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.

Certificate of Location; What is it Really?

A Certificate of Location is a document, prepared by a land surveyor(arpenteur), consisting of a plan(map) and report on the current situation and state of immovable (the piece of land and all things attached to it, house, shed, servitudes) with respect to titles, lot regulations, zoning regulations and municipal bylaws.
In the standard Quebec Brokerage contracts and Promise to Purchase forms (offer) the seller undertakes to provide the broker/buyer with a certificate of location describing the property in its current state. This means that since the certificate was made, no physical change, no zoning change, no cadastral change (Quebec’s cadastral reform started in 1994) were made. No fences/pools/windows have been added or removed, no extensions to the buildings, no buildings removed or made smaller and no landslide bylaws and no flood area changed.
The Certificate is required by the notary and the bank during the sale of the property. The notary needs it to preform a title search. It will show the notary if there are any discrepancies between the measurements, encroachments or illegal views on a neighboring property. The Board of Notaries and the OACIQ (Real Estate Association) requires that the certificate must be made within the last 10 years. Due to the frequently changing municipal by-laws and the law in the Civil Code referring to ten-year prescription that allows acquiring a right of ownership.
A listing real estate broker has a duty to check the certificate of location and tell the seller to order a new one if necessary. Using a local broker to your area is important as they will be aware of bylaw changes in your neighborhood that you may not be. An arpenteur/surveyor can take from 3-6 weeks to deliver a new certificate, depending on the time of year! There is a law that I have only seen enforce once recently, that says a notary should receive the certificate of location at least 20 days prior to the signing of the dead of sale. So again, I cannot stress this enough, as a seller you should order you new certificate before you list your home!
If a new certificate is required, it will be at the seller’s expense. Locally it cost between $750 to $1200 plus tax for a new certificate on a single-family non-waterfront home. Waterfront homes are more expensive due to the mapping of the 20 year and 100-year flood lines (the highest water level in the last 20-100 years). Houses close to ridges, ravines and wetlands can also be more expensive as the arpenteur needs to map the height of the slope, map the landslide risk zones or the proximity of the wet area.
In the past when selling an empty lot, a surveyor would do a plot survey (with or without installing markers) instead of a certificate of location, as there are no buildings to locate on the land. A survey on large plots of land can be expensive, I recently had a quote of $5000 for 100 arpents. Luckily for sellers, empty lots are not required to have a survey to be sold unless mutually agreed upon in the offer. However, surveyors are now offering to do certificates of locations on the first part of the lot closest to the road. They will ‘locate’ any servitudes, neighbor encroachments and if there is a stream on the property the surveyor will locate the protect zone around the stream (see example of stream protected zone in diagram above). As the surveyor is only surveying a small portion of the lot, the cost of the certificate is approximately the same as a single-family home.
As a seller it is imperative you understand the importance of having your up to date certificate of location ready before you get an accepted offer on your property. If you receive an offer with a 30 day closing at the notary signing and your certificate is not valid, you may have to delay the signing or you could incur extra costs to put a rush on the certificate or pay title insurance to protect yourself and the buyer. If the certificate unveils a surprise of an encroachment, the signing may have to be delayed in order to clear the title. Your buyers may not want to or cannot wait for you and render the offer null and void or charge you for cost incurred for the delay in the signing.
Don’t let a out of date certificate make a smooth transaction turn into a nightmare!

**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.**

Multiple Offers

Dealing with a multiple-offer situation as a Quebec buyer

Entering a bidding war with another buyer isn’t ideal, but when the market is hot and the property well-priced, it’s bound to happen. Knowing the ins and outs of a multiple offer situation will help you come out the winner.

First come, first served?

The first thing to know is that it doesn’t matter who wrote their offer first – the seller is in the drivers’ seat. If a seller is confident, he’ll be getting a second offer, he may choose to wait to respond to you until he has received it and then review both offers at the same time. In this situation, the timing of your offer matters less than its terms.

