How (Not) To Scare Off A Homebuyer

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The first potential buyers of your home for sale are ascending the front stairs, and right before they family reaches the front door, a giant, black bat drops from the porch ceiling, eliciting a bone-chilling scream. Thankfully, it’s only a clever—and perhaps questionable, given your desire to sell your home—bit of Halloween-themed décor.

At least it wasn’t real. It easily could have been—bat happens. But while you can’t control everything in and around you home, there are steps you can take to make sure you don’t scare away potential buyers.

Price it right

The No. 1 deterrent to home buying is a price that’s out of line for the house or the area. If you do attract interest, it probably won’t result in an offer—at least a good one. The most likely scenario is that buyers won’t bite at all.

Count on curb appeal

Want to spook people before they even get in the door? Ignore your curb appeal.

Like the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Use that chance to re-sod, paint your front door, clean up any errant leaves or other messy areas, and showcase fresh flowers near the entrance. All of these easy projects can up your chances of attracting buyers from first glance.

Ditch the dirt

Big hairy spiders may add considerably to your Halloween décor—when they’re fake—but the real thing might just be enough to make potential buyers run scared.

You may not notice critters that have taken up residence in corners or hunkered down on windowsills. You may ignore stains on floors and walls. The scratches on your cabinets might just fade right into the background. But listing your home is a prime opportunity to take a closer look at all the places and spaces that might turn off someone seeing your house for the first time. When you’re done, call a professional cleaning crew to clear out the cobwebs—literally.

Update, update, update!

Dated furnishings. Eeek! Worn carpet. Yikes! Peeling paint. The horrors!

You may not think any of these things are a big deal, but they just might be deal breakers. Unless you’re talking about a savvy house flipper or an experienced real estate aficionado with vision, your potential buyer probably won’t be able to look past a house that’s falling apart or desperate for a redo.

If it’s been two decades (or longer!) since the last time you renovated or made any significant updates, you can expect most buyers to be creeped out—or to reflect their displeasure in their offer price, if there is one. Buyers won’t typically want to pay top dollar for a home that looks like it belongs in the sequel to The Money Pit.

Sweeten the smell

The fact is: we get used to our surroundings, and that includes the odors in our home. Whether it’s the garlic-laden pasta you fixed for lunch on the day of a showing or your beloved pets, they create odors we may not even notice—but buyers will.

That goes double for any musty smells in the house. Buyers will automatically connect that mustiness with mold, and it won’t matter if they’re wrong because they’ll be gone before you can start to explain.

If you don’t think you can properly judge your home on the odor scale or if you just want to be certain you’ve handled it, invite a trusted friend or your Realtor to give an honest assessment. And then invest in a few candles, air fresheners, and maybe a carpet cleaner.

Tone down the décor 

Bold walls, unique collections, and too many personal items can be hair-raising for buyers. If the home is only memorable for the massive collage of family photos on the hallway wall, the taxidermy strewn throughout, or the black paint in the dining room, it probably won’t connect in a positive way. Three of the most important words in staging a home: keep it neutral.

Clutter

Countertops covered in chachkies keep potential buyers from seeing what’s underneath. Closets overstuffed with clothes make buyers think the house lacks storage. Neither will get the house sold. Boxing up what’s not needed now will help show your house in its best light—and give you a jumpstart on your packing!