Fall House Hunt: No offense, but these things can kill a potential sale

Ask the Expert News
Associated Press

What I am about to tell you may offend you — but that is not my intention.

In this highly emotional industry, one of our more sensitive jobs is to have a “nothing personal’’ conversation with our sellers. There are a number of things that can deter a buyer from purchasing your home, and it’s our job to address them with you, so please listen. You will be happy you did.

“Dinner smells great! Do you cook like this every night?’’ If your agent says this when he or she enters your home, it might not be the compliment you think it is.

Garlic, curry, or feta cheese may smell wonderful when you are about to sit down for dinner, but they tend to stick around and can be a real turnoff at that 10 a.m. showing. So rule No. 1, don’t cook fragrant foods when your home is on the market.

Scented candles or plug-in air fresheners can have a similar effect. Scents that you find pleasing, buyers may find overwhelming. Even worse, they may think that you are trying to cover something up.

Pets and pet smells are another big turnoff. I know that you look forward to Bruno jumping up to welcome you home every night, but that doesn’t mean others will. Buyers know immediately if they smell something they don’t like, and pets top that list. Some buyers may also be allergic. Do yourself and the buyers a favor; eliminate all evidence of your pet: no friendly dog, litter box, water bowl, or, worse, “leftovers” in the yard. All of the above can cause a buyer to leave your home without even considering it.

Squeaky clean will get you more green. Dirty bathrooms, sticky counters, and scuffs on your walls send a message to buyers that you don’t care about the condition of your home. Have your home professionally cleaned before you put it on the market — and that includes steam-cleaning your older stained carpets or furniture that can carry smells. Better yet, replace them. When you go on the market, your home should be in the best condition ever.

Those adorable family pictures? Remove them.

I recently toured a home that had framed school pictures of the children from kindergarten to Grade 12 lined up on the wall. The buyers were drawn to them, commenting on how the kids changed as they grew. Some of the buyers actually knew them. I have to admit, it was humorous listening to the comments, but these buyers were not looking carefully at the home. The pictures were a major distraction.

Another thing to be aware of is that some buyers feel uncomfortable if a home has too many religious items, so think about removing some of them.

Lastly, everyone should know by now that the smell of cigarette smoke is highly offensive to most buyers. If you have to smoke, do it outside, and get rid of the evidence.

I know these suggestions can feel extremely personal, but please don’t take them that way. The sale of your home is strictly business. These small yet important changes could have a huge impact on your proceeds, so please follow our advice. No offense intended.

Marjorie Youngren is a broker at Century 21 Commonwealth in Lynnfield. Send your real estate questions to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @MarjorieTeamC21. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at