With more than 30 years of experience taking homebuyers through Ottawa properties, I know immediately when I spot something that will make buyers cringe.

These are the negative things that can make them scratch a property from their list or decline to visit in the first place.

In many cases, these issues are simple and not costly to address but can make a dramatic difference.

If I am working with you to sell your property, I will point out the major issues and offer suggestions for improvements.

Here are just a few things that can scare buyers away:


Before they start working with me and seeing properties, buyers spend many hours looking at online listings to learn about the Ottawa market, neighbourhoods and prices and compare properties.

Most buyers will not even go and see a property if a listing features fuzzy, badly framed photos that show only small parts of rooms, photos that are dimly lit or show cluttered rooms. Often these photos were taken by the sellers themselves.

I offer seller clients the services of professional photographers experienced in lighting, angles and composition to make a home look its best online. We take the photos only after we have done touch-ups, cleaning, staging and de-cluttering.


Before they step inside, buyers form an instant impression from the outside because that’s the first thing we see. They notice the house, lawn and garden, the driveway, walkway, windows and trim.

If your property looks neglected, buyers wonder what has been neglected on the inside.

Be sure your property looks tidy, manicured and well maintained. Consider fresh paint on the door and garage or trim if they are looking faded. Add a new welcome mat, big pots of flowers or hanging baskets at the entry and some freshly planted flowers in your garden. These are all available at Ottawa’s outdoor markets at this time of year.


Buyers immediately notice the smell of cigarette smoke. If you are a smoker, re-paint the walls. Paint experts at hardware stores can advise on primers designed to block odours. Clean your furniture, carpets, bedding and curtains, and limit your smoking to exterior areas while your property is for sale.

We love our pets, but homeowners who have lived with pets for years sometimes stop noticing the odors that can go with them. But if it’s strong, buyers will immediately notice. Before listing, deep-clean carpets and upholstery and mop floors.


Many buyers find it difficult to look past bold wall colours or busy or dated wallpaper. Or they start thinking of the work involved in re-painting or removing wallpaper themselves.

Make it easier by replacing paper or bold colours with neutral paint shades. You want to appeal to as many people as possible, not just those who share your tastes.


Avoid cluttered spaces at all costs. Rooms and closets should look airy, spacious and organized. This can be challenging if you’ve lived in a home for many years and have put off getting rid of clothing or household items you no longer use.

Items that can be re-used can be donated to charity shops or sold in garage sales. Electronic items can go to the city’s electronics recycling centres. Paints and cleaning solutions can be taken to the city’s hazardous waste depots. If you’re pressed for time, box it up and put it in storage while the property is for sale. Some sellers opt for companies that take away junk for a fee.

I provide all sellers with a professional home stager who can assist with de-cluttering and will also re-arrange furniture and art for better impact.