Whether you're listing your home during a hot buyer's market or at a time when the market favors the seller, there are several things you need to do to make your home appeal to those who might be interested in purchasing it. Lots of small changes can make your home more enticing.
Conversely, there is plenty of so-called faux pas you can commit while getting your house ready for the market. Below, we've compiled our list of top 10 things that will make buyers think twice about purchasing your home or – worse yet – will have them immediately heading for the door. Read them carefully if you're considering a sale in the near future.
1. A dirty house – You might think this would go without saying, but you might be surprised at the number of homes realtors enter that are simply filthy. Sometimes it's visible dirt and clutter that are the culprits – sticky floors, dusty furniture, dirty dishes in the sink, cobwebs in the corners, piles of clothes on the floor. Other times, it's odors, including both nasty cigarette and pet smells. Simply put, you MUST elevate your home to its best possible condition before trying to sell, and that might mean some elbow grease on your part and perhaps some money spent replacing smelly carpets or other items. No one will buy your dirty house – at least, not at the price you're expecting to get.
2. Pets – We've already mentioned pet odors – which are a huge turn-off – but the pets themselves can be a problem as well. We've said it before: pets should not be in your house during a showing. You should have a plan (or two) in place to be sure pets are removed before a prospective buyer shows up. Ideally, if you can find someone else to keep the animals while your home is on the market, that's perfect. However, this won't work for everyone, especially if the house winds up being on the market for a while. So, hire a trusted individual to remove the animal(s) when you can't get home to do it yourself.
3. Unpleasant cooking smells – We've talked about pet and cigarette odors, which tend to stick around at all times, but cooking a particularly pungent meal before a showing and then allowing the smell to linger can be a problem as well. Garlic, curry, onions, fish, bacon, and any number of other foods can leave an odor that persists long after the cooking is done. So, if you know buyers are coming, eat out or cook something that won't leave an unpleasant smell. You can also use some subtle potpourri to mask odors or light a clean-smelling candle but nothing too flowery, which can also be a turn-off. Fragrances like cinnamon are a good choice.
4. Wallpaper – You may love that flower-power 70s wallpaper in your powder room or that old textured paper in your vintage dining room, but most buyers won't. Trends change, and wallpaper is simply not in style these days. That means removing it before you list your home is a wise idea. With the right tools, this is something you can do yourself, especially if it's just in one or two rooms. (If not, hire someone to do it.) Then paint those walls in a neutral color that will appeal to most buyers. It'll look bright and clean and not old and outdated.
5. Acoustic "popcorn" ceilings – Another lovely trend of the past was the so-called popcorn ceiling. These were pretty cool in their day but are certainly passé now. Yet, you'll still find them in many homes. Not only are these ceilings weird and outdated, but many popcorn ceilings contain asbestos. If the ceiling is in good condition, chances are the asbestos won't be an issue, but know that removing these ceilings is not something you should do without first testing for asbestos. If there is asbestos in this textured surface and you want it gone, it will need to be removed by a professional.
6. Excessive personal items – When a buyer is touring your home, they want to be able to form a picture in their mind of what it would look like as THEIR home. When you leave an excessive number of personal items in plain sight – such as photographs, trophies, and other personal clutter – that doesn't happen. Some experts also note that pictures distract potential buyers as they stop to look at them rather than concentrate on your home's favorable properties.
7. Nosey sellers – When your house is being shown, it's time for you to hightail it to some other location. No one likes sellers lurking about, especially sellers who deem it their responsibility to follow the prospective buyer as they browse and give them a run-down of each room, its square footage, when the walls were painted, etc. Let the buyer's realtor handle the showing, and if it turns out they have questions for you about something, in particular, those questions will be conveyed from their realtor to yours. Remember, you don't have to disappear for hours. A short trip to the grocery store or even a walk through the neighborhood will probably be sufficient, so this needn't be a huge inconvenience.
8. Unappealing curb appeal – First impressions matter, so if buyers pull up to your home and see weeds sticking out from the pavement, unkempt grass, dying trees, dirty siding, etc., you've already lowered your chances of selling your house exponentially. So, take time to mulch your flower beds, trim your bushes and trees, scrub down that siding, replace paving stones….do whatever is necessary to make the exterior of your home appealing to buyers.
9. Messy bathrooms – To today's buyer, updated bathrooms are especially important because this is one of the rooms that cost the most money to renovate. However, a messy bathroom can be a bigger turn-off than an old one, especially if the old one is clean and pristine. It's easy for a bathroom to look messy. We clog up counter space with make-up, lotions, shaving stuff, dental care products, and more, making the space look small and disorderly. Put them away. If there's no room in your bathroom vanity, put everything in a box, and stick it in a closet. Also, remember to clean sinks, tubs, toilets, and shower doors. They can all be a huge gross-out when dirty.
10. Outdated fixtures – Does your kitchen still include one of those long fluorescent tube lights? Is there a funky light fixture from the 70s hanging over your kitchen table? Or perhaps one of those imitation crystal chandeliers tinkles over your dining room set. Old fixtures can be a huge turn-off but are an easy and often inexpensive fix. Take a look around and see what it would take to make some simple lighting updates in your house.
These ten items above are the ones we hear about most from disgruntled house hunters, but your realtor can help you with others by taking a walk around your house and pointing out the things you can fix without breaking the bank. Heed his/her advice, and chances are your home will sell more quickly, even when the market isn't in your favor.