Selling your home in Saskatoon can seem like a daunting task.  Venturing out into the unknown, especially for your first time can be intimidating.  This step-by-step guide to the selling process should help alleviate some of that fear of the unknown and help you to know what to expect.

Step 1 – Timeframe to Sell

There is no easy answer to the question of “when is the best time to sell my house in Saskatoon?” There are a number of things for sellers to consider in preparation for this decision:

  • What is the best time of year to list your house? Real estate in Saskatoon is seasonal, with December, January and February in recent history being the slowest months of the year. I would say that the best months to list a house for sale in Saskatoon are February, March, and October, when Buyers are motivated and the other Sellers are busy preparing to list their homes for sale in the “spring” or “fall” markets.
  • Neighbourhood and area competition – It’s important to take into consideration, the other homes on the market that are similar to yours. There are only a certain number of buyers that are looking for a particular home at a time. If you are the only 1,100 square foot renovated bungalow on the east side with a garage for sale in your neighbourhood, your chance of receiving more showings and a higher offer increases. But, if your home is among say 30 other renovated bungalows of a similar size with a garage on the East side of Saskatoon, you’ll have a tougher time standing out against your competition and attracting an offer (this is why preparation is so key; we’ll discuss more about that topic later).
  • Most buyers have a very general area they’re shopping in (i.e.: “East side of the city”, or “close to downtown”, or “close to the University”), or they have a select handful of specific neighbourhoods. It’s important that you consider what’s for sale in the neighbourhoods nearest to you, as well as the amenities those neighbourhoods offer, including schools, parks, shopping, transportation, restaurants, walkability and the types of demographic who live there (families, singles, retirees etc.).
  • What’s going on in the Saskatoon real estate market? There are a number of factors that affect the prices of houses in Saskatoon (interest rates, consumer confidence, news stories, the economy); and it’s important to take these factors into consideration. Saskatoon home prices have been softening over the past few years, but like any market – it changes over time. What’s happening in the Saskatoon real estate market right now?
  • Wants, needs and goals – Your future plans will likely play a part in timing, and urgency in the sale of your home. If you’re going through a divorce, expecting a baby, are moving out of the city, going on vacation, or have other significant events occurring in your life; these will all dictate the timing of your listing, and will need to be taken into consideration.

Step 2 – Preparation

There are 5 goals to keep in mind when preparing your home for the market:

  • DE-CLUTTER: There are countless reasons to de-clutter your house prior to putting it on the market. Your house should be shown in its best light, and that means maximizing space. Potential buyers need to be able to envision their own furniture and belongings in the home, so the more empty space you have to allow for that, the better. Remove extra furniture, oversized pieces, and any furniture that makes the room or space feel smaller (smaller furniture makes a room look bigger). Have you ever been in a show-home? That’s what we’re aiming for here. Remove items from all surfaces, thin out your cupboards and closets (use baskets to throw those toothbrushes and soap dishes into the cabinet below the sink), and clear out your garage. Storage rental is inexpensive, so if you just have too much stuff, this might be an easy option for you. Donate items, or consider calling a junk removal company if necessary. Summer garage sales are a wonderful way to purge!
  • DE-PERSONALIZE: Those wedding photos above your bed are beautiful and meaningful, but they are distracting to a buyer who is trying to imagine sleeping in their own bed underneath them. Remove those family photos (wedding, children, grand children); take all of your fridge magnets off the fridge, and any awards or certificates hanging on the walls. Put away any personal items like your medications, bath robes, kids toys etc. This is going to be tough, but all of these little things add up and make it easier for buyers to imagine their own belongings in the house. Keep in mind that some artwork or décor may be offensive to others; you may want to consider removing these items as well.
  • NEUTRALIZE: I know your daughter absolutely love her bright pink walls, but neutral colored paint throughout the house is going to be attractive to more buyers. Remember that buyers have a hard time looking past these things; we want to do everything in our power to be attractive to the largest number of potential buyers possible.
  • REPAIR: Buyers are looking at their future home under a microscope, and the majority of them don’t want to lift a finger after they move in (unless of course, they’re getting a big discount on their purchase!). Making sure any repairs are completed before you put your house on the market is going to have a large impact on the appeal to potential buyers. Buyers want to know that the home they are purchasing was well cared for and looked after. Hire professionals to complete repairs and finishing work if you can; most buyers know if it was a DIY job. Not only will a home inspector find and point out all of the things that require repair, a buyer will offer significantly less money for a home that is in poor repair. Replace the burnt out bulbs, stained ceiling tiles and all of those odd jobs that you were going to “do later”. Now is the time, and it will save you big time when it comes to receiving an attractive offer.
  • CLEAN: Clean every single nook and cranny you can get at. Go room by room, and ensure every surface and spec of dust is wiped up. Steam clean the carpets, wash the floors, wipe the baseboards, the light switches, bathrooms, kitchen, cabinets (on top of the cabinets too!), the vents, the windows, and the railings. Remember the show home? Don’t forget about your appliances; clean the inside of the fridge, the microwave, the oven, and even the dishwasher. Sometimes, it’s worth hiring a professional cleaner.

