Getting your house ready to sell is time-consuming and lots of work, but necessary if you want it to sell quickly and for top dollar. The average DIYer can do most of the work themselves—with a little help from some YouTube videos.
All you need is a little guidance, a dedicated plan, and some thorough checklists to make sure nothing gets missed. After living in a home for some time, it’s easy to overlook problems that a potential buyer may see—the tap in your ensuite bathroom that drips if the handle isn’t in the right position or that squeaky bedroom door that you don’t even notice anymore.
Some repairs are just worth doing. If your buyer sees too many minor problems that you haven’t taken the time to fix, they may wonder about hidden major issues. Read on for 5 strategies that can help sell your home faster.
Strategy #1: Make A List Of Needed Repairs
Work through one room at a time, put yourself in your buyer’s shoes, and list everything you see, feel, or hear. Try to forget that you’ve lived there for years and pretend you’re seeing things for the first time. Touch and feel, open and close, turn on and off—if you don’t, you may miss something that your potential buyer won’t.
The House Overall
- Check walls and baseboards for dents, holes, scuffs, overall paint condition
- Test light switches and outlets, make sure they work and the covers aren’t broken or cracked
- Replace any burned out bulbs in fixtures
- Look for cracks or chips in tile floors and check hardwoods or laminates for scratches or gouges
- Inspect all carpeting for flaws or stains
- Check window sills for paint condition and any signs of previous moisture
- Open and close the windows. Do they slide easily? Does the crank-handle work well? Do they lock? Do they have screens? Are there holes in the screens?
- Test window coverings. Do the drapes open and close freely? Do the blinds open and close trouble free? Note overall condition, do they need replacing or just cleaning?
- Check the condition of the heat registers and return-air grills. Should you replace them?
Kitchens & Bathrooms
- Cupboards, cabinets and drawers. Do they open and close as they should? Are any handles loose, missing or mismatched?
- All taps, faucets, sprayers, and shower heads turn on and off with no leaks or drips? Note if any need repair or replacement
- Are the drains under the sinks leak-free and show no signs of water damage?
- Inspect back splashes around sinks, tubs, and showers for broken or cracked tiles
- Check caulking around tubs and showers for signs of mould or mildew. Will deep cleaning take care of it or does it need new caulking?
- Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Note the expiry date of any battery operated detector—they usually only have a 5-10 year life
- Check the joists. There are wires, heat ducts, and pipes running in them, along them, and through them. Note if there are any bare wires, separated heat ducts, or leaky water pipes. Also note if you should get the shop-vac out to get rid of any big cobwebs
- Make sure the pull chain lights work
- Is the electrical panel properly labelled?
- Is the main floor drain accessible to see?
- Does the water heater have an installation date on it?
- The furnace, air conditioner, and ventilation equipment should have a current sticker showing the last date of service—if it’s been longer than a year, schedule it
- Painted floors will need washing. If they’re unpainted, consider painting them
Yard & Exterior
- If you have a dog, clean up after it
- Keep lawn cut, weed free, and fertilized
- Do the flower beds need weeding or does the soil need to be turned over?
- Do walkways need sweeping, or have weeds growing between blocks?
- Does the driveway need sweeping or any oil stains scrubbed?
- Do the shrubs or bushes need trimming?
- Does the mulch or wood chips need freshening?
- Consider putting solar lights along the walkway, in the flower bed, or along the driveway
- Look up at the eaves. If anything is sticking out, they need cleaning
- Do the eaves troughs need painting?
- What about the window frames—any cracked or peeling paint?
- If you have a stucco exterior, are there any cracks or missing pieces? Does it need painting?
- Check fencing and decking for any wood rot. Note if any boards need replacing or if staining or painting should be done
- If you have an out-building or shed that’s staying on the property, check if it needs any maintenance
Use this list of potential problems showing what a buyer may see to decide which things are worth tackling.
Strategy #2: Freshen Up With New Paint
A fresh paint job is one of the most popular recommendations realtors give their clients before listing a home—it easily makes a home feel new and can make small rooms look bigger. Stick to neutral colours such as grey, tan, beige, or gold as these colours pair with anything and make it easier for your buyers to visualize their stuff in your home.
If you’re not looking to paint your entire house, experts recommend giving a fresh coat to the bathrooms, kitchen, foyer, and entryway and just touching up other walls and baseboards.
- Wash away dirt and dust from walls, baseboards, trims, and crown moldings
- Patch and sand any holes or damaged areas
- Block all trims with painter’s tape
- Protect floors and furniture with drop cloths
Strategy #3: Declutter, Clean, & Depersonalize
Large kitchens, bathrooms, and storage spaces are big selling points, so make these areas look as spacious as you can. As you declutter, avoid shoving things in cabinets, attics, basements, and closets—buyers look there. Storage bins are ideal for neatly putting things under beds or stacked in closets. Baskets inside cabinets are nice too.
