Tidy Home = Better Chance Of Selling

Prospective homebuyers want to see the best your house has to offer, not the worst

A basement bunker surrounded by curtains and empty beer cases reminiscent of a university frat room; the pelt of a large animal proudly displayed like a tapestry; papier-mache artwork of a pregnant woman’s tummy hung in her child’s bedroom; a worn bathrobe left hanging in the bathroom.

Those are but a few examples of the emotional blocks real estate stagers warn homeowners against because they’re so personal – or simply so icky – they distract potential homebuyers from seeing all the good things your house has to offer.

“The average person spends six minutes walking through a property,” says Allison Roberts of Burloak Home Staging and Design in Burlington.

“You want to control what they’re seeing so they focus on the beautiful large windows and great architectural details. If they’re looking at a photograph and wondering where you spent your vacation or if a newly single parent sees a picture of your happy family, you’ve just lost them.”

One of the most difficult distractions to address with clients is religious items, but in today’s multicultural world it’s a crucial topic.

“For staging purposes, we recommend they be removed, which can be tricky because some are linked to daily rituals,” Roberts says. “We suggest tucking the items away so they’re still accessible on a daily basis.”

Offensive odours, such as cigarette smoke and strong foods like garlic and onion, are another unwelcome distraction.

“Odour can stop people in their tracks as soon as they enter a home,” Roberts says. “Remove refrigerator odours, especially if appliances will be sold with the house.”

Pets can also be off-putting. “A lot of people don’t have pets and don’t want to buy what they assume is someone else’s pet-related dirt,” she says.

“Some people may even have allergies. During showings, remove pets and tuck away any telltale signs, such as food and water bowls, toys, litter boxes, pictures, cat trees, even artwork and figurines because viewers will assume you are or were a pet owner.”

Make sure your home is spotless: Clean grease-laden range hoods, ceiling fan blades, bathroom vents and window tracks.

“No one wants to buy someone else’s dirt, and if you haven’t cleaned those things, the prospective buyer may wonder how well you’ve maintained the furnace and if your air conditioner has been serviced regularly,” Roberts says. “They see it as neglect.”

The bathroom can harbour some of your home’s ickiest distractions, such as toothpaste in the sink and toothbrushes on the counter.

“Many people feel like they’re invading or intruding on someone else’s private space when they see such personal things,” Roberts says.

Anne Bourne of StagingWorks in Toronto agrees. She recommends getting rid of bathroom garbage buckets (“they’re generally nasty”) and even putting away the bath mat (“even if it’s clean, a prospective buyer may look at it and think that someone naked stepped on that mat today”). Don’t leave dirty laundry in the bathroom or closet because it can be smelly.

Other taboos Bourne has come across in clients’ homes include mousetraps, cat urine odours, grungy bathrobes and even drug paraphernalia. She’s the stager who counselled a homeowner against the basement frat room for an older son living at home.

“If you see empty beer cases lined up in the basement of a model home, it’s a good idea to get rid of them,” she says. “A model home or hotel bathroom is a good guideline of the look and feeling you want to achieve.”

By LINDA WHITE, Special to QMI Agency