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Getting ready for the spring market

Glen Peloso
Toronto Star
March 5, 2011

My mother says "getting older is not for the weak of heart" so I have never really looked forward to getting older. As far as I can tell, the one advantage to getting older is that none of my friends ask me to help them move anymore. If they did, the loud laughter on the other end of the phone would be a clear answer.

As the spring starts to peek its head around the calendar corner, many people start to think about selling their homes and buying a new one. Sometimes it feels like the music starts and everyone walks around until the msuic stops and the panic sets in. According to RealNet Canada the average new lowrise house price is $513,000, so considerably more than a suit, although we often spend more time buying a suit than we do a house. So if you're selling, a great first impression is very important.

If you are selling your house, it is wise to budget about 1 per cent of the asking price to get it ready for the market. While you live in your home, you are welcome to do whatever you like, but once the house goes on the market then you are simply a squatter living in "the product." People become very attached to their own taste and they believe that everyone should "look past," "understand," or "know it's a little fix" when they come to look at the house. Sadly, all of those ideas just mean that the buyer is going to offer less or not make an offer at all. Think of it like a blind date with the realtor as the matchmaker; they get to either say "he/she is a nice person with a great personality and a good cook" or they get to say "he/she is absolutely stunningly beautiful, has a great personality and is a trained chef." Seriously, which person interests you as a prospective blind date?

Start with the front of the house to make a great first impression. Clear the front yard of last year's dead leaves and turn the soil - or add some new soil - to get your garden beds back to that deep black earthy colour. Next, add blooming flowers to the gardens. If ou don't have much garden space, put some flowers in an urn by the front door. I also really like to use fresh exotic flowers in the front entrance, dining room and living room; they steal focus away from any of the home's shortcomings.

If the exterior of the house needs some paint, then get on that as soon as the weather allows. Also consider painting the front door a fun colour - it helps make your house standout with the prospetive buyers ("the one with the yellow front door"). Have a look at the mailbox and the house numbers and if they need to be replaced, replace them.

The front door should be in good working order. I know it seems strange to say, but struggling with the key that needs a special little "wiggle and lift to the left" is not a good way to start your date. In fact, while we are on the subject of repairs, as the shoe ad says, "just do it." That hole in the wlal, the broken hinge on the cabinet door, the cracked glass in the window, the leaking faucet, etc., should be fixed. I know those things can be found in most homes but it gives the prospective buyer the impression that your home is not well cared for. The same is true for burnt-out light bulbs. People don't know the difference between a burned-out bulb and faulty electrical work. Just change the bulb.

One of the least expensive things to accomplish is the cleaning. Would you want to go out on a blind date with someone with a toothpaste spot on the front of their clothes? I'm talking about cleaning like you never have before. Don't just dust and wash but also go through all of the closets and drawers and get rid of anything you don't need. Finding a house or condo lacking storage can be a problem for buyers. Sell the fantasy that every closet and drawer will always be perfectly clean and organized.

And don't forget about the windows. They let in much more light when they are clean and make your house feel bright and happy. Also, get rid of all the things sticking to the fridge or kitchen bulletin board. No one wants to know about your root canal next month or the fact that you had "lice patrol" in your home last month.

In fact, get rid of anything that speaks of you and your family specifically. You want the potential buyer to imagine that they have just entered their new home, not your old one. This extends to pets; for the week you are on the market, take Fluffy somewhere else. You may love your pet but others have allergies or hate cats/dogs and all of the smells associated with them. They will also assume that Fluffly has had a few accidents in the house or has had fleas at some point.

Any room that is being used in a "creative" way, like a dining room converted to a home office, should be turned back to its original use. Prospective buyers won't get it and will complain about the lack of a dining room.

Finally, you want to sell the fantasy of just how perfect life will be in this home. Light a fire in the fireplace if it makes sense for the time of year, and have some music playing (I think jazz works well) when people see the house. At the end of the bed have a tray with a bud vase, a cup and a newspaper. Have a bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen and little on the countertop.

The last thing to take care of is smell. Gently boil orange peels, cloves, cinnamon sticks and water on the stove before prospective buyers arrive. It makes the house smell like "home."

Make sure you maintain this level of perfection for the entire time your house is on the market. If you do it well, it should all be over in a week and you can go back to clothes on the floor and dishes in the sink. When it is all over and done with and you are finally moving, send me a quick note and tell me how it all went because I can promise you, I won't help you move!

Glen Peloso is a designer who hosts HGTV's Restaurant Makeover, Take This House and Sell It, is the design editor of Home Decor & Renovations magazine, and appears every two weeks in New in Homes.

Posted on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 02:00PM by Registered CommenterElaine in | CommentsPost a Comment

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