Home selling in the Glebe
Sage advice for the home seller
By Diane Allingham
Whether you have sold a home before or not, the experience can be surprisingly stressful. Some days it can almost take your breath away. So, the more prepared and educated you are in advance, the easier the whole thing will be on you and those around you. And in the end, there is a huge upside, of course. You get to move on to wherever your next life journey is taking you.
The importance of preparing your home properly is everywhere – on HGTV, in home magazines and blogs, and from the mouths of all good real estate agents. If you are blessed with an innate sense of style, this part will be easy, almost enjoyable. If you are like the majority of the population, this can be quite daunting. To begin the process, invite an expert into your home to provide free advice. A realtor is a great resource who can tell you what is worthwhile and what may be unnecessary for resale.
Next, give yourself a realistic timeline to get things done and engage the professionals who can best help you. The sales person at your local storage facility is a good person to have on your list, as is a painter. And for those whose organizational skills are not their forte, there are even professional organizers out there who make a living making you feel good (or bad as the case may be!). Never ever feel guilty about paying someone to do the work. Taking on a large list of things you think you can do can make you feel overwhelmed. Time is a valuable commodity and sometimes it’s just better value to let someone else do it.
While you are busy digging yourself out of the clutter and renewing your home to a state that makes you fall in love with it all over again, you will want to be watching the market around you. Check the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listings in your neighbourhood and engage with friends and neighbours who have recently bought or sold. Knowing what is going on around you will facilitate receiving the news from your realtor when it comes time to set your price and strategy.
Getting your home ready for sale is the most labour intensive part of the process. Once you have that under control, you need to engage those around you and obtain buy-in from the rest of your household. Keeping a house in show condition can be frustrating if everyone is not on the same page. Kids can be especially challenging, but also most open to compromise, negotiation and yes, even bribery. A reward system works wonders for those motivated by that! Set aside a few minutes each morning before you leave the house to wipe counters, make beds and pick up dirty laundry.
From the moment your home hits the market, you will spend your days wondering: What did that buyer not like? Why don’t I know what the buyer thought? When is the offer coming? How many more days do I have to keep this place clean? What more can I do? The list is as endless as there are people and everyone experiences the sale of their home differently. There will be bursts of activity and sometimes bouts of silence. The ebb and flow may seem quite mystifying. You can expect the most qualified and interested buyers to book showings quickly. If you are hosting an open house, there will be all kinds of visitors, from tire-kickers and neighbours to new buyers and those whose kids are now out of the house. And don’t belittle the importance of those neighbours. Sometimes they are the strongest endorsement for your home and street!
What you think you want most is a quick sale. But then you wonder if quick equates to underpriced! What you definitely don’t want is a long, drawn-out process that requires cleanup and organization for an indeterminate period of time. Well, the market is a funny place and you need to be prepared for all possible scenarios. Surrounding yourself with professionals will provide immense relief on many fronts, so always make enlisting them a priority. And breathe, breathe, breathe.
Diane Allingham is a real estate broker with Royal Lepage Team Realty.
All the world’s a stage
By Julie Teskey
Staging is preparing a home for sale so the buyer can mentally move in.
De-personalizing a home has now become essential to creating a welcoming atmosphere for potential buyers. The Internet has changed the way people buy and sell homes so that now how a home shows is more important than ever. First impressions have always been important. Now with YouTube videos, Internet ads and multiple interior photos on web sites, a buyer visits your home before stepping through the front door. These online photos make a very important impression to the potential buyer and that comes down to what is broadly known as “staging.”
Staging can come in many different forms, from cleaning to styling, from fluffing to de-cluttering, to moving or even renting furniture. It can be overwhelming for a homeowner when starting the process, but there are some simple points that can help.
Many of us neglect our front entrance. Buyers may do a drive-by and you want to make a good impression. Paint or stain the front steps, railing, and porches; paint the front door a colour that accents the home; replace old house numbers and mailboxes. Add a planter of flowers or seasonal decoration, along with a new doormat … It all says “welcome home” to a new buyer and shows pride of ownership.
Remember, less is more. Counters, tops of furniture, tables, desktops, closets and bookcases should be purged of anything you no longer want. Put away or store personal items such as family photos and personal collectables. You can bring all these items back once the house has sold – the idea of space is important in the eyes of a buyer. Rearrange or remove furniture to make rooms look larger.
Sometimes you may have to rent a storage locker for a while but it is worth it. Remember that you are trying to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible; so a clean palette is important for them to see the house properly with their things.
Closets and cupboards
Buyers will look in your closets and pull out built-in drawers. Closet space is a big selling point for buyers so show your closets off to full advantage – aim to have around a quarter of the space open to give the impression of spaciousness.
This is so important. Even though we think our homes are clean, using a cleaning company just before you put your house on the market or have photos taken of your home is worthwhile. Photos and videos take close-ups of such things as taps and flooring so everything should sparkle. Even if a kitchen or bathroom is dated, if it is clean it makes a huge difference in the eyes of a buyer.
Don’t crowd the room: rearrange the furniture. Walk through the house as if you were seeing it for the first time. Can you easily move around the rooms? Can you move from room to room without having to go around furniture? Can you get to and look out windows without furniture blocking the access? Symmetrical arrangements usually work well in main rooms – create a conversation area and remove oversized furniture from the spaces.
When sprucing up a bathroom, stay with neutral colours and accents. For a pop of colour a piece of artwork and a small vase of fresh flowers work well. Bathrooms should be spotless with lots of fresh white towels. The master bedroom should be gender neutral in colour, again free of personal items. Crisp linens, a nice piece of artwork and organized linen closets will appeal to everyone.
