First Time Sellers

Home Preparation

Preparing your home for sale - making it appealing to potential buyers - takes more than just a quick cleanup and some scented candles. When you've got your place on the market, here are some tips for creating a great experience for prospective buyers, and really showing off your property to its fullest advantage:

1. Depersonalize. This is one of the most important rules of home staging. Store the kids' artwork, your family photos, religious items and toiletries. Potential buyers don't want to see the home as belonging to someone else - temporarily removing your personal stuff helps them visualize the home as theirs.

2. De-clutter. Having less stuff on display makes your home look bigger and more appealing. Pack up all those knick-knacks, clear off the counter-tops, pull out half the stuff from your closets and organize what's left. And, iIf you're tempted to throw all the extra stuff into the garage, don't. Potential buyers will be looking in there too. If you need to, rent a storage unit while your house is on the market.

3. Clean, Clean, Clean - ensure your house is spotless. One of the biggest turnoffs for buyers is a place that isn't clean. Steam the carpets, mop the floors, corral the dust bunnies, and make sure windows and mirrors are gleaming. And don't forget about the small everyday stuff, like crumbs on the table, rumpled beds, toothbrushes left by the sink or half-full trash cans. Details count - people will notice.

4. Keep things fresh. A house that looks clean should smell clean, too. Cooking smells, mildew, pet odours, cigarette smoke - they're all serious turnoffs for potential buyers. Open the windows to let fresh air inside, use air purifiers, and consider renting an ozone machine, re-painting the walls with special odour-reducing paint, or hiring a professional indoor air quality company. During open houses and showings, put out some lightly scented candles. But be careful about using scented plug-ins, room sprays or other artificial fragrances. A lot of people are sensitive to them, and having an overwhelming scent can make it seem like you're trying to mask an odour problem. Less is definitely more.

5. Always be show-ready. Yes, this is a hassle. But showings sometimes happen with very little notice, so make sure your place is always clean and ready to go. Don't put dirty dishes in the sink - wash them right away or put them in the dishwasher. Keep your valuables stored away, and make sure personal or private info isn't in plain sight. Ensure your key is always in the lockbox. Follow a checklist so you don't miss anything.

6. Be flexible. Be open to last-minute showings and other inconveniences. The more flexible you can be now, the less time it should take to sell your house. And don't stick around when potential buyers are there - there's nothing more uncomfortable for a potential buyer than looking at a house while the current owners are there, watching their every move. Go out for dinner, take the kids to the park, hang out in a coffee shop or visit friends.

7. Relocate your pets. Fido or Fluffy might be friendly, but don't leave them at home during a showing. Not everyone is an animal lover, and no one wants to see the litter box or a bowl of dog food on the kitchen floor. Have a plan for taking your pet with you for showings, or better yet, ask a friend to pet-sit while your house is on the market.

8. Make a great first impression. Ensuring the inside of your house looks great is important, but don't forget about the part they see first: the exterior. Up your curb appeal by making sure windows are clean, trim is painted, and decks are power washed. Adding some colourful plants to your garden or having containers on your porch is a wonderfully cheap and cheerful boost. In winter, make sure the walks and driveway are freshly shoveled. And don't forget the entryway. Get rid of extra coats, shoes and keys, put out some fresh flowers, and make it a welcoming space that offers the perfect intro to the rest of your home.

9. Lighten up. Create a bright, cheery atmosphere by turning on all the lights and opening up the curtains and blinds (or removing them completely). Trim back any bushes that block the light, and don't forget to clean the windows.

10. Show off your assets. Do your best to really maximize the best features of your home. Do you have  beautiful hardwood floors? Put the area rugs away. Want to highlight a nicely renovated kitchen? Get rid of the dishtowels and store counter-top appliances out of sight to emphasize how great it looks.

It all boils down to this: If you do everything you can to make your home look its best and be flexible about showings, your property will appeal to more buyers - and will sell faster.