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Successful Seller's Guide - Selling Your Own Home

Seller's Guide Part 2 - Selling Your Own Home

(Or, go back to Seller's Guide Part 1 - Working with Real Estate Agents.)

Selling your own home is much easier when you have covered the basics by getting yourself and the home ready for the sale.

Please take the time to read through this information. It will make a big difference to your overall experience and it will arm you with the knowledge needed to greatly increase your chances of selling your property on your own.

We have provided this information in an easy-to-follow format on this page.

House For Sale By Owner

The key topics covered here are:

1Preparing Yourself for the Sale
2Preparing the Property for Sale
3Property Evaluation Options
4Property Inspection(s)
5Setting a Reasonable Timeline
6Social Media
7Showing your Home
8Documentation Needed

1 Preparing Yourself for the Sale

Presale preparations - take on a business-like attitude.

When you sell your home you take on two roles. First, as the seller, you become what is called the Vendor. Just like any other vendor, you must keep your shop/home in order. Appearing organized and at ease will go a long way in providing for a pleasant experience for the buyers when they come to check out your home.

Your second role is that of the Salesperson. As the salesperson you must know everything about the property. In fact, there is probably no one better to show your property to prospective buyers than you, so have a bit of fun while you do it! This is one of the main reasons our past clients have enjoyed the process of selling their own home. If you think about it, who do you trust the most to show off your most valuable asset to prospective buyers?

If you hire a real estate agent, you have to put your trust in them to properly show your home to buyers, and the reality is, that they actually know a LOT less about your home than you do. When you've hired a "full service" agent to sell your home, they don't even want you around while they show your property, opting to stumble through the questions that arise from buyers during the showing, that you're not allowed to attend.

Using our Flat Fee posting service puts YOU in direct contact with the buyers as they tour your home, and completely removes the typical barriers that agents have been putting between buyers and sellers for years.

Conducting an initial evaluation of the property will help you prepare for the sales role. Being honest about the property will solicit respect from the buyers, and will set the tone for a more open dialogue with the buyers you interact with during the sales process. Many buyers inform themselves, and they may spot problems anyway. Avoiding direct questions will only lead to mistrust and a possible missed sale. Do your best to answer the buyer's questions, and always offer to cooperate with any needed professional opinion(s) regarding your home that a buyer has asked for. This builds trust.

Be prepared for inquiries. With an internet listing you essentially have an "open house" 24 hours a day, and you need and want to be accessible to those who wish to have a closer look. Ensure that you check your voice mail whenever you miss a call, and that there is always the ability to leave messages on whichever phone you have the calls going to. There is a saying that goes "you need to make the hay while the sun is shining". This is something you should keep in mind while selling your own home. When a potential buyer contacts you to ask questions, or book a viewing, you need to jump on it right away. Make yourself easily available, and on their schedule, whenever possible.

2 Preparing the Property for Sale

Make sure the house and yard are clean.

Assess each room and put any unnecessary items into storage.
A cluttered room can look smaller than it actually is. Keep your property tidy and professional looking.

Make a tentative schedule for showing days. Sundays and Saturdays remain the most popular for open houses, but try to avoid long weekends as many people are away for holidays at this time. Even if it seems like you are in a seller's market, make sure that you are available for private showings on whichever day and time the buyer wants to come over. If you plan properly as you are doing right now, you will minimize the inconvience of showing your home to buyers as much as possible. Make sure to think about taking holidays at another time. When you sell your home and have saved yourself several thousand dollars plus the GST on the commission, it will be well worth it to take the holiday later.

More information about preparing your home for sale can be found under the headings "Property Evaluation" and "Property Inspection" below.

3 Property Evaluation - This is a Critical Step in the Process

If you are going to obtain an appraisal of your property, make sure it is from an accredited company that mainstream banks and mortgage institutions will accept.

Many buyers will be asked to produce an appraisal of the property by their financial institution prior to giving a commitment for funding.

Obtaining an appraisal yourself will not only ensure that the asking price is reasonable for your property, it's worth its weight in gold when you can show it to potential buyers. Not only will it show your buyer that you are asking a fair price, it can reduce the time it takes to close the deal if you provide them with a copy once you have accepted their offer.


