With housing prices in the Greater Toronto Area up 33 per cent since last year and no sign of the market cooling off, it's no wonder people are finding creative ways to snag a home.
For Dan Jacob, it was a custom postcard that landed him his dream condo.
He and his partner, Jessica Weisz, really wanted a Toronto loft.
But not just any loft, a converted factory loft with high ceilings and an industrial feel.
So they identified the 12 perfect buildings and placed a postcard in the door of every unit, asking the owners if they wanted to sell their home in a private sale that would cut the real estate agent out.
"This idea sort of spawned because we initially reached out to an agency that specializes in lofts, but unfortunately since the supply is so tight, things would go overnight," said Jacob. "I didn't really want to get into a bidding war and end up with something I don't love. So my thought was, 'Let's get creative with it and appeal to owners directly.'"
The pair printed about 700 postcards, saying "good places are hard to find" and praising the building. They signed off on a sweet note, offering to bake cookies and meet the owners for coffee.
In a few weeks, they had several bites and eventually a sale.
"We ended up in the building we wanted, with the loft we wanted," said Jacob.
Some owners may want the perfect buyer
In extreme cases with homes going for hundreds of thousands of dollars over asking, some real estate agents say it's not surprising that buyers are doing anything to get the best deal.
Real estate broker Andrew Ipekian says going directly to the source does help buyers avoid a bidding war and in some cases homeowners might have their own reasons for wanting to sell privately.
"Putting your home up for sale is a lot of work," said Ipekian. "Some people don't want to have to stage their home and clear out all their belongings. There's also the privacy thing; many people don't want to have 50 people go through their home and touch their things during an open house."
In Jacob's case, the owner hadn't really been thinking about selling her loft.
"With the seller we ended up going with, we actually met her for coffee first. She didn't intend to sell the place initially. She had been thinking about it but wasn't entirely sold on the idea. In the end, she said she liked us and liked our story, so it was a done deal."
It's that personal touch that Ipekian says he's seeing more and more of.
One offer came in with a photo of a family posing with their dog.
Although it didn't affect that sale, Ipekian says in certain cases it can.
"There's an emotional aspect to it. At the end of the day, if there are two prices that are similar, a letter or photo would be beneficial because people want to sell to a good family who's going to enjoy the property for years to come."
Saved about $100k
By targeting the buildings he wanted and buying privately, Jacob estimates that he saved more than $100,000.
"We're looking at comparables now. Some are going for more than $100,000 over asking. Depends on how crazy the bidding war is."
Currently, Ipekian says, it's a seller's market. Although private sales may be beneficial for some, people are losing the legal, technical and sales help you get when you have an agent.
"At the end of the day, the best way to sell your home is to not keep it a secret. It is to put it out in the open so everyone knows what the price is and it's sold for top dollar."