I Want to Sell My House.
Where Do I Start?


I need someone to help me learn how to sell my house

If you don't have a clue about how to "sell my house", you're really going to appreciate the solid, practical advice I'm about to offer you.

Whether or not you intend to hire a Realtor® or try to sell your house privately, the free information on this and other pages on this info-site will help you increase the odds of achieving your goal, and with as little pain as possible.

Before signing up with a real estate brokerage or private home-selling service, even before anyone even knows your house is going on the market, it's a good idea to properly prepare it for market, to set the stage, so to speak. If you want to achieve the highest possible sale price in the shortest period of time, continue reading to learn why to "sell my house", this is critically important.

Model Home

Given a choice, everybody would prefer brand new. Wouldn't you agree? Well, maybe a brand new home in a mature neighbourhood. No dirt. Fresh paint. No repairs necessary. Move-in condition. But you've lived in your home for awhile, so it may be a little worn around the edges, or as referred to in the trade - tired and dated.

Aside from determining the best asking price, properly preparing a home for market is arguably the second most important part of the "sell my house" process. So, give it a make-over or at least a face-lift.

Be Objective

Do you remember what first attracted you to your current city/suburban house, rural property or condo when you bought it? What about it excited you? Now that you’re on the other side, as a seller, you must look at it as if you were buying it again. What features of your home would visitors find attractive? And on the flip-side of that proverbial coin, what might turn them off?

A good first impression makes an impact on several levels. It’s not just the way your house looks and feels to buyers, but also how it smells (air quality, odour, etc) and sounds (creaky floors, noisy furnace, etc). If you were looking to buy a home for your family, would you feel secure, comfortable and proud to live there, and entertain friends and family? With an objective mind, would a buyer prospect feel the same way?

There's no second chance to make a first impression

A spruced up house makes a great first impression on potential buyers. An attractive home, inside and out, one that's obviously been cared for, where the pride of ownership is shining brightly, will more likely grab their attention and motivate them to open their wallets. Why? Because buyers believe they'll encounter fewer problems after they move in. Thus, your house becomes more appealing and stands out from the competition. If you adequately prepare your home for market, you're more likely to achieve a successful sale, and a better price.

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Plan

All projects should have a plan. Before you begin the "sell my house" process, walk through your house, including the basement, garage and around the front and rear yards. With a critical, objective eye, ask yourself if your home appears attractive? Look through your closets and cupboards. Are they organized, or in disarray? If this is difficult for you, invite a friend or relative, or even a friendly neighbour, to offer an honest opinion about the “showability” of your home.

Does it need painting? Any repairs necessary – major or minor? Is the garage chock full of junk? In what condition are the gardens? Windows and doors? Is your house dirty, worn and unkempt? Be honest with yourself. Remember - it's how a buyer will see it that's critical.

Make a list, in order of importance of all the repairs, maintenance and renovations that you feel should be completed before the "sell my house" marketing begins. Your efforts don’t need to be expensive; even inexpensive improvements and minor repairs can go a long way toward attracting serious buyers. All those seemingly insignificant defects and accumulated repair projects you’d successfully ignored for years could potentially discourage potential buyers.

Purge

Now, roll up your sleeves and get crackin' with a thorough clearing of any clutter. Get rid of all the junk you've been hording in the garage, basement and around the house – inside and outside. If you aren't using it, throw it out, give it away or sell it in a garage sale. Or consider renting a storage locker. Consider it packing in advance for the upcoming move. Think of it this way – it's just stuff. And you'll not have to pay a mover to move it again and again.

Matter doesn't matter

Cluttered floors, shelves, closets, cupboards and furniture-tops will definitely discourage many prospective buyers. They'll have difficulty seeing past the mess. Make your rooms feel spacious, bright and airy by removing excess furniture, decor items, collectibles, valuables, surplus books, CD's and DVD's. Stow personal items, including family photographs. To make the closets appear larger, give away all the clothes and footwear you haven't worn in awhile. The less fortunate amongst us will appreciate your generosity.

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Clean, Clean, Clean

After you’ve cleared the clutter and de-personalized every room, it’s time to break out the cleaning elbow grease. You may not notice the odour of a dirty house because you've become accustomed to it. However, when a stranger enters your home, especially with the typical buyer's critical objective attitude, an unclean home definitely smells. And I guarantee that any odour, be it pet, smoke, dirty laundry or whatever, won't excite them. Even if a prospective buyer currently lives in a dirty house, they won't be interested in your dirt. They'll dirty it themselves, thankyou very much.

If you want to sell your car, and importantly - get the best price - you'd at least wash and wax it. Right? You'd also probably shampoo the interior, clean out the trunk and maybe even steam clean the engine. You might go as far as to give it an engine tune-up. Why go to all this effort? The nicer it looks and feels, the more money you might get for it. Make sense?

Dirty windows give the impression of a dirty house. Therefore, allow me to make something perfectly clear; your home's windows should be crystal clear. Rover's nose prints and slobber smears on the front or patio door will be an immediate conscious or subconscious turn-off for buyers. Clean it up.

