1. Clean house
“The number one thing is to make sure your house is clean,” says Emily Norris, a realtor with Re/Max Hallmark in Toronto. Get rid of odours – a huge turnoff for prospective buyers – by opening windows, washing floors and walls and cleaning your rugs and upholstery. Next, de-clutter your space. “A jam-packed house is pretty off-putting,” says Norris. “I find that many sellers these days are taking out a third of their furniture.” Place your items in storage, call a local consignment shop or charity to pick things up, or use a relative’s garage. “But don’t use your own garage for storage, because buyers will want to look in there.”
2. Give it a fresh coat
If you have a little extra time and money, a paint job offers the most dramatic results. “If people walk into a house that’s got the original paint from the ’50s or just crazy colours like oranges and reds, they’ll immediately walk out the door,” says Norris. “You have to clean up that palette and make it look bright and neutral.” She recommends using colours such as a warm white (Cloud White by Benjamin Moore is her top pick), light blue-grey or taupe.
3. Add layers
Give your house a soft, lived-in look by adding curtains, blankets and cushions. “You can use inexpensive window treatments from Ikea,” says Norris. “Just double up: Get four panels for each window and some good curtain rods, and hang them throughout. It’ll create a luxurious impact that buyers like.” Flowers also make a good impression during an open house. Fill three attractive vases with fresh blooms and set one on the dining-room table, one in the entryway and one in the master bedroom, or even
in the powder room.
4. Define spaces
If you’re trying to sell an open-concept house, make sure you put prospective buyers’ minds at ease by clearly defining spaces. “Using rugs is the best way to do that,” says Norris. Find something simple, like a couple of large, neutral sisal rugs, and place one under the dining-room table and one in the living-room area. Arrange your furniture in traditional vignettes so buyers can easily grasp your home’s layout. “When people walk into the house, they want to be able to see right away where their furniture would go,” says Norris.
5. Get outside
Don’t forget about your home’s exterior. Create a good first impression by placing some attractive planters along the steps, cutting the grass and weeding the garden. “And make sure you take down any Christmas lights that are hanging around,” says Norris. “You can even hang a fall or summer wreath on the front door as a welcoming touch.”
6. Be natural
It’s not necessary to set the dining-room table, and don’t start baking cookies in the oven before buyers drop by. “Make sure your staging looks natural,” says Norris. Anything that’s too clichéd or over-the-top will draw skepticism from buyers. Cranking out the strong smell of cinnamon, for instance, may make them wonder what you’re trying to cover up. “They just want to see a nice, clean product; following some simple design principles will get you far.”
7. Fake it
If your furniture is truly cramping your house’s style, it’s possible to overhaul your space with rented furniture. “Typically furniture is rented through a stager,” says Norris. Alternatively, a seller can rent furniture and artwork directly from stores and galleries. “Usually people create a standard setting: glass coffee and dining tables, a couple of sofas and a chair, for example.” In today’s market, with houses selling more slowly, Norris often suggests purchasing key pieces and selling them later. “It can be way cheaper than renting,” she says.
8. Sleep on it
Everyone knows kitchens and bathrooms are important when it comes to selling your house, but today’s buyers are also focusing on bedrooms. So whether you’re sprucing things up or refitting with new furniture, don’t forget the master bedroom. Norris says, “Nice linens, drapes on the windows, a couple of bedside tables and great lamps are all it really takes.”