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You’ve decided you want to move into a different home. You have to sell your current property and buy another—but which do you do first?

Reasons to buy first

Your current home will sell easily

If you live in a house you know will sell easily—and there’s nothing that may scare away potential buyers or you’re selling in a hot sellers’ market—it’s best to buy first. Once you find the home you want, you should be able to list and sell quickly, and might even be able to encourage a closing date on the home you are selling that matches up exactly with your preferred move to your new home.

You can afford to carry two properties

If you can use other savings or the equity in your current home as a deposit or down payment for your new home, you are more flexible to potentially buy first. This will also give you the flexibility of time to find the exact new home you want.

You’re looking for a unique property

If you’re a discerning buyer that is  looking for very specific and unique features in your new home and you find the perfect home before selling then you should not pass up the opportunity to own your dream home. That being said, if you are selective about your new home and worried about selling your home…

Reasons to sell first

You’re on a tight budget

It’s normal to need the equity from your current home to fund the purchase of your next home. If you require the sale proceeds as a down payment, selling should come first.

You’re unsure how much money you have to buy your next home

If the market is volatile and you don’t know within a reasonable margin how much your current home will sell for, you should sell first. That way, you know your maximum price for your next home and can work with your buying agent accordingly.

You’re selling a in a buyer’s market, and buying in a seller’s market

This one is more market-specific, but if you’re selling in a market that isn’t attracting buyers, you should sell first. Whichever is going to be more difficult in the current market—selling or buying—should be the priority.

You own an Unconventional Property

If there’s something extremely unique about your home, it’s best to sell it first. Selling a property that does not appeal to the average buyer can be difficult and can take longer than expected. Sell it before you buy so you aren’t left carrying two properties, or in a position where you are forced to reduce the price drastically in order to sell quickly and meet your closing date.
The process of selling your home has many steps. You may want to sell it quickly and easily, but netting the highest possible price requires planning, thought, and hard work.
Below is a timeline of the four key areas involved in selling your home: planning, listing, receiving offers, and finalizing the sale.

1. Plan and prepare

Find an agent

First, you should choose your listing agent. This person will help you through the entire process and is integral to getting the most value out of your home. Some agencies, The agency you choose should offer a full-service experience including listing, online marketing, strategic consultation, decluttering and staging.  , offer a full-service experience, which includes de-cluttering, staging, listing, online marketing, and strategic consultation throughout.

Clean up

You’ll want to start de-cluttering your house to prepare for staging and showing. (Think of it as doing the leg work and packing for your move early!) It’s a good idea to rent a storage unit if you have a lot of personal effects you plan to move with you; you can box up items you don’t use regularly to clear space. It’s important that your home look clean and spacious when showing.
Rules of thumb: remove all items from surfaces, remove half the items in your kitchen cupboards, and remove two-thirds of clothes in every closet.

Hire a staging specialist

A staging consultation should happen early on. This can be coordinated through your listing agent or you can hire them separately (and they can also help as de-clutter specialists, too!). Staging is the process of making your home as presentable as possible, and includes bringing in alternate furniture, painting rooms, and making the entire space neutral. To learn more.

Make a timeline

Your staging expert, in conjunction with your listing agent, will help to develop a timeline of your sale, from start to finish. It’s important to establish this early on so you have cleaning and storage deadlines, and know what to expect around listing and closing dates. Your timeline should include de-cluttering, landscaping, maintenance items, upgrades and/or renovations, staging, a pre-list inspection, photos and floorplans, pre-list marketing, and your listing schedule.
Obtain a pre-listing inspection of your home. While buyers will have their own inspector inspect  your home, it is highly recommended that you hire an inspector of your own to identify existing conditions.

2. Go live and launch marketing

Take professional photos and virtual walkthrough tour

Once your home is staged, you’ll have photos taken and a virtual tour developed. Your media will be shown on its own website, so potential buyers can find all the information about your property in one place. This includes a floor plan and even 3D renderings of your home.

