Are you looking to sell your Toronto home? Here’s our best advice for avoiding the 100 most common mistakes Sellers make.
1. Being home for showings.
The National Association of REALTORS claims this is the number one reason homes stay on the market for a long time. If a showing is scheduled, leave the house.
2. Thinking you will get a 100% return on your renovations.
Sadly, this is only true on TV. Always talk to your REALTOR before you make any renovations for the sale.
3. Restricting showing times to be convenient for you.
Opening your home to potential Buyers is a pain, but it’s to your advantage to make it as convenient for them as possible. We recommend allowing showings between 10 am and 8 pm, 7 days a week.
4. Picking your REALTOR because they are your friend.
If they’re the best person for the job and you can fire them if they don’t perform, go for it.
5. Thinking just having your home on the MLS will sell it.
There’s a lot more to marketing your home than just putting it on the MLS, at least if you want to sell it for top dollar. Hire an agent who knows how to expose your home beyond the MLS and don’t ever accept mediocre marketing.
Related: How We Reach More Buyers
6. Not insisting on stunning professional photography.
Most Buyers first see the home they eventually buy online, so outstanding photography is critical. If a Buyer bypasses your listing because of bad photos, they aren’t likely to reconsider it later.
7. Not deep-cleaning your house before putting it on the market.
Buyers assume that homes that are messy or dirty haven’t been properly maintained either…which means less interest from Buyers and lower offers. Don’t feel like cleaning? Bring in a professional (or work with an agent who’ll take care of this for you, like the BREL team).
8. Not tidying up before EVERY showing.
Make your bed, wash the dishes, put away your laundry, clean the floors — every time.
9. Leaving your dog in the house for a showing.
I know it’s hard to believe, but not everybody loves dogs. Don’t detract from a showing by having a barking pup.
Related: Selling a Home With Pets.
10. Over-pricing your home and expecting buyers will negotiate.
Most Toronto Buyers will avoid an overpriced house rather than negotiate, so if your pricing strategy is to over-price by $50K and negotiate down to market value, recognize that you’ll be overlooked by most Buyers and may not get the chance to negotiate. If your listing lingers on the market, you might end up selling for less than market value.
Related: You can read more about pricing strategies here.
Related: The Lowdown on Pricing a House
Related: The Lowdown on Pricing Condo
11. Walking away from an offer because you’re insulted it’s too low.
While not everybody wants to negotiate, some Buyers are expecting to. So while you may get an offer that’s $50K below market value, the Buyers may very well be prepared to increase their offer substantially. Avoid getting emotional at offer time and look to your agent for guidance on negotiation strategies.
12. Not knowing what to repair and renovate before selling.
It’s just as bad to over-repair and over-renovate as it is to ignore the important things that will matter to Buyers.
13. Not understanding the importance of staging.
To bring in the highest possible price, it’s important to showcase your home at it’s absolute best, and that likely means you’ll need to stage it. Optimize the use of every room for the typical Buyer (instead of how you live). Professional staging can quite literally add tens of thousands of dollars to your sale price.
Related: Read more about BREL’s very own staging company here – and it’s included in our commission.
14. Not using colour and accessories to make the photos pop.
One of the biggest goals of staging your home before listing it for sale is to make your home look amazing in photos – and pops of colour and the right accessories can make a huge difference.
15. Thinking your house is the best on the block.
Truth: over 80% of Buyers think their home is better than average and that’s only true 50% of the time. When planning your selling and pricing strategy, be honest with yourself. If you aren’t sure how you compare to your neighbours, ask your agent. If you’re still not sure, consider visiting some open houses in the area or ask your agent to take you to see your competition.
16. Not fixing the small things.
Buyers often exaggerate how much it will cost to fix the small things, so take the time to fix the leaky faucet, re-caulk the bathtub and repair the hole in the wall – it’ll cost you far less than the discount a Buyer will apply.
17. Buying before selling or selling before buying.
There’s no easy answer as to whether you should buy or sell first, so take everything into consideration and talk to your REALTOR.
Related: Read more about Deciding Whether to Buy or Sell First here.
