Tuesday, January 12, 2021 / by Randy Durham
It's my job to oversee marketing activities for hundreds of residential listings. In the past, our team even specialized in expired and distressed properties. When the market was slower, combing through showing feedback was a crucial part of revamping their marketing strategies and still is relevant today even in a faster-paced market. In real estate, great photography is your friend. However, like people, some homes actually photograph very well. Photographers can lift shadows to show the entire shot a room to highlight desired features like open floor plans, shiny hardwood floors, decorative touches, etc. However, we can't photoshop things like dated wallpaper or poor upkeep or a truckload clutter with no place to hide it. Think of this process like seeing a great pair of pants on the rack and then realizing the pants give you a muffin top when you got to the dressing room. If pictures lead a buyer to be interested in your home, a showing is like trying a house on for size. Sometimes, images and virtual tours are only one of the key features that lead to love at first showing and the eventual offer.
I have seen outrageous dealbreakers from a kitchen not having soft close cabinets or the wrong kind of backsplash to the ceilings being too low even though they were ten feet high. Though some problems with a house are undoubtedly preventable and usually rely on the buyer's preferences, I have seen a trend in some immediate buyer turnoffs over a period of years. In this post, I’m revealing the top deal breakers for buyers that you have control over as a homeowner and what you can do about it. Also, I’ll be going over a few things that you can’t control and how to deal with them.
Dealbreakers you can control:
5. Too dark: This is the main complaint I see in older homes or ranch style homes. The upside is that most of these layouts can be heat and air efficient because of small windows or low ceilings, but it’s probably the most common negative feedback I get on a normal basis. This is why in a lot of property descriptions you will see lots of natural light or big windows or something along those lines. My tip is to draw curtains and open blinds to let in as much natural light as possible. If you still have issues, turn on as many overhead and lamp lights as you can before the showing. If you are in-between seasons and the temperature outside is nice and the air unit is just not running, be mindful that air can get a little stagnant in the house, so open a window or two so it doesn’t get too stuffy with all the lights on. Another tip is to make sure the house is at a comfortable temperature before you leave.
4. Your Pets: Most people love animals, just not six at a time or ones you don't clean up after. Sometimes you can feel overwhelmed that you can't keep anything nice with pets--from fur and dander to accidents and marking. Smell has a big impact on first impressions, and buyers often unknowingly use it to determine if they aren’t interested in your house. Most of the time, a reasonable buyer knows the pet smell is gone when the former homeowner moves, but for a few, it eliminates the home from their list. Most of the time, pet odors live in fabric, so it will actually be in the furniture, curtains, bed linens, or the carpets, but sometimes pets will have accidents on the floors or walls. That’s where flags go up for buyers.
The Remedy: Use an enzyme-based cleaner for pet accidents. I’ll link the product I recommend to all my clients below and they have formulas for both cats and dogs. Scoop litterboxes daily if you have cats, and if you have a lot of fur dander make sure you stay on top of it with sweeping if you have hardwood or tiled floors. Another trick is to place an air purifier and wall fresheners near couches and beds will also cut down on odors. This is very helpful if you have a large dog. If your pet has a history of relieving themselves outside of the pads or litter box, do a clean sweep of the house before you let anyone show it so you can spot clean areas with the cleaner I recommend. If you have carpet in any common areas make sure to vacuum, this helps out the allergy sufferers tremendously while they are viewing your home. You would be surprised how many people are allergic to dogs and cats and some of them don’t even know it.
3. Cigarette Smoke: It's not the Sixties anymore, and the days of Mad Men characters chain-smoking cigarettes in their living room after a hard day at work are becoming far less common. The rates are declining for smokers in America, and many current smokers actually refuse to smoke in their house. However, some still do. Homebuyers usually want to transition into your place as smoothly as possible and getting rid of cigarette smoke smell in a house is often not a quick fix if you’ve smoked in your house. I have seen one instance where a showing agent said they didn't even do the showing because their client smelled cigarettes through the front door before they even opened it, then headed back to their car, telling her to go on to the next house on their list!
The Fix: Don't smoke in your house while it is for sale! Go on the porch, or if somewhere outside the main living area of the home like the garage or the basement in very bad weather. If you previously smoked regularly in your home, shampoo or steam clean carpets (I also recommend this for pet accidents), upholstery, and any kind of fabrics that have retained the smoke odor. Also, consider a fresh coat of paint in heavily soiled rooms, preferably in a neutral color.