Scrub the walls and floors, particularly the kitchen, bath and laundry rooms, and clean the light fixtures. Organize all the clothes and linen closets and cupboards, including the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Yes – viewers will open the doors. Make every room in your home sparkle, particularly the kitchen and bathrooms.

If you're a smoker (my sympathies) saying sell my house, you definitely have a major challenge on your hands. It's nearly impossible to remove the distinctive smell from walls, ceilings, carpets and furniture. I recommend you hire a cleaning company to thoroughly clean everything. Painting all painted surfaces is an absolute must. And stop smoking in the house immediately!

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Repair, Replace and Renovate

Sell my house, you say. Although it’s usually best to avoid major expensive renovations just to sell the house since it’s unlikely you’d recoup such costs. However, it’s advisable to make minor repairs such as slow drains, torn screens, damaged gutters, loose doorknobs and broken windows. And make sure repairs are well done; buyers won’t take you seriously if your amateur home-improvement efforts look unprofessional.

The kitchen is by far the most important room in the house. Is it looking a little tired? It's an expensive proposition to replace all the kitchen cabinetry, but a face-life would help. You could refinish the doors or replace the counter-top with a contemporary style and colour. How about a new floor? Leaky faucet? Fix it or install a shiny new one. They're not expensive. If you lack the talent to do it yourself, seek a kitchen renovator who can do the work at a reasonable cost.

The same goes for the bathroom. Are the fixtures avocado green or coral pink? Hmm. Some young buyers might feel it's art-deco. And I suppose you could redecorate around them. But a new sink and toilet are not very expensive and would spruce it up a lot. Bath tubs can easily be given a new lease on life with a shiny new finish to match. A must do is the grout repair around the tub. And get rid of the mold. Polish the tiles.

If your carpet is old and worn, it may be worth the expense of replacing it with a trendy neutral coloured new carpet. If not, at least have it professionally cleaned. Or replace it with popular solid or engineered hardwood or laminate floor. Does your home already have hardwood floors, but Rover has done quite a job on it with his claws? Consider having it refinished.

Do you have a fireplace? Call a chimney sweep to have it thoroughly inspected and cleaned, including any smoke residue on the interior brick or stone facing. Also, have your furnace, gas fireplace and air conditioner serviced and cleaned. At least, change the furnace filter.

How about the basement? Is it dirty and in a state of total disarray? After you’ve organized and cleaned it, coat any unfinished concrete floor with special concrete paint. It'll look great and will be money well spent. Any leaking cracks? Have them professionally repaired prior to the beginning of the "sell my house" process. The buyer's home inspector will find them and recommend a repair. Thus, you may as well bite the bullet yourself. And get rid of the cobwebs from the laundry area at least. It'll creep her out. Make sure all light fixtures are clean and with maximum allowable wattage. Bright sells.

Water stains on ceilings or in the basement that may have resulted from a foundation, roof or plumbing leak will be a red flag alert for buyers. Don’t try to deceive them by cosmetically covering up the stains. If not clearly visible, such damage would likely be considered a latent defect. To avoid such deceitful behaviour coming back to bite you in the butt – and your wallet, if you’ve wisely fixed the problem, I recommend that you repair the leak and then any resulting damage.

What else can I do to sell my house?

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The Landscape

The Wow Factor – that first visual, high-impact impression your home makes on potential buyers – can transform a looker into a buyer. To determine your property’s curb appeal, drive through your neighbourhood and take note of other properties. Then approach your own house as if you were a potential buyer. How does it look? Does it "wow" you? Will it attract the attention of buyers cruising the area? What needs improving? A tree trim? A shrub and flower planting? A lawn repair? Does your house need painting or staining?

A clean, well-maintained exterior conveys that you’ve cared for your home. And this is your golden opportunity to sell that important message to buyers who are shopping from the street. Yes – prospects still sometimes cruise neighbourhoods looking for lawn signs. To motivate them to call you or your agent, and get them through the door, do your best to make your property look like someone’s dream home.

It’s common knowledge, at least in the trade, that amongst the highest returns on investment for home renovation is landscaping. Thus, it’s prudent to enhance the hard- and softscape around the house. If your house looks inviting and well-maintained from the street, people will presume that it’s also attractive on the inside.

People do indeed judge a book by its cover

An attractive front entry shouts welcome. Highlight this area of your house with decorative touches, such as a door wreath or new shrubs and flowers around the steps, perhaps a flower planter or two. For an even better statement, clean and paint your front door, or replace it with a new one. Don’t forget to repair doorknobs, torn screens and put out that new welcome mat.

How about the beat up old garage door? Has your young budding NHL star slapped too many pucks into it? Rust-scalloped edges? Since this feature encompasses a large chunk of the front exterior of your home, a rough door definitely won't add to curb appeal. At least paint it. If you can afford it, a new door with an automatic opener will do wonders to improve first impression.

