The Biggest Turn-offs for Buyers

Twin Cities Buyers Know What They Don't Want

The one thing most sellers have in common is that they are unable to look at their property with a dispassionate and critical eye. The longer they have lived in their home, the more emotionally attached they become. Many simply cannot understand that the cracked tile in the foyer they have lived with for 10 years, should be of concern to a buyer. Or the magenta bedroom walls they adore would be another person’s decor nightmare.

After being a realtor in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro for 16 years and closing on close to 1000 properties, I have shown my share of homes that made buyers run for the exit shouting, “next please”! I have been the listing agent challenged with marketing the lime green home with hot pink trim.  So over the years, I have probably not heard it all, but enough to tell you what makes a buyer look like he just sucked a lemon. Sellers can and should take matters into their own hands before they put their home up for sale to avoid having their home sit on the market for a long time and sell for less money. 

Big Ticket Replacement Items

A house with a roof that is at the end of its lifespan or siding that needs to be updated is a major red flag for buyers. The same holds true for old electrical systems with fuse boxes and ancient plumbing. If an Octopus furnace, the monster in the basement also known as a gravity furnace, with asbestos wrapping around the ducts lives in the basement that will generally have buyers looking for the door quickly. 

It would be in the seller’s best interest to address major issues such as these beforehand, but if the circumstances make that impossible, there can always be a credit back to the buyer at closing to take care of the replacements, although that solution may end up costing the seller more in the long run.

Location Challenges

Here is that location, location real estate thing again. Homes that are near power lines, train tracks, airports, and highways can be deal breakers for many buyers. The same can be said for being situated in or close to busy retail and light industrial areas where there is potential for a great deal of truck traffic.  

Adjacent properties that have poorly kept, untidy exteriors, several cars in the driveway, or barking dogs confined in the yard will generally have buyers taking a pass. Anything near a home that suggests an issue with noisy or undesirable neighbors will generally not be favorably viewed.

There isn’t much a seller can do about anything involving location, they need to be aware it detracts from the general appeal and needs to be addressed by pricing.

Untidy, Dirty, or Cluttered – All a Big NO

This is the place when I talk to sellers about the infamous “3Ds” - declutter, depersonalize and deep clean.  The less personal stuff the better because we want the buyer to visualize herself living in the home and family photos and other memorabilia are detrimental to that goal. We want her to see it is big enough for all her furnishings and with enough storage space for all her shoes and purses and all his shirts and pants.  And last but not least, it shouldn’t just be ordinary clean, your home should sparkle and shine from the floors to the ceilings. If a potential buyer opens a closet and the contents fall on her head that probably means she is not going to make an offer on your home.

Here are just a few examples of memorabilia and personal items that have cost some sellers a sale and resulted in some unpleasant moments with buyers.

  • Hunting Trophies as in moose and deer heads above the mantel and assorted taxidermy
  • Many bottles of alcoholic beverages all over the kitchen and various other locations in plain view
  • Sports memorabilia – Vikings fans can flip out when they encounter a Green Bay Packers fan and certainly wouldn’t dream of living in their home
  • Religious icons and adornments
  • Security bars on the window or doors leads to the question, “Is this neighborhood safe?”
  • Displays of nude art or photos. Yes, there are people that get offended and embarrassed.

Sellers have total control over avoiding any of the above potential issues by following the advice of their realtor and making their home as generic as possible.

Funky Smells and Odors

Nothing will have home buyers walking out the door faster than the smell of cigarette smoke. Musty or moldy smells often convince buyers there is a water issue, something no buyer wants to deal with as a homeowner, ever. Pet urine or other unpleasant pet smells aren’t going to help sell a home either.

My best advice to sellers is get rid of the odors before you sell. Cigarette smoke is a tough one but there are companies that will handle this. Often a couple of dehumidifiers in the basement can remove any musty smells that might exist, assuming there is no water leakage problem. If that is the cause of the odor, the water issue needs to be resolved. For the pet orders oftentimes shampooing all the carpets will take care of the problem, something that should be done before you put your home on the market regardless of whether or not you have pets.

A Home That Looks Neglected

Signs of deferred maintenance are another signal to buyers that they should scratch a home off their potential list. Everything in the home should be in a condition that exhibits love and attention have been paid to the property over the years. Sellers should take care of leaky faucets, loose shingles, crackled tiles and any other maintenance issues they have put off. Even if these issues have not bothered you in the least as the homeowner, it is going to be an issue for the homebuyer and a reason to say no when they view your property as a potential home purchase.

My Best Seller Advice 

The best advice I give my sellers is to make your home ready for Pinterest worthy photos. Make sure the outside oozes curb appeal and the inside will pass the white glove test. Declutter all rooms, closets, cabinets and other storage areas and pack up all the personal photos and memorabilia.

Also, I advise them to be realistic in their expectations. There are some turnoffs that cannot be remedied, such as location. Maybe the home needs lots of updates or the décor is seriously outdated. All of these issues can be addressed in the list price. There are buyers who prefer to remodel if they can score a home in a particular neighborhood or school district they might not otherwise be able to afford. Perhaps they need or want a larger home and will consider a less desirable setting if it fits into their budget. In summation, I would say there are very few “unsalable” properties if priced according to market and condition and no issue that cannot be overcome with the proper market guidance and attitude. 

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