Deadlines come into play here. A buyer who is interested in a hot property can put a short deadline on his offer. This offer is only binding on himself, committing him to buying the property at the given price and conditions until the specified deadline. If the seller does not accept before the deadline, the buyer can walk away. Sometimes, sellers won’t want to take the risk if the offer is good and will accept the first offer within the deadline. However, if the first offer is low or not what the sellers want, they don’t have to respond by the deadline, as the deadline is only binding for the buyer. Once the sellers counter a buyer’s offer, they are bound by the terms of the counter and its deadline and they cannot accept any other offer unconditionally until the deadline has passed. Unless your offer is amazing, the sellers will most likely wait to see what the second one has to offer. Remember: deadlines bind the person who wrote them, not the party receiving the offer or counter!

Once you’ve submitted your offer, be available to your broker! If a decision has to be made quickly, you should be available to decide and sign at a moment’s notice.

Your best possible offer

Should a second offer be presented to the seller, the seller’s broker must, by law, disclose this information to the first offer buyers. If the seller has not countered the first offer yet, they then have a chance to amend their offer. The second buyers knew there was an offer on the table when they wrote their offer, so they most likely came in with their best offer – not a preliminary offer (or a fishing expedition!). In Quebec, it is illegal for a real estate broker to divulge the amount and conditions of the other offer(s) to a buyer, as that would be favouring one buyer over the other. Offers must remain private between the parties.

If the sellers have already countered the first offer when the second offer is presented, the first buyers hold the power; if they accept the terms of the counter-offer, the deal is binding. If they, in turn, counter, they are opening the door for the seller to be free to accept the second offer.

If the seller hasn’t answered any offer yet and you are given the option to alter your offer – do it! In most cases the seller will just accept one offer without countering anyone. You may only get this one chance, so make it the best you can.  It is not always the highest priced offer that is the best; it is the offer with the best conditions and a good price that usually wins the day. Remove any unnecessary conditions and make it a ‘clean’ offer. Then come in at your top price, and by this I mean the absolute highest amount you’re willing to pay before walking away.

Go over list if you love it, or offer a weird number, like $1,850 higher. People tend to offer full price or they offer 1, 2, 5, or 10 thousand dollars over -round numbers – so be different and offer $5001.00! It just might make the difference in being the better offer.

In a multiple offer situation, you only get one chance, so make sure you give it your best shot. Even after giving buyers this advice, I have still heard some walk away saying they would have paid what the second buyer paid. Put your best offer forward so that, in the event you don’t get the house, you won’t have any regrets about the one that got away.

Can a seller hold a mini auction? Yes!

The seller is holding the cards. If there are two or more offers in front of him but none of them are what wants or if he thinks he can push for more money, he can tell everyone to come back with their best price. He will ask everyone to amend their offers by a specific deadline (usually before the shortest deadline of all the offers, that way he is reducing the likelihood of someone walking away, which they might if he countered everyone). Once every buyer who wishes to change their offer has submitted their amendments, the seller will pick whichever offer he thinks is the best.

Can a seller accept two offers? Yes!

Few people realize that a seller can accept more than one offer at a time. Here’s how and why:  if a seller accepts an offer from Buyer 1, he can accept an offer from Buyer 2 conditional on the first offer not fulfilling its conditions within the offer time frame. Sellers will do this to protect themselves. If all the offers they received have some conditions to them, then the house is not sold until the conditions are removed. So why not hold on to a second buyer just in case? It can also happen that the seller accepts an offer and then the next day a better one comes along, so he accepts that too on the condition that the first one can’t fulfill his financing or some other part of his offer. Buyer 2 will be given a deadline shorter than the first on all conditions so that it will be a firm offer before the first offer. That way if the first buyer even asks for an extension to fulfill his conditions the seller can refuse and Buyer 2 gets the house.

Remember, a sale is not firm until all conditions are removed. The seller can and should continue to market his home until he has a ‘firm’ offer.

