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A Happy Home Story

Blog by Sara Kalke | December 18th, 2010

The best part of my job is being able to help clients be successful, either with a home sale, a purchase, or knowing when the right time to move is.  The clients in the story below were an absolute honor to help, and I hope the story explains a little about the extra time and effort I try to put into every sale.

Lana and John* called me in a panic.  Their home had been on the market for quite some time, and they were having no success selling.  John serves with the Canadian Military, so their schedule was quite tight, and they had already moved out of province, so their home was empty.  I actually knew their home was for sale, as it had come on the market a day before I listed a home just a few doors down (that home sold in 14 days for a higher price than it was previously listed for with a for-sale-by-owner company). 

So, it was time for me to get to work.  Part of what I do for every client is a thorough assessment of their home, in order to decide why the home hasn't sold (if it has been on the market previously), and what we could change.  Here were the issues that I noticed immediately when I went into the home:

1)  curb appeal issues: there were weeds growing through the landscaping area on the side of the front driveway, the cedar mulch was basically all washed away, the home had cobwebs and dust on the outside, particularly leading up to the front door, and there was a dirt mark on the front porch where the mat had been.
2)  the hardwood flooring had major scratches in it, and with no furniture, it felt like all you could see when you walked in were the scratches (I later found out a large dog lived in the house),
3)  the home had that "empty and lonely" feel that vacant homes often have - stale air, empty "cavernous" rooms, and little character.  Did you know that vacant homes usually sell for 7-10% less than owner-occupied homes for this very reason?

The solution?  Some hard work, of course!  Now usually my clients have someone in town who can take care of the home staging details that I suggest.  These clients, however, were already out of town.  So, I flexed a little German cleaning muscle and got to work.

First of all, having good curb appeal is the only way a home can make a good "first impression".  Weeds, bare landscaping patches, dirt and stains are no way to make a first impression!  So, I got down on my hands and knees and pulled all the weeds in the front landscaping strip next to the driveway and sidewalk, and cleaned the dirt and cobwebs from the front of the home.  Next, I went to Home Depot and bought a couple bags of cedar mulch, and spread it so the landscaping looked nice and new (and in case you think I have all kinds of time, I did this at 10 at night with a flashlight... hope the neighbours weren't wondering too much!). Then, I stopped at the Dollar Store (more below), and bought an outdoor mat (for $2!) for the front porch. Looking better...

Secondly, I called around and researched the options for fixing the flooring scratches. The sellers ended up deciding that for the price (about a third of the price of professional refinishing), Mr. Sandless was the best way to go.  I had seen some of their work before, which looked too shiny in my opinion, so we asked for the "matte" finish.  I met Mr. Sandless at the home, and locked up once he was done.  Two days later (once the finish had dried), I went back to the home and... perfection!!  The flooring scratches were no longer the first thing I saw when I walked in, but a nicely polished hardwood.

Third, for the "empty and lonely feel", I decided it was time to pull out the big guns.  I have been in so many empty homes that look so sad, that I decided it would be a good investment for my clients to have an "arsenal" of home staging accessories I could bring into homes:  area rugs, towels for the bathrooms, kitchen accessories, and other decorations (candles, bars of soap in jars for the bathrooms, decorrative sticks with vases for corners, etc.).  I did an afternoon's worth of bargain hunting, and came back with an SUV full of items to spruce up the home.  What a difference!  I kept the windows open and the vent fans on while I worked (to bring fresh air into the house), and got to work staging the home.  The home felt like a whole new place once I was done.  I also removed the heavy curtains from the windows, and bought an air freshener for the garage (always kind of smelly places).  With my husband's pro photo gear (he owns FM Photo Studios), and my design experience, I took all new photos of the property, and made up the magazine-style feature brochures for the home.

Now this process took me a couple weeks from start to finish, especially as we had to wait for the flooring finish to dry.  Literally the DAY AFTER I finished with the accessories and the mulch in the front, we had the showing to the new owners!  They wrote an offer, and the rest is history. And the price? Well, the market had dropped significantly in the few months between when I sold the house down the block, and when this home sold, but we still ended up above what similar brand new homes were selling for, and above the competition in the neighborhood, so we ended up being successful!  The new owners moved in on December 16, and the sellers are able to move on with their lives in their new home.

Ok, I know some of you are wondering, am I nuts to do all of this to sell one home?  Absolutely not!  It was an honor helping these clients.  Yes, I went above and beyond what the sellers were expecting, but I got a lot out of the process!  I had the honor of helping one of Canada's hard-working military families, which was benefit enough just on its own.  The sellers were so happy with my service that they recommended me to Brookfield Relocation Service, where I am now a registered provider - a special honor as typically only Royal LePage agents are on the list!  I now have my "arsenal" of home staging equipment (which I used in a condo that just sold - obviously it works!), and happy clients all around.

So, that is my latest Happy Home Story.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Here is the link to the photos of the home, so you can see the product of my work on this house:  http://www.sarakalke.com/RecentSales.php/Details/16/#viewdetail 

Thinking of selling or buying?  I would be honored to give you the same service, and make yours a Happy Home Story too.  Call me anytime at 780-710-7669. And of course, I'm never too busy for any of your referrals.

- Sara

PS - I changed the sellers names to protect their privacy.