Selling A Home
You’ve Decided to Sell your Home
Everyone’s been there – you’ve decided to sell your house and your thoughts are full of the typical worries. How will you keep the house clean with the kids and the dog living here? Do we need to get the siding fixed before we list it? How fast will the house sell? What’s the best price we can expect?
Let us help with some to-do lists and hints from the experts on how to make selling your home as painless as possible
The selling process will entail unique considerations for you:
- Should I sell before I buy?
- What if I am left homeless?
- What will my house sell for?
- How quickly will it sell?
- When should I put my house up for sale?
- Is the property migrated?
Gather your Info
Before meeting with your real estate agent, gather together all the important data regarding your home:
- a copy of your deed;
- a copy of your mortgage;
- a copy of your location certificate (prepared by a surveyor);
- your property tax information;
- your heating costs data;
- particulars of any lease agreements (furnace, hot water heaters)
This information will assist your agent in completing the information required on your listing agreement and forms the basis of the information which your real estate lawyer will require once a sale has been successfully negotiated.
Before You Sign
The agreement that you sign with your real estate agent’s company is the “listing agreement”. This is the first contract you will enter into in the selling process. The second will be the agreement of purchase and sale discussed more fully in the purchase segment of this brochure. One aspect of your decision to sell will be the price which you anticipate your home will achieve in the market place. Market conditions at times can vary as quickly as the tides, and may not bear a close resemblance to your assessment of personal value. Try to avoid specific expectations until discussing valuation with your real estate professional.
The listing agreement provides the authority to your real estate agent’s company, to market your property for sale and will set out the specific particulars of your home. Ensure your agent is aware of any continuing obligations that will remain with the property (for example, hot water lease and furnace lease). Also ensure your agent is aware of any fixtures you intend to take with you. For example, if your dining room light fixture was a wedding present from your in-laws, you may not be able to part with it. The law states that anything that is attached to the property is a fixture and will be presumed to be included with the property unless it is specifically excluded. Removing featured fixtures may impact on the attractiveness of the home to prospective purchasers – so keep your exclusion list as short as possible.
Although you want to put your best foot forward to both your agent and prospective purchasers – full disclosure is a must. Ensure your agent is fully informed about the good and bad aspects of your property, so that your agent can properly advise you in the marketing of your home.
At the time you list your property for sale with a real estate company, you will be presented with a form to complete entitled “Property Condition Disclosure Statement” This is a form that asks you as the seller, to declare the condition of your home – for example:
- are you aware of any major structural problems, unrepaired damage, or leakage, in the foundation?
- does the property conform with the existing zoning?
Be sure to take care in completing this form, as it is likely to be relied on by purchasers as your representation of the general condition of your property. Limit your responses to what you actually know, to your period of ownership of the property and ensure you declare that you have answered the questions asked to the best of your knowledge and belief. Your agent will review the questions asked to ensure you understand them before responding.
Is Your Property “Migrated”?
One of the questions that your realtor will ask you is whether your property has been registered in the government Land Registration system, which came into effect in Halifax County on December 1st, 2004. If you have had no transaction involving your property since that date, chances are it is not registered. If you had a title search conducted when you purchased your property, that information can be used for part of the process. It has to be updated however to ensure nothing new has been filed to affect the title since you bought your property. It is recommended that you speak with your lawyer at the time you first list your property if this has not been done on your behalf, and to ask questions about the cost and time involved. This will ensure there is no delay when you receive an offer which you want to accept for the sale of your property.
Your lawyer will want to know about the access to your property, whether there is any occupation of any part of your property without your consent, and to generally describe to you the legal issues and process involved in the migration process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is a new system, and as with all new systems, there is a learning curve for all.
An Offer has Arrived
As discussed in the purchase segment, the offer is the first stage in the negotiation of the contract for the sale of your home. Your agent will review in detail with you the particulars of the offer. If it is acceptable to you, your signature on the offer will finalize the contract document. If there is a term you wish to vary in the offer, your real estate professional will prepare a “counter-offer” indicating your acceptance of the terms of the offer except those you have specifically varied. This process continues until both you and the purchaser agree on all terms, and the sale negotiation is concluded.
