Homebuyer Turnoffs to Avoid

Homebuyers turned off the unusual decor of a home with an embarrassed realtor in the background
••• praetorianphoto / Getty Images

If you want to sell your home and get top dollar for it you need to avoid common mistakes that will turn off prospective homebuyers and send them running for the door. From a front room that looks like grandma's parlor to fleas that bite a buyer's ankles as they check out the yard.

Other problems are knick-knacks and clutter stacked on every flat surface in a home and kitchen countertops covered in various appliances. These two items give the feeling of the home not having enough storage space.

These are nightmares that a seller may avoid by taking the necessary steps to present their home in its best possible light.

Odors Other Than Cookies Baking

Many realtors will use the smell of fresh-baked cookies to help a buyer feel immediately at home in a house they are showing. However, other odors may not be so welcoming.

House odors are number one on the home selling uh-oh list. And narrowing it down, odors from cigarette smoke and pets take top billing, with mildew not far behind. If you smoke indoors the house will smell like cigarettes—even if you don't notice, the buyer probably will. If you have pets, the house might smell of pet dander or urine.

Ask someone who doesn't live there to take a sniff, and don't get angry when they tell you the truth. 

Eradicate the odors by thoroughly cleaning carpets, drapes, and any other soft surfaces. Open the windows and let in the air and sunlight. Sometimes placing a bowl of vinegar or an open box of baking soda into a room will help absorb the smells. Burn some nice scented candles to help mask remaining odors.

Dogs That Meet You at the Door or in the Driveway

Not everyone is a dog lover or a cat lover. They frighten some people and irritate others. You'll have a much better response from showings if you control your pets.

Owners will want to view every room of a home so it is difficult to place them into a room, close the door, and tell buyers it is off-limits. Instead, let the buyer know that you will move the pet when they are ready to look at that room. Better yet, if someone could take the pet for a ride or a walk during a showing you can avoid the problem altogether.

Remove pets during showings if possible. If you can't, contain them in crates for their own safety and to show respect for the feelings of potential buyers.

Dirty Bathrooms

Bathrooms are important when selling a home. It is one of the rooms buyers will focus on—the kitchen being the other. Grimy cluttered bathrooms are an instant turnoff. Scrub them till they sparkle. If possible, paint them, buy a new shower curtain, rugs, and towels. If you can't afford these purchases make sure everything is clean. Shower curtains can go into the washer and a quick run of an iron over a towel will make it look crisp.

Make sure there is no dirty ring around the tub or stains in the toilet. Do what it takes to make everything shine. If you're serious about selling the home, the extra work is a must.

Dimly Lit Rooms

Dark homes are a turnoff to most homebuyers, so try to brighten them up. Replace bulbs and turn on fixtures or add additional lamps to dark rooms. Remove the glass globes from ceiling fixtures and clean and dry them before you put them back up. Open the curtains or blinds to let in outside sunlight.

If you have the time and money, repaint dark rooms with a lighter color of paint—and don't forget to repaint the ceiling too. Another fix for dark areas is to install (quality) sun tunnels or skylights.

Clean dirty windows and window screens. Also, trim any trees or bushes that might block light from entering the windows. While you are cleaning the windows remove any bug carcass or other debris you find.

A House Full of Busy Wallpaper

Busy wallpaper in every room turns off most buyers, and even people who love wallpaper rarely like what you've chosen. It's a personal decorative touch that they want to select themselves.

It's the masses you must appeal to when you're selling a home, so take a hard look at your wallpaper and decide if it should be removed and replaced with paint. Don't paint over it, because it will be obvious that you did — and buyers know that makes removing it even more difficult.

If you can't afford to repaper or paint, make sure all the seams are stuck tight. Sometimes running a damp cloth over the wallpaper will cause the glue to stick again. Otherwise, a small dab of white washable glue—like Elmer's glue may help.

Be sure to clean any dust or spider cobwebs from the top corners as you go.

Damp Basements

Dampness or damp smells in the basement throw up a red flag to buyers that the foundation leaks. Most problems are not caused by faulty foundations. They occur because rainwater is being diverted towards the foundation instead of away from it.

Some causes could be clogged underground drains, the absence of rain gutters along a roofline, or downspouts aimed the wrong way. The best solution is to go outside the next time it rains to determine where runoff water is going.

Bring in someone to repair problems. Also, try placing products made to absorb moisture from the air—like DampRid into the area.

Poor Curb Appeal

You must grab a buyer's interest from the curb if you want to sell the home for top dollar. Homebuyers often refuse to go into a house with an unkempt yard, sagging doors, or peeling paint. Of course, the best approach is to replace and repaint, but if you can't afford those expenses, do what you can to make the home seem well kept.

Keep the grass mowed and bushes trimmed. Scrape off any peeling paint, even if you can't repaint. Tighten loose items or remove them if they are broken beyond repair.

Gutters With Plants Growing in Them

Some people never clean their gutters, and it always makes buyers wonder what else hasn't been maintained. Gutters clogged with debris can lead to wood rot around the gutters. Hire someone to clean the gutters or do the job yourself.

Sellers Who Hang Around for Showings

If a realtor is showing your home, you need to leave the house during the showing. Homebuyers feel awkward about opening closet doors and lingering for a really good look at the house if the seller is home. If you're selling by owner, give them some space, don't hover.

Most of these problems are home selling issues you can correct without spending a lot of money. Do it now, before you put the house on the market because if your house develops a reputation among agents as the house that smells, the house with the huge barking dog or the house where the owner won't leave people alone, it will be too late. Your house will be last on their list to show potential buyers.