Tips on Selling Your Home Privately

The internet has made it easier than ever to sell your home privately. Our 10 tips will help you sell your house without a realtor quickly and for the best price.


The way people buy and sell homes is changing. More often, people are choosing to sell their house privately, without hiring a realtor. The internet has made it incredibly easy for sellers to list and for buyers to browse properties. And, there are a number of benefits to selling your house without a realtor. The biggest one, of course, is that you’ll save a significant amount of money on commission fees. But also, it gives you more control over the process and you can take pride in completing a big, time-consuming job on your own.

Selling your own home isn’t difficult but there will be a lot of work to do. As a private seller, you’ll be doing everything from market research to staging to fielding and negotiating offers. To help you prepare, we have ten tips below on how to sell your house privately.

1. Choose the Right Time to List

Of course, there are times when a home needs to be sold as quickly as possible. But if you have more flexibility, do a little research to find out the best time to list homes in your municipality. There is actually some variation across Canada. For instance, according to Global News, homes in the GTA sell more quickly and for higher prices when they’re listed in May. But, in Vancouver, fall is the best time to list.

2. Price Your Home Competitively

A home will sell much more quickly if the list price reflects the home’s fair market value.
The fastest and easiest way to determine a fair asking price is to hire a professional appraiser. However, in Ontario, home appraisers charge about $350 to $500 plus HST. It’s possible to save that sum by doing the research yourself.
Locate the listings for other nearby homes on the market. Compare your own home to those, looking specifically at things like:

  • The dates the properties were built;
  • The square footage;
  • The number of bedrooms and bathrooms;
  • Any recent updates or upgrades that would affect a home’s value, such as a bathroom remodel or new windows; and
  • Lot size.

Once you’ve made a full comparison with several different properties, you’ll have a better idea of your home’s market value. But, market value and list price aren’t necessarily the same. Instead, think about which price will make your home seem like the best value for the money.
Remember that potential buyers are doing their own comparison of your home to others. Listing your home somewhat below market value can really pay off. Lower list prices tend to draw competing offers, and even bidding wars. When you set a competitive price for your home, you may actually be able to drive the final price up.

3. Make Necessary Repairs and Minor Upgrades

Fixing issues and doing minor upgrades before listing can make a big difference in how quickly your home sells–and at what price. Even relatively minor upgrades like changing cabinet hardware can give your house a fresh, updated look.

If your home has major issues that you aren’t able to address before listing, those need to be disclosed. In Ontario, the law requires that any issues that are considered to be a “latent defect disclosure” be disclosed. These types of issues may make the home dangerous to live in and include:

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

4. Make Your Home Shine – Literally

Potential buyers are most attracted to houses that they can imagine living in. For that reason, your home should be decluttered, devoid of highly personal touches, and spotlessly clean. Staging can also help to show your house in its best light.

Decluttering and Depersonalizing

Stuff bursting from every nook and cranny makes a house look small. If buyers think a house is too small or doesn’t have sufficient storage space, they may keep looking elsewhere. As well, homes littered with personal items and keepsakes makes it difficult for others to imagine living in the space.

Look over your home with a critical eye. Pack up any unnecessary items, especially personal ones. If needed, rent a shipping container and store those items until your own move.

The Deep Clean

Tidying just won’t cut it. Clean from top to bottom, polishing light fixtures, washing windows, wiping walls and baseboards, and dusting everything. Break out that old toothbrush to get every corner and groove spotless. Potential buyers will peer in cupboards and closets; make sure those storage spaces look roomy and well-organized too.

Staging

Professional stagers have the know-how to make your home pop. But if your budget doesn’t allow for professional staging, look at your home critically, and try to imagine how a stranger might see it. Then:

  • Remove unnecessary furniture and rearrange the rest, to make your home look larger and improve traffic flow.
  • Set the dining room table with your good china, cutlery, and linen to help people envision living in your home.
  • Appeal to the olfactory senses with simple, natural scents like citrus, herbs, or pine.
  • Replace window treatments and open as widely as possible to let in natural light.
  • Set out fresh flowers.

