It’s the month earmarked for LOVE

Continuing our support for small business through some turbulent times, is our focus here at Realty Difference. February’s contest is no exception, although this one hits a little closer to my heart, as it’s in support of my sister’s small business LullabyQuiltco.

You know, there’s usually that one person in your family that’s trying to look out for everyone? They make sure that they hold Christmas dinner for the whole family and looks after everyone’s children? My sister just happens to be that kind of caretaker and in my eyes and I certainly appreciate her for it. I guess you could say she’s in the business of love whether it has been her role over the years in our family or the business she is in now.

In a nut shell, at LullabyQuiltco, she takes those precious memories that you may want to savor or share with someone else, and creates a bear or pillow for a lasting keepsake. Whether it was your mom’s housecoat, a fallen officers uniform, your children’s baby clothes, a firefighters badge, or Grandpa’s ties, there is a special memory to be shared and is held onto in the form of a bear or pillow for the generations to follow.

On Valentine’s Day which is right around the corner I will be drawing a name to have your own unique bear or pillow made with love by LullabyQuiltCo. In order to qualify for the contest:

“You always gain by giving love” – Reese Witherspoon

Thank you for remembering small businesses during these more difficult months, and don’t forget to spread a little extra love this month. We could all use it!

#SupportSmallBusinesss #FebrauryContestForSmallBusiness

#LullabyQuiltCo #RealtyDifference #SuttonGroupMasters


#Valentinesday #ShowSomeExtraLoveThisMonth

Beauty has its price

Part of the charm of where you choose to live are the beautiful trees that are on your property. The cascading, towering and colorful effects are beautiful not to mention the shade they provide, and the prospects for years to come.

My home property sits among many trees and over the years I have “attempted” to build those tree houses, have hung my children’s swing and have loved watching the change of seasons. They really are a creation of real beauty.

With that beauty comes the responsibility of their removal when they die and become destructive as well as dangerous. Unfortunately, I have lots of experience in that. What starts as a small investment and usually planted a generation or two before you, is now a sizeable cost to you. Definitely something that needs to be considered in your decisions and budgeted for in the years to come, as it is no small expense.

Over this past weekend I had several trees removed, all of which were dead. As a Realtor, it got me thinking to share my story as it is very pertinent in making choices in the property you choose to purchase. They may be lovely now but when you need to remove them it can be costly. In total to date, I have hired out 14 trees to be removed (15 if you count the one on my lawn that a beaver removed), all of which were dead and I have more to go in the near future.

Fortunately, I have had the BEST Arborist and have the utmost confidence in his skill level. He says I don’t have much of a life because I find it fascinating to watch, but really….who can drop a tree of the magnitude that he does and makes it go exactly where he wants it to?

Enjoy the little video showing the weekends activities here at my house….. and keep in mind to save part of your budget when they no longer provide the beauty they once held.

Oh yes, Andrew (Custom Tree Removal) is the best (yes he’s insured)…..He’s my Arborist, and with his permission to share, here’s his phone number 613.536.8701.

Common Sense…..not so “Common”

There is no doubt that we are in the middle of some changing times. Whoever thought… that the government would impose how many people you could have in your home, that you have to wear a mask wherever you go, or that the level of fear in people would be so high?

I can only speak for myself but there’s been lots of reflection going on as to how I handle what my reaction is.

Personally I don’t agree with everything that is going on out there, our reactions to it, or how to make things better. There are several points everyone can agree upon though, even if we are polar opposites.

We all belong to a community….I don’t know, but that word “community” denotes “together” in my books. We are all in this together and so doesn’t that mean we all work together to get through this? No, we don’t all agree on how to handle this, but I know we could treat each other with kindness, with patience, and the ability to listen to one another might be a good first step.

Pulling together makes for a lighter load. Supporting a local business that is struggling to keep their doors open, being patient at the cash register, and listening to another opinion without instant judgement. All these actions say we are doing what we can to individually uphold community.

Please think of the businesses that are struggling right now to keep their doors open and support local. Let’s all do our part in lifting each other up. Check out the Facebook and Instagram post on Realty Difference to take part in supporting one another.

As a New Year gets underway, we have hope in a better 2021. I would encourage you to pull together in the basics …. no virus has the ability to take that away from us. #CommonSense

#RealtyDifference #KarenDonnan #BetheDifference
#Takepart #Together #Community
#Basics #CommonSense
#SupportLocal #SmallBusiness #SupportSmallBusiness

Being Thankful

In the spring I was challenged to enjoy where I was. With the beauty right around me and not alot of time, I was inspired to sell my little summer place and re-invest into my own slice of heaven right at home (thank you Wenda…I just needed a little nudge). So when the prospect came up of buying my neighbours hot tub my imagination and limited but creative architectural skills took over to design its new home.

