Why Listing High Can Backfire

“Let’s try it at a higher price first, then reduce to the broker’s suggested price later if we need to.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients say this. While it is a pricing strategy that gets used a lot, in my experience, it isn’t usually the best one.

Say your experienced local broker suggests listing at $349,000 but you want to try higher – $399,000 for example. You list your home at 399,000$ and all the buyers who have been looking rush to see your home in the first two weeks. They have seen everything on the market already, so they know what they can get in the $399,000 price range. And your home doesn’t compare; it’s either smaller or not as renovated as the other homes they have seen. As a result, you don’t get any offers. Meanwhile the people in the under $350,000 price range won’t visit your home because it’s out of their price range, even though your house would have been perfect for them.

Sellers often say to “tell the buyers to make an offer” but buyers in the higher price bracket won’t make a low offer on your home because they want something bigger or more renovated. Buyers in the lower price bracket won’t make an offer because they won’t even visit a home they can’t afford on paper.
So where does that leave the seller? Cleaning and prepping their house for visits that won’t yield offers. When the broker finally convinces the seller to reduce their price, the buyers in the lower price range think there is something wrong with the house because it has been on the market for so long.

I’ve seen sellers wait too long to reduce and miss the busy Quebec spring market. Buyers overwhelmingly want to move in July once school is out. There is also the quirky July 1 moving date that can affect first time buyers. Tenants in Quebec have to give notice to their landlords by March 31 that they are cancelling their lease June 30. Thus, they must buy a home by the middle of March in anticipation of a July 1st move. The sellers of these homes must then buy a new house with occupancy for July 1st, creating a snowball effect for 2nd and 3rd time buyers who all end up having to move around July 1st. Why do you think movers in Quebec can charge 3x their normal rate the last week of June?

If you over-priced your home and missed the influx of buyers in the spring market you can take a break from all that cleaning because you won’t see as many visits during the summer holidays. Mind you, this year maybe a little different with the travel restrictions.

In today’s market, many savvy home owners and brokers are pricing spot on or just under market value to create a frenzy in the first few days of listing and encourage multiple offers, which in turn drives the sale price over the listing price. Lately, seeing 3 to 5 offers on a property within two days of listing is a common occurrence. In the last two weeks alone, I have seen listings selling from $2,000 to $30,000 over asking within two days of listing the property. The owner only had to clean and prep for a day or two and it was sold – no months of visits!

So, if your home has been on the market for months and you’re still waiting for the right buyer, remember there are three reasons a house doesn’t sell: Location, Condition and Price, and price fixes the first two!

The moral of the story is don’t over price your home and hope for offers. Work with an experienced local broker with strong a marketing strategy, price it right, price it tight and you won’t have to hope –  the offers will come to you.

Preparing for visits

The most common complaint I hear from sellers is the need to keep their house clean and ready for visits. More than a few clients have told me they wish they could just move out until their house is sold!

Preparing your house for visits by potential buyers is extremely important and yet, I’ve seen houses where the owners clearly didn’t understand this. If you don’t clean you house before visits, even the best broker is going to have trouble selling it.

Smell

You might not realize that your home has a smell to it, but someone visiting it for the fist time will – especially if it smells bad!

Some culprits to consider:

– Pets. Make sure the cat litter is clean and, if possible, out of the house. Dog beds smell like dogs, so wash them regularly while your home is on the market, and store them into the garage during visits.

– Basements. Basements tend to be damp, so they need dehumidifiers. Musty-smelling basements are a huge turnoff for potential buyers.

– Cooking odours. Do not cook especially fragrant foods like bacon, curry or fish the day of a visit. The smell lingers and visitors might find them offensive. The smell of baking cookies, on the other hand, can leave people with a positive impression of your home.

– Fragrances. Do not go overboard with scented candles or scented room sprays. They can be overpowering, and visitors will think you’re trying to hide something.

To try instead:

– Flowers. A beautiful bouquet can freshen up any room. With a little TLC, they can last a week or two and are worth the investment.

– Natural cleaning products. Replace your usual cleaning products with all-natural, lemon-scented products that leave a pleasant fresh smell without being overpowering. Another option is plain vinegar, which leaves no smell at all once it dries.

Sight

De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter!  You want potential buyers to be able to imagine themselves living in your house. With this in mid, pack away as many of your personal effects as possible, clear out closets and cupboards, and minimize furniture. Then give your house a thorough cleaning.

Kitchen and bathrooms are especially important to buyers, so make sure that yours look their best. They should sparkle! The bathroom should feel like a spa, so buy some new fluffy towels and a bathmat. Clear countertops of personal items and – please – make sure the toilet lid is closed!

