Most of us already know that a tidy up, a good clean, decluttering and professional home staging will go a long way to preparing a property for sale. Yet, we may be less aware of the key homebuyer turn-offs that could send a prospective buyer running for the hills. You’re embarking on the sale of potentially your biggest asset, so it’s worth putting in the extra time and effort to present it at its best.
To gauge whether your home is ready to market, try looking at it through the eyes of a buyer. Go from room to room jotting down anything you see, smell or sense that might put off a viewer. Better still, ask a friend to do it for you and ask them to be honest and impartial. It could make the difference between no offer and a great offer. There are a number of homebuyer turn-offs that you might not be aware of, so we’ve put together a list to keep in mind.
1. Poor light
Just as homebuyers love stepping into homes that are warm, inviting and uncluttered, so too do they love spaces that are light and bright. Dark rooms can feel sad and devoid of energy. Before every viewing, make sure curtains are opened wide. Tie curtains back, and lift or tilt blinds to let in the maximum amount of daylight. If there are dark curtains in rooms with small windows and low ceilings, make sure they obscure none of the light. Or if that’s not possible, remove them. It’s better to have no curtains than no light. Make sure that windows are clean. Dirt on windows can cut out a surprising amount of light and if you do need to turn lights on, make sure none of the bulbs are broken, another definite homebuyer turn-off.
2. Dirt, any kind, anywhere
Clean homes feel cherished and cared for and buyers are more likely to fall in love a cherished home than one that shows signs of neglect. Regardless of the state of their own homes, viewers can become the clean police when it comes buying a new home. They will want to see shiny sinks and taps. Everyone loves a spotlessly clean floor, a gleaming work surface and sparklingly clean windows. Nothing will escape their scrutiny including inside your fridge and oven, even inside cupboards and drawers. And definitely watch out for those cobwebs!
3. Not enough storage
Clutter anywhere inside or outside the house rings out like a fog horn in a storm that there isn’t enough storage space. Buyers yearn for storage space and will have their ‘restricted storage’ radar on maximum strength for the visit. They will be checking every cupboard and nook and cranny for signs of storage weakness. The cupboard under the stairs, the box room that’s part study, part guest bedroom, the garage, the shed and utility room all need to be clutter and junk free and shown off at their best.
4. High maintenance
Minor repairs that we become oblivious to in our own home can ring booming alarm bells to a buyer that this is a home that will take endless amounts of time, money and energy to maintain. Don’t risk losing a sale for the sake of a little time and effort to address those niggling repairs. Amongst the most off-putting are overgrown gardens, a broken doorbell, wobbly door handles, leaky taps and mould around baths and showers.
As stated in the July 2018 Go Compare report on viewer turn-offs, a hefty 69% of us cited obvious damp patches as our biggest turn-off when viewing a property. There is no way around it, and that includes trying to disguise stains with mirrors and paintings. Sort the damp and all those other niggling jobs besides. Not only do they imply the property isn’t cared for, but they also suggest that larger and scarier problems might be lurking behind the scenes.
5. Personal hygiene products
We are all human and have a myriad of personal hygiene and grooming products to attend to our daily needs. Be discreet. Hair removal and other such items are not to be shared with a viewer. Tuck razors, sanitary products, makeup and items for everyday grooming away.
We tend to become immune to our own smells but can be acutely aware of other people’s. Smells we don’t like or aren’t familiar with can be fatally off-putting. If you’re a smoker, try to not smoke in the house while your home is on the market. Non-smokers may fear the smell will be impossible to get rid of.
Avoid cooking with strong flavours before a viewing too. It could be a buyer’s favourite smell or least favourite, so best to not take the risk. If you need to use a deodoriser – go for something neutral rather than a strong smelling deodoriser. Not only are they a real give away but room fragrances such as scented candles can be not to everyone’s taste. Everyone loves the scent of fresh air so open all the windows. Be it cigarettes, cooking, a musty bedroom or steamy bathroom, make sure each room gets a jolly good airing.
7. Collections and knick-knacks
Shelving units fit to bursting with Star Wars memorabilia, taxidermy or DVDs may reflect your passions, interests and travels, but can make a home appear overly personalised, not to mention terribly cluttered. Religious and overtly political items on display are also a no-no. Keep your rooms culturally neutral to avoid alienating viewers.
8. Family photos
Whilst having photos of your loved ones on the walls and mantelpiece can be joyful and nourishing for you, people buy homes they can see themselves living in. Beware your home doesn’t reflect so much of your personality that it’s impossible for them to imagine it as their home. It’s fine, indeed lovely, to have a few photos on display, but too many can put potential buyers off. It’s best to store them away ready for your new home.
Yes, they are a much-loved member of your family, but not everyone will welcome a leaping dog or a cage full of hamsters. Be aware that some viewers are afraid of dogs, even small ones and ones that don’t bark. An increasing number of people are allergic to cat hairs too. Shutting your pets inside a room for viewings may seem like a logical solution, but not only might it distress your pet but a homebuyer needs access to all areas. During viewings, ask a friend or neighbour to mind your pets and as well as their chewable toys and litter tray. Be sure to give your home an extra good vacuum before the viewing.
10. Homeowners waxing lyrical
It’s very difficult for us to think that anyone will understand the true value of our home and extol its virtues to a potential buyer as well as we can. Believe it or not, it’s not those golden nougats of knowledge that will make your home more appealing. On the contrary, homebuyers would rather be left to explore and discuss their thoughts freely, without a hovering presence. If they are interested in the property they will address any questions with the agent afterwards. They will be far more likely to be interested if given space to breathe and allowed to absorb it for themselves. If you think there is information that may be of value, write it down. You can leave a copy for the viewer to take away to read at their leisure.
It may be just one thing that is off-putting to your viewer, one thing that prevents them from seeing your property as their dream home. But why take the risk? First impressions count. These are things that can be easily addressed and could be the difference between a quick and profitable sale and no sale. Make the effort and leave no stone unturned.
Janine Shalev is a professional property and home stager at JS Property Staging. She transforms empty properties into spaces that prospective buyers or tenants would love to call home. Call or message Janine if you would like to discuss home staging tips and strategies for your property.
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