In 2017, Heather Spidell and her husband, Danny, were looking to downsize. The plan was to sell their home in the suburbs of Halifax and build their dream home on the ocean. After talking with some friends who had sold homes without the aid of a professional, the couple decided to give it a try.
Heather Spidell said her friends made it sound so easy: Just hire a photographer, get an inspection done and book a couple of appointments. No problem, right? No commission paid to a real estate professional meant more money for their dream home, the couple figured.
Over the next four months, the Spidells quickly found themselves reeling, due to a series of unforeseen headaches, irritants and stressors. It culminated in a Christmas season marred by disappointment, anxiety and frustration.
After initiating the for sale by owner process, Spidell said the first sign of trouble came with requests for further information about the property.
Spidell was promoting the sale of her home on social media, but found her description was lacking certain details a REALTOR® would have known were important to potential buyers.
There were numerous issues involving paperwork that hadn’t been considered, which necessitated inconvenient, time-consuming searches. In a home sale, there can be zoning considerations, building permit information and the matter of whether there is potential for development, to name just a few.
Then there were the drop-ins: people showing up unannounced on Saturday mornings with children and pets in tow.
The stress and anxiety continued to build.
During this time Heather was in the middle of selling her business, which was itself a major undertaking. Finally, that December, the Spidells got a conditional offer but the conditions imposed by the buyer were rigid.
“We were going to have three weeks to get out of the house and it was going to be right around Christmas,” Spidell said.
With everything happening so quickly, and no one in their corner to advise them, the Spidells accepted the offer, conditions and all. But the decision did not come from a place of confidence.
“When you’re hoping to sell your house and someone wants to buy it,” she said, reflecting on her state of mind, “well, then you say, yes, we’ll do whatever it takes.”
With such a tight closing date bearing down on them, plans were immediately initiated to book moving vehicles and find a temporary residence until their dream home was built. Without a REALTOR® to advise them the terms of the deal were unfair, Spidell said she felt vulnerable, virtually at the “mercy” of the buyers.
And then right before Christmas the buyer pulled out of the deal.
“It was awful,” Spidell said.
REALTOR® to the rescue
This marked the turning point. They felt an immediate surge of power and confidence. Suggestions for renovations were made, including tips on painting and readying the house for sale. Doucet and her colleague Randy Beal also helped to negotiate tricky issues such as Kitec plumbing in the house, which is currently the subject of a class-action lawsuit. “They were so savvy,” Spidell said.
Doucet understands why the Spidells initially bypassed her services, but also defended her profession with some serious facts many DIY sellers fail to consider.
“It’s not just as simple as putting a for sale sign on the lawn anymore,” she said. “You have to absolutely know your legal responsibilities and know how to give the buyers their due diligence as well. So, as REALTORS®, we have to be very careful about what we’re doing and what information we’re conveying to the public.”
Fortunately, after hiring Doucet, the couple were able to sell the house to everyone’s satisfaction, and the Spidells are now happily ensconced in their dream home by the ocean in St. Margaret’s Bay. When comparing her for sale by owner experience with the service provided by Doucet, Spidell has nothing but respect for the work of real estate professionals.
“Listen to someone who does know what they’re doing,” she said. “There’s a reason why there are professionals who handle this kind of thing.”
REALTORS® share their for sale by owner nightmare stories
Goran Todorovic, Broker, Team Goran, RE/MAX PREFERRED REALTY LTD., Windsor, Ontario
Todorovic has seen many ill-fated attempts at DIY sales over the years, and sometimes the damage is done too late for him to come to the rescue.
He recalled one incident in which a family, after successfully selling their home, complained that an identical home across the street sold for 25% more. The family called the real estate professional from across the street and asked how that could have possibly happened. According to Todorovic, the real estate professional said, “Well, you took the first offer that came to you; you didn’t expose it to the real estate market. And across the street they had a bidding war with 10 offers.”
Furthermore, said Todorovic, the two sales took place in an upscale market, in which 25% constituted a considerable amount of money.
“Sometimes the seller doesn’t realize the value of their home,” Todorovic said. “And, unfortunately, there are some buyers out there who will take advantage of people.”
Gary Bazuik, real estate professional, Victoria, British Columbia
Bazuik, who typically represents the buyer, has been a real estate professional and REALTOR® for 19 years. Over the years, he’s represented clients who were interested in buying homes being sold without the assistance of a real estate professional, and along the way acquired plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest using an REALTOR® and salesperson is the wiser move in the long run.
As a representative of the buyer, he knows the seller is squarely focused on skipping the commission to make as much money as possible on the sale. But in assessing the worth of their home, sellers are often hampered by an emotional attachment, he said.
He recalled one deal in which he and his clients started negotiating with the sellers at about 9 p.m. The negotiations continued into the night.
“We were back and forth a number of times,” said Bazuik, who sensed it was time for a tactical retreat. “I was advising my buyer I think this is where we should [leave]. I don’t think we should pay them their price because I think we can get it lower.”
The negotiations were temporarily suspended at 2 a.m.
But it wasn’t over.
“That was a Thursday night,” he said. “We took Friday off and then we went back at it Saturday and my buyer got it for the price she wanted. My buyer, even by paying me a commission, got a very, very good deal on the house.”
Without trained professionals in their corner, sellers can fall victim to any number of nightmarish scenarios, some legal, some personal, some monetary—and most of them avoidable.
Potential pitfalls of selling without a real estate professional
Here are some of the nagging questions and unexpected problems that accounted for the Spidells’ unpleasant selling experience:
- Sudden, unscheduled intrusions;
- Stress and anxiety;
- Lack of appreciation for real estate professional’s training and experience;
- Not knowing what and what not to tell prospective buyers;
- Many back-and-forth negotiations; and
- Unfamiliarity with rules and legalities.