Every seller wants to make as much money as possible when they list their home on the market. But too often, they sabotage the sale by making easily avoidable mistakes at the open house. Remember, as complete strangers look through your rooms and peek behind doors, they almost always come with a critical eye. Here, GTA-based realtor Tom Storey from Royal LePage breaks down common pitfalls you should avoid to keep the wind in your ‘sale’.

Photo: Becky Freeman of The Property Stylist by Aristea Rizakos Photography

1. Don’t attend your own open house.

“The seller should not be home during their open house,” says Storey. “You want buyers to be able to have open and free conversations, whether they’re going through it with their significant other or realtor.” Bottom line, no one likes to be followed around, especially when they’re deliberating on the biggest purchase of their lives. “Whether they like the house or not, they’ll be like, ‘Okay, let’s just get out of here,’” says Storey.

2. Don’t forget to de-personalize the space.

Yes, it’s your house and you’ve built many happy memories there over the years, but the buyer doesn’t want or need to see that. When you’re staging your house to sell, start by removing family photos, diplomas and family memotos. “What you need to think about when you’re selling is that it’s no longer your space,” says Storey. “You have to let that potential buyer feel like the space could be theirs.”

Photo: James Bombales, staging by Red Barrinuevo

3. Don’t skip home staging.

Storey offers his clients free home staging for one simple reason: “It works time and time again,” he says. On Thursdays and Fridays, everybody is online digging for properties on Realtor.ca to find open houses. “You’ve got competition,” he says. “If your house is the only one that isn’t staged and doesn’t have good photos, a lot of buyers will mentally discount you right away.” Market it correctly and more people will show up at the front door.

4. If you can smell it, you can’t sell it.

Your house should have virtually no smell when you open your doors to strangers. Even scented candles or air fresheners could be a red flag that you’re trying to hide something. Obviously, cooking fish for dinner the night before is a no-no, the cat litter box has to go, drains need to be cleaned and the garbage must be taken out.

Photo: Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

5. Don’t leave your pets on the premises.

Storey recommends having a friend take care of your pets during your open house or private showing. “Some people are allergic or just completely put off by pets and you want to make sure the home is as neutral as possible,” he says. That includes the inside and outside of the house. “Clean up the backyard from the winter when the dog goes out and make sure there aren’t any remnants of the pet.”

6. Don’t leave the house before tidying up.

Storey has seen homeowners put effort into staging their homes, only to leave remnants of everyday life at the open house. Think dishes in the sink, trash in the can, toys everywhere, messy beds and more. “When you wake up every morning, you have to make the bed the way it was in the pictures online,” he says. It can be a full time job in itself to make your house look perfect every morning — but it’s well worth it. “Staging is short term pain for long term gain,” he says.

Photo: Philipp Berndt on Unsplash

7. Don’t leave the wall color as is.

Painting the walls is the most cost-effective way to breathe new life into a room. “It’s the oldest trick in the book,” says Storey. “It works wonders when you neutralize the colors in the house. Even when a room is empty, if you have a fresh coat of paint and the floors are in good enough shape, your house will still show well.” Avoid moody, rich wall colors and stick to bright and light shades. Creamy whites and light grays work best because they make the room look larger and amplify natural light.

8. If you don’t make any home updates, you’re missing out.

“If you aren’t changing at least some aspects of your house before it goes to the market, you’re at a disadvantage,” says Storey. Aside from basic maintenance like repatching holes and doing simple repairs, he’s seen really basic updates get missed like failing to replace a burnt out lightbulb. Kitchen and bathroom updates will provide the highest return on investment and you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune. Many of Storey’s clients have updated their kitchens by sanding and repainting the cabinets, replacing the hardware and swapping out tired appliances for stainless steel. “Suddenly the kitchen looks brand new,” he says.

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