8 Things That Turn Off Buyers BEFORE They SEE Your House

Here are 8 things that can turn home buyers away before they even VISIT your house ...

When I talk to Haymarket area sellers about preparing their home for sale—especially upscale and luxury homes—it can be hard sometimes to be honest without seeming rude or insulting. Sellers are personally connected to their homes and have difficulty seeing it through the eyes of a potential buyer. They can't imagine why they won't love their hand-painted mural of unicorns or their three adorable, shedding cats.

My job is to help them sell their home at the highest price possible, not provide insincere compliments to win them over. This means using my expertise and experience to make difficult suggestions that will ultimately help them achieve their goal.

Learn more about selling your Haymarket area home

I work with buyers all the time. I see their reactions and I know which homes they pass over and which ones excite them. After a while I start to see consistencies. That's not to say there aren't buyers who can "see around" things if they love the house, the neighborhood or the price. But, the buyer pool becomes smaller and that can leave a house sitting on the market longer, eventually selling at a lower price than desired.

Most buyers will look at homes that are in the top of their price range. Some things are hard to see around especially if a buyer is looking for move-in condition, has allergies or considers themselves to be the furthest thing from "handy".

Recent studies indicate that over 90% of buyers start their search online before working with a Realtor or actually visiting properties. So they are studying photos and eliminating options BEFORE they even go to see a house. They can tell just by the photos!

The good news is that many of these things can be avoided before the photos are taken and the house goes on the market.

See Haymarket Homeowner: Upscale and Luxury Living in Haymarket & Beyond

Here are 8 things I have found that turn buyers off either before or during house tours. Photos shown are from actual MLS photos of homes that are, or have recently been for sale.

1. Evidence of Pets

Most people are fond of animals, especially dogs. However, when buyers are looking at new homes they really don't want to know about the pets who have lived there. With pets come odors, shedding, possible carpet stains, scratched walls, dug out yards, etc. For some people it's a deal breaker simply because of allergies.

I'm not saying you have to part with your beloved pets to sell your home, just hide them a bit. Try to remove all evidence before the photo shoot like dog dishes, kitty litter, dog beds and most importantly, THE ACTUAL PET.

If your pets really have created carpet stains and smells, it's probably is a good idea to clean them good or replace them. For showings, make sure all furniture and carpets with pet hair are vacuumed well and if possible, try to make arrangements for the pet to be elsewhere.


2. Excessive Wallpaper

While your wallpaper may be lovely and professionally installed, it may have colors and patterns which, chances are, won't reflect the taste of the buyers - especially if it's older or dated. Even if the buyers do love the wallpaper, it may not match their furnishings or color scheme. When buyers see wallpaper they worry more about the cost and process of removal and repaint more than they would a simple painted room.

If you have several rooms that are wallpapered (older) consider having at least some of it removed and painted in a neutral color. HOWEVER, a small powder room, single wall in a dining room or simple contemporary pattern done well may help sell your home, so don't rip everything out without getting some feedback. Ask some friends and neighbors for their honest opinions and a good Realtor should be honest with you as well.


3. Clutter and Personal Decor

If your home is overflowing with knick knacks, hanging pictures, baskets, plants, toys, crowded counters and furniture filling every square foot - clean it out before you list your home. Buyers see this, even in photos, and it makes the house look crowded and small and they have a hard time envisioning their own stuff there.

How to get your house ready for sale AND give back to the community

The best thing to do is to get some boxes and bins and pack it up. You're planning to move anyway, this gives you a head start. Take down all personal photos, posters, hand-made quilts, etc., fill in the wall holes and touch up the paint. And please, remove refrigerator art. If you have extra space in the basement or attic put it all there. If not, rent a small storage unit. You can fill it with boxes, extra furniture ... all kinds of things.



4. Brightly Colored Carpet

That green or indigo blue carpet in the family room or the bright colored carpet on the stairs translates to dollar signs for potential buyers. It might go well with your decorating style or it was trendy when you installed it, and it might be even be in immaculate condition. However, most buyers cringe at at colored carpets and prefer neutral colors. If you can, consider replacing at least the main room, like a family room.

purple stairs

5. Messy Bathrooms

No buyer wants to see wet hanging towels, used personal hygiene products or moldy shower curtains and tubs. They can even see this in photos. It can leave a lasting, negative impression on buyers and it's not an expensive fix. Calk or refinish baths or tubs, clean off all counter tops, get new towels and make your bathroom sparkly clean!

6. Messy Kitchens

Like bathrooms, a kitchen filled with dirty sponges, crumbs, stained appliances, overflowing trash or dishes in the sink is a huge turn off. Buyers wonder about a kitchen that looks like this when the house is for sale and how well the owners maintain it regularly. A messy kitchen can suggest germs, ants, even rodents. New appliances are always a good selling feature, but if that's not possible make sure the kitchen is spotless for photos and showings.

7. Smells and Odors

This one obviously can't be seen in photos, but it sure will hit buyers when they walk in. If you're a smoker, it might be a good idea start smoking outside while you are preparing your home for sale. You also may consider having drapes cleaned or replaced, carpets cleaned and even steam cleaning furniture. Smoke leaves a lasting smell and many buyers have no tolerance for it. The same goes for strong food smells like fish and heavy cleaning detergent use like Lysol. Buyers worry that these smells are "embedded" in the house.

8. Bad Real Estate Photos

Your house may not have any of the issues mentioned above but the photos taken to sell your house are just not good. I've seen photos of homes that are extremely dark or blurry or a flash casts dark, sharp shadows. Sometimes the photo is just too small. Buyers will enlarge photos to get a better look and the resolution is too low to see. Buyers also want to see the whole room and the flow of space, not just one corner or window (unless is has an exceptional feature).

Another thing to consider with photos is make sure they are updated. If, for whatever reason, your house is on the market for several months, have your Realtor update your listing with new photos.  You don't want a photo with snow on the ground in July or a Christmas tree in the living room in September. This tells the buyer instantly that the house has been on the market for a long time.

A buyer may not consider looking at the house just because they haven't seen it in it's best light. Make sure your Realtor is using good equipment and the right technology for the photos to translate well in all mediums.


If you are interested in selling your Haymarket area home, contact Bryan Garcia for a free consultation.  Bryan will make sure YOUR home is ready to hit the market with a splash!

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