10 Simple Updates to Get Your Home Sold

By Andrew Mitchell | Selling Real Estate

Most people going for a big job interview would never think of showing up in jogging pants and running shoes. It goes without saying that a nice pressed suit, tie, business dress, clean hair and shoes are a minimum expectation when trying to land that dream job.

Yet when it comes to selling a home, usually our biggest asset, many home sellers neglect to “dress up” their home before putting it on the market. I’m here with 10 simple and inexpensive updates you can do to get your home looking its best and get it sold!

1. Clean windows

Many homeowners selling in the fall and winter don’t bother to clean their windows. It’s a really simple task that can be done over the weekend or for less than a couple of hundred dollars if you hire pros. Clean windows maximize the sunlight in the home, give the yard and views a better appearance and overall show the buyer that your home is well-maintained.

There is nothing that can turn off a potential buyer more (and they may not even consciously notice it!) than dirty grimy grey windows. It gives the whole home a grey look and instead of drawing the buyer’s attention to your spacious yard, it will draw their attention to the cobwebs in the corner and fingerprints on the glass.

2. Give each room a purpose

This one can be more difficult if you are still living in the home, but try to give each room a purpose, even if its not the purpose you are using it for! Help your buyers see what they will benefit from the room. For example take a 3 bedroom home where one is being used as an office and another as a storage room. The potential buyer needs to imagine their furniture in your space and if most are looking to use the 3 bedrooms as bedrooms.

Dress up those bedrooms and make them all bedrooms, move the office to the basement and even go as far as putting in a single bed and night stand to give the impression of a bedroom. So how do we make a bedroom or bathroom look their best?

3. Get new linens

If you don’t already have a nice colour-coordinated bedspread, buy a new set (that you can also use at your new house). It can make a huge impact on a room. Take those bathroom towels from 1990 and pack them (or throw them) away. Buy neutral colours but don’t be afraid to throw in some more bold colours that complement the room.

A nice colour coordinated bed spread and bathroom towel and mat set will give the room a finished and pleasing look, and even something as simple as fresh white sheets can dress up a bedroom.

4. De-clutter

Yes we all hear about how important it is to de-clutter, and its true, a cluttered room filled with nick-nacks, posters, photos and other keepsakes will make your room look smaller, less inviting and make it more difficult for the buyer to imagine themselves living in your home. Now I’m not saying to get rid of every family photo in the home, in fact I would argue that a couple of well-framed smaller family photos can give the home some personality.

Go through room by room and look through the eyes of a buyer, and remove any items that don’t contribute.

But the collections and their displays can be put away. Take a look at each of your rooms and the furniture that it there. Over the years we collect so many keepsakes that there isn’t a clear surface in the home. Go through room by room and look through the eyes of a buyer, and remove any items that don’t contribute. You may miss seeing them while the home is for sale, but you will be moving anyways, so why not start the packing right away!

5. The Justin Bieber shrine room

Families with older pre-teen and teen children need to sit down with them and explain that you will be selling the home and that unfortunately not every buyer is as big a fan of Justin Bieber (or whomever the teen has turned their room into a shrine to!) as they are.

Rue Rouleau Basement Bedroom Before Home Staging

We love the Canadiens bleu, blanc, rouge too, but not when its time to sell.

The same goes for “older” children, like Dad, who may have turned the basement into the Montreal Canadiens suburban TV game watching stadium.

We brokers see these “shrine” rooms all the time and it’s nearly impossible for most buyers to ignore it and see the benefits of the space.

Take those posters, stickers, neon bud light signs and pack them up. Patch any holes and if the room was painted in Canadiens bleu, blanc, rouge, it might be time for more neutral colour. We agents see these “shrine” rooms all the time and it’s nearly impossible for most buyers to ignore it and see the benefits of the space.

6. Cupboards and closets

When your home is on the market, strangers will be opening up and looking in your cupboards and closets. Its a pain yes, but every buyer does it and for good reason, closet and cupboard space is imporant. A mistake many home owners make is to take their de-cluttering mess and pack every cupboard in the house to the point of bursting. Your buyers will look in your closets and cupboards to see how much storage your home has.

Better to take that clutter and pack it up into nice, orderly plastic bins and store them in the garage or basement storage room. Or take the opportunity to donate all those clothes you no longer wear.

7. Drapery

One of the simplest ways of dressing up your rooms is to replace dated curtains, rods and blinds. Many sellers don’t realize the impact that draperies make in the presentation of their home. Being at eye-level buyers can’t ignore them, so think about buying new curtains and rods in white or neutral colours that complement the room.

Many homeowners have what were expensive (at the time) custom horisontal or vertical blinds (usually in metal or worse plastic), get rid of these to start. Justifying keeping them because they cost a fortune yet give the home a 1990s look, makes no sense when they have no impact in helping sell the home.

Of course judge based on your home and how they fit the overall look and many wood blinds suit a more country-style decor perfectly. As new curtains can be somewhat expensive, consider excluding the new curtains from the sale and take them with you to your next home!

8. Pets

Some pet owners take it for granted that everyone loves pets. There is nothing that will kill any chances of your house selling than a large or barking dog that is loose in the house. If you have dogs, consider crating them in a room or put them in the least important room during visits and advise the broker which room they are in, so as not to startle the buyers. The best is to take them out for a walk away from the property during visits.

Have a friend stop by and check if there is an odour of dogs in the home, sometimes owners who live with pets no longer notice the smell.

Just don’t do what many pet owners do and leave them in the backyard during showings, many buyers scared of dogs will not even venture to look at the yard if your dog is there. Clean pet hair frequently and especially before visits, many buyers are allergic and a sneezing coughing buyer is not the buyer you want looking at your home. Have a friend stop by and check if there is an odour of dogs in the home, sometimes owners who live with pets no longer notice the smell.

The same goes for damaged flooring and doors near backyards and entrances where dogs tend to scratch, repair these areas before visits. Give the patio door glass a once over and clean up any paw prints or marks.

9. Fixtures

Consider updating your lighting fixtures, faucets and handles in your home. Go with neutral not overly ornate fixtures that are clean and modern in an appropriate style for your home. Some homeowners will paint, change floors and leave the 1970’s disco era chandelier in the dining room with the excuse that it cost a fortune when it was bought.

This small investment can really finish off each room and ensure that buyers are not reducing the cost to replace them from the price of your home.

10. Consider a professional

Most good real estate brokers have a network of home staging professionals, painters, cleaners, window washers and other service providers, who for a modest fee can do everything from giving you a checklist of items for you to do, to painting, moving furniture and completely redoing a home. If you are unsure of where to start, speak with a good real estate broker for their evaluation of your home, most can refer you to professionals who can truly work wonders on the appearance of your home to potential buyers.

If you are considering putting your house up for sale, we can offer you a free personalized home staging evaluation of simple improvements you can do to your home that can increase it’s value in today’s market. To find out more I invite you to contact me.

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An earlier version of this article I wrote appeared in the Montreal Times newspaper. 


About the Author

I'm Andrew Mitchell, Chartered Real Estate Broker and Owner of Vistacor Realty Group. I help buyers, sellers and investors in the West Island, Montreal and Vaudreuil-Soulanges areas buy and sell homes. My goal is to provide you with useful, straight-forward insights and relevant real estate market updates. Contact me with any questions. Follow me on twitter here.