That reinvestment into my home turned out to be more then I thought or imagined on many levels. Lack of wood (many with that issue this summer), a broken arm, a timetable way overdue, and a few other challenges we won’t even mention and it is finally complete.

The list is long of the contractors who contributed to this project. Thank you to Constance Peeters contracting, Tim Wales of Unity road contracting, Jordan electric, Vic’s glass, Klaver concrete, and the best neighbours ever, Jim and Margret….but most of all my son and daughter, Brooke and Brosnan, who worked along side of me ‘just one more weekend’ (that may have been said a few times) to get it completed. We are certainly enjoying the rewards of everyone’s labour.

2020 certainly brought its challenges for all of us, but even in these times, Be the Difference as there is always so much to be thankful for. Look around you, as I do here, and be thankful as you celebrate this Thanksgiving weekend.

Enjoy the quick journey through my pics.



We always think we have more of it then we actually do.

It’s no different when we consider getting our home ready to list.

I suggest to clients that they start a year ahead of their scheduled timing.  Some upgrades or areas to be tended to require a certain season and can’t always be completed 2 months prior to listing.  We also would like to save your time and money from projects that you will not bring you any financial gain.

Consulting with your Realtor a year ahead will also leave time for you to weigh out  “your mindset” versus “your Realtors suggestions”.  Realtors want to achieve the greatest financial outcome for you in the least amount of time.  We’re here to help you achieve both.

Enjoy the before and after pics of these previous clients of mine. Time….they also needed it to consider my suggestions and the months to implement them. Enjoy viewing the outcome.




Kitchen before 1

Kitchen before 2

Kitchen After

Kitchen after Neutral paint added and clutter removed to show more space

Living room before

New paint, change in curtains as well as addition of area rug and a few accessories

Dining room before

Bright, and updated!

Master Before

Master After

Bedroom before

Bedroom After

Bedroom Before

Bedroom After

Bedroom Before

Bedroom After. Is this really the same room?





Pondering his best options

Some clients come into your life and they say, “Just tell me what you want me to do.”

Can I just say, you’re a dream to work with!  This client is just one of those clients. His trust that we had his best interests at heart in gaining his full financial potential in the least amount of time makes all the difference. He had lots to do but with a list of instructions he was off to completing his task list as requested.

I write this blog, not to just tell you that he was a dream to work with, but to point out that there are several different ways of coming to a decision in regards to how you list your home.  I particularly want to point out his kitchen. With a set amount of cash and time to complete upgrades, this client set out to consider his options prior to listing.

Take a look at his kitchen and help him ponder the following:

  • The natural wood grain cabinets were in good repair but dated
  • The kitchen was generally dark and the wood cupboards only added to the dark atmosphere
  • ummm….that green counter!?  Do I need to say more?
  • The panel lighting….well, even the client knew it had to go.
  • Space, although laid out well, you were limited in cupboard space as well as number of people who could be in the kitchen.

Knowing that most buyers CANNOT VISUALIZE a change that they can make to a home AND with limits to our budget, time and available manpower we opted for the following:

  • Paint the cupboards to brighten the space and give the illusion of a larger area
  • Replace the light fixture with an updated choice(matching to adjoining dining room)
  • Added a countertop bonus of $$$ to the listing to allow the new buyer to choose their own choice of granite(or countertop of choice).

The results are pretty clear:

Buyers sit at home and scroll through picture after picture of potential homes they would consider viewing.  My motto at Realty Difference is to never post a bad picture as exemplary marketing depends upon a high quality of visual representation that lures a client to call for a viewing NOT delete the home from consideration.

Putting a little extra effort into your presentation is always a WIN. Realty Difference partners with you in making sure that we do everything we can within the constraints of your time and budget. Oh yes, I guess you could say that it helps that I am both a Stager and a Realtor!

The adjoining dining room couldn’t be left out of the face lift!  With oversized furniture that were not going to make the move to a new home, it left the decision clear: It needed to go.

Showing a Buyer that there is plenty of space in any room they are considering is paramount.  Don’t be afraid of leaving spaces empty in the marketing pictures.  It allows the Buyer who is viewing that picture the ability to place their own furniture in that space.

Updated chairs, smaller table, removal of oversized hutch, updated light fixture, and area rug, all added to the enhancement of this dining room. Small amount of effort for a gain in better photos online. (no this client did not have to purchase these items).

