Seller Tips

10 Things that will scare off a Home Buyer

Top Ten Ways to Scare Off a Home Buyer


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By Eric Badgely

Homeowners today are savvier than ever before about the process of selling a home. Home makeover shows are everywhere these days, all espousing the cardinal rules of home decor.

Unfortunately for the homeowner, the opinions of designers vary from season to season, and are often contradictory. This can make an already stressful process much harder than it needs to be. The truth is that there are certain things that send buyers running.

These property red flags are the ten things that can scare off a home buyer.

10. An overgrown garden. Curb appeal is a relatively new term that is used to describe the attractiveness of the exterior of a home, and in particular, the landscaping features. Because the outside gives buyers their first impression of a home, it is imperative to have this area looking its best. Even if you can’t afford expensive plants and outdoor furniture, a neatly trimmed lawn and swept driveway are major steps in the right direction.

By having an overgrown garden out front, all the buyers see is work. They think about the time and money that will need to go into the garden, to get it into shape. You want your home to be as move-in-ready as possible, and this includes the garden.

9. Wallpaper. While wallpaper can be an attractive addition to a room, to buyers it represents labor. The effort it takes to remove wallpaper is great. If there is a lot of wallpaper to contend with, buyers may dismiss the house as requiring too much work, and they’ll move on..

Confine your wallpaper to small areas, and don’t be overzealous with patterns and bright colors. The wallpaper needs to be in style year after year, and should appeal to many tastes.

8. Clutter. While having a messy home may work for you, when you are selling your home you need to focus on the needs of the buyer. They will be unable to focus on the home itself if there are personal effects strewn everywhere. Clutter is very distracting, and its presence implies that you don’t care about your home. If you can’t bother to tidy up before a showing, what else are you neglecting? Clutter also gives the impression that there isn’t adequate storage space in the home. Buyers are usually looking for a long term commitment, so they need to feel that there is enough room for all of their things now and in the near future.

Clean up, and put excess items in storage if you are serious about selling your home. The cost will definitely be worth it.

7. Under pricing. While buyers are always on the hunt for a bargain, if your selling price is significantly below that of comparable properties, doubts will be raised. Buyers may assume that there are major problems with the house, particularly if on the surface it looks like it’s in good shape. They may think that you are hiding problems, and the buyer’s trust will be broken.

6. Crazy decor. If you have a real penchant for themed rooms, or if you collect fish figurines, keep in mind that not everyone will appreciate your home’s aesthetic. Yes, it is your home and you have every right to decorate it as you see fit, but if you truly want to sell your home, you need to be cognizant of buyers’ feelings. Put your unique treasures in storage, and neutralize the rooms. You want to create a blank canvass for the buyers so they can envision themselves living there. Like household clutter, loud colors and eccentric knick knacks can be distracting and off putting. If your buyer can’t see past the decor, they’ll simply move on to the next house.

Create a warm and inviting atmosphere for buyers, and save your personal style for your next property.

5. Pets. You love your pets; you couldn’t live without them! Buyers on the other hand, don’t love your pets. Opening the front door, and seeing dogs and cats can set off alarm bells for potential buyers. Carpet stains, shedding hair, and stubborn odors are just a few of the hazards of pet ownership. There can also be damage to walls and flooring from urine stains. It is very difficult to remove pet stains and smells; buyers don’t want to have to deal with the aftermath of your pets. There are also allergies to consider. There are many people that are allergic to cats and dogs, and can develop serious breathing problems and rashes.

The best way to deal with this problem without getting rid of Fido, is to deal with accidents as they happen. Don’t allow urine to sit for any period of time. Be sure to clean the area with vinegar and water, and sprinkle baking soda on the carpet to neutralize the smell. Get your carpets and upholsteries cleaned, and are sure to vacuum and dust daily while your home is on the market. You may even consider purchasing an air purifier, which will help to freshen up the space. Keep windows open to ventilate the area, and keep pets out of the home during showings. If you are diligent with cleaning and airing, buyers may not even know you’ve had pets in the home, and that will definitely work to your favor.

4. Outdated Fixtures. Avocado green bathroom fixtures scream ‘outdated’. Not only are they unattractive, but they also reveal how little maintenance has been done over the years. Buyers will want updated fixtures, and may take the cost of replacement off of the purchase price. For others, replacing the items may simply be too much work, and they will dismiss your home outright.

3. Smoking. Some people are allergic to the smell of smoke; others simply detest it. The smell of tobacco lingers for literally years on end, and nicotine stains everything it touches. Home buyers know this, and if they smell smoke when they enter your home, chances are good that they will immediately nix your property from their list. Even if they love the structure and the decor, if it smells like cigarettes, buyers will flee.

2. Over pricing. Pricing your home is possibly the most difficult part of putting a property on the market. Oftentimes homeowners have invested a great deal of time and money into their homes, and want to see a return on their investment. Owners are also biased, and see their home as being worth more than perhaps a real estate agent believes. It is absolutely critical to listen to your listing agent’s advice about pricing. They will do a market analysis and find out what comparable homes in the area are listed for, and what the final selling prices are. You need to look at the age and condition of your house, compare it with similar properties, and then decide how much your home is actually worth. Market conditions change frequently, so even though people were willing to pay through the nose a year ago, they aren’t so eager to pay as much today. Price your home based on present conditions, and check your emotions at the door. Also, be willing to negotiate. If you are dead set on a price, and you aren’t receiving any offers, then you need to reexamine things. Be willing to compromise a little, or be prepared to stay on the market for a very long time.

1. Cracked foundation. If your house appears to be unstable in any way, buyers will head for the hills. If there are any cracks, even minor ones, get them checked out by a professional and get them repaired. Even if a crack is harmless, it raises alarm bells in the minds of the buyers. Not only can cracks be potentially dangerous, but repairs can also be costly. If a buyer is willing to buy your home with the crack still present, they will likely knock the costs of repairs off of the purchase price anyway, so it’s best to fix the problem before potential buyers even walk through the doors.

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