Toronto’s real estate market is red hot right now. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board 2015 has been a record year for home sales across the city, beating out the previous record set in 2007. That means there are plenty of people who will gladly buy up your house if you’re looking to sell. Still, selling your house is a big task and there are some things you can do to help move it faster, as well as some things you should avoid.
Rule no.1 - The price MUST be right
"I think first and foremost is pricing. It’s really, really important," says Richard Silver, senior vice president at Sotheby’s Canada.
"Sellers need to find a realtor who’s going to find them the best visibility, but pricing is very important, because no matter how wonderful a house is, if it’s overpriced it’s overpriced and it just will not sell on the market."
Don’t choose your realtor based on the highest price and the lowest commission. Silver says you need to look at the other houses in your neighbourhood, and look at your home as if you were the buyer. How much would you be willing to pay for the other houses on your block.
"There are a lot of properties on the market and they don’t sell until they get to near market value. So [sellers] need to find out what the market value of their property is and they need to detach themselves somewhat from their property and look at it as a potential buyer would," says Silver.
"No matter what, the market speaks for itself. If you have a house on the market and you're getting lots of activity and lots of showings, but you're not getting an offer, then the house is telling you that the market is not in keeping with what you want for the house. So you’re going to have to be a little bit more flexible."
Rule no. 2 - Looks are important
How the home looks is a very close second to price. Making your home look the best it can will help you sell more quickly.
"We have what I call HGTV Syndrome,"
"I go into a lot of houses and people will say to me ‘well, we don’t really want to paint, we don’t want to do this,’ and they’ve been in the house for 20 years and they haven’t painted. Putting it on the market now without that paint job is not going to be your friend and putting it on the market with a carpet that’s all stained is not going to be your friend either. "
"I’m not saying that you have to renovate the house but things that most of us would normally consider as regular updates need to be done."
You don’t need to go overboard according to Silver. Make it look as good as possible with as little money as possible. Renovating the whole house to your tastes and style won’t help if the buyer is just going to tear up the place for themselves. But if there are things that need to be done that fall under normal upkeep it’s probably a good idea to see to those first.
"Things don’t have to be brand new," says Silver.
"But anything to do with general maintenance of the property that’s not been looked after will give a lot of people a second thought of well ‘what else didn’t they look after?’"
If your furnace needs to be replaced and it will cost 3-thousand-dollars it’s better to just pay that upfront, and according to Silver you’ll see a bigger return on your investment.
Keeping up appearances is important. Never underestimate the value of a good home stager. A stager can make an otherwise ordinary home shine.
"I think they’re really important. They’ve been a huge change in our marketing," says Silver.
"I have a stager. I pay for her to go through the house and to give the sellers an assessment of what needs to be done and I think it’s a three-to-four-fold investment is what we’re looking at.
"So, if it costs 5 to 10-thousand dollars to bring in a stager and have them stage the property, I know the Seller is going to be looking at 3 to 4 times the return on that investment."
Silver says many of his customers are pleasantly surprised by the changes a stager makes to their home. For example, many condo owners will bring in furniture better fitted for a house, but a stager will often come in and replace it with apartment-sized furniture, helping potential buyers to see the full potential for the space.
"When the sellers go through the process and actually do the staging, do the painting, they’re sort of shocked by how it looks and can’t understand why they didn’t do it when they first bought the house. They’re now living in the house the way it should be lived in,"
That’s one thing that Silver says homeowners should avoid if they’re selling their home: Don’t get too attached to how you have it set up. Even if you love the intricate tile-work you had done to the bathroom, the person who buys your home may end up tearing it all out and replacing it.
"Of course everybody loves the way they keep their property, but part of the problem and the hardest thing about it is that you can get a property where a person has spent an absolute fortune in improvements, but those improvements are so enigmatic that they really just serve that one person,"
In the digital age it’s also important to get a professional photographer to take pictures of your home. Virtual tours allow potential buyers to explore your listing at their leisure, so getting high quality pictures is important.
"Hiring a professional photographer is a must,"
"These days products like Matterport, which creates a walk through of the home are seen more and more and they can now include interactive technology like Floor Plans which put the observer in the room. Hi-definition photos are now a must for most web sites and MLS and are a reinforcement of your brand."
Rule no. 3 - Marketing Makes a Realtor
When it comes to your realtor, you should also pay close attention to what they bring to the table.
"What kind of marketing are they prepared to do and also what is their reach?" says Silver. "Is there reach just in Downtown Toronto? Is it all of Toronto? Is it all of Canada?"
"These days, in the Toronto market anyway, we’re looking at either about 20 to 30 per cent [of buyers are] either foreign or non-Canadian born, so they should be aware of what the market is, who’s buying and what they can best do to suit their house to potential buyers."
Advertising is a key component for selling any home. Silver considers himself a bit of an outlier in this regard because he really extends his reach beyond the city limits.
"I do have a website and I use the Sothebys.com and the Sothebys.ca, but I’m also realizing that there’s a lot of international buyers and I focus on some of the international websites as well."
Silver says he advertises on the usual fair, websites like Sothebys.com and Realtor.ca, but he also has a strong social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Outside of Canada Silver and his team rely on WorldProperties.com and Juwai.com and the social media app WeChat.
"WeChat is basically what’s used in Asia and you’ve got a billion and a quarter people using WeChat and that’s how they discuss and send messages because there’s no Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and there’s no Google," says Silver.
Print media is still part of Silver’s operation. He advertises in the Globe & Mail and sends out postcards around the neighbourhood.
"When I list a property or when I sell a property I try and let as many people know that we’ve done it. So just sending out the ‘just-sold’ or 'just-listed" are a big thing."
He says it’s more important to concentrate on your online presence though, since most people these days do their browsing online.
"Sellers have a tendency to look at the Globe & Mail, they want to see that you’ve advertised, but buyers don’t. Buyers look on Realtor.ca, they look on the Sotheby's website, so I think that’s really, really important these days. You have to be there [on the web],"
Email marketing is an important step as well. Set up a mailing list and keep your followers abreast of new listings and any upcoming open houses. This insures that any time someone is thinking of buying a property they think of you. Make sure you remain in contact with anyone who could be looking to purchase a new home.
"Email marketing is the centre of my marketing strategy,"
"It is cost efficient and let's you know who sees it and if they follow up with a visit to your site. In that one way alone it trumps print advertising as you seldom know if there is any follow through and cost effectiveness..."
There are a lot of things to consider when putting your house up for sale, but Silver says if you keep at it, watch the market, and put in a little work in, your house will sell.
"Every house has a buyer for it," says Silver. "It’s all about what price are they going to offer and what price they find acceptable to them."