Should I Sell My House First or Buy First?

Buy First vs. Sell First in Real Estate

If you are thinking of selling your home, here’s some important news: the Ottawa real estate market is very different than it was a few years ago. In fact, it’s often described as crazy.

So the typical question, “Should I sell my house first or buy first?” has a very different answer these days.

We talked with Paul Rushforth to get his expert opinion on whether to sell or buy first in today’s market, what to do in a buyer’s and seller’s market… and why you need a savvy realtor to guide you through this complex process.

Buy or Sell First: The Traditional Strategy

Before today’s crazy market, my advice 9.9 times out of 10 was to sell first because there were lots of options to buy. It was less of a risk and meant you wouldn’t end up carrying two mortgages.

But at that time, going back to 2018 and earlier, people we’re selling in a buyer’s market, with 4,000-6,000 homes on the market. Now there are less than one thousand. That’s less than one month of inventory.

It’s definitely a strange time right now, in a strange market. I’ve been in the business since 2004, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a market like this.

Buy or Sell First: Today’s Strategy

When someone calls me today, clearly unsure about whether to buy or sell first, they often disclose that they’re stressed about selling. I already know their house is going to sell, so I advise, “Don’t stress about selling, stress about finding something to buy.”

Almost every house is going over asking right now, and there are bidding wars on everything. You have to buy first in this market — 1,000%.

What’s my advice to someone who’s determined to sell first in today’s market? “Don’t do it!” (Unless you’re moving out of town.)

Effect of the Current Seller’s Market

We’re in a huge seller’s market due to limited inventory, low-interest rates, and pent-up buyer demand. We’ve also got buyers coming in from Toronto and overseas. All those factors are creating the perfect storm.

As a seller, you’re in the driver’s seat. When you find something you want to buy, it’s likely you won’t be closing for 60-90 days. In the meantime, you can get your house sold… just like that! Just make sure to plan for your closing costs.

As a buyer in today’s market, you have to be willing to spend way more than you want to for a house. And you have to be fast getting in the door, because you’re going to be competing with multiple offers.

How to Buy an Ottawa Home in Today’s Market

  1. Be aware that almost every offer to purchase is firm. If you put in an offer conditional on financing or home inspection, you’re done.
  2. Be ready to do everything you can to get the property you want. That means potentially way overpaying for it. (For example, if you set a budget of $700,000, consider whether you’re prepared to go to $850.) Three months from now, you’re likely to say, “Wow, did I get a deal!” That’s how insane the market is right now.
  3. Work with a very strong mortgage broker, so you’re prepared with a hard preapproval.
  4. Either do a pre-inspection prior to your offer or waive the inspection (which could cause headaches down the road). Worst case scenario, you bring an inspector or even a handyman with you to a showing. They’ll look for issues that you can’t see, like wiring problems, mould, or cracks in the foundation.
  5. Buy with a connected agent. They might have some off-market properties.
  6. Be fast. If I call you at work and say, “A house just hit the market; we’ve got to go today,” then you’ve got to go today because chances are that it’s going to be gone tomorrow.

Why Does a Seller Need an Agent?

It’s a risk when selling your home privately, especially in Ottawa. You need an excellent agent on the sell side, too. People are asking me now, “Why do I need you? I can list my own house and sell it.” Sure you can. But there’s a difference between selling for the asking price or $100,000 over the asking price.

Time and time again, we see sellers going with a bargain-basement agent, a mere posting (with very limited services for the seller), or a free do-it-yourself type of listing … and they’re leaving money on the table. You can’t do things cheap in today’s market. But if you do it right, you’ll get a great price for your home.

How to Choose the Right Agent for Today’s Market

If you shop for a discount agent, you’re making a huge mistake. Sure, they’ll sell your home, but for nowhere near what you should get. There’s a big difference between $10,000 and $100,000 above asking.

Instead, look for the “top dogs,” based on their buying and selling track record. Ask questions like:

  • How much more are you getting than the asking price?
  • How many buyers do they bring to a door?
  • How fast do their homes sell?
  • What is their marketing and advertising strategy?

The numbers don’t lie. Since 2007, the Paul Rushforth team has sold more homes than any other Ottawa residential team. We have the experience and the up-to-the-minute knowledge to guide you through today’s market. We’ll make your home purchase AND your sale a success!

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