Selling your condo 
“A man builds a house in England with the expectation of living in it and leaving it to his children; we shed our houses in America as easily as a snail does his shell.
—Harriet Beecher Stowe

So the time comes to sell your condo. This can be a stressful undertaking. Even though they were in the same building and in similar shape, one unit in my building sold in six weeks while others took from six months to two years. Many others were taken off the market and were rented out. Why the big difference? It was all in the preparation and price.

Check with your mortgagee
Before you put your unit on the market, check with your mortgagee to see what penalties you may have to pay to discharge your mortgage. If you have a closed mortgage you may have to pay thousands in penalties.

You may decide it would be better to wait a year or two until the term is up.

Prepare the unit
“This is terrific. What a gorgeous kitchen. You’ve decorated it so beautifully. Now you’re going to have to clear all the counters. Vases. Books. Knickknacks. Get rid of all that stuff. I mean, it is just beautiful. Beautiful. I love what you’ve done with this house. Make sure you put it all away.”
Dominique Browning

Get rid of clutter; furniture, books, knickknacks, the exercise bike and all extra clothes and shoes have got to go. Rent a storage unit and put everything you don’t need in it. This will make the apartment, the closets, the vanity and bathrooms look a lot bigger than they really are.

Store all the large economy size products you bought at Costco and store them somewhere. The smaller everything is, the better—less is best. 

Clean, clean, clean. That comes next. Make sure everything sparkles.

If your furniture is too big or does't look "right", put those items in storage and borrow or rent "staging" furniture.

Pick an agent
Forget listing with a friend or relative; you need quick results. Spend a little time and find out what local full-time agents understand condos and have sold units in your building. Ask two or three of these agents to inspect your unit and give you a suggested listing price that should attract an offer from a qualified buyer within sixty days.

Ask the agents for suggestions on how you can make the apartment look more appealing. Tell the agents to be honest; brutal if needed. You may need to paint a room or hire a cleaning service to come in and scrub the back of the refrigerator and clean the oven.

You will also want to know the selling prices for comparable units in your building, and in the neighbourhood over the last few months and how long they were on the market.

Pick the agent that you feel most comfortable with.

Price it right
This is where owners make their biggest mistake. They want a selling price that will give them a profit or they want what they think their home is worth. They are looking through the binoculars the wrong way. The only asking price that is reasonable is the price that a buyer, at this time, is willing to pay. Maybe in the future the price may go up or it may go down. It is hard to tell.

An agent may agree to list a unit that is ten to twenty thousand dollars too high just to get the listing. After a couple of months with no nibbles, the seller may be willing to drop the price to a more reasonable level.

One family had unsuccessfully listed their condo unit every spring for three years in a row. The asking price was $30,000 more than identical units that were on sale. Of course, it did not sell.

If you want your unit to sell in a hurry, or if you just want to sell, be the lowest-priced one-bedroom or two-bedroom unit in the building. A good agent will tell you a realistic price that will attract an offer. Once you agree on a selling price, sign a sixty-day listing with your agent.

Every day
During the week, before you go to work, clean the breakfast dishes and have the kitchen and bathrooms looking spotless. May be best to use disposable paper plates and plastic cutlery and don't use the stove; just the coffee maker and the microwave. Eat out a lot—enjoy yourself.

The cat litter has to be clean and the garbage has to taken out. If someone will take care of your cat or dog for the few weeks it will take to sell your unit, all the better.

If you know a potential buyer is coming, buy some fresh flowers. The look and smell of flowers makes a difference.

Open houses
An Open House for real estate agents is one thing but don’t agree to an Open House for the public. Except for your nosy neighbours, few people show up at an Open House in a condo building. The agents like Open Houses as it is a way to meet potential clients. That is my point; the salesperson is selling herself, not necessary your apartment.

Don’t be in the unit when an agent is showing your unit to a prospective buyer. It makes your unit look smaller and makes the prospective buyers uncomfortable. Besides, the potential buyers may ask you awkward questions about building deficiencies. You do not want that.

It may take time
Most condos don't sell as fast as detached houses, or even semi-detached houses do. In a desirable building it may take 30-60 days. In a less-desirable corporation it can take months. (This is especially true if you don't follow the advice listed above.)

In a troubled building, it can take a year or more.

Buyer agent tricks
A real estate agent told me of a gimmick that some real estate agents use,  primarily when their clients buy houses but he has also seen it done with expensive condominiums.

The buyers come and look at your home. Their agent then makes an offer that is conditional on a satisfactory home inspection. You sign and your house is listed on MLS as a conditional sale.

The buyers hire a home inspector and he inspects the unit. Then their agent comes back to see you. He says that his clients like the unit but the inspector found problems. The refrigerator is old and may break down in a couple  of years, there is a couple broken floor tiles, the tap in the bathroom leaks. The bathtub faucet is not a temperature control unit and needs to be replaced. His clients don't like the paint colours. All of this will cost money.

This is a ploy to drive down the agreed price. You are vulnerable. You believed that your unit was sold and now you don't want to go through the emotional roller coaster once again. Worse, if you cannot close the deal, your home will go back on the market and your agent has to disclose that it failed to sell because it failed a home inspection.

Therefore, your price has just come down. Most likely, you will settle for less than you wanted.

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