1. Keep the heat on. There is nothing worse then going to an open house and freezing. It makes purchasers hurry through the house so they can get back to their warm cars. I have staged many vacant properties where the home owner wanted to save money and therefore barely heated the house. It is not good for furniture and art to be at low temperatures so stagers can request a minimum temperature in their contracts which will force the home owner to keep it heated to a certain degree. Agents would need to make sure that a vacant house is preheated before visits and discuss this with the home owner.

2. Make sure the house is well lit. When the sun is gone, the house looks darker so make sure all the lights are on for open houses and visits. This includes the outside lights. If there are bulbs missing, change them. Many times the bedrooms in vacant homes do not have ceiling lights. This is another reason to stage your property as additional lighting will be added so the home will show properly in the evenings.

3. If there is a gas fireplace, turn it on. A fireplace not only adds heat to a room but it creates a cozy inviting atmosphere. Purchasers generally love fireplaces so if it is there, turn it on. If it is a wood fireplace, then either the agent has to be comfortable maintaining it during the open house, or it might be better to keep it off for safety reasons.

4. Make sure the yard is clean. Trim bushes and rake the leaves. They will rot under the snow and be a mess in the spring. Sometimes here in Montreal, we get snow and we think it will cover the unkempt grass, rotting leaves and garbage. We no sooner get snow, the temperature changes, snow melts and our mess is back. So get the home owner to clean it up.

5. Make sure snow is removed from the driveway and walkway into the house. I put this into my staging contract as many home owners are not around to make sure the property is accessible for visitors and for the removal of the furniture used for home staging.

There is nothing worse than wading through 1 1/2 feet of snow just to get in and out of a house. I have seen realtors shovelling driveways because the homeowner is just not around to do it. If the property is vacant, have the home owner assign a company to take care of it. Dangerous icy stairs and piles of snow will deter purchasers.

6. Make your rooms cozy! Some ideas for the home owner would be to:

  • put knitted throws over on the edge of a sofa
  • brew a pot of coffee before a purchaser comes in
  • clean up rooms so there is no clutter
  • turn off a TV. and just play quiet music on a radio
  • use warm coloured accessories in browns, oranges and red colours

7. Make sure winter boots are not piled up at the front door. Keep the front entranceway clear of clutter. Winter boots and scarves can be kept in the garage or at the back entrance.

It is frustrating for a purchaser to come into an occupied home and end up with wet socks because the front inside doormat is saturated from snow. Some agents provide slippers which helps to keep feet dry. Have this discussion with the home owner so that arriving at the property will not be a 'surprise to for the feet'.

8. 'Wet dog' smell has to go. If the home owner's dog is used to playing outside, rolling in snow or getting muddy, have a family member walk the dog around the block so he is not in the house when it is being shown. Few people like the smell of a wet dog, and there are purchasers who would rather not buy a house where an animal lives as it could mean the floors are damaged due to scratching or dog pee.

9. No hanging laundry!Since the warm weather will be gone, there is a natural tendency for home owners to hang their laundry either on lines in the basement, on a laundry rack in a room or along the shower rod and in the bathroom. There is nothing worse than trying to see a room amidst underwear, shirts, stockings etc. Not only does it add a lot of humidity to the house but it really looks bad. This also applies to hanging pants off of the top of a master bedroom closet door. I witnessed this a couple of weeks ago at an open house. I mentioned it to the realtor who never noticed it but removed it after it was brought to his attention. Speak to your home owner.

10. Don't overdo the holiday decorating. If you decorate your house before the photographer comes, it will be a giveaway that your house is not selling. If you put Christmas decorations up, three months later if your house does not sell, we will still see the decorations in March. Lightly decorate after the pictures have been taken. Keep in mind, not everyone celebrates the same holiday events.

Using natural decorations like a display of birch tree branches and spruce branches, pine cones etc. are outdoor planter ideas which appeal to most people and are not affected by the changes in weather.

Hope this helps you with your upcoming listings. As a home stager and someone who has moved 11 times, these are things I have come across. Sometimes the agents apologized and sometimes they never noticed a thing!

Joanne Vroom

home stager and re-designer