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Ivor Mendes | Broker of Record

(416) 520-5621         

After observing the Real Estate market as it is today, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about “listing a house for sale”.

Whereas the estimated market value range includes the “hoped for” sale price, the list price is the bait; the important inducement for buyers to view the property.

There are two schools of thought here. The first, the often used approach, is to list high and periodically reduce the price until a sale is achieved. This is the more common method because, to win the listing business, it is easier to placate a novice seller who wants to try first for a higher price. But without a price reduction, to more realistic levels, listings often end in expiry.

If you seemed to share their inflated value perception of their home, your seller will love you. But as weeks crawl by with no nibbles, that love rapidly fades to frustration, anger or disappointment.

The second school of thought involves putting your best foot forward, so to speak, by listing realistically at the outset.

If you perform a statistical analysis of the list prices of sold comparable properties, the original asking prices prior to any reductions and the DOM (Days on Market), you’ll probably discover that the properties that were realistically listed from day one, all sold relatively quickly – without the need for price adjustments. Typically, the listings that lingered longer started out too high and had to be reduced, sometimes more than once, before finally attracting a sale. There’s only one conclusion; presuming that every sold listing gets fair market value, the list price merely determines how long it takes to get it, and at what “meeting point”.. In other words, the more over-priced the listing, the longer it will take to sell. In an average active market, with a realistic original list price, a property should sell fairly fast. Or after one or more price reductions, it should sell when the asking price finally reaches sensible territory. I always say, “swap positions – put yourself in a buyer’s shoes. If you were the buyer, would you buy the property at that price?”

Setting the right initial asking price is, after market evaluation, most critical in the entire listing process.

If homeowners fail to list right, they may grow long in the tooth waiting for a solid bite. They may believe that asking price is, as I said earlier, almost irrelevant because a buyer can opt to offer whatever they choose. This may be true, but it most certainly is very relevant. Generating an offer early in the game often renders a higher sale price because the seller – with a brand-new listing – is in a superior negotiating position. The property has not been long on the market; it’s not a stale listing. Also, in a hot market, the odds are higher that with an enticingly fair asking price, a buyer competition could ensue. And since buyers prefer to avoid a competition, if the list price is realistic, they’ll get out early to view it before a feeding frenzy takes place – and offer fairly, sometimes generously.

The asking price can make the difference in not only how long it takes to sell, if it even sells, but also indirectly, what final sale price is actually achieved. It’s not complex; price too high and there’s no interest from buyers. By setting the listing price lower, but still too high, your listing may get attention and showings, but buyers refuse to waste their time or risk insulting a homeowner.

Remind your seller; as they have the advantage of your price advice, buyers have the same benefit from their own agents. In years past, novice buyers were more easily duped by unscrupulous agents who will only tell you what you want to hear. But thanks to the internet, our evolving industry standards and the popularity of buyer agency, buyers are no longer so ignorant. Of course, set a list price too low and your client could conceivably under-sell their home, or depending on market conditions and the property, generate multiple bids.

Plainly put, list price determines the volume of buyer activity. And a high volume of viewings obviously increases the chances of a quick sale at a better price. To demonstrate, here’s an exaggerated example: if a home is realistically valued at, say, $700,000 and you price it at $850,000, how much action would it generate? Obviously not much. And conversely, what kind of interest would result from a list of $650,000? I've come across a semi-detached home, in Mississauga, listed at $699,900 which sold at $805,000! Point made. However, bear in mind that this need not always happen. It also depends on what the property has to offer and the time it is listed for sale - 2 important factors.

The problem with the policy of accepting over-priced listings is that the seller loses the advantage of typically the most active period in the selling process – the first couple of weeks, or longer, depending on your local market conditions. There’s always an average DOM; know it and use it. Statistics can be powerfully convincing. 

Thanks to the fantastic exposure provided by the internet, they’ve already discovered, maybe viewed and rejected current inventory. When a new listing appears, but in their, or their agent’s opinion, it’s not priced competitively, they ignore it and/or await a price reduction. However, if the asking price is fair, they contact their own, or the listing agent, to arrange an immediate viewing.

