Preparing for visits

The most common complaint I hear from sellers is the need to keep their house clean and ready for visits. More than a few clients have told me they wish they could just move out until their house is sold!

Preparing your house for visits by potential buyers is extremely important and yet, I’ve seen houses where the owners clearly didn’t understand this. If you don’t clean you house before visits, even the best broker is going to have trouble selling it.


You might not realize that your home has a smell to it, but someone visiting it for the fist time will – especially if it smells bad!

Some culprits to consider:

– Pets. Make sure the cat litter is clean and, if possible, out of the house. Dog beds smell like dogs, so wash them regularly while your home is on the market, and store them into the garage during visits.

– Basements. Basements tend to be damp, so they need dehumidifiers. Musty-smelling basements are a huge turnoff for potential buyers.

– Cooking odours. Do not cook especially fragrant foods like bacon, curry or fish the day of a visit. The smell lingers and visitors might find them offensive. The smell of baking cookies, on the other hand, can leave people with a positive impression of your home.

– Fragrances. Do not go overboard with scented candles or scented room sprays. They can be overpowering, and visitors will think you’re trying to hide something.

To try instead:

– Flowers. A beautiful bouquet can freshen up any room. With a little TLC, they can last a week or two and are worth the investment.

– Natural cleaning products. Replace your usual cleaning products with all-natural, lemon-scented products that leave a pleasant fresh smell without being overpowering. Another option is plain vinegar, which leaves no smell at all once it dries.


De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter!  You want potential buyers to be able to imagine themselves living in your house. With this in mid, pack away as many of your personal effects as possible, clear out closets and cupboards, and minimize furniture. Then give your house a thorough cleaning.

Kitchen and bathrooms are especially important to buyers, so make sure that yours look their best. They should sparkle! The bathroom should feel like a spa, so buy some new fluffy towels and a bathmat. Clear countertops of personal items and – please – make sure the toilet lid is closed!

Aside form the obvious de-cluttering and cleaning, you should also think about:

– Packing it up. Purchase a few large plastic storage bins and when visitors come, quickly sweep everything off the counters and tables into the bins. Then store them in the cupboard with the lid closed – or better yet, put them in the trunk of your car and leave with them.

– Lighting. Bright rooms are more welcoming and look bigger. So turn on all the lights and open the curtains and blinds (unless the view is terrible!).

– Access. Walkways should be cleared of snow, wet leaves and toys. Potential buyers shouldn’t have to come in through the back door because you haven’t bothered to shovel the snow. Every visit should start by way of the front door. For your visitors’ safety, stairs should be kept clear as well.

– Details. Finally, when was the last time you clean your light switch plate covers? You may not notice the smudges and fingerprints, but I assure you the buyer will.


Soft music is always welcome, but the key word is soft – as in turned down, low background music. The buyers aren’t there to rock it out!

Get out!

You, your kids and your little dog too! Buyers don’t feel comfortable wandering around someone’s home while the owners are watching them. Buyers will rush through their visit so as not to inconvenience them.

If you can’t leave, try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Do not be that owner who follows around the buyers to show them all the good qualities of your home. This backfires more often than is successful.  For example, if the you tell the buyer there are a lot of kids in the area, the buyer may imagine he will be over run with kids screaming, when truly there are only 5 kids living close by. Everyone interprets things differently!

Make a good impression

Often, after a day of visits, I hear buyers giving nicknames to the houses we’ve seen. Do you want to be the dirty house or the dream house? The smelly home or the house with the great light? How about the bra house? The owner of one home we visited had her bras and underwear hanging to dry in the bathroom! I have even had the naked house, where a man walked out of his bedroom bearing all. You can imagine how that visit ended!

So take a good look around your home. Walk around and look at it as though it were your first time seeing it. Will it make the right impression?

You may think buyers look past your belongings and your clutter to the house and its layout, but most of the clients I’ve worked with are influenced by how the house is presented. You want buyers to walk away remembering all the positives – that’s when you’ll get an offer.

***The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.***

Questions to Ask at Open Houses

Open houses are a great way to pack a bunch of home visits in on a Sunday afternoon. It is like window shopping for houses. However, you should go with a list of questions to ask the listing broker if the home interests you. Here are some questions worth asking;

  1. Why are they moving? This tells you how motivated they are to sell.
  2. When do they want to move? Would they prefer an offer that gives them time to find another house or a quick occupancy? Often a vendor will accept a lesser price if the dates are perfect.
  3. Have there been offers on the home before? The broker can’t legally tell you the price of the other offers, but they can tell you if there has been any and if the offer died on building inspection, why.
  4. What was the original list price on the home? How long has it been on the market? Is this the first contract or was it listed with another broker before? These will help you know if the home is priced correctly, are the owners dreaming of an unrealistic price, have they finally woke up and are ready for reality?
  5. What are the heating costs? If the costs are high it could be a red flag for insulation issues, however everyone heats differently, they could have just turned the heat up for the open house!
  6. Are there any known issues with the home? Ask for a copy of the Seller’s Declaration – Mandatory document in Quebec, it states everything the owner knows about the property’s condition.
  7. How close are the parks and services? Location, location, location. I can not say it enough you can fix any house, but you can’t fix a location!

Be prepared to answer so questions too! The listing broker has an obligation to give their vendor feedback from the day! Think about it you are going into a stranger’s house walking around to see if you like it, its their personal space, they should be able to have some feed back from you. Also fill out the sign in sheet. If you are worried about the broker doing a hard sell, don’t give all your contact info but your name would be nice. If the house was yours that the broker was trying to sell wouldn’t you want him/her to do their job correctly?

Here is what most brokers will ask you – be prepared!

  1. Are you working with another broker exclusively? This is important for the broker to know, ethically brokers don’t like step on other brokers toes! Tell the broker when you walk in that you are working with Tania from Royal LePage, the broker will appreciate it. The broker will call your broker for feedback from the visit and leave you be!
  2. Are you from the area? This lets the broker know if they should give you some area information.
  3. When are you looking to buy for? This just helps the broker know where you are in your search and if you are more on a scouting visit or a serious ‘let’s find a house asap’.
  4. How do you feel about the house, compared to others you’ve seen, its price? This helps the broker give constructive feedback to the owner.
  5. Are you considering making an offer on this home? Ok sounds pushy but it’s the brokers job to sell the house! Again, if it were your house on the open house, would you was the broker to ask everyone! Law of averages says, ask enough and your bound to get one yes!

Brokers do open houses every Sunday, you will probably see the same broker in the weeks to come at another property. They know the area, they know the market, so use them for their knowledge. Don’t run into an open house and treat them like a vulture you must avoid! They are there to help!

**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**