An agent’s advice for reducing the stress of real estate transactions
Buying or selling a home is one of the biggest financial transactions most people will ever tackle. Research shows it can be as stressful as having a baby.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We asked veteran Edmonton real estate agent Reuben Tucker (Management ’09, Business Administration ’11), for pointers to help ease the pain for buyers and sellers.
Tips for sellers
Declutter. Buyers want to feel that they can grow into a home, so create a sense of extra space. Reduce furnishings where you can, pack up fall and winter clothing, purge excess possessions. “If you have to rent a storage space, do it,” Tucker says.
Price it right. Find out what similar homes are selling for in your area. Those bull market prices of 2006 have nothing to do with what your home will fetch today.
Take yourself out of it, Part 1. Tucker says it’s important that sellers completely disassociate themselves from their homes. “Why? Because if you continue to see this place as your home, you’re not going to sell it. You’re going to feel insulted by the offers you receive and you’re going to think that most buyers are not serious.”
Take yourself out of it, Part 2. Take down those family portraits and vacation snaps. It will contribute to that sense of space and help potential buyers see the house as theirs, not yours. Put away special personal items and valuables. Tucker says open houses sometimes attract light-fingered visitors.
Make minor repairs. Touch up the paint. Deep-clean the carpets. Fix obvious flaws like a leaky faucet, a broken garburator or a hole in the wall.
Stage main rooms to make your house “sparkle,” Tucker says. That can range from fresh flowers on the tables, to “floating” furniture away from walls, to changing ambient and accent lighting.
Consider the curb appeal. First impressions are everything. Does that siding need repair? How about some shiny new hardware for the front door?
Show your home at its best. Use high-quality photographs in real estate listings or brochures. If possible, go with a professional photographer. “Most buyers have already bought online, in their minds, by looking at the photos before they’ve even gone to see that home,” Tucker says.
Be ready to scramble. Vendors who keep their homes in immaculate condition and welcome viewings on short notice will field offers far more quickly than those who place restrictions on when prospective buyers can drop by.
Tips for buyers
Know your budget. Pre-approval for a mortgage is usually an important first step in the home-buying process. It marks you as a serious buyer who can jump on a property quickly, and it also helps narrow your search by setting a price range.
Know where you want to live and why you want to live in that area. This will also help shorten your list of possible homes.
Educate yourself. Ask your agent for market analysis and the legal implications and obligations of a real estate contract. “When you know these things, it makes it easier to make an offer,” says Tucker.
Check your emotions at the door. Tucker says first-time buyers can get swept up by the cosmetics of a home rather than the bigger picture. Keep in mind the resale value of any home you want to purchase, and your lifestyle needs now and in the future. “Think in terms of tomorrow.”
But at the same time, trust your instincts. “If something doesn’t feel right, it’s not right,” Tucker says. If you walk in a home and detect a musty smell, your nose may be telling you something.
Take stock of appliances. It’s not unusual to find that newer stoves and fridges have been switched out for older models after a home is shown. “If it’s not in the contract, people do switch out a lot,” Tucker says.
Get a home inspection from a licensed inspector prior to purchase so that you know the full extent of any repairs that are needed. “Never ever, ever complete a transaction without an inspection,” Tucker says. “Even if you’ve bought a shed, get it inspected.”
Things to know about sealing the deal
- Don’t allow anyone to “pull your credit” until you are ready. The more credit inquiries made in your name, the lower your credit rating becomes.
- Before signing the purchase contract, ensure you have financing and read the mortgage documents carefully. Check payout options, interest rates and other conditions.
- Be ready to pay the balance of the down payment, beyond the initial deposit, with a bank draft or personal cheque.
- Your lawyer fee will be included in the closing cost but ask what balance you should bring to the lawyer to complete the sale. Be prepared to cover closing fees such as title searches, appraisal fees and surveys. Tucker recommends $2,500.
- Ask your agent for a “net sheet,” which is an accurate estimate of the money you will make from the sale of your home after expenses such as closing costs.
- Get a Real Property Report once you are ready to sell. This is a legal document that illustrates property boundaries and structures.
- Read the contract and don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you understand all conditions the buyers have placed on their offer to purchase.
- Have funds ready to cover closing costs. Tucker recommends $1,500.