or we could pick and choose which improvements we could make that would yield the highest ROI. Jim convinced us that by spending $3,000 we could get a ROI of $15,000 – $20,000 and that you can sell your house quickly with some elbow grease and dedication. Since we were taking our time buying a home we decided to undertake a lot of his home improvement suggestions and his offer to help us 4 weekends (including one project that saved us $1,000 by not having to pay someone else to do it!). In the end we spent about $3,800 and sold our house for $17,500 more than our real estate agent originally value assessment – a 461% ROI. In our next article I will detail the slew of projects we accomplished and looking back I am surprised we got them all done in the two and a half months we took to work on them.
Decide Whether an Agent Will Sell Your House Quickly
Or, at the very least, determine what your priorities are in your home sale. Do you feel a need to sell your house quickly? Do you think you can sell your house quickly without the use of a real estate agent? Do you have the time and energy to handle calls and showings for prospective buyers? Would you be comfortable hosting open houses and potentially hearing critiques of your property first hand? Do you know what comparable houses have sold for in your area? Are you skilled at and comfortable with negotiation regarding large sums of money – your money? Can you effectively market your house?
How you answer these questions will ultimately determine whether you want to use a real estate agent to sell your home. There are indeed options available for Canadians. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system is opening up and agents with access to this service are offering deals where they simply post your house for a flat or percentage fee. One realtor in the Ottawa area was selling listings-on-MLS-only well before the MLS members were forced Alternatively, you could use an established company such as For Sale By Owner or Property Guys As I mentioned early, my research into selling our house started with my researching everything I could on selling ourselves and saving a hefty commission pay out to an agent. So, if you think you can sell your house quickly, and are comfortable handling the entire process, perhaps sale by owner is for you.
While I believe I could have handled selling our house, especially after the improvements we made, after 3+ months of renovations and subsequent cleaning+staging we decided to leave the selling work to the agent who helped us in buying a home. We were burnt out and given we were carrying two houses at the same time, we had built a relationship with an agent who helped 90 families buy and/or sell homes (the average for a Realtor in Peterborough is under 5 sales) and we were confident in his ability to sell the house. And he did just that. Our third step then was signing selling agency with this Realtor. It paid off as we had a conditional offer for full asking price within 10 days and then a second but firm offer for 98.5% of asking within 26 days. He told us “Given the improvements you’ve made, I think I can sell your house fast” and he did just that.
Would you want to buy a house being sold by a pack rat? Unlikely, unless, that house was decluttered. If you want to sell your house quickly you really need to get rid of all of that stuff you find endearing but others will think is clutter. You don’t need to throw things away, but you do need to get items out of sight – preferably OFF site (storage!) While your home doesn’t have to be minimalist and unlivable you really should do things like:
- remove extraneous appliances from counters
- get rid of multiples of things in you cupboards (e.g. do you have multiple coffee decanters? or more than one bottle of the same type of spice?)
- organize your closets by getting rid of clothes you haven’t worn in the last year – buyers will look in closets!
- if you have hundreds of books in bookcases pack up the ratty books and free up space on the shelves
- clean up the stuff in kids’ rooms that they aren’t using any longer
- remove old, hard, discoloured or duplicate items from your medicine cabinet ‘cuz buyers snoop their too
- clear out old items from the linen closet
- if you’ve been stashing items under beds chances are that they’ve been there a while – get them off the premises
- organize things using totes
- throw out the old – the used or unwanted. Don’t simply re-organize junk.
- put stuff where you always meant it to be – in it’s proper place
- learn how to yard sale and sell stuff you no longer need
- don’t ignore the exterior of your house – the shed, garage and yard may need attention too.
Just a few ideas above. We personally packed tons of things into boxes and stored them on the 2nd floor of the garage and it was remarkable how open and spacious the house became.