My client happily sent me the response of his children(who live out of town) as he sent them a video of his newly improved home:

(edited of course, for Realty Difference)


My clients response:

“I was totally amazed at the difference staging made to the appearance and marketability of my house.  It was wonderful to have someone who knew how to use colour and accessories to change the entire atmosphere of the house.  Most importantly Karen helped me to open up the house.  Removing a few pieces in the right places made all the difference.  I thought trying to live in a staged house would be difficult but quite to the contrary, I found myself enjoying the new environment. So much so that I will take the lessons learned to my new home!  My house sold quickly for a good price which was the goal.  The change to my approach to living spaces though is the “priceless” part.  Thank you Karen!”          Steve

#changeyourapproach  #ponderingyourbestoption  #realtydifference #livingandlisting




Not very often….

Having clients that say to you ….“whatever we need to do Karen…” doesn’t come along very often but when they do, they are an absolute dream to work with…. it certainly makes my job of buying and selling at the same time go smoother. As I also stage my own listings, it enables me to present in the way I know it needs to be shown, and it brings top dollar to my clients. It gives us the best chance to receive the most amount of money for your valuable asset,  in the least amount of time. It’s a WIN- WIN!  Thank you Megan and Dave for trusting me throughout this process.

It’s probably just best to let them tell their story:

We had the pleasure of both selling and buying with Karen for our last posting. On top of being very competent and knowledgeable, Karen was very ‘real’ and honest. What we appreciated the most about working with her was that she helped us prioritize where to put our efforts when selling for the maximum return and minimal stress. Be warned though, when working with Karen and she stages your home, she will make you see potential you never knew was there and make you fall in love the house you’re leaving all over again! 

Karen was always available and prompt with replies when we had questions or concerns. With a short notice posting with fast closing dates, prompt replies were invaluable! 

During the purchase of our new home she was on top of everything and kept us up to date and in the loop but she handled everything for us. Military postings with multiple children and special needs in the home are incredibly stressful, but Karen really listened to us for our needs and helped us find what we’re sure will be the next house we love too much to leave. 

Megan and David  




It certainly puts a smile on everyone’s face to get multiple offers!

Thank you Megan and Dave for being next to perfect clients!



Passing the test

A favourite staging experience for a lovely couple that I really enjoyed working for……let me explain.

When you are in someone’s personal space and moving all their ‘things’ around while they are watching you…. wondering….. what you are doing ….and while they are hoping….. that they didn’t make a wrong decision in hiring you…..well ….I just have to try to put them out of my mind and go about why I am there.

I see things differently then most…..that’s why I come into your homes and make ‘changes’! Really, the best satisfaction is seeing your reaction as a homeowner once I am done!

This couple was worthy of writing about.  They were extra easy to work for…..and I don’t even think they knew why….but oh, to have more couples like them!! 😉

Why were they easy to work for, and in particular him? Well it wasn’t all that complicated, but I think he just did what comes naturally to him and something we can all learn from.  He was a doctor and while I was there he was studying for an exam that would further his career.  But he also put me to the same test and he let me know it.  He let me know that he also studied me….. as well as my occupation and whether or not staging would be his best option. He kept his mind open to an expertise he didn’t have and he simply went about the process with an open mind.  In the end,  his conclusion was yes…..the process was worth the journey.

It just didn’t start with me though.  He found a trusted and reliable Realtor who suggested he try staging. It’s important to find a Realtor that you can trust in what they are recommending.  We do this for a living and don’t look to make it harder or more expensive for you, but on the contrary, a trusted Realtor will seek to sell it quickly for as much money as the current market will bear.

In what is a Buyers market, a Seller cannot chance not being able to beat out the competition.  Your Realtor can show you who your competition is and what you need to do to get ahead of the pack. In a Sellers market, when there is a lack of inventory, you need to defend in your staging and updates, the price you are asking.

This couple did just that and had a clear path to success.

Here’s what they had to say….

Our real estate agent highly recommended Karen to us and promised that she would do wonders with the place.    

I was confident that a home stager would make the rooms look great, but I underestimated how great.  When Karen finished staging our house, I couldn’t believe how nice she made it look.  Her staging allowed you to see the beauty and functionality of each room. 

I was really impressed that she worked with many of the things we already had, and in doing so, gave me ideas of how I could decorate my next home.  

We had many showings, and received an offer within the first 3 weeks.



While this is a staging job I completed for another Realtor, it is a service I include with each of my own listings as a Realtor myself.  It is my commitment to prepare my own clients… the best of my ability and to the maximum that the market will bear for  their home.


Sisterly Advice

“Being the Selling Realtor on your sister’s house”…..well, there’s two schools of thought you could possibly report on that.  Thankfully, I can only comment on the fact that it was a positive experience.  I hope she can say the same.

