Tag: selling

15 Key Staging Tips For Your Home Sale

Posted on July 16th, 2017

Nothing can make or break the sale of your property, like the way it is presented. One of the keys to success (both in length of time to sell, and in the price you ultimately accept), is the staging (or presentation) of the home.

At On The Block, we recognize the value of a well-staged home, so we don’t just provide advice, but we put it to action, with an inventory of pieces that can help, as well as our exclusive hotel partnerships where we send our sellers off to relax once the house is up for sale.

Every On The Block listing gets a week for FREE in a partner hotel so that your home can remain in pristine condition while we keep the showings going.

Highlight your home’s strengths, downplay its weaknesses and appeal to the greatest possible pool of prospective buyers with these home-staging tips.

Bye Bye Clutter

The most important thing you can do to prepare your home for sale is to get rid of clutter. Make a house rule that for every new item that comes in, an old one has to leave. One of the major contributors to a cluttered look is having too much furniture. When professional stagers descend on a home being prepped for market, they often whisk away as much as half the owner’s furnishings, and the house looks much bigger for it. You don’t have to whittle that drastically, but take a hard look at what you have and ask yourself what you can live without.


Furniture Groupings

There’s a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed against the walls, but that isn’t the case. Instead, furnish your space by floating furniture away from walls. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger. The title image of this article is a recent On The Block sale where we made sure to group in this way.

Musical Furniture

Give yourself permission to move furniture, artwork and accessories among rooms on a whim. Just because you bought that armchair for the living room doesn’t mean it won’t look great anchoring a sitting area in your bedroom. And try perching a little-used dining-room table in front of a pretty window, top it with buffet lamps and other accessories, and press it into service as a beautiful writing desk or library table.

Room Transformations

If you have a room that serves only to gather junk, repurpose it into something that will add to the value of your home. The simple addition of a comfortable armchair, a small table and a lamp in a stairwell nook will transform it into a cozy reading spot. Or drape fabric on the walls of your basement, lay inexpensive rubber padding or a carpet remnant on the floor and toss in a few cushy pillows. Voila – a new meditation room or yoga studio.

Home Lighting

One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting. As it turns out, many homes are improperly lighted. To remedy the problem, increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures. Aim for a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet. Don’t depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall).

Make It Bigger

To make a room appear to be bigger than it is, paint it the same colour as the adjacent room. If you have a small kitchen and dining room, a seamless look will make both rooms feel like one big space. And make a sunporch look bigger and more inviting by painting it green to reflect the colour of nature. Another design trick: If you want to create the illusion of more space, paint the walls the same colour as your drapery. It will give you a seamless and sophisticated look.

Neutral and Appealing

Painting a living room a fresh neutral colour helps tone down any dated finishes in the space. Even if you were weaned on off-white walls, take a chance and test a quart of paint in a warm, neutral hue. These days, the definition of neutral extends way beyond beige, from warm tans and honeys to soft blue-greens. As for bold wall colours, they have a way of reducing offers, so go with neutrals in large spaces.

Colour Experiment

Don’t be afraid to use dark paint in a powder room, dining room or bedroom. A deep tone on the walls can make the space more intimate, dramatic and cozy. And you don’t have to go whole hog – you can paint just an accent wall to draw attention to a dramatic fireplace or a lovely set of windows. If you have built-in bookcases or niches, experiment with painting the insides a colour that will make them pop — say, a soft sage green to set off the white pottery displayed within.

Vary Wall Hangings

If your home is like most, the art is hung in a high line encircling each room. Big mistake. Placing your pictures, paintings and prints in such stereotypical spots can render them almost invisible. Art displayed creatively makes it stand out and shows off your space. So break up that line and vary the patterning and grouping.

Three’s Company

Mixing the right accessories can make a room more inviting. When it comes to eye-pleasing accessorizing, odd numbers are preferable, especially three. Rather than lining up a trio of accessories in a row, imagine a triangle and place one object at each point. Scale is important, too, so in your group of three be sure to vary height and width, with the largest item at the back and the smallest in front. For maximum effect, group accessories by colour, shape, texture or some other unifying element, stagers suggest.

Raid Your Yard

Staged homes are almost always graced with fresh flowers and pricey orchid arrangements, but you can get a similar effect simply by raiding your yard. Budding magnolia clippings or unfurling fern fronds herald the arrival of spring, summer blooms add splashes of cheerful colour, blazing fall foliage warms up your decor on chilly autumn days and holly branches heavy with berries look smashing in winter.

Serene and Inviting

Create a relaxing bedroom setting with luxurious linens and soft colours that will make a potential home buyer want to hang out. Bedroom staging trick: If you don’t have the money to buy a new bed, just get the frame, buy an inexpensive air mattress and dress it up with neutral-patterned bedding. And remember to declutter. By cleaning out your closets, you’re showing off your storage space, which sells houses – it always ranks high on buyers’ priority list.

