Extenuating Circumstances


4 minute read

November 10, 2008

Real estate has no fixed value, and thus the valuations fluctuate every single day.

You might get “lucky” when it comes time to sell your property due to a host of reasons, but you might also have terrible timing or be the unlucky recipient of extenuating circumstances.

I’d like to point out a few of the ones that you might not think about…


The idea for this post dawned on me yesterday when I was visiting a prospective home-seller in North Toronto.

This man has picked now as the time to sell his home, due to a number of personal factors that don’t need delving into.  But suffice it to say, as I drove towards the “ROAD CLOSED” sign at the end of the street, I questioned the timing of this potential sale, and realized my job might be tougher than I thought.

There are always “extenuating circumstances” when a house sells for more or less than it could or should, and some of these are unavoidable.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t plan for some of these, or react accordingly when they happen…


Yesterday, I parked my car a block away from this prospective-seller’s house and walked up the road dodging pylons, heavy machinery, and large holes in the ground.  And in front of the actual house itself was a cement-mixer where three workers (one working, two watching…) stood by smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.

This is not the ideal situation you want on your “quiet, child-friendly street” when you are selling your home.  Unfortunately, my prospective-seller told me, “Those that know the area know this is a great street; this crap don’t matter.”  I might have my hands full.

We can’t control when the city decides to tear up the roads, but we can certainly put our own plans on hold if and when they do.  We rely on walk-by traffic for potential buyers, and “ROAD CLOSED” sends a pretty big signal that today isn’t a good time to walk down this quaint street and perhaps mosey-on-in to the dream house you didn’t know existed.

Whether or not people know “it’s a great street,” you’re not going to get the same exposure and attention as you would if the construction weren’t taking place.

Perhaps you were banking on selling your house in the first month of June, but if the bulldozers roll onto your street like the tanks into Prague in 1968, then seek the ever-popular “plan B.” and hold off with the sale.


Houses sell 24/7, 365; always have, always will.  But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t better times than others, and when it comes to the weather, you can plan ahead.

Two of my clients were on the receiving end of one of the best deals I’ve ever seen back in March of 2008.  I attributed this almost entirely due to the timing, and the weather.  It was March Break for one thing, but it was also the biggest snowstorm of the year, and nobody was looking at houses…except for us.

It was unmercifully cold outside and nobody was going open-housing, and the snow banks were so high you could barely see the “FOR SALE” sign.  We got a fantastic deal simply because the market slept while we were wide awake.

If you’re dead-set on listing your house for sale at the start of March, and the weather channel is reporting a massive snowstorm is just around the corner, why not wait a couple weeks and increase your exposure by decreasing the risk?

Houses still sell in the dead of winter, but why take the risk by listing your house for sale during a snowstorm?


Somebody told me lately that the Internet has made the traditional “FOR SALE” sign completely obsolete.  I couldn’t possibly disagree with this statement more.  Potential buyers might see the FOR SALE sign on a lawn of a house they pass by, and perhaps they weren’t in the market and weren’t scouring listings daily on MLS.

The FOR SALE sign is the most powerful marketing tool there is.

And during elections, almost every lawn in the city has a sign on it.  The real estate signs blend in with the Liberal, Conservative, and Green Party signs, and thus your most powerful marketing tool ceases to have a full effect.

So why then would somebody list their home for sale during the middle of an election?  You might point out that during an election, many people freeze up when it comes to spending money or making life-altering decisions, since they’d want to wait out the political storm.  This is also true, so simply add that to the fact that lawns across the city are cluttered with political party signs thus taking away from the marketability of your home, and waiting a few weeks to list becomes an absolute no-brainer.

Bad Press Coverage

If somebody is murdered down the street and it’s splashed all over the cover of the Toronto Sun, maybe next week isn’t the best time to put your house up for sale.  Whether it’s crime, community issues, neighborhood quarrels, or a “human interest piece” on the news about an old man who won’t let the city cut down his beloved tree, negative media coverage gets attention.

People often have short memories, and the negativity surrounding a street or area might go away faster than you think.

I remember driving down Balliol Avenue a couple years ago and seeing an entire house roped off with yellow police-tape as six squad cars and the unmistakable “Forensic Identification” van were parked in front.  It was all over the news: a man was murdered in his house by his lover.

But you know what?  Balliol is still one of the most popular streets in the Davisville Village area, and buyers aren’t thinking about the murder from two years ago as they inspect open houses on the street today.

You should always be aware of what is going on in and around your community, especially when it’s negative and when it’s getting coverage in the media.  Whether the negativity is warranted or not, buyers might watch their favorite “trusted news source” and look negatively upon your property if you listed it right after some bad press.

Catastrophic Events

It doesn’t matter how hot the real estate market was the week before 9/11 happened; it’s fair to say that there was some “uncertainty” during the aftermath.

When the stock market plunges 10% in a week, it might not be directly correlated to the real estate market, but people’s mentalities change.

Perhaps a tornado in Louisiana might not affect the buyer’s mentality for real estate in Toronto, but other unforeseen events could.

I’ve always felt that you get “one shot to do it right” when it comes to listing your house or condo for sale, so you don’t want to do so in a time of uncertainty just after something catastrophic has happened on the world state or at home.

Why take the risk, when you can simply wait?

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. earth mother

    at 7:40 pm

    I wonder what percent of sellers are in your client’s position i.e. under the gun?

  2. Krupo

    at 11:51 pm

    Man, if McCain won this would’ve been an AWESOME time to buy…

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