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Selling your house: How to find the right price

06 March 2016 by National Bank
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Selling your house at the wrong price can cost you. Too high? You could scare away buyers and lose precious time. Too low? You could be leaving money on the table. How can you find the “right” price for your property?

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We spoke with certified appraiser Simon Beauchemin about how he tackles home pricing for future sellers, interested buyers or financial institutions looking for an unbiased opinion on a house’s market value.

What determines a home’s value?

Beauchemin starts off with a warning: “Emotional value shouldn’t factor into your home’s price. You need to give yourself some distance.”

A home’s value varies according to specific factors: neighbourhood, lot size, square footage, number of rooms, whether or not there is a garage and the condition of the home’s exterior (roof, bricks, windows and foundation) and interior (particularly the kitchen and bathrooms). Each of these factors has its own market price, which differs according to neighbourhood and property type. This probably isn’t the case for the quality of the basement’s exotic hardwood flooring that you took weeks to pick out.

What about the property assessment?

These factors also come into play in the municipal property assessment, Beauchemin adds. “The problem with property assessments is that they are generally out of date. From the municipality’s point of view, a home’s current value is based on the July 2012 assessment roll. Yet, if you’re selling in a very active market, like Greater Montreal, there will definitely be a difference between the market value determined by the certified appraiser and the property assessment. A lot of things can happen in four years!”

Therefore, the property assessment should not be the only criterion in setting your property’s sale price. Certified appraisers also caution against the belief that a simple formula can determine your house price in relation to the municipal assessment. For example, not all homes will sell for 1.5 times higher than the assessment. “These ratios vary according to the market and property type,” Beauchemin stresses.

Your house on the market

The “right price” in a competitive market depends largely on other house prices. This is why it’s important to identify comparables, also known as “comps.”

“Once I’ve seen a house, I need to compare it to the current competition before determining its market value,” explains Beauchemin.

You can look at recent sale prices for similar, neighbouring properties, but you should mostly look at houses that are currently on the market. A realtor who knows the neighbourhood is a precious ally in helping you find a competitive price.

“If there are 20 other condos on sale in your neighbourhood, you have more leeway with the price if you have something unique,” the certified appraiser adds. After all, you can’t ignore supply and demand.

Your family and financial situation

“There are two things to consider: your home’s market value and your personal situation,” Beauchemin concludes. For example, someone who has to sell quickly to move overseas might sell for lower than a family with all the time in the world. An owner’s personal situation can therefore influence the “right price” for their house.

Similarly, you need to take the house’s mortgage into consideration. If the market value doesn’t cover the debt, it might be better to put the sale off until market conditions improve.

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