Cleanliness will Sell Your House Quickly
Clean, CLEAN, CLE-E-A-A-N-N!!!!!!! Make your house spotless. Why? Buyers want to imagine moving into the house and they won’t imagine moving into a dirty house. A hairball in a drain can turn a buyer off as can fingerprint smudges on glass. The littlest thing can be the one thing a potential buyer can’t stand being dirty. After our renovations we not only found ourselves cleaning up after the work but also after months of not worrying about cleaning and on top of that, tasks we’d never undertaken during the 4+ years we lived in the house. Cleaning and de-cluttering took us an additional month after the 2.5 months of renovations. Did I mention we were exhausted when it came time to sell? So what are some things to pay attention to? Well …
- Make sure your floors are spotless and clean as can be. If you have carpet that means it is VERY clean – possibly even washed. And all those little crumbs of who knows what along the base boards? They need to come up too. If you have hardwood, which we did, it needs to shine. We used a steam cleaner mop as it is a green way to clean and is really effective. Laminate on the floor? Water works, but not steam. Tile? Steam works here too but you may need to clean the grout between tiles and that is not a fun task!
- Dust your house from top to bottom. No dust bunnies or cobwebs anywhere. As you have now de-cluttered you’ll likely find dust you didn’t know existed. A hint – dust the top of the front of sliding shelves too.
- Clean all surfaces pretty much daily. Kitchen and bathroom counters need to look like you can eat off of them. And if you have any gunk around sinks, get an old toothbrush and scrub it away.
- Speaking of the kitchen and bathrooms … everything has to be spotless. This means stainless steel, taps, nozzles sparkle. Appliances are free of fingerprints or food. The bathtub and ESPECIALLY toilets are clean as can be. Sinks are wiped down a few times a day. An hour spent learning how to install a tile back splash could pay off in much more money when you do sell, for example. The saying goes: kitchens and bathrooms sell your house quickly.
- If you have pets vacuum or sweep up the shedding hair a few times a day. We have 3 cats and a Newfoundland dog and boy oh boy do they shed a lot. It didn’t help that we were trying to sell in June.
- Make sure the fridge and over interiors are spotless.
- Clean your windows on all floors! We hadn’t had our windows clean, inside or out, since I had moved in. We hired a company to do the exterior windows as I don’t like heights and Mrs. SPF didn’t want to tackle the 2nd floor windows that were about 40 feet up. Clean windows let more light through them and you want your house to appear bright.
- Clean up every piece of garbage you see on or even near your property. Every scrap wrapper, piece of plastic, cigarette butt or otherwise has to go. Give the impression people don’t drop their garbage on your property.
- Don’t let your dog do it’s business in your yard. Grab a green dog waste bag and take her off site. A buyer doesn’t want to be avoiding land mines when looking at your yard.
- Clean out your shed and/or garage. These structures don’t have to be perfectly clean but chances are some cobwebs could be cleared and the floor could use some sweeping.
Cleaning isn’t fun. Where possible you might want to make your own cleaning products for your health’s sake.
Staging Will Help to Sell Your House Quickly
If you’ve done the things I mentioned already, you’re house is appealing to potential buyers. Thing is, you can still do more! House staging is proven to help you sell your house quickly. We did a number of different things to stage our home, that I will discuss next week. The thing is, i’ve already mentioned some of the staging things you need to do: declutter, clean everything, upgrade your house for good ROI (another article next week on what we did) plus some other tips and hints you can employ to sell your house quickly. Depending upon your neighborhood, there are certain staging options that may make sense that wouldn’t apply to everyone.
If you over price your house the risk to sell your house quickly greatly diminishes. Most buyers use a buying agent and those agents have access to the MLS database and know what houses in your area sell for. Your sellers agent has the same data and should know where your house falls in terms of quality, finish and location. As our house was a 4 bedroom spacious well finished two story century home our agent(s) felt it should be priced in the upper range of the prices in our area. Interestingly, we learned that our Realtor usually preferred older century houses while our other buyers agent preferred newer homes but when it came to the price our Realtor wanted to price our house $10,000 less than his team member. He of course accepted our desire to try to get the higher amount but warned us we may have to adjust the price after the first month if we did not sell. He didn’t want a stale listing and we think he understood that carrying two houses is a burden for most anyone. In the end we got 98.9% of asking which we were ecstatic about. Our research, hard work and sweat, faith in hiring a fantastic Realtor who we were truly comfortable working with paid off.