How To Sell Your Own Home If You Live In Ontario

When you first start thinking about it, it may seem a little daunting to sell your own home in Ontario. Where do you even start? There are so many things to consider, like:


  • What do you need to do before putting your house on the market?
  • How do you figure out your home’s fair market value?
  • What are the best places to advertise your listing?
  • How do you best prepare for an open house or a showing?
  • What do you do when you get an offer?

On the flip side, you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself. In Ontario, realtor fees typically total 5% of a property’s final selling price. In 2019, the average home in the GTA sold for $800,000. Five percent of $800,000 is $40,000.

Selling a house privately requires research, effort, and a good chunk of time. However, the payoff can certainly be worth it. If you’d like to forge ahead and sell your own home in Ontario, our tips below may help.

1. Start With Repairs and Upgrades

While many of us feel happiest in a space that reflects our preferences and personalities, sometimes our tastes can be, well, quirky. A house will sell more quickly and for more money if potential buyers can easily imagine living in it.

Take the time to thoroughly go through your home, looking for things that you can refresh or upgrade. Consider doing things like:

  • Repainting brightly coloured walls in neutral tones,
  • Updating cabinet hardware and light fixtures, or
  • Installing new faucets.

And, of course, any minor repairs like a cracked window pane or a non-functioning outlet should be addressed before listing.

If your home has major issues, you may choose to disclose those rather than fix them. By law, all “latent defects” need to be disclosed when selling a home in Ontario. These types of issues may make the home dangerous to live in, include:

  • Mold;
  • Structural damage;
  • A leaking or damaged roof; and
  • Asbestos.

Doing repairs and upgrades as your first step will help with task #2, which is calculating your home’s fair market value.

2. Determine Your Home’s Fair Market Value

The fastest and easiest way to determine your home’s Fair Market Value (FMV) is to hire a licensed appraiser. In Ontario, a professional home appraisal costs about $350 to $500 plus HST. However, with a little time and research–and a lot of objectivity–it’s possible to figure out the FMV of your home yourself.

The National Bank of Canada suggests considering these factors in order to calculate a home’s FMV:

1. Its location
Two identical houses will have different FMVs depending on their locations. Consider nearby properties and amenities, as well as both the neighbourhood and the municipality that the house is located in.
2. Physical characteristics of the property
All of a property’s physical characteristics affect its FMV, including lot size, outbuildings, landscaping, roof condition, square footage, number of rooms, type of heating, etc.
3. Comparable properties
Look at 3-10 comparable properties that sold within the last six months. These should be as similar to your own as possible in terms of location and physical characteristics.
4. Municipal valuations/property tax assessments
The real estate market can shift quickly, making existing tax assessments outdated. However, looking at the tax assessments of similar nearby properties can help determine market trends.

Objectivity is key when calculating your home’s FMV. Feeling sentimental about your home or overvaluing improvements can lead to an inflated FMV calculation. But, overvaluing your home–and consequently listing it at too high of a price–can make it difficult to sell. An objectively calculated FMV should help you decide on a competitive listing price.

3. Purge, Deep Clean, and Stage

Potential buyers that can envision living in your space are more likely to submit an offer. Help them out by making sure your home is free of clutter, sparkling clean, and staged to look roomy, bright, and welcoming.

Purge

Decluttering opens up space, making your home seem larger. It also removes highly personal items that can make it difficult for potential buyers to imagine living there. If needed, rent a shipping container to store the items you’ve removed. On the plus side, this will make packing easier later on. For now, do things like:

  • Weed out your clothing and linen closets to make them look roomier.
  • Remove and store personalized collections (like fridge magnets or sports memorabilia).
  • Minimize the number of personal photos on display.
  • Declutter and organize your kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

Deep Clean

Make your house sparkle from top to bottom by:

  • Polishing light fixtures and washing ceiling fans.
  • Wiping down walls, cupboard doors, and baseboards.
  • Thoroughly vacuuming.
  • Washing all floors, using a toothbrush in corners and grooves.
  • Meticulously cleaning your bathroom(s).
  • Polishing windows and clean window frames.

Remember that serious potential buyers will be poking around everywhere, wanting to see every detail.

