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What are essential preparations to get the best sale possible? Are renovations necessary? There is a distinct difference between preparing for the sale of your home and renovating to sell your home.

Preparing Your Home for Sale

I strongly believe you should absolutely prepare and stage your home for sale. A well presented home will often sell quicker and for more money. In some cases, it will sell for thousands more. Real estate sales are about price and condition, or as has been eloquently put, “It’s all a price war and a beauty contest.” This is all about preparing for the beauty contest.

Well presented homes are:

Exceptionally clean

Clean your home from top to bottom including walls, baseboards, cupboards, windows and everything in between. If there are ceiling stains they will be noticed.


It is hard to see a home and visualize a buyer’s furniture and style when a home is very full of furniture and belongings. A pre-pack is often necessary to unclutter, clean and open up spaces while still maintaining some personality and defining spaces.

Neutral in smell

You may no longer notice odours in your home. However, buyers may be sensitive to various odours including cooking, pets, gym equipment, mould or purposefully scented items or perfumes. If a home has a lot of scented items such as candles or wall plug-ins, buyers will often discuss what is being covered up. Some buyers also have issues with strong scents and will leave a showing primarily due to the smell. The ideal smell in a home is a neutral smell.

Light and bright

Turn on the lights and open the blinds to let in as much natural light as possible. If there will be evening showings, do a walkthrough to see if darkly lit rooms or corners can be brightened. Ensure lightbulbs are natural in color and light a room quickly. Buyers are less likely to buy what they can’t see.

Well defined with each room displaying a specific purpose

If a home is listed as a three bedroom home, aim to have 3 beds to show off the 3 bedrooms. An office is best remembered when staged as an office, rather than full of overflow storage. When each room is set up with purpose it makes it easier for buyers to visualize themselves in the home.

Well organized including closets and cupboards

Buyers will open up main cupboards, pantry and closet doors and storage areas. If they look too full then buyers may assume there isn’t enough room so organize and leave open spaces.

Well landscaped with maintained yards

The curb appeal of the front landscaping and lifestyle appeal of a backyard or private space are top of mind for many buyers. Just as inside, clean up, stage and present a welcoming space.

In good repair 

All the little repair jobs around the home are best done before buyers find loose cupboards, a light that doesn’t work, a broken deck board or squeaky doors. The buyer’s perception about home maintenance goes far in choosing a new home.

Home staging services can be great resources if you need help preparing your home. Many provide consulting services to assist sellers.

Should You Paint your Home for Sale?

Painting is one of the ‘in the middle’ items. Buyers really get stuck on colour so neutralizing strong design choices can have an impact on the speed of sale and the final sale price.

As most buyers first look at listing photographs prior to viewing, consider the overall color impact when looking at the main rooms to ensure the listing presents as well as possible. If bedrooms are strong or dark colours, try and neutralize with a white bedspread and accessories.

As well, if a home is well lived in than a refresh can be worth the investment. As many buyers often redecorate and repaint themselves, it isn’t always worth it so evaluate this one carefully.

If the current paint is chipped, flaking and in disrepair than a fresh coat of paint can have the most impact.

Home painting is one of the renovation/repair items that has a positive return on investment, meaning it can result in a price adjustment higher than the cost of doing the work.

Note: Pink is consistently one of the least popular colors for decorating and home sales.

Should you renovate to sell your home?

Usually, preparations are all that are necessary to set the stage for a successful sale. However, it is worth the time to review if any renovations may be worth the time and expense.

Renovations are larger scale improvements and include anything from large scale painting to replacing kitchens, roofs, updating landscaping and more.

Before setting out on a renovation project there a few things to consider.

Before you look at any specific improvements, have a look at comparable homes in your neighbourhood that are selling around the same price point as your home.

Are they similar to yours? Do they all have an improvement that your home does not? Look through a buyers eyes to see what have be distinguishing features between the higher selling homes in your category and your own home.

What to consider when evaluating renovations for sale.

Inspection Issues

If there is a deficiency that will result in a buyer walking away from the purchase then it is best addressed prior to listing. Items of disrepair or safety issues should be reviewed independently of aesthetic improvements.

Many buyers may not be able to afford a necessary deficiency repair or renovation when buying a home near their maximum budget so they could not buy the property thus reducing the buyer pool for the property. If the property was priced a touch higher with the repairs completed, this may increase the buyer pool for the property.


Evaluate the return on investment, the cost of the potential renovation vs the price adjustment on the sale price.

For example, if the kitchen cabinets are of average style and condition, replacing them with new cabinets may not result in a higher sale price and just cost you money.

Harrison Bowker Valuation Group regularly publishes a Home Renovation Value Guide related to Alberta. Use the guide as a starting point to determine potential renovation costs and returns.

For example, a bathroom remodel in the price range of $10,000-$20,000 may only result in a 50-75% return on investment. That new hot tub may only return 5-40% of cost.

Speed of Sale

Some renovations increase the speed of sale. Some buyers do not have the time between leaving their current home and moving into their new home to complete a renovation or they just don’t want to deal with a renovation with unknown costs and timelines.

These buyers are more likely to purchase a home with their priority items completed. 

A home that is missing something that other similar homes have to offer may take longer to sell. This is especially true when buyers have many homes to choose from in their area.

Market Timing

Some communities have seasonal sales cycles. For example, strong family neighbourhoods tend to see increased sales in the spring time and possession/occupancy dates that avoid disruptions to school schedules. Sales may slow in areas during summer holidays, large scale events or longer seasonal holidays such as Christmas.

Many people would rather avoid moving during the cold of winter. If you are considering a sale with a renovation consider timing to ensure your completion is best timed with the market cycles.

Real Estate Market

If the market is unbalanced, either strongly favouring the seller or the buyer than these tips become less or more relevant.

When there are more homes on the market than buyers, a buyer’s market, then preparations and presentation become much more important. Sellers will need to present well in listing photos and details to ensure buyers shortlist their home for viewing.

May you always find your way home.