From The Gazette (montrealgazette.com), By Allison Grande, National Post
Photograph by: Scanrail , Fotolia.com
Life has a funny way of changing. When I bought my first house, an original beach cottage only a block from the water, I was a single professional. It was my own little private oasis. A home I thought I'd own forever. But about five years in, I fell in love, my boyfriend moved in (and promptly pointed out the lack of garage - one of every man's must-haves), I acquired a charming new stepson and the need for more space. My little oasis was suddenly feeling a bit too squeezed for three - and keeping it was feeling a bit too, dare I say it, selfish.
So I decided to sell. In doing so, I fully anticipated the stress of moving (rated the third most stressful life event)-but not the stress of selling. If you are contemplating listing your home, here are a few tips you may find helpful:
1. DE-CLUTTER WELL IN ADVANCE
Even before your realtor sets an eye on your home - and at least a month prior to listing (make that two months if you still have VHS tapes) - confront your basement and open your closets. Take off the filtered glasses that prevent you from seeing the clutter you've accumulated over several years or more. Toss out, recycle and donate.
One of things people look for when shopping for homes (as you likely did) is ample space. You do not want yours to scream: "Not enough space!" Streamline. And doing it before your realtor instructs you to puts you ahead of the game and relieves stress. Here are some tips: Take old DVDs, CDs and electronics (phones, electric cords, printers, etc.) to your local electronics store for recycling -it's free.
Create a pile for Goodwill or Value Village and a pile for things, like clothing, that your mother, sister or girlfriends have always admired (and which you've selfishly coveted -until now).
If you are an empty box collector, thinking you just might need to ship something soon, recycle all. Boxes take up space and are easily replaced for your move at your local grocers and the LCBO - plus your realtor will make you get rid of them anyway.
Scan your kitchen cupboards and throw out packaged goods, spices and canned foods that have expired or donate any you won't use.
When you think you're done, do it again.
Note: Staging - be prepared for it to some degree - even after you've expertly de-cluttered. It can feel insulting when someone tells you to remove or to replace an item of furniture as if to say yours is not good enough! Before you take it to heart, remember two
things: Showings are meant to present a photo-ready home. How many of us live in homes that could be shot for a magazine spread at any minute of the day? Not too many. Plus, there is a certain kind of "vanilla flavour" that realtors like to present at showings - minimalist, modern, not too much personality - in order to appeal to the broadest market. So relax, don't take it personally, and understand that what you are selling is a slightly standardized - and very sanitized-version of your home.
2. BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE
If you're lucky, you'll be working with a realtor with whom you have some prior relationship (my realtor is the woman who found me this house) and who will provide you with the information you need to do your own research of your market. What have comparable homes (e.g. number of bedrooms, fully or semi-detached, parking availability) in your area sold for in the past 10 years? What percent did your house increase in value annually over the past 10 to 15 years? You can usually gauge a percent increase by examining the previous two to three sales (including your purchase) unless you've owned your home more than 10 to 15 years, in which case dig deeper into the purchase history of your area and of your street. Realtors access sales histories through MLS and should provide you with this information. Alternatively, it can be gleaned at your local Land Registry office (in Toronto, this office is located at 20 Dundas St. W. at Yonge). Sales histories, regardless of current markets, both of your home and of comparable homes in your area, generally reveal consistencies and an objective measurement that can be utilized by you and your realtor when determining asking price.
It's important to have an informed two-way discussion with your realtor about your property's market value to bypass any potential resentments or confusions down the line (i.e. if you don't get your asking price). As informed as realtors are about their business, this is your house, your investment and what you sell it for is yours to live with.
3. FACE PERSONAL PRIVACY ISSUES
Once you list your home, it is now open to the public during showings. People WILL open your bedroom closets and kitchen cupboards; they will be peering into how you live (or how you've presented it); they will give feedback to their realtors - and it may infuriate you. This is part of the process. So take a deep breath and ask yourself this: If the above makes you feel nauseous just thinking about it, you have one of two choices.
Adjust your attitude or do not do open houses-only private showings. Your realtor will not like this, but it is your right.
4. IF YOU WORK FROM HOME, ANTICIPATE
It becomes particularly challenging if you work from home and, suddenly, you have to leave for showings an hour at a time throughout the day. Consider finding somewhere else to work, such as the local Starbucks. If that's too noisy, talk to a neighbour or family member who lives in your area to see if working from one of their homes might work. If this is not an option, here are two tips:
Make your realtor's office aware that you work from home so that, when showings are booked, prospective buyers and their agents are told to be especially mindful of keeping within their hour appointments. Alternatively, whenever possible, ask to keep to half-hour appointments.
Note: Realtors will ask that you relocate your pets, in addition to you, during showings. While dogs travel easily, cats do not. I took my kitty out for the hour in his carrier, parked by the water, and provided good snacks. Cats do not like to be relocated for too long. It's best to respect this. (Take the litter box with you or keep it exceptionally clean if left at home.)
5. EXPECT TEARS
Most people get caught up in prepping their homes and haggling over listing price and fail to prepare for the day the For Sale sign goes up. Chances are, your life is changing for the better and that's why you are selling-to move forward, to have more space, to embrace a new career opportunity, to expand your family. But, if this is not the case, and you are selling due to something seemingly less positive such as divorce or a financial shift, remember this: Life guarantees only one thing - change. It is your response to it that matters. Buried beneath unwelcome change is often necessary change, if you can just see it. And where you live has a tremendous influence on your life perspective. In the same way we travel to broaden our experiences and perspectives, changing our living spaces can have a similar effect. If you're selling because someone has exited your life, for instance, a fresh space will likely bring renewed energy and focus.
Selling is an emotional experience, regardless of why you're selling - and especially if it's your first home. So when that sign goes up and the tears start flowing, take a moment to honour the happy memories you have of living in your home. And then embrace all the possibilities that lie ahead.