Question of the week:

What do you wish that you knew before you sold your house?

I saw a similar post the other day, asking what people wished they knew before buying a house.


I have the opposite question: What do you wish you knew before starting the process to sell your house?


Getting ready to potentially sell our first home, that is if we can find anything worthwhile to move into (which is a whole other conversation!)

Nick Answers Reddit

Every week, Nick answers a Redditor’s question about buying, selling, renting, investing or living in Ottawa. Send Nick your own questions on the website, on Reddit or on a YouTube comment!

Nick's Response

u/motiv8_mee this is a great question. I’ll touch on what some others have already said and expand on some others that could use some expansion.

  • Preparation – Homeowners often underestimate how much time and effort it can take to get a home ready for sale. Not everyone has the luxury (new job, divorce, dozens of factors), but if you do know that you’ll be moving in the future, get intentional about preparing now. A great first step is to call a stager (or have your Realtor include it as part of their listing) and get an updated market evaluation of your home. Giving yourself lots of time to prepare (if you can) cuts stress way down.

  • Staging – I include at least a staging consultation for clients every time we list a home, even though I’ve attended probably hundreds of appointments with stagers at this point. The reason is that staging works to sell your home faster and for more money. Even if you’re selling your home on your own, pay a stager for a consultation (in our market it’s typically around $250 CDN) and make a big list of items to tackle. Triage it by deciding what’s crucial, what’s not and what you should hire someone to do instead of doing it yourself. The second part to staging is that adding appropriate furniture and/or decoration to a home (either physically or virtually) can really show how a vacant space can look and attract showings. If local stagers are charging a lot, there are excellent ones available for a very reasonable rate on

  • Cleaning – Someone else put it well, but many peoples’ level of “clean” is not everyone’s level of clean. A stager once told me to “clean like you’re scrubbing the house for a surgery” and that’s always stuck with me. Get the nooks and crannies and all of the places that you don’t think people will look. Extra attention to cleaning makes Buyers more forgiving of other little maintenance issues because they feel like you care for your home. Pay for professional cleaners to happen before photos are taken or the listing launches (or ask your Realtor to include a professional cleaning).

  • Smell – Your home smells differently than you think it does (not your fault, you’re just nose-blind to it). Ask a friend who will be honest with you to assess if there’s any bad smells, particularly smoke, pet or mustiness and see what you can do to eliminate them. This is sort of a corollary tip to Cleaning. Bad smells kill sales in the same way that a clean house helps them. Don’t cover it up with air fresheners. In fact, never use air fresheners. Buyers hate them and think that you’re hiding something as soon as they smell air fresheners or scented candles.

  • Explore Your (Listing) Options  There are a ton of ways to sell your home, from a simple hardware store sign in the ground to mere posting (flat fee or no commission brokerages) to full-service Realtors. Look at what’s available in your market and be realistic about what is going to work best for you. If it’s really going to bug you to pay commission, there are options out there, but you still need to do the work of preparing and marketing to maximise the return on your investment. If your stress level would benefit from having a professional, interview some (3-4) Realtors and pick one who’s going to represent your interests well. This team (not my resource) has a good list of interview questions and what it’s reasonable to look for.


     Referrals from friends, family and colleagues who have recently been in a similar situation to you can be really helpful.

  • Stress  Is unavoidable. Deadlines, legal paperwork, financial implications and negotiations can all add up. If you’re working with a Realtor, let them know what’s going to stress you out about the process so that they can understand and help make it easier. If something like small repairs is stressful, consider paying for a handyman if you can afford to. Protect your mental health. On a related note, it’s worth checking in with your spouse or kids if you have them. A lot of people’s kids react to the stress of moving by acting out or differently than what’s typical for them. u/KonaKathie had a good insight about her statue of St. Joseph tip (we have a lot of French Canadian Catholics in our market who do this too) and how it relieves stress by setting intention.

  • Get out when you can  If going to grandma’s in the next town for the first weekend of showings is an option, it’s a great one and you won’t have to clean in between showings or open houses.

  • Airtag Your Pets – Your cat probably won’t get out during the open house or showings, but it might, and if you plan for that you’ll sleep better.

  • Professional Photos and Video – Not every Buyer cares if you have these, but enough do that it will make a difference to the number and quality of showings (and therefore offers) that you will receive. In a city of 1,000,000 people where I live, around 15,000 homes sell every year and you want yours to stand out among many similar, bland listings. These days, this means still HDR photography, drone shots, video and 3D tour using technology like Matterport or iGuide. Don’t let any agent tell you that a slide show with music is the same as a video, and don’t ever take (or allow an agent to take) your own photos unless you are actually a professional photographer with appropriate lenses. I think there’s probably whole subreddits showing the horrors of bad RE photography.

  • Do Social Media Well – If you’re working with a Realtor, make sure they have a strategy that involves paid ads and good follow-up with enquiries, not just posting on social media. If you’re listing on your own, explore what local buy and sell groups you can post on and take a (free) Meta course on running paid ads. You won’t need to spend much if you’re intentional about how you market.

  • Open Houses – Less than 5% of homes sell from open houses, but that’s 5% more than if you don’t have them. No, it’s not any fun as an owner to have the nosy neighbours see the inside of your home, but they’re the most likely people to have a friend who wants to move to the neighbourhood.

  • Last of all, that cliche about baking cookies or bread before an open house to make the house smell good. That works, even though it’s cheesy. Plus, you can hand out cookies at the open house. That’s the only exception to my tip on scents from before.

Good luck on the listing and sale! If I think of anything else I’ll add it here.

Source: I’m a Realtor in Ottawa, Ontario, and I’ve been a home seller a couple of times myself as well.

3 Jobs to outsource when selling your home


Professional Cleaners – If it’s in the budget (or if your Realtor loves you), hire cleaners to do a once-over at your place after the movers move you out and/or at your new place before you move in. Moving is already stressful and this is one job that’s worth giving to a professional.


Handyman/woman – Sure, you can probably DIY a lot of things. A professional will do it faster and cheaper (when you account for your time and mental load) than most homeowners.


Photographers – Even if you’re selling on your own without a Realtor, please never take your own photos for the listing. It stands out on the MLS, and not in a good way. Don’t pass on thousands of dollars on the sale price because you wanted to save hundreds on photography.

You might also like …

Property Presentation • Selling • Weekly Features — 2024/04/23

Future-Ready Homes: Top Interior Design Trends in Ottawa for 2024

Staying ahead of the latest trends can make your space not only stylish but also a smart investment.

Buying • Weekly Features — 2024/04/18

Ontario Home Buyers’ Alert: 3 Must-Know Facts About Offer Disclosure Changes


Selling • Weekly Features — 2024/04/17

Potential special levy: do I need to disclose?


Get one-on-one advice