Deal breakers in your property – prep your house for sale!

September 11, 2017

There are two groups of home buyers: future owners-occupiers and real estate investors searching for next venture. They both assess the property and look at it with very specific list of things. Consequently, they evaluate the potential of a house.  So what do they really want? Read on, then take a walk around your house and look at deal breakers with buyer’s hat on, before and after you did some renovations to increase your house value. Eliminate negative impression and take their expectations one step further. Prep the house for successful sale!

But before, let’s once again explain why first impression matter. Psychology explains that Primacy Effect  works like this: the information we get first, impact us stronger then all of the following. And that first opinion we make is difficult to change. We think with eyes.

Although there are individual tastes and preferences, we can very much say there are common traits people look for when it comes to choosing next house.

Statistics Canada say almost 7 out of 10 households in Canada are owner occupied. Whether it’s an investor making his decision with calculator in hand or a family looking for their nest, there’s no difference – they both look for

Owner-occupier appeal

Experienced investor with strategic approach knows very well that this property, if needed, will sell faster. But most importantly, since this group drives the market, it appreciates faster and growth is better then yield. Read more here.

Our tip: Never sell your investment property vacant! Here’s some  examples of our vacant staging installations. 


Home owners buy with their heart and emotions. It’s not as hard to provide emotional hook, as it might seam. Just remember that these emotions have to be positive and moving (making them to act). I remember first home I bought. It was far from looking as modern chic apartment, I thought I was seeking after and fitting my lifestyle. But the moment I entered it – I knew this is it. It was cozy and warm, reminded me of my own family house and created prospect for future of such.

Our tip: don’t try to imitate the lifestyle of the neighbourhood if you’re not living that lifestyle at all. Instead of being pretentious, focus on emotions reflected in situations the buyer could see himself in that could happen in the house. That’s good staging.


Don’t be fooled when you hear you have to appeal to masses. Every scarce positive element is always in demand, because is tells about the quality of the property and certain lifestyle. In fact real estate investors call them “sizzle features”:

  • this can be a unique architecture of the house, but also unique features of the interiors
  • design, like custom build-ins, that wisely use the wall space;
  • style reflected in doors, mouldings or garden;
  • floors and tiles, that are hard to find;
  • appliances picked with care;
  • wall colors, that work and pull together overall style of the house, but are not easily chosen in the hardware store. Even Robert Kiyosaki, investment guru, says “You would be surprised how inexpensive coats of paint in different or unique shades can make a $100,000 project look like a million dollar project”²
  • Safety features for families with kids – Most starter homes are purchased by families with little children, so featuring these in any marketing materials, online but also leaving notes for the viewer is a good idea.

All those little details matter and are usually a deal breakers. In fact there are some real estate agencies that only sell houses with very particular architecture or style to more sophisticated investors. But even regular buyers are more and more educated and appreciating the value of these features. The other thing to consider is the fact these things are already there, so the buyer doesn’t have to figure it out himself, hire an interior designer, incur extra costs, but instead they become extras. See this article if you want to add a bit of charm to your cookie-cutter house.

Our tip: Invest in professional consultation from interior designer or home stager to identify your selling points. Consider staging option vs doing renos.

Distance and comfort

Today’s young families are the generation of nomads. They don’t get attached to places, but people. Therefore distance factor has lost on prominence. They don’t start their search based on the particular area, but instead they look for a style of a house that would fit their lifestyle and then work around to set up life around it. Traditional items are very much dematerializing, being replaced by files and electronics (like apps, photos and videos). And since they’re disappearing, allowing minimalism in life and aesthetics, buyers don’t buy into a material 4 walls and a roof but they are buying an idea of a home. You can’t manage the distance your buyer will have to commute to work every day, but you can very well create the comfort he will enjoy when returning home. Thera are ways to prep your house for sale that way.