Aside form the obvious de-cluttering and cleaning, you should also think about:

– Packing it up. Purchase a few large plastic storage bins and when visitors come, quickly sweep everything off the counters and tables into the bins. Then store them in the cupboard with the lid closed – or better yet, put them in the trunk of your car and leave with them.

– Lighting. Bright rooms are more welcoming and look bigger. So turn on all the lights and open the curtains and blinds (unless the view is terrible!).

– Access. Walkways should be cleared of snow, wet leaves and toys. Potential buyers shouldn’t have to come in through the back door because you haven’t bothered to shovel the snow. Every visit should start by way of the front door. For your visitors’ safety, stairs should be kept clear as well.

– Details. Finally, when was the last time you clean your light switch plate covers? You may not notice the smudges and fingerprints, but I assure you the buyer will.

Sound

Soft music is always welcome, but the key word is soft – as in turned down, low background music. The buyers aren’t there to rock it out!

 

Get out!

You, your kids and your little dog too! Buyers don’t feel comfortable wandering around someone’s home while the owners are watching them. Buyers will rush through their visit so as not to inconvenience them.

If you can’t leave, try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Do not be that owner who follows around the buyers to show them all the good qualities of your home. This backfires more often than is successful.  For example, if the you tell the buyer there are a lot of kids in the area, the buyer may imagine he will be over run with kids screaming, when truly there are only 5 kids living close by. Everyone interprets things differently!

 

Make a good impression

Often, after a day of visits, I hear buyers giving nicknames to the houses we’ve seen. Do you want to be the dirty house or the dream house? The smelly home or the house with the great light? How about the bra house? The owner of one home we visited had her bras and underwear hanging to dry in the bathroom! I have even had the naked house, where a man walked out of his bedroom bearing all. You can imagine how that visit ended!

So take a good look around your home. Walk around and look at it as though it were your first time seeing it. Will it make the right impression?

You may think buyers look past your belongings and your clutter to the house and its layout, but most of the clients I’ve worked with are influenced by how the house is presented. You want buyers to walk away remembering all the positives – that’s when you’ll get an offer.

***The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.***

 

Conditions of Acceptance – The Promise to Purchase Deadline

When you’re ready to make an offer on a property, your real estate broker will help you fill in a Promise to Purchase to present to the seller. In this document, you specify the price you want to pay, any applicable conditions and the deadline for responding.

Until this deadline passes, you are legally bound to the price and conditions you presented. If the seller finds your price and conditions satisfactory and signs the Promise to Purchase, then both parties are legally bound to its terms.

Should the seller decide to write you a counter offer, they can do so at any time. They aren’t bound to the deadline indicated in your Promise to Purchase (Clause 14.1). They can, in fact, write a counter offer hours or even days after your deadline if they choose to. However, in their Counter Proposal to your Promise to Purchase, they must indicate their own deadline, during which time they are legally bound to the conditions they have presented. They cannot sell the house to someone else in that time frame. You now have the decision to accept within their deadline, walk away, or write a counter offer and set a new deadline for yourself.

A counter proposal is the equivalent to a new offer: the seller submits the counter stating he agrees with everything in the Promise to Purchase except what he puts in the counter. If you reply with a counter offer, the sellers are no longer bound to their counter and can sell the house to another person if they receive a better offer than your counter offer.

In the spirit of fair negotiation, brokers encourage sellers to counter within a respectful time limit of the buyers’ deadline, so no one is left wondering.

In the case of a Promise to Purchase where the deadline has passed and the seller decides that they want to accept it as is, even though it is technically no longer binding to the buyer, they can do so. However, the buyer then gets to choose whether they still want to respect their original offer or walk away. If they want to accept it, they will sign the acknowledgment of receipt. Otherwise they can refuse to sign, thereby rendering the offer null and void.

This same principal works in a counter offer as well, for the Counter-Proposer and the Respondent, seller or buyer, depending on who wrote the counter offer.

The deadline binds the party writing the offer or counter, not the person receiving it. This is very important to remember if you are in a multiple offer situation where deadlines can mean the difference between being sold or not.

**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**

Conditional offer How does it Work?

Shopping for a new home before you have sold your first house can be frustrating. You see a house that would be perfect, but you can’t buy before you sell yours. A conditional 72-hour clause in your offer is a solution.

Clause R2.1 of a Promise to Purchase states that the Promise to Purchase is conditional to the buyers selling their present home within a time period (30,60 or 90 days usually). They must fulfill all other conditions of the offer, do their building inspection and get a bank approval letter for their mortgage (conditional to selling their present home) so the only conditions remaining on their offer are selling their home, presenting an unconditional bank letter and of course the signing of the deed of sale.

While the buyers work at selling their home, the seller holding the ‘conditional offer’ doesn’t want to put all his eggs in one basket, he wants to try and sell his house to someone else that doesn’t have to sell their house to buy his house. To be able to do this the Clause R2.2 must be ticked in the offer. This clause allows the seller to continue to actively market his home and look for another buyer.

