Selling your home sucks

What I learned selling my own house, and why we revamped our client experience

Is there anything more agonizing than selling your own home?

A home is a sanctuary, the place we rest our heads every day and the foundation for so many memories.

Giving up a house can feel like giving away a piece of your heart.

Through my 20 years as a homeowner and realtor, I’ve only moved twice. In both cases, I held on to the former home as an income property. This was the first time I actually had to say goodbye to a house.

What I discovered was enlightening, to say the least.

Right off the bat, I made an all-too-common rookie mistake: I placed sentimental value on the house and overvalued it by at least 5%.  You would think I’d know better after nearly two decades helping people buy and sell homes, but I’m only human after all.

Second, people no-showed on me out of the blue. I got to experience that infuriating moment when you realize that you or your partner cleaned up the house, raced home to be on schedule, only to be left waiting with not so much as a phone call. 

Then, there were the super short-notice showings. Race home, get kicked out of your home for a few hours, have people look at it for a full five minutes, only to inform you that their own house isn’t listed yet and they’re not totally decided between a house, a condo, or a life somewhere out in the country.

Once we did have some meaningful showings, most of the feedback we got was completely obvious and unproductive. Oh, your client needed a flat back yard?

Were the 15 pictures showing a hillside property not enough to help you disqualify the house and save all of us from completely upending our schedules?

Seemingly benign things like the distant hum of road noise came up as objections. We were baffled. We hadn’t considered road noise at all when we bought the house - or while we lived in it - but it turned into a deal breaker.

Even worse, people will come to your open house and tell you they “absolutely love it!” when the truth is they’re just being polite and don’t want to say no to your face.

Meanwhile, you’ll get the false impression that an offer is on the way, but they never call back (kind of like dating). 

Then, you’ll meet strangers who spend more time looking at your stuff and analyzing your personal life than they do looking at the actual home.

Over time, my wife and I began to wonder if we’d ever sell the house. We started taking it personally when people weren’t interested in the home that we loved so dearly.

Eventually, we just got frustrated and started to look for something to blame. But when you’re your own selling agent, there’s nowhere else to point the finger.

After about 30 showings, we started getting really tired. We were just two people with no kids, full-time jobs, and the luxury of not having to move in a single day.

I can’t fathom how families with kids in tow are able to pull off the miracle of delivering flawless home showings for months on end.

We finally did get a great offer on the home, only to have it fall apart over some very minor items during the home inspection.

The emotional roller coaster was real. Thinking that you’ve sold your home, only to realize you’re back at square one is a real punch in the gut. 

As a selling agent, it’s part of the daily grind: one out of five deals falls apart. When it happens, it doesn't shock us or stop us from getting the best deal.  As a seller, that’s a different story.

Eventually, we found a great buyer for the home and firmed up the sale. Time to celebrate? Perhaps briefly, but then reality sinks in. There’s some serious work to do after closing the deal.

Next, you’ll physically pack up all of your belongings. You’ll ask yourself questions like:

Where did all of this stuff come from?  Will I ever wear this Halloween costume again? Whose idea was it to buy an elliptical machine? 

Then you’ll put faith in a moving company to handle your worldly possessions with care – and hopefully not break anything.

Finally, the time comes to leave the old nest behind and start a new chapter. Now you can relax, pour yourself a generous glass of wine, and imagine life in your new surroundings.

Was it worth it in the end?  You bet.

Would I like to do it again? Not for another 20 years, thank you very much.

Going through the trials and tribulations of selling my house gave me a new empathy for my clients that I couldn’t fully appreciate before.

I have been party to thousands of home transactions in my career, and like a doctor who becomes desensitized to the trauma of the emergency room, I had become desensitized to the trauma of having to sell your own home.

Right after moving, I went back to the drawing board to design a client experience that alleviates the worst pain points in managing a real estate sale.

We implemented comprehensive home selling checklists that ensure no detail gets overlooked from start to finish. We created the Moving Concierge role in our support team to organize boxes, movers, cleaners, and to handle details like change of address.