New Faces

If you can’t afford new cabinets, just get new doors and drawer fronts. Then paint everything to match and add new hardware. And instead of replacing the entire dishwasher, you may be able to get a new front panel. Check with the manufacturer to see if replacements are available for your model. If not, laminate paper, which goes on like contact paper, can be used to re-cover the existing panel.

Repaired Wood

Unfinished projects can scare off potential buyers, so finish them. Missing floorboards and large cracks in the sidewalk on the way to your door tend to be a red flag, for example, and they cost you less to fix than buyers might deduct from the asking price.

Prim and Polished

Having tile professionally painted can make a bathroom look brand new. And accessorizing can make buyers feel like they’re in a spa. Put out items like rolled-up towels, decorative baskets and candles. It’s a great way to create a polished look, and it doesn’t cost much to do.
Presenting your home in its best possible light is part of our job, but as you prepare your home for sale, you too can take advantage of many of these tips on your own to get the biggest bank for your buck. 
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11 Reasons Why Your Home Isn’t Selling – And What You Should Do About It

Posted on June 20th, 2017

The hot topic in the Southern Ontario real estate market has been the ‘hot market’ for much of 2017. As we’ve entered summer, the warmer weather has had the adverse effect on home sales and cooled the market a bit. Prices are still high, and so is demand…but through a variety of factors (call it interest rates, regulatory impact, or just a plain ceiling on the general purchaser’s buying power), supply is rising and homes are sitting on the market a bit longer.

If you are one of those people who thought it was time to cash in on a hot market, but haven’t had quite the easy ride you were expecting, this article is for you. Take a look at 11 of the biggest reasons why your house isn’t selling, and some insight into how you can fix the problem.

For those of you trying to buy a home and having issues, these won’t make your lives harder, but rather hopefully shed light on some of the reasons you’ve had limited luck as well. Maybe if some sellers take this advice into consideration, 

1. You’re Charging Too Much

I know you think your house is worth $x dollars.  But just because you think your house is worth an amount it doesn’t mean it actually is.

Want to know what your house is worth?

Whatever someone is willing to pay for it – no more, no less.  Want to know something else?  Every house can sell, it just needs the right price.  You may not want to lower the price of your home, which is understandable, but if you need to sell, you may be better off lowering the price now to move it than wait months and end up lowering the price anyway. 

2. There’s No Curb Appeal

Imagine your house isn’t yours.  Remove yourself emotionally.  Now go across the street and look at that house that is being sold and ask yourself if that house looks appealing?

Does it?  How is the lawn?  Is it green and weed-free?  The hedges?  Are they cut and neat?  How’s the paint job?  Does it need touching up?  Is it weathered and cracked?  Does the overall layout of the look of the house make sense?  How is the lighting?

Look around your neighbourhood at houses you love.  Go look at some houses that just sold too for good measure.  What do they look like?  What about them appeals to you?   Is that how your house is?

Curb appeal is something that you may be able to fix up inexpensively and the return could very well be the difference between selling and not selling your house!  A good landscaper may be able to suggest a few inexpensive touches that could make your house look much better.

3. Your House is Cluttered Inside

If you are serious about selling your home, do what you can to open it up inside and out.  Get rid of as much as you can.  All of those knick-knacks you have on the shelves are visual clutter for the potential buyer.  Your amazing furniture doesn’t allow a buyer to see the layout as they need to see it.

It helps to live like a minimalist when selling your home.  If you have to put things in storage, so be it.  Make sure your clutter isn’t costing you a sale.  Open up the place and keep only the bare essentials.

4. Your House is Actually a Mess

Be honest with yourself – is your house clean?  Really?  Are the appliances clean (I’m looking at you oven and refrigerator shelves)?  Is the bathroom spotless?  Even in the corners?  How about the kitchen?  Is there laundry visible anywhere?  What’s in the kitchen sink or the dishwasher?

I know it’s hard keeping up with all of the household tasks as it is, but when you are selling a house you really have to work to keep things clean.  Your house may be awesome but if it’s in any way a mess, a potential buyer won’t see the awesomeness, they will see the dirty toilet and be pretty turned off.  If you need to, hire a cleaning service to scrub your house from top to bottom.  A few hundred dollars to sell a house is well-worth it, don’t let your mess costs you thousands of dollars.

5. It Looks Like Your Home, Not Mine

This one is related to the previous two tips.  Your house is full of stuff that is yours.  When I, the buyer, look around I see your house.  What you want is for me to see “my” house.

You need a buyer to be able to imagine the place as theirs.  You want them to walk around and think about where they will put their vacation pictures and mug collection.

