If you’ve been in the business long enough, you know how to spot it. A client enters a possible home target and immediately disengages. There are any number of ways to see it, but especially through body language: What are they looking at? Walking slow or fast? Checking their phone? You immediately know the long of it—they’re not buying this house. No matter what you say, you won’t be able to get them to consider it.
Why is this? There was something in that house, or about the way it looked, that just wasn’t going to sit well with your client.
What is a Deal Killer?
When I talk about a deal killer, I’m saying there’s something that the seller could’ve done to fix a situation but didn’t, and now they’ve got a discounted asset on their hands. And if the person who would’ve bought the house in the right condition walks through that front door and then back out, well, you’ve cost yourself some money. And that’s not funny.
We’re not talking about calculus here. If you can fix a “situation” and then get more money for your home than the fix required, you do it. If not, it’s like you’re purposefully trying to kill that deal.
Here’s the thing. Buyers—like everyone in this world—prefer the easy route. If they not only have to imagine a “situation” not being present anymore but actually go through the process of fixing that situation, you are putting an obstacle in their way. If you’re counting on potential buyers to see past the “situation” and recognize what the value could be, you’re going to get less money than you should—and it’s going to take longer to get it.
Here are some of the most common errors that sellers make:
This one feels like it should be so easy.
Make your home smell good. Or just not bad.
Just take a little time working on your house’s odor. You don’t need it to smell like fresh-baked Krispy Kremes, but…
Some of the things I run into all the time: dog, wet dog, cat, cat litter, old shoes, moldy basement, cigarette smoke, other kinds of smoke. These are deal killers, people.
We’re talking instant reaction which colors a buyer’s opinion so immediately and forcefully that they’re just not going to get over it. Now you’ve reduced your target buyers to cat-loving, cigarette-smoking hoarders. Good luck with that.
If you’re not sure if you have a smell problem, call someone honest who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth. Make them drink in the air.
Another thing: don’t cook any cabbage or other odorous food in the run-up to your open house. That’s not smart.
One of my coworkers once showed a home where the owners kept a crow in a birdcage. The bird was furious and let us know in no uncertain terms.
Whatever it takes, find another place for you pets to hang out, no matter how small.
Snoopy II might be the biggest package of love and affection a human can imagine, but he has no place in a showing. And it’s not enough to put him in the backyard or a crate in the basement. For starters, he might not dig that and bark incessantly to let everyone, including your buyers, know. Second, your buyers are going to want to go out in the backyard, they’re going to want to inspect the basement. At their speed. This becomes an obstacle for your buyers.
People have come to your home to see it unencumbered by distractions. And pets don’t always act the way you’re absolutely certain they’re going to—especially amidst a parade of strangers. Take care of this.
You know who else doesn’t want pets: real estate agents. They’ve got enough to worry about without making sure a cat doesn’t dart out the front door.
The Dirty ‘____’
Remember our little conversation about smell. Same thing goes for dirty stuff. Dirty anything. It’s not enough to have it spotless by closing. You need it spotless for the potential buyers.
Look, houses get dirty. There’s so much that can get dirty: caulking and grout, garages and closets, windows and counters. And everything paints a picture for the buyers about the maintenance, especially if it doesn’t look that good.
A couple of items of note:
- Carpet—if it’s really old and stained, replace it. Shampoo is not going to get the job done.
- If you’re a pack rat, hire a guy with a van to clean it out and take the crap away.
- Air filters—when you change them, dust around the grates.
- Baseboards—first dust, then look for areas that could use a little touch-up of paint.
- Hand railings—they receive a lot of grime thanks to your hands. Murphy’s Oil Soap will work miracles.
- Attic—if you can’t cross safely, point that guy with the van up there too.
Then, once you’ve gotten everything to the point that you’re impressed with cleanliness, HIRE SOMEBODY. They’ll clean it even better, and it’s a small cost for a possibly big payoff.
This one seems like a no brainer. It’s one of the cardinal rules.
Sellers, get out. Get out well before anyone gets there because someone is going to come early. Don’t wait for them to get there. Don’t be anywhere on the property, on the block, in the vicinity. You are not needed and you will only cause problems. You can actually become a deal breaker.
I don’t care who you are, how helpful you are, what powers of persuasion you might possess. If you’re there, you’re going to screw it up.
Don’t make a potential buyer uncomfortable.
People aren’t buying a house, they are buying a home. They want to envision it as their home. This is all about feeling. And that feeling will be very hard to come buy if someone else is crowding out the dream.
Which leads to… Personal Items
There is a fine balance between a home that is too personal and one that feels so sterile it belongs in a hospital. Try to find that balance.
It’s time to store photos and special art, political statements, even books can be removed. You never know who’s going to be coming into your house. Once again, you don’t want to erect an obstacