Moving on up to the west side
Robyn Doolittle – Yourhome.ca
When I decided to buy a second dog, I was expecting twice the work. But somehow, two Pomeranians turned into 20 times the mess, stress and expense.
This was not unlike my experience as a first-time seller.
I thought the transaction would play out like an inverted version of my first-time buyer adventure. There were lots of lows, such as losing a bidding war by $500, or navigating a complicated assignment agreement purchase. And then there some very special highs: such as getting that set of keys and realizing I owned a fridge.
This time around, I felt confident things would go smoothly. I was marching back into the market an informed real estate junkie, rather than a naïve property virgin.
I learned an important lesson the hard way: selling is 20 times harder than buying.
Nothing specific triggered my decision to move. Little things had been building a while. Maintenance fees went up slightly. More and more of my friends were moving to the west end. And at the heart of it: I was bored. I’d lived on the downtown east side for eight years.
I emailed my realtor: “I think I want to sell.”
Her reply was brief: “If you’re serious, we need to get this on the market last week. The market is hot right now.”
Things moved quickly. She did an audit of my place and I was given a to-do list:
• A fresh coat of neutral paint. It looked good and smelled fresh.
• Clean out the office and reconvert the room to a second bedroom. She supplied the staging materials.
• Replace a section of floor, which had been warped with water damage.
• Clean out my gigantic front closet to showcase the space.
• Clear the kitchen countertop of appliances.
A similar layout on a higher floor had sold for about $330,000 a month before. We were starting at $327,000.
Wow! I’d purchased my 694-square-foot unit with parking and locker for $256,000 in 2008. If I got my asking price — minus realty commissions, land transfer tax (I was buying again remember), $17,000 for a new down payment, lawyer’s fees, moving expenses and miscellenous costs and repairs — I was looking at a $37,000 profit!
As I painted my hallway, I daydreamed about how to spend the money. I would invest. Buy a bona fide piece of art. Some new furniture. And pay off debt. Ah — how together I was! Finding someone to fix the floor on short notice was hard, but Downtown Flooring on Queen Street West took pity on me.
My place hit the market five days later. A comparable unit in my building did, too, and for $5,000 less. We dropped our price a few days later. I’d emotionally committed to the new furniture, so the hypothetical RRSP investment was getting smaller.
The showings came quickly. I had one or two almost every day.
Selling a place with dogs is a nightmare. A lovely friend, Liane, offered to take my demons for a week. I truly believed it would be sold by the time I picked them up.
When that welcome wore out and my condo was still on the market, I had to get creative. The new plan was to take them to my (wonderful) sister’s place each morning and pick them up in the evening.
Surprisingly, that 20-minute detour before work wasn’t even the most irritating part. For me, the hardest adjustment was living in a showroom.
Every single day I had to clean my place top to bottom. Towels had to be hung perfectly. The bed needed to look like an Ikea catalogue. And during the great declutter, I’d mindlessly moved half my possessions to my storage locker. I’d packed away my driver’s licence, all my pens and paper, my blender, knives, spare blankets and sheets, tool kit, DVDs, etc.
At the end of week three, we had 20 showings and no offers. We lowered the price to $319,000. So did the other unit. The market had slid to a standstill.
What had I gotten into?
The stress was suffocating.
Each day, I’d receive emails that someone was coming to view the unit. These strangers would come over and invade my personal sanctuary. They’d go through my cupboards and closets — I actually set traps to see if they went in my underwear drawer; apparently 15% of potential buyers do — and then I’d never hear from them again. Or worse! I’d get no “new showing” emails.
The rejection was soul crushing. Nause warned me about this feeling and reassured me I was fabulous and that it was about finding the right buyer. Empty words to my bruised ego.
Meanwhile, I was hunting for a new place. I kept falling in love and was anxious to make an offer, but my realtor wouldn’t let me.
“It’s a completely different situation if you’ve already bought. We lose all the power in negotiations. Right now you don’t have to sell. If you have a new place, you might have to accept a lowball offer.”
Then one day, after about five weeks on the market, an offer came in: $301,000. We sent it back at $315,000 and they almost walked. Following some heavy negotiations, we agreed on $310,000 — a number I’d concluded at the beginning was the lowest I would go.
Not to sound dramatic, but my first home sale was one of the top five worst experiences of my life. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but I was emotionally unprepared.
For you, I will offer three kernels of wisdom:
• Before listing your property, make a list of your goals. For me — paying off debt, buying a piece of art and some modest savings were non-negotiable. Now decide what your bottom line selling price is. Focus on that number — not your list price, or what you hope for — when daydreaming. Somehow, it felt like I lost $17,000 when I was really making about $20,000. Also, don’t accept anything below your bottom line. It’s your bottom line for a reason.
• Somehow, it’s hard not to take a stranger’s rejection of something so personal, personally. It’s hard to prepare for this. All I can say is: go in expecting an absolute nightmare. You either won’t be disappointed or things won’t seem so grim.
• When selling, you’re also buying. This means: set aside twice the amount of “unforeseen costs” in cash. I didn’t consider I’d have to buy my buyer a new garage door opener and FOB for $125. Or pay my bank interest for a bridge loan (which is needed to cover the lag time between the closing of my sale and the deposit needed on my new purchase.) My bridge financing cost me about $200.
There is a happy ending. I absolutely love my new loft on West Queen West. My artwork and new furniture is incredible. I made a bit of dough. And, mostly importantly, I’m 20 times the wiser.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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