Release online marketing

Your listing agent will put your home up on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) so all agents can access it and bring their buyers to viewings. It will also go up on sites like REALTOR and other real estate listing sites for maximum reach. Some agents will also do a social media blast—the more eyes on your listing, the better.
There are also creative ways to reach buyers specific to your home online, like paid Facebook marketing, for example. Ask your agent for more details and ideas.

Release print marketing

You’ll have a for sale sign on your lawn to attract locals to your sale. Some agents will mail out postcards, and brochures and feature sheets will be available at viewings and events.

Host open houses and events

There will likely be one or two open houses on the first weekend after your listing goes live. You could also have a VIP preview for friends and family to show off your home and create some buzz. You want to have as many buyers view your home as possible, so high traffic events are key.

Develop a pricing strategy

Great agents understand the current market, so they’ll be able to advise your price range and strategies to gain the most interest in your property. It’s important to choose the correct asking price to attract the maximum number of buyers. To learn about how agents decide on your list price, read our page on pricing strategies.

3. Review offers

Receive offers

Your agent will receive any potential offers on your home and will review them with you to discuss your options. If your process has created a bidding war, your agent will advise how to get the highest price possible. You may also receive a bully offer, meaning an offer submitted before your requested offer date, and your agent will advise you on how to handle those as well.


Some offers will include conditions, like a home inspection before closing, dealing with tenants, or even an escape clause. Conditions allow buyers to walk away from a deal if they’re not met, or re-negotiate to alter it. In multiple offer scenarios, offers with fewer conditions will usually be favoured. 

4. Finalize the sale

Clear conditions

If there were conditions in your accepted offer, they must cleared prior to your deal going firm. Once firm, all of the final terms of your transaction are set for closing.

Organize your move

There’s a lot more to getting to your next home than hiring movers. You’ll likely have to pack a lot of boxes, so get a good head start. Be sure to change your mailing address, especially with your bank and any government departments. Inform the utility companies that you’ll be moving, and cancel or transfer your home insurance.

Pay closing costs

On closing day, there are a number of costs you’ll have to take care of:
  • Mortgage penalties
  • Real estate commission
  • Lawyer’s fees
  • Adjustments for underpayments on property taxes
Presentation is everything. The way you present your home to prospective buyers is key to attaining the highest possible price, as buyers will remember how the home makes them feel, which is largely due to first impressions.
Typically, homes are staged for listing and showing—meaning furniture and décor is changed to create a space buyers will want to live in.
Wondering what you should remove and how you should change your home to prepare it for buyers? Here are the main messages you should have in mind:
  • Everything you do should increase the number of potential bidders and make the property more sellable.
  • Your home staging should appeal to the majority of possible buyers in your market.
Consider the following tips with those two ideas in mind:

Keep it neutral and impersonal

If you’re a person who likes bright colours or statement furniture, it’s often best to neutralize it before you take listing photos and show your house to the public.
You want potential buyers to remember the home, not a red room or an oversized couch. People have negative associations with certain colours; rather than risking it, be sure to paint rooms neutral colours, remove any controversial art, and fill rooms with pieces that allow buyers to envision their own furniture in the space. You want to treat the space as belonging to no one, rather than belonging to you.

De-clutter the space

Staging a home always begins with the removal of items rather than putting in new ones. Before you plan to list your home, start going room by room, removing clutter. If it helps, bring in friends and family to identify what is actually cluttering up your home; you may not notice, since you live with your stuff every day.
Pets can also pose a selling problem. Many people have allergies to dogs or cats, or simply don’t like them and their associated odours. You should find your furry friends another home while you’re showing your property, and thoroughly remove any pet hair and paraphernalia you can.

Furnish to show potential

While home staging, be sure to buy furniture that allows the room to breathe. A spacious-yet-furnished area will give buyers ideas on how they could fill that space. For example, awkward areas can be furnished to show that they can be used efficiently—as offices, mudroom areas, etc. You want the options to stay in the minds of potential buyers; the more layout options in a home, the more likely buyers will consider your home as a viable option for them.