Step 3 – More Preparation

  • Curb Appeal – Maximize your curb appeal by keeping your landscaping maintained, exterior of the home in good condition, and keeping the walk and driveway shoveled in the winters. Remember that this is the first impression for potential buyers, so make sure it’s a good one. Touch up window and door trim, and re-paint your door if it’s looking a bit rough.
  • Basement – Keep your basement neat and tidy and clear of kids toys to ensure you’re showcasing it in it’s best light. Keep storage areas clean and access easy to mechanical and electrical rooms. Again, bins can be a big help here for organizing and easy cleanup after playtime.
  • Garages – It’s common for people to use their garages as storage area, but not all buyers want to park in their driveways. Keep in mind you’re trying to appeal to the masses and make all areas of the property look large and open. Rent a storage unit and ensure the garage is spotless.
  • Mechanical – Keep all mechanical components of the home clean, and in proper working order. Ensure access to these areas is easy and that you’ve replaced any necessary parts or filters.
  • Rodents/Infestations – Mice, ants, termites, or any other infestation will turn any buyer off. Enlist the help of a professional exterminator to eliminate the problem.
  • Backyard – Keep landscaping maintained, decks in good repair, fences painted and aesthetically pleasing. Keep gardening items and kids toys stored and pick up after your pets.
  • Documents – Gather any documents you have about your house. Appliance manuals, surveyors certificate, repair receipts; a buyer may ask for these items, and it’s a nice gesture to have these ready to leave for them.
  • History – Tell your Realtor® about any past issues in the house, and ensure any ongoing issues have been taken care of.
  • Keys – Your Realtor® will require a set of keys for the lockbox. Ensure you have a spare set to provide them.
  • Pets – We love our pets, but unfortunately not everyone feels the same about our furry friends. Keep any sign of pets out. Put away toys, beds, water and food dishes, kennels, and ensure the pet hair is vacuumed and cleaned up. Try to take your pets with you during showings, and leave no trace that they reside in the home (some people are scared of pets).
  • Smells – Most smells will turn a buyer off, with the exception of cleaning products, or freshly baked cookies. Ensure your house is clean, that the trash is taken out, and there are no other items that might make your house smell badly. Don’t spray Febreeze or light up a Scentsy; natural is better.

Step 4 – Pricing your House to Sell

Pricing a house properly in Saskatoon is paramount; especially in a buyers market. Market value is defined as the most money that a willing buyer might pay for your property, and we won’t know that number until the home actually sells. Using historical data, comparable properties on the market and off the market and making adjustments for differences, your Realtor® will provide a value, or a range of value which will sway either way depending on certain factors; most of which you have some control over. There will always be factors that neither you or your Realtor® have control over, like the state of the market, interest rates, and the motivation of potential buyers. Here’s where the preparation plays a role. By putting the greatest effort into preparing your house for the market, you can eliminate any chance for objections or obstacles potential buyers might have. These are covered in the steps above.

Here are some things that might be important to a buyer:

  • Size and layout of the home
  • Location and potential changes to surrounding areas
  • Nearby amenities
  • Basement
  • Garage and parking; RV parking
  • Cleanliness and degree of updating/upgrading/repairs required
  • Proximity to schools, parks, playgrounds, family
  • Style (open/modern vs. character/classic)

One of the most common misconceptions about pricing your home is thinking that you have to price higher than you think a buyer might pay. If you’re priced properly using the data noted above, there won’t be any argument because the buyers agent has the same access to this information and they will be pulling that information to show their client(s).

Step 5 – Promotion

One of the most important tasks your Realtor® has is ensuring your house is getting seen by the largest possible audience of potential buyers. A detailed and strategic marketing plan for getting your house sold should include various forms (traditional and digital). The goal is to get as many eyes on your house as possible, in hopes of creating an emotional attachment with a potential buyer, and make them fall in love with your home.

Real estate marketing should include:

  • Photography – These days, the first place buyers go to look for their future home, is on the Internet. The first impression you have online is going to be crucial in attracting showings. Professional photos will set your listing apart from the others, and attract more in-person viewings. These photos will typically be used across all syndicated websites, so it’s important you’re looking your best out there!
  • Signs – There’s a reason you always see a for sale sign on the lawn of a house for sale. Buyers will cruise their favorite neighbourhoods and they’ll be looking for signs. Sometimes your neighbourhoods will have a friend or family wanting to move to the neighbourhood; this is a great way to notify them. Again, the goal here is to reach as many potential buyers as possible.
  • Open Houses – Weekend open housing is popular in Saskatoon. Nosy neighbors will usually make an appearance, but open houses are another successful way to allow your home to reach potential Buyers. There’s no telling how many guests will attend an open house, but all it takes is one. Open houses are most successful on the weekends, so you may have to leave your home for 2, 3 or 4 hours.
  • Online Marketing – 92% of Buyers starting their search on the web. Having a web presence in today’s day and age is vital. You’ll want to ensure your Realtor® has a large web presence and is tech savvy in knowing how to push your property out to all of the Canadian home-listing websites.
  • Social Media – Your Realtor® should have multiple social media accounts, with numerous followers where they can promote your listing. Broken record here, but again – the further reach, the better. Some buyers don’t know they want a new home until they see the right one!
  • Print Marketing – It’s common for Realtors to have printed feature sheets at open houses so that potential buyers can take home the information and photos. Mail-outs are becoming less effective as the majority of the population transitions to being online, but can still be effective in some cases/demographics.