Tone it down
When photos are taken of a home and there are strong colours on the walls, what you see is the colour and not the house or room. Repaint boldly coloured rooms (especially main rooms) to a more neutral tone. Earthy tones and rich mid-tone neutrals create a backdrop that makes rooms look large and inviting without being stark.
Whether you have a yard or a small balcony, you want to create an atmosphere that invites a buyer to enjoy the spaces. Decks should be cleaned and stained; flowerpots placed as accents on patios and decks; and grass cut and gardens weeded (you don’t want it to look like it is high maintenance). Play up small spaces with a café table and chairs (even a place setting) so a buyer sees that it is a lovely place to have a coffee or a glass of wine.
Purge, purge, purge. Get rid of anything you no longer want or use. Organize the remaining objects in one area so that the basement walls and floors are visible. Make sure that the area around the electricals, plumbing stack and furnace is easily accessible and visible. Sweep the floor and paint the concrete if the area is not finished. If you have a finished basement, remember that if you are marketing the basement as a living space, make sure it shows like the rest of the house. This is usually the last place a buyer goes and it leaves a lasting impression.
Take advantage of your windows by having them cleaned and keep the drapes open. Replace outdated and broken light fixtures and dust and clean remaining ones, including exterior lights. Add lamps and supplementary lighting to dark areas or rooms. Make sure the basement is well lit as well.
You are preparing to sell a valuable asset and the time spent on getting your home “fit to sell” is worth it.
Julie Teskey (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an award-winning realtor with Re/max Metro City and has specialized in the Glebe her entire 30-year career. She offers professional expertise and advice from getting your home ready to handling offers and closing a sale. She now works in partnership with Stephanie Cartwright, who also works and lives in the Glebe.
Curb appeal: how to garden for the perfect look
By Valerie Burton
Landscaping, architectural symmetry and property upkeep all play a crucial role in the creation of a beautiful exterior for your home – your pride and joy. Viewers should be presented with a simple, neat and tidy exterior. A great, well-designed garden with colourful, coordinated blooming periods throughout the seasons will give your house the wow factor and make you the envy of the neighbourhood.
A visually attractive exterior, or “curb appeal” (a term coined by realtors), creates a great first impression of your home. Even if you aren’t selling, you want to maintain landscaping that is attractive for yourself and for your friends and neighbours. If you are selling your house, an overgrown, messy garden can discourage potential buyers.
How to create curb appeal?
Be your own critic. Stand at a distance from your property. Do you like what you see? Assess flaws in its appearance and imagine how changes in your garden could add to the beauty of your home. Take photographs to identify problem areas and to aid in planning improvements. Think about harmonizing components of the garden with well-maintained architectural details of the house – chimneys, porches and window shutters. Keep these basic rules in mind: if it’s dirty, clean it, if it’s worn out or broken, fix it and if it’s cluttered, get rid of it.
Exterior lighting can be added to illuminate gardens, entrances, walks and driveways. You can conceal flaws in the visual presentation of the house, like air conditioners, pipes and meters, with judicious plant placement. You can also add decorative elements such as patio furniture, lighting and walkways to add appeal to the overall design. You can even use recycled or repurposed items, like old bricks for lawn edging, to improve landscaping.
The garden is an important aspect of your home’s appeal. Make sure it is cleaned up and trimmed, and divide or remove scraggly bushes and leggy, overgrown perennials. It can be then restructured, taking into consideration the trees, bushes and plants that will remain.
The soil in your garden is very important. Soil (usually a mixture of clay, silt and sand), can always be improved by loosening the topsoil and modifying it by adding manures, compost and other organic fertilizers. Have a sample of soil from your garden analyzed. If your soil is acidic, you can plant acid-loving flowering bushes like hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and azaleas. If it is alkaline, there are many plants you can choose from, like lilies or lilacs. Soil components can also be different in front and back yards.
Measure the garden and sketch a plan including a choice of plants that appeal to you. Consider several elements of your plan: the characteristics of your soil and the requirements of the chosen plants themselves. How tall will they ultimately grow? What are the light conditions? Is your garden site exposed to a lot of wind? When does each plant bloom? What colours will go well together if they bloom at the same time? These considerations may seem complicated, but each plant has a tag with these facts, and garden designers and consultants in garden centres can give you additional information.
The key to the right garden design is regenerative practices: plants that are in the right location, that can be easily cared for, will bloom correctly for the season and will prove sustainable over time. Simplicity is important in backyard spaces – think grass and flowering bushes and trees – as children play there and adults may use this space to relax. If you have a lawn, it will need to be reseeded, resodded, mown and fertilized to maintain quality.
Care is most critical. Water everything deeply once or twice a week, especially new evergreens and trees. Instead of many light waterings, a lot of water less frequently, will give deeper root structure to plants and keep them alive through periods of drought. Water the garden very well in the late fall, before you finally put the hose away, as dehydration is the major killer of plants over the winter. Top plant beds with mulch to keep down weeds, which compete with your plants for nourishment and moisture.
You are the director of your home’s curb appeal. Present your house as interesting, even dramatic, but also as a home in which anyone would like to live. If you do all this work yourself, you may save a lot of money. Alternatively, you can seek the advice and collaboration of an expert to develop an improvement plan – and make the job a little less stressful.
Valerie Burton has been a gardener and a garden consultant for more than 40 years in Canada, Ireland and France. She has a diploma in Interior Design and a MFA in photography, and she takes as much pleasure from photographing gardens as she does in creating them. Her website is www.thegardencounselor.ca.