Should the seller receive another offer he deems acceptable, whether it Is a higher or lower price than the first offer, he can accept it conditional to the first offer falling through.  The second buyers would then have to fulfill all their conditions, building inspection, finance etc.. Once all the second offers conditions have been waived, other than the notary signing, the sellers must turn to the first offer and give them 72 hours to remove the condition of selling their house and present a non-conditional finance letter OR render their offer null and void. The 72 hour time frame commences as soon as the first buyer receives a time stamped telegram or a time stamped hand delivered amendment. It doesn’t matter if it is a Friday night or on the weekend, the 72 hours starts as soon as notice has been received.

If you are the first buyer with a conditional offer on a home, the first thing I suggest you do when your offer is initially accepted is to speak to your bank to see if you could buy without selling your home if you received a 72 hour notice. Could you afford a bridge loan? Two mortgages? It’s better to know ahead of time to avoid panic and scrabbling when you receive the 72 hour notice. Especially as the notice time could be when the banks are closed over the weekend.

For the second buyer, he must take a risk when there is a conditional offer already on a house. He has to invest money in a building inspection, get his mortgage approved and then sit and wait to see if the first buyer can get financing without selling their house or sell their house by the end of the 72 hours. Many buyers don’t want to go through the trouble unless it is their dream house, or they believe the first buyers can not fulfill financing without selling.

As a seller whose house is just new to the market or the market is hot, conditional offers are not ideal. A home that has been on the market for awhile it is a good option though. Sellers usual are not as negotiable when dealing with conditional offers, as they feel it is more like a first option to buy than a firm offer. So, when a second offer comes along that has normal, finance and building inspection conditions they often accept less money as they feel it is a real offer.

Be that as it may, you still have first dibs at the house and if the bank is willing you can get the key to your dream home! In the time from acceptance to the signing at the notary you may have the time to sell your present home, if the price is right!

Conditional offers are very common in a buyers market and could be the right option for you to get your dream home if handled properly!

**The foregoing provides only an and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**

 

Divorce

HOW TO AVOID COSTLY ERRORS RELATING TO THE HOUSE WHILE IN A MIDDLE OF A DIVORCE?

With divorce comes the weight of emotional difficulties and important financial decisions that need to be managed properly. One of the most important is the one relating to the house.

In the emotional turmoil and worries concerning the assets that divorce brings, you particularly need clear, precise and objective answers about your real estate wealth. The decision making process will be easier once you are informed of what can happen with the mortgage, taxes and all issues related to the house. The advice of a third party, neutral and well-informed will help you make rational decisions rather than emotional decisions.

The first question you might want to ask yourself is: “Do I want to continue living in the house?” Will your neighborhood be a source of comfort or painful memories? Do you prefer minimizing the disruption or moving to an area which would lead to a new beginning?

Only you can answer these questions, but regardless of the answers, the financial impact must be considered in the decision making process. What can you afford? Does your “new” budget allow you to keep the house? Can you re-open your mortgage to negotiate refinancing? Is it better to sell and buy something else? What can you buy with your new budget?

The goal of this document is to help you ask the right questions in order to make informed decisions that correspond to your new situation.

4 OPTIONS

It is important to understand the financial impact of each of these scenarios.

Sell the house and share the profits

Your main interest in this option is to maximize the selling price of the property. We can help you avoid the errors which owners often make in your situation, and which compromise the expected results. While you are trying to put some order in your situation, make sure you set the net profit you expect to earn. After the expenses related to the sale and after establishing how profits will be divided, what will be left? The division of profits might not be equal because the judgement of divorce might have set a different arrangement or the cash deposit was different or because the laws in effect related to family patrimony would influence the process.

Buy the portion of your spouse

If you have the intention of keeping the house, you will have to determine how you will honour your monthly obligations with one income. If you qualified for the mortgage with two incomes, it might be difficult to refinance with only your income.

Sell your portion to your spouse

If you leave, you can start over with some cash in your pocket. However, you have to know that the existing mortgage loan is still in effect and you will remain, with your spouse, because you both signed for the loan, jointly responsible. This responsibility towards the prior loan can prevent you from obtaining a mortgage if you buy another house even if in fact you are not legally the owner of the first house anymore.

Remain an owner

Some divorced couples will postpone the decision of the sale of the house for a certain time even if one of the spouses continues to live in the house. This situation will give you some breathing room and take away some worries, but requires vigilance given tax rules. Keep in mind that at the date of the sale, your situation relating to your income tax return might have changed.

When you decide to sell
If you and your spouse decide to sell the house, make sure you obtain the services of professionals to get the most from this important asset. Your differences must be put aside and you should get involved in the brokerage contract.