How to Make Your House a Show Stopper

Showing a house is a lot like going on a first date: you try to look well groomed even if that's not how you normally look! The old adage about first impressions being the most important is just as true for your home as it is for you. A clean house gives prospective buyers the impression that the whole house is well maintained including the out of sight items such as plumbing or heating.

Most sellers know that a tidy home can help their home sell faster but 'clean' is a relative term. What one person finds acceptable could send another running for the door. Real estate agents and brokers have seen it all: ring around the bathtub, clothes on the floor, pantyhose hanging off the shower curtain, sinks full of dirty dishes, living rooms littered with toys, dust bunnies behind the sofa the size of prairie tumbleweeds…

There are three main incentives to keeping your house in perfect showing condition: your home may sell faster, you may get more money for it and by removing the clutter you will allow people to focus on any improvements you've made to your home. (It's hard to see the new tile floor in the bathroom when it's covered in wet towels!)

Long before the first open house, take stock of your home. Do you have piles of magazines you've never finished beside your couch? Are your closets and drawers overflowing with clothes you're hoping will come back in style? Do you trip over a pile of shoes when you walk in the door? Be brave and pack up anything you don't use on a regular basis and give away whatever you haven't used or worn in the last five years-bell-bottoms couldn't possibly make another comeback! A good guideline to aim for is the uncluttered, unobtrusive look of a hotel room.

While you may feel that achieving such a high level of cleanliness is seemingly impossible for amateurs your efforts will pay off! Begin by washing the walls, windows and doors and shampooing carpets. If you have hardwood you may want to get them professionally cleaned and varnished. Put a drop of oil in squeaky joints. Polish brass hinges and doorknobs.

Pets should be kept outdoors or in cages during showings for everyone's safety. If you have a cat, ensure that the litter is changed or cleaned daily. Cat odour can be a great hindrance to the sale of your home since people may worry that the odour will be permanent. Open windows shortly before a showing if possible.

For the exterior of your home, a fresh paint job can do wonders. If painting your entire home is prohibitively expensive consider making small updates such as painting the window frames in a contrasting colour (ex. white against a deep blue) or just touching up rough spots. The garden is another outdoor area many homeowners overlook despite the fact that it is the first thing prospective buyers will see. Keep the lawn and bushes trimmed. If you were never much of a gardener you can still have fresh flowers by cheating a bit-make a quick trip to the garden store. Most small annual flowers are available for less then $2 per plant. Choose flowers in only two or three colours to create a sense of uniformity in your garden. Attractive flowerpots on the window ledge can be a nice touch depending on your style of house.

Don't be surprised if people also want to see the garage. Some buyers feel the garage reflects the general maintenance of the entire property. Unfortunately, if you are like most people you enter your garage half expecting to be attacked by your belongings. If you have no where else to store the items you don't want to give away, at least try to put them in boxes piled neatly along one wall. Designate one area for bikes and other sporting equipment.

Once you've completed these tasks, it's important to maintain the neatness of your home (inside and out) on a daily basis while you have it up for sale. Open houses often take place on short notice. If you start with a clean house, it's easy to wipe off a counter or run the vacuum over the carpet to get it into good condition and ultimately complete the sale.

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