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8 Frightening Things in Sellers’ Homes That Can Scare Buyers Silly


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No matter how gorgeous your home is, it could contain an item or two that happens to scare the pants off anyone who walks through your door. That might not be a problem if you don’t like guests, but it could very well be a big problem if you’re trying to sell your place!

The reality is that it doesn’t take much to scare off home buyers—with so much on the line, even the smallest detail can give them a shiver or icky feeling they can’t shake. So, in case you want to make 100% sure your home-selling efforts aren’t getting tripped up on some freaky feature you overlooked, check out these things home buyers and their agents have come across during their house hunt that made them get out. Quickly

1. Too many locks

Glenn Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty in Birmingham, AL, discovered a deal breaker for one of his clients: a wildly excessive number of door locks that prompted the family to wonder what the danger was. Thieves? Stalkers? SWAT teams?

Granted, maybe the seller was the “better safe than sorry” type. Still, anything beyond two locks per door doesn’t generally sit well with buyers. As Phillips explains, “Given a choice, most people won’t buy in places they think are unsafe.”

2. Uncomfortable art

Fine, perhaps you have an eclectic taste in art, and display “classy” nude photography with no shame. The human body is beautiful, man! That’s great—but be aware that others might freak out over it. Consider one seller’s obsession with feet, says Jeff Miller, co-founder of Baltimore-based AE Home Group.

“There were framed paintings of feet, sculptures of feet, and even foot keychains,” he says.

Sure, this stuff would be removed when the seller moved out, but it was too late—the psychological damage was already done to the buyers who’d toured the home, which is why Miller decided to correct the problem going forward.

“I told the seller to get their feet out of the picture,” he says.

3. Taxidermy

While a single deer head on a wall might possibly fly in a den, stuffed dead animals generally creep people out.

“One house I helped stage had a stuffed bighorn sheep in the dining room and a stuffed bear in the family room,” says Amy Bly of Great Impressions Home Staging/Interiors in Montville, NJ. Only a fellow hunter or, um, taxidermist will appreciate such decor.

4. Faulty or half-done repairs

Sure, your house might be newly renovated, but if those upgrades weren’t done to code or lacked the proper permits, your buyers will beat a hasty retreat. Even worse are repairs that are not yet complete.

“I once encountered a little house of horrors that actually had caution tape across a very outdated bathroom with a hole in the floor,” Bly recalls. The home also had “dark rooms with lights that didn’t work, and nonfunctioning appliances in the kitchen.”

Bottom line: Even if you are hoping to sell your home “as is,” make sure the house at least looks like it isn’t falling apart.

5. Unfriendly pets

No matter how much you love Fido or Fluffy, not everyone is comfortable around animals. Some might harbor bad childhood experiences with cats and dogs, or suffer from allergies and worry the effects might linger, even after your pets are gone.

The best option is to board your pets with a friend or family member while your house is for sale—or at least get them out of the house whenever someone swings by.

6. Dust and dirt

Sellers, do not tell yourself that those cobwebs are just part of your Halloween décor. Your house has to be spotless to attract buyers, says Bly, who has seen everything from dusty faux plants and dried flower arrangements to grimy shower tile and—total gross-out alert!—unflushed toilets or clumps of hair in the drain.

So whether it’s an oven that’s never been cleaned, a fridge with 6-month-old Chinese food, or a laundry room piled high with dirty clothes, remember that people want to buy a home that looks shiny and new.

7. Mystery smells

“Mystery smells” or a vague scent of your beloved pets or mold are going to cast a pall over a home showing. “Almost every home has a unique smell, and the owners rarely realize it,” says Jerry Koller, a Realtor® with International Home Realty in Irvine, CA.

That’s why many real estate agents bake cookies, which serve double duty as both an air freshener and a buyer-seducing snack.

“Of course, it’s smart to try remedies such as Febreze or candles,” Koller says. “But sometimes you just need to replace carpet before putting your house on the market.”

8. Hair-raising decor

An epidemic of outdated wallpaper and wood paneling. Garishly purple bedrooms. Popcorn ceilings. At one point in time, like decades ago, these fads were in vogue. And trust us, buyers don’t like traveling in a time warp while house hunting; nor do they relish burning loads of cash to drag this home into the present.

Here are some other outdated home decor trends that make buyers run.


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