The Steps to Selling Your House Without Having To Pay A Realtor
You’ve been dreaming of different pastures.
Maybe you’ve applied for a lucrative job in another city. Maybe you’ve found love over Zoom and want to consolidate your households. Maybe you’re unexpectedly expecting twins and your current quarters are looking a little tight. Whatever the reason, you’ve been wondering about the steps to selling your house.
Selling a home isn’t a particularly difficult or complicated process. It can, however, be time consuming, with several steps to work through before closing the sale. Some steps can be completed relatively quickly. Others may take a considerable chunk of time. Particularly for first-time sellers and those selling their own homes, it’s a good idea to kick things off with a little research and planning. Understanding the steps involved in selling a home can help the process unfold more smoothly.
1. Decide who will sell your home
Selling your own home can be incredibly rewarding. First, it can save you a considerable sum of money. Second, it can be emotionally fulfilling to complete a big job that is most often tackled by professional realtors. That said, there are pros and cons to consider whether you hire a realtor or choose to sell your own home.
Working with a Realtor
To be honest, selling a home can be a lengthy and involved process. As well, there are several factors that can affect the final sale price. A trained, experienced, and well-recommended realtor can help you get top dollar for your house. They may also minimize your stress and time commitment by:
- Helping you competitively price your home;
- Offering advice regarding repairs, upgrades, and home staging;
- Providing referrals to other professionals, such as home appraisers and real estate lawyers;
- Handling the showings and/or open houses;
- Ably marketing your home on multiple platforms, including the MLS;
- Communicating with the buyer’s realtors; and
- Helping you negotiate offers.
Of course, a realtor will charge a fee for these services. In Ontario, real estate agents typically charge a commission rate of 5% on a property’s final selling price. Half goes to the seller’s realtor and half goes to the buyer’s realtor.
In a hot real estate market like that of the GTA, 5% can be a significant amount of money. In 2019, the average selling price of a home in the GTA was just over $800,000. Five percent of $800,000 is $40,000. You can avoid paying some–or all–of that commission by selling your own home. (Note: If your buyer chooses to use an agent, you will still need to pay a commission to that realtor.)
Selling Your Own Home
While it is much easier to hire a realtor, selling your own home can result in significant cost savings. In the example given above, the $40,000 commission is to be divided equally between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. Even if you have to pay commission to the buyer’s agent, you could save $20,000 by selling that hypothetical home on your own. Yes, selling a house can be time consuming and involved, but it can definitely be worth it for the cost savings.
If you decide to tackle the job on your own, the following list of steps to selling your house should help you plan and execute the sale.
2. Perform a Home Inspection
Inspecting your property is important to do early in the listing process. An inspection can help you figure out if any repairs and/or upgrades should be made before listing your home for sale.
An accredited member of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) can be hired to perform an accurate and objective inspection. In Ontario, the cost for a professional home inspection varies depending on the location, size, and age of your property. It usually costs $300 to $500 plus HST.
If you’d like to save on the cost of an inspection, it’s definitely possible to do it yourself. The most important thing is to remain objective. Try to see your property not just as a seller, but as a prospective buyer too. If you can, ask trusted friends and family to help you out with an informal inspection of their own. It never hurts to have a second set of eyes check things over.
3. Tackle Repairs and Upgrades
It goes without saying: A house that’s neat, tidy, and in good repair will be more appealing to potential buyers. Go through your house from top to bottom and perform needed repairs such as:
- Fixing faulty electrical outlets;
- Replacing washers in leaky faucets;
- Patching and repainting scuffed and/or dented drywall.
Small upgrades that freshen up your home and make it more widely appealing can help buyers envision themselves in the space. And that can help your house sell more quickly. Consider doing things like:
- Repainting walls and cabinet doors in neutral tones;
- Updating light fixtures; and
- Installing new cabinet hardware.
Even minor repairs and upgrades can affect how much your house sells for. It’s best to have this step completed before you start calculating your home’s market value and determining a competitive listing price.
4. Determine Your Home’s Market Value
Hiring a licensed home appraiser is a quick and accurate way to determine your home’s current fair market value (FMV). However, it costs about $350 to $500 plus HST for a professional home appraisal in Ontario. If you’re selling your own home as a way to save money, you can bypass this cost and do the research needed to determine the FMV yourself.
The National Bank of Canada has an excellent guide on how to calculate your home’s FMV. In a nutshell, look at:
1. Your property’s location;
2. The physical characteristics of your property;
3. The listing and final sales prices of 3-10 comparable properties; and
4. The municipal valuations/property tax assessments of similar properties.
Once you have this data, you can create a scale and figure out where to place your own home on that scale by comparing it to the other properties. Objectivity is key. Private home sellers may feel sentimental about their homes or may overvalue improvements. But it’s important to remain objective in order to determine not just the FMV but a competitive listing price.
5. Prepare Your Home for Sale
Once you’ve determined your listing price, it’s time to get ready to list and market your home. In this day and age, when most people begin house hunting online, virtual marketing is crucial. Visual images are central to online marketing. To showcase your home to its fullest potential, you need fabulous photos. And to get fabulous photos, you need to make your home sparkle and shine.
