Before Jenuja Thayaparan and her husband listed their home in Ajax, Ont., for sale they updated the bathrooms and repainted the main floor.
Knowing the real estate market is slowing down from the frenzied pace of the past few years, Ms. Thayaparan says they wanted to get the best price possible.
“We knew that we needed to update the home a little bit, given that our home was a little on the older side,” she says.
On the advice of their realtor, she and her husband, Mithilan Thanabalasingam, also decluttered, cleaned out the basement and had the home staged, which included bringing in a modern sofa, sleek dining room chairs, pillows and bed covers.
“The staging is probably the reason why we got the price we did because it was beautiful,” she says.
Their home sold last week for $810,000, a price they are happy with. They plan to rent a basement suite from a family member until they buy a larger home next year, hoping to be house hunting in a cooler market.
“We knew the market was normalizing a little bit. Last year prices were absolutely crazy,” she says. “We definitely got less than what it could have been last year but wanted to upsize before prices dropped further with the additional increase in interest rates. We figured we’d sell now and then possibly look into buying next year.”
Ms. Thayaparan’s real estate broker, Anuja Kumarasamy, guided them on where to put their time and money for the best sale.
Just a few months ago the market was extremely hot, and everything was selling, whether it needed work or not, says Ms. Kumarasamy, the broker of record at Remax Realtron AD Team Brokerage in Ajax. In this market, she recommends sellers invest in some simple updates that make their home much more attractive to buyers.
“It’s not like before. You can’t just list a house as-is and expect it to sell,” she says.
Paint is one of the easiest upgrades with the most impact. Bright or dark colours can put buyers off, while soft neutral colours are more attractive to the eye, she says. Changing light fixtures is another simple change that can impress buyers, she says.
And take beautiful, professional photos, she says.
“A lot of buyers are just looking on MLS at the pictures and decide whether they want to see that house or not,” she says. “A lot of first-time buyers don’t see beyond what they see in pictures or even in person. Lighter colours make the space look bigger and if you give it a fresh coat of paint, it just looks fresher and newer.”
Decluttering your home and professional staging can definitely bring in more dollars, she says.
A slightly bigger investment is updating big-ticket items like windows, the roof or the air conditioning, she says.
“A lot of people try to put everything down with their down payment and they have no money left or they just don’t want to go through the hassle of living through renovations,” Ms. Kumarasamy says. “It’s a little reassuring when buyers do buy that there’s not going to be a big expense down the road.”
It’s also incredibly important to price the property correctly, says Cameron Forbes, chief operating officer, general manager and broker at Remax Realtron in Markham, Ont.
One of the most common mistakes right now is listing for how the market was a few months ago and having the property sit, he says.
“You have to make adjustments. You obviously have to look at the competition, what else is listed for sale at the time; you have to look at what’s expired and hasn’t sold for an understanding of what a too-high a price is,” Mr. Forbes says.
That’s where a professional realtor earns their commission, by knowing the market, he says.
“The rule of thumb is that you’ve got to be within five per cent [of the market price] or that house is going to sit,” he says. “And if a house sits on the market, there’s the ‘What’s wrong with it? Why isn’t it selling?’ " thoughts from prospective buyers.
Some sellers may be reluctant to list their homes in the fall or winter, preferring to wait until spring and hope the market improves.
That may not be the best strategy, says Shawn Zigelstein, a broker at Royal LePage Your Community in the North York region.
With rising inflation and interest rates, home sales may be even slower next spring, he warns.
“We still do very well for our clients in the late fall, early winter months because there is less inventory out there,” he says. “If you’ve got a good product to sell, you’re still going to get that interest because there are always buyers who are looking.”