2. Wallpaper: Wallpaper trends. I think it's actually trending again. Regardless, wallpaper relies heavily on the individual and ultimately boils down to a taste issue. This is why you see phrases like neutral paint colors or neutral décor. The reasoning behind these terms is to make your home appealing to as many buyers as possible. There is a fine line between retro and dated. Unfortunately, some patterns just don't age as well as others. Just like the neighborhood, a general reason that narrows down home searches that aren't always specified by the buyers or their agent. If the home has wallpaper, it is often ruled out with the agent using one polite term in the feedback--"updating". Some buyers see wallpaper as a cheap update, but others find it a laborious time drain if you aren't looking for a fixer-upper. Most buyers are under a microscope with loan preapproval, so they are very budget-conscious. Also, shopping for homes, and being under contract to buy is stressful enough for them. This is no surprise that most of them want to do as little as possible after the closing happens because let’s face it, moving isn’t fun either.
The fix: Strip the wallpaper yourself or hire a pro. It slashes the time spent on the market and doesn’t make the home appealing to a larger pool of buyers.
1. Your Curb Appeal: Not every buyer judges a house by its cover, but those than want a move-in ready buying experience start deducting brownie points before they walk in the door. Many people choose their home by an emotional connection they feel when they see it in person. Most want a home that is cared for and aesthetically pleasing. You don't have to plant a Japanese Zen garden in the backyard. However, if your house looks like nobody lives there, you may want to break out a pressure washer and invest in some low maintenance landscaping.
The Fix: Some people couldn’t care less about yard work, but planting tough yard staples like ornamental grasses, blooming shrubs, and hedges are a great option because it can add seasonal interest without being too fussy about upkeep. Another alternative if there is limited yard space or no yard at all is container gardening. Lots of people are into gardens, and observing the lighting conditions on things you already have growing may help your buyer find a positive feature in the home. Focus on revamping the front walkway, exterior maintenance, and little touches that say you care about the home.
What you can't fix and how to deal:
What you can't fix and how to deal:
1. Your Neighbors: Let's face it, they do some crazy things. They have started feuds, outfitted their yards and home exteriors with some outrageous curb appeal (link), and do things that picky buyers may find irritating. Many times, realtors won't specify why their client didn't "like the neighborhood," because the reasons vary depending on the individual. Many times, you don't get a particular vibe of the surrounding area until you are actually en route to the house. Many showing appointments are canceled or ruled out because of the neighborhood, distance, or general appearance of the surrounding homes.
How to deal: This is a tough one. Stressing future development, convenience to amenities, a scenic view, and a lower cost of living are few perks that can remedy this situation. Location matters just as much as the condition and asking price in deciding on a home. There is a principle of conformity when considering a home value, and this is particularly important if your home is in a subdivision. Many realtors will advise you to buy the worst home in the best location, and not vice versa and that is based on the principle of regression. This is a large factor to consider if the homes around yours are not well-kept. As a consequence, I see this situation in many rural and developing suburban areas. There is no definite answer to this situation and may require a bit of creativity because each home and area are unique.
2. The floor plan: Choppy floor plans are another trend I’ve seen that you probably don’t have much control over by the time you’ve listed your house. I typically see this issue in homes that have additions or in custom-built homes. It can range anywhere from the bedrooms are too small or you have to walk through a kitchen and a bedroom just to get to the bathroom. Another comment I get frequently is that there are too many steps, or the master bedroom is not on the main level.
How to deal: Maximize the best use for home's space. Fixes in your control are good staging. You don’t have to hire a pro. Consider fixes like switching around furniture. One example is a bed or furniture being too big for the room and actually making it look smaller. If you can’t move the furniture, then give the room dimensions so the showing agent knows how big the room's space is. Rearrange living room furniture to make things more open and declutter as much as possible.
How to deal: Your first priority should be to address any drainage issues before placing your home on the market. This is especially true if the yard slopes upward. Another fix is landscaping. Many homeowners I’ve met have gotten creative with their steep yard by terraced gardening. I would approach this issue similar to issues with neighbors. Try to emphasize any positive features, like a great view if you have one or location convenience.
Remember these two important things if you are a homeowner: there is a house out there for everyone, and that most buyers are reasonable. If you have any concerns about potential showing issues with your home, contact us and we will be happy to help!