Things I Learned Buying & Selling My Own House

Tyson HinschbergerAdvice, For Buyers, Planet Realty

Part 1 of a 3-part series – By Tyson Hinschberger

For the past 8 years, I’ve been helping others make their moves from one home to the next. A first house from an apartment, a first condo from living at home, a condo from the large family home and everything in between; I’ve seen so many unique situations over the years. We even made a move ourselves in 2015, buying a first house & making a move from a condo.

But now, in 2020, what with working from home & looking for more outdoor space, our little house was feeling a bit congested & we were ready to make the move to something a tad larger. We’d also been longing for a return from Hespeler to Guelph, where we had always been hoping to settle in for a while.

We bought our house in Guelph off-market in late September, which was a tremendous blessing. Obviously, the market is very competitive, and we’d looked at a number of other properties that went well above asking. We did end up paying a price everyone agreed was fair- a price that was above comparable sales but maybe not the ultimate ceiling the house could’ve seen on the open market- a by-product of the pandemic, and the previous owners’ desire for a new owner who would care for the property and who planned to raise a family of their own in it as well.

Part 1 – Selling My House

What followed next was an absolute flurry of activity at our old place. With the new house purchased “firm” and a December 3 closing, we had essentially 2 months to prep, list, sell and move. We knew the timeline was tight, but with the market the way it was & a very conventional house- detached, 3 bed, 2.5 bath, attached garage- it was going to be a quick sale. What will follow are a series of tips we ourselves did, that made the sale go smoothly & that we look back on glad we did them.

Tip 1 – Do the prep work.

We knew as cat owners that our basement had seen some of the worst parts of cat ownership. There were old stained couches and the carpets had been soiled as well. We knew between the optics and the lingering odours that both of these would put off a potential buyer. So, we loaded up the truck with the old couches and took them to the dump. We also arranged with Dana at Sarmazian Bros., Guelph to replace the carpet & underpad in the lower level. I removed the old carpet and applied a Kilz coating to concrete below to neutralize any lingering odours, and the new carpet was installed beautifully.

We also had Tammy from Paintchic paint our rec room and main level to a lighter shade of beige. We would’ve just touched up the paint, but it was the original owners’ colour and it would’ve been hard to match. If you have old paint, just go around and touch up any scuffs or scrapes- unless you went pretty wild with the colour. She was very reasonable & we had her back to paint the new house as well.

Between the refresh of the paint and the new carpet for the basement, we spent just over $2,000- but it was more than worth it, if for eliminating the cat smell alone. If you have a few things you’d considered doing- check Karen Kessel’s Top 5 fast fixes, and see if they make sense for you and your budget.

Freshly painted basement with new carpet ready for sale.
The basement after fresh painting & new carpets.

Tip 2 – Rent a Storage Locker & Declutter

After doing enough staging walkthroughs & prepping other homes with Karen from Staged with Kare, we knew that clutter would be the death of us. We shopped around for storage options and decided to rent a 10′ x 10′ locker from Clark’s Mini Storage on Highway 24. It was pretty no-frills, but for $150/month, we rented a locker for the whole 2 month period so we could get our clutter out of our house, and then we wouldn’t have to move it back home just to move it again to the new house. We didn’t have anything valuable or temperature-sensitive, so the cheaper the better for us there.

Being able to clear the house of anything non-essential was great for a few reasons. A smaller house is already tighter on storage, so it made the house present like there was ample room in closets. We also got our garage back to where you could visualize parking your car in it and with some nice shelving and organizers, the garage became a great asset to the sale rather than demonstrating how little storage there could have been. This also got our principal rooms started along the packing process and let us pack up some non-essentials we could live without temporarily. That made our smaller rooms look even bigger and it was all stuff we we’d need to have packed for the move anyways.

Image of a repainted main floor ready for show. Decluttered, cleaned & staged.
Our decluttered main living area with nothing but a few decor accents & fresh paint
Tip 3 – List the property low & prepare for a flurry of activity

With the currently dire lack of supply in the marketplace, new listings- if priced appropriately- should garner a bunch of immediate interest. Depending on your situation (ie. whether you have purchased another property already) you may stand to benefit to a greater degree from a lower list price. The lower list price, though a little counter-intuitive, will aid not only in garnering more prospective bidders but allowing you to dictate the terms among those multiple bidders. Consider the leverage you have in negotiations with one prospective buyer vs. 7 prospective buyers when it comes to securing your ideal closing date, fewer conditions, bigger deposits and other more favourable terms.

Of course, with this strategy comes additional inconveniences. There will be more showings of your property, which means if you’re working from home, you’ll have to make alternative arrangements. We decided to move into the Staybridge Suites for 5 days for a few reasons.

  • 1. My wife works from home and there’s no way she could’ve been productive with the constant disruption.
  • 2. With pets, they can not only be a distraction to buyers when they’re viewing; but with odours or bad behaviour, can even be downright detrimental. Adjusting them to the hotel was a pain, but overall, allowed buyers to view the house with zero interference from us, or our pets.
  • 3. COVID-19 is an active threat & there are unavoidable risks to having a parade of strangers through your home. Though we can supply masks, gloves, sanitizer more, there is an inherent risk of contact with COVID positive people that may be unavoidable.

Your degree of comfort with these challenges, particularly the third, should be considered when devising a plan for your listing period. With everything locked down, even finding a place to go while your home is being shown can be challenging.

The flurry of activity and the number of showings you’ll have (if your home is priced right) will contribute to strong buyer leads and serious offers, but it is not without inconvenience. If this sounds like too great a burden, we can discuss alternative listing arrangements like not setting an offer date, or perhaps even an exclusive listing.

Though it was a little bit of legwork & inconvenience, the strategy for the sale proved invaluable to us. Over the course of the 5 day on the market, we had over 80 showings on the house, with as many as 24 in a 12-hour window (30 minute appointments with no allowed overlap). This resulted in 15 offers on the house, and a sale price $120,100 above our asking price (admittedly a somewhat useless figure in today’s market) – though more importantly, a higher sale price than we had anticipated when calculating the affordability of our new home. We were also able to ensure that offer contained no conditions, and though it didn’t offer us the exact closing date we were looking for, it did afford us extra wiggle room to pay for bridge financing at the cost of about $42/day.

The pre-listing work is cumbersome, but almost always worth it. Selling my house was a whirlwind at times, but it’s the cost of moving on to a better fit.

In Part 2 of this 3-part blog, we’ll look at important things to consider in the lead-up to your move, and completing your new purchase. In Part 3, we’ll explore the keys to making the move easy & settling in quick and painless.