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How to help ensure your house sells

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You only get one chance to make a first impression — 49% of all houses sell because of curb appeal.

• Begin by asking your real estate agent for advice (before putting your home on the market). If the house needs a new coat of paint, choose the colours together. The real estate agent will have a better idea of the hottest colours and what sells the fastest.

• Look at the house from a buyer’s point of view. Take a photograph of the exterior (front and back). Doing so will enable you to judge the house from a completely different point of view. The idea is to take personal attachment away from the home. Make a checklist of everything that needs to be done before the "For Sale" sign goes up.

• Clean up that junk! A potential buyer does not want to see children’s toys, wheelbarrows, pet dishes, tools, garbage cans or lawn mowers lying around the yard. The cleaner the yard, the faster the house will sell. I once bought a house because the S.O.S pads were carefully put into a separate container underneath the kitchen sink. If people pay attention to the little details it sends a message that they probably pay attention to the big ones.

• Get rid of whimsical statues, windmills and nameplates. The potential owners want to be able to picture themselves living in the home by taking you out of the equation. The personal stuff must go! Tip: All cars should be moved off of the driveway.

• Spruce up the mailbox. Although it may seem like an insignificant detail, it’s a small effort that will make a big difference. Purchase a new mailbox or paint the old one, but whatever you do make sure it is clean and free of paint chips and rust.

• Lighting is always key. Exterior lights should be clean, working and rust-free. Lighting the walkway with tasteful solar-powered lighting will be worth the effort.

• Plant containers to add charm and personality to your garden. Forget the cheap-looking white plastic pots and set out clay pots, they may be a little more money but they will give potential buyers the idea that you take great care of your yard. Use the pots to draw the buyer’s eye away from unappealing areas, such as fire hydrants or a spot where grass did not grow (perhaps a trampoline sat on the area). Tip: Window boxes are also a nice addition depending on the style of the home (ask your real estate agent about annual colours and placement).

• Wash every window. People often say that if the windows are clean, the rest of the house will likely be well maintained. It’s all about first impressions. Tip: Clean with water or water and vinegar, wipe the windows and dry with newspaper that is three days old or older. Wash windows in the morning or on cloudy days.

• A narrow walk leading to the front door is uninviting. A walk that curves is much more appealing. Consider building a walkway that is wider where it meets the public walk and wider as it reaches the front steps. Two people should be able to walk together side by side.

• Use brick, stone or concrete pavers to give the illusion of a wide walkway. Dig out the grass on either side of the walkway and lay a line of the chosen paving materials along both sides. Fill in with natural-coloured mulch.

• Scatter mulch around trees not more than two or three inches deep. Do not pile the mulch up on the tree trunks. Cut the grass, clear the weeds, and trim the hedges, shrubs, trees and plants.

• Although you may find that your pets are the most adorable creatures on earth, take them away while potential buyers stop in. Ask yourself, if you did not have pets of your own, would you rather sleep in a hotel that allows pets or not? Your yard will be viewed as much cleaner if no pets are around.

• Invest in a good door and door handle. The front door says a lot about the home as well as giving the buyer an added sense of security. You can faux-finish a door and give it an aged look depending on the style of your home. Often the front door will have a bold paint colour to create a focal point. Getting advice before painting will help you make a great choice. Tip: The front steps should be clean, old carpets can be replaced with new ones or paint the stairs to freshen them up.

• A fresh coat of paint is worth the effort because potential owners will see the exterior as they drive up. However, before rushing to paint, try washing the exterior. To wash wood siding and aluminum siding, use a solution of one cup detergent, one quart chlorine bleach and three gallons of water. To clean vinyl siding, hose it down and wash with a mild detergent. Rinse with the hose.

• Porches and decks make a wonderful addition to many homes. Check for spider webs, peeling paint, dirty furniture, dead plants and a dirty barbecue. Clean is key! I once bought a car because the owner’s garden was well maintained, in my mind if he was a perfectionist in the yard he would likely have taken great care of his vehicle (but enough about me).

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming! Missed a column? Can’t remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Interested in grocery coupons? Check out my brand new blog and website at You can contact me by email at

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