So go in with your best offer, with the least amount of conditions possible. Do your building inspection before you write your offer, if you have the time. Or, if the vendors have said they will reply after the weekend, try and get all your conditions removed before Sunday night and send a revised offer Monday morning! Remember you only get one chance in a multiple offer situation, make sure your offer is the best it can be.

Multiple offers definitely favor the sellers but as a buyer, just understanding the process will help you come out on top with the keys to your dream home!

**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.**

Accepted offer, Now What Happens?

You just got the call, they accepted your offer! Woohoo! You jump around for a few minutes but when you calm down you need to realise you are on the clock – you have deadlines to meet or you could lose the house to someone else!

  1. Inspection

Have your home inspected by a professional, not uncle Bob who once renovated a home! Hire an inspector that is approved by the Real Estate Board (OACIQ Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec). Make sure he is insured. Best way is to ask your Real Estate Broker for a list of inspectors from the area you are purchasing in. These inspectors will know the issues relate to the neighborhood you are buying in, like iron ochre or pyrite.

Have the chimneys inspected, if there is a septic system ensure it is in good working order and have the owner clean it prior to closing. Heating systems should be inspected as well.

Understand that inspections are for you to find out about the house and to verify there is not a major structural defect(s).  A building inspection is not done so you can re-negotiate with the owner to fix small issues. In most cases you are not buying a brand-new home, maintenance and small issues are to be expected. What you are on the look out for is major issues that could significantly reduce the value of the property, approximately 2-3% of the value of the property. If something large is found, you have a few choices.  You can walk away from the sale, have your broker try to work out a fair price deduction for the work required or have the owner repair the issue.

Make sure you understand the deadlines in the offer. If in your Promise to Purchase you have a delay of 7 days for your inspection, it is 7 days not 7 business days. In Quebec there is no such thing as business days in real estate contracts. On standard OACIQ Promise to Purchase forms there is a second deadline to know about. First, you have the delay to actually do the inspection ie 7 days (whatever time frame you put in the offer), second you have another 4 days fixed to review the report and waive the inspection or render the offer null and void. So, in reality the condition is 11 days total. You must do the inspection within the first deadline (ie 7 days) not the second (4 days).

Should you require more time to bring in other inspectors, the original 7 days can be extended if both parties agree. Do not wait until day 7 ask for an extension because if another offer comes in on the property the owner could just say no to an extension and you are left making a hard decision whether or not to accept a home that might have issues or not.

The deadline will expire itself, meaning if you do not notify the sellers within the allotted time, it is deemed that you have accepted the building inspection and waived the condition.

 

  1. Finance Letter

The next phone call you will make is to your mortgage lender, of course you were pre-approved, so this step is easy! Send the mortgage lender the information on the house, as they will now want to approve that the house is worth what you are paying for it. They will require the detailed real estate listing, certificate of location and the full offer with seller’s declaration. The lender will also finalize your personal documents and verify proof of down payment again. Often the lender will spend an appraiser to evaluate the home. This alone is a 2-3-day process and is only done once the lender is satisfied with all other documents. You do not need to be present for the appraisal visit the evaluator will contact the real estate broker directly to arrange a visit.  With a deadline of 10-12 days there is no time to dilly doddle!

If you didn’t get pre-approved, get ready to run to find all your paperwork and get it to the mortgage lender. Ask your real estate broker for a referral, even within your own bank as the back-door rates with your brokers contacts are usually better then what you can get through the front door.  Time is of the essence so don’t delay. Using your brokers contact, also insures that the broker will be kept informed of any delays or hiccups along the way and can react faster.

The finance condition deadline is set out in the negotiations, if the condition is 7 days for example; the condition starts the day after the offer was accepted as day 1 and ends at midnight on the 7th day. With this condition if buyer has not given proof of financing by the deadline the seller has the choice within in 5 days to make the buyer file for a loan at the seller’s bank or render the offer null and void by written notification.

