Selling your home is a journey…and it’s not always a smooth one. Today we’re looking at 25 speed bumps to be ready for.
The good news: most of our clients successfully navigate a sale and closing without any speedbumps. And if you run into trouble? Hopefully, you’ve hired a great REALTOR who’s already experienced all the things that can wrong and who can anticipate and resolve any issues that come up (sometimes without you even knowing about it).
Trigger warning: If you’re already anxious about selling your home, you may want to stop reading right now and just trust that your agent will tell you what you need to know when you need to know it and manage what happens.
Speedbumps You Might Encounter on the Path To Selling Your Home:
- Covid-related delays getting your house ready and staged to sell. Like most industries these days, tradespeople and stagers are in high demand and can be forced into quarantine too. Make a plan but remember to be flexible.
- Agents who don’t show up for their appointment, show up late/early, who forget to lock the backdoor or don’t treat your home as respectfully as you expect. This is a personal pet peeve of mine, and while there are fines for REALTORS who do these things, it still happens occasionally. Be ready to be disappointed with some of the people who show your home, but keep in mind they might be the ones who will bring you an offer you can’t refuse.
- Your next door neighbour lists their home for sale at the same time as you. New direct competitors to your home will happen, no matter how low the inventory is, you’ll likely never be the only house for sale in your neighbourhood or condo in your building. If you’ve hired a great agent, they’ll be on top of what’s happening around you and will be able to quickly pivot if need be. But remember: if other homes are bringing buyers to your building or neighbourhood, that might be beneficial to you – they might decide to see your home at the same time.
- Open building permits This is more common than you’d think. Sometimes, you (or the owner before you) open a building permit and forget to close it. This can be a big issue come closing time (and may actually prevent you from closing), so make sure you or your REALTOR check with the city before you list your home for sale.
- Listing delays You know what they say about the best-laid plans. While you and your agent will develop a plan and target go-live day, sometimes the weather or a pandemic or a truck convoy gets in the way. Talk to your agent about your options and the best Plan B.
- Issues with title We’ve seen it all – owner names spelled incorrectly, people who passed away that were never removed from title, incorrect unit numbers for condos…If you’re working with a good agent, they’ll confirm that everything’s right before your list your home, so if they find a mistake, there’ll be time to fix it.
- Issues with income apartments Most basement apartments aren’t truly legal, from a zoning perspective, so make sure you know what you have before you list your home for sale. We wrote about basement apartments here.
- The home inspection reveals issues you weren’t aware of. This happens – and it’s one of the reasons we like to do a pre-inspection before a house goes on the market. While you may have been unknowningly living with knob and tube electrical or a mold problem in the attic for the last 10 years, you may need to disclose defects in your house, factor newly discovered issues into your asking price or take the plunge and fix it before you put your home on the market. Your agent will be able to guide you. We wrote all about pre-listing home inspections here.
- You don’t get any offers on ‘offer night’. Despite your strategy to price low and hold an offer night in the hopes of attracting multiple offers, it doesn’t always work out. Make sure you’ve discussed all the possible scenarios with your agent before offer night.
- Bully offers When Buyers try to circumvent your ‘offer night’ strategy with a bully offer, their goal is to take control or the process. We outlined everything sellers need to know about bully offesr here.
- Home insurance issues on closing Insurance companies regularly change how and what they insure, so just because you were able to buy home insurance 15 years ago, don’t assume that the Buyer will be able to. This is mostly an issue with waterfront homes and cottages, but if you’ve got old electrical knob and tube wiring, it might be a problem for your Buyer too. Also: if your closing date gets changed, don’t forget to tell your insurance company!
- You have more stuff than you thought you had and no place to store it. It’s amazing how fast things can accumulate in a house, and you might get overwhelmed by how much you own while you’re prepping your house for sale. Our best advice? Think of it as pre-packing for your eventual move. Be brutal about what you keep/toss/donate and get a storage locker to house the extra stuff. Your stager might be able to help.
- You hired the wrong REALTOR You thought you did all the right things: you interviewed a few agents, you asked the right questions and you compared their commissions and services – but it’s just not working out. It’s important to have honest conversations with your agent and to make sure they’re doing the things they said they’d do and that you’re able to easily reach them when you have concerns. If that doesn’t work, talk to their brokerage’s Broker of Record or ask to be released from your contract.
- The real estate market changes or a pandemic gets declared while you’re listed for sale The real estate market is not static and can be affected by interest rate increases, new governmental regulations or the first pandemic in 100 years. If you’ve hired the right agent, they’ll be able to help you navigate through anything.
- It costs more than you expected to get your house ready for sale. Make sure to leave room in your budget for unexpected expenses, but make sure you aren’t falling into the trap of over-renovating your home for a sale. We wrote about saving money on home improvements here.
- You forgot to pay your condo fees last month If you’re in arrears with your condo fees, it’ll show up in the status certificate that potential Buyers will review and may cause the Buyer to back out of the deal while it’s still conditional or may cause issues at closing. Make sure you’re paid up before you list your home for sale (that goes for taxes and your mortgage payments too).
- Your Buyer has financing or other issues and can’t close/can’t close on time If the person who agreed to buy your home runs into problems financing it, you may not be able to close on time and if they can’t get financing at all, they may not be able to close at all. Your agent and lawyer will help you manage through this. Don’t worry, it doesn’t happen often.
- The status certificate is a mess I can’t tell you how many times our Sellers found out about the issues in their condo building when we reviewed the status certificate before listing their condos for sale. Unexpected repairs, renovations, lawsuits, special assessments and condo fee increases can cause havoc, so do your best to avoid this by educating yourself before you hit the MLS.
- The taxes haven’t yet been assessed If you live in a new condo building, it’s possible that the city of Toronto hasn’t assessed you for taxes yet. Remember to budget for that – you may have to pay a year or more of back taxes. The new Buyer isn’t going to pay property taxes for the time you lived there. Best to be prepared and handle this during the offer process vs at closing.
- Your condo building isn’t being cooperative. Some condos aren’t particularly cooperative with REALTORS. They don’t want us to install a lockbox, they forbid open houses or they won’t let potential Buyers see your building’s amenities. Be nice to the property manager and seek their cooperation before the sale – and it never hurts to buy coffee and treats for the concierge.
- Your neighbours aren’t being cooperative If you have a bad relationship with your neighbour, warn your REALTOR. The last thing you want is them sitting on their front porch dissuading potential Buyers or worse, putting up a sign about the legality of a tree during an open house. True story.
- You aren’t getting the interest from potential Buyers that you expected. We all can’t all be the belle of the ball and external factors like the weather can also influence how many people tour your home. The stories you read in the news about 100 showings in a week aren’t the norm – that’s why they made the news. But there could also be a problem….talk to your agent.
- You find out you’re overpriced. Toronto real estate buyers are smart and they’ll know if you’re overpriced. They’ll communicate that to you by not booking showings or by not submitting offers. We wrote about that here.
- Your home doesn’t sell in time to close on your new home If you buy before selling, you’ll need have a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D if your home doesn’t sell in time. Involve your agent and mortgage broker. Don’t worry too much, this doesn’t happen very often in Toronto.
- You fall back in love with your home after it’s been staged and are questioning whether you really want to sell it. Remember: the reason you or your agent has invested so much time and money into professional staging is so that your home looks its absolute best. It’s not really how people live.