Have you ever had a buyer ask how long a home has been listed for sale? I’d say you’ll answer yes, many times. If you told them it’s a brand-new listing and they liked it, they often made a reasonable offer immediately – or should have if they were smart. If they’d felt that the DOM was excessive, they may have automatically wondered or even asked why no one else wanted it. A stale property listing, even at a subsequently realistic lower price, often brings buyer indifference because they suspect it’s over-priced, has serious defects or is owned by an unreasonable seller – or all three. If they’re still interested, count on any bid being low. Innumerable listing contracts expire due to improbable list prices and associated unreasonably long market exposure. Listings that have been around for months on end with numerous price reductions – or none at all – if they sell, will attract a price below what might have been obtained if the seller had listed reasonably in the first place.  

When the market strongly favours sellers, a homeowner can – within reason – price their property however they wish. The actual asking price is less critical when there are oodles of eager buyers chomping at the bit to bid. But when a buyer, or balanced market prevails; when listings are plentiful, the list price is definitely a key factor in attracting attention. A reasonable asking price sends the message to your peers that your seller is fair, serious and accepts your professional advice, which in turn, encourages showings. Without viewings, you’re guaranteed no sale. Remember, every seller wants to get the most for their property and every buyer wants to get the best deal. The market determines what the meeting point will be.


Equally important, is preparing the home for showings.


Before the guests arrive at your listing, your sellers should open all window blinds, drapes and interior room doors and turn on all lights – where necessary! To avoid that gloomy, closed in feeling, let the light and air flow.

Unless the buyer is a cave dweller, not only does a bright and airy atmosphere make the home more welcoming, but it also means the agent doesn’t have to search for light switches, which allows them to focus on their buyers. If your seller agrees to vacate the house for an after-dark showing, it’s critical to turn on all lights – inside and out, including in the basement.

It’s unwelcoming, not to mention irritating, to arrive and then stumble and fumble for light switches in an unfamiliar foyer. Ask your seller how they’d like to be greeted after dark at a stranger’s door. A relatively inexpensive solution would be to install a light timer or motion-detector which will automatically turn on the light as needed.

With so much free online information available, it’s not always necessary to hire a professional home stager. However, if you, or your clients, have not so much fashion sense, it may be a good idea. However, that involves a cost to the seller in some way or other.

Scrutinize your new listing as would an objective, discriminating buyer. Ask yourself a few simple questions. Is the house over-furnished? Crowded? Is traffic flow inhibited in any way?

Minor staging can be done last minute, but properly preparing a house for agreeable viewing takes time, planning and maybe purging. Their home may need to be de-personalized, de-cluttered and de-junked. Or to beautify it, they may need to add or remove furniture and/or decor pieces. If possible, store excess furniture off premise. To dress the principal rooms, a stager may have a contact from whom they can rent needed furniture and décor. An uncrowded room, though, may appear larger and more inviting. Think minimal when it comes to decoration and ornamentation.

Stow away family photo collections, trophies, model airplane collections and the like. Clear out the clutter and organize the closets and cupboards. The strategic addition of fresh-cut flowers is a nice touch. And by all means, to avoid offending anyone, unless your listing is a hunting or fishing lodge, hide the stuffed marlin, bear skin rug and Rudolph’s head.

Snow country? Shovel, de-ice or sand the driveway, sidewalks and porch. You don’t want buyer prospects slipping and sliding away from your listing – or into a courtroom. Ensure the furnace programmable thermostat is not in off-set mode at a lower temperature. Few people enjoy a cold house. Ignite the gas fireplace or build a fire in the fireplace (provided they have safe equipment). Summertime humidity? Activate the air conditioning, but not at an excessively low temperature. Frost bite won’t endear the buyers to their home.

Without vacating and roping off the rooms or hermetically sealing in the kids and pets, having a house perfectly ready for showings is not easy. But while the house is on the market, it’s important for it to always be as close as possible to a state of readiness, necessitating only a quick tidy tour for last-minute details. Short notice happens, especially during evenings and weekends. And don’t miss a showing because that rejected appointment could be “The One”. It may be a lot of work, but your seller should be prepared to keep their property consistently clean and presentable at all times. By its very nature, last minute organizing must be accomplished in the last minute – oh, all right, 30 minutes.

If your seller prefers to remain in the house during viewings, beseech them to vacate before the prospect arrives, or greet them at the door and exit immediately to give prospects some privacy and space. Buyers may not linger or open cupboards and closets, which is an integral part of a thorough viewing, especially if the sellers are going about their normal routine, or worse, following visitors around the house and giving them "sales talk". Hovering may also make your seller appear anxious or untrusting, not a nice message or good bargaining position. You want buyers to feel welcome, relaxed and stay awhile. It’s not so much about what they think, but how they feel that's important.

