Eight Steps to Selling Your First Home

You’ve been here before.

You’re not totally sure how things are supposed to happen. A million questions are bubbling on your lips. You know your goal, but you need some guidance on how to get from A to Z.

Only this time, you aren’t a first-time buyer. You are on the other end of the equation: you are a first time seller.

Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Do I really need a Realtor to sell my home?

  2. How do I pick a Realtor?

  3. What do I have to disclose?

  4. How does the Listing Contract work?

  5. What do I need to do to get my home ready for sale?

  6. How does the offer process work?

  7. Once I have a firm sale, what are the next steps?

  8. What are the costs associated with Selling my home?

Do I really need a Realtor to sell my home?

Nope. You don’t. You can take photos, post a listing on Craigslist, host open houses, and then negotiate a contract by yourself.

How do I pick a Realtor?

Don’t want the headache and potential lawsuit of selling your own place? Hire a professional! That’s what we are here for. We know the things that create the most hassles and headaches and how to avoid them. We know the market and the best ways to ensure that you get the best possible price for your home. And we know how to minimize your exposure to the financial and legal risks that come with negotiating a contract to sell what is almost certainly your largest asset—your home.

If you enjoyed your experience with the Realtor who helped you buy your home, give them a call. If they did a good job for you once, they will likely be happy to help you sell now.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a positive experience the first time around. If that’s the case and you are looking for someone new, start asking around. Ask your friends and family who they used. Find the names of Realtors who did a fantastic job for people you know. Interview two or three of them and see who would be the best fit for you. You need to pick someone you like and trust, someone who knows the market in your neighbourhood. And be sure to use a Realtor who really knows your area. Using your friend’s aunt from Maple Ridge will not give you the results you need when selling your condo in Vancouver.

If you can’t get a decent referral out of anyone you know (or if you just couldn’t relate to your mom’s friend’s brother’s girlfriend who sells ten-million dollar houses in West Van), check the for-sale signs around your neighbourhood. If you see a few signs with the same name, give them a call and interview them; they probably specialize in your neighborhood. Check out some open houses in your area. You will meet lots of Realtors and you will see how different we are. Chances are you will click with one of them.

Once you have chosen your Realtor, you will sign a listing contract with them. The two most common types in BC are Exclusive Listings and Multiple Listings, the latter being the most common as it puts the listing on the MLS. The contract will set out many things:

  • Your name and the name of the brokerage you have chosen to work with (Realtors are licensed under a brokerage, such as RE/MAX or Sutton)

  • The address of the property you are selling

  • Effective date and expiry date of the contract (two months is the minimum amount of time)

  • Description of services to be provided by your Realtor (marketing services, how offers will be presented, etc.)

  • The asking price (listing price)

  • The remuneration (commission) you agree to pay

  • The commission you agree to offer to the cooperating brokerage (buyer’s Realtor) out of the total commission agreed to above

What do I have to disclose?

The more you tell your Realtor, the better! But there are some things that you absolutely must disclose. These include any material latent defects, which also must be disclosed to all potential buyers.

A material latent defect is something that is not visible through a reasonable inspection of the property. These include, but are not limited to, structural damage, water ingress, underground storage tanks, termites, and use as a marijuana growing operation (“grow op”).

What do I need to do to get my home ready for sale?

Start by decluttering! Most of us have too much stuff and not enough space for all of it. Buyers want to picture themselves living in a home, and that’s hard to do when it’s full of someone else’s personal items.

Your Realtor or a professional home stager can give you lots of tips specific to your space, but generally speaking, decluttering and cleaning go a long way. If the paint is really dark, a fresh coat of Cloud White might be in order. But don’t think you need to renovate your kitchen just to get the sale. Buyers may have their own ideas about renovations they’d like to make, in which case any money you spend on renovating the place yourself may be wasted.

De-personalizing your home a bit is also quite helpful. For example, take down family photos that remind potential new buyers they’re in someone else’s home. Help them envision themselves living there and you’ll be more likely to get an offer.

How does the offer process work?

Your property is on the market, your Realtor has hosted open houses, and now you’ve got an offer—maybe even more than one. So now what?

With any offer you receive, you can either accept it, reject it, or counter it. If you counter the offer, the buyer can counter back, accept your counter, or reject it, and so on.

As the market stands now in most of the lower mainland, it is common to receive more than one offer. Before offers are presented, you and your Realtor need to decide if you will receive them by email (so that just you and your Realtor are present while reviewing them) or if you want to let the buyers’ Realtors present to you in person.

If you choose this scenario, your Realtor will arrange for each offer to be presented at a different time. For example, if there are three offers, the first one will be presented; they leave and the next Realtor comes and presents; after they leave, the final Realtor presents. Then you discuss all three offers with your Realtor. You may choose to accept one of them, reject all of them, or counter one of them. If all offers are close, you can also give all parties the opportunity to come up in price. Your Realtor will discuss all scenarios with you.

Once I have a firm sale, what are the next steps?

Congratulations! You’ve sold your first place! Now what?

You will need a real estate lawyer or notary to handle all the financial stuff. This includes ensuring your old mortgage is properly discharged and that all payments you are responsible for have been made (property taxes, strata fees, etc.).

Your lawyer or notary will do a statement of adjustments for you. For example, if you sell your place at the end of November, but you’ve already paid your property taxes for the year, the buyers will be responsible to pay for the month of December, and you will be credited for that month on your statement of adjustments.

Your lawyer or notary will disburse the money from the sale and ensure you receive the net proceeds.

If you are in a strata property, you will need to notify the property manager. Most stratas have a move-out fee. You will also need to notify your home insurance provider, cable, internet, hydro, and so on, and forward your mail.

Costs of Selling

Costs of selling include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Lawyer or notary fees

  • Costs of clearing title (which can include paying a mortgage penalty to your bank)

  • Real estate commissions (plus GST)

  • Cost of movers or move-out fees, if applicable.

Now that you’ve sold your first place, you’ve got one under your belt and hopefully had a positive experience from A to Z. You will never be a first-time seller again. Congratulations!


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