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Top 10 Things To Do Before You List Your House

Blog by Sara Kalke | December 19th, 2012

Jennifer Worts Design, Toronto.

With the New Year approaching, many people are making those big decisions, especially... if it's time to MOVE!  If you are thinking of selling, early in the New Year can be one of the very best times - inventory (i.e. competition) is low, buyer demand is increasing steadily, and you'll have the pick of the crop when it comes time to find a new home!  If you are thinking of selling, it's time to get cracking on those little details that make all the difference between "for sale" and SOLD! 

Confused of where to start?  One of the best services that I provide to my clients is a pre-sale consultation, where we discuss what improvements and upgrades are WORTH your money, and what will make the biggest impact on the price you get for your home.  Last I checked most homeowners like to make as much money as possible on the sale of their homes... let me help you!

So, here are my Top 10 Things to Do Before You List Your Home!

  1. Deal with any MAJOR issues NOW!  If you have any serious issues with your house that could significantly affect the value, NOW is the time to deal with them, properly.   Major issues can include:  leaky basements, mould, issues with any of your home's systems:  plumbing, heating, electrical, etc.  Get quotes and *HIRE PROFESSIONALS*.  Create a thorough paper trail of their opinions and resolutions.  There's nothing like a major issue to prevent your home from selling, and if/when you find a buyer that is willing to take on your major issues, expect that they will want to pay rock bottom price for it.  So get to the fixing now!
  2. Get Organized!  Find your paperwork, including all permits for developments on the property (missing permits? See point #1 - this WILL come up, so deal with it now instead of losing a sale!).  Meet with your mortgage broker or bank and find out the nitty-gritty of a move: can you afford it, can you port your mortgage or will there be a payout penalty, what will your payments for your new home be?  While you're at it, pull up a year's worth of utility bills (buyers often request to see these), as well as manuals and warranties for your appliances and heating systems in the home.  Meet with your REALTOR (me!) now, and get help with the items that follow.
  3. Fix It Up!  When you have lived in your home for a while, it starts to be difficult to see the little flaws.  Invite a friend (or your REALTOR!) over to help you notice all the little flaws that buyers will notice.  Most of these are quick fixes that you probably have meant to get to for years (guilty as charged!)... now is the time to do them!  Some of the most common include:  leaky faucets, broken/chipped plumbing fixtures, uneven front steps, mismatched baseboards, missing caulking or grout, outdated light switch and outlet covers.  These are generally all quick and cheap to fix, and make your home look fresh and put together when complete!
  4. Paint it Pretty!  If you have any paint touch-ups required, now is the time to do them.  With the best return-on-investment of any home improvement, a fresh coat of paint can go a long way.  Look through housing magazines, Pinterest, or have your REALTOR (i.e. me!) pop over and give you an idea of what the trendy colours are for SELLING (selling is in capital letters to remind you that just because black feature walls might be in a magazine, they are a very bad idea for selling your home to buyers!).  Please, please take the time to ask about what colours are trendy... one of the fastest ways to WOW buyers is with neutral, modern colours.
  5. Declutter!  I mean REALLY declutter.  We all have too much stuff... but buyers will pay more for a house that looks like there is LOTS of storage space.  They'll fill it up with just as much stuff as you when they move in, but let's at least pretend that you are part Martha Stewart while you are selling.  It's amazing what a difference a little decluttering does... I hear ALL the time from clients that they want to buy their own houses once we are done decluttering and staging!  If you have time, start with the icky areas that take the most time - basement storage rooms, garages, closets - do some real purging and donate to your local charities.  If you are short on time, consider renting a storage unit that you can go through at a later time, and get all those extra boxes and items out of your house!
  6. CLEAN!  Oh how I love a clean house.  Having been in thousands of houses, my estimate is that at least 50% of houses on the market need a serious, DEEP cleaning.  Really!  That's every second house.  You don't want to be that house!  True deep cleaning needs to be done, and can actually last you the whole time you're selling, with regular touch-ups here and there of course.  By deep cleaning, I mean really actually clean all those forgotten areas:  in and around your utilities and appliances (dusty, rusty, dirty furnaces and hot water tanks are a huge turn-off, so are filthy ovens and fridges!), inside your fireplace (using the appropriate cleaner of course!), the bottom of cupboards (especially under the sink), and don't forget the grout in your bathroom.  You may want to hire a professional to clean your carpets and your blinds, and once the snow melts, the outside of your house and eaves troughs.  In winter, clean off your driveway thoroughly, and once spring hits, be sure to clean up your yard appropriately.
  7. Replace!  I know it seems backwards for me to be bringing this up now, after decluttering and cleaning, but you'll understand once you start the process.  Once you have decluttered and done a true deep clean, you'll be able to tell if there are any parts of your home that just can't be fixed by a good cleaning, and that really show up now that you have decluttered.  New carpet is another high return-on-investment item, and no one wants to buy a house with a dirty, smelly carpet.  And don't be ashamed - carpet just wears out over time!  Go deal hunting and stick to something affordable but not the very lowest quality (one or two steps up, NOT the most expensive either).  You might notice that your old yellow stove just isn't going to get clean no matter how much you try, or no amount of superglue can hold your dishwasher together... Appliances can be affordable too, I recommend the scratch-n-dent section at Trail Appliances (a lot of those appliances have never been used, they have just sat in showhomes!).  But BEFORE you spend any of your hard-earned money, ask your REALTOR (me!) about what is worth replacing and what isn't.
  8. Depersonalize!  We are getting close now!  It's time to take down the family portraits, the name-tags, the family calendar, and for goodness sakes, tuck away all of your personal and private documents in a locked filing cabinet. 
  9. Do a 5-Senses Walk-Through!  Back to the basics... walk through your house as if you were a buyer, starting with the front walkway, main floor, second floor (if you have a two-storey), basement and garage.  Did you know the first thing a buyer does when entering a home is take a big ol' WHIFF?!  This is where you actually want that too-honest friend to tell you if your house smells.  Or ask your REALTOR!  1) SIGHT = curb appeal, first impressions, 2) SMELL = what lingering scents do you have around your home?  Can you smell pets (including pet food or litter?), food, clothing, teenagers?  3) TOUCH = are your light fixtures, door knobs and railings clean or are they greasy or dirty?  Is your floor smooth with all seams in place or do you hurt your feet going over cracks and bumps?  4) SOUND = is your furnace clunking, your fridge rocking, your pets barking or meowing, your vents squealing, or your neighbours yelling?  I have heard all of the above and it can be seriously distracting!  5) TASTE = okay, this sense is the least applicable for homes.  You don't need to have snacks for potential visitors, but metaphorically speaking, if the other 4 senses are taken care of, the home should leave a GOOD taste with potential buyers!
  10. Hire the BEST Agent!  Now this one seems straight-forward enough... you should hire an agent who really, truly cares about the little things that make all the difference between "for sale" and SOLD!  It is easy to put up a for sale sign, but it takes experience, finesse and marketing savvy to get you the MOST money out of your home.  Click Here for details on my selling plan, or call me up and I'll pop over and show you my whole selling plan! 

Questions, comments?  Call me anytime!  Happy selling!


Direct: (780) 710-7669

Email:  sara@sarakalke.com