What more can I do to sell my house?

If it's winter and you get snow and ice, you'll not be able to do much with the landscaping. Just make sure your driveway, walks and porch are kept clear and de-iced. However, how to sell a house in warm weather is to invest in landscaping. If you'd rather not spend a ton, at least seed the bare spots on your lawn and keep it nicely mowed and looking healthy. Prepare the flower gardens by edging and mulching. It'll look great and not cost much. Plant some flowers. Trim the shrubs, trees and hedges. Dispose of any junk lying around the yard. Is the fence in good repair? And regularly clean up after your dog.

Just like a garage door, a driveway either adds or detracts from curb appeal. If your driveway is looking rough with cracks and stains in the asphalt, consider re-coating it and give it a good clean edge. If weeds are sprouting through the cracks, it's definitely time for a new surface.

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Swimming Pool

If your property has a pool or hot tub, make sure they sparkle. And don't expect to easily sell your home off-season. People don't usually like to pay much, if anything, for future benefit, especially if they can't see it. Buyers will usually ask you to warrant that such equipment will be in good working order upon opening in the spring. So, be pre-emptive and ensure all the equipment is in top operating order. And clean up the pool shed. And the last, but no less important step in the "sell my house" process?

Staging

Before showings begin, it's advisable to properly stage every room. Rearrange furniture to optimize attractiveness and traffic flow or to create quiet conversation areas. De-clutter, de-personalize and perhaps add a few accent pieces. Remove all the family photos, the giant stuffed marlin mounted on the wall as well as the grizzly bear rug. You might also temporarily remove any obvious pieces of decor of a religious nature. And clear all the kids art from the fridge door.

The closest you can make-over your home to the standard of a professional model home, the better you'll do on both the ultimate sale price and length of time to sell.

If I do all this, how will it help me sell my house?

All this effort and expense will give buyers the impression that your home has been cared for, that there's pride of ownership, and that they'll not be assuming someone else's patent or latent defects.

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Finding a REALTOR® to Sell My House

Now, after Herculean effort, the final step in the "sell my house" process has arrived. You're ready to begin showing your home to prospective buyers. And if you're wondering if you can "sell my house" privately, the answer is maybe. You can certainly try and advertise privately, but most homeowners seek professional assistance.

How do I find a REALTOR® to sell my house? Well, there are plenty of realty companies out there. Where do you begin?

You could call various agents from print or Internet advertising or you could visit open houses in your neighbourhood or you could walk into one of several local realty companies to talk to the duty agent. These methods may work out, but may not. It's a really important decision that is not to be made lightly. Just because a real estate agent has the inclination and the money to blanket the town with fancy advertisements doesn't necessarily make them great at their job.

You could interview several local agents from various realty companies until you meet one who inspires you, one who you feel is qualified, has the necessary skills, tools and knowledge, one who you feel knows how to help you 'sell my house'. But above all, you must feel comfortable with them and ...

Trust Them

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Whatever you do, don't automatically list with the agent who quotes you the highest estimate of market value. Make them justify their opinion. Don't allow them to 'buy' your listing because when your home hasn't sold in a few weeks, they'll be at your door asking for a price reduction.

The absolute best way to choose a REALTOR® is by personal recommendation from someone you trust. Ask your family, friends or neighbours if they've had any experience with real estate agents. You may hear horror stories and that's fine. At least you'll know who not to call. But you may luck out.

Or if you want to "sell my house" and your home is not in my market area, you could contact me for a recommendation. If you happen to be in my market area (and I've not yet retired), I may be able to assist you personally. Or I may be able to refer you to an experienced, qualified REALTOR®. You don't know me, you say. I understand, but I invite you to check out these testimonials. You may feel a little more comfortable then.

There are no absolute guarantees in life except for death, taxes and politician's failed promises. When you ask a realty agent, 'can you sell my house?', all they can do is the best they can do given market conditions, the physical condition of your property and their skills. And remember that they commit their time, effort and expense without any guarantee they'll be compensated for their efforts on your behalf. Thus, since they assume all the risk, it's only fair that you make a commitment to them as well. Be honest with them. You'll be glad you did.

If you say to yourself, 'I need no one to sell my house' and you're determined to  sell privately, once again, I invite you to further explore this site. I continue to add knowledge, information and procedures that I've learned and polished over my 43+ year real estate career. Any questions? Send them to me and I'll do my best to promptly answer them.

For more on how to "sell my house", visit two help pages of The Canadian Real Estate Association here and here.


If you're pondering the question, how can I sell my house with or without an agent, check out my book The Happy Agent. Learn how to effectively evaluate your home, how to prepare it for market, how to advertise, handle showings and open houses like a pro, successfully negotiate an offer - and when it's time to throw in the towel and hire a professional.

You're dealing with what is arguably your largest single financial investment of your life. Wouldn't you agree that it's smart to make informed decisions? A small investment of your time and a pittance of your money could save you thousands of dollars and a ton of heartache. Remember - knowledge is power.

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