We’re on the home stretch before listing our house. Our house will go on the multi-listing service on March 30.
The marketing strategy that the real estate industry puts into selling a house sale is interesting. It’s different from what happened 25 years ago when we last sold a house. At that time, a thorough clean up of the house and garden was the only expectation. The agent placed a sign on the front yard, took a picture of the exterior, and featured the house in newspaper advertisements.
Things have changed. Approximately 46,000 people have licenses to sell real estate in the greater Toronto area but only a small percentage of real estate agents are true professionals. Most took a short course and may sell one or two houses each year.
Since we told people in our social network of our plans to move, we’ve had numerous real estate referrals. It seems that everyone knows a real estate agent. We’ve been approached by neighbours, had cold calls from unknown agents, and had agents offer to undercut others on listing percentages. We’ve had lectures on the pitfalls and dangers of making a poor choice. People warned against certain companies or brokerages that had questionable reputations all the while recommending a cousin, a friend, or a former colleague.
Who would have thought hiring an agent would be so difficult? After several interviews, we decided that we would work with a professional who we believe understands our needs and the market, especially the online market and how it affects sales of houses.
The next step was to attend open houses in the area. We toured houses in our neighbourhood, sometimes at formal ‘open houses’ but mostly through private appointments arranged by the agent. Some tours were cancelled when houses sold in two or three days. In the current sellers market in our area, most houses are selling quickly.
Walking through other people’s homes with our agent felt like a kind of voyeurism. Some houses were stripped of every sign of occupancy. Others were so cluttered that it was difficult to see the charms of the house. Sometimes we were overwhelmed with odours especially the smell of second-hand smoke. In one house, a basement door opened suddenly and we were surprised that the house was not vacant as requested for the showing. The agent reminded us that we weren’t buying these houses but were touring the houses to educate ourselves about how to prepare our house for sale and to understand how these houses compared with ours for purposes of pricing.
We also reviewed price comparisons for listing and selling in the area during the past six months as well as for the last six weeks. In real estate speak, these ’comps’ help decide the list price and the overall strategy for selling the house.
Earlier this month a professional photographer took pictures of the house — several exterior and garden views plus photos of every room. A home inspection has been done and will be available for prospective buyers. Every room as well as the lot was measured with a laser device to make a detailed floor plan. A video complete with ‘elevator’ music is ready. An online website is set up. Although most of the marketing will happen on social media as well as through real estate networks, postcards have been prepared for a mail drop in the neighbourhood next week.
The next steps are up to us. It’s time to lock away personal papers which means finding keys for filing cabinets. Most valuables have already been taken off site. During this long weekend we’ll do a final purge of personal items. We’ll clear everything except for computers off our desks, tidy the shelves, clear kitchen and bathroom counters, put fluffy new towels in every bathroom, and buy fresh plants for display in strategic places.
Pets are an issue during home showings as they can distract potential buyers or get lost with doors opening and closing. To avoid this problem, I will move to our cottage with the cats. My husband will stay at the house. He will have to find diversions when house showings are booked or when the agent holds ‘open houses’.
As I write this post, I realize that this phase of our 2016 moving adventure is coming to a close. We’ve purged, organized, cleaned, and de-cluttered. Many items once deemed precious, are gone.
The house feels emptier and less like the home we loved. As I walk through each room I notice that my feelings of home have changed. The rooms still hold aspects of our personalities, our preferences, and our lifestyle but the notion of home has dissipated. Our house will always remain a crucible for precious memories of home but, it is now just our house. It’s time to list the house and leave the home stretch to the gods of fate and the skills of our agent.