The way a home seller presents their property to potential buyers could influence how much it sells for—and when—even in a hot housing market like the Greater Toronto Area’s. So to help sellers get their homes ready for the market during the hot spring season, Harvey Kalles Real Estate (HKRE) contacted Samantha Zawerbny, owner/operator at Wilson Street Staging and Design, a Markham-based home stager serving the GTA, for advice. Here are four tips from Zawerbny, who has worked on projects big and small, from condos and bungalows to sprawling show homes.

Forget your personal style

“People get very attached to their belongings,” Zawerbny says. Quirky items might appeal to the owner, but they likely won’t do them any favours during a showing. They could even be off-putting for open-house visitors. “They’re not going to want to see your religious memorabilia. They’re not going to want to see your bright-lime-green couch,” Zawerbny explains. If you do hire a stager, don’t be offended by their feedback about your possessions. A stager, after all, has the same goal as you do. “Generally stagers are very honest, and we give an honest opinion of what’s going to sell your house.”

Make it minimal

You’ve cleared out your lava lamp and bean bag chairs. Now what? There’s no need to go overboard with filling up every inch of a space. “Having empty walls or having an empty corner is actually going to make the room appear bigger,” Zawerbny tells HKRE. Whatever items you do keep around or add, keep everything neutral. Zawerbny also recommends making use of “calm colours.” She picks blues and creams, for example. “You don’t want to use bright, gaudy colours. You don’t want to do an extreme style, because it’s not going to appeal to everyone.”

Big House? Consider professional help

Zawerbny says a stager can help with any space, but that the owners of large homes will get the most value from their services, which can include transporting rental furniture, providing accessories, and of course, design work and staging. Shelling out $6,000 on staging a $2 million home could pay dividends. “You could end up making $100,000 over asking, $50,000 over asking,” she estimates. Smaller spaces are easier to size up and plan for, she notes, and with typically lower selling prices, there’s less to gain.

Don’t underestimate a little paint

If you do own a smaller home, such as a condo, and decide to stage it yourself, it doesn’t take a massive overhaul to improve the interior. “A very simple way to help brighten up and update something is with paint,” says Zawerbny. “Painting a room, or painting even kitchen cabinets, can actually make your house look so much more updated, and it just takes a can of paint and some time,” she adds. And don’t forget to get rid of any clutter. “Declutter everything by 50 per cent, I say. Put a bowl on your table with some flowers or some fruit, make sure [your home’s] nice smelling… and you’re pretty much good to go.”

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