Step 6 – Presentation & Showings

Keeping your house show-ready can be the most difficult part of the selling process, especially if you have little ones. It’s best to get most of the preparation work done before you hit the market. Purge, pack, de-clutter, organize, deep clean etc. Try to keep your house tidy, organized and clean at all times; that way, if you have a last minute showing request, you won’t be in a panic and you’ll be able to accommodate. There are a few things you need to know about showings and open houses:

  • Showings can last anywhere between 5 minutes to an hour, but typically I would count on about half an hour. Leave the house for all showings – there’s nothing more awkward than a buyer trying to tiptoe and stay hush-hush around a homeowner. This will allow the buyer opportunity to emotionally connect with the home (which is what we want!) and talk with each other and their Realtor openly and honestly.
  • Try to be flexible with showing times – most people work during the day, so evenings and weekends are the most likely times that showings will occur. Sometimes a buyer will be driving by with their agent and want to view your home on the spot.
  • Take your pets with you. Again, not everyone is a pet person so you’ll want to leave no trace of animals residing in the house. Get your lint roller and kennel out, and put away the food/water dishes and pet beds.
  • Cleanliness is key. Everyone has a different standard of clean. Since our goal is to appeal to the most potential buyers, the best way to do that is to keep the house as clean as a show-home. This will be a difficult task if you’re still living in the house, but will be worth the time and effort because it will reflect in the price of the offer you receive.
  • Keep grass cut, weeds away, mailbox emptied, walks and driveways shoveled in the winter, and free of ice. We wouldn’t want anyone to slip and fall!

Step 7 – The Offer

All your hard work has paid off! You’ve received an offer. Your Realtor® will review the offer document with you, but you should expect a few things:

  • Deposit and payment details: How much of a deposit the buyer is providing and how they are paying for the house (cash, mortgage etc.).
  • Conditions: there are a few conditions that are commonly seen in an offer: a financing condition, which allows the buyers to obtain mortgage approval. A home inspection condition, which allows the buyer to bring in a home inspector of choice to perform a full inspection of the house (these take about 2-4 hours). And finally, a condition which allows the buyer to review any permit history on the property, and a condition allowing the buyer to review a form called a “property condition disclosure statement”.       This is a form you may choose to complete, which is a series of questions about any past issues in the home or items a buyer may want to be aware of prior to their home inspection.
  • Inclusions: the buyer will specify which items they’d like included in the price (i.e.: appliances, hot tub, lawn mower, furniture, electronics, etc.). Typically the items you are willing to include are noted on the listing.
  • Possession Date: the buyer’s desired date to take possession of the house.
  • Terms: any other terms the buyer might require.

You have three options as a seller to reply to an offer: you can accept the offer, you can counter the offer (most common) or you can reject the offer. A buyer can offer as many times as they like on a home. Your Realtor® will help you negotiate to get what you want, but you will need to be flexible on some details.

Sometimes, a multiple offer situation occurs (usually in a sellers market). These offers will usually have less or no conditions; your Realtor® will discuss strategies to help you get the highest price.

Step 8: Possession Day

You’ve come to an agreement with a buyer, everyone is happy and the buyer removes their conditions. The sale is now firm, and you can proceed to packing (or shopping for your next home, in some cases). Here’s what happens next:

  • Depending on the possession date (how far away that takes place), your Realtor® will require your lawyers name and contact information in order to send all of the paperwork to them in preparation for the transfer of the property into the buyers names.
  • You will meet with your lawyer about a week prior to the possession date to sign all of the necessary paperwork.
  • Advise utility companies, the city, and insurance companies of your move (only after confirmation of the sale closing)
  • Remove all items from the property other than those inclusions noted the offer. Anything that is FIXED will stay (unless otherwise agreed upon). Things like shelves, medicine cabinets, TV wall mounts are considered fixtures. If you are unsure if something qualifies as a fixture, ask your Realtor®. Don’t leave any surprises for the buyer.
  • You aren’t obligated to clean the house, but it sure is a considerate gesture that you would likely appreciate as a buyer moving into your next home.
  • It’s ok to leave things like manuals, surveyor’s certificates, records of repairs/maintenance, and any spare parts or paint (if the buyer is OK with that).
  • Don’t forget to take your garage opener out of your vehicles, and leave any spare keys, mailbox keys, shed keys and codes.

Once the house has transferred to the new owner, you will receive the funds from your lawyer (less real estate commissions, legal fees, adjustments and taxes). This usually happens about a week after the possession date.

The right buyer will come along, and if you nail down the preparation, promotion presentation, and price; it’s only a matter of time. These are your toggles, and the only things you can control in an ever-changing market. Use them to your advantage and get them right the first time so you don’t regret it later!

Ready to sell your home? Get in touch for a free consultation. No strings, no slimy sales pitch; just real and honest advice and information.