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For selling, cut clutter, crank up hip quotient

Special to The Star

Sometimes a space just grabs your attention.

When I started shopping for a loft two years ago, I was struck by how quickly I decided whether or not a space was a contender.

Often, it was more than just the floor plan or the colour of the walls; it was the vibe of a place. I'd find myself coveting the penguin-shaped cocktail shaker in the retro-styled kitchen or checking out the swanky design magazines fanned out on the coffee table.

Sometimes my favourite song would be playing on the stereo. Or the movie poster on the wall would be for a film I'd seen 17 times.

It was as if I already lived there.

This wasn't a coincidence. Though I hate to admit it, I was part of a popular loft-buying demographic – the twentysomething hipster with a soft spot for kitsch – and these suites had been staged to impress folks just like me.

Staging is an integral part of selling your condo, whether you enlist the help of a professional or do it yourself.

When it came time to put my home on the market last month, I went the DIY staging route.

Guided by tips I found in real estate magazines and online, I started by eliminating clutter.

The pros say you should remove at least half of the items in each room, which will make the space appear larger and let potential buyers envision where their stuff might fit.

This means taking the magnets off your fridge, putting extra pieces of furniture into storage, bubble wrapping your enormous collection of crystal unicorns and throwing out superfluous junk.

If you're a pack rat like me, this first task is tough. I recommend cranking your stereo up loud, pouring a tall glass of whisky and using this opportunity to permanently lighten your load. Send some of your belongings down the garbage chute or, better yet, to Goodwill; I swear to you, it'll feel cathartic.

Next it's time to erase all evidence that you live there, by removing personal artifacts such as family photos, your dirty laundry and the neon orange bong that followed you home from college.

Once you've downsized and depersonalized, it's time to clean. Remember: clean, shiny kitchens and bathrooms are what launch bidding wars – not spaghetti-stained stovetops and mildewy tubs.

By the time my condo was ready to go on the market, the tub sparkled so much that I wanted to hop inside with a jug of bubble bath and dirty it up again. The boring white kitchen appliances – often viewed with scorn when compared with their stainless steel cousins – looked almost noble.

The only thing left to do was crank up the urban-hipster quotient to 11.

Staging professionals advise creating little scenarios, to show visitors how fabulous life in your suite could be. In my case, this meant propping open a retro cocktail cookbook in the kitchen; turning an unused corner into a reading nook, complete with bean bag chair and intriguing-but-minimal book collection; and filling in empty spaces with a zebra-print rug, urban-vinyl toys and framed album covers.

When the staging was complete, the suite looked so clean, so hip and so spacious that I got teary-eyed at the thought of leaving. "I want to live here!" I thought to myself.

Mission accomplished: it was ready for viewings.

Posted on Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 03:45PM by Registered CommenterElaine in | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

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