Six simple ways to get the maximum price from your real estate sale

Selling your home is a big deal — it’s possibly your most valuable asset, and the amount you get will be a pivotal factor in what you can afford next or, if you’re downsizing for retirement, what can be added to your nest egg. Here are six simple ways to get the most money from your sale.

1. Declutter twice as much as you think you should, and put away your pictures

Your clutter and family photos are going to hurt your sale price and that’s because it’s harder for buyers to picture themselves making your home their own. Research shows that every bin you fill up with your knick-knacks and store out of sight (even if it’s in a rented storage locker which will run you about $ 150 per month) is worth between $ 500 and $ 1,000 of added sale price. If you’re a collector of things — teapots, wall art, books, pictures of your kid’s paintings — it’s time to pack it up. Parents, this doubly applies to you if you’ve got kids’ toys spilling out from every nook and cranny of your home. Once you’ve completed your first round of decluttering, go at it again.

Your clutter could also be worth something. Supercharge this decluttering effort by selling what you don’t need on Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji or at your local consignment shop.

2. Fix what’s broken, and limit upgrades to what actually pays in your area

If your home is in disrepair, it’s going to impact your price, even in an overheated market like Toronto. Some modest inexpensive upgrades will also support a stronger return — swapping out dated light fixtures and faucets, worn-out carpets, drawers, doorknobs and more. If your hardwood has been scratched badly by your pets, refinish it. If you have doors that won’t close properly, leaky taps, crayon artwork from your toddler on your living room wall, fix it at the same time. Tie a bow on it with a fresh coat of designer’s white paint throughout the entire home.

Unfortunately, data shows that major renovations, such as kitchen and bathrooms remodels, have a very unreliable payback, unless you really know what you’re doing, and are close to the real estate, design or contracting businesses. These major upgrades often run over budget, and might not be what buyers really want. So consider sticking with simple fixes and upgrades.

(Note that it’s much worse to try to cover something up than to be transparent. If you’ve got a massive crack in your basement that you’re not planning to fix yourself, fully expose it and post a quote to fix it on the support pillar located beside the crack. Transparency pays.)

3. Clean it like a pro, which probably means you shouldn’t do this yourself

Every corner, the tops of door frames, the inside of the fridge and more — it all needs to be thoroughly scrubbed. Buyers love a spotless home, especially during the pandemic, so get a professional to spend the necessary time to clean it up. If you’re a pet owner or have kids, expect that the cleaning will take double the time, and cost twice as much. Know, however, that a tidy home can sometimes boost the sale price by a full percentage point, and can expedite the sale.

4. Hire the best, and forget the rest

Selling and marketing your home is not as straightforward as it might seem. You can certainly go with a discount brokerage, or even try to fully DIY the process in an effort to save money on realtor commissions, but this doesn’t necessarily result in getting the best price for your home. You may not have the right skills to handle the negotiations, weed out unqualified buyers and deal with the legal matters involved with the transaction, and some buyer realtors just won’t show for-sale-by-owner properties.

I get it. If you’ve had a bad agent in the past, you’re probably thinking that you can do a better job yourself. Still, before you head down that path, investigate who is the TOP realtor in your area. Figure out what their system for selling is, how they plan to get you the best price and the amount of work they plan to do. Don’t settle for a mediocre realtor.

5. Time it, and price it, like a boss

With super-low mortgage rates, real estate is heating up in a number of areas right now. But, historically, great times to sell vary depending on where you live; it’s not simply a seller’s market in the spring. For example, selling a condo in Vancouver in September fetches a better price than in the spring or summer. You and your realtor should get a good pulse on the market, and then determine the right timing. Similarly, the market will pretty much dictate your listing’s price. Nothing turns a buyer off a property faster than a bizarre price that doesn’t match what’s happening in your area. (Yes, this applies in hot markets, too.) If you want your property to sell in a reasonable time, it’s better to price it properly and at the right time in the real estate cycle.

6. If your realtor is telling you that you should leave, get outta there!



Don’t take this personally. If your realtor is asking you to leave for a day, a week or a month, while they show the property, it’s for good reason. They want to keep your newly freshened place pristine, and give it the best chance of selling for the highest price. Follow along and book into a short-term rental if need be. Simply factor this into your selling costs, or negotiate with your realtor to share some of the expense.

Take a deep breath and do your best to park your emotions. You’ll want a clear head throughout this process, so that you can make the best strategic decision for your finances and your family.