Selling Your Home in a Buyer’s Market

Selling Your Home in a Buyer's Market

We’re starting off 2016 with a market that’s slightly in favour of the buyer. While the CMHC’s numbers show a balanced market, it’s just over the threshold where it would be considered in favour of the buyer. When it comes to resale, it’s definitely a buyer’s market.

If you’re thinking of selling your home, this means you have to be realistic about how much you’re going to have to do to get your home sold. As a realtor, I always have to educate my clients about what’s happening in the market and what they can realistically expect to get for their home.

But there’s another factor that people forget to consider: time on market.

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The Clock is Ticking

Home listings have a fresh shelf-life of about 2-4 weeks. If your home isn’t sold by then buyers will often ignore it in favour of the new listings. They’ve already seen it and decided it’s not for them, or they may even believe it has serious problems if you haven’t gotten an offer. Your best offers are going to happen in the first 3 weeks when you are the new listing.

In a buyer’s market, the extra competition makes it harder to stand out. It’s important to face the fact that you’re going to have to offer more value than the other homes in your price range if you want to sell.

Here’s how to make sure your home stands out.

1. Be Aware of Market Demands and Price Accordingly

Setting the right asking price is crucial to getting your home sold and potentially sealing a good ROI on your real estate.

They say that numbers don’t lie, but you need to make sure you’re looking at the right numbers. Most people have an idea of what some of the homes in their neighbourhoods have been listed at, but they don’t know the final price.

As a real estate agent, I can get final price data for comparable homes in your neighbourhood, compare it to your home, and set a realistic asking price. Keep in mind that a few years ago housing prices were higher, but these days they’ve levelled off. The buyer doesn’t care what your neighbour got for their house two years ago. They want a good price by today’s standards.

Location Matters More than Ever

The closer your home is to downtown, the more valuable it is.

A few years ago, people wanted larger homes, and were prepared to spend time commuting to Orleans or Kanata to get it. In 2016, more buyers care about quality of life. They want to be able to walk to a local coffee shop, and they definitely want to spend less time sitting in their cars. They’re also prepared to live in smaller homes to get the lifestyle they want. Possibly once the light rail transit system goes in the trends will reverse again, but that will take a while to have impact.

For now, if your home’s location means a longer commute, it will need to be priced lower and look fantastic to sell.

2. Make Sure Your Home Looks New

Most people aren’t really clear on what “staging” really means, even if they know the term. Many aren’t even sure if open houses help sell homes.

Buyers pay for pretty, but it needs to be an up-to-date pretty. If your home looks like your grandmother’s, it won’t sell because a lot of people don’t even want to pick up a paintbrush these days, let alone handle a full renovation.

If you need to sell your home during winter, it’s important you take pictures before the snow hits the ground.

It’s not hard to understand why. Many buyers have lived in new homes where they could pick all the colours for the builders to use. They’ve been watching HGTV and reading interior design magazines. They want a home that looks good and is in step with recent trends, and a home that will let them live the life they want without having to deal with a construction zone.

Layout and Colours

The key thing to remember is that OK is not good enough. If your home isn’t what everyone is looking for, you may need to get some work done to ensure it outclasses the other homes your buyers are looking at in your price range. It’s all about the showmanship.

Open concept main floors have been selling well for years, and they’re still extremely popular. Colours need to be at least in keeping with what’s popular, and light neutrals still rule when it comes to resale. Light fixtures may need replacing if they’re builder standard, and even the lightbulbs matter- they should be bright white and not yellowy. It’s the little details that will set your home apart.


Decluttering is critical. You need to make sure that your home is reduced to the bare essentials, and that includes editing the furniture. With less furniture in a room, there’s more room to walk around and the space looks larger. This doesn’t mean to empty the room completely. You still need some furniture to anchor the space, provide function and help the buyer picture how they can use the space.

The power of staging vs. selling a vacant home should not be underestimated because it makes your home memorable. I recently sold my own home within a week for a great price. It wasn’t so different from the other townhomes in my area, but I made sure mine presented better and it paid off.


Often my clients think that a simple tidy up and a day’s worth of vacuuming means the house is clean. It may be your version of clean, but it’s not good enough for today’s buyer.

It’s really important to get your home professionally cleaned. A cleaning service will take care of the issues that are invisible to you but that buyers will definitely notice, like washing windows, walls and floors. They will do your baseboards and clean vents. All these details add up to creating a great first impression and setting your home apart.

3. Negotiate Correctly

I read a lot of negotiation “rules” online, like the classic “don’t accept the first offer” or “in a buyer’s market you should accept the first offer”. The only rule I go by in this market is “any offer on paper is a good offer”.

In truth, every offer you receive will need to be evaluated on its own merits, and with your situation in mind. If you need to sell in a short period of time your negotiation strategy will be different than if you have more time.

But that doesn’t mean you should automatically accept the first offer you get. If it’s well below the real value of your home, it may be better to wait and test the market, depending on the feedback received during the showings.

Also remember, you do have options; you don’t have to reject an offer outright. A counter offer that includes movement on price, conditions of sale, and closing date can all work in your favour. Very few offers are submitted on a “take it or leave it” basis.

4. Find the Right Realtor – and Listen to Them

With the wealth of information available online, sellers are becoming more and more educated. That’s wonderful and I encourage it, but my clients don’t live and breathe the market all day every day like I do. Finding a good realtor means you will get more money for your home.

So how do you know if you’ve got the right realtor? Make sure they:

  1. Sell a lot of houses in a year. Only volume will give you the real temperature of the market. Analyzing the data will get you a ballpark price, but I can see trends as they start to take shape because we sell dozens of houses every month and participate in lots of negotiations. That means I can fine tune pricing advice in real time to take advantage of recoveries or to move fast if things are trending down. It also comes in handy when it’s time to negotiate your offer.
  2. Have a plan to market your home. Staging and great photos are just the beginning. Your realtor should have a list of places to feature your home (both online and with partner realtors) where buyers are waiting to look at homes like yours. Even better if they have a database of buyers looking for a home like yours.
  3. Have the support to service YOUR leads properly. One of the biggest challenges to a home seller can be their realtor if they don’t act fast enough. If you can’t get a quick response from your realtor or someone in their office, what happens to the buyer calling on your house for sale? Exactly. Nothing. That potential buyer is lost and has moved on to the next house.

Most importantly, once you find that realtor, make sure you listen to the advice you are given. After all, you’re paying them for their expertise.

“Buyer’s Market” Doesn’t Mean “No Market”

It doesn’t happen as often anymore, but I still see bidding wars over great properties. But that only happens when price, looks and location all come together.

If you’re prepared to get your home in shape and set the right price for the current market, you can still sell your home quickly for top dollar while others hang around for months. In the end, only a home that’s sold means money in your pocket.

Ottawa Real Estate Agent Tracy Robillard
Tracy Robillard
Selling Partner/Sales Representative

A lifelong Ottawa area resident who has lived everywhere from Carleton Place to Cumberland, Tracy knows the market from downtown condos to rural area homes. Complementing her educational background in law, she became a licensed real estate agent in 2005, and she’s been a great part of the Paul Rushforth team since early 2009.

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