18. Not recognizing the seasonality of real estate.
Real estate is seasonal, and there are ideal months (and less ideal months) to sell, and it’s not always what you’d think. For example? In Toronto, the ‘spring market’ tends to start in February. Talk to your agent.
19. Not tracking the competition and adjusting accordingly.
Buyers won’t just be looking at your home; they’ll be scouring everything that’s for sale. Track new listings that might appeal to the same Buyer as your home track what is and is not selling before you. Track which listings are taking offers on what days so you don’t schedule your ‘bidding war date’ on the same night as your main competitor.
20. Thinking you have all the answers.
There’s a lot more that goes into selling a home than you probably realize. Great REALTORS have listed hundreds of homes for sale and that expertise results in higher prices and faster sales.
21. Thinking your opinion doesn’t matter.
True, you should be able to depend on the expertise of your REALTOR to guide you through the selling and negotiating process, but remember: all the big decisions are yours. You decide on the asking price and the selling price. You decide when the timing is right to list your home and how much you should invest in home preparation.
22. Not reading what you sign.
You’ll be asked to sign a lot of paperwork – make sure you read and understand it all.
23. Not proofing your listing before it goes on the MLS.
The details matter and you’ll be held legally liable for what’s written on your MLS listing, so double-check that it is 100% accurate before it goes public. Check the lot size, the square footage, the description of the features and materials, the size and makeup of the rooms, what’s included in the condo fees, how much the property taxes are, etc. Read every word and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Yes, this IS your agent’s job…but better to be safe than sorry.
24. Forgetting to focus on curb appeal.
Buyers will often eliminate a house based on how it looks from the outside, so make a plan to maximize the curb appeal of your home.
Related: Click here for tips on Maximizing Curb Appeal.
25. Not searching for your own home on realtor.ca.
It can take a couple of days before your home shows up on realtor.ca, the number one website used by Toronto Buyers. Yes, your REALTOR should be checking to make sure it looks good online, but it never hurts to look at it from the Buyers perspective. Is the first photo the best photo? Does the description sound appealing? Is it showing up in the right neighbourhood?
26. Not insisting your home gets properly marketed online.
Remember: the goal is to get as many Buyers as possible to see your home, and that means marketing it online, where people are already spending their time. Hire an agent with a powerful website and an engaged social media following. (shameless plug: more Buyers see BREL listings on our website than on realtor.ca)
27. Not realizing that the Buyer is entitled to receive the home in the same condition it was in when they bought it.
Your responsibilities as a homeowner don’t end when you sign the agreement of purchase and sale…you must deliver the home on the closing day, in the same condition it was in when the Buyer offered to buy it. If the furnace or appliances break down before the closing day or the basement floods, you’ll need to fix it.
28. Not disclosing what you need to disclose.
Sellers (and their agents) must disclose anything that might impact a Buyer’s enjoyment of a home. While it might be tempting to hide the knob and tube wiring or the problem with the foundation, it’ll cost you greatly in a lawsuit.
Related: Read more about what you need to disclose to potential Buyers here.
29. Leaving garbage/unwanted furniture behind when you move.
Most agreements of purchase and sale include a clause requiring that the home is left in a broom-swept condition on closing. Under no circumstances should you leave garbage or old furniture in the home for the new Buyer to deal with.
30. Not understanding your options during an offer negotiation.
Whether you get a bully offer, bidding war or just a plain old offer, it’s important to understand the process and your options.
Related: What to Expect on Offer Night
31. Not realizing the impact of the weather on your sale.
Buyers stay home during snow storms and ice storms, so watch the forecast and plan accordingly. If you don’t have air conditioning, don’t list your home for sale during a heat wave.
32. Not doing due diligence on the agent you hire.
Sadly, there are a lot of false and deceptive claims made by some REALTORS. Question their statistics, ask what their awards mean and make sure you understand any of the ‘guarantees’ they might be providing.
Related: Find out more about Deceptive REALTOR Claims and Stats here.
33. Not taking out half your things out of your closets before listing.
Buyers see closets jammed full of off-season clothes, shoes and luggage and they almost always conclude there isn’t enough storage in your home. Take out half of your things and send them to storage during the sale.