Then, we developed a new client feedback system that gets more valuable information from our showing agents so that we could provide useful, actionable intelligence.  

We created a Market Plan Review — Every three weeks, we sit face to face with our clients and review the marketing and promotion strategy.

Next, we review the feedback and consider potential improvements we can make to the property to appeal to buyers, and lastly we review the price of the sales that have taken place as well as the new homes that have hit the market since we listed to ensure our price is still competitive.  

This market plan review is precisely the communication point that has been missing in our industry. 

I am extremely grateful for having gone through the emotional toil of selling our family home. It was a not-so-subtle reminder of how stressful moving and selling can be.

I know that it’s made me a better agent, and my agency benefits equally.

But if there’s anything we can take home from this rant, it’s that moving really does suck.


Investment secrets

10 Real Estate Investment Secrets to Crank Your 2019 ROI

Investing in real estate is a fairly simple process – buy a property with positive cash flows, complete some home improvements to bump up the value, manage it very well, and then hold on for the long-term.

Repeat this process a few times, and you’ve become financially secure within 20 years.

Through my own investment journey, I’ve learned a few hacks that quickly boost rental cash flows and improve your bottom line.

Here are 10 battle-tested strategies to take your real-estate portfolio to the next level.

1. Complete smart renovations that appeal to millennial renters. Think minimalistic, modern, and practical:

  • Stainless steel appliances
  • Solid-surface countertops – these can be affordably purchased from overseas manufacturers
  • Fibre internet hookups
  • Vinyl flooring products – some products include amazing lifetime warranties
  • Fresh paint for the walls - cool grey tones are timeless and very trendy right now
  • Smart home features such as Nest to remotely control things like thermostat, security, and door locks at a low cost.

2. Equip your property with a dishwasher and bathtub 

Each of these nice-to-haves will command an additional $50/month from renters and cost you around $500/each.

This means they will start to generate positive cash flows in less than two years.

3. Be dog friendly

There are droves of responsible pet owners struggling to find a suitable home for them and their furry best friend.

These tenants expect to pay a premium, tend to stay longer, and provide double the regular security deposit. Once you’ve made the switch away from carpet flooring, renting to a responsible dog owner is a fairly low-risk endeavour.

4. Use an on-time payment discount with your lease agreements 

For example, if you plan to rent your property out at $2000/month, write up the lease at $2,200/month, but then offer a $200 on-time payment discount.

An on-time discount makes late payment far less likely and also gives you more flexibility when it comes time to renew the lease. Eliminating an on-time discount does not count as a rental increase.

5. Charge a flat-rate utility fee that covers your combined expenses and then some

Average out the costs for all of the household bills (water, gas, electric, internet) and then add a profit margin acceptable to you.

Your renters will appreciate the convenience and consistency, and you’ll benefit from knowing your utility expenses are covered for the year.

6. Use a long term rent-to-own strategy

This is the Ace strategy to increase your monthly payments and boost ROI.

Rent-to-own payments are significantly higher than regular rent payments since they’re based on the real cost of home ownership and include costs like taxes and insurance.

Rent-to-own also removes repair and maintenance from your side of the ledger, which improves your bottom line by a couple hundred bucks each month. 

Tenant vacancy won’t be a concern, as the initial rent-to-own deposit is usually six months rent or more. The only downside to this strategy is that you have to be willing to let the property go at the end of the rent-to-own term.

7. Strategically time your lease resets

The two most competitive months for renters are April/May and August/September, which means they are the best months to be advertising your suite.

This strategy alone will provide quality tenants willing to pay top dollar for your suites. The ebb and flow of supply and demand means that rental rates can swing by as much as 10-20% through the year.

Make sure your rental agreements end during these peak rent seasons, and over the years those percentages will start to stack up.

8. Rent your property as a fully-furnished unit.

Furnished properties tend to attract executives moving into town, homeowners in the process of building a house, and similar high quality tenants.  With the rental premium on furniture, you’ll usually make back your investment within 12 months. Generally speaking, the furniture should last for at least 10 years.