Everything should come back to increased value

You want buyers to believe your home has the highest possible value. Use modern furnishings and designs, (but beware of being too futuristic). Clean lines and bright lights increase the perceived size of rooms.
It’s also important to match the design of the neighbourhood, especially on the exterior of the house. If homes are stately and neutral in the area, having a purple home with a green door will decrease the value in buyers’ minds, whereas those colours in a different neighbourhood full of colour will fit right in.
There are two predominant pricing strategies when listing your home: price at market value or price below market value. Here’s how to price in each, as well as general concepts regarding the exact figure.

Pricing at market value

Traditionally, homes are listed at their market value, cognizant of current trends in pricing. Your agent will compare the features in your home to similar homes in your area.
In a seller’s market, demand for your home should be higher than in a buyer’s market, but you still want to price on-trend. If you price too high, buyers will be turned off and may look elsewhere, and you don’t want to scare buyers off, even in the most promising market.

Pricing below market value

There are a few circumstances in which you should list your home below market value. First of all, in a buyer’s market, you may be eager to sell your home and you may not get interest in the property if the price is not attractive. A lower price can attract buyers that may not consider your home otherwise.
If you need to sell your home quickly for any reason—you’re separating from your spouse, you’ve already bought another home and need to sell, or you’re moving a great distance—listing below market will usually spark interest from multiple buyers
There’s also the pricing strategy of listing low in an attempt to drum up multiple offers. If you price your home lower than your expected target in a seller’s market, for example, you could excite buyers, hopefully getting more than one offer, pushing the sale price higher. But be careful! This can easily backfire if there’s not enough interest, and you don’t want to end up with no offers, needing to readjust your price point.

Numbers make a difference

The actual amount you choose can affect how people view your listing price.

Don’t choose an unconventional asking price

Prices that aren’t typical can draw negative attention. If you’re thinking between $500,000 and $550,000, don’t choose $522,566. It draws attention to itself and to the seller, when the buyer should only be focusing on the home. Busy digits like this, are a bad idea.

Choose a searchable price

Think about when you search for homes online. If you choose a minimum and maximum price, do you choose round numbers or odd numbers? If you keep these round numbers in mind when deciding on a pricing strategy, your home will be found more often.
For example, $499,900 will only be found by people searching for homes up to $500,000; and pricing at $510,000 will exclude anyone looking up to $500,000. Consider choosing an in-between list price, like $500,000, which would turn up in searches of up to $500,000, as well as $500,000–$600,000.
There’s no easy answer in pricing, so just keep your home’s market value at the forefront, and think of searchability and psychology to finalize your price.
When there are multiple bids on one home, it’s considered a “bidding war.” In a seller’s market, where there the supply of homes for sale is less than the demand to purchase them, bidding wars become more common, as buyers compete for properties. Managed correctly, this increased competition should bring you, as a seller, a higher selling price.
In a competitive market, some sellers purposefully list their home to attract multiple bids. To encourage this situation, a specific time and date is set for buyers to submit offers, typically one week after a listing goes live.
Bidding wars normally begin on a weekday. Multiple open houses are hosted to further encourage the hype. After 5–8 days of the listing being live, the sellers request that any and all offers are made on that day only. Buyers submit offers and sellers review each carefully before making a decision. Sometimes when offers are very similar, sellers ask that all potential buyers consider if they would like to make any improvements to their offers. Finally, an offer is accepted and the sellers contact all buyers to disclose their choice.

