When prospective buyers tour your home, they're not just looking at the beauty of your layout and decor but also experiencing your home inside and out. They're assessing how your space feels, how it smells and whether they can envision raising children in the home, hosting holiday dinners in the dining room and entertaining in the backyard. With so many thoughts racing through potential buyers' minds, it's important to avoid the five unexpected things that can turn them off and also learn how to eliminate them.
1) Sloppy paint edges. Buyers who want a move-in-ready home may notice where your wall paint meets your molding or your white ceiling. If they see uneven paint lines, drips, paint on the molding, or the telltale dark spots of touchups you've done yourself, red flags might go off in their minds. They think, "This owner cut corners on the paint job, so where else did they 'cheap out' and perform sloppy fixes?"
How to eliminate the turnoff: Inspect every inch of your paint lines with careful attention to both ceiling and floor moldings. Touch up the whites of your moldings ultra carefully, and consider repainting a room that has sloppy edges.
2) Too much stuff. "Especially in an age of HGTV and home design shows, homebuyers expect a tidy, organized and pleasing home," says Realtor George Jamieson. If your shelving units contain hundreds of books in all different sizes and colors, collections of keepsakes and family photos, buyers may see this as your space, not one that could be theirs. Cluttered shelves and kids' rooms also look smaller, which buyers dislike.
How to eliminate the turnoff: Jamieson says that an experienced real estate agent can review your space with a careful eye for shelving units, mantels and other areas that look fine to you but would appear to buyers as holding too much stuff. Go through each display space and move the majority of your personal items into matching, lidded storage bins that can be moved and arranged -- in an organized manner -- in your attic or basement. Be sure to de-clutter your kitchen counter and island, removing decor items, to present a more spacious and visually pleasing area.
3) Dead or suffering plants. Buyers who plan to have plants in their home immediately assume the fault lies in a lack of natural sunlight and perhaps they may suspect dry air or hard water in your home.
How to eliminate the turnoff: Remove dead or suffering plants, and replace them with fresh, new, healthy ones. Or simply remove your battling plants from your home altogether, perhaps bringing them to your office or to a relative's home.
4) Bad scents. Buyers will do an immediate about-face if they smell cigarette or cigar smoke, pet odors, or a musty smell. Surprisingly, overpowering air-scenting sprays or strong-scented candles also turn off buyers, who suspect them as a "masking trick," covering up an odor issue in your home.
How to eliminate the turnoff: Months before the open house, have the carpets in your home professionally cleaned (and expert carpet cleaners will also treat some couch materials). Forbid any smoking in your home, and switch to scent-eliminating cat box filler; also, change the litter box more often than usual. Ask an honest friend to come into your home for a "sniff test" and report on any unpleasant odors in all spaces, including inside closets (which may require simple cedar hangers), in the basement, in kids' rooms, and especially in teens' rooms. You may be used to the scents of your home; your friend should be brutally honest, it's in your interest. Two other crucial areas to de-scent: inside your refrigerator and inside your microwave, which buyers will open and check out.
5) Your being there. "Of course, home sellers are interested in how homebuyers react to their house but to stick around for showings and open houses is one big way to turn off home buyers. It's hard for homebuyers to relax when you, the seller, are there. It can turn off homebuyers when their first impression is to be guarded. You want potential homebuyers to feel free to explore and consider the possibilities of living in the house, and it's hard to do that when the current homeowner is standing by," says Jamieson.
How to eliminate the turnoff: Leave your home during your open house, and trust your agent to run the event successfully.
Additional turnoffs: anything fixed with duct tape, stained toilet bowls, rust rings around sink drains, items stuffed under the beds or thrown into closets (Buyers will look!) and anything in your medicine cabinet that would be embarrassing for your relatives to see. These are easy fixes to make with just a bit of extra effort, and these solutions could lead to the offer you've been waiting for.