9. Now that the place is furnished consider getting a short-term rental licence and take advantage of Airbnb traffic during the summer months.

For well-located properties you can expect to charge your usual monthly rent, but on a weekly basis.

This comes with the added benefit of your suite being professionally cleaned every week, and it’s on the tenant’s dime.

10. Rent by the room 

It’s not uncommon for people to pay $800/month or more to rent a bedroom with shared access to a kitchen and bathroom. A three-bedroom suite that would normally rent for $1,800/month can suddenly generate $2,400/month.

The caveat is that you can expect a little more turnover and some additional managerial moments.

These are just some of the strategies we use at Vantage West to optimize returns for our investor clients and in our own personal portfolios.

You don’t need to be a professional property manager to profit from this guide, but should you wish to have us take care of it for you, or if you’d like more details on the strategies above, we’re happy to chat and help you in any way we can.

Kelowna's real estate reverb

Fortune favours the bold

I believe that the next one to two years represents an exciting buying opportunity in Kelowna.

I’ve said it before and I’ll go on record here to say it again — we are about to enter into an amazing economic and cultural era for Kelowna.

We’re on the verge of this century's roaring 20s.

In the meantime, enthusiasm has waned somewhat since 2018 due to negative global press and a sluggish real estate market.  

We feel that the prevailing emotion has swung from greed to fear, and most particularly in the housing industry.

This article explores the market influencers creating today’s buying opportunities, and the appropriate strategies to make the most of them.

We’ve seen a small price correction over the last 12 months, about eight per cent on average, but this is a broad, average figure. Different segments of the market have shown wide variances in performance.

The Luxury Market

Today, the average home is selling at a 3.5% discount over the previous year, presenting buying opportunities across the board. But right now the very best opportunities are in the higher price brackets near $1 million, where executive homes are discounted closer to 10%.

Even if the real estate market slides further, you can protect yourself in the short term by bidding below asking, which provides a significant margin of safety. In a buyer’s market, you may be pleasantly surprised at how low some nervous sellers are willing to go.

Favourable Terms for Buyers

With the balance of power shifting from sellers to buyers, buyers now have the opportunity to negotiate fantastic terms with their deal.

Sellers may be willing to consider carrying a mortgage, or perhaps look at more creative options such as agreements for sale or lease options.  

This is something that I began to specialize in during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, which took our market out at the knees.

Moving on Up

When the housing market softens, it’s what we call a move-up market. It’s simple math: if the market comes down by 10% and you own a $500,000 condo, you would lose $50k in value.

Meanwhile, owners of $1 million homes feel a $100,000 pinch. That $50k difference in value is yours to exploit when you move up in the housing market.

While that was an overly simplistic example, the numbers could play out even better for move-up buyers because today’s market conditions are not caused by outward migration and a sluggish job market.

Quite the contrary, local economic fundamentals and job growth are incredibly strong.  

The Effects of Government Intervention

This current market swing is caused by government intervention - particularly the mortgage stress test, the speculation tax, and the foreign buyers tax.

These policies have had the largest impact in the high end market.

Historically, the typical buyer of a million dollar property in Kelowna has either been a downsizer from the lower mainland, or a wealthy Albertan coming here to retire or purchase a second home.

The new legislation has impacted Vancouver’s high-end market so badly that we’re seeing significantly fewer people using the arbitrage strategy of selling in Vancouver and moving to the Okanagan – instead they are holding out and waiting for prices to bounce back.

At the same time, the provincial governments of B.C. and Alberta have created a rift in society over building new pipeline infrastructure.

This political hot-potato, combined with the very punitive tax on owning a second home in B.C., has convinced some Albertans to take their money elsewhere.

To further exacerbate the market, the new Federal Mortgage Stress Test has substantially decreased the buying power of Canadians. Under the new rules, the minimum household income required to purchase a home has increased by so much that most buyers have been completed priced-out of the luxury segment.

These buyers are now searching for homes in the $450-$600k range, where we’re seeing far more stable prices and stronger buying demand compared with previous years.

So what does all this mean for the average real estate investor?  