34. Not interviewing multiple agents before choosing one.
Read reviews. Ask your friends and family. Do your homework.
Related: Here’s a list of questions to ask.
35. Hiring a REALTOR for the wrong reasons.
Who you choose to sell your home will impact how much money you walk away with and the experience you have during the selling process. Don’t make the mistake of just hiring the agent who offers the lowest commission or who promises the highest price. Ask questions and hire for experience and expertise.
Related: Read more about the wrong reasons to hire a listing agent here.
36. Lying to your agent about what’s wrong with your house.
Your REALTOR is on your side, so be honest with them. They’ll be able to guide you about what you need to disclose and can help Buyers overcome the objections. It’s your agent’s job to protect you, and since you can’t hide from your house, it’s better to have a strategy to deal with the not-so-great things about your house.
37. Not attending the condo meetings and not being on top of issues with the condo board.
If your condo is planning a special assessment, repairs or renovations or involved in a lawsuit, you need to know. You’ll need to account for those issues in your timing, pricing and selling strategies.
38. Ignoring maintenance for years and then expecting top dollar when you sell.
If you haven’t been taking care of your home, you’ll suffer the consequences of that neglect in how much money you sell your home for. That doesn’t mean your home won’t sell – but you’ll need to be realistic about price. Don’t expect to sell it for the same price as your neighbour’s immaculately maintained home.
39. Not recognizing the impact of a smelly house.
Clean the litter boxes, avoid cooking smelly food and empty the diaper pail and garbage can before every showing. Be careful when using room sprays and atomizers – they might do more harm than good.
49. Smoking in your home.
Never EVER smoke in your home. Studies show it can devalue a home by up to 14%.
41. Testing the market with no real intention to sell.
Are you really motivated to sell? While ‘testing the market’ might be a fun game to play, it’s important to recognize that your agent is likely spending thousands of dollars and a lot of time trying to get your home sold. If your intention is merely to test the market, be honest with your agent.
42. Thinking you can kick your tenants out while they are in a lease.
In Ontario, selling your home isn’t a valid reason to evict the tenants while there’s a valid lease in place…but if they’re month-to-month tenants, you can give 60-days notice (from the 1st of the month)
Related: Click here to read more about Selling a Tenanted Property.
43. Leaving out drugs/drug paraphernalia/sex toys/weird collections for showings.
Don’t distract the Buyer from falling in love with your home. Put away anything that might offend a Buyer.
44. Listing/selling before you have your ducks in a row.
Once you’ve agreed to sell your home to a Buyer, there’s no backing out, so make sure you’ve considered everything from costs to timing to deposits and what you can afford in your next move.
Related: Are You Ready to Sell?
45. Closing on the same day you close on your new home.
Not everything goes according to plan on the closing day. If you can close on your new home a few days before you close on the home you’re selling, you’ll have some buffer for unexpected delays, Bonus: it makes moving a lot easier.
46. Not inquiring about bridge financing before you agree to closing dates.
Bridge financing is temporary financing that helps you bridge the gap between the time you take possession of your new home and when you close on your existing home. It essentially allows you to fund the downpayment for the new property with the equity in your current home. Make sure to talk to your lender to ensure that you qualify before you agree to any closing dates.
47. Expecting to renegotiate a firm sale.
Once you’ve reached an agreement with the Buyer and they’ve waived all conditions, the sale is firm, and you won’t likely be able to re-open negotiations. The Buyer has no obligation to agree to a new closing date, and you can’t just change your mind what is and is not included in the sale.
48. Accepting a bully offer in a hot market.
If you’ve priced your home for multiple offers and have scheduled an ‘offer night’, be careful about accepting pre-emptive offers. In our experience, you’ll almost always get more money if you wait until offer night.
Related: You can read more about the pros and cons of bully offers here.
49. Thinking nobody will buy your house.
Every house sells if it’s staged, marketed and priced appropriately.
