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Selling Rural Property in Canada

Many of us have sold rural properties, some of us more than once; others may still try to sell. How long did it take you to sign the deal? Has it been years and you’re still waiting for the right buyer?

The Truth About Selling Rural Property in Canada

Selling rural property is different from selling a house or condo in a city. Depending on the real estate market, the size of the place, the location, and the price, selling could take years. You may be shocked to hear what I have to say.

The stress of selling rural property in Canada is underestimated. I would like to share with you what I learned in the process of selling rural properties in British Columbia, Canada. My own frustrations and watching neighbours trying to sell their rural properties for years inspired me to share my insight and personal tips to help any of you in the strenuous selling process. I wish I would have known what I know now and it would have been a less nerve-wracking procedure.

Please note that I’m not a realtor and this article reflects my own opinion only. Every situation is special and the struggle of selling depends on many different factors and some good luck.

The Facts about Selling Rural Property in Canada

The biggest financial lifetime transactions for most people are buying and selling properties which both are major life decisions. For most, buying rural property is an exciting lifestyle change with plenty of opportunities ahead; having your own land and privacy can be heaven on earth. When we buy a piece of heaven we usually don’t think about resale, which is a big mistake. When the time comes and we decide to sell, we can be in for a long haul.

The first thing you probably do once you decide to sell your property is to contact a local realtor, agree on a listing price and commission and get it listed.

Once the property is listed on MLS (Multiple Listing Services) you’re hoping for showing requests and offers. If this is what’s happening and you’re showing your property to potential buyers, you’re most probably on the right track. If you’re not getting showing requests and no offers at all and the property is still for sale two years down the road, you may have a problem.

All realtors can access the MLS back data to check how long your property has been on the market and pass the information on to potential buyers. Once a listing gets stale, selling will become even harder, and you will be asked to drop the price.

In my opinion, for a realtor to have a listing for two years should be long enough to sell any property with the right marketing plan and the right listing price. The length of a listing contract is up to you and your realtor. To start off with, a one-year contract seems to be necessary for a rural property, ranch, or farm. This gives the realtor enough time to use all his resources and market the property well. Once two years are up and you’re still waiting for a buyer, it may be time for a change.

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What you should know before listing your property

  • You will need LOTS of time, patience, and good nerves – to sell rural property can take many years; picking the right listing agent is vital.
  • Do a serious market evaluation – don’t just rely on what the realtor tells you.
  • Don’t choose a realtor because he suggests the highest listing price. If you do, you will be asked to lower the listing price a few months down the road if it doesn’t sell, and again a few months after that.
  • The commission of some realtors charged in Canada may sound outrageous but how badly do you want to sell?
  • Rural properties and acreages are a specialized market and need a special marketing strategy.
  • Decluttering before you put the property on the market is a good idea.
  • Clean up the property and Repair and fix important stuff. An attractive property will sell for more than a run-down one.

Selling your own property without a Realtor

Anyone can learn to sell their property privately. From legal steps to marketing techniques, all the necessary skills can be found online. However, depending on the type of property you have for sale and the time you have available for the job, it could be a nerve-racking process to actually follow through. The realtors in the area most probably won’t show your property if someone is interested and you will be on your own.

Selling rural properly on your own in a higher price range is not easy.  The higher the price, the fewer potential buyers are out there. Have a go at it if you like, but don’t waste too much time only to hand it over to a realtor in the end. Selling rural property is nothing like selling a place in town. If you just want to sell it yourself to save on the commission, I would not go this route.

Check out one of the popular online real estate services like propertyguys.com, Canada’s largest private sale franchise network if you don’t want to get a Real Estate agent involved.

Hiring a Realtor

If you decide to list your property with a Real Estate Agent, make sure to choose the most professional in the field. Let’s face it, it’s not extremely difficult to become a licensed realtor in Canada, and therefore it’s a part-time business for many. In Canada, we have an abundance of realtors not only in the cities but also in every small town.

What you want for your listing agent is a full-time professional with years of experience, someone well-known in the field, specializing in the kind of property you have for sale, and someone with a large customer base. It makes sense to me that you should trust the maybe largest investment of your life only to a professional full-time real estate agent. Agreed?

Don’t choose a city realtor who sells mostly luxury houses and condos if you try to sell your rural property, farm, or ranch.

Don’t try to save money and decide on a realtor because of his low commission. An agent that offers a low commission fee may not be able to provide the same services and exposure that an agency with a higher rate may be able to provide. Of course, there is a chance that your place will sell while listed with a low commission agent and you save lots of money, but it’s rather unlikely.

Why is that?

What to look for in a Realtor

  • Fulltime, professional
  • Knows the market and the type of property you want to sell
  • Experience is the name of the game
  • Check out the profile and history before you choose
  • Offers an excellent marketing plan
  • Confident
  • The location of the listing realtor is not important

Selling Rural Property – Your Listing

Some realtors are better at writing an attractive summary of your property than others. You are the one who knows your property best. Give input and suggestions, and tell your story. Check the listing once it’s online to make sure the information is correct.