Even if you plan on having an appraisal done on your property, the next paragraphs cover some important things to think about prior to obtaining one.

Setting your price too high can be just as bad as setting it too low. Property prices are determined by continous fluctuations in the marketplace, and not by your emotional attachment, or simply by what you feel your home is worth. In order to establish a realistic price for your home, objectively compare the price, features and condition of as many of the similar homes around your neighborhood that you can find that have sold in recent months. It is also important for you to also consider what the terms of each potential sale were, because terms are important as well, especially in today's market.

You can conduct a complete evaluation of each part of the property by using the "Property Evaluation Checklist" provided by For Sale By Owner Inc. to make sure that a thorough examination occurs. You may not need to fill out everything in the list, but try to be as thorough and objective as possible. Write down a simple phrase that describes the feature of the home.

Here are some of the phrases you should use when filling out the Property Evaluation Checklist:
  • Needs minor repair
  • Needs major repair
  • Good condition
  • Excellent condition
  • Needs cleaning
  • Replace
  • Chipped, in need of repairs
Some of the items will need more custom phrases. For example the "capacity of the water tank" etc., will require exact answers.

4 Property Inspection

Don't be afraid to order an inspection of your property.

Obtaining an inspection of your property from an accredited (CAHPI) company will provide you with an itemized list of any issues that need your attention. If any problems are found, they can be addressed prior to offering your home to buyers. If there isn't enough time to fix the problem(s), or if you are faced with a seasonal timing challenge, you can always adjust your price based on the estimated cost to repair them. It's better to be up front with your buyer about everything the inspector found, and it will help you sleep better knowing that you're acting in good faith throughout the entire process.

Many buyers will either need or want an inspection before moving ahead with the purchase of a property. If your inspection is clear of any issues, it will give you and the buyer a much higher level of comfort, building trust between both parties. You can also provide your buyer with a copy of the report once you have accepted their offer, which may help reduce the time it normally takes to close a deal.

Note: If you wish to employ the services of a professional property inspector, be careful which company you choose. Ensure that the firm is fully certified (CAHPI) and has experience in the industry, complete with verifiable references.

If you decide to examine your property yourself to identify any repairs it may need, try to objectively view your property first as an inspector, then as a prospective buyer. It might not hurt to invite friends and family to come over and objectively criticize your property. They will find things that you may have overlooked due to your over-familiarity with the property.

Once the inspection is complete, you can determine the time and cost of repairing any damaged or worn areas on the property that have been identified in the report. Many of the repairs will likely cost little or nothing and will require minimal time to tidy up. For those items that have been identified as "major repairs", you must decide whether or not it will be worth it to spend the money to have a professional come in and fix it, or embark on a DIY mission to your local home improvement store.

A couple of hundred dollars spent on fixing cracked sidewalks, mending a broken fence, a fresh coat of paint here and there, could be the difference between selling and not selling your home within whatever reasonable time frame you have determined. If you have identified damage that is serious (i.e. worn and weathered shingles, rotting window sills) you should investigate fixing it whether you are selling your house or not.

Ignoring major repairs can lead to heavy costs in the future. You may have to make some phone calls to determine how much some of the repairs will cost. Do so and create a budget. Staple the budget to the completed Property Evaluation Checklist. This way, if you don't have the time to fix any of these items, having a proper list completed with the estimate to repair them can help you explain the issues to a prospective buyer, and it shows that you are organized and knowledgeble about your home.

5 Setting a Reasonable Timeline in which to Sell

It is important to determine the timeline you wish to follow during the selling process.

Below are a few important things to consider which will help you set realistic expectations.
  • When is the earliest you can leave your home? Buyers will want to move into the new property on the move out date of the place they are currently living. Sometimes possession dates can become a big stress factor during negotiations. Set the earliest time you are able to find another home and move out. If you get offers right away, you don't want to get caught off guard. An industry rule of thumb that agents use is three to four months. Use it as a bench mark and adjust it to your unique situation.

  • Some properties that are in more remote locations, are in an area that has less sales activity, or that are "buyer specific", often need more time to sell. This is why we offer seller packages starting at 3 months of service, right up to 6 months of service. Saturdays and Sundays should also be avoided as possession dates, as lawyers do not usually work weekends. NOTE: possession and move in dates are not necessarily the same.