Declutter and Clean
Decluttering is an important first step. As you declutter, your home will look tidier, bigger, and more appealing. This is a perfect opportunity to downsize by donating unused things to charity. However, you can further declutter by renting a storage container and packing away those personal things–like family photos and quirky collections–that make your house your own home.
Once your home is thoroughly decluttered, it’s time to do a deep clean. Think of your home as a hotel or paid guest suite and clean to those standards. Polish light fixtures, wipe down walls and baseboards, wash windows, rent a carpet cleaner, scrub out your bathrooms, and use a toothbrush to get every corner and groove meticulously clean.
Stage Your Home
Staging is a way to beautify your space and appeal to all the senses of potential buyers. While visual appeal is important, soft textures that invite touch and pleasing aromas can help make your home feel bigger, brighter, and more welcoming to everyone who walks through.
Professional stagers are a tremendous resource. Not only are they trained to make spaces look beautiful, but they have access to rental furnishings and accessories. If your budget doesn’t allow for a professional stager, look at doing things like:
- Rearranging the furniture;
- Setting the dining room table with your good china, cutlery, and linen;
- Appealing to the olfactory senses with natural scents like citrus, herbs, or pine; and
- Replacing window treatments to let in as much natural light as possible.
6. Marketing Your Home
Listing involves not just offering your home for sale, but marketing it to potential buyers. As mentioned above, a considerable amount of marketing is done online. For the biggest impact online, professional quality photos are key.
How to Take Fantastic Photos
As soon as your home is spotless and staged, start taking the best photos you can. Pay attention to composition, lighting, and clarity. A piece at Trulia offers these tips:
- Landscape photos are best.
- Take advantage of bright, natural lighting.
- Take the highest-resolution photos that your device will allow.
- If possible, use a digital camera rather than a phone camera.
- Use a tripod or stable surface to steady your device.
- Edit your photos by straightening, cropping, and brightening them.
Once your photos are ready, it’s time to list your house for sale.
Where to List Your Home Online
There are several places you can list your home online, including:
- Sites specific to home sales, such as Zillow, realtor.com/international, or HomeFinder.
- Private sale/want ad sites, such as Kijiji or Craigslist.
- The classified section of your local newspaper.
- Your social media pages, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- The MLS (Multi-Listing Service).
The MLS is a conglomerate of local databases that realtors use to share listings easily and widely with each other. It is the single most important marketing tool in real estate. Only realtors can list properties on the MLS. Private home sellers can get their properties on the service by hiring a realtor who offers “Flat Fee Listings” or “Mere Postings.” For a low fee ($99 and up in Ontario), a realtor will work with you to simply to list your home on the MLS.
7. Showing Your Home
Although potential buyers may become interested in your home after viewing photos online, it’s highly unlikely anyone will submit an offer without walking through your home in person.
When you arrange a showing or open house, your home should be spotless and staged, as it was when you took the photos for your listing. For the best showing possible:
- Arrange a time that is convenient to you.
- If you have pets, take them to the neighbours’ or to a doggie daycare.
- Make sure your home’s temperature is comfortable.
- Light up every corner by opening all window coverings and turning on all lights.
- Leave out small refreshments, like coffee, tea, chocolates, or wrapped candy.
- Provide print-outs or brochures that include important details about the house and your contact information.
You should stay on site during showings and open houses, to welcome the potential buyers and to be available for questions. While you should be easy to find, hang back to give the buyers plenty of room to check things out and chat among themselves.
8. Considering Offers
Since you prepared your home beautifully, listed it at a competitive price, and marketed it widely, you should start getting offers after buyers attend the showings and open houses.
When you get an offer, you have three choices: you can accept it, reject it, or make a counteroffer. Sellers typically make counteroffers when a buyer’s offer is too low. However, in addition to the price that the buyer is willing to pay, an offer to purchase typically includes:
- The amount of the deposit offered.
- The amount of the down payment.
- Whether the buyer is paying cash or financing the purchase with a mortgage.
- Any terms or conditions the buyer needs fulfilled to complete the purchase (such as the sale of their own home).
- Any inclusions or exclusions. For instance, the buyer may ask for certain household items to be included in the sale, like major appliances.
- The closing date.
- The period that the offer is good for, until it must be accepted or rejected.
It’s important to consider all of these things when reviewing an offer. Would you rather have a little extra money in your pocket or a little extra time to move? Those are the kinds of decisions to weigh when considering offers.
9. Closing the Sale
Offers should be reviewed by your real estate lawyer, who will help you through the final stages of the sale. There may be tasks to complete before the sale is finalized, including:
- Completing any repairs requested by the buyer in their offer;
- Working with mortgage brokers and your lawyer to complete and sign documents on time;
- Finding your own new home; and
- Packing and moving.
Completing all the steps to selling your own home can take a fair amount of time. However, it can be well worth it for the cost savings and the pride in successfully completing a big, time-consuming task on your own.