From “For Sale” to “Sold”

Low-cost improvements boost your home’s appeal and help it sell-fast.


If you want to sell your home fast, it pays to make low-cost improvements. Neglecting improvements gives buyers the perfect opportunity to negotiate for a better price, says Richard Wood, past president of the Ontario Real Estate Association.

“Improvements will also maintain the value of your property,” says Wood.Prepare your home for sale by following these suggestions from real estate pros.

General advice

Your home should be clean and tidy. Vacuum the carpets, clean the windows and make your kitchen and bathroom shine.

Go out during a showing. Prospective buyers tend to stay longer if owners are not home. “They’ll talk more freely and point out what they like and what they don’t like,” says Joan Smith, associate broker and top Royal LePage salesperson in Kanata, Ont.

Curb appeal

The first thing prospective buyers notice is appearance. How attractive is the property? Is it well maintained? “The more appeal your house has from the outside, the more it will draw people inside,” says Smith. Follow some of these tips to boost curb appeal.

  • Everything should be in good condition. If the eaves troughs are falling off or the porch stairs are broken, fix them.
  • Remove weeds from flower beds, trim shrubbery and tidy the yard.
  • Repair cracked or broken windows.
  • Repaint a chipped front door or window trim. Keep in mind that sloppy painting, whether interior or exterior, will not go unnoticed. Do an excellent job yourself, or hire a professional painter
  • For an added touch, edge the lawn and reseal the driveway.

Put out the welcome mat

“The front entrance is the focal point of my residence. It should be warm and inviting,” says Wood. These ideas will help you make a favorable first impression.

  • Add welcoming furniture such as a mirror, a small cabinet or an umbrella stand.
  • Wax sliders and oil all hinges on closets.
  • Clean out the front closet and remove the boot tray.
  • Open all blinds and drapes and turn on the lights, especially on dull days.

Basic repairs

  • Repaint all baseboards, and patch and repaint any holes in the walls. Stick with neutral tones. Use a lighter shade for trim and a medium shade for walls.
  • Buyers test hardware, so make sure latches work properly. Fix shaky railings and repair any broken doors.
  • Replace old electrical wall plates and switch covers. Replace your electrical switches in the dining room and living room with dimmer switches.
  • Consider removing any worn and stained carpets if there’s attractive hardwood flooring underneath.

Kitchen delights

  • Remove tattered wallpaper, wash the glue off the wall and then repaint it.
  • Repair leaking faucets and remove any iron-rust stains from the sink with a calcium phosphate removal product.
  • If the cabinets are looking tired, paint them (melamine cabinet paint works well). To update their look, replace cabinet pulls and hardware with new ones.
  • If your kitchen needs a face-lift, consider replacing old worn countertops and flooring. Prices vary, depending on size and style. A basic countertop starts at about $15 a foot plus installation. Cushion flooring starts at about 82 a square foot.

Bathroom Duty

Nothing turns off a prospective buyer more than a dirty bathroom.

  • Clean all surfaces and bathroom fixtures until they shine. Make storage space seem larger by clearing out some items and neatly restacking what’s left. Don’t forget to clean inside cabinets.
  • Touch up minor chips or water stains in the sink and tub with porcelain paint. For major water stains, hire a professional to re-glaze the tub, which costs $150 and up.
    If caulking is stained with dirt and mildew, replace it. If you’re not adept at this job, hire a professional.
  • Fix any plumbing problems; some buyers do flush toilets and turn on taps.
    Use a special grout cleaner (available at most hardware stores) to remove mildew from tiles.
    Replace cabinet pulls if your bathroom needs a fresh look.

Basement bargains

Basements are usually the last place to be checked. But they can be key to giving potential buyers a good impression.

  • Use a dehumidifier during the summer to reduce dampness and mildew.
  • Scrub the mildew off the walls, sweep the floor and get rid of any cobwebs.
  • Tidy up and neatly stack any storage boxes on shelves.

Clean out the garage

If your prospective buyer is looking for the ideal spot for his or her hobby area, don’t be caught off guard with a messy garage. Here are some pointers.

  • Add shelves to help organize the garage (prefabricated shelving units work well).
  • Grease the tracks on the garage door and fix any broken doors.
  • Remove oil stains on the garage floor with an oil-absorbent product.