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Tomislav Hrkac and his wife moved into this home on Peterborough Ave. nine years ago. They renovated inside and out and sold last month. Multiple offers drove the selling price $128,000 over their asking price of $599,000. Now the search for their new home begins. <252> (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Tomislav Hrkac and his wife moved into this home on Peterborough Ave. nine years ago. They renovated inside and out and sold last month. Multiple offers drove the selling price $128,000 over their asking price of $599,000. Now the search for their new home begins. <252> (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

How sellers and buyers are honing their tactics as home sales slow Add to ...

Tomislav Hrkac worked on the transformation of his 100-year-old Edwardian house for eight-and-a-half years. If clashes were still erupting over Toronto houses in this quirky spring market, he wanted a bout in front of his place.

With a careful strategy in place, he got his wish last week: The house at 61 Peterborough Ave. near Corso Italia was listed with an asking price of $599,900 and received nine offers before selling for $728,000, or $128,100 above the asking price.

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Even before offer night, three bullies had tried to muscle in and two neighbours had tried to siphon off prospective buyers. It seems that “all’s fair” is the overarching sentiment this spring.

Competition is definitely less pervasive, agents say. The Toronto Real Estate Board reported Wednesday that sales in Toronto were down 17 per cent in March. But when contests do break out, the action can be intense.

Sellers, like Mr. Hrkac, who want to foment competition need better preparation and tactics than they did last year at this time when a tumbledown semi next to the railway tracks would sell with 18 offers.

But Mr. Hrkac’s effort paid off with the highest recorded selling price on the street – even with triplexes and investment properties in the mix, says real estate agent Christopher Bresolin of Century 21 St. Andrew’s Realty Inc.

He worked with Mr. Hrkac to craft a plan that would bring as many potential buyers as possible to the property near St. Clair and Dufferin.

“I was hoping that it was a product that someone could fall in love with,” says Mr. Hrkac, a civil engineer who’s been around real estate enough to adopt the agents’ habit of using the word ‘product’ in place of ‘house.’

“We lowballed our price.”

Because they put out the “for sale” sign during students’ March break, when many buyers and their agents are away, they held offers at bay for nine days instead of the usual seven.

“That was definitely a wise strategy on our part,” Mr. Bresolin says, because some people did book appointments to see the house as soon as they returned from vacation.

The risk, says Mr. Bresolin, was that the prospective buyers who saw the house on the first day would lose interest.

“You might not be as excited or interested and you’ll be concerned there will be more competition as well.”

They cleaned and burnished the house to get it looking its best and also set out a detailed description of the renovation with permits, photographs and drawings on display.

They provided a home inspection so that there were no potential gaps for potential buyers to fill in. Mr. Hrkac earned more bragging rights by making the house so energy efficient that he received a government grant

“We made a bit of a story,” says Mr. Hrkac.

They had three bullies step up to make offers before the designated date and quickly shut them all down.

Mr. Hrkac admits it was nerve-wracking for him and his wife to turn away the enticing offers on the table. Mr. Bresolin pressed him to hold off until the scheduled offer night.

“It’s tough when a seller knows that something is there,” he acknowledges.

Normally it’s part of the bully strategy to refuse to participate in a bidding contest.

“Usually they say they won’t come back on the offer date and ‘good luck to you’,” says Mr. Bresolin.

In this case, two of the three bullies did return.

But those weren’t the only curves thrown at the family.

No sooner had they put out the “for sale” sign than another house a couple of streets over did the same – and made their date and time for offers exactly the same. Then the house next door to Mr. Hrkac’s was suddenly up for sale – with offers to be received 24 hours before.

“It throws you off a little bit,” admits Mr. Hrkac. “For us this was a big deal,” he says of his family’s investment.

Through all of it, they stuck with their plan.

The buyer is of exactly the type they expected: an empty nester who wants a house that can be moved into without the added hassle of a long renovation.

“Everything is turnkey,” says Mr. Bresolin. “It’s a masterpiece.”

Still, even he was astonished when the property sold for 22 per cent above the asking price.

“It’s amazing that we were able to get this type of money for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home.”

Now Mr. Hrkac is experiencing the market from the other perspective: he is a buyer facing the challenge of finding a new family house.

“Right now product is slim,” he says.

He negotiated a bit of breathing room with a closing date more than three months away, but he also knows that he may have to rent accommodations for a while.

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