Selling A Home
Janet Wickell)

1. Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan

I've known sellers who signed a contract to sell their house or condominium in Calgary before they knew if they were qualified to buy another. Either their financial circumstances had changed since their last purchase and they could no longer qualify for a loan, or they weren't able to sell at a price that allowed them to buy the type of replacement house they wanted. They ended up renting or buying something that was far from ideal. Before you decide to sell the house, get pre-approved by a lender you trust and research the housing market in the area where you wish to live so that you have a good idea how much it will take to buy a replacement.

2. Check Your Mortgage Payoff

Make a call to your lender to check the payoff for your current home mortgage.

3. How Much Is the House Worth?

Determine your home's fair market value. Real estate agents will usually help you determine value as a courtesy, but you might prefer to order an appraisal.

4. Estimate Your Costs to Sell

  • Advertising costs, signs, other fees if you plan to sell by owner
  • Attorney, closing agent or other professional fees
  • Real estate commission if you use an agency to sell
  • Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, home owner association fees etc.
  • Any other fees typically paid by the seller in your area (surveys, inspections, etc.)

If you are unsure of costs, ask a real estate agent. Agents deal with transactions every day and can give you a very close estimate of seller closing costs.

5. Determine Your Costs to Acquire a New Home

Total your costs to acquire a new home: moving expenses, loan costs, downpayment, home inspections, title work and policy, paying for a new hazard insurance policy--all expenses related to buying a home. Your lender should give you a disclosure of estimated costs when you apply for pre-approval.

6. Calculate Your Estimated Proceeds

  • Deduct your mortgage payoff from your home's fair market value.
  • Deduct your costs to sell from the remainder to get an estimate of the proceeds you will be paid at closing.
  • Will your closing proceeds cover your costs to acquire a new home? If not, do you have cash or other funding to make up the difference?

7. And now the most important: Get the House Ready to Show!

Most houses need at least a little spiffing up before they are shown to potential buyers. Great curb appeal, fresh paint indoors (and sometimes out), organized closets and cabinets, sparkling clean windows and appliances, and a clutter-free atmosphere are essential if you want the house to appeal to buyers.

First and foremost, put it in the best condition possible, especially if you are in a market with few buyers and lots of homes for sale. That means taking care of any major repairs that could deter a buyer (such as replacing any broken windows or replacing a leaky roof) if you can afford it. Next, work on your home's curb appeal. Make sure your landscape is pristine. Mow the grass, clean up any debris and weed the garden beds. Plant a few annual flowers near the entrance or in pots to be placed by the door. Other quick fixes that don't cost a lot of money but can help you get top dollar for your home:

  • Clean the windows and make sure the paint is not chipped or flaking
  • Be sure that the doorbell works
  • Clean and freshen up rooms, furnishings, floors, walls and ceilings. Make sure that bathrooms and kitchens are spotless
  • Organize closets
  • Make sure the basic appliances and fixtures work. Replace leaky faucets and frayed cords
  • Eliminate the source of any bad smells, such as the kitty box. Use air freshener or bake a batch of cookies before your open house to ensure that the house smells inviting
  • Invest in a couple of vases of fresh flowers to place around the house and next to any information about the house your realtor has prepared for buyers

And when all of the above has been completed and you are ready for your first viewing, create a buying mood. Regardless of the time of day, turn on the lights and open the drapes, and depending on the season, turn on the air conditioner/heater or light the fireplace. If you're listing with a real estate agent, she or he will no doubt ask you to leave when the house is shown. Why? Because lurking homeowners make potential buyers nervous - they may not feel comfortable inspecting the house if they feel they are intruding or being watched.