Buying and selling in a competitive spring market

The spring real estate market is finally here! Obviously, housing markets are different everywhere across Canada, but if you want to be successful with buying and selling in a spring market, take these tips to heart.

1. Find your realtor now

I’m not kidding. Why would you wait to find the person that you are trusting with the sale or purchase of your biggest asset? Interviewing several realtors is always in your best interest, and there’s no cost to you. Remember to check with friends that have bought or sold recently in your area for feedback. Do not feel obligated to use your best friend if they happen to be a realtor, or anyone else for that matter. Often business and friendships don’t mix. And as a side note, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - get in touch with your mortgage broker and make sure you’re good to go for financing!

2. Get the neighbourhood comparables

As a realtor, I’m frequently amazed by some of the numbers prospective clients come up with,  including exorbitant potential listing prices and completely unrealistic purchase prices. These are often based on the prices that were relevant several years previous in a slower or hotter market, depending on which end of the transaction we are speaking about.

These “comps” should come from your realtor - NOT your neighbour/friend who’s the armchair quarterback of real estate (we all know one). If selling prices are lower, chances are what you want to buy is less expensive too - so don’t get hung up on the numbers. It’s the “spread” you need to be concerned about: the difference between your sale price and what you pay for your new place. Furthermore, don’t rely on the local news and any broad real estate statistics you may hear. Real estate is about neighbourhoods, and homes just five kilometres away may be seeing different market realities then where you live or plan to live.

3. Find out what has been selling in your neighbourhood - and what isn’t

Are renovated homes selling fast, but dated homes staying on the market longer? Does everyone want a four bedroom home and the three bedroom listings languish? Big yard: good or bad? Look for specifics: for instance, white kitchens are always popular, while purple cabinetry will have a very limited audience. This doesn’t mean that you have to renovate your whole home before you sell, but you need to research what kind of features attract buyers and what doesn’t.

Conversely, if you are planning on buying, start figuring out what kind of changes you would feel comfortable making if you were to purchase a new home. Cosmetic changes like countertops, or a complete renovation? If it’s the latter, you may want to also speak with some contractors, and start getting an idea on pricing.

4. Staging

In many markets, staging has become a major factor in home sales. For buyers, it can make a home feel more modern and refreshed, plus give an aspirational feel. If you are planning on listing in the spring, speak with your (freshly interviewed and hired) realtor about staging. A stager can cost very little - or a lot. Just having one come in and suggest fixes and furniture placement/removal can be the best couple hundred dollars you ever spend. But remember when you purchase that you need to look past all that and focus on the home itself - all that nice stuff doesn’t come with the house!

Remember, if you are thinking of employing a stager, they need to be booked now. In-demand stagers have good inventories of furniture to spruce up any home, but they get booked well in advance.

5. Pick a listing date, and (save a major storm) stick with it

Less competition can make for a faster sale. If you’re also going to be buying, start looking early too. Just looking online isn’t enough - you need to put your boots on and hit those open houses! Not only will you get an idea on what’s selling and why, but you might stumble across home layouts that you never considered - or a new neighbourhood!

6. Be realistic in your sale price - and your purchase price

A home is only worth what a buyer and seller mutually agree upon. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim to get the best price possible on either end of a transaction. If you’re selling and receive a low offer full of conditions, don’t ignore it - counter it. Everyone wants a deal!

If it’s a hot market, you may be rushed off your feet with eligible buyers - but remember you will soon be in that same position. If the market is slower, buyers and sellers should be prepared to wait and negotiate. This isn’t personal - this is real estate.

Ultimately, the spring market is the busiest market that we see in real estate. If you are serious about moving, you need to think of it as a second full-time job. Sellers need to be able to show their home to the best of its ability, and buyers need to be able to react quickly to new listings. Patience is key. Make a spring market work for you!

Sarah Daniels is a top selling realtor in Greater Vancouver, who has been licensed since 2003. She appears regularly as a real estate expert on shows like “The Marilyn Denis Show on CTV”, as well as local radio and television. Sarah has written two books; “Welcome Home: Insider Secrets to Buying or Selling Your Property" and "Buying and Selling A Home For Canadians For Dummies". She also developed and co-hosted the show “Urban Suburban” on HGTV Canada. She works at Macdonald Realty Ltd., in White Rock, BC.

Sarah Daniels is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.
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