(Updated February 2020)
I know. It seems that in a hot real estate market like Toronto’s, anybody can just slap a ‘for sale’ sign on their lawn and sell their own house. Today, I want to look at what’s really involved in selling your own house. Make sure to read through to the end of the article…my most important piece of advice is at the end!
Be Ready for the Costs
If you choose to sell your house yourself, it’s not quite as simple as ‘saving 5% in commission’. There are some real hard costs to selling your own home that are often covered by the commission you would pay a real estate agent:
- While you might get lucky and find a buyer who isn’t working with a real estate agent, the most likely scenario will be that another agent will find the buyer and bring you the offer…and of course, they’ll want to get paid. Expect to pay half of what you think you’re saving.
- If you do find the buyer yourself, make no mistake about it – they are going to want a part of the ‘savings’ for not having been represented by a real estate agent too. In our experience, they usually want half of that ‘commission savings’ for themselves.
- Staging can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than $10,000 for a typical Toronto house. Our average staging costs $4,500.
- Sure, you could deep-clean your home yourself if you have the time…but bringing in professionals will ensure that your home is in tip-top shape. Typical costs: $150-$500.
- Studies show that professional photography – and in particular, HDR photography – adds thousands of dollars to the sale price of a home. Typical costs: $150-300.
- Floor Plans
- When it comes to what buyers want, floor plans rank second to photos. Typical cost: $150-300.
- Pre-listing home inspection
- If you’re selling a house, you’ll likely want to get a home inspection done before you list it for sale. Cost: $400-600.
- At a minimum, you’re going to want to list the property on the MLS and realtor.ca, owned and operated by Canadian REALTORS. The MLS is where most homes get listed for sale. It’s where the listings on www.realtor.ca come from, and it’s the primary tool that real estate agents and buyers use to search for a home. Some brokerages will allow you list your home on the MLS for as little as $1,000.
- Additional marketing costs depend on what you decide to do – flyers, postcards, feature sheets, website advertising, social media advertising, etc. We usually spend $1,000-$2,500 per listing on marketing.
- Legal Fees
- Whether or not you’ll be using a real estate agent to sell your home, you’ll have to pay a lawyer to close the sale (anywhere from $1,000-2,500). Expect to pay significantly more if you also need them to review the offer paperwork.
Pro tip: At the BREL team, we have all-inclusive pricing, meaning staging, professional cleaning, pre-listing home inspections, HDR photography, floor plans and marketing are all included in our commission.
Do You Have the Time To Sell Your Own House?
Selling a home takes a lot of time. I know it can sometimes seem like a REALTOR only works a few hours for their commission when a house goes on the market one day and sells the next…but recognize that most of a listing agent’s job is done before the house hits the market. If you decide to sell your home yourself, be prepared to spend a lot of time:
- Preparing your house for sale – everything from cleaning to staging
- Marketing – photography, flyers, postcards, website listing
- Scheduling showings and answering your phone – It’s not unusual in the Toronto market for a property to get 50 or more showings in the first week. Expect dozens of phone calls to book showings and dozens more from people with questions.
- Showing the home – being at home during all those showings will suck up a lot of your time. It’s also important to note that the number one reason a house stays on the market a long time is the Seller being present during a showing (according to the National Association of Realtors).
- Offers – this can be a time-consuming process, especially if there are multiple offers
Do You Have the Skills To Sell Your Home Yourself?
I won’t pretend that there aren’t a lot of unskilled agents out there, who don’t earn their money (and in fact can cost their clients money far beyond commission). But if you hire experienced and talented realtors, they’ll be skilled at marketing, pricing, strategy and negotiation.
Marketing – The only guaranteed way of getting top dollar for your home is to expose it to as many people as possible – and that’s where marketing comes in. Make no mistake about it: there’s a lot more to marketing a home than putting it on the MLS! The homes we list for sale get seen by more buyers on our own website than on realtor.ca (we’re probably the only agents in the city who can say that). If you’ve got marketing skills and the time to do it…awesome. If you don’t, you’re certainly risking selling it for less than you could.
Pro tip: If you decide to hire a REALTOR, make sure you understand how they will market your home beyond the MLS. Ask to see their marketing plan and website traffic.
Pricing and Negotiation – This is the biggie. Most people aren’t natural negotiators, and there’s a lot of negotiation and strategy involved in selling your home – even if you get multiple offers.
Pro tip: If you decide to hire a REALTOR to sell your home, make sure they are experienced negotiators, and ideally, have been designated Certified Negotiation Experts.
Legal – There are lots of ways that home sales go wrong, and knowing the legal pitfalls -everything from proper disclosures to offer paperwork to issues at closing- is a big part of a realtor’s job. Yes, you can hire a lawyer to handle a lot of this, but be prepared to pay for the extras.
Do You Know How Much Your Home Is Worth?
It’s hard to be objective about the value of your house…after all, you raised your family there, you spent days picking out the flooring in the kitchen, and it’s a GOOD house. In your mind, it’s the BEST house on the street!
True story: when we ask our Sellers to rate their home in comparison to others on a scale of 1 to 10, 95% of them rank their home an 8/10 or higher.
Knowing how much a home is worth takes a lot of knowledge – not just knowledge about how much homes are listed for, but also how much they sold for. When comparing houses, it takes expertise to know how much particular features add or subtract from the price of a house (finishes, finished basements, parking, lot size, etc.). And it takes experience to know that the house down the street that looks exactly like yours in the photos actually had a moldy basement and bad electrical and your house is actually worth $40,000 more.
If you FSBO, Are You Leaving Money On the Table?
Top realtors know how to bring together staging, marketing, pricing, strategy and negotiation to guarantee you’re getting the most amount of money for your home as possible. It’s cool to think you could save $25,000 in commission…but what if you do that and sell your home for $50,000 less? That’s a lot of money and it happens all the time. The best ‘deals’ we’ve found for our buyers have always been when we’re negotiating with someone who is selling their home themselves. Good for the Buyer…bad for the Seller.
Does Selling Your Home Yourself Ever Make Sense?
Of course, there are times when selling your home yourself makes sense: when you’re selling to a relative, friend or neighbour and the primary goal isn’t about getting the most amount of money, but instead about selling to a particular person.
If you decide to hire an agent, who you hire is CRITICAL. There are agents who don’t have any more skills or time than you do, and in those cases, you might as well do it yourself. If your goal is to get the most amount of money for your home, it’s not just about hiring a real estate agent – it’s about hiring the right real estate agent.