My advice is that if you have the inclination to increase your real-estate holdings, now is the time to do it.  

If the banks wont accommodate your goals today, try negotiating creative terms with the homeowner to carry some financing, or perhaps consider a trade.

Trade Up

Many baby boomers have serious equity in their house-on-the-hill, and are looking to downsize and simplify their lives towards retirement. A trade is a fantastic way to structure a move up deal. In today’s ‘down’ market, there are a lot of new home builders who would love to trade for a rentable condo or townhouse so they can get out of their expensive builder’s mortgage.

My firm specialized in trading during the 2008 recession and they were a win-win deal if ever one existed.

I want to reiterate that we’re going through a temporary market reverberation, not a full-blown housing recession.  

It’s my opinion that the market is presenting exceptional buying opportunities for those willing to be bold. The very best opportunities exist in the luxury property segment. If you’re willing to be patient and a bit creative, you may be able to get yourself one heck of a deal, and on unbelievable terms.

If you’d like more information on how to take advantage of the strategies mentioned above – whether it’s trading, agreement for sale, lease option, or vendor financing – I’d be glad to help you out.

Please don’t hesitate to email me directly at [email protected].


Investing with $50k

This guide outlines an aggressive real estate investment strategy which maximizes working capital and takes advantage of loan programs available to Canadian home buyers.

In this example, we share how an investor with $50,000 can build up a $4-million portfolio over 20 years.

Starting out with $50k: A Real Estate Pros Guide to Empire Building

I met with an aspiring real estate investor in my Kelowna office for a planning session last week and the young man asked me a great question:

“If I have $50k in working capital to begin investing, what should I do and where would I start?”

I took some time to seriously consider his ambitious question and came up with a relatively simple plan to maximize his $50k of working capital while making the most out of the loan programs available to Canadian home buyers today.

This strategy takes advantage of the high ratio financing available to purchasers moving into a primary residence.

You will incur some Canadian Mortgage Housing Corp. fees, but the benefits of being able to control a $500k asset with as little as $25k plus closing costs is where the magic happens.  

Finding your first investment property

We are looking for a property valued around $500k that has a suite — or could be renovated to have a suite — and needs some basic cosmetic help.

Home renovation

Once you’ve found such a property, I recommend taking advantage of the Purchase Plus Improvements Program (PPIP), which lets you invest up to $40k of the bank’s money to make value adding improvements to the property.

The additional loan funds from the PPIP get rolled into one easy-to-manage mortgage. Things such as suites, kitchens, bathrooms, floors, and paint are the go to renovation items. 

The PPIP lets you to build sweat equity — or what we call ‘forced appreciation’ in the real estate world. This increase in your home’s market value will come in handy in the future when we’re ready to withdraw equity and use it to expand our real estate portfolio.

Renting out your first property

Once your first property is fixed up — perhaps with multiple suites — you’re ready to move out and find quality tenants. With two tenants renting your property, you should be cash-flow positive, which would allow you to reinvest all cash-flows into reducing your mortgage debt.

This slashes the amount of interest you’d pay over time, shortens the amortization period and rapidly builds up your equity.

New tenants

With this strategy in play, it becomes a waiting game. Over the next few years, the combined effects of the mortgage buy down and natural property appreciation can quickly increase your portfolio value.

Expanding your portfolio

Your first property investment will eventually give way to your second investment as you’ll be able to borrow equity using a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).

For example, let’s assume your first property was purchased for $500k with a 10% down deposit of $50k. You then utilized the bank’s money to do a full cosmetic renovation to the property, which increased the property’s value from $500k to $600k.  

At this point in time, you’d owe $450k on your original loan plus $40k for the home renovation loan for a total of $490k.

Equity                                        Debt

$600k - house                            $450k - mortgage

                                                   $40k - renovation loan

Total Equity: $600k                     Total Debt: $490k                        Net Equity: $110k

As you can see your net equity position is now $110k.

While this is a handsome figure, $110k is not yet enough to utilize your Home Equity Line of Credit to finance a second investment property. The HELOC only lets you borrow on up to 80% of your home’s value, which in our example is $480k ($600k equity * 80%).

