Faulkner: Top tips for preparing your home for sale

A great first impression followed up with a tidy home in good repair go a long way in helping potential buyers connect emotionally.

Article content

Here are some tips on how to best prepare your home for sale.

The “30 second” rule

Article content

The first 30 seconds are critical for the entire showing. The first 30 seconds include your curb appeal and the walk up to the front door.

Some buyers will want to cancel a showing at the curb. They may see an unkempt yard, broken-down fencing, broken lights and perhaps some damaged siding. They will project that the entire home will need a lot of work and may not even want to view it.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Or when a buyer walks up to a home, they may see a step that needs paint, cobwebs around the entry, dirt and dust on the siding, or a scuffed door and immediately think the owner is letting everything go and not maintaining the home.

If the buyers who see the dust and disrepair are human, they will focus on and look for deficiencies in the home for the entire showing. The same psychological phenomenon occurs when you buy a new car. You start to see that brand of car everywhere. This phenomenon is called “reticular activation,” a very real phenomenon — intention in attention.

Knowing about that phenomenon, the seller can use it to their advantage. A seller can improve their curb appeal and repair anything the buyer may see before they go through the door. They can clean the home’s exterior, particularly around the front entry.

They could even repaint the steps, railing and front door, if needed.

Then, the buyer may see that everything looks great and expect to see a well-maintained home and, therefore, look for things that are well-maintained. Again, intention in attention.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Buying a home is largely an emotional decision, not a rational decision. Here is how I have observed how the buying decision happens. The buyer will make an emotional connection to the home. Once an emotional connection is made, they engage their pre-frontal cortex to rationalize why they like the home and want to purchase it.

It is almost never the other way around.

To prepare a home for a buyer’s strong positive emotional connection, we will look at four components — cleanliness, staging, good repair and olfaction (odours).


I have observed many buyers lose connection with a dirty home. That home may fit their needs well, but their emotional response is negative, and they will not make an offer. We recommend that sellers dust and clean everything. We recommend hiring professional cleaners where practical.

Washing windows is something many sellers will forget to consider. This becomes more important when you have a nice view.

It can be a lot of work, however, the payback can be significant. If a seller wants a great offer, create a great showing experience.

Advertisement 4

Article content


I will talk about some of the basics in this article.

The first principle is “less is more.” Clutter can reduce the emotional connection and reduce the offer price. Let’s call this “clearing” the home. Remove furniture that blocks the natural flow of the home. The clearing should include garbage cans, recycle containers, and pop and drink containers.

Use a box or hamper to quickly and easily remove clutter on your kitchen and bathroom counters for photos and showings.

Depersonalize the home so the new family can see themselves in your home, not just you. It can be OK to leave a few pictures. Remove any spiritual symbols or statues that might lead to a negative emotional response. Ornaments or statues might have a negative connotation to a prospective buyer.

Dated or damaged furniture can lead a buyer to project a negative emotional response to the entire home. Buying new furniture may be out of reach, but you could borrow or rent something. This is more work, however, the payback could be worth it.

Designate one room, basement area or garage for the excess “stuff.”

Advertisement 5

Article content

If you have a darker wall and limited natural light, consider repainting one or more walls in an off-white to bounce the natural light in your home. Dark or poorly lit home homes do not sell well.

There is much more to say about staging. My wife and I have published a book for sellers that dives deep into staging and preparing a home for sale to maximize the sale price. Feel free to contact us at our email below, and we will happily and freely send you a digital link to our book.


We highly advise that you have a third party do a walk-through of your home. An experienced realtor will look for areas of repair with a fresh set of eyes when viewing and evaluating your home. They will offer suggestions. Know that they are only suggestions. Many sellers do not have the time or finances to prepare a home perfectly. So just do what you can. I see repair as a best effort, not a pursuit of perfection.

Ensure doors and windows work properly, including cupboard doors. The hardware should be in good repair. Updated hardware can significantly freshen up a home.

Ensure that all lights and bulbs are working.

Advertisement 6

Article content

There are many simple and quick fixes. Dap can easily and quickly repair damaged trim and baseboards. Hardware floors worn in a few areas can come back to life with products from your local hardware store.

Paint can be easily and exactly matched today, which means you can simply do touch-up painting rather than repaint your entire home.


Odours, or lack of, are extremely important. Be mindful of cooking odours, old clothes, boots, garbage, compost and pets — particularly cat litter. We recommend that our sellers not have devices that provide fragrances, as many buyers may think the seller is trying to hide something.

My second last tip. If your home is vacant, ensure it is warm for showings.

The showing “experience” is what matters.

If you want to knock it out of the park, offer a plate of cookies or candies and water or pop with a note inviting them to take some. Show me the sugar!

Feelings of goodwill, coupled with a great showing experience, could lead to a very sweet offer.

Dennis Faulkner, B.A. Economics, works as a realtor at MaxWell Challenge Realty. He can be contacted to answer your real estate questions at [email protected]

Article content


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.