50. Not listening to the market’s feedback about your home and adjusting accordingly.
Buyers give feedback in many ways: they might tell their REALTOR what they think of your home (“this home smells like cat pee”); they might send a message by not scheduling showings (“this home is overpriced for the location”), or they might see it and not make an offer (which could mean a lot of things). When the market speaks, you need to listen. You might need to stage your home differently or have new photos taken or adjust the asking price. Your REALTOR can guide you.
51. Not critically evaluating why your home isn’t selling.
If your home has been on the market for longer than it usually takes to sell in your neighbourhood, something is wrong. Check out our blog, This is Why Your Home’s Not Selling for a checklist of what might be happening.
52. Not allowing your agent to host an open house.
Open houses can be an effective marketing tool, especially in the first few weeks your home is on the market. If an agent tells you “open houses don’t work”, they either don’t want to spend their Sunday afternoon at your house, or they aren’t skilled at hosting them. Open houses give qualified Buyers a convenient way to see your home and expose your home to a different market of potential Buyers.
Related: Open Houses Are Working Again!
53. Not insisting that your agent focuses on selling YOUR home at your open house, instead of trolling for new clients.
Too many agents see open houses as an opportunity to grow their business and focus on that, instead of selling your home. Make sure to be clear with your agent about what you expect.
54. Not being honest with your agent about why you’re selling.
What you tell your agent is confidential, and their job is to protect you, so the more they know, the more effectively they’ll be able to represent you. So if you tell your agent you’re selling because you’re getting divorced or someone’s been diagnosed with a serious illness, they can’t tell potential Buyers that without your permission – but they can cater the experience to make the process easier for you.
55. Not communicating with your agent about what’s working and not working for you.
Be brutally honest with your agent throughout the process. Are they not communicating enough? Communicating too much? Not listening to you?
56. Not holding your agent accountable to doing the things they said they’d do.
If your agent has committed to advertising in paid publications or paying for greater digital exposure, make sure they follow through. If they promised professional photography or staging, insist on it. I hear too many stories from Sellers who were promised one thing and received another. You’re paying your agent a lot of money to sell your home – make sure they deliver.
57. Not insisting that your home gets marketed globally online, in the places that international Buyers are searching.
International Buyers don’t go to realtor.ca to search for a home….they go to the websites that are familiar to them. International Buyers are an important part of the Toronto market, so ask your agent how they reach them.
Related: How We Reach More Buyers
58. Assuming that negotiation is an us vs them scenario instead of win/win.
Work with an agent who’s a Certified Negotiation Expert and understands that getting the highest price and best conditions for you is best achieved by working with the Buyer, not against them.
Related: Negotiation Strategies
59. Not clearing the clutter and depersonalizing your home before listing it for sale.
You want potential Buyers to see themselves living in your home, so store all the personal photos, fridge magnets and mementoes.
60. Not understanding all of the costs involved in selling your home.
Be prepared for all the costs: home prep and staging costs, legal fees, real estate commission, moving costs and more.
Related: Click here to read: How Much Will it Cost to Sell My Home?
61. Not talking to your lender about mortgage penalties on your existing mortgage.
Will your current lender penalize you for selling your home before the end of the mortgage? Will they allow you to apply the remaining balance to your new mortgage? Mortgage penalties can amount to tens of thousands of dollars, so find out the details before you list your home for sale.
62. Thinking you can sell your home yourself.
Before you decide to take on the job of selling your home yourself, make sure you’re ready for the costs and time commitment. Be honest with yourself: do you have the marketing, staging and negotiating skills to bring in the top price? Do you really know what your home is worth?
Related: Click here to read more about Selling Your Home Without a REALTOR.
63. Selling a vacant home with no staging.
We live in a world of HGTV and Instagram, and most Buyers have little imagination. They’ll be more likely to fall in love with a home that’s been staged than one that’s sitting empty. There are exceptions (for example, the as-is home that’s being sold to a renovator), so talk to your REALTOR. (shameless plug: our staging is complimentary)
64. Not understanding the income tax implications of selling an investment property.
Make sure to talk to your accountant BEFORE you list your income property for sale.
65. Misunderstanding what’s important to Buyers.
You’ve hired an agent, so trust their expertise. What was important to you when you bought the home 10 years ago might not be important to today’s Buyers.