I’ll let you in on the end of the listing story …..”and it sold in less than a week”!  Now back to the beginning because it took a bit (or a lot) of work in order for that to happen.

I’m always happy to share my client’s stories (especially my sisters, with permission of course) because I believe that we learn from others mistakes as well as our successes.  Hopefully, this addition will be helpful to you as you are either thinking of selling or in the middle of your preparation.

One of the key elements of selling is listening to the advice of your agent.  They know the market, where your pit falls may be and what it is going to take to get a sold sign on your lawn.  Unfortunately, some Realtors only do the paperwork, take pictures (sadly, some with the toilet seats up) and put up a for sale sign but neglect to assist in getting your home ready.  As a Realtor, I go a few steps further with my Sellers in their preparation period because I am also a Stager.  It’s important to the success of the listing that we take the time to prepare prior to listing.  Whether that is a pre-inspection report, making sure things are up to date, replacing some things that are worn out or putting a fresh coat of paint in some areas that need it……they are all proof to a Buyer that if you show you care about your house, it gives them confidence in the product you are selling.

Going one step further from all that and presenting well is where I go one step beyond the norm of Realtors.  Staging your home doesn’t need to be expensive.  I always like to “shop” through your home first to see if I can re-purpose furniture that is better suited for another room.  The idea is to enhance your pictures and offer ”space” (both in the picture and in personally viewing the home) so that a potential Buyer can see what the room has to offer, not a cluttered view of too much furniture and nic-nacs.  It is also prudent of a Stager to come up with some solutions for those problem or awkward areas of your house.  Sellers are wise to remember that a Buyer sits at home and shops on-line first to determine where they would like to visit.  The presentation of your home on the internet is paramount in the Buyers decision of where those visits will take place.

For my sisters listing, thanks to lots of hard work, family crew, and some borrowed items from her “Staging sister” that were brought in to hit the pictures out of the park, we made it to our goal.  She did what she could to make it market ready within her budget and competed with the best of what was out there.

There’s nothing like hearing an honest testimony from your sister…..

So we decide to sell our house in the midst of a stressful time.  I’m presented with a list and you’re not quite sure why you have to do some of the things but you decide to trust your Realtor….and oh yes, she’s also your sister. That could make this whole process extra interesting. 

It was a lot of work to get our house ready for market, but in the end it was well worth it as I never thought the house would sell as fast as it did, and for a price we felt was top dollar.  The Staging ideas were hard to agree with at first, but well worth it when we saw the finished product.  I actually didn’t recognize my own house. Everything worked out as it should have, as it was an important time in life for us. We were thankful that the process we participated in was able to help remove the stress of selling and assisted us in selling our home quickly. Thank you, as we were able to focus our attention on what truly mattered to us at the time.

                                                                        Kim Hokkanen

The front of the home BEFORE.
Our goal was to remove the country look to be more pleasing to a wider range of tastes.

Front of home AFTER. Neutralizing country colours, adding contrast to the flower beds and the warmth of greenery all appeal to a wider range of tastes

Front Entrance BEFORE. Again, our goal was to remove as much of the country feeling to appeal to greater numbers. Light was replaced to update the look.

Front Entrance AFTER, a new light for a fresh appeal

Living Room BEFORE had some awkward spaces. It is long and narrow and difficult to set up furniture. Black furniture usually does not show well.

Living Room AFTER gives a spacious appeal that is simplified from the BEFORE look. Minimizing as much of the black furniture as possible gives a lighter, brighter feel to the room. We shopped through the rest of the house to re-purpose furniture for this room.

Kitchen BEFORE

Kitchen AFTER. A fresh coat of paint and some updated light fixtures give this kitchen an instant face lift.

Dining Room BEFORE had many loved items collected from grandparents past and gifts. Although precious to us, they will fill our presentations with what we love and not what will showcase our room well.

Dining Room AFTER shows the room, its spaciousness and warmth. Different mom and pop chairs, carpet, and mirrors all added to bring warmth and depth. Extra chairs also removed.

Master Bedroom BEFORE presents as functional but no “WOW” feeling to what is meant to be the adult oasis.

Master Bedroom AFTER!! This was my favourite room to do….a borrowed chandelier added the “WOW”….curtains to add warmth and removal of any extra furniture gave this picture something to talk about.

Master Bedroom BEFORE (view 2). Unfortunately space sometimes gets used for “all those extra things”

Master Bedroom AFTER (view 2). My idea of what to do with that extra space…..a master worth talking about!

