Are you ready to take the plunge and sell your Calgary home? Selling a house for the first time can be a daunting process, but with this complete home seller's guide, you will have the confidence and knowledge needed to make the experience as stress-free as possible. From understanding the sales process to easy tips to increase your chances for a quick sale, you’ll get an in-depth overview of how to successfully sell your house. Let's get started!
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Research the Home Selling Process
Knowing the steps of the process you’re getting into is key to avoiding unwelcome surprises during your home sale. Real estate transactions can be a complicated process, so before you begin, you need to find an experienced real estate agent who understands market trends and has a good reputation in the industry. Your agent will help you determine a price that is competitive in your local market and create a marketing plan to get your property seen by potential buyers.
You'll then need to prepare your home for showings, which may include anything from decluttering and depersonalizing to making major repairs. You may need to prepare to show your home while you’re still living in it or make temporary alternate housing arrangements. As offers are presented, you'll want to negotiate with each buyer until you reach an agreement that works for both parties.
Accepting an offer isn’t the end—you’ll need to bring in a home appraiser and a home inspector during the escrow period between offer acceptance and final closing. Closing paperwork is its own beast and includes additional closing costs that you as a seller may or may not take on as part of negotiations.
And, of course, you’ll need to know what paperwork you need for selling your home. Every step of the way should be taken seriously as each decision impacts your chances of making a successful sale. With proper guidance from your real estate agent throughout the process, the stress of selling your house doesn't have to be as overwhelming.
Choose the Best Time to Sell
To maximize your chances of a successful sale, it's important to take timing into consideration—especially if you can wait for the traditional spring/summer season. April to July is generally a great time to sell your home at the best price thanks to the combination of good weather and school schedules.
However, all isn’t lost if you have to sell in the fall or winter. Winter buyers are typically more motivated on average, for example, leading to quicker sales, but you’ll have to take into account factors like landscaping for curb appeal being more difficult. Your agent can help you find the best time to sell your home according to season and local real estate market trends.
Choosing the right day of the week can also speed along your home sale. Listing on a Thursday is an ideal way to capitalize on the weekend showings buyers and sellers tend to plan around. Here are three tips for choosing the best time to sell:
- Plan ahead if possible and consider listing in late spring or early summer when the real estate market is at its peak.
- Take advantage of weekend showings by listing your home on Thursday or Friday instead of Monday or Tuesday. This means your listing will be fresher when most house-hunters are looking for new listings.
- Make sure your home is ready before listing, with any necessary repairs completed. When your home goes on the market, you want to be prepared in case of quick responses.
Timing can have a major impact on how quickly your house sells, so it pays to be strategic about when you list it for sale. With careful planning and preparation, you'll be able to maximize your chances of finding the right buyer and closing a successful sale in no time.
Build the Marketing Plan Around the Timeline
How soon you need to sell will influence the best selling strategy to use. For instance, selling due to a job change and relocation may require more aggressive marketing and a more conservative asking price to get the home sold quickly than a less urgent sale. If you’re selling with no particular timeline to buy a home in the same general area, you can take more time to wait for the best deal. Consider the circumstances around the home sale to make it as competitive a deal as possible.
Make the House Move-In Ready
Most buyers seek a “turn-key” home, which means they want to purchase a home that needs little or no repair in order to be functional. To make your home turn-key ready, take care of any deferred maintenance before putting the house on the market. Repair broken appliances, fix broken doors, make roof, foundation, or sewer repairs as needed, and so on. Failure to make these repairs can result in much lower offers.
Make Your Home Appealing to Buyers
For first-time home sellers, it can be difficult to wrap your head around the idea that someone might not love your home as it is. It can also be difficult to see flaws you’ve become so used to living with you barely notice anymore. Here are some tips for decluttering and depersonalizing your home so potential buyers can see it as their own clean slate.
Create the Illusion of Space
Simply removing clutter and allowing each room to serve one purpose that makes sense can create the illusion of space. If a buyer walks in and sees that an office is doubling as a guest bedroom, they assume the home seller has run out of room and the house instantly feels smaller.
Other things that can create a feeling of being cramped or lacking in space include:
- Clutter on the countertops, including appliances. Put away mixers, bread machines, can openers, and coffee pots before open houses or showings to display a roomy kitchen.
- Messy or too-full closets. Put away enough clothes to leave an inch of space between each hanging item; keep shelves and drawers organized with just a few items on each
- Stuff on the dryer. Tuck away laundry detergent, softener, dryer sheets, and the surprises you find in the dryer rather than cluttering the top of your appliances
- Shared bedrooms. Remove a bed and dresser to a temporary storage unit to help buyers envision the bedroom with just one occupant rather than two and prevent looking cramped.
- Too much furniture. Minimize furniture to make the house or condo look more open and spacious. Remove redundant items, things that are functional but not visually appealing, and large pieces that obstruct views and walkways.
- Being too dark. Light paint colors and adequate natural light can also create the illusion of more space.
Give Your Yard Some TLC
"Don't underestimate the power of Curb Appeal. Buyers will judge the home before getting out of the car. Make it count!"
Curb appeal is critical in a buyer's decision to look at a house or pass it by. While dramatic landscaping may blow a modest budget, a little sweat equity can produce a clean, polished curb appeal and landscaping that attracts buyers and helps seal the deal.
- Plant colourful annuals. Colourful flowers attract attention while making your house appear welcoming. If you have flower beds but haven't planted anything, buy inexpensive potted plants and flowers. Space them out—still in the pots—on the flower bed and fill in the space with mulch. This can still look bright and beautiful without taking the investment of an entire weekend. If you do have time to do extensive planting, easy planting options for shade include hostas, which grow quickly with little maintenance. For sunny locations, verbenas and lantanas are an excellent way to add color and make your lawn look professionally landscaped. If you don’t have a flower bed, set out flowers in a decorative pot or two next to the front door.
- Trim shrubs. Overgrown shrubs can make a yard look wild and difficult to maintain, while neatly trimmed shrubs make a yard look contained and under control.
- Keep the grass fertilized, watered, and cut. Healthy green grass is attractive and can give the impression that the soil around the house is fertile.
- Mulch flower beds. Mulch gives a uniform appearance to the soil around flowers and bushes. It’s less than $3 a bag in most places, so it’s a great way to freshen the look on a budget.
- Remove out-of-place items. Organic debris like sticks, leaves, and broken branches can make a house look untidy and poorly maintained. Put away hoses, bicycles, kids' toys, and lawn tools when not in use, and sweep driveways and sidewalks. Cleaning things up on a regular basis can give the impression that the homeowners have taken good care of the property.
- Wash the exterior of the home. A dirty home exterior can detract from even the most colourful annuals and well-trimmed shrubs, while cleaning the house can make siding look new. Touch up any areas where paint is chipped or stained.
Homes that lack curb appeal can turn off home buyers before they ever set foot in the front door, while homes with a lot of curb appeal can attract a variety of buyers and may sell faster. Curb appeal can be achieved in a variety of ways. Ultimately, the goal for any seller trying to boost curb appeal should be to make the home look as trim, clean, and inviting as possible. Simple measures like keeping the lawn mowed, edged, raked, and watered while the home is on the market go a long way.
Do Your Spring Cleaning
Regardless of the value and quality of your home, if buyers see grime in the shower or cobwebs in the corners, they are going to experience hesitation. Invest a weekend in spring cleaning before you list your home, and then maintain it until the sale. Consider the following tasks:
- Dust the tops of ceiling fans, window panes, shelves, and cabinets and remove cobwebs.
- Wash walls, dining room chairs and table legs, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and floors.
- Vacuum and clean carpets throughout the home.
- Wash bedding for a fresh appearance and scent.
- Wash windows and mirrors.
- Wipe the tops of the trim along the floor as well as any heating units or registers.
- Clean out your kitchen cabinets and closets; buyers open every door and hope not to see disarray or dust.
- Scrub the tub and shower and do a drain treatment to keep things flowing.