66. Not insisting on a big enough deposit from the Buyer.
Buyers must provide a deposit within 24 hours of their offer being accepted; the deposit is then held in trust until closing. In Toronto, we usually see deposits of around 5% of the purchase price. Lower deposits might be a sign that the Buyer doesn’t have the financial flexibility to close on the property or doesn’t have enough ‘skin in the game’ to follow through.
Related: All About Deposits
67. Not budgeting for house prep and fixes.
Painting, minor repairs, off-site storage, staging – it all adds up, so budget for it.
68. Not vacating the property at the right time on the closing day.
You need to be out of your home when it transfers ownership, so don’t schedule your movers for the afternoon of closing day.
69. Not leaving the property clean for the new owner.
Moving sucks, but it’s not an excuse to leave your current home in bad condition for the new owner. Pro tip: bring in the professional cleaners on closing day so you don’t have to worry about it.
70. Forgetting to tell your agent about the rental contract you signed for the hot water tank/furnace/water purifier/alarm system.
If you’ve signed a long-term rental contract, the new Buyer will likely need to take on those obligations, and that needs to be detailed in the agreement of purchase and sale. If you forget to include it, you may find yourself buying out the whole contract.
71. Continuing to think of your home as ‘yours’ during the sale.
Do your best to think of the sale of your home as a business transaction – yes, you’ve created years of memories there, but it’s time for another family to create their own memories.
72. Not maintaining your home insurance for a few days beyond the closing date.
Not everything closes on the scheduled closing date, so talk to your insurance company about extending your insurance for a few days to account for any delays. If something does go wrong on closing, it’s easy to forget to tell them.
73. Not maintaining your home during the time between the agreement of purchase and sale and closing.
Yes, you still need to maintain the gardens, mow the lawn and take care of basic home maintenance.
74. Trying to hide the little things.
While it’s tempting to put a painting over that crack in the wall or add an area rug to cover the scratches your puppy made, it’s deceptive and can come back to haunt you. Embrace your home’s idiosyncrasies instead of trying to hide them.
Related: Disclose, Disclose, Disclose
75. Setting your price based on how much money you want to walk with.
It’s tempting – I get it. But Buyers decide how much a home is worth based on how much comparable homes have sold for – so base your price (and your expectations) on that.
Related: Pricing Strategies for Sellers
76. Agreeing to have other agents call you if your listing expires.
When you sign the listing paperwork, you’ll be asked whether or not you want to have agents call you if your listing agreement expires before your home is sold. Trust me…agree to this, and you’ll get 50 phone calls a day from eager agents and you’ll hate your life.
77. Not offering a commission to the agent who represents the Buyer, or offering them less than what other Sellers are offering in your neighbourhood.
Offering a commission is a way to entice agents to show your home, so think of it as a carrot…do you want to offer the smallest one?
78. Not proofing the feature sheet and marketing materials.
You (and your agent) will be held liable for what’s on the marketing materials, so if your counters aren’t really made of granite or you’re not really in ABC school district, make sure that isn’t on the feature sheet.
79. Seeking a discounted commission at the expense of expertise and service.
There are tons of commission options out there, but don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. While you may save $5,000 in commission, is it worth it if you get $40,000 less for your home?
80. Putting in a new kitchen or bathroom before the sale.
Always talk to your REALTOR before making any major change to your home – you may be spending money you’ll never earn back and eliminating your ideal Buyer.
81. Desperate staging.
We see this all the time – a vacant living room with a fake plant in the corner, pillows on the couch that still have the price tags on them, a card table and chairs placed where the dining table should be. Stage or don’t stage, but recognize that there isn’t usually a middle-ground that anybody wants to see.
Related: Home Staging FAQ
82. Panicking if you don’t sell in the first week.
Despite the stories you hear, most homes in Toronto take longer than a week to sell. Talk to your agent about what’s really happening in the market and avoid getting emotional. Panicked decisions lead to panicked sales, and that’s never good for your bottom line.
83. Not leaving the lights on before every Buyer showing.
People want a bright home and want to explore it during a showing. Leave the lights on before you leave the house.