But let’s see what happens in three years.  Assuming you top up your mortgage by a couple hundred dollars every month, you would cut the amortization period down to around 20 years.  By year three, your mortgage balance would be about $435k.

Let’s assume the property value appreciates by 10% in this same three-year period — a very conservative estimate based on long term averages, but it does pay to be conservative here.

Now, the property would be worth $660k, which means your HELOC would let you borrow up to  $528k ($660k * 80%).

Business agreement

Here is how the math works on a potential home equity line: the bank will lend you the difference between your maximum available HELOC balance (in our case $528k) and your outstanding mortgage balance (~$435k), which nets to $93k.

You would then use this $93k loan as a down deposit on your second property — ideally repeating the exact same process as before: moving into the home, completing renovations, and then benefiting from both forced and natural price appreciation.

Duplex property

For the second property, I would consider moving up in price point and putting 10% down on a $750k suited duplex. After renovations this property could be worth $850k and you would owe $715k ($750k less your 10% deposit of $75k).

With two properties in your portfolio producing positive cash flows while increasing at the typical market average of 3.5% per year, you should have enough equity available to repeat the same process again — but this time in two years instead of three.

I’ll spare you the math, but I will point out that with three properties under your belt with a combined value of
$2 million, your net worth would now be approximately $500k and you would have used no additional savings along the way.

This is the power of real estate investing and the leverage available to us.

In conclusion:

This post describes the journey the vast majority of residential real estate investors take — myself included. It will feel like slow going at first but after about five years in this game things really start to take off. 

After 10 years and with multiple properties under your belt, you’re off to the races and will have essentially created a bullet-proof future for yourself.

Most people don't realize that by owning just three good rental properties, you can bring in enough cash flow to fund a very comfortable retirement.


Let’s say your three investment properties have a combined market valued of $2 million today and are bringing in $10k/mo in rental fees. Assuming 3.5% yearly price growth, in 20 years, these properties would be fully paid off, worth over $4 million, and bringing in $20k/mo in cash flows.

Not a bad retirement by most people’s standards.

More Investment Real Estate articles

About the Author

AJ is the owner of Kelowna’s downtown boutique firm, Vantage West Realty. The firm takes pride in breaking the mould when it comes to how they practice real estate. With a well-deserved reputation as a real estate renegade, Hazzi has been shaking up the Kelowna real estate scene since 2002.

Having been a student of real estate through two market cycles, AJ has come to see an absence of truly qualified professionals specializing in investment real estate. This has become AJ’s role within the firm and the community: To educate clients on how to achieve financial freedom through real estate.

Arming his clients with knowledge on where to find positive cash-flow, how to renovate for profit, and other creative avenues that most agents completely ignore, Hazzi has carved out his niche as a real estate investment advisor (REIA), and loves nothing more than educating people on the right strategy to capitalize on both boom and bust years.  AJ is a firm believer that the Kelowna market is rich with opportunity, if one knows where to look.

If you are in search of an advisor who practices what they preach, consider that AJ has built his own real estate portfolio up to include multi and single family cash-flow rental properties, development property, resort property, fix and flips, and commercial properties. By sharing the lessons learned from his own experiences, his clients get the knowledge and confidence to invest without having to make the expensive mistakes he and many new investors have made along the way.

His goal is to impart on people, especially of the X and Y generation, that depending on RRSPs and Government Pension Plans to look after us down the road is risky business. Most people don't realize that as little as one or two properties added to your real estate portfolio now, can secure a comfortable, even lavish, retirement.

Bringing a consultant's approach rather than the tired, old-fashioned sales approach, AJ and his partners offer a world class service from finding, pre analyzing, and negotiating your next acquisition, to property management, all tailored to today’s busy investor.

To hear what AJ Hazzi's clients have to say about his service view the testimonials.

Contact Information

For more details or to reach AJ Hazzi, please visit www.vantagewestrealty.com

Email [email protected] Cell 250.864.6433

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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