Learn how to avoid making your home a turn-off when you're looking to sell.
In many cities across Canada, the real estate market has cooled noticeably from the heady days of a year ago. There is a growing inventory of houses on the market, and buyers are much choosier than ever before. If you're planning to sell, it's important that you put your very best foot forward, if you want to sell quickly and at a decent price.
Here are some of the biggest buyer turn-offs, many of which could be avoided -- or at least mitigated-- with a little care and forethought.
1 Wacky paint colours
Some buyers can overlook strange decor choices and picture the house painted white or in tasteful neutrals, but many can't. Furthermore, colour can have a strong effect on mood, both positively and negatively. Don't take the chance.
A house for sale should be as near to spotless as you can make it. Particularly in kitchens and bathrooms, grimy grout, stained countertops, dishes in the sink and crunchy floors are definite turn-offs. Do at least a light cleaning before every showing and a more thorough clean each weekend before the open house.
3 Odd (or oppressive) smells
If you smoke, at least take it outside while the house is up for sale. In fact, any noticeable odours, whether pets, lingering cooking smells or even heavy perfume, can turn away a potential buyer. Use fabric refresher on upholstery and air fresheners or room scents where needed, but use a light hand.
4 Unkempt exterior
Curb appeal makes a very strong impression on a potential buyer, and so does lack of it. Make sure the landscaping is trimmed and the lawn mowed; plant a few annuals or cover your flowerbeds with a neat layer of mulch, staying away from the bright red colour and opting for the natural coloured mulch. If the front porch needs painting, paint it. Also, keep the outside of your home as tidy as the interior: remove kids' toys from the backyard, and keep the porch steps swept.
5 Too many pets
It's hard to believe that not everybody loves Fluffy, Fifi, and Rover as much as you do, but they don't. A dog that comes barking fiercely to the door as soon as you ring the bell, or worse, a whole pack of them, is unnerving. One cat sleeping quietly in a chair might be fine; a noisy (and possibly smelly) menagerie isn't. Try to find temporary homes for your friends, at least while the house is being shown.
6 Wrong-headed renovations
This is on a slightly different scale than the other points mentioned here, but should be considered at the time of renovation if possible. A toilet off the kitchen; an open-concept reno that creates a vast, empty space; or an oddly configured hallway or room is viewed by a buyer as money they'll have to spend to put things right. Try to modify your alterations to make them more universal, or better still, avoid wacky renovations in the first place.
7 Dark and dingy interiors
You can't do much about the building two feet beyond your side windows, but you can do a lot to brighten the inside of your house. White or light walls and woodwork is a classic brightener; if you can afford to add windows, they're a good investment in a dark house. Adding more lighting, whether by wiring overhead lights or just installing more lamps, works too. At the very least, keep your windows clean, to let in as much natural light as possible.
8 Horrid basements
Again, this may or may not be under your control, but a dank, dingy basement, especially if the ceiling is very low, can be off-putting. If you have the option, painting the cement floor or installing low-cost carpeting can help cheer it up a little. Also, clear out all the junk, right to the walls, so that buyers can see how much space there is -- even if it's only for their own junk.
9 Dirty appliances
Even if the house is generally clean, don't discount the possibility that people will be looking inside the appliances. Keep your fridge clear of old take-out containers and aging leftovers -- what my mother used to call "furry friends" -- and use the self-clean mode on your oven.
10 Swimming pool
It's perhaps unfair to include a pool as a buyer turn-off, since for some people it's a major attraction. But financially, pools rarely make back the money spent on them and can sometimes even lower a home's value. Almost certainly, a pool will cut down the number of potential buyers interested in the house.
Martha Uniacke Breen