Rarely do I smell cigarette smoke in houses for sale any more. H/T daytrip!

Have you ever been touring a home as a potential buyer and known within a few minutes that the house was not for you? Something left a poor impression on you that nothing else about the house could overcome. Think about that experience when you are on the other end of the transaction, preparing to sell your house.

It can be hard to spot the weak points in your own home, so let this list of top buyer turnoffs help you realistically assess your home before you list it for sale.

Consider these turnoffs from a buyer’s point of view:

  • Dirt/mold — Many homebuyer turnoffs are a matter of taste, but absolutely no one gets a positive impression from a dirty or moldy house. Stained or moldy grout, unclean bathroom and kitchen fixtures, dirty walls and windows, musty/moldy basements and filthy floors all leave a terrible impression. Either give the house a thorough cleaning yourself, or pay somebody to do it professionally.
  • Pests — Similar to a dirty home, evidence of bugs or mice is an instant no-sale. Call an exterminator if you need one.
  • Odors — Smoking is listed as a top turnoff, because smoking odors are pervasive and very difficult to remove without professional help. Pet odors are a close second. It is very difficult to evaluate the odors in your own house objectively, so ask a friend for help (one who can give you the unvarnished truth). If you need to have the walls professionally cleaned and/or rip out carpet to get rid of the odors, do it. During the showing periods, you will need to refrain from smoking in the house and should consider relocating your pets for a short time… especially if they smoke.
  • Clutter/personal items — Buyers want to envision how they fit into the house and don’t need the distraction of your items, or the impression that the house is too small due to the evident clutter. Remove all unnecessary items before showing.
    This includes you. Nobody wants you hanging over their shoulder as they assess your house. Let the real estate agent do the work.
  • Outdated appliances — Any regular viewer of HGTV knows that buyers frequently reject million-dollar homes with outdated appliances, even if they could easily replace the appliances for the money they could save on the house. Buyers often can’t see past the aesthetics of the existing appliances. It may not make economic sense for you to replace appliances on a house you intend to sell, but for a higher-end home, it may make the difference. If you do replace appliances, stay generic but aesthetically pleasing. The homeowners are likely to replace it anyway, but they still need the initial positive impression to buy the home in the first place.
  • Outdated decor — Wallpaper, popcorn ceilings, shag carpet, or carpet over hardwood all tend to reduce appeal. As with appliances, these may or may not be worth changing prior to listing. If you don’t, be prepared for a lower price as buyers price in a renovation.
  • Bad landscaping — Make the best first impression possible by keeping the yard mowed, weeds pulled, and sidewalks edged. Fix any issues such as dirty or damaged brick and siding, peeling paint, or bent gutters. A daily spider web check is not a bad idea either (see pests).
  • Dim lighting — Dimly lit areas are not appealing. Open the blinds and deal with any poorly lit areas as best you can with floor lamps or other temporary lighting.
  • Specialized/converted rooms — Is your garage converted into a mancave? Has a spare bedroom been converted into a shrine to collectible plates or a likeness of Fenway Park? Any specialized rooms will have appeal to an extremely narrow group of potential buyers (and perhaps no buyers), but will be considered a conversion headache for most. Strip it down as much as possible to leave it as an empty template for the prospective buyer.

Who knows — perhaps after you do all this work, you may decide to keep your house! At the very least, you will have improved the likelihood of selling your house and reaping the rewards of your foresight and hard work.


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