House Not Selling? Here’s How to Avoid the 10 Biggest Buyer Turnoffs

Pop quiz: What’s the biggest obstacle between you and a quick home sale?

Answer? Look in the mirror.

The reality is that what homeowners who don’t prepare their lair for market often end up sending potential buyers fleeing to other listings. Fewer showings means fewer offers, thereby diminishing the seller’s leverage to hold fast to their listing price.

If a physical relocation just isn’t possible before you list, your next best move is to mentally vacate the premises. That way, you can quickly transform what has been your unique home into a neutral palette that will welcome the dreams of all buyers.

Here are the 10 most common homebuyer turnoffs and how to correct them.

Turnoff #1: Poor Curb Appeal

Little wonder real estate agents are obsessed with the appearance of your home from the street. After all, it’s the all-important first impression that prospective buyers get when they drive by for a look-see. If your place appears rundown, your yard looks neglected and there’s visible debris strewn around, many a Lookie Lou will just keep driving.

Fix: Mow, trim and tidy up the outside if you want buyers to check out the inside. Power wash and paint the exterior if needed.

Turnoff #2: That Ugly Front Door

Cindi Hagley, broker/division manager with The Hagley Group in Pleasanton, CA, says most successful sales literally begin with the entryway.

“Doors are a huge deal with buyers,” she says. “Even if your house looks like crap, if you’ve got a nice entry door, you’ll at least get them inside.”

Fix: Restore your front door before showing and paint it black.

Turnoff #3: What’s That Smell!?!

Odors upon entry, whether they be pet urine, smelly furniture or the lingering scents from last night’s taco fest, can make home shoppers pivot before they’re even inside. Some Realtors like Hagley won’t even list smelly homes.

Fix: Ditch the stink, and if you smoke, remove all ashtrays and take it outside before showing.

Turnoff #4: Wallpaper and Wild Color Schemes

Know up front that as much as you love your wallpaper and/or that painful pink bedroom, many prospective buyers won’t. In fact, the minute they spot it, they’re already scaling back any potential offer to include the cost to remodel.

Fix: Remove wallpaper and repaint to a neutral tone; gray is a popular choice.

Turnoff #5: Closet Clutter

News alert: clutter is not just where you think it is.

According to Julie Dana, The Home Stylist in East Aurora, NY and co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Staging Your Home to Sell,” you want your closets half-full with nothing on the floor to give space-cramped buyers the impression that your home is roomy and welcoming.

Fix: Get roomy, and put extra clothes and belongings in a storage unit to keep it out of sight.

Turnoff #6: Personal or Controversial Items

So what’s wrong with leaving scores of family photos, posters and collectables of your favorite political candidates, sports teams or rock bands scattered around the house? They can all potentially stop potential buyers from picturing themselves at home in your castle. Dana says anything that screams YOU tends to put buyers off.

“Of course, we tend to think it will help buyers remember it, and yet that’s not what buyers buy,” she says. “Yes, they will remember it, but they won’t buy it.”

Fix: Store away your personal items where shoppers won’t see them.

Turnoff #7: Rough Edges

You’ve lived with the subtle drywall cracks, chipped paint, misaligned doorknobs and other home flaws for so long that you barely give them a thought. Unfortunately, prospective buyers are super sensitive to any defects that might cost them money to repair.

“As soon as that chore list starts to form in a person’s head, forget it – the sale’s gone,” says Dana.

Fix: Hire a handyman and tackle cosmetic issues.

Turnoff #8: Popcorn Ceilings

Homebuyer tastes on popcorn ceilings have soured over the years, in no small part because those installed before 1978 likely contain asbestos, which was banned as a health hazard in 1977. Cost to replace runs $1-$2 per square foot, or roughly $1,500 to un-pop the entire home.

Fix: Hagley suggests replacing popcorn ceilings in high-end ($1 million plus) homes, while entry-level popcorn properties may sell without issue.

Turnoff #9: Online Doesn’t Match Offline

If the online photos of your listing don’t quite resemble the place you call home, it could prove problematic. Hagley says that while agents and sellers will favor photos with the most appealing angles, they must draw the line at misrepresenting the property.

Fix: Make sure your home’s online portfolio matches reality or request a reshoot.

Turnoff #10: Sellers, Renters and Pets Present During Showings

Nothing turns a home showing sour faster than the unexpected presence of the homeowners, renters and/or pets. For the potential buyer, it’s like trying on a coat with someone still in it. Add the unexpected, or worse, unattended, presence of a pet and the showing may not even happen.

“My number one pet peeve is a hovering seller!” Hagley says.

Fix: Clear out well before all showings and take your mobile pets with you.

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