Spring cleaning is free and highly effective in boosting your home's appearance and potential resale value. Be sure to clean thoroughly, even in out-of-the-way areas—buyers will be nosy and open that under-sink cabinet in the guest bathroom you hoped they wouldn’t.
Stage the Home Before Selling
The major goal of staging a home to sell is to make the house look spacious, organized, bright, clean, and inviting. There are many ways to achieve these goals.
- Remove clutter. Removing clutter can make a home look bigger on the inside. To remove clutter, start by cleaning out the closets, removing old bills from the counters, clearing off tables, removing piles of toys and books, and putting holiday decorations into storage. (Of course, if you’re selling during the holiday season, a few tasteful decorations can make your home look more inviting.)
- Encourage good lighting. Remove dark, heavy curtains and hang lightweight sheers over the windows. Cut away shrubs that block light from entering the home, and clean the windows to allow as much natural light to enter as possible. Use extra lamps to light dark rooms.
- Coordinate colours. Create a cohesive, unified appearance by coordinating furniture with pillows, curtains, blankets, and other accessories in the room.
- Use neutral colours. Loud paint colours on the walls may be to your taste, but many buyers won’t agree. Not only is a fresh coat of paint an inexpensive way to make a room look new, but a neutral white or beige will also appeal to more buyers.
- Clean everything. Clean surfaces that don’t normally get cleaned. Shampoo the carpets, clean the curtains, scrub the walls, clean the cabinets, and so on. Doing this can help convey the message that the home has been well maintained over the years.
- Rearrange furniture. Remove furniture that gets in the way, just as you would remove clutter. Rearrange what’s left to make the space feel open when you come in the front door—first impressions are vital.
Staging can increase the overall property value and reduce time on the market without any major renovations on the part of the homeowner.
Keep Pets Out of the Picture
Pets can be a distraction during the home selling process, and pet odours can be unappealing. In addition, some buyers may be afraid of or allergic to pets. Ultimately, the presence of pets on the property may deter buyers from making an offer. Pet owners can avoid problems by cleaning up all pet hair and keeping the house deodorized throughout the home-selling process. During showings, send your pet to stay with a neighbour or friend and make sure all pet items such as bowls and toys are hidden away.
Hire a Professional for Your Listing Photos
A good real estate agent will likely include this in the marketing plan, but if not, be sure to invest in it yourself. Hiring a professional for your listing photos can help make your home more attractive to buyers. Professional real estate photography will capture the best angles, lighting, and color of your home, creating images that are bright and inviting. Investing in quality photographs is an important part of marketing a home effectively.
Professional photography will help your home stand out among the sea of home listings online. It’s worth the investment, as vibrant, engaging photographs will bring more interest to your property, resulting in faster sales at better prices. Homes with more photos sell faster, and homes with great photos do, too.
If you’re selling in the fall or winter but you’re able to plan ahead, be sure to get some photos taken during the spring or summer when your landscaping is at its best. In addition, consider drone photography for additional dynamic angles. If you have the ability to, a virtual home tour can amplify the appeal of your listing even further.
Price It Right
Overpricing a home can scare away buyers, while underpricing a home will result in unnecessarily low returns at the time of sale. Finding the right price can be a challenge for many first-time home sellers, and it’s one of the best reasons to hire a real estate agent.
Looking at comparable properties in the neighbourhood is one way to settle on a price. An experienced agent will be able to perform a competitive market analysis to weigh factors like trends in the real estate market, prices of homes sold on the same street, active listings, pending sales, and expired listings in the community. This expertise can help home sellers pick a price that is right for the property and right for the real estate market in their area.
Price the Home Correctly Within the Market
A critical part of selling a home successfully is to price it correctly, in accordance with the current real estate market. This will involve understanding how long it is taking for comparable homes to sell and the actual price at which they are selling. Market trends fluctuate because of many factors, all of which can have a significant influence on a home's selling price. These factors can include the season, weather, local and national economic factors, as well as the condition and location of the home.
Pricing a home high and lowering it later to ensure you catch the highest possible price is a home selling myth. If you try this, your home will most likely sit on the market for being overpriced, and homes that sit too long can cause buyers to be wary of something being wrong with them. You’re likely to lose money compared to pricing your home correctly to start with.