Tips for sellers

In a competitive market, you want to be sure you get the highest offer possible. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind during the selling process:
  • Don’t be greedy. When you’ve received a few offers, it might seem like you can go back to the prospective buyers for more and more. Understand your property’s value and the situation at hand. If you send all buyers back for improvements, there is a risk that some or all do not return. Also, if you have multiple offers at the table, the given offers are usually good indications of the true market value of your property.
  • Fix anything that will dissuade buyers. In a seller’s market, your home can be extremely hot or just another house on the block. If there are glaring problems with your home, put the money in to fix them before listing your home. Buyers will appreciate the effort and for many repairs, you’ll see an equal or greater return on the investment. (For a full list, read our article on investing in your home.
  • Be fair and honest. At no point can you cover up latent deficienes. It’s also not a good idea to do anything that could discourage potential buyers, like including unrealistic conditions on your sale.
Bidding wars can be complicated, so here are a few terms you should know.

Herewith deposit

In markets where there are more sellers than buyers, called Buyers’ Markets, bidding wars are less common and buyers produce the deposit cheque within 24 hours after their offer is accepted.
In the case of bidding wars, prospective buyers will normally include a deposit with their offer— "herewith"—to show their bid is legitimate and their interest is sincere. When a deposit is produced with the offer, there is no risk to the seller that the buyer will not come up with the funds the next day.
To learn more, read our page on deposits.


In offers outside of bidding wars, buyers typically include conditions that allow them time to do due diligence on the property after negotiating an acceptable offer. These include passing a home inspection, dealing with tenants, and fixing any damages, to name a few.
When in a bidding war situation, strong offers are submitted without conditions, to make offers more appealing. The more conditions, the more reasons a seller has to look at another bid.
For example, in a seller’s market, home inspections can be completed before submitting an offer. That way, you know that your buyer has done their due diligence ahead of making a firm offer.

Bully offers

Because you’ve set a specific day to receive offers, any offers received prior to that offer is considered a pre-emptive or bully offer. Buyers may try to beat the competition by submitting an early offer, knowing it has to be good enough to tempt you from a full marketing period on the property.
Pre-emptive offers usually have a short irrevocable time—usually in the four-hour range. These bully offers need to be strong enough that a seller is tempted to take it earlier than offer night, potentially reducing the number of buyers that are prepared to participate in offers. It’s then a guessing game: do you accept the bully offer, assuming you won’t get something better, or do you wait and hope you get that a greater amount on offer day? Ask your agent about bully offers to know what to expect and how to handle them.
Before you list your home, you’ll be thinking about what you can upgrade to get the best return. While most people turn to a kitchen or bathroom remodel, there are plenty of options that will reward you on closing day.
Here are some home renovations, big and small, that you should consider, as well as some you should avoid.

Keep it neutral

Styles that last—neutral, safe designs—are best when showing a home. If you have any dated furniture, controversial art, or strange colours in your home, you might want to consider upgrading and neutralizing.


Staging experts also go for extremely neutral, modern designs. Photos for homes look best with clean lines, modern furniture, and lots of light.

Easy home improvement is key

When buyers walk through a home, they’re not only looking at individual elements, but inherently thinking “how does this home make me feel?” The cleaner and more polished you can make a home look, the better. Painting the house, for example, goes a long way toward creating a fresh, clean feel. Here are other small improvements that go a long way:
  • Instead of a full kitchen remodel, consider replacing the backsplash or painting the cupboards
  • Steam-clean all carpeting
  • Put up neutral, colourful artwork
  • Replace any broken tiles and re-tile problem areas
  • Install new countertops in kitchens and bathrooms
  • Install modern light fixtures
  • Replace kitchen and bathroom hardware

Buyers’ market

If the supply of homes outstrips demand, buyers will gravitate towards homes in the best working order. In this situation, sellers need to make their homes stand apart from the others for sale in their neighbourhood.
Large expenses are more common in a buyer’s market, such as:
  • New roof
  • New furnace/air conditioner
  • New windows
  • Remodelled kitchens and bathrooms
  • Finished basement

Sellers’ market

In a competitive market, sellers should stay away from large renovations, as it’s unlikely they’ll yield any differential significant return. For example, if all homes for sale are getting several offers and you decide to replace your windows, the cost of those windows may not increase the amount of your offers enough to cover that cost. Think more about simple cosmetic changes that provide you the largest impact per dollar.

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