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Beyond Curb appeal

The "For Sale" and "Open House" signs are popping up like dandelions in Toronto area front yards. Home buyers are buzzing through neighbourhoods to check the new listings. Curb appeal is the nectar that beckons buyers to stop and sniff the flowers. Peeling paint, overgrown shrubbery and an unkempt appearance is a buzz kill. Buyers read "keep out" when the message should be "welcome."

Prospective home buyers usually make up their minds about viewing a home less than 10 seconds after seeing the exterior. If they don't like what they see outside, nothing a real estate agent says or does — short of dragging them kicking and screaming — will get them inside.

Even if the interior has been redone, they don't want to stop and go in. People want to be excited about coming home to their house every day. It sends a subliminal message when a potential buyer drives up and sees everything is neat, clean and in its place. That says 'this is a great home' and sends the message that if the exterior is taken care of, probably they've cared for the interiors, too.

Make the front entry as welcoming and warm as possible. That front door needs to be clean, the glass sparkling, the porch cleaned up, and when you open the door, no clutter and no odors.

Beyond curb appeal:

One of the biggest errors is trying to mask an odor rather than get rid of it. Too many scented plug-ins and candles from room to room is just as bad. If there are pet odors, some people won't even go through the door because of allergies.

The better dressed your home, the more people want to see it. Make it inviting. Repaint, hose down the siding, make sure the landscaping is trimmed back and presentable, put a wreath on the door. Step back and be objective. Ask yourself, 'Would I want to go into this house or would I pass it by?'

But a seller's efforts don't stop at the front door. It's the "little things" that can make or break a sale, particularly odor, cleanliness and clutter. Some real estate agents suggest a teaspoon of vanilla poured on a cookie sheet and placed in a warm oven will fill the house with a light, appealing fragrance before a showing. Just remember to turn off the oven before leaving the house.

If a home isn't sparkling clean and uncluttered, especially the kitchens and bathrooms, the woman is going to walk out the door. Thoroughly scrub bathrooms and kitchens. Replacing worn, corroded fixtures can give older sinks and tubs an inexpensive facelift. Remove small appliances and give counters a clean sweep to clear counter space. Clean off magnets, photos and take-out menus from the refrigerator door.

You want bathrooms and kitchens looking their best because those are the rooms that will reap the most rewards. Also, if you have old carpeting throughout the house and hardwood floors underneath, remove the carpeting and get the floors cleaned up. Let them sing. If the carpet is in good shape, have it cleaned.

De-personalize the space by removing the family photo gallery off the walls. Prospective buyers should picture themselves living in the home.

Pack up salt-and-pepper shakers, velvet Elvis paintings and Precious Moments collections and put them in storage. Clean out and organize basements, garages and attics. Ask children to help out by removing posters and glow-in-the-dark stickers from their bedroom walls. Paint rooms to freshen the space. Have a garage sale to get rid of stuff you don't want and have been meaning to ditch for years.

Don't over-decorate. "People would rather see more of a blank slate so they can envision their own personality in the house. Toss down personal colors. Take down those family pictures -- a buyer doesn't want to feel they're moving a family out, they want to envision themselves moving in.

Declutter closets. If your closets are jammed full of stuff, if you've got shoeboxes and sweatshirts stacked 2 feet high, even if it's a huge closet or a walk-in closet, you're giving the buyer the thought that closets aren't big enough.

Rearrange furniture and remove pieces to aid traffic flow. Minimalist — that's the thought process ... if you have too many chairs or your furniture is large, a buyer is going to think the rooms are too small because all the furniture doesn't fit. If somebody is truly thinking about buying a house and get into a home and every corner is full, it's going to discourage the buyer. Unconsciously if they like the house, a buyer's eyes gravitate to an empty corner and they start arranging their own furniture. If they don't have that empty corner, they'll move on.

Inside and out, tackle chores on the "honey-do" list. Unfinished projects are red flags to potential buyers. Wives say — 'sure, you'll fix that for the realtor and I've been after you to finish that for the last 10 years'. If you're selling your house, you can't live in it like you normally would. It's all about presentation.

If possible, remove pets from the home during a showing. It will make for happier pets who may feel threatened by strangers, and a better showing.

Homeowners should leave during showings. Otherwise prospective buyers won't feel free to ask questions and the real estate agent can't effectively do their job.

Source: Curb Appeals

May 26, 2008 in Curb Appeal | Permalink


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I was searching online about some tips on curb appeal and thanks to yahoo here I am. The old adage "first impressions are everything" certainly holds true, especially in real estate when losing a potential sale is at stake. Sadly, I recently experienced the bad odor scenario you mentioned above. As soon as we walked in the door the musty moldy smell slapped us in the face. I was embarrassed for me and my client.

Just last week I was given a lead and pulled up to a home that has been on the market for quite some time. After arriving it was very obvious why. The front yard looked like a desert and the plants were almost dead.

Once again, first impressions are of the utmost importance. I have read that most home shoppers make their decision in the first ten minutes.

Thank You,
Kevin Morales
Austin Texas

Posted by: Kevin Morales | Dec 4, 2010 8:34:10 AM

It's tragi-comical how the industry seems to ignore the facts: http://www.torontolife.com/features/sinking-feeling/comments/

Also if you read Garth's blog you might feel you leave in a different Toronto. http://www.greaterfool.ca/

Posted by: QaxyF | May 28, 2008 9:53:07 AM

I live in Toronto and I read your blog. Can you please email me asap. I want to submit some story ideas.

Posted by: Rob Campbell | May 27, 2008 12:09:06 AM

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