By Christine Rae

Buyers have choices. They make decisions about a property within a blink of an eye. Here are ten overlooked tips for getting a property sold.

1. Don’t get personal

Whether working with a professional stager or going it alone, cut all emotional ties. Visit each room, remember the memories and then pack the sentimentality away. It clouds judgement. Don’t look at your house from the perspective of it being yours, or this is who we are – buyers aren’t interested. Remove and store as many personal items as possible including all family photos, certificates, diplomas and medicine.

2. Pack and store/dispose of two-thirds of every closet and cupboard

It is a great time to start deciding what you want to keep/donate/discard. Organized storage space is one of the most frequently requested interior features.

3. First impressions are the only ones that count 

Buyers have choices. They make decisions about a property within a blink of an eye. Wherever the eye rests the sale begins.

4. Understand staging is about condition more than décor

Sure the house has to look and feel good, but remember buyers are savvy – they will deduct from the offer (if they make an offer) their own perceived value for deferred maintenance. So repair anything that needs it, replace any fixtures more than eight years old and then clean like your life depends on it (your equity will). Pack and store (off property) anything you won’t use in the next two or three months. Remember, buyers are buying their new house, not your old one.

5. Update the kitchen

This is the most important room in the house. If buyers fall in love here they will compromise anything on their “must have” list when the kitchen exceeds expectations.

6. Keep all bedrooms gender-neutral

Including kids’ rooms and the master. Don’t think, “Oh, they can make the mental shift.” They can’t, won’t and don’t. You have a three-minute opportunity to get this house sold – why would you jeopardize a single second?

7. Bathrooms are the second most important room in the house

So if you have money, upgrade what you can, at least in the main bath. Change the old cabinet-style sink for a pedestal or furniture sink and remember storage is vital. In the extra space gleaned, consider installing an organised linen closet with deep pull-out drawers.

8. Odour and allergens alert!

During the past 50 years, the rise in prevalence of allergic diseases has increased. Worldwide, sensitization rates to one or more common allergens are approaching 50 per cent. You don’t know whether the future buyer is one of them. So, know when you live in your house you will not be able to smell what others do. Assume the worst and prepare. The best option is no smells at all. Open windows, don’t use household or garden chemical products. If you have pets, remove them from the property for the duration of the sales process (spa, friend, family).

9. Lighting

Make sure every light bulb is energy efficient and at the highest wattage the fixture will take. Clean all the fixtures for maximum sparkle.

10. Seventy-four per cent of prospective buyers will drive by your property

Before they even think about viewing it and half of them will do it at night. What that means to you is considerable thought going into curb appeal. Never underestimate its power. Curb appeal done well is like gift wrapping on a present. The National Association of Realtors says, “Great curb appeal sells more than half of all houses that go on the market.”

Outdoor lighting is vital. Light up the porch and be sure the numbers of the house are illuminated and visible from the street. Consider lighting pathways and spotlighting a feature of the property – a dramatic tree or the front façade.  Landscape experts agree there is 100 per cent ROI for money invested in front, back and side yards. Curb appeal wraps around to resort/lifestyle living in the backyard too.  It is one of the most undervalued aspects of market preparedness that can actually add dollars to your bottom line. Ninety five per cent of people surveyed said outdoor living amenities are vital. Outdoor allure also extends to balconies, decks and patios.

Give people what they least expect; they don’t know they want it but when they see it they can’t resist. The more you can accommodate that, the easier it is to sell.


  1. I respectfully submit, as I have done in the past… Overdone landscaping will bring back less than 50 cents on the dollar ROI. The key word is ‘overdone.’ And it is vital that agents make sure their sellers understand this. Understanding could mean the difference between selling or not.

    In the mind of the buyer the fact that the seller input 68k on an interlock driveway and a custom gazebo equipped with power supply to allow outdoor TV watching, was outside the buyer’s value control. He was allowed 38k for his efforts in a bank for buyer appraisal.

    Banks want to be sure a buyer doesn’t overpay for a property, if they are providing the mortgage. It becomes the bank’s money that is at risk. Particularly if the bank smells a downward property market adjustment on the horizon, their appraisal instructions are ultra cautious.

    We don’t hear what happens regarding appraisals in the current heated market in some locations where there are twenty or thirty offers and residential real estate sells for hundreds of thousands over asking price. Chances are no appraisals are done and no mortgages required. Thus the topic doesn’t make the news.

    However, aside from winter, we live in three other seasons where curb appeal, enhanced, will in fact draw in the buyer’s eyes with possible interest.

    Like pretty icing on a cake or a beautifully gift wrapped present, with a spectacular ribbon bow, the curb appeal is eye candy. And that often equates to handsome landscaping.

    Even in the winter months, evergreens, well positioned and noticeably well-cared for, well-maintained, will often help bring a noticeably faster sale, at sometimes a higher price.

    Perhaps note my landscape comment in the recent REM pool specific article.

    If a seller is helped to understand curb appeal, and how in fact great curb appeal (not mistaken for ‘expensive’) can actually bring extra dollars or at least bring a buyer, where neighbouring properties not enhanced may not, by simply addressing the landscape topic in a general way.

    Overdone landscape may be a negative, not a positive. Beautiful expensive landscape takes lots of work to maintain, an expensive proposition if professionals must be hired to do the work. Not everyone is a natural gardener, or have the physical hours count required to keep the overdone landscape in spectacular condition. All things in moderation.

    Many enjoy looking at the landscaping and or “picking the flowers,” while some buyers would prefer a vegetable garden to flower beds.

    Great “nominal” landscape, well-cared for, is a best investment choice, and does, in real life, often produce results. So much more so than a naked or uncared for yard.

    But if the seller has no landscape, my comments at the pool article really apply all around the house. Staging a yard is equally important as is staging the interior. A small investment that really does bring big ROI. Or just as important, a sale that might otherwise not happen at all.

    But ultimately what attracts the buyer with the biggest wallet is always ‘sparkle clean,” inside and out.

    A sale that might not have occurred at all, had the would be buyer eliminated the property from the get-go. Just another drive-by for sale sign.

    Carolyne L ?

  2. Great article Christine. Most agents totally underestimate how a well staged house influences buyers (they pay more), buyers agents (who show more and with more enthusiasm), and, very important, appraisers (who approve higher selling prices).

  3. Landscaping is typically the lowest ROI and yet this article gives the impression it could be 100%, no way. Of course landscape experts feel this is true and that it is how it is written here, I just hope people don’t take that information without realizing the bias of the statement.

    Clean up the yard no doubt, but spend little money out there because you’re not likely to get it back.

    • Kralin, Curt Carini called on a listing prospect who had received a proposed selling price of about $850K from two local competitors.. Curt suggested cutting down a big tree that blocked a full view of the front of the house and removing or trimming underbrush and mature other bushes. He also suggested the owner offer a 1% extra commission (half went to the buyers agents) and they sold the house in a week at $950k. He and the buyers agent shared $8k and the sellers got an extra $92k plus a very quick sale. Oh, yes – the house appraised for the selling price.

Leave a Reply