How to prepare your home for resale

Before you raise that “for sale” sign, give your home a healthy dose of TLC to woo prospective buyers

By Tara Nolan

sold home

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Excited to find a new home once we made the big decision to move out of town, my husband and I were a bit hesitant to put a lot of work into our existing house. After all, wouldn’t a new owner choose their own preferred colours once they moved in? What if our renos weren’t to their taste? And did it really matter if we had an overabundance of books and knickknacks competing for attention on our bookshelves?

But in the real estate world, especially in a hot market, taking our real estate agent’s advice to de-clutter and refresh our home was a key strategy to commanding the price we expected to get. “I always tell my clients that once they have made the decision to sell, their house is no longer their home—they need to look at it like an investment,” says Natalie Moodley, a sales representative for Royal LePage Connect in Ajax, Ont. “Then the question really becomes: how can I maximize value?”


I’ll admit, our two-bedroom bungalow was overflowing with stuff. Our non-essentials were packed into boxes and bins and delivered on weeknight trips to a local storage locker. Even our closets were thinned out to give the illusion that they would provide ample space for someone else’s wardrobe. “The best way to maximize the value of your home is by minimizing the amount of stuff,” recommends Moodley. “This will allow the room to show off its best features and buyers can see it for what it really is.” And, whatever you do, says Moodley, don’t move your clutter from one room to the next!


Family photos are usually the first thing a real estate agent will recommend you eliminate as prospective buyers want to picture themselves in the home. They’re also a distraction, says Moodley. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to hide valuables and pack away personal treasures. “If you love it, pack it away,” she advises. “This prevents it from getting broken or stolen.”

Renovate (if necessary)

Consult your real estate agent to discuss your options. “Your realtor will help you understand the deference between a buyer’s market and a seller’s market, and when and what to renovate,” says Moodley. “It is a fact that if you have identical homes, one outdated and needing upgrades and the other modernized and updated, even if you reduce the price to account for work needed to be done, the home that is completely updated will sell faster and for more money,” she explains.

However, sometimes painting or replacing kitchen cabinet doors, or swapping out old sinks and faucets with shiny new versions, will help modernize a kitchen without needing to fully renovate, says Moodley.

We decided to renovate one of our two bathrooms, but left the kitchen as is. The only thing we did in that room, besides a thorough polish, was replace the old, dark stove with a white one to match the newer fridge.

Refresh each room

“In most cases, a room just needs a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint,” says Moodley, who recommends a neutral palette. It is a fact that kitchens and bathrooms do sell homes, so I always tell my clients to pay close attention to these rooms.” Keep an eye out for easy, but crucial cosmetic fixes, like holes in the wall, missing trim and cracked tiles. “Sometimes we live in a house for so long that we miss the details, and the details really do make a difference,” she says. I found it amazing how simply painting our trim brightened each room.

Clean, clean, clean!

Give every inch of your home some serious elbow grease, especially high-traffic areas like the kitchen and bathroom. Pay attention to every nook and cranny, including inside your cupboards, windows (inside and out), carpet stains and mould spots in bathroom crevices. “You want to ensure that you do a thorough cleaning and complete all minor repairs,” says Moodley.

Stage each room

When you flip through the pages of a decor magazine, you don’t see books piled haphazardly, crushed cushions on the couch or drink rings on the coffee table. Faucets should be polished, beds made with perfect corners and everything should be organized, folded and neat as a pin. Make your house look photo-ready.

A home stager, says Moodley, will help you assess “the role” a room and move furniture around accordingly. For example, if you have a small dining room and a large dining room set, you may want to move the furniture into the larger living room and create a smaller living area.

I definitely believe that our attention to detail inside and out in the weeks leading up to our listing helped increase our home’s appeal, which resulted in multiple offers—and a pretty satisfied couple.

Before-you-list checklist

  • Take an objective walk through your home and try to see it through the eyes of a buyer.
  • Consult your real estate agent for advice on the renos or minor fixes that will get you the most bang for your buck.
  • De-clutter, moving non-essentials to storage or endearing yourself to family or friends who can clear a corner of a basement or garage.
  • Hold a yard sale to get rid of gently used items you no longer want.
  • Refresh doors and trim with paint, and, if necessary, repaint a room or two.
  • Give your home a thorough spring cleaning (no matter the season) from top to bottom.
  • Replace burnt light bulbs, fix leaky faucets, empty all waste baskets, etc. Give the illusion that no one has been home.
  • Style your rooms (yourself or with the help of a home stager).
  • Don’t forget the outside! Depending on the season, clean out the gardens, plant some fresh flowers and get rid of any yard junk.

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