  1. Sellers Conditions

The main condition for the seller is providing an up to date Certificate of Location. The Certificate is a map of property with all the buildings on the lot, it states any servitudes or encroachments. A surveyor will take about 3 weeks to make a new certificate so hopefully if the seller requires a new certificate he ordered it when he listed the property. If not, as long as it is ready prior to signing and there have been no changes that effect the titles (ie. Encroachments on a neighbour’s property) the sale can proceed as normal.

If you are buying in the country area there are other conditions in your Promise to Purchase that the Seller is responsible for. Namely having the and septic tank cleaned, and the system verified in good working order. If the property is service from a well the seller will also be responsible to provide proof of potable water. As you have hired an experience real estate broker he/she will be aware of these situations and advice you accordingly.

 

  1. Firm Offer!

You made it, you met all your deadlines! Now on to the less stressful steps.

 

  1. Hiring a Notary

Again, speak to your Real Estate Broker and get a list of the local notaries. They know the area and can advise you accordingly. The notary will contact your bank and handle the transfer of funds, he will do a title search on the property and work with your real estate broker regarding the documents. Remember in Quebec the notary must have the funds free and clear in their trust account 48 hours prior to the sale. For your down payment, wire transfers are the safest way, as a certified cheque can be held by banks for days.

On your Promise to Purchase you have agreed on a Closing date, the fine print says, ‘on or before’ this means you can sign on the day or a few days earlier. Occupancy remains the fixed date in the offer but signing can be moved forward to comply with everyone’s schedules.

The notary will have you come to his/her office a few days before the transaction to sign your mortgage papers and to go over the sale and adjustments. The adjustments are the balancing act of the municipal and school taxes, propane and/or oil tank, condo fee, basically the fixed costs that are attached to the property. The Seller will have to be up to date on all of his bills and then the notary will charge you the balancing days of the paid bill. For example, if you buy on December 1st you will have to pay the seller the taxes for the month of December as he has already paid the municipality for the month.

 

  1. Home Insurance

The mortgage lender will demand that you have property insurance on the home as of the closing at the notary’s. The notary will request a letter from your insurance company before the Title Deeds are signed. Ask the seller who they use for insurance, it might be easier to stay with the same company.

 

  1. Little Things

Hydro, make sure you call Hydro and let them know you are moving. There is also the cable company, internet etc… A good thing to do is take a reading of the hydro meter when you first arrive at your new home and give the number to Quebec Hydro to ensure there are no extra charges.

Now you just have to pack everything you own, stick it a truck and meet it at the new house!

 

**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.**

 

 

Quebec Real Estate Practices – Different from the Other Provence’s

 

Quebec has its own set of rules

When buying a house in Quebec, the first thing to know is: “You know nothing” (John Snow). Ok, yes, I watch Game of Thrones! Seriously, you don’t know much though! The rest of Canada follows Common Law whereas here in Quebec, we have our own rule book – The Civil Code. Very generally speaking (since I am not a lawyer), Common Law is case law and Civil Law is codified statutes.

On top of that, we have very tough Real Estate Laws and a fierce regulatory body call the OACIQ, which oversees all real estate brokers. The OACIQ – Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec (loosely translated as the Self Governing Organization of Quebec Real Estate) has as its mission “to protect the public by overseeing the profession adequately and ensuring quality real estate and mortgage brokerage in Québec.” It’s better know by brokers as the real estate police!

Oh, and there are no real estate agents in Quebec – we are either Real Estate Brokers or Chartered Real Estate Brokers. While both are qualified to guide you through the process of buying or selling a property, Chartered Brokers (like myself) have taken extra legal and business courses so that we can manage a Real Estate Agency (not Office – Agency). However, a Real Estate Broker, Chartered or not, is not authorized nor qualified to give legal advice.

