The home selling process in Toronto is complex regardless of how “hot” or “cool” the housing market is. If you haven’t done it before it can be downright overwhelming. What’s my property worth? What renovations or repairs do I need to do before I start the home selling process? When’s the best time to sell? Do I buy or sell first? The list goes on. In an effort to help answer some of these burning questions, we’ve put together a handy “Selling Guide” to shed some light on what to expect during real estate process from start to finish.


Step 1 - Realtor Selection

This is a biggie, because the strength of the listing agent that you choose to sell your home will have a dramatic impact not only on the amount of profit you make but also the amount of frustration you have, time you gain or lose, liability and risk that you take on, and could change your experience from being amazingly wonderful to being one step above getting a root canal.

Similar to hiring an agent to help you purchase a home, having a real estate license doesn’t automatically mean that that person is an expert or that they’re the best person for the job. Always, always do your due diligence before you sign on the dotted line.

Some questions to ask during your selling consultation are:

  • What experience do you have selling homes in my area?
  • How many properties do you sell a year?
  • When’s the best time to list my home and why?
  • What is your average sales price compared to industry averages?
  • How long do your listings take to sell compared to industry averages?
  • Will you market my property online and how?
  • Do you pay for professional marketing? i.e. photographers, feature sheets, virtual tours, etc.
  • How often can I expect to hear from you during the home selling process?
  • What do I need to do to get my home ready for sale?
  • Can you connect me with great handymen, contractors, painters, stagers, etc.?
  • Can I speak to some of your current and past sellers?

You should also have the agent put in writing that they’ll cancel the listing agreement with you at any time if you aren’t satisfied with their services. If they hesitate then you should seriously reconsider hiring them – the home selling process in Toronto requires commitment from an agent and the confidence that they can get the job done right.

Humble Brag: Not only do we have 25 years of combined experience selling properties but we also have some pretty impressive listing stats too: we sell properties 70% faster than average, get our clients $34,099 more per property sold and sell over 10 times more properties a year than close to 70% of Toronto Real Estate Board agents (Source: Toronto Real Estate Board).

Our motto is simple: Happy clients, happy life. At The Christine Cowern Team, we have a friendly, no pressure approach. You set the pace. We take the time you need to be 100% comfortable, and we’ll give you the same high level of service regardless of your property’s value, throughout the home selling process.

Step 2 - Preparing Your Home For Sale

Unless you have designer taste and are a tried-and-true minimalist, you will likely need to do some fine-tuning in order to get your home ready to sell. The first impression that a buyer gets when they view your home will determine whether they put in an offer – or not. We can’t stress the importance of presentation enough when it comes to the home selling process in Toronto.

Here’s our list of must-do home prep steps for the home selling process:

1) Fix What’s Broken

Do you know that weird noise your air conditioner started making last week out of the blue or the drip that’s started happening in your basement bathroom? These may be small to you, but a buyer could notice them, so make a list of problem items and hire a reputable handyman to fix them. It will be money well spent!

2) Get Rid Of (Some) Stuff

Ninety percent of the homes we sell need de-cluttering, so don’t worry – you’re not alone! Since the biggest reason people give for moving is that they need more space, removing items from your home to make it appear more spacious is a no-brainer. That means removing clutter from surfaces, clearing out over-full closets and storing oversized/unneeded furniture items that don’t help to show your home at its best.

3) Make It Shine

Having a clean home goes a long way in the home selling process – after all, there’s nothing less appealing than seeing cobwebs in corners, dusty floors, or fridges that haven’t been cleaned out in months. Most buyers can’t see past a dirty home – you’ll be keeping money on the table by not giving your home a thorough cleaning from top to bottom before hitting the market.

4) Stage It

If it’s done right, staging can result in a property selling for thousands (and sometimes ten’s of thousands!) of dollars more than a home that isn’t staged and because they stand out well-staged homes typically sell faster than un-staged properties. So add or re-arrange your furniture and accessories, re-paint, replace light fixtures and re-purpose rooms to show off the best use of the space.

Humble Brag: Whether your home needs a minor tune-up or a full facelift, we’ll tell you the truth about what you’ll need to do (or not do!) to get the most money for your home. We’ll also connect you with our trusted home improvement allies, and send in our kick-ass staging company for a complimentary staging consultation.

Don’t forget that you’ll also get the benefit of our full-time Client Care Specialist.

Step 3 - Pricing Your Home

The home pricing strategy that you set when selling your Toronto home will determine whether it sells or not. Period. Price it too high and it’ll sit on the market and become stale to buyers. You’ll also run the risk of buyers thinking that there’s something wrong with the property. On the other hand, if your property is priced properly not only will it sell faster but you’ll also be exposing it to more qualified buyers and you’ll have much less inconvenience from weeks (or months) of showings.

Here are some of the factors that affect property value when determining your home pricing strategy:

  1. Should you price your home lower than it’s worth to try and generate a bidding war or price it at market value and take offers anytime?
  2. Will the time of year you sell make a difference in the list price?
  3. What is the current state of the market i.e. is it a buyer’s market, a seller’s market, or a balanced one?
  4. What properties are currently on the market and how do they compare to your home?
  5. What comparable properties have sold the most recently in your area?
  6. What renovations have you done to your home and what’s the typical return on investment on those upgrades?

The agent you choose to sell your home should have the experience and neighbourhood knowledge to answer all of these questions, so make sure that they’ve done their due diligence before setting your list price and selling strategy.

Humble Brag: Did we mention our kick-ass sales stats? We sell properties 65% faster than average, get our clients $47,872 more per home sold, and sell over 10 times more properties a year than close to 80% of Toronto Real Estate Board agents (Source: TREB June 2016-June 2017).

