Creating Curb Appeal

Accentuate the Positive When Preparing Your Home for Sale

By Connie Adair for the National Post

If TV’s Frasier Crane decided to move from his posh Seattle condo, the first thing he would have to do to prepare it for sale would be to put his father’s battered green chair into storage, says real estate broker Marilyn Rothman of Marilyn RothmanReal Estate.

“Anyone who saw that apartment would only remember the chair. It’s important to de-emphasize what shouldn’t be there.”

That is just one of many tips homeowners may want to consider when preparing their home for sale. Heeding advice from real estate agents, interior designers and “stagers” (professionals trained to prepare houses for sale) help make the difference between a fast sale and one that drags on for weeks, and can also affect the bottom line, real estate agents say.

To prepare your house for sale, start by taking a walk to the curb, notebook in hand, then look at the house as though you were going to buy it yourself, says real estate agent Claire-Ann Rose of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. “You are your own best critic.”

Make a list of jobs – repairs and improvements – that you think need to be done. Get your agent’s advice about which ones are worthwhile to undertake and which might be better to leave for the new owner.

“Your tile floor may be 20 years old and worn, but it’s probably not worth it toreplace the floor with tile. Potential purchasers may not like your choice, and 99% of buyers will want to change it to hardwood anyway,” Ms. Rose says.

Create a time frame in which to complete the work before listing the house for sale, and stick to it Ms. Rose says. “Be prepared to spend about 1% of the value of the house, whether the house is listed for $200,000 or $2-million.”

Fix minor flaws inside and out, says associate real estate broker Richard Ling of Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd. “When people notice a flaw, it’s human nature to wonder what else is wrong with the place.”

On the flipside to the battered-chair dilemma, art or furnishings that are unique or expensive should also be removed to ensure that they don’t draw too much attention at a showing, Ms. Rothman says.

Keep in mind, however, that some purchasers will imagine a “quality seller” when they see a nice piece of art, Ms. Rose says.

One of the most important jobs is to ensure your house is clean. “Don’t underestimate the importance of clean, whether a house is $300,000 or more than $1-million, Ms. Rothman says. “It’s hard to overcome a negative impression, and few people will buy if they are not suitably impressed by the exterior.”

It is a total package, so clean from the curb in, ensuring lawns are mowed, gardens are weeded and the exterior of the house looks good, she says.

“Fresh paint would be helpful. I think investing a couple of thousand to do this properly may provide a good return on investment. It could make your house more appealing, with the prospect of choosing your home over competing ones,” Mr. Ling says.

If interior walls look worse for wear, you might decide to repaint, but the experts suggest sticking to neutral colours that will appeal to the broadest number of people. Colour is emotional, and if someone does not like a shade, it can become an insurmountable barrier to a sale.

Ensure appliances are clean and working properly. Clean the carpets and windows. Replace burned out light bulbs, the leave the lights on inside and out, especially at night. “People walking by will be drawn to the house.” Ms. Rose says.

Eliminate offensive odours, such as stale tobacco smoke, pet smells, mildew and cooking odours. Ventilate rather than mask odours with air fresheners, Mr. Ling says. If you have pets, “put them in the spa for a few days so they won’t be upset,” Ms. Rose suggests. Frasier’s dog Eddie, and Frasier’s father for that matter, would be happier away from a parade of potential purchasers. With pets out of the house, your real estate agent will be able to show your house at any time. Pets can distract potential purchasers and turn off people who do not like animals or have allergies.

After you clear the cobwebs, clear the clutter. Remove personalized items so purchasers can concentrate on the size of the residence, Ms. Rothman says.

Spaces look bigger when there is less clutter. If you are selling an empty home, however, renting some furnishings and accessories can help make the house look more welcoming, Mr. Ling says. Remove small and precious items, such as jewellery and cash, sentimental pieces and expensive breakables.

For those who prefer to leave these worries to professionals, help is available. Stagers can prepare your house for you. Even if your home is in tip-top condition, a stager’s hand can often help the sale.

“In a slow market, staged homes sell faster and in a hot market, they sell for more money,” says Christine Rae at in St. Catherine’s, Ont.

Preparing a home for sale can take as little as one or two hours for a consultation, but the average time is about six hours, says interior designer Karyn Elliott of CRAZY HOUSE Home Staging in Calgary.

“We treat the house as a product on the market, not as a home that present owners live in,” she says.

“I study highly saleable features of the home and work to highlight these areas and de-emphasize any limitations,” Ms. Elliott says. She also looks at traffic paths, rearranges furniture and arranges painting or redecorating as necessary.

“I try to instill as many feelings of home as possible,” she says.

“Homes have aromatic burning candles, fluffy towels and mounds of pillows on the bed to create strong and memorable feelings that touch all the senses.”

Fees can vary greatly, but most work on a flat fee for consultations and an hourly fee for other work. Ms. Rae notes, however, that staging an average house can cost less than the price of an advertisement.

Is it worthwhile to hire an accredited staging professional? Ms. Rose says her experience is that stagers can help increase the sale price of a home by 10% to 15%.

Whether you do it yourself, or have someone do the sprucing up for you, the key is to help purchasers make a faster decision by ensuring there are fewer things they will object to Ms. Rothman says. “The idea is to present you home in the best possible way.”

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