Most times I supplied my own pictures for the listings. Some realtors send professional photographers to take pictures, others snap their own photos when they inspect the place. Whatever the situation, make sure the pictures are of good quality and show off the property well.

How to agree on the sale price

If you want to get an idea of how much your property is worth, you can ask different real estate agents for a free market evaluation. By comparing similar properties you and your agent can work out a potential value for your home. The only way to truly know the value of your home is to get it appraised by a professional, which is usually not free. Read more in this article.

In the end, your property will sell for exactly what it’s worth, or at least what it’s worth to the buyer.

People seem to spend lots of money on renovations just before they list a property. Just remember that your renovations may not add much value to the price. If your property is priced too high, there will be no interested buyers or you will get low offers. In this case, you will have to adjust the price if you’re serious about selling.

Showing your property

The moment your property is on the market and it’s listed and advertised online, you will have to open your house to strangers and you have to say goodbye to your privacy. This can get extremely frustrating as time goes on. The ideal situation is to sell fast! Unfortunately, this is not how it usually works with large, rural properties for sale.

Get used to strangers walking through your house, opening up cupboards, pulling out extension cords, checking out your refrigerator, turning on showers, and snooping behind your bed. Your personal items and your life are constantly exposed to strangers and their critics. And, some of the people walking through your house can be extremely rude.

Preparing for showings becomes to be a full-time job. The most important thing is that the house is clean without too much clutter lying around. Make a fire if you have a wood-burning stove to create a special, cozy atmosphere. Turn on lights before the potential buyers show up, and move your pets outside if you can. A few touches help in making the place more inviting. After a dozen showings, you will know what to do and it will get routine.

Suck it up! You never know when your perfect buyer will walk through the door.

A good realtor will give you feedback after a showing. That’s the least they can do to help with our frustrations.

An interested buyer will probably want to see your property for the second time, which is a good sign, but far from the guarantee of an offer. And then there are the potential buyers who want to walk the property with you. In the case of recreational property, this makes sense and shows interest. I would want to do the same if I would be the buyer.

Once you get an offer to purchase

If you finally got an offer on your property, don’t start packing yet! Not every offer goes through and actually becomes a sale. Carefully read the contract of purchase and sale, read every word of it and don’t take it personally if the offer is low. The contract will include terms and conditions (also called subjects), you and the buyer have to satisfy, as well as the completion and possession dates. Whatever is in the contract you can change and counteroffer. Consult with your realtor and decide how to deal with the offer. You do not have to accept the offer even if it is for the full asking price.

Subject removal

  • the buyer obtaining satisfactory financing
  • the buyer receiving and approving a current property disclosure statement
  • the buyer obtaining and approving an inspection report
  • the buyer receiving and approving a title search
  • the buyer obtaining approval for fire/property insurance coverage
  • the buyer having water quality and quantity checked
  • the seller having the septic system pumped

The subject removal period is stressful, not knowing whether you should start packing or not. During this time continue with decluttering; you will be surprised how good it feels.

When the offer falls through

There it is, the dreaded email from your realtor, a couple of days before the subject removal date, telling you that the offer didn’t go through. It’s not a good feeling. That’s the time when you start asking yourself:

Once you and the buyer agree on an offer and sign the contract of purchase and sale, there will be a set period for subject removal. The most common subjects are:

  • What is wrong with my property? (Nothing, the banks make it difficult and the right buyer will come).
  • Is the price too high? (No it isn’t, otherwise, I would get no offers or low offers).
  • Is the house too old? (The buyer knew the age of my house; if the house would be newer, the price would be higher).
  • Is my property too far out of town? (That’s what makes it special, the privacy and surroundings).

Changing Realtors

If you are getting showing requests and offers, even if they don’t go through, it’s a good sign and it’s not the time to change realtors. On the other hand, if nothing happens and your frustration grows by the day, that’s the time to look at other selling options. The solution, in this case, is not just to change to another realtor in town; most probably this will not get you anywhere. You’re better off looking further away. Find an agent that specializes in your kind of property and has a wider customer base and promotes in other provinces and overseas. If something doesn’t work, we have to try something different.

Changing realtors is a big decision and should not be taken lightly, especially if you’re selling in a small town. Cancelling a listing with a real estate agent often causes hurt feelings. The seller’s only goal is to sell the property, so it is in their interest to do whatever it takes and realtors shouldn’t take it personally to lose a listing.

Additional advertising

Some realtors tell you that MSL is the most important place for advertising a property, but I don’t agree. Action on my ranch for sale started after the listing was taken off MLS and a different marketing strategy was used. MLS is only one tool of many. Not every buyer uses MLS to find a property. Buyers who don’t know the area will most probably contact a reputable agent that sells the kind of property they’re looking for.

Don’t pressure your realtor to advertise in magazines or newspapers; it’s a waste of effort and money. Rather look into other options.