  • When will you begin promoting your home through word of mouth and the local newspapers, if it's in the budget? You have already decided on the Internet as a powerful marketing tool, so you have probably thought about the more conventional methods as well. Determine if they fit into your budget and if so, plan the time you wish to begin the campaign.

Social Media is now playing an ever-increasing role in the sale of homes in Canada.

6 Social Media - Share your Listing & Spread the Word

Use Social Media! Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are all great ways to promote the fact that your home is for sale to friends and family, and to their friends and family as well. Social media is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for marketing and getting the word out to relevant audiences.

With the click of a button, we've provided sharing tools for your listing that easily posts it to various social media websites. It's like "word of mouth" in a digital form. (These quick-share buttons are also found directly on your listing, which searchers can use as well.) An email button is also provided as a quick way of sending your property link to someone who may be interested.

As a consumer, getting personal recommendations is significantly more effective than seeing a regular ad. There is much more trust and familiarity when you see a post from someone you know, which is why social media works so well!

Let your neighbors help choose their new neighbors. If you belong to any neighborhood online message boards or email lists, send in a hyperlink to your home's online listing to your neighbors, and let them know that your home is for sale. Also, think about inviting your neighbors to your open house if you have one. And if you've got great neighbors, you might even consider turning your open house into a block party. This creates additional opportunities for your neighbors to sell the neighborhood to prospective buyers, and for those same neighbors to invite friends they may know, who might also like to live in the area.

7 Showing your Home to Buyers

A) The Welcome

Although the buyer is a guest in your home, you want the buyer to put themselves in the position of owning the home. You don't want to make the buyer(s) feel like an intruder, or UNwelcome in any way.

Don't expect that the buyer will always remember to remove his/her shoes. If they have not removed their shoes and they are noticeably dirty, ask them politely to remove their shoes. If the buyer has not removed their shoes and they appear clean, you may want to just leave it alone, rather than risk offending them.

Don't leave the house. Instead, offer to answer any questions they may have, and tell them that you will hang back - then give them plenty of room as they move throughout your home. Many buyers won't talk openly about your house right in front of you, or with you standing too close by, so give them plenty of space.

Make sure you have put away any valuables that are easy to grab quickly, particularly in the bedrooms. Remove any prescription medication from the bathroom if that is where it is stored, and put it away somewhere safe until the showing is over.

Don't pressure or hurry the buyer. Encourage them to take all the time they need.

Leave a bowl of wrapped candy or other treats on the kitchen table with a small note inviting the buyer to help themselves to it. You can also leave some refreshments on the table. Chilled water bottles are a good choice to leave out, and coffee and tea are also great refreshments to offer after the viewing.

B) Check the Temperature

Now is not the time to be worrying about your utility bills. If it's cold enough to wear a sweater to stay warm, turn up the heat. If it's warm outside, turn on the air conditioning instead. It's better to heat or cool the house a few more degrees than usual, and then set the temperature back at normal when the buyers arrive. This prevents the heat or A/C from kicking on when the buyer is present, because some HVAC systems are loud. You want the temperature inside to be comfortable and to give the buyer more of a reason to linger, especially on hot or cold days!

C) Create a Neutral but Pleasant Mood Throughout the House

Light a fire in the fireplace if you have one. You can make it more romantic by placing a couple of champagne glasses and some chocolates on a nearby table. Turn on some soft music at low volume. If you have a water fountain, turn it on. Leave windows open if there are birds chirping in the yard, or other nice sounds from outside. If there is a lot of outside noise, do the opposite and keep the windows closed during the showing.

D) Careful on the use of Scents

Many people are allergic to certain scents and deodorizers, so don't spray the air or plug in air fresheners. Don't burn candles or spray perfume in the bedroom for the same reason. If weather permits, open the windows. If there is too much noise outside, close them. If your house smells like freshly bake cookies, put them out so buyers aren't disappointed. Some people use simmering spices such as cinnamon in water on the stove, as a nice way to make the home smell nice.

E) Use Visuals

If you have seasonal photographs showcasing flower gardens, leaves bursting in color or a snow-covered lawn twinkling from street lights, try to display them in a prominent position where they will be noticed.