Decluttering isn’t just for items, furniture counts too. You want buyers to walk around without bumping into or having to go around anything. You may need to rent a temporary storage unit during the selling process—professional home stagers suggest getting rid of 50% of everything in your house!
Once you’ve decluttered, it’s time for deep cleaning. Wash all walls, ceilings (that aren’t stippled), and baseboards—don’t forget light switches and electrical outlets—the dirt on these usually goes unnoticed by homeowners, but not buyers. Sweep and scrub the floors, vacuum carpets, and rent a carpet cleaner to bring life back into the colours and fibres. Don’t forget about the basement and crawlspace floors—get those cobwebs cleaned out of corners and rafters, and replace the filter in the furnace.
Cleaning cupboards, drawers, and closets can coincide with when you do your decluttering. After emptying a cupboard, wipe it clean, and put a fresh liner down before putting everything back. Scrub the outside of the cupboards, including the tops (if they don’t go right to the ceiling), and the toe-kick area of the bottom cupboards.
Windows can be challenging to clean, especially if they’re the older style that slide or lift to open. To deep clean these, you need to take them out of their tracks so you can clean the opposite sides of the glass. While you have them apart, clean the dirt and debris that lodged in the tracks over time. This may be one of the most disliked jobs around, but it really pays off—you won’t believe how much clearer your view is.
Now that you have everything nice and tidy, remove anything that’s personalized to you and your family. This isn’t easy for most, but you want buyers to fall in love with the home, not your memories. As soon as they walk in the door, you need them to imagine their life in your home. This can be hard to do if they see your family photos, mementos, certificates, and collections everywhere—which can also make them feel like they’re intruding.
Strategy #4: Stage Your Home
A staged home sells 88% faster and for 20% more than homes that aren’t staged—how’s that for a great first impression?
But to be at the top of your buyers list, you need to spend a bit of money to make the house look stylish. The National Association for Realtors says that for every $100.00 spent on staging, the potential return is $400.00.
A quick Google search will show you all the latest trends and popular looks in modern decor. Focus on the key areas that interest buyers the most—kitchen, master bedroom, the living room and bathrooms.
Tips & Tricks For Staging
Keep things simple, neutral, and inviting. If your furniture needs replacing, now’s the time to do so. You want your home to be as appealing as possible—and if you’re buying new furniture anyway, why wait when it could add dollars to your bottom line now?
Put fresh fruit in a decorative bowl on a counter and use elegant dinnerware, unlit and unscented candles, and linens to set the table.
Your bed is a focal point, so make it shine. If your bedding doesn’t look crisp and new, replace it. Add pillow shams and a couple toss cushions to the bed. Clear any clutter off night stands, open the curtains, and play some soft, relaxing music.
Fresh flowers in a decorative vase on the coffee table, bright throw pillows and a warm, soft blanket draped across the couch do wonders for making a room feel cozy and inviting.
Remove anything that makes it look like a bathroom—toiletries, garbage can, toothbrush holders, plunger, toilet scrubber, magazines, air fresheners—anything that doesn’t give a clean, luxurious look. Think hotels or spas. Fresh, fluffy towels in white or neutral tones, and hang a small piece of art on the wall.
Strategy #5: Be Consistent With Staying Tidy
- Wipe counters, taps, and faucets after each use
- Make beds as soon as you get up
- Keep wastepaper baskets empty
- Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher or hand wash right away
- Keep pet dishes clean
- Check and clean the cat litter box regularly
- Keep up with the dog’s business in the yard
- Regularly mow the lawn and pull the weeds
- Keep the walkway and driveway swept
Having younger children can be a little more challenging. Make a rule that they can only play with a couple of toys at a time to help with quick, last-minute clean-ups. Have a bag packed and ready to go with snacks, toys, and a change of clothes.
The more you make keeping things clean a daily routine, the less you have to do when you’re trying to get out the door.
A Final Checklist Before You Head Out the Door
- Freshen the house by opening some windows
- Open curtains, shades, and blinds
- Turn on a few main lights
- Inspect each room for minor touch-ups
- Vacuum and sweep
- Wipe down faucets, sinks and counters
- Take out the garbage
- Put away pet dishes
- Keep your valuables secured
- Quick check outside, sweep if needed
- Spritz a little lemon scented air-freshener in every room
- Play some soft music for ambiance
- Close the windows
Looking to Partner With A Trusted Realtor in the Toronto Area?
It’s easy to forget about the little things when you’re caught up in selling your home. But those little things can sway even the most interested buyer into one that says “no thanks”.
To get top dollar, your buyers need to see value. I’ve been listening to both buyers and sellers for over 14 years. I know what people want and things they walk away from. With a high regard to open communication, full transparency, and getting the best results, let’s work together to have buyers fall in love with your home.Get in touch
Hi, I’m Joel, a real estate professional based in Toronto.
My approach is simple—I put you first. I believe in open communication, total transparency, and meaningful results. I’ll guide you through the real estate process, market values, and always keep the focus on you—and your needs.