The agent is about to arrive for a showing of your house and the dog just threw up on the carpet, your toddler undressed completely in the living room, and the smoke detector’s going off. We’ve all been there, right?
The truth is that there is a whole bunch of ways to spook a buyer—and most of them don’t involve children disrobing in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you know what to look for, you can avoid scaring them off and come away with a deal.
1. Your yard is a mess
“When you’re selling your house, you aren’t just selling your house. You’re also selling your shrubs, your tree with Dutch elm disease and potentially scads of crabgrass,” said US News . They suggest you do a little yard maintenance “if you suspect your yard is chasing away more potential buyers than it’s drawing in.” Warning signs include: a yard that looks unkempt, with unmowed grass and overgrown shrubs; and a yard that looks high maintenance with extensive gardens.
How to fix it: Give the yard a good once-over and then bring in your landscaper or gardener to help fix it up. Cut the grass, trim the bushes, and rake the leaves. Then bring in some color with seasonal flowers. If it’s not the right time to plant them in the ground, move flowerpots close to your front door and arrange some nicely on your back patio.
If the problem is too much of a good thing, your landscaper should be able to help you pare down.
2. Your house stinks
If you have animals or a smoker in the house, you may not even notice the odors anymore. But a buyer coming to look at your house for the first time will. They will also notice musty smells that could be an indication of mold—one of the biggest red flags for buyers.
“It doesn’t matter if your home is beautifully decorated, odors are going to stop buyers at the door. Don’t brush off odors—get to the root of the problem,” said Money Crashers.
How to fix it: First, bring in a friend or trusted adviser with a good sniffer to give you an honest stink assessment of your house’s stink factor. Then, get to removing the odors. Professional carpet cleaners or carpet replacement should be first on your list. “Other remedies for household odors include giving the house a new coat of paint and opening windows and doors so that fresh air can circulate. And if you detect odors in your furniture and other fabrics (pillows, drapes, and blankets), wash or remove these items from the home,” said Money Crashers.
If the problem is animal-related, consider boarding them early in the day on Friday before weekends when you have showings. In a pinch, Febreze and scented candles can help. And you should always have a package of chocolate chip cookies you can pop in the oven before an open house.
3. Your house is over-personalized
When you’re ready to sell, it’s not the time to talk about how you should have gone with more neutrals when you painted your walls, chose your flooring, an redid your kitchen. All you can do now is minimize anything that might be deemed too personal by a buyer. “Customizing your home is great if you plan to stay there, but extreme colors and themed rooms can scare off potential homebuyers,” said MSN.
How to fix it: If your home screams your personal taste, make smart updates to make it more palatable to the public. Repainting the walls is the easiest and most cost-effective change you can make. If bold countertops are an issue and changing them out is not possible, a neutral backsplash can tone it down. Then do a sweep for art and accessories that can be swapped out easily.
4. Too much clutter
You could have huge closets in every room and a garage to catch the overflow, but if they’re busting at the seams and every surface is covered with your stuff, it won’t matter. To a buyer, clutter means one thing: there isn’t enough storage space. And that’s a deal killer.
“The average homebuyer has a hard time looking past your clutter and mess,” said Freshome.
How to fix it: “Simple, easy tasks, can make all the difference,” they said. “If you have children you know that clutter happens. Wicker baskets…are inexpensive, efficient and look nice in your home. Invest in a few as a quick way to stash toys when you don’t have time for an overhaul.”
As long as you’re moving soon anyway, take any off-season clothes and bedding and box them up. If you don’t have room to stack them nicely in your garage, ask a friend or relative to keep them for you. Or, rent a storage unit, which you can also use to store any furniture and house wares that are making your home feel too crowded. Your real estate agent should be able to help you decide what should stay and what should be packed away.
5. Your home inspection
“Unless it’s new construction, no home will be in perfect condition,” said HGTV.
But that doesn’t mean a home inspection won’t send potential buyers running. “The property inspection is a critically important part of the homebuying process. Most buyers like to know that the home they will be purchasing is structurally sound and that the systems are safe. That sounds reasonable enough. Yet…the inspection process (can) nearly derail the transaction,” they said.
How to fix it: The easiest way to salvage a deal is to be open to negotiation, and to think logically instead of emotionally. If requested repairs are beyond what you can or are willing to allow, try to meet in the middle. If that doesn’t work, your agent and/or your lender may be able to come up with a creative solution to work it out.