Open all the window coverings to let in the light. Keep blinds partially closed that otherwise show undesirable outdoor scenery such as a dilapidated fence or a nearby structure that obstructs views.

F) Light up the House

Turn on every light in the house, including appliance lights and closet lights. Brighten dark rooms with few windows by placing spot lights on the floor behind furniture. Turn off the TV(s) and any other things that may be distracting during the showing.

G) Encourage Interaction

You can drape nice fabrics such as velvet or silk throws over chair arms. Leave doors slightly ajar so buyers feel welcome to go on in. If you have carpeting, vacuum it just before the buyers arrive.

H) Provide Informative Cards & Property Brochures

Attach printed cards to items and in rooms that provide further information the buyer might miss or might not know. You have very little time to make an impression, and the use of info cards can lead to questions that can help you sell the home. You can also easily print out Property Fact Sheets for your home - right from your account management tools on our website.

If you have an old chandelier in your dining room, put an info card on it that states its age and other important details, especially if it is an antique, or more expensive than the buyer realizes. If you have removed the washer and dryer from the laundry room, attach a card to the wall letting the buyers know that this is the laundry room, unless it is obvious.

If your basement stairs are unusually steep, attach a sign to your railings cautioning buyers to watch their step. If you are going to be placing a card that says: "Not included in the sale" on any items in your home - this may actually make a buyer want it, but you can always play that card to your advantage later in the price negotiations with the buyer.

I) Finish the Showing Off with Food

A great way to entice buyers to linger and notice even more details about your home, is to offer them food. Especially if it is delicious. You don't need to cater a lunch, but finger sandwiches, sweets or cookies, soft drinks, water, and desserts are things you may want to consider offering at the conclusion of the showing. Set out serving utensils, if needed. Provide plates, glasses, and napkins. Nothing too fancy. All in plain sight, and don't forget to provide a waste basket.

J) Encourage Buyers to Give you Feedback

Along with the snacks, leave pens and a stack of pre-printed questionnaire cards or a guest book to sign. Buyers will feel obligated to respond to your request, especially after being fed. The showing feedback you will receive will be valuable to you for the next showing if there is one.

8 Documentation Needed for Listing & Selling a Property

Getting Organized to Sell

Create an Information File. Once the Property Evaluation Checklist is completed, locate all of the documents you have relating to your property (deeds, transfer papers, any legal documents, mortgage papers, etc.). This will help you better organize yourself. Remember, selling your home is similar to running a business, and the more organized you are, the better your chances are of being successful.

Providing accurate and detailed information about your property can help buyers learn a lot more about it - in a shorter period of time online. This is essential when you are competing with dozens of other properties that are also on the market. Highlighting key & unique features of your home, and the use of lots of photos for buyers, will help showcase your property much better, and will increase your chances of receiving inquiries from interested parties.

Completing the Sale

In order to complete the sale of your property, you may need to provide your buyer with a sales contract that is acceptable for your province. We have supplied the sales contracts in select provinces, namely AB, BC, and ON. Some buyers will come prepared with their own paperwork and sales contract, and some buyers will come with a buyer's agent.

Whether or not there is a buyer's agent involved in the sale, once you have worked out the sales agreement with the buyer directly, or the buyer's agent, your next move is to get it to your lawyer without delay so your lawyer and the buyer's lawyer can work out the details, and move the sale forward in a timely and professional manner.

In the case where there is a buyer's agent involved in the sale, once you and the buyer's agent have come to an acceptable agreement, the buyer will make an offer through the buyer's agent, which he/she will present to you. At this point, you can counter or accept the offer.

Regardless of whether you accept the offer or counter it, make sure that you have included a clause that stipulates that your lawyer must approve the offer, as a condition of accepting it fully. Typical wording for this can be as follows: "This offer is subject to the seller's lawyer's approval within 48-72 hours of the time of the offer".

If you need any assistance during the sale cycle, or if you would like clarification on anything that has been provided on this page, or on any page in our website, please feel free to contact us on our toll-free number anytime at 1-800-831-3726 extension 0 and ask for Rob.

Thank you for taking the time to read this important information, and good luck with the sale of your property!

Want to go back to the last guide?

Seller's Guide Part 1 - Working with Real Estate Agents

Click Here to View Part 1.