Now’s the time for sellers to prepare for the busy spring real estate market season

There’s a chill in the air these days in Calgary not only with the bitterly cold temperatures but also in the resale housing market which has seen MLS sales fall about 14 per cent so far this year compared with a year ago.

But the heated spring market is just around the corner and many people may be wondering if they should put their house on the market even though the number of homes currently listed for sale are elevated – about 14 per cent higher than last year.

“Spring and early fall are typically considered the best times to sell your home. If you can wait until these selling seasons, it’s best to do so. Keep in mind, however, that every other seller will be doing the same thing since there are more buyers on the market during these two selling seasons. More inventory means more competition and, in a slower market, this allows buyers to be much pickier,” says Romana King, a national personal finance writer, a real estate expert and speaker.

“To be competitive, then, you need to make sure your home is 100 per cent ready and in tip-top shape. Neglect to do the work and you could end up with a stale listing — a home that sits on the market long after other, comparable properties, have sold.”

So you’ve decided to take the plunge. What now as you look at listing your home in a market that is characterized these days by slow activity and lots of choice for potential buyers?

“To get your home ready to sell you’ll need to complete some basic must-do items. For instance, it’s integral that you fix anything that is broken or damaged in your home. This includes major defects like a leaky roof or broken window as well as minor, cosmetic damage such as holes in walls and broken light fixtures,” says King.

“Another basic must-do is to go from room to room and remove clutter and depersonalize. While your family vacation to Mexico may prompt fond memories for you, these memories don’t mean a thing for prospective buyers. Instead, you need to offer them a blank canvas when it comes to personalizing the space. To do this, remove pictures, unique artwork and religious symbols. Then tackle the clutter. A general rule of thumb is to remove half the contents in every closet or shelf. That means bagging and storing half your clothes and packing up half your books and other collectables.”

King says people should consider paying to have their entire house cleaned from top to bottom. After cleaning and decluttering the house, ‘cheaper’ improvements should be considered to make the house more attractive to prospective buyers.

“Consider repainting your front door or buy potted plants – and decorative urns –  to frame your entryway. If weather permits, consider putting time and work into your landscaping. Repair walkways and weed garden beds. If you live in a condo or townhouse, where you may be restricted by condo board rules, consider updating your entryway hallway or vestibule — the area just inside the front door to your unit. Buy a new welcome mat, hang a piece of neutral, but decorative art, or add a table with a fresh vase of flowers. The idea is to present a fresh, pleasing image of your home — a first impression that will leave your buyers feeling good about your place,” explains King.

“If you want to take it up a notch, you may want to consider more expensive updates. This includes repainting walls and updating bathroom and kitchen fixtures as well as door handles and light fixtures. While these updates can cost a few thousand dollars, the refresh can add an updated look to your home, which could translate into a higher sale price.”

Some people may consider undergoing some renovations on their homes to add value to the property and also make it more attractive for a sale. But something to consider is how long a reno would take and also what the return on investment will be.

King says also it’s important sellers line up their real estate team – professionals like an agent, a lawyer, perhaps a home stager, to help them navigate the real estate process successfully.

“You’ll want to get an accurate read of current market conditions. If you’re in a buyer’s market, you’ll need to be realistic and competitive when pricing your home,” says King. “A good way to determine the right price for your home is to examine the sale-to-price ratio. This is the percentage that indicates if homes in your area are selling at, below or above their list price. If the number is above 100 per cent, homes are selling above their list price. Ask your realtor to see the current and historical – going back at least a few months – sales-to-price ratio. This will help you see the pricing trend for your area.

“Finally, consider the weather before listing your home for sale. While spring markets can often start as early as the month of March in Canada, this doesn’t always hold true. In the years when winter lingers and it’s cold and dark in March, buyers will usually hold off before starting their house hunting . . .Try and time the start of your listing for when spring weather starts to make an appearance.”

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