More important than the different names are the different laws and regulations. The OACIQ has created mandatory real estate procedures and forms for every situation, in order to protect both the buyer and the seller. Brokerage Contracts and Promises to Purchases (offers) are standard forms, so no party can write up their own version of an offer form. The Promises to Purchase are legally binding contracts that don’t require lawyers to be involved. When a Promise to Purchase is accepted and all the conditions are removed, the paperwork will be sent to a notary who acts for both parties – neutrally – to finalise the sale.

When you are in negotiations and setting deadlines for conditions, be aware that in Quebec, there is no such thing as ‘Business Days’ vs ‘Calendar Days’. In Quebec, days are just days! Sundays and holidays are just days like any other.

The Notary

Who gets to choose the notary? The notary is decided on in the negotiations in the Promise to Purchase, although it is usually the buyer who chooses. The notary does the title searches and reviews the documents to ensure all is in order, verifies that all taxes are up to date, organises the mortgage with the buyer’s bank and disburses the proceeds. Then, everybody gets to pay the notary! The buyer usually pays the most, on average $1000. The cost to the seller depends on the number of liens (legal mortgages/hypotecs) on the property. Generally, it’s under $500, but it depends on the notary.

Getting the non-mortgaged money to the notary is also important. Be aware that the funds must be in the notary’s trust account 48 hours before the signing of the deeds. This means free and clear in the account; surprisingly certified cheques are held by banks for days!  A bank transfer is usually the best way to get your money to the notary quickly and safely.

Occupancy Dates

In Ontario and other parts of Canada, when you sign and pay, you get the keys immediately – not in Quebec! Here you sign, pay, activate your insurance and then let the seller live in the house for another 2-4 days! The seller needs to wait two days for his proceeds to clear from the sale so that he can pay for his next house. Then he lets the other seller do the same thing, hence the 4 days. To compensate you while you wait the seller will continue to pay for the taxes until your occupancy date. Most out of province buyers are amazed by this delay but it all comes back to the registry office. The notary must register the new deed of sale at the registry office to make it official and the delay allows to notary to ensure there are no outstanding liens against the property. A lien registered against a house would make it impossible for the vendor to sell, so this delay decreases the chances of this happening. Don’t worry – in all my years as a real estate broker, I have never seen this happen. If it did, the notary would advise you of the steps to follow.

 The Welcome Tax

So, congratulations you bought a house! Did you notice there were no transfer duties or taxes paid at the notary’s office? That’s because in Quebec, we let you move in, start enjoying your new home and then send you a whopping “Welcome Tax” bill six weeks later!

It is a transfer tax but it is better known as the Welcome Tax, in reference to the Minister of Municipal Affairs who introduced it: Minister Bienvenue (or Mr. Welcome in English). The tax amount can be very high so make sure you are prepared for the bill as you only have 30 days to pay it.

The Welcome Tax is calculated in two steps:

The ins and outs of transfer duties are set out in An Act respecting duties on transfers of immovables (the “Act”).

The amount is always based on the higher of three amounts:

  1. The final sale price of the property (excluding GST PST if applicable)
  2. The municipal evaluation at the time of its transfer. Some cities even multiply the base number (sale price or evaluation) by 1.01 or even as high as 1.11 to create the final taxable amount.
  3. The amount of the consideration stipulated in the act of sale, if different from the price paid (e. in a Gifting situation)

Then the tax is calculated as follows:

0.5% on the first $50,000

1% on the amount from $50,000 to $250,000

1.5% on the amount from $250,000 to $500,000

2% on the amount over $500,000*

So, for example, a property with a tax base as 350,000 would be taxed

$250 on the first $50,000

$2000 on the next $200,000

And $1500 on the extra $100,000

Totaling $3750 to be paid within 30 days of receiving the bill. Welcome to Quebec!!

These are just a few of the more important aspects of Quebec Real Estate Law, your Real Estate Broker will keep you informed and ensure your transaction goes smoothly.

 

*For attached properties in the City of Montreal,

 a rate of 2.5% is applicable on the basis of imposition which exceeds one million dollars.

 

**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.**