In my experience, there’s one fundamental truth about haters: you can never fully escape them. The only way to live a 100% hater-free life is to never stick your neck out, and never do anything because, as the saying goes, you simply cannot please all of the people all of the time.
And this is particularly true with real estate and putting your home on the market – because homes, locations, aesthetics and such are so much a matter of personal preference, some people will find something to criticize about even the most perfectly staged, priciest properties on the market.
As a home seller, your job is not to try to make your home be all things to all people. That said, you don’t want to be the house that nearly every buyer and broker sees, rolls their eyes and utters the same few, predictable deal-killing criticisms. Fortunately, what is predictable is avoidable. Let’s explore the most common things buyers hate about listings they see. In the process, you’ll get equipped to sidestep those issues and, in large part, hater-proof your own home.
House Hater Complaint #1: Odors. Some of you might think I’m beating a dead horse, here. But as long as house hunters keep emailing me to ask why, in the name of all that is sacred, they keep seeing homes that smell like all sorts of madness and mayhem, I’m going to keep repeating this message.
Viewing a home sounds like it’s all about the visual of the experience. And visuals are critical – your home should be in its Sunday best, so to speak, when it’s being shown, in terms of being spruced, staged and clutter-free. But when a buyer comes to see your home, they don’t turn off the rest of their senses. And there is nothing that can turn a buyer off from a home, they’d otherwise like, quicker than a powerfully bad odor – in particular, cigarette and pet odors in a house that seems to have been well-cleaned create the concern that they might be permanent and that the buyer might not be able to get rid of them without dropping some serious cash on cleaning or even removing wall, window and floor coverings.
If you are a seller and you know that someone has been habitually smoking in your home or that you have had a “challenge,” let’s say, with pet accidents, do not ignore the problem. And do not think that because you had the carpet shampooed or the drapes cleaned, or because YOU can’t smell anything, that the problem is gone. The fact is that the human sense of smell very quickly gets used to smells that it lives with or is surrounded with on a regular basis. So it’s critical to get your agent, stager or even your friends and family members – who don’t live with you and love you enough to be honest! – to help you detect bad smells and odors, and make sure they are eradicated by any means necessary, before you place your home on the market.
House Hater Complaint #2: Glaringly extreme overpricing. There’s the kind of overpricing that makes a buyer say, “Hmmm – seems a bit high. Let’s go see it, but we might have to offer a little less than the asking price if we like it.” Then there’s the kind of overpricing that makes buyer say “I’ll wait until a price reduction” or worse, hold their sides from laughing.
When overpricing is glaring, many buyers and buyer’s brokers will comment on it or inquire about it. What they are less likely to do is actually come out and see the place – especially if they weed it out online after comparing its specs to all the other homes in the area and the price range. Often, homes this severely overpriced simply don’t sell, or not until after they’ve had some serious price cuts or have been on the market so long buyers begin to feel confident about making lowball offers.
In fact, the goal is the opposite – you want your home to stand out as a property that is not dirt cheap, but does present a good value for the money – that’s what motivates buyers to get out of their chairs and into the property for a viewing.
Here’s how to hater-proof your home’s listing against this issue: fixate on the comps. Smart sellers deactivate their emotional attachment and very human tendency to overvalue their precious homes by poring over the sales prices (not list prices) of similar, nearby homes that have recently sold. Your agent will be happy to help you walk through this data and will almost certainly recommend a list price, but ultimately you make the decision about the price point to list your home at.
Also, consider using your broker’s first Open House as an additional hater-proof measure: if the agents overwhelmingly comment that they think the home is significantly overpriced, listen.
House Hater Complaint #3: Dirt and messes. Possibly the single largest source of House Hater Complaints I’ve ever heard are the dirt, messes, piles and personal belongings that buyers find so distracting, when they walk into a home for a viewing or Open House. Obviously, homes that are filthy from floor to ceiling are fertile fodder for haters, but often those homes are bank-owned or otherwise distressed so that the sellers aren’t likely to do much. What is underestimated is how often even savvy home buyers are distracted (and disgusted) by relatively clean homes that just have a few outstanding messes, like piles of dirty dishes in the sink, piles of dog poo in the yard or even piles of papers, mail, books or clothes lying out in plain view.
Will one or two such items ruin the sale of your home? Perhaps not. But a few of them (or more) can certainly distract a buyer enough that they fixate on your messes and, in the process, fail to see what is so great about your property. And as I see it, cleaning up, meticulously, before every single showing is free – so it makes no sense to even run the risk of turning off a prospective buyer by letting messes get in the way of their ability to visualize themselves and their families flourishing in your home.
House Hater Complaint #4: Lots of little malfunctions. All of us tend to think our homes are in fantastic condition. After all, you have the furnace maintained regularly, you’ve got granite and dual paned windows – maybe you even had the floors refinished or the walls painted in preparation for putting your place on the market.
That’s all fantastic – all the non-cosmetic work you’ve done to maintain and improve your home should be trumpeted in your marketing materials, and the cosmetic items will (or should) speak for themselves. But here’s the thing: buyers who visit your home won’t be running your dishwasher or testing the furnace (at least not until inspections). What they will do – almost unconsciously – is:
• flick light and fan switches
• open or close window coverings, closet, room and entry doors,
• open and close drawers, cupboards, gates and fences and
• hold the handrails as they walk up and down the stairs.
They will hear leaky faucets and point out water spots from long-ago repaired leaks, and they will notice (or potentially trip on) uneven exterior tiles, paths and walkways. And even though these items might be vastly less expensive to fix than the roof or sewer line you had replaced, they are much more visible and noticeable to a buyer. In fact, buyers don’t always even know that the little malfunctions and repairs that need doing are little or inexpensive. And when they notice a bunch of these sorts of things in a single property, they can jump to the conclusion that the whole place is rickety.
Since these little fixes are inexpensive to make, have them completed before you list, if at all possible. You might even ask your agent to walk through the property with you and to give you a handyperson reference for someone they know works efficiently.
Agents and Buyers: What things have you encountered in multiple listings that make you cringe, eye roll or otherwise immediately dismiss a house?