Stage

Once your home is decluttered and sparkling clean, it’s ready for staging.
Staging a home makes it seem as big, bright, and welcoming as possible. Hiring a professional stager costs about $250 plus HST for an initial consultation in Ontario. Professionals have access to an array of home accessories that they can bring in to make your home really pop. There are additional rental fees for these items. If you’re keen to save money, you can stage your own home by:

  • Rearranging and removing furniture pieces to make your home look larger and improve traffic flow.
  • Replacing window treatments with light, modern designs.
  • Setting out plush, neutral home accessories like throws and cushions, which invite a potential buyer to get comfortable and stay awhile.
  • Opening all window treatments and turning on all lights to make your home as bright as possible.
  • Freshening the air with simple, natural scents like citrus, herbs, or pine.
  •  Setting out fresh flowers.

Once your home looks fantastic, it’s time to get your listing materials together, including photos and videos.

4. Take Amazing Photos

Online listings are crucial in today’s real estate market. To that end, outstanding photos and videos are your most powerful marketing tools. Take the best images you can by doing things like:

  • Using a real camera instead of a phone camera.
  • Taking the highest-resolution photos possible.
  • Stabilizing your camera by placing it on a tripod or flat surface.
  • Taking photos and video in landscape orientation.
  • Making use of bright natural lighting and also turning on all lights.
  • If necessary, improving photos by brightening, cropping, and/or straightening them.

Many online listings also provide video tours. To get a better idea of what to include in yours, look at other real estate videos posted online. Once you know what to focus on, many of the photography tips above will help with creating a fantastic video too: use landscape orientation and a high-resolution setting, make use of natural lighting, and edit as necessary.

5. List Your House!

There are many different places to list your home online and you should make use of all of them.

Real Estate/Private Sale Sites

List your home on websites that are specifically for selling real estate or other private property, such as:

  • For Sale by Owner (FSBO) websites, such as Zillow, FSBO, and HomeFinder.
  • Private sale sites, such as Kijiji and Craigslist.
  • The classified section of your local newspaper.

Social Media

Your own social media channels can be a powerful marketing tool. Share your listing across your socials, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. On Facebook especially, look for groups that focus on local sales, real estate, or your immediate community association, and promote your listing within those groups too.

MLS (Multi-Listing Service)

The MLS is a system of linked local real estate databases. It’s the most valuable marketing tool in real estate–but only licensed realtors can post to the service. However, for a small fee, a private seller can hire a realtor to post their listing on the MLS. In Ontario, that fee starts at about $99 plus HST. All MLS listings are posted to realtor.ca, which is Canada’s most popular real estate website, hosting over 240 million visits each year. The fee for a mere posting to the MLS is a worthwhile expense.

The Lawn Sign

Even though online listings are incredibly powerful, an old-fashioned lawn sign can still attract potential buyers. Besides the words “For Sale,” the most important thing to include is your phone number.

6. Show Your Home

When you’re selling your own home in Ontario (or anywhere!), you’ll likely need to arrange for showings. Although potential buyers can get a good feel for the property by viewing your listing online, they likely won’t want to submit an offer without seeing the home in person.

Make sure your home looks just as amazing for the showing as it did when you took photos for the listing. Also, be prepared to stay at the property, in case the potential buyer has questions. To that end, only show your home at times that are convenient to you. That way, you don’t need to rush through the showing. These additional tips will help make the showing go as smoothly as possible:

  • Set your home’s temperature to a comfortable level.
  • Open all window coverings and turn on every light to make your home as bright as possible.
  • Take your pets to a caregiver’s for the day.
  • Make potential buyers feel welcomed by leaving out refreshments, like coffee, tea, chocolates, or wrapped candy.
  • Have printed info sheets or brochures available that potential buyers can take.

7. Have a Good Real Estate Lawyer on Hand

Selling a home involves a complex legal contract. It’s crucial to have the help of a good real estate lawyer, particularly when it comes to reviewing offers. Once you’re at this stage of the process, a lawyer will:

  • Review the offer, advising you of conditions that should be added and answering any questions you may have;
  • Determine the closing costs;
  • Hold the buyer’s deposit in trust;
  • Prepare the deed;
  • Make sure that your own obligations and any concerns around disclosure have been met; and
  • Deal with the buyer’s lawyer.

Selling your home privately in Ontario is a terrific way to save a substantial amount of money in realtor fees. At the same time, it is a multi-faceted and time-consuming task. If you would find it helpful to have a list of best practices and relevant forms, DIYoffer.ca has a comprehensive “for sale by owner” kit. The kit includes a step-by-step seller’s guide, tools to help price your home and stage an open house, and Offer Agreement forms. The DIYoffer kit is valuable resource that will help you navigate the listing process.