The thought of not having to pay a real estate broker’s commission can be tempting, especially when the market is strong, as it is now. But ask yourself: When you sell your house, can you save the broker’s commission without the whole thing turning into a nightmare? Answer: Yes, but only if you are ready to be involved in every detail and cope with some industry essentials.
Not sure? First, let’s look at the pros and cons.
In the “pros” column…
- Possible financial gain – If you work without an intermediary, you will have to count on other resources. The $2,000 or so you will spend on the appropriate specialists you’ll need is, however, small compared to the 5- to 7-percent commission normally paid to a broker.
- Handling the process at your own pace – You may be more comfortable taking the time to reflect on a proposal, to analyze it and perhaps even to reject it even though it may seem interesting, so that you can get the price you had in mind.
- Controlling showings – You can open your home to whom you want and filter your calls yourself if you wish.
- Knowledge of your property – Who is better suited to describe the merits of your home?
In the “cons” column…
- Investment of time and energy – Selling a house calls for your constant attention at all times. You will be wholly responsible for all stages of the operation, from planning to closing the sale.
- Tough negotiations – The art of selling is not everyone’s cup of tea. To be successful, you need to distance yourself from your house. Hearing refusals, negative comments, catalogues of the house’s defects and confronting fierce negotiators can be a drain on your emotions.
- Calling on specialists – Without the skills and contacts of a broker, you will have to find and hire specialists to help with technical and legal matters so as to avoid costly errors. And don’t forget, you won’t be able to use the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) national website to advertise your house, as it is reserved for real estate brokers only.
Worry-free selling: four winning conditions
You’ve made your decision: you are going to sell your house yourself. If you follow the rules, you can avoid nasty surprises…
1) Choose a appraiser
Setting the asking price for your house can be difficult. An appraiser is a professional in this area. He or she will determine a reasonable asking price in a rational way, removed from all emotional considerations. This is extremely important, as we know that a house priced over its market value can scare buyers away, while a house priced too low means less profit. The price of your house is therefore the key component of your sale.
2) Have the house inspected BEFORE selling
Calling on the expertise of a building inspector to evaluate your property before putting it up for sale can save you a lot of worry. A pre-sale inspection, a veritable bill of health, must be carried out by a neutral and objective professional. It is important to choose a reputable building inspector (engineer, architect or technologist) who has third-part liability insurance to cover errors and omissions. The report will support your sales pitch and help negotiations during the transaction. You can also include a declaration of known defects in the official report so as to avoid any future legal action.
3) Advertise your property on a specialized website
You will increase the chances of a fast sale by registering your property on one or more specialized websites. This is an extremely useful showcase for your property, where you can sing its praises and display photos. These sites are very popular with future buyers, who see them as sources for houses at good prices, knowing that sellers have no commission to pay.
4) Use a notary
See your notary as soon as a buyer makes an offer; he or she is the only recognized expert in real estate law. The offer to purchase you are preparing to sign is a legal document, a contract to contract, that is binding on you and the buyer. This written agreement lays down the conditions under which the buyer accepts to acquire your property. Once accepted, it must be respected, which is why the notary’s role is so crucial: he or she will guide you to the conclusion of the transaction.
Quick reference list
Before running out to stick the FOR SALE sign in your front lawn, make sure you’ve covered the following points. It’ll be worth it!
Spruce it up
- Get your home ready: refresh interior and exterior paint, repair noticeable problems (doors that don’t fit, broken light fixtures, dripping taps, etc.) and do a thorough house cleaning!
- Use our bank of Approved Residential Suppliers, listing over 600 recommended businesses
Have all the information you need
- Prepare key documents to give to prospective buyers: property tax statements, electricity and heating bills, receipts for any recent renovation work, transferable warrantees (roof, windows, heat pump, etc.);
- Make sure your certificate of location is less than five years old. If not, get a new one;
- Take digital photographs. Do it carefully, for this is your primary selling point. If you’re selling in winter, add some photos taken in summer so potential buyers can see the landscaping.
Be prepared for showings
- List your house on websites, but also put ads in newspapers (dailies, local weeklies, etc.);
- Record a new answering message on your voice mail inviting prospective buyers to leave a message;
- If you are not sure of your negotiating skills, ask for the help of a friend or relative who knows what they are doing.
Enhance the decor
Even without hiring a professional home stager, you can create an ambience that is at once neutral, warm and inviting, so that potential buyers feel comfortable and have the immediate impression that they will enjoy living in your home. Some tricks to set the right mood:
- Go for a pared-down, welcoming décor. Remove all family photos and unnecessary decorative items – especially in common areas – and place flowers and plants throughout the rooms;
- Let in the light. A house full of sunlight is much more attractive.
- If you can, light a wood fire. It’s enchanting!
- Control odours. Studies show that the wonderful smell of soup or freshly baked bread and apple pie has a positive influence on prospective buyers;
- Make sure your environmental sound is calm and relaxing.
Ready? Stick your FOR SALE sign firmly in the ground. Motivated buyers welcome!