Sellers in hot real-estate markets — where there’s not enough for-sale inventory for the number of people who want to buy — may not feel compelled to spend money to stage their whole house. And they may not need to, given the reduced competition.
But they still should do the minimum: Keep the house free of common issues that send prospective buyers running for the doors.
“Bidding wars happen for perfectly-located homes that show like museums,” he said. “When your house is on the market, you have to be living on egg shells—you have a month or two of being tidy.”
The payoff of an always-neat home: You’re more likely to get a higher price.
Decluttering, depersonalizing and painting rooms in neutral colors are always smart moves when prepping a house for sale. But if you do nothing else, steer clear of the following buyer turnoffs before allowing a prospective buyer to walk through your home.
Pets and Their Things
Nobody wants to see a dirty kitty litter box or a dog bone on the sofa. And as best you can, get rid of lingering pet smells. (Cat urine on the carpet, is one of the hardest smells to remove. Even worse, sometimes it can seep into the hardwood floors below.)
“The most offensive odor is animals, and you can plug in, light up and spray all you want,” but it won’t completely cover up the smell, said real-estate agent Heather Lamp, based in Fort Mill, S.C. She recently wrote a blog post about issues that most annoy buyers when walking through homes.
Pets should be out of the house during showings. If possible, it’s easier to have a friend or relative watch your dog or cat during the entire time your home is on the market, Lamp said.
You don’t have to paint the whole house, but rooms with bright or unique colors or wallpaper should be covered with something more neutral.
Toys and Baby Supplies
Other parents will understand how difficult it is to keep a home tidy with kids in the house. But not all potential buyers will be parents. Make sure all toys have a home in a toy chest or closet.
If you have a newborn, dirty diapers need to be taken out and breast pumps should be out of sight. Dirty bottles and breast milk shouldn’t be left out; buyers may get the impression that the home isn’t sanitary, DeSimone said. In fact, store the clean bottles, too, and don’t leave them on a drying rack near the sink. Give yourself a good 20 minutes to pack up baby items before a showing, he said.
The second most offensive smell, in Lamp’s book: Cooking smells.
Strong spices, bacon, onions—they all tend to linger long after the meal is over, she said. To diffuse them, leave a window slightly cracked while cooking. After you’re done with the meal, boil some cinnamon in water to freshen up the house. Plug-ins and sprays can make the problem even worse for people who are sensitive to smells—or allergic to the fresheners, she said.
One buyer Lamp was working with didn’t get two feet in the door before she turned around, due to the smell of strong spices. Another time, the buyer left after smelling incense burning.
For many, the smell of cigarette smoke throughout a home is a deal breaker, and a reason to hasten a walk through. “If you’re a smoker, seriously, get the whole house painted,” he said.
Dirty Dishes, Cluttered Counters
No buyer will want to see last night’s spaghetti stuck to plates in the sink. That’s a given. But clutter on the counters, from the coffee maker to the toaster oven, also will be a distraction, making counter space look smaller and your kitchen, in general, looking messy.
DeSimone’s advice: Create a special drawer or cabinet for things that you use on a regular basis, but need to be stashed away. That will help you quickly find a place for them each day.
Women, in particular, clutter bathrooms with makeup, perfumes and other grooming items, Lamp said. Store everything under the counter. And make sure the hair is out of the tub and the toothpaste smears are wiped out of the sink, Lamp said.
“I don’t know how people live like this,” or “I thought I was a mess, and now I feel like I have obsessive compulsive disorder,” are a couple of comments Lamp has heard clients utter when walking through messy bathrooms. Sometimes, through body language with their significant others, such as a nod or a raise of the eyebrows, she can sense their disapproval.
Keep a clean (and flushed!) toilet and always keep the lid down. Enough said.
The flip side of all of the above: If you’re a buyer and can overlook some of these seller faux pas in a home, you might get a better deal. So while some buyers will be disgusted enough to cross a problematic home off their list, others will see the opportunity of a diamond in the rough.