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Ian Watt Personal Real Estate Corporation - Sotheby's International Realty Canada

Blog by Ian Watt

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Summer is the prime time for flowers, patios and moving.

Spring and early summer is the prime time for flowers, patios and moving.

"The first flower of spring is a 'For Sale' sign," says top Ottawa real estate broker Bill Renaud of Remax.

One reason is cabin fever that results from several months stuck inside over the winter, Renaud says. "We become critical of our environment."

No matter the reason for selling a home, the process can be difficult.

"It's not easy. It's a stressful process," says the leading Ottawa real estate agent. "I don't think people go into it lightly."

Going in informed makes all the difference.

"I'm the 'shock absorber,'" he says, describing one of a realtor's many roles in the house-selling adventure.

"You must work in order to sell (your home)," adds renowned real estate broker Neta Clarke of Royal LePage, who is celebrating her 50th year in the business.

To begin, award-winning Royal LePage broker Joan Smith advises home sellers to have a good plan. Sellers should ask themselves, "What am I doing here? How long do I want my house on the market? What do I need to do?"

"It's no different from anything else," she says.

A solid plan is particularly important for those who choose to sell their homes themselves, Ms. Smith says. For the majority of sellers, however, "it's important to have an agent that knows the neighbourhood."

"Listen to your gut instincts," Mr. Renaud says. "You have to feel comfortable with that person." He adds that checking the realtor's references and experience is also important.

A good realtor, says Ms. Clarke, "should go through the home and see what condition it's in."

The realtor should make suggestions for repairs and changes and should obtain a list of comparable sales in the area in order to help determine a correct price for the home.

"Quite often people feel they should get more," the veteran agent adds.

In order to prepare a home for public viewing, a realtor may call in a house stager -- a person who visually prepares a home for resale by removing clutter, rearranging furniture and even repairing and redecorating in order to give the home a welcoming, clean look.

"I do my own staging," says Ms. Smith, adding it's important to keep in mind people still have to live in the home while it's on the market.

"The place must be very clean," Ms. Clarke adds. "The house should have curb appeal."

She advises sellers to get rid of extra furniture and family pictures, and to make sure cupboards are clean and the basement is spic and span. "If the home is untidy, it doesn't show as well."

Ms. Smith agrees. "Clean and tidy go together."

Once the price has been set and the home is in viewing condition, homeowners must make their home available for viewing. "You never know when someone is going to call," Ms. Smith says.

If the homeowner and the agent have done their job right, within a month you should have an offer.

Time to sell depends on price range: for a home priced at $350,000 or less, it can take up to 45 days, while a house priced more than $350,000 can take longer. On average, it takes 46 days to sell a home in Ottawa.

"The first 21 days are the most important," Mr. Renaud says. "The longer (the house) is on the market, the farther it will sell from the asking price."

If the home doesn't sell after this time, "you have to sit down again and discuss the price," says Ms. Clarke, adding the realtor and homeowner should also look critically at the house again, starting at the front door.

There are several reasons why homes don't sell, but all three agents agree the main reason is price.

"But it's not as simple as putting on a low price," Mr. Renaud says. Not enough exposure, poor condition, lack of floorplan conformity, or bad location are other reasons homes don't sell.

Ms. Smith, who refers to problems with price, conformity, condition, and location as "hiccups," says, "If the price is right, the home will always sell."

"The majority of the homes sell," Mr. Renaud says, adding that the average realtor in Ottawa last year got 97 per cent of the asking price for the homes they sold.

Still, some houses just won't appeal to the wider population. Houses with structural damage, or with a stigma "will deter the faint of heart," he says. "Again, get professional help. You're dealing with a major asset."

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Advice for Sellers

According to top real estate broker Bill Renaud of Remax, people buy a home based on 30 per cent logic, and 70 per cent emotion. He has the following advice for home sellers:

- Time of year: Spring is not the best time for selling all property types, or properties in all areas. Competition is stiff in the spring; Mr. Renaud suggests speaking to a realtor for professional advice on the best time to sell.

- Little extras: "What's the warm fuzzy of the home?"says Mr. Renaud. He advises homeowners with extras, such as backyard pools or waterfront access, to make sure they are clean, open and operational.

- Emotion: Mr. Renaud asks his clients to list the top 10 things they love about their home. Chances are a buyer will love many of the same things.

"Find out what the emotion is."

- Light: If there is a light, turn it on, even during the day, but especially at night."You don't want the house to look dark."For those driving by in the evening, seeing the house lights glowing gives the home an extra helping of warmth."

- "Less is more."If a homeowner can't decide if a room is too cluttered or not, then it probably is.

"Perception is reality."

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007