Generally speaking, the buyer has the upper hand in Calgary’s real estate market. With high inventory levels in most segments, both accurate price and polished presentation are key to finding a buyer. Often, buyers will view several homes over the course of a few hours, so making your home stand out is essential.
According to Erin Bibby, owner and lead designer of Beautiful Life Design & Décor, “You are selling the vision of what life could be like in your home. Buyers are looking for move-in ready properties.” Bibby offers sellers in-home consultations, where she views the home with a fresh set of eyes, offering an unfiltered perspective on improvements that will increase a home’s marketability.
An unkept property may signal lack of maintenance and discourage buyers. Bibby recommends four simple and seemingly common-sense preparations before listing a property for sale:
Clean: Every surface should sparkle. Pet hair and evidence of pets should be removed, and if needed, carpets should be cleaned. She recommends using natural cleaners to avoid chemical smells in the home.
Organize: “Even if you’re not, appear that you are!” says Bibby. Closets should be reorganized to highlight the space that’s available. Remove any loose items from closets, pantries and shelves. Toys and children’s items should be stored or neatly put away and any unnecessary furnishing should be removed to encourage buyers to see the home’s “space and flow.”
Refresh: Above all, Bibby recommends putting money into a fresh coat of paint. “It will leave the home smelling new and will make it feel cleaner.” Neutral colours are the best choice.
Decorate: “Colour and personality are OK, but limit it to one splash per space,” Bibby notes. Entertainment potential is important to today’s buyer, so showcase the home’s ability by setting the table or island. She recommends adding a touch of greenery to every space. “Green represents nature and tranquility, leaving perspective buyers with a feeling of peace in your home.”
Calgary real estate agent Jillaine Carlin of Re/Max Landan Real Estate emphasizes the importance of proper pricing in our current market. “Now is not the time to push the envelope when it comes to price. Accurate pricing is key. Make sure your price matches or undercuts your competitors.” First impressions are everything, she adds. “You need to be the best on the block.” Similar to Bibby, she also recommends sellers take time to clean, stage and make the necessary repairs or upgrades that may impress buyers. She also recommends depersonalizing the home by storing personal effects and photos, so the buyer can imagine themselves in the space.
The first two weeks after listing is the most integral time for showing activity, and overpriced properties may miss out on the initial momentum. It is the real estate agent’s responsibility to properly valuate the home, and Carlin recommends pricing based on most recent sales and active comparable properties. “City assessments are considered to be outdated information,” she says. “Considering the current market conditions, your competition will offer the basis for value.” Sellers should be wary of real estate agents who claim they’ll get more money for the home – expectations should be realistic and based on fact. Considering the price declines of recent years, comparable sales from years past may be irrelevant.
When shopping for a real estate agent, look for one with a detailed marketing plan, including professional photography and virtual tours. Most buyers screen properties in advance. “Online presence is key,” says Carlin. “In our current market, you need to be patient; be aware that it can take longer (than in the past) to sell a home.”
Calgary homeowner Jane Wachowich is in the process of selling her inner-city home. “It’s definitely a buyer’s market” says Wachowich, “but I knew that going in, and adjusted my expectations to reflect the reality of the market. Great houses will still sell, although it may take longer; but having bought and sold in Elbow Park and Mount Royal through all market conditions, I know that the house will sell, and at the price that reflects its worth today. I’ve never thought of my house as my investment; it’s a home.”
In its 2020 Forecast published in January, the Calgary Real Estate Board predicts the majority of improvement to occur in the lower-end market (under $500,000). Depending on economic factors, it predicts “easing prices and oversupply will persist in the upper price ranges.” According to the report, “Improvements will be driven by the lower end of the market and challenges will persist in the higher end. Despite challenges in the higher end of the market, overall sales activity is expected to improve by two per cent.”
Once your home is listed, it’s important to make it available for all showing requests – some may come with short notice, which can be a challenge for those with young children or pets. Be prepared and expect some inconvenience. Every showing must be seen as an opportunity. “Buyers will take advantage of the current market conditions,” Carlin advises. “Remember, offers are open to negotiation, so don’t discredit an offer that starts low.”