Your Lawyer’s Role
The role of your real estate lawyer is somewhat different in the sale process than in the purchase process. In this process, your lawyer has only one client – you – and will be available to you and your agent once you have made the decision to sell. Your lawyer is most often involved at the contract stage. The following are some of your lawyer’s responsibilities relating to the sale process:
- Reviewing with you your rights and obligations as set out in the purchase and sale agreement;
- Providing the purchaser’s lawyer with information regarding your ownership of your property and deal with any questions the purchaser’s lawyer may have with respect to your home’s “roots”
- Requesting payout information from your mortgage company, verifying your tax credits, oil credits and closing adjustments;
- Preparing the documents necessary to complete the same on the closing date for your signature.
All in all, your lawyer’s role aimed at ensuring that your interests are protected in the sale transaction.
The Proceeds of Sale – What Am I Left With?
It will be useful to estimate the costs of selling your home at the time of your decision to sell, rather than after the sale is negotiated. Attached is a sale cost estimate worksheet together with an explanation of the costs detailed.
The following are the usual closing costs associated with the sale of a property. The basic costs are follows:
- Tax Certificate – It is the seller’s responsibility to pay for a tax certificate to verify that the taxes have been paid. Note that if you have paid taxes beyond the closing date, you will be reimbursed by the Purchaser through an adjustment to the purchase price on the closing date;
- Real Estate Commission – The deposit placed on the Agreement by the Purchaser is credited towards the real estate commission on closing and the balance is paid from the closing proceeds. HST applies to your real estate commission.
- Legal Fees – Please call us to discuss the legal fees – they will vary slightly depending on the nature of each transaction. HST also applies to legal fees.
- Legal Disbursements – These include postage, photocopies, courier, faxes and HST on those items – they average approximately $85.00 on a sale transaction.
- Land Registration Office – If you have a mortgage to pay out, a Release will have to be recorded at the Registry of Deeds at a cost of $100, and as well there may be a fee charged by your mortgage company for the preparation of the Release.
- Mortgage Prepayment Penalty – Before listing your property, contact your mortgage company and determine what penalty, if any, will apply to your mortgage if it is paid before it matures. Mortgage companies are quite flexible for the most part in trying to keep any penalty to a minimum.
- Prepaid Taxes – If you (or your mortgage company) have paid the taxes to the municipality in advance, you will receive a reimbursement from the Purchaser for taxes you have paid for the period beyond the closing date.
- Fuel Oil – The fine print of your Agreement (clause 6) requires the Purchaser to reimburse you for the oil in your tank. Usually, this adjustment is based on a full tank of oil and an oil top off slip is provided by you to your lawyer at the time of closing to verify the adjustment.
As with the purchase process, the selling process may raise questions for sellers. We thought we’d give you the advantage of the answers to some before you ask:
When does the house have to be vacant?
Some agreements of purchase and sale indicate a specific time of the day for you to provide vacant possession to the purchaser. If your agreement has such a provision, that is your complete answer. Some agreements, however, provide for a specific date and not a time. If you have specific circumstances that require a physical move later on the closing date, make sure that is discussed with your agent at the outset of your transaction. Remember you are not entitled to receive your sale proceeds until you have physically moved out and “vacated” the property.
There is nothing quite as frustrating as the realization a day before closing that your movers are booked for 4:00 p.m. on the closing date and you can’t get your sale proceeds to buy your new home until after they have finished. Arranging to be out as early as possible on the closing date is to everyone’s benefit.
How can I move out and in on the same day?
Many sellers do not understand how they can be obligated to move out before they are paid their sale proceeds. “After all, how can I move out of my old home unless I have somewhere to move to?”
“I rented a small truck and it is going to take quite a few loads. How do I manage?” Our best advice to all sellers is to plan a move that will enable you to be completely out of your existing house before moving into the new one on the closing date.
There is a “domino” effect on busy closing days. “A” is buying from “B” who is selling to “C” and buying from “D” who is selling to “E” and buying from “F” – all on the same day. Your patience and understanding how your sale fits into this chain reaction will be your most valuable asset on your closing day.
The movers have gone
You’ve said your goodbyes, the house is empty but clean and ready to welcome its new owners, and you’re on your way. We wish you all the best.
Click on a link below to see listings and contact information for lawyers and paralegals handling real property transactions in four locations across the Province:
We look forward to hearing from you!