84. Playing games with Buyers during bidding wars.
If the market for your home is hot, you might get multiple offers, hooray! But don’t mistake that for permission to unnecessarily get greedy and play with Buyers emotions. You’d be surprised by how many Buyers walk away mid-offer because they don’t feel they are being treated fairly.
85. Listing your home exclusively without realizing how much money that might cost you.
Sure, your agent might want to find the Buyer and offer you a discount on commission, but you’ll almost never get the highest price unless you expose your home to the free market.
Related: Read more here: Should You List Your Home For Sale Exclusively?
86. Not understanding what a holdover period is.
When you sign a listing agreement with a REALTOR in Ontario, you’ll be agreeing to a holdover period, which basically requires that you pay your agent if you sell to Buyer who was introduced to your property while it was listed with your agent, but buys after the expiry of the agreement. So if you sign a 90-day listing agreement with a 90-day holdover period, any Buyers who saw your home during the initial 90 day listing period, would be covered by the holdover if they bought your home in the 90 days after the expiry of your listing agreement.
87. Not understanding the role your REALTOR can play in making sure you get the highest price possible for your home.
Maximizing price is a combined effort…there’s a part that you play, but there’s also a huge part your agent plans. From staging to marketing to recommending timing and price strategy to negotiating the final sale, who you hire will 100% impact how much you sell for.
88. Complaining on Facebook about your home or the selling process.
Good agents will always research the Seller before they make an offer on a home, so make sure that anything you say on social media is something you’re ok with potential Buyers seeing.
89. Not being reachable during the sale.
Offers often have very short timeframes, so make sure your agent can easily reach you. With electronic signatures, you can sign an agreement from almost anywhere.
90. Thinking that the value an agent suggests for your home is guaranteed.
If you’ve hired a great agent, they’ll be able to give you a fairly accurate idea of the value of your home, but it’s important to remember that ultimately, it’s the Buyers who decide how much a home is worth.
91. Not realizing the price is a moving target.
Prices go up; prices go down. If your home is worth $1.5 million today, it might go up or down in value by the time you decide to list your home for sale.
92. Letting your listing ‘go stale’.
Properties sell quickly in Toronto, and Buyers get suspicious of homes that have been on the market longer than usual. It’s best to adjust your price or strategy and re-list it, rather than have your home listed for three months.
93. Pricing your home based on the asking prices of the other homes listed in your neighbourhood.
Knowing what’s for sale when you list your home is important, but you should never base your price on those homes. Don’t price your home in line with the homes that have NOT sold, price it in relation to what HAS sold.
94. Not reading online reviews before you hire an agent to sell your home.
Visit Google, Yelp, Facebook and Zillow. Great agents will have great reviews. Don’t see any reviews? Be suspicious.
95. Not getting a pre-listing home inspection if your strategy is to generate multiple offers.
Providing a home inspection (conducted by a reputable home inspection company) will go a long way to encouraging multiple people to bid on your home. In a hot market, Buyers quickly tire of paying $500 per home inspection for homes they aren’t guaranteed to win.
Related: Read more about the importance of pre-listing home inspections here.
96. Not being ready for the inconveniences and frustrations of selling your home.
Truth: selling is VERY inconvenient. From the work you’ll do to get your home ready for sale, to dealing with showings and open houses and keeping your home in tip-top shape every day to missed showings, offer disappointments and closing issues, be ready to be inconvenienced. Keep your eye on the prize: $$$$$.
97. Making mistakes as a Buyer.
Most home Sellers are also home Buyers – don’t make the most common Buyer mistakes either.
98. Not understanding what ‘full service’ means when it comes to hiring a real estate agent.
Many agents refer to themselves as ‘full service’, but what they really mean is ‘not discount’. Full service in Toronto these days usually includes professional photography, cleaning, staging and a comprehensive online and offline marketing program.
99. Not starting to prepare your home for sale early enough.
Related: Check out our 30 Day Guide to Listing Your Home for Sale.
100. Not hiring the BREL team.
Admit it, you knew this was coming. If you’re looking to avoid the most common Seller mistakes and sell for top dollar, get in touch – we’d be happy to help!
Related: Contact BREL!