Asparkling clean and well-staged home will photograph well for marketing. It will also show well when potential buyers request a walk-through.

5. Don’t Forget about Curb Appeal

First impressions matter. The first thing a potential buyer sees when they arrive at your house for a showing is your home’s exterior. While you’re busy sprucing up indoors, take a little time to make your outdoor space as attractive as possible too. Consider doing things like:

  • Tidying the greenery by mowing the lawn and trimming hedges.
  • Cleaning the outside of your home by pressure washing siding, polishing windows, and cleaning gutters.
  • Updating your outdoor light fixtures.
  • Painting the front door.
  • Replacing decorative elements like house numbers, the mailbox, or the wreath.

A positive first impression is essential whether you’re selling your own home or hiring a realtor.

6. Take Fantastic Photos

The first place most potential buyers will see your house is online. It’s crucial that all photos and videos of your home are outstanding. A piece at Trulia offers these tips:
Use a tripod or place your camera on a flat surface, for stabilization.

  • Take photos in the landscape orientation whenever possible.
  • Make use of that bright natural lighting streaming through your freshly-washed windows.
  • Take high resolution photos for clarity.
  • Where necessary, brighten, crop, and/or straighten the photos.

Videos are also a fantastic way to showcase the best features of your home. Start by looking at other real estate videos online, to get a feel for what your own videos should focus on. And then, the same tips given above for photos also work for videos. Use the landscape orientation, take the video when natural light is plentiful, use the highest resolution settings available, and edit your video where necessary.

7. Market Your Home Online

Take advantage of all the different real estate sites and platforms that are available to people who are selling their homes privately. These sites include:

  • 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.
  • Your own social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • MLS (Multi-Listing Service).

The MLS is a system that allows realtors to share details about listed properties with each other. It is one of the most valuable tools in real estate. There are specific requirements for the information provided in an MLS listing. In order to ensure that those requirements are met, only licensed realtors can post to the service. However, for a small fee, people who are selling their own homes can hire a realtor solely to post their listing to the MLS. Given the reach of MLS listings, it’s a very worthwhile expense.

8. Don’t Forget the Lawn Sign!

Even with today’s emphasis on online listings, an old-fashioned lawn sign is still an effective marketing tool. Make sure you include your phone number, so that if your home catches the eye of someone driving by, they will have a way to get in touch with you.

9. Rock the Open House

Attending an open house or private showing is the way most buyers will decide whether to submit an offer. It’s important for your home to look amazing and for you to stay at the property, in case a potential buyer has questions. There are a few other things that you can do to ensure your showings are as effective as possible:

  • Only show your home at times that are convenient to you, to ensure that you can do last-minute cleaning and to allow potential buyers to take as long as they need.
  • Be available to answer questions but don’t crowd people too closely.
  • Make sure your home is sparkling clean.
  • Take your pets to caregiver’s for the day.
  • Make sure your home’s temperature is set to a comfortable level.
  • Bright lighting is important. Open all window coverings and turn on every light.
  • Make potential buyers feel welcomed by leaving out refreshments, like coffee, tea, chocolates, or wrapped candy, along with a note telling the buyers to help themselves.
  • Have printed info sheets or brochures available that potential buyers can take.

10. Hire a Good Real Estate Lawyer

While it may be possible to list your own home for sale without paying for the assistance of an appraiser, inspector, stager, or realtor, the one person you really must hire is a lawyer. Selling a home involves a complex legal contract, which is best reviewed by a professional. A lawyer is particularly helpful at the end of the sale process, when you receive an offer. Your lawyer can then:

  • Review the offer, advising you of conditions that should be added and clarifying points that may be difficult to understand due to legalese;
  • 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.

Friends and family can likely provide recommendations for a good real estate lawyer, if needed.

Selling your own home isn’t difficult but it does require a lot of work. Our tips should help you in the planning stages, and then again as you work through each step of the listing and selling process. With hard work and a little good luck, your home should sell quickly and for the best price.