Selling your condo
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
with your mortgagee
Before you put your unit on the market, check with your
see what penalties you may have to pay to discharge your
you have a closed mortgage you may have to pay thousands
You may decide it would be better to wait a year or two until the term
Prepare the unit
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.”
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
Store all the large economy size products you bought at Costco and
store them somewhere. The smaller everything is, the better—less is
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
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
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
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
During the week, before you go to work, clean the breakfast
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
The cat litter has to be clean and the garbage has to taken
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.
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
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,
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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