Bedroom 2 BEFORE. I always say there’s one good pic of every room. This wasn’t its best pic.

Bedroom 2 AFTER. Its BEST pic!! The focal point being the head of the bed and also the importance to show the window, in what was a small room to picture. Lighter curtains and bedspread used to bring a brighter and lighter presentation.

Family Bath BEFORE

Family Bath AFTER. Updated light, painted cabinet for a new look and simple curtain. Instant update!






The Military is on the move!


Sellers need to move….and they have a home they need marketed to the best it can be! Every Seller needs the same …..  that’s my mission in working with them….. to Be The Difference! 

In spending time with my clients, I seek to understand how they interpret the listing process……Everyone has a different lens through which they see this process.  I certainly appreciate the honesty by which these particular clients communicate.  They are clear and forthright in their ability to communicate and together we started the journey to marketing their home to the best of my ability.  After all….seeing is believing and MLS needed to view the best their home had to offer.

I am pleased to welcome Brad and Melanie to the writing of this addition….being they are almost professionals by now at moving I thought who better then them to write about the Selling experience ……ENJOY!




If you are a military family like we are, you get used to moving. A lot. We just recently listed our house for sale which is our third sale in six years.  I like to think I’m getting used to this process and over the past two years of living in Kingston, ON, I spent a good amount of time researching ways to stage a home. I poured over Pinterest boards and spent time and money buying nice things for our home.  This time my husband and I had decided that we didn’t want to wait to do all the staging at the end, and not be able to spend time in the house enjoying all the pretty things. In addition to all of this, we had spent hours (HOURS) purging every room, closet and shelf. Boxes and boxes had been sent to the garbage or the donation centre.


We had worked with Karen two years ago when we bought this house, and after having been through dozens of homes with her then, we knew two things:

(1) She was a determined, competent Realtor and ….

(2) She was professional stager who knew her stuff.

So when the time came to truly prepare for listing our house we called Karen to come and have a look at all the work we had done. New floors, a newly face-lifted kitchen, gorgeous pillows and throw blankets. We were so ready.

If we had had any other Realtor, that might have been the case.

I’ve worked with several other Realtors in the past and they were all very talented and very competent. In fact, in both towns from which we moved they were among the top selling Realtors in the industry. Working with a Realtor who is also a stager, however, is a different experience. So while Karen was impressed at the renovations and pretty things, we still ended up with a list of things to do before we would be ready for our listing photos.
In previous moves, I may have been offended at these new suggestions. After all, I had spent the last two years getting ready for this very moment and despite my very best efforts there were still things to be done. How discouraging!


We want our house to sell. Not only that, but we want it to sell quickly and for top dollar. So rather than being frustrated by Karen’s suggestions, I embraced the changes. She showed me the statistics about the benefits of a professionally staged home and I had checked out her website and her Before & After photos. There was no doubt in my mind that she knew what she was doing and I felt confident that following her lead would help us immensely.  She makes the point that we are now making this into the Buyers home and we need to appeal to the masses.


It isn’t easy to have someone come in and touch and move all your things. There were times that she would move a blanket (or a whole couch!) that I thought, Well, we’ll see about this” followed closely by “Ohhhh….that DOES look better”. The thing is, we all live in our homes for design *and* functionality. So it makes sense to us to have the couches facing the TV and lots of toys accessible to our children. Karen didn’t want us to live in an unsustainable way throughout the sale period, but she did request that we were open to some changes that would help the marketing presentation on MLS. Moving the TV out of our primary living room seemed like a totally impractical suggestion, yet when we did it not only did our living room look better but it also got us to use our basement family room more often since now that’s where the TV watching space is. Our master bedroom was large and comfortable and I had put effort into our coordinating bed linens and big fluffy pillows. I was sure it was essentially right out of HGTV. Yet the difference between before and after Karen staged it was the difference between pretty and functional to spacious and elegant while still being comfortable! When I look at the Before & After pictures of my own home, I can’t believe the changes. We like them so much that even after our house sells we will be keeping most rooms exactly the way they are!


There are so many things a home Seller can and should do in anticipation of a move. Purging, organizing, and adding pretty touches are all a great first step. But there truly is nothing like having a professional lend her eye to the scene because she views each room through a marketing lens, which is an entirely different lens than we do.

If you’re considering selling your home any time in the future, it’s never too early to get Karen to come in and have a look around. You truly won’t be disappointed!

Melanie and Brad Perry, March 2017

 Before pic of Kitchen After pic of Kitchen Before pic of Family Room After pic of Family Room Before Pic of Master Bedroom After pic of Master Bedroom Before pic of Rec Room

After pic of Rec Room