If you are Canadian or North American then you will know the score when it comes to the housing market. If you are English then the way houses are bought and sold here may come as a surprise. Here, the Realtor (Estate Agent to us Brits) earn every penny of the commission they earn from house sales and purchases. The Realtor here is a qualified professional and as such an integral part of the process; they dovetail all the buying and selling arrangements; find properties; buyers; buyers agents and host the Open Houses. Of course we think we have the best Realtors (they are now close friends also) but before we arrived and during our first few weeks here they spent days and days tirelessly driving us around a then unknown Toronto, pointing out the vets, dojos for our child; summer camps; restaurants etc, etc. They even found us rental accommodation and picked us and all our luggage up from the airport upon our arrival to Canada, stocked the fridge and checked up on me and my son in the following weeks when my husband was out of the country. Would that have happened in the UK, I think not. Realtors do this as a “lifestyle” choice, and not a 9 – 6 daytime job .
Some major differences in the actual selling job (first time we’ve sold a house in Canada) is that you, your kids, dogs, cats, reptiles or animals of any persuasion are expected to be Out when prospective buyers and agents come calling. Not only that but your very presence as the occupier of the property needs to be invisible – no family photos, personal mementos, not a whisker, a hair, a splash on the mirror a stray toothebrush or anything attributed to particular personality should be present. The house is either staged by a professional – I used to do this for a living – or by yourself if you are strong enough to be brutal about all your own clutter – my husband has to do our de-cluttering; I am too attached to my bits and bobs from foreign travel to really notice that they are “clutter” A whole industry of so called specialist “Moving In/Moving out” Cleaning companies and Home Staging experts have ” as a result of the way property selling is conducted here. I did use one of these Cleaning companies who had an impressive website with “tick- lists” stating all the things they were going to do to prepare your house for “showing” as opposed to simply giving it a good clean. Despite the princely sum charged they didn’t deliver and I ended up doing most of it myself even though my realtor demanded they come back to finish the job. My advice as a novice seller – get references from previous clients before you hire these people or hang around and supervise the cleaning process (uncomfortable), OR just do it yourself!!!
The key to selling is to make the house as “bland as possible and Ideally the whole house should get a fresh coat of paint especially if like ours they have a colour palette that is not bland.
You NEVER meet the people coming in to look around the house; as they come in the front we are often to be seen scuttling out the back door with the dog having spent an hour or so once again sweeping up all traces of dog hair, and human habitation. Because we have no family here we spend hours walking the dog up and down Yonge, the Ravines and the Parks, the dog has never had it so good…. You cannot come back till everyone has gone AND you can expect that when you have other agents showing their clients round, that your TV will be used to amuse bored kids; your piano played and your doll’s house tampered with – it’s a riot…….
I would stress that this wouldn’t happen during your “Open House” as your own agents are “On Guard” in your house; they will turn off all the lights, shut the blinds and put the alarm on – in short you will come back to the house you left.
Anyway as a result of our experiences in the British housing market and because we feel out-of-control as regards the “selling” of the features and benefits of our house ourselves, when our Realtor suggested we write down the 10 things we love about the house, my husband went to town and the following is his ode to our current house Essentially because my blog is a collection of my experiences on this side of the pond, this is also being parked here for posterity’s sake and as a reminder years down the line of the 10 great things about living here.
- Location, location, location – this is simply the perfect locale from which to enjoy everything Toronto has to offer; just far enough out to get away from the hustle-and-bustle of downtown, yet close enough to enjoy it when you want it.
- Well-being – there’s a strong sense of ‘home’ here, the brick walls and high quality finishes are a constant reminder of the care that the local builder put into constructing this custom-build home. Although only seven years old it has a traditional feel which sets it apart from other recent-build properties. The layout is an optimal combination of living spaces, it’s peaceful and light floods in on all sides.
- Staying connected – practically you couldn’t be better ‘wired-in’ to the city’s transport network. Commuting and exploration by road is a breeze. Importantly, being located at the ‘quiet-end’ of our road we are at the head of the fastest route downtown with easy access to the 400-series roads. The airport is just 20 minutes door-to-door in the early morning.
- The TTC (Underground) is 6 minutes walk and the bus stop seconds away with its direct route to the TTC interchange and the Yonge & Eglinton centre and with its amenities , night-life and connections.
- Safety and security – this is a ‘good’ area, kids can play in the streets (and do). Your biggest risk is getting an ice-hockey puck lobbed in your direction. People leave their doors on the latch and the area has an easy going feel.
- Neighborhood – here we have a nicely balanced mix of ethnicity, families and professional couples which makes for a great vibe. The area is family-oriented with a major Park (tennis and play-ground) just around the corner for the kids or dog, and ravine access just a 15 minute walk away.
- Summer days – the house and locale provide the perfect base for quiet family time or socializing with friends year-round. The garden makes for a peaceful BBQ setting (we do a lot of entertaining in-doors and out). The balcony – off the master bedroom – is a constant source of enjoyment – sun-drenched breakfasts are a ‘must-do’ during our scorching summers
- Winter nights and chilly mornings– the house is a cozy and warm retreat. we count our blessings for the garage (opening out directly onto the main road) which affords snow-free access onto a ‘priority-ploughed’ street in the winter. The City clears the side-walk too!
- Parking – a parking permit + garage + on-street parking both sides of the street = no problems when visitors come. How many places can say that?
This is the place to be, a great house in a great setting in the right post-code. People know the area to be affluent but not ostentatious, understated yet stylish. Note to self – how did we end up here then?? It has so much to offer, on so many fronts, for a wide cross-section of personal and family circumstances. For all these reasons and more, we’ve enjoyed this house immensely, initially as newcomers toToronto and Canada seven years ago, then latterly as an established family.
Someone tell me why we are leaving?????????????????
Time to move on again – we are not good at staying anywhere for too long
Over and Out