Selling on Impulse

A well-presented house can sway a homebuyer

Lin Connery for the Calgary Herald

Do people really buy a house on impulse? Yes, they do, more often than you’d think.

An open house sign in front of an attractive home can work magic – sometimes fetching offers from people who had no plans to move until they stepped inside to browse and fell in love.

“That often happens because buying a house can be an emotional decision”, says Rosalee Krygier, president of the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) and broker/owner of Exclusive Home Sales.

Even focused shoppers may radically change their idea of what they want when they see a well-presented open house.

“Sometimes people don’t buy what they initially started to look for,” says Krygier.

“That’s the real positive of an open house…a lot of people don’t want to make a commitment to a realtor, or they’re thinking about moving and are just driving around looking at districts.

“They’ll see an open house they wouldn’t normally make an appointment to see. They’ll walk in, and fall in love.”

If you’re planning on selling your home, you should know how to prepare for two types of open houses, one for realtors and one for potential buyers.

Open houses for realtors are extremely important. Not only are these salespeople keeping up with what’s new on the market, some are arriving with a list of prospective buyers and looking for likely matches.

It’s important the house shows well, even to this professional audience. However, they’re looking for certain elements their clients have asked for – a large kitchen, for instance, or a separate dining room. They probably won’t notice if the floor has been swept.

It is the potential buyers that a seller has to please.

“I believe a house should show at its best the day it goes on the market because that is the time when you’re going to get the “good buyers,” says Krygier. “Telling people you’re going to replace the carpet next week or that you’re going to paint doesn’t have as strong as effect as seeing it done.”

Strong curb appeal is the first concern – you have to get prospective buyers out of their cars to sell them your house. Tidy the yard, trim shrubs, cut the grass. In winter, clear the sidewalks of snow and ice. Make it welcoming.

In general, the house should be shining clean, with sparkling kitchens and bathrooms. Kitchen counters must be uncluttered and the towels in the bathroom fresh and fluffy.

“People buy clean houses. That’s extremely important to remember.”

And they buy uncluttered houses that look like there’s room to spare, she adds.

“I tell my sellers: you’re moving anyway, pack up the extra stuff in boxes and store it in the garage and basement.”

Interior designer Karyn Elliott at CRAZY HOUSE Home Staging regularly prepares – or “stages” – homes with an eye to a quick sale at the optimum price.

The average house takes six hours of attention, but some can be done in just two hours.

Often, she orchestrates a made-to-measure reorganization and beautification of a home.

For do-it-yourselfers, she also publishes a detailed booklet, Home Staging in 5 Easy Acts available at

The first impression from the front door is crucial, she says. Pay attention to what can be seen from that vantage point and know you have 20 seconds to make a favourable impression in a highly competitive housing market.

Give them a reason to buy your home.

“There are five phases of home staging,” Elliott says. “The first one is repair,” and it’s important to get the fix-ups done as perfectly as possible.

“The next thing is to unclutter and organize,” says Elliott.

Rethink the positioning of traffic paths, highlight saleable features, open up spaces. Minimize the
furniture so rooms don’t feel cramped. Rent a storage locker, if necessary, to store excess furniture and possessions in general. And cull those closets.

“You’re selling space when you sell a house. Everyone’s looking for storage. That’s usually why they are moving.”

Clean every inch of space and every item in it, she advises.

She also strongly advises sellers to “neutralize” their homes. Buyers tend to overestimate the cost of repainting. If a house has a too-vibrant colour, buyers will cross it off their list or discount their offer.

“They’re looking for reasons to say no,” so they can quickly narrow down to one or two choices.

“Select warm, neutral colours for paint or floor coverings,” Elliott says.

Offer prospective buyers the convenience of moving in without spending on the basis of having to do any more work.

Further neutralize the home by depersonalization. Hide away personal hygiene items; put away the family photos that label the house as somebody else’s home, pack away awards. Pack away anything that’s potentially offensive – swords, guns, religious icons.

“Neutralize as much as possible so you target to the greatest market segment,” says Elliott.

The final step in the CRAZY HOUSE method is to dramatize the home. Create positive emotions by stimulating the senses and setting a mood. Elliott includes texture, smells, sounds, and visuals in this category. Elliott might include delicate wind chimes at the front door, fragrant flowers and a soft chenille throw.

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