Vacating the house may result in a better offer since the buyer agent can address concerns, such as room size, technical deficiencies, furniture placement or sunlight direction that buyers might more freely disclose while still in the house. And it’s far easier to resolve contentious issues on site rather than in the car on the return trip to the office. If there’s moderate interest, the longer the showing lasts, the better the chance of developing an emotional attachment to it.

For whatever reason, if your seller is unable or unwilling to exile themselves from their domicile during showings, advise them to don a cloak of invisibility and stay out of the way. After they’ve completed all last minute preparations, including powering off noisy entertainment systems (except maybe soft music) and ensuring that no one is sleeping, eating or in the bathroom and the prospects have arrived, your sellers and their family, must give the prospects space. Direct them to remain in one room (or weather permitting, go outside) and then move to an already viewed room and remain there for the duration. With the exception of briefly and courteously answering specific questions, sellers should never ask questions or volunteer information. Warn them not to engage in lengthy conversations because they may innocently divulge confidential information. Minimal chatter is usually better. So, hopefully all of the above will help in a quicker, and better sale.  Good luck!


Home renovations - what should you do?

Remodeling certain areas of a single-family house is an excellent way for homeowners to add increased functionality and beauty to a property.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Remodeling can boost the return on investment (ROI) of a house. Wood decks, window replacement, and kitchen and bathroom upgrades tend to generate the highest ROIs.
  • For cost recovery, remodeling projects generally must fix a design or structural flaw to earn back the cost of construction.
  • The cost of renovating rental properties can be recouped during a sale, but also with increased rental rates commanded by updated homes. 
  • Home equity loans are one way to finance renovation projects, allowing for interest-only payments until the property is sold and the costs recouped. 
  • One of the biggest mistakes of renovating is improving a home too far above the average for neighbouring homes. Home prices tend to reflect local home buyer tastes and the amount they’re willing to pay.


What to Consider Before Renovating 

The return on investment (ROI) of any given renovation project is a function of local market characteristics, the condition of the residential real estate market when the property is sold, and the quality of the work performed. Historically, and on average, certain projects, such as the addition of a wood deck, kitchen and bathroom upgrades, and window replacement, have shown the greatest ROI regardless of the property's location or the state of the residential property market. 


Bigger renovations are not always better, as spending more does not always ensure greater value creation. However, unless the remodeling project is designed to fix a structural issue or design flaw, it is unlikely that a homeowner will earn back more than the cost of construction. If cost recovery is as important a consideration as increased enjoyment from enhancing the property, then homeowners should consider the general tastes of prospective purchasers, when deciding which projects to pursue. 


For investors remodeling rental property, the cost of enhancing it can be recovered not only at sale time, but also through the increased rental rates commanded by updated residences. 


Still, homeowners need to be careful of which projects they choose to complete, since the potential value gains can only be realized to the extent that there are buyers willing to pay for the renovations.


Consider Your Location

When considering any type of project, it is essential to ensure that the improvements made are appropriate for the particular type of dwelling and local property area. One mistake homeowners often make is improving their homes well above the average for neighbouring houses. Buyers are attracted to particular neighborhoods because of the services located nearby, and because homes in that area are selling within that buyer's price range. Although a house may be improved well above others nearby may still receive the same level of interest compared to others being marketed, it is unlikely that it will command a premium well above average simply because of the extra improvements. It may get more than the average, but the return may not be enough to cover the cost of the renovation/upgrade.


Real estate agents will know when percentage value increases are higher for the average, or below-average, priced homes in a given neighborhood, and lower for houses priced at the top of their respective markets. It is during these periods of increased economic activity and increased real estate demand that improvements will have the greatest impact on a home's market value


Time will also have an impact on an improvement's ability to increase property values. Making structural or design improvements, such as building additions or finishing raw space, will add value for a longer time frame than, say, updates to kitchens and bathrooms or technological improvements, such as new air conditioning systems, because the latter tend to become obsolete over time.


Geographic location will also have a great impact on the quickest or greatest payback from projects. For instance, the maintenance time and cost of in-ground swimming pools make it difficult to recover the cost of installation, and in some cases will reduce the overall value of a home. However, this may not be the case in the southern regions of the U.S., where extended periods of extremely hot weather make swimming pools a valuable addition for some homeowners. 


Project Returns on Investment

The ultimate reason to take on any home remodeling project as an owner-occupant is the enjoyment received from living in an updated home. For those hoping to also profit from a remodeling, there are sources offering insight into expected payback on specific projects.