In my case, many inquiries regarding my ranch for sale came directly through backcountrycanadatravel.com and through my Facebook page. Don’t underestimate social media channels if you have a rural property, a farm, or a ranch for sale in Canada.

Top tips on selling rural property in Canada

  • List your rural property early; it could take years to sell.
  • Take your time to choose a real estate agent that will expose you to different markets.
  • Talk to prospective Realtors about how they will market your property – displaying it in the window and on the website isn’t good enough.
  • If your rural property for sale is an equestrian, ranch, hobby farm, guest ranch, farmland, etc, consider specialized promotion.
  • Be patient, stay positive and never give up, the right buyer will come.
  • Start decluttering early and decide what you want to keep when you move.
  • Whatever you do, listen to your guts.

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If you have additional tips on selling rural properties, please leave a comment below.

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Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.

12 Comments

  1. David Larson

    I have 84 acres with almost a mile of prime river front on the world famous Kispiox River. We are wanting to retire so have listed the place a few times with different realtors and have faced the frustrations you mention in your article with few viewings with some and a “sure thing” that fizzled after months of negotiation with another. Any other advice you can give us would be appreciated i.e. who would you recommend to market this place? Also, what would you charge to rent space on your home page? David.

    • Yrene Dee

      Hello David, I understand your frustration, I went through it. Did you talk to Freddy Marks from 3A Group Sutton Realty? His commission is high but you will get a big exposure for your property. If you are interested in renting the space on my website I can send you more info in a week or so. I’m travelling at the moment.

  2. Tanya

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Yrene. These tips are clear and easy-to-follow. It’s not easy to sell property in rural, however, if you do a good preparation job it can be done nice and quick. Especially now, when more and more people looking to relocate from big cities.

  3. Fred Nitney

    As a US citizen, I bought 1 acre of raw undeveloped Canadian land in 2004. Major mistake! I decided to sell 4 years ago. Poorly represented by both buying and selling Canadian realtors. I finally have a buyer at a major reduced price (50%) than the realtor suggested I sell for. I have had to hire both a Canadian lawyer and CPA to sell. Canada wants to insure a non-citizen will pay taxes before they let you sell. They hold you hostage. I have been copying, notatarizing, and mailing documents for weeks. There is no end in sight with Canadian bureaucracy. This sale would take 1 day in the US. I am thinking of letting it go into foreclosure and taking the loss as it it is hardly worth the months of expense and anxiety. Fortunately, I am financially positioned to take a total loss. DO NOT BUY CANADA LAND!!!

  4. Don Waters

    I have visited Canada in recent years, and I found the small towns there fascinating. I live in Missouri though, so I can’t comment on Canadian real estate. In 2014 I was faced with the fact that my mother passed away and I needed to sell the 160 acre cattle ranch where she was living in the rural Ozarks region. For several weeks various cowboy types appeared at my door describing why they would be the most worthy new owner of the property. They never discussed prices. Instead they each tried to convince me that they were the best buyer based on their attitudes toward proper management of the ranch or other things that made them special. One of them told me that the attorney I had hired was going around buying up properties, clearing all the trees, and then selling them for under-market prices. Another told me that he lived in the nearby small town where crime was rampant, and a person like him needed to live out in the country. Some apologized about not being to attend my mother’s funeral. The final buyer was a tree expert who worked at the nearby lumber mill grading timber, and he thought he could manage the forest in a sustainable manner instead of cutting the trees and selling them for a quick profit. Rural real estate certainly is different from selling homes in a city.

  5. Vaneet Sethi

    Hi Yrene,
    Thanks for this great blog. and also thanks for sharing your experience in selling a house in a rural area. I also live in British Colombia. After reading your post I thought that It is very difficult to sell a property in a rural area. Anyway thanks for your advice and tips on selling the house in a rural area. It is very helpful

  6. Santy

    Hi Yrene,

    Great Blog and information. I am in Ottawa/Ontario and was planning to invest in some residential rural land. I am not sure if the city realtors are suitable to ensure all ends are covered while buying rural land. So was wondering if you have a reference of some realtor suitable for this job.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Yrene Dee

      Do lots of research yourself, talk to locals about the property you’re interested in. Find a realtor you trust and that specializes in this kind of property, and get a good lawyer to do the transfer. Unfortunately, I’m based in BC and don’t have any connections in Ontario. Best of luck!

  7. Bridge Dale

    Rural property in a country like Canada will never really attract me, and I think the government just can’t boast all that much about nature anyways. So these lands, to me, hold no real value.

  8. Mary Ellen Grueneberg

    We have a 10acre farm near Edmonton, Alberta that we would like to sell. Ideally with our unique business selling specialty heritage and ethnic greens and vegetables. In the past we did hogs, ducks for eggs and meat and have many buildings a year round greenhouse and 11,000 cu feet of refrigeration. While we have had showings we have found those that want the farm only. How do I find buyers interested in our unique business? We sell to high end restaurants and a farmers market and peopke rely on our pridyctiin as it is so different from conventional being low glycemic with digestible fibres.

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