Our tip: Invest in staging the living and sleeping areas in the most inviting way, as these are the areas life mostly happen. In marketing materials highlight how easy it is to jump into highway or Go Train.

Good layout & low-maintenance

Buyers always look for good ratio in spaciousness to value. And if the layout, even if unconventional, has the potential for expansion. Open floor plans are the best sellers, enabling owners to enjoy entertainment around kitchen. But you can create an illusion with any floor plan. All of us look for lots of space, especially in terms of storage and rooms that provide options to be used with multiple purposes. Prep your house for sale with that in mind.

If there is only one bathroom, buyers look for the area that could be converted into a bathroom, even if it’s a half-bath. Having more then one bathroom is a selling point. So is the potential for income suite. After all buyers are willing to accept less then desired floor plan if they get the desired number of bedrooms and bathrooms.¹

Our tip: If you are willing to invest in flooring, keep number of floor finishes to one. No break lines between spaces creates an illusion of bigger space.

Every awkward space/corner (see this example) should be staged to show maximum square footage and give suggestions how it can be utilized.

Remember to increase the wattage in your light bulbs – 100 watts for every 500 sq ft is recommended.

Prep the house for sale room by room

Investment books³ advise that when determining a good investment, buyers always ask themselves these questions:

In the kitchen:

  • is the space open concept or possibly can be?
  • what is the condition of existing cabinets and countertops?
  • what can I save and what do I absolutely have to get rid of?
  • are the appliances fully working? do they show well after they have been cleaned by the owners?
  • is there enough space for the microwave on the countertop?

Our tip: Don’t leave all space on countertops empty. Place a few nice looking accessories to envision how it will be used in everyday life.

In the bath:

Great bath will directly affect how easy and fast investors get an offer and sell it. Therefore they will be checking if there is no:

  • dated and old tubs, fixtures, faucets
  • peeling and cracking tubs or sink vanities
  • old and ugly bathroom countertops
  • water damage near the base of the toilet and shower perimeter
  • Tile from the 70’s

In the master bedroom:

Make sure that every space has a focal point at its most attractive feature. The more time viewers spend in your place the more they potentially bond with it and place an offer.

How will they be testing your house

Beside regular walk-through, followed by more formal inspection with professional, buyers might be doing some of these at the very initial viewing of the house:

  • checking in in the fridge to see if there is no old and spoiled food
  • opening cabinets to see the state of hinges
  • checking under the sink to see the state of cabinets
  • running their hands over the walls to see how well they’re taped
  • checking kitchen area for pests, especially around the appliances ( and under the fridge) and so on…

Our tip: Clean, clean, and clean again! Try to spot potential issues.

Targeting: is your house in demand?

Answering this question requires you to determine your demographics. Who will most likely buy your house? A family? Big? Small? How old are they? Is that a starter home for them? Or are they “upsizing”? What will be their deal breakers?

Starter homes, as experts say, are usually 2-3 bedroom 70’s ranch style with open concept. For buyers 3 bedrooms are better then 2, but 4 or 5 are not always better then 3. There is a concept as well, that the fewer levels the better.

After all you have to ask yourself: what price point will you accept. Are you willing to forgo cosmetic weaknesses and agree to lower price. Or are you on the high end, but ready to work a bit harder to bring in that value and emotional appeal?… I’m curious to know your opinions and tactics! How did you (or if you are a realtor how do you always) prep the house for sale?

Recommended books/Sources: 

¹The Everything Guide To Flipping Houses: An All-Inclusive Guide to Buying, Renovating, Selling (Everything Series) Melanie Williamson, Adams Media, 2015

² Robert Kiyosaki “The Real Book of Real Estate” , Plata Publishing, 2016, Second Edition

³ “The Real Estate Rehab Investing Bible” by Paul Esajian, 2014, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Ola Mochol

Femepreneur, Stager, Team Leader. Helps realtors and home owners transform empty listings into homes.


Our staging is a conversation starter.