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5 Little Things That Turn Off Home Buyers

by Chris Poindexter

Trying to sell your house can be a tough process. It’s aggravating because shelter has become an emotional issue for many people. That personal investment is then complicated by a byzantine and expensive transfer process which has not kept pace with modern technology. Add in a few unrealistic expectations, and you have a formula for massive stress.

When dealing with the commissions and disclosure forms that are the realities of the modern world of real estate, it’s easy to lose sight of the buyer’s perspective. You see your house every day and the living environment is shaped to your preferences. Yet the everyday things that you don’t see can have a major influence on the perception of buyers.  Shaping that perception has a name in the real estate business; it’s called staging. Here are some of the things that are major turn-offs for potential buyers.

Evidence of Smoking, Smoke Smell

Smoking is one of the biggest turn-offs for people who don’t smoke. Ashtrays with cigarette butts sitting out in the open will make your home nearly impossible to sell. For the duration of your home sale, you’ll have to limit your smoking to outdoors and keep cigarette butts out of the house. Getting rid of the smell will be expensive and usually involves replacing the carpet and painting the walls and ceiling.

Pets and Animal Trophies

Hunting trophies are an artifact from an earlier era and a deer head hanging on the wall will repel potential buyers and horrify children. Pets and pet odors, which you might not notice because you’re around them all the time, will turn off some buyers. Obviously you can’t keep your pets outdoors but you can get them groomed, tuck bedding away in a closet and either keep them kenneled or with you when someone’s viewing your house.

Political Signs or Flags

No matter your political leanings, selling your home is a nonpartisan activity. That goes for your yard, your house, the garage and your kid’s room. Flags, political signs or any overtly political statement needs to go into a box for the duration of the sales process. Even jerseys and sports memorabilia should be boxed up.

Locked Rooms

You should have valuables secured elsewhere before strangers start walking through your home anyway. This includes firearms, jewelry, your checkbook and expensive collectibles. Locked rooms conjure up all kinds of images in the minds of buyers, most of them bad. The worst doors to lock are attic and basements. But locking the door is better than having buyers step into an armory.  This is where portable storage units can come in handy.


It may be art to you and while you’re completely comfortable with the display of the human body, it can set off a mixed reaction in potential buyers visiting your home. Paintings, photographs, statues or print materials laying around the house should be sanitized before people start parading through your home.

The Ultimate Preparation

The ultimate set up to selling your home is to have your yard professionally landscaped for maximum curb appeal. The next level is then to move your furniture into storage and have the house professionally staged. All that costs money, and it can feel like you’re moving twice, but those steps can greatly reduce how long your home is on the market, as well as add significantly to the final price you sell for.

Ultimately the price you get is going to be determined more by the selling price of similar homes in the area than how much landscaping you do. Still, spending a few hundred on landscaping and a couple thousand on professional staging can make a huge difference in the end.

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