I know you love your family, but all of your pictures hanging up makes the home buyer think of you – no good.  De-personalize the house as much as possible.  Think about what a furniture catalogue looks like.  Those catalogues are set up in a way to ensure that anyone who opens them imagines their life in that room they are looking at.  That’s what you need to aim for.

6. You Stay While I Look at the House

There is a tendency, when showing a home, for the seller to follow the potential buyer around the house and tell them everything that’s great about the place as well as be there to answer any questions.

Don’t do it!  In fact, don’t be there at all.

Following the buyer around makes the buyer nervous and they don’t get the opportunity to really look around.  They feel rushed, watched, and they can’t speak to their family about what they like or hate about the place.  When you follow a buyer around you might also be hurting yourself by appearing too eager.  Or you might accidentally let out a piece of information that sours the buyer on the house (“ten years ago our little guy tripped on the steps and hit his head there but he’s OK now…”).

Give people space to talk about what they like or talk smack about the house.  Who cares what they say, they’ll either like it or not, your presence can only impact that in a negative way. If they have follow up questions, they will most certainly ask.

7. Your Real Estate Agent Sucks

This one hurts.  You hire a real estate agent and you expect them to bust their hump for you and get your house sold.  After all, they are getting a commission, right?

But not all real estate agents are created equal.

Some look to get your listing and hope it sells itself.  Or they have so many other listings that they can’t devote enough time to you.  What adds to the problem is many agents have you sign a form saying you will only work with them for a period of time and if another sells for x months after they still get a piece of the action.

Get on the agent’s case.  Stay in touch with them and find out what they are doing to move your home.  Call their broker of record, if possible, and let them know you are not happy.  Make sure your real estate agent is working for you.

8. You Place is All Busted Up

Broken house

Why isn’t my house selling? It’s mint!

If your place needs work, that’s one thing.  Every house has its issues.  But if there are big problems with your house then you have to understand that will be reflected in the price someone will pay.  The problems may not even be major.  If the paint job is dull and dirty, a white-wash can do wonders to make the house more attractive and the cost is relatively low.

But if there is more work than a person would expect it leads us to the next point…

9. You Flat-Out Lied in Your Description

First of all, it goes without saying that misrepresenting your home in any way presents much larger problems than simply, ‘a buyer may not want to buy anymore’. You leave yourself susceptible to potential (and deserved) legal trouble, so this is not just a suggestion, but flat out common sense.

Being “colourful” or “taking some liberties” in your description is something many home listings do.  But some real estate listings flat-out lie.  Don’t state your house is in “perfect condition” if it’s far from it.  If there is serious work that needs to be done, you must disclose it.

Again, all houses have their warts, but when you lie in your description it ticks off the potential buyer.  You lose all trust and you waste their time.  When a buyer sees a house where the description is way off they ask themselves “what else is hidden and wrong here?”  They are going to think the house is much worse than what they see, and who is to blame them?

10. You are Still Doing Work on It

If you are still doing some major work (or even minor) on the house you have to understand that doesn’t look good to a buyer.  They are looking at a house that is incomplete in some way.  Even if the work sounds like it will be great, they can’t be sure it will turn out well.  If you are the one doing the work then that’s really bad.  A buyer wants to know any work is professionally done and up to code.

I’m not talking a paint job here.  I’m talking about renovations or big repairs.  Either get them done before you put the house on the market, get a pro to do it (with documentation), or understand that your house isn’t exactly “ideal” right now.

11. You Have “Unique” Tastes

I don’t begrudge you having tastes that are out of the norm.  There’s nothing wrong with that – until you want to sell your house!

If your tastes are more eclectic than most people’s then you may be limiting the audience to whom you can sell.  Heck, your interior may be genius in some circles but for other people it may mean doing a lot of work and expense to bring it to their taste.  


While there are a multitude of reasons why your house (or any house) may not be selling, and some of those reasons are driven by external forces, at some point you must ask yourself why some homes are selling and some are not. There are differences, and many can be controlled and/or remedied to provide a more favourable outcome for the seller. 

Don’t forget, a house that is easier to sell is so because it is a house that is easier to buy. Think about it.


Adapted from Free From Broke

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How to win in Real Estate

Posted on June 15th, 2017

You have read enough about the wild ride that is the real estate market in many regions across the country, and beyond. It seems every day there are new stories about price records, bidding wars, and market indicators that show no real sign of a slowdown. And now you are asking yourself more and more, ‘how can I get in on this?’.

Perhaps you are a could-be investor looking to turn over a property for some big money, maybe your own home has appreciated significantly and a downsize/cash grab is a possibility for you, or like many others, maybe you are trying to figure out how to afford something in this ever more difficult market. In any case, there are some key tips you need to follow to avoid getting swallowed by the market, getting mired in stress, and overpaying out of false necessity.