Consider the Effect Location Has on a Home Sale
Locations in which neighbourhoods are going up or down in value will directly affect the seller's ability to sell the home and the amount of money they can realize from the sale. To determine what specific issues or advantages a home or condo's location may have, sellers should look for signs of positive influences, such as the building of new housing developments of similar or greater value than the home being sold, improved schools, better streets, etc. Examples of negative factors might include urban blight, increasingly commercialized areas near the home, or declining conditions of streets and schools.
Factor Property Condition into Price and Timeline
Sellers who expend time and money to make sure their home offers appeal to prospective buyers will enjoy a better overall selling experience. This means making sure that the home is well-maintained and completely prepared for viewing before it is listed for sale. A good way to ensure this is to consider having the home pre-inspected before it is listed so that any necessary repairs, maintenance, and renovations can be addressed. Even though any repairs due to the inspection will need to be included in the Seller Disclosure, but doing so will still help to show that the home has been responsibly cared for during the seller's ownership.
On the other hand, depending on the circumstances, selling a home as-is at a lower price rather than taking the time and expense to enact repairs may be the better option. The cost versus benefit will be unique to your situation.
Prepare to Be Flexible For Home Showings
Be prepared to be flexible when it comes to showings, as this can give buyers more viewing opportunities. Having too many restrictions on when you're willing to show the home can limit potential buyers and cause them to look elsewhere. This means being willing to accommodate showings even when it’s personally inconvenient—the perfect buyer might be the one who can only attend a showing in the morning, or at your normal dinner time. Be willing to work with them to find a suitable time.
Sellers should also be ready to accommodate requests for viewings at short notice, since many buyers will want to see a home soon after discovering the listing. This means being willing to vacate the premises at a moment's notice in order for buyers to feel comfortable while being shown around the property by their agent. Don’t be tempted to stick around to provide commentary. Take the opportunity to run errands or go out to lunch.
Be Prepared When an Offer Comes In
When an offer comes in, there’s a good chance it won’t be exactly what you asked for. Depending on how hot the market is, there’s also a chance you’ll have to choose between multiple offers. Be prepared to negotiate offers that are lower than you’d like. Your real estate agent will guide you through the process, but it's important to know what you're willing to accept and not just focus on price.
Consider factors like cash offers versus financing, which can make closing easier; waiving contingencies such as home inspections; and leveraging repairs or paying closing costs as part of a counteroffer. Buyers with a mortgage preapproval are more likely to go through closing without issues than buyers that only have a prequalification. There are also several common buyer red flags to watch out for, such as asking for extra contingencies, that can help you identify whether a buyer is likely to follow through with the purchase.
Getting familiar with negotiation strategies and possible offer contingencies before offers come in will help make the experience less overwhelming. Knowing your goals and understanding how far you are willing to bend on them can give you confidence when discussing offers. Don't forget that there are other factors involved besides price, so keep an open mind during negotiations for the best outcome.
Understand the Costs Involved in Home Selling
Selling a home isn’t all profit. The costs of selling a Calgary home are largely dependent on the state of the home and the work that needs to be done, but some expenses are non-negotiable. Calculate the expected costs of selling the home, including transfer taxes, fees, commissions, repairs, cleaning, moving expenses, and any other preparations needed to successfully market, sell, and vacate the home. This figure will be helpful when working with the listing agent to establish the best possible price point for the home.
Consult With Your Real Estate Professional
Once you’ve decided that it’s time to sell your home, talk to your real estate professional. They can help you avoid common seller mistakes and decide what needs to be done to stage your home, how to boost curb appeal on your property, and what kind of repairs are necessary to make your home move-in ready. By working with a real estate agent, you can learn from a neutral party where the most attention is needed and how the work will affect the home's value or length of time on the market.
Your agent will also be there to help guide you through the intricate steps of the full real estate transaction. Remember, while this might be your first time encountering title insurance or escrow companies, your agent will have seen it all before. With the right knowledge and preparation, you can make the process smoother, less stressful, and more successful.