When deciding how to manage the real estate aspect of your downsize or of an estate, you can consider three options:
For Sale by Owner
Traditional Real Estate Agent
Integrated Real Estate & Transition Specialist
There are several firms in the Ontario marketplace that assist with the For Sale by Owner type of process, including PropertyGuys.com, forsalebyowner.ca, and zolo.ca.
There are many traditional real estate providers in the marketplace to assist with your home sale, over 48,000 registered realtors in the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) alone. Recognizing the enhanced needs of the aging population many real estate professionals are offering “full service” packages for downsizers or estate trustees. These full service packages vary from the real estate professionals offering to connect you with third party service providers that you need i.e. movers, junk removal companies etc. for you to manage or offering providers who are part of their teams that they will manage for you. It is important to know the details of these “full service” packages, what specific services will be provided, how the pricing will work, who will be paying the related expenses and when.
Working with an integrated real estate and transition services company you get the benefit of a fully managed integrated solution: having the real estate, move management and contents management solutions coordinated by one company so that the entire transition or estate management project is executed in a streamlined fashion. Since one person is coordinating all aspects, economies of scale can be leveraged and timelines can be minimized to complete the required tasks. In addition, this solution allows for sellers or estate trustees to remain in decision making control while not having to do any of the coordination or execution. Centralized billing is also a benefit of this service model, whereby the up-front transition expenses i.e. movers, cleaners, upgrades to the property in preparing it for sale can be covered until the sale of the property is completed, which can be a compelling benefit for clients who don’t necessarily have the cash to cover initial expenses.
Regardless, of the real estate solution you pursue, if outsourcing this task, 10 important questions to ask when interviewing any potential real estate agent include:
1. How long have you been a real estate agent?
This provides a sense of experience that the professional brings to the table.
2. Do you represent both sides of the sale? Buyer and Seller?
You should be clear about whether the agent undertakes double representation situations, which are situations where they represent both the buyer and the seller in a transaction. Doing so requires full disclosure to both clients, as you are hiring your agent to represent your best interests. This has the potential to lead to conflict of interest situations, which you may or may not be comfortable with.
3. What client age range do you serve?
Given older clients’ unique needs and perspectives i.e. would like to secure a firm sale of their property for a fair price as quickly as possible, it’s good to understand if the agent works with your demographic of clients and that they demonstrate an understanding of your mindset.
4. How many houses do you sell a month?
Note the question specifies the term sell and not list. The answer to this provides a sense of whether they deliver on their promise to sell your home efficiently.
5. How do you decide on pricing for my property?
You should be looking to hear about a combination of comparative market analysis (where the agent researches what comparable properties have recently sold for in your area), 1-2 third party independent appraisal(s), their professional opinion, and your gut instinct. It should be clear to you that ultimately at the end of all of the analysis you are in complete control of setting the listing price.
6. How do you advertise and promote my property?
More property research is now done online than ever before. It’s the main way people research properties. As such, a combination of listing the property on the MLS (multiple listing service) and having a strong online marketing page complete with photos and your property details are the most effective ways to promote your property.
7. What work do you do to ensure that my property sells quickly at full price?
Doing the property homework up-front before listing the property is key. Have home inspections completed, recent updates/repairs documented, and full details about the property and its systems posted where potential buyers can access them easily. The more complete and transparent information you can provide potential buyers with, the higher the likelihood of getting firm offers. In addition, providing detailed information up front reduces the opportunity for buyers to whittle you down on the price. If you have been clear about he state of the property and priced it accordingly they have less leverage to negotiate than if a sale was pending a home inspection which uncovered things that they weren’t initially aware of.
8. What is your commission?
This rate in Ontario is often around 5% of the sale price (although every transaction is negotiable) and is paid by the seller and then split between the seller and the buyer agents upon closing. If you require move management assistance or specific inspections, perhaps you ask for assistance covering some of those costs as part of the deal. Particularly in the GTA where real estate prices are high and demand is strong, selling the house is relatively simple as compared to the manual labour involved in sorting, packing, unpacking, moving and dealing with personal items you no longer need or want.
9. Do you have references?
We highly recommend reviewing or speaking with references who have worked with the agent before. Although the agent will send you to people who have positive things to say about them if you approach the reference check with a probing set of questions about how the agent works, responsiveness, attitude etc. these conversations can be useful for determining if the agent will be a good fit for you.
10. What makes you unique or sets you apart from other real estate agents?
Asking this question will help you separate the steak from the sizzle. You will want to think twice about the agent if the answers to this question are all superficial things i.e. I always sell properties for over listing price (read as: I determined the listing price so perhaps it wasn’t appropriate to start with). Or we will stage your property as part of our offering (remember that: there is no definitive research that suggests that staging necessarily garners the results that the staging movement suggests). Look out for comments like “We follow through with what we say we are going to do when we say we will do it”, “We are responsive to your needs” with supporting examples, “We understand your unique perspective” and have them explain.
The above are just a few tips to help you research your options for managing the sale of real estate. If you’d like further details about the Gordon’s real estate approach or have questions for our knowledgeable team feel free to contact us.