How to make your home stand out in today’s competitive housing market

by Todd Lewys

With so many homes and condominiums populating the real estate market these days, many vendors are asking the same question: How do you make your home stand out above the rest in a market that’s offering unprecedented selection?

While there’s no simple answer, interior designer Kelly Penuita said a vendor who’s taken the time to maintain their home is often ahead of many other homes on the market.

“Take care of all necessary repairs and upgrades before putting your home up for sale. Buyers don’t want to buy work, they want to buy a move-in-ready home.”

REALTOR® Alan Reiss agreed, saying that he recently recommended that a client make a key upgrade to their home before putting it on the market.

“I had to be honest with them,” he said. “After I looked at the old brown carpeting that ran through the dining room and living room of their home, I told them it would be a good idea to pull it up and have the oak hardwoods beneath refinished.”

Fortunately, Reiss’s clients agreed.

“They saw the merit in the change and decided to do it. I just went over to the home to have a look at how everything turned out, and I have to say the difference was night and day,” he said. “The refinished floors looked gorgeous, and added character and warmth to an area that had looked dated before. Refinishing the floors cost the vendors about $2,500, but it was worth it.”

Even subtle changes to a home’s look can translate into it sticking out in buyers’ memories. For example, simply replacing a tired-looking front door with a rich-looking new door can pay dividends.

“A different colour door definitely draws the eye in, calling attention to a home’s entry,” explained Penuita. “Replacing a door is a good idea if you want the entry to be a focal point, or if it’s gotten lost in the overall look of a home’s exterior. That can happen if a door’s finish has weathered (and become tired), or if a door (such as an old screen door) has become dated.”

Once a door has been replaced, buyers’ perception of a home can turn around dramatically.

“A small thing like a new door can become the aspect of the property that buyers gravitate toward to distinguish between your home and others,” Penuita said. “When a couple is talking after viewing several homes, one might say, ‘Remember that cute house with the red door?’ A beautiful door — and well-maintained exterior — speaks volumes about a home.”

Will a colourful new front door sell a home by itself? Likely not. However, it can’t hurt to add it, said Penuita. “It’s unlikely that buyers would base their decision to buy on whether or not the front door is a nice colour. But it definitely can make one property stand out from the rest.”

A well-maintained exterior is usually a precursor to a well-kept interior, she added. “It tells buyers that the sellers have kept up with regular maintenance and that they care about the property. This will attract buyers’ attention, and make them want to see the interior.”

Consequently, a sharp-looking, well-ordered interior is the next secret to gaining a competitive advantage over other homes.

“If your home’s interior isn’t maintained, it will create a disconnect with buyers,” said Penuita. “Flooring should be updated and carpets professionally cleaned, closets should be organized, the kitchen and bathrooms should be sparkling clean and well-organized, and, if possible, paint should be fresh, and neutral. That brightens and freshens spaces, and neutral colours eliminate colour objections.”

There are several other things vendors can do to make their homes stand out — things that are quite simple to do.

“Take the time to clean all windows and open them to allow fresh air to flow through inside — nothing smells better than fresh air. Clear bathroom counters of personal items, and use luxurious white towels to create a spa-like feel,” she said. “And pick up all small personal decor items and family photos; this allows buyers to visualize themselves living in the home.”

She added that it also pays off to neaten up a home’s surroundings prior to showing it. “Tidy up the yard, make any exterior repairs if they’re required, and even add pops of colour by putting in flower beds or putting colourful flowers in flower pots at the front and back entrances.”