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Three Things that Turn Buyers Off to a Home

The top three things that are certain to turn a buyer off to your home.

I recently showed what I considered a “perfect” home to a couple that are looking for a colonial. It met all of the criteria they were looking for, and I was very excited about finding “the one” for them.

The home was priced well, it was on a great street and the broker was doing a fine job marketing the property. It’s a price driven market, so when a home isn’t priced correctly, the other factors don’t matter. In this case, the house stands up against recent home sales in the area.

So why hasn’t it sold? It broke the three sacred rules for showings and my client’s could not see past these issues. They didn’t dislike the house, but they couldn’t imagine themselves living there. No matter what I said to the contrary, they were moving on.

The problems started when I went to use the lockbox. The homeowner opened the door for us, and she was not on her way out.

Rule # 1 – Sellers should not be home during the showing.

There are exceptions to this rule: a sleeping baby, a disabled person, etc. Ironically, I’ve seen motivated sellers with these issues get out for showings. What we most often see is perfectly capable homeowners who really believe that they can do a better job at selling their home than the buyer’s agent. I’ve been followed around with a step-by-step narration, “This is the kitchen.”

There is no room for imagination when the homeowner is lurking. The buyer has to smile and tell the seller how nice the house is instead of wondering how their table would fit or what walls they might want to take down.

I knew the follow up call from the seller’s agent was going to start with, “My homeowner said your couple loved the house.” The truth is, with a homeowner there, the buyer never really sees the house as potentially theirs.

The first thing we noticed when we entered the foyer was the strong smell of cigarettes.

Rule # 2 – Odors are deal killers

When our home was on the market, I asked my girlfriend if the house smelled like dog and her answer was yes. I almost died. My house smelled? I was mortified. I had to remove all of the area rugs and have them cleaned. I washed my sofa covers each week. My dogs were cleaner than they had ever been. I passed a second smell test.

Smells linger long after the showing. I’ve had buyer’s refer the a house as, “The cigarette house.” You don’t want that to be the one thing they remember about your home. Paint, remove old carpet and smoke outside until the house sells. Make sure all garbage is emptied so that food and diaper smells are removed. Don’t cook fish until your home is sold and your buyer’s have a mortgage commitment.

Most importantly, ask your agent or a trusted friend if your house smells. If you ask, they will tell you.


There were a few lights on, but the house was still dark.

Rule # 3 – Dark houses don’t sell

Turn every light in the house on when you have a showing, even the little light on the foyer table, or the sconce in the hallway. Open all of your curtains, because natural light is the best light. If you have heavy shears, take them down. Layers and layers of curtains are outdated. Windows should be clean and light should be coming in through them.

This was a perfectly lovely day and their wasn’t an ounce of sunlight in the home. Shears had to be moved aside so the buyers could look at the windows. If your windows are old, they are old. Don’t try to hide them behind heavy drapes.


My buyers walked out of the home disappointed. Although the issues are easily solvable, my buyers preferred the smaller home that showed better.

The seller was going to be disappointed too. The longer the house sits, the less she will get for it. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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