Why? Because we know the market intimately and do exhaustive research and market analysis before pricing your property and giving you our opinion on its market value. We also make sure that we’ve seen your competition (in person!) not only before we list your home but while it’s on the market as well.

Step 4 - Marketing and Advertising

Back in the day, agents didn’t even put pictures of the property they were selling on the MLS listing. Oh, how times have changed. Or have they? We still see listings hit the market every day with lacklustre pictures taken with the listing agent’s cell phone (or no photos at all!) and cringe when we think of how much less money that seller will get for their home as a result.

Photos are just the tip of the iceberg. An effective marketing and advertising plan for the home selling process should include:

1) Professional Marketing Materials

Buyers will likely be seeing a number of homes before they choose “the one” so you should impress them – and stand out – with professional photos, beautiful colour feature sheets, neighbourhood postcards and a custom property video to help buyers envision living in your home.

2) A Strong Online and Social Media Presence

Because over 90% of buyers look for their new home online, having your property featured across numerous online & social media channels is crucial. In short, you need to be where the buyers are. And that’s on sites likes Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus, Linked In, etc.

3) Target Buyer Marketing

Every home has a target buyer, whether it’s a single professional looking for a condo in the downtown core or a retired couple wanting to downsize to a 2 bedroom bungalow. So make sure to identify – and market to – your home’s ideal buyer and their needs.

4) Target Agent Marketing

Not every agent is going to have a qualified buyer looking for your type of home in your area but some definitely will! Marketing to these agents and knowing where and how to find them online is a must.

5) Target Neighbourhood Marketing

In our experience, most buyers have 1-3 areas of focus on their home search so marketing, not just your home but your neighbourhood (and its best parks, schools, restaurants, etc) will double the chances of your home being seen online.

Humble Brag: We know what marketing works, where the buyers for your home are, the agents who are the most likely to have buyers for your home and how to promote your neighbourhood across the web.

How do we do it? By using finely tuned target marketing and profiling, out of the box listing campaigns that stand out and have a team of the best professional photographers, videographers, writers, and marketers out there. The result? More exposure for your property, more interested buyers, higher sales prices combined with shorter days on the market and, most importantly, happy clients!

Step 5 – Showings

We’ll be honest, dealing with buyers coming in and out of your property for showings can be a pain in the butt. Here are some tips to make your life easier – and help with the home selling process – once your home is on the market:

1) Set showings times that are reasonable but won’t drive you crazy

If your 2-year-old has to sleep between 11:30-1:30pm or else they’ll turn into a hell child then restrict showing times to before and after that time window. This comes with a caveat, however. If you’re too restrictive with showing times than buyers will move onto other properties – quickly – so finding a balance is key.

2) Make friends with your local Starbucks or Tim Horton’s

The last thing that a buyer wants is to walk into your home for a showing only to find you there to greet them. Buyers want privacy when they’re house shopping, so make sure that you stay out of sight.

3) Always make sure that your home is show ready

Before going to bed we recommend that your home is spick and span so that when you leave for work the next morning you don’t have to worry about rushing home to clean it for a same day showing. This tip will make your life much easier and reduce your stress levels big time. We also recommend having a plan for your pets. If your cat is an escape artist or you have a dog it’s best to leave them with a relative, take them to daycare or bring them to work (if possible).

Humble Brag: We’ll work closely with you before your home hits the market, and while it’s on the market, to help alleviate showing stress wherever we can. Need a daycare for your beloved pooch? No problem. Are you going out of town and need someone to clear your front porch of newspapers and flyers? Sign us up.

We also keep you up-to-date on all showing feedback (we ask for feedback after every single showing) and provide daily and weekly reports that track everything from tasks we’ve completed for your listing, marketing and advertising links and new listings/solds in your neighbourhood.

Step 6 - Offers

Woot woot, you have an offer or – even better – multiple offers! Here are the elements of a standard offer (also called an Agreement of Purchase and Sale), so this way you know what to expect:

1) Irrevocable Date

The buyer’s offer will be valid for a specific period of time, after which the offer expires. This time frame is called the irrevocable period.

2) Completion Date

This is the date set for the transfer of the property’s ownership. It’s negotiated between you and the buyer and is also referred to as the closing date.

3) Requisition Date

This is the deadline that the buyer’s lawyer has to search title and determine if there are work orders or liens against the property. If there are, they have to be paid and/or closed before the completion date.

4) The Deposit

A deposit cheque accompanies the buyer’s offer either herewith or within 24 hours of their offer being accepted. The amount of the deposit will vary depending on the value of the property but usually, represents approximately 5% of the purchase price.

5) Fixtures

Fixtures are any item permanently attached to the property. For example, a bathtub, sink or toilet permanently plumbed in would be a fixture.

6) Chattels

Chattels, unlike fixtures, are not deemed to be part of the property and must be specified in the offer if the buyer wants them included in the sale. Standard chattels are fridges, stoves, dishwashers, microwaves, washer/dryers, light fixtures and window coverings.


 A Kick-Ass Home Selling Process

So now you know the nitty gritty but where do you go from there? Once you’ve reviewed the buyer’s offer, you have three options: reject the offer entirely; accept the offer exactly as presented, making no changes or make a counter-offer back to the buyer with changes to items such as price, closing, or conditions.

Humble brag: We’ve finely tuned our negotiation skills and expertise over the years and can proudly say that we’re bulldogs when it comes to standing in your corner and fighting for you at the negotiation table in the home selling process.

Whether we get you hundreds of dollars more or thousands, we won’t back down until you’re totally satisfied.