Just because the ‘market is hot’, doesn’t mean you should be diving right in head-first. You need to have a keen knowledge of your own end game in order to effectively tackle the real estate world. Are you looking for a rental property or a place to live? What are your timelines like? Do you need a place that has the ability to ‘get out quick’? Is this property a stepping stone to another one?

The more in touch you are with your goals, the easier it is to focus on the approach that makes the most sense for you. Every property and client is vastly different, and without nailing down the real meat of your objectives, you’ll miss out.


Just as important as your objectives is the ability to set a firm set of limits around the particulars of a transaction.

Price is the obvious boundary to set, and you must be stubborn in your commitment to it. There will almost definitely be a world of temptation that draws that number higher, but you have your limits for a reason. One tip is to do your searching at a price limit that is quite substantially below your ‘true’ limit. The rude awakenings you’ll get from the market and the temptation will almost always force your initial price ceiling to rise, so you might as well work yourself to a landing place that is still within your comfort zone. Buying outside of your means might give you an immediate thrill, but there is a reason you have your limit…don’t fall victim to a hasty decision, the term ‘house poor’ is not a label you need for yourself.

Beyond price, understand the other boundaries you have. Location, for example. If you know that a certain set of attributes is pivotal to the location of your home (access to transit, good school district…etc.), don’t sway from that. When you compromise aspects of your search because you believe there is no other way to close a deal, you’ve let the market beat you.

The key message here is ‘stick to your guns’. Don’t be swayed by the messaging you hear. Just because your agent feels the house upon which you are bidding is going to go for $50,000 beyond your budget, the choice shouldn’t be ‘should we bid $51,000 more so we get it or not?’, it should be ‘is it worth bidding our limit, or should we wait for the next one?’.

While you may go a lot longer before you land the right home (or investment) using this strategy, you can at least rest assured that you followed the process according to your own terms. Remember you aren’t directly paying your real estate agent to guide you through this sometimes arduous process, but s/he is most certainly getting compensated, so don’t feel bad if it takes you a long time to land in the right place, that is the only way you’ll feel like a winner in the end.


You will never win in any industry if you are surrounded by people who know more than you do. Real estate is certainly no different. You have to equip yourself with the right tools make you the smartest person in the room.

Once you have identified the key objectives and boundaries for your purchase, you need to become (or better yet, enlist) a subject matter expert for that set of criteria. Know what you’re getting into, the history, the comparables, the trends, and use it to your advantage. Also, learn about your perceived priorities to fact check yourself (Don’t get caught with “I know I need to live in this neighbourhood because everyone says it’s great” without first verifying the facts).

The smartest way to get smart is by working with a licensed realtor. It is their job to know everything and to be your soldier on the battlefield. If you go at it alone, that is your prerogative, but take the time to educate yourself.

Just because you watch a lot of HGTV, it doesn’t mean you know the market

While much of the drama that unfolds on real estate TV can very well happen in the real world, it is not the gospel, and shouldn’t dictate your assessment of a real life situation. Not every transaction is a roller coaster, and not every home is a sledgehammer away from doubling in value. Just because the market is hot, doesn’t mean every investment will yield positive returns. Do your research, and don’t leave your decisions to your gut.


Ask a lot of them. Once the deal is done, the deal is done. You don’t get take backs because you forgot to question the huge septic tank in the backyard or what knob and tube wiring is. Every detail is important, because even the most minor of potential issues instantly become your issues once you close.

If you don’t feel you know everything to make you completely comfortable about a real estate transaction, make sure you do before you sign the dotted line. Get it all out before you make that offer, and you’ll feel much better.


Real estate can be the ultimate poker game. While the vast majority of the players are decent, well-meaning individuals, everyone’s goal is still to feel like a winner. In order to be in the best position to win, you have to protect your hand, and ensure you don’t give away too much information.

The biggest emotion to suppress during the process is LOVE. Once you have purchased your new home, you can and should love it unconditionally, but before that time comes, falling in love with a potential purchase is as dangerous as giving someone your banking information. Love is blind, and when you convince yourself you absolutely must have a property, you fall victim to an unfair negotiation.

Reserve all of your emotions for the closing, and until then, treat the process as the business transaction that it is. Easier said than done, but when the emotions do spill out when the game is over, they will be considerably happier, and rightfully so.


This whole process is not for the faint of heart, and there will likely be many peaks and valleys along the way. Try to have fun with it, and you’ll be much better off. Most of the people on the path you’re on are extremely stressed out…the process is stressful, but you don’t have to let it get to you if you are prepared for the process.

It isn’t as simple as paying the sticker price for a home in today’s market. It is however, exceedingly easier to survive the journey if you go at it with a calm and patient demeanour.

Go out there, enjoy the ride, if you aren’t afraid to miss out on a few places then you can really have a great time – and the more time you spend spinning your wheels in one spot, the more information you gather to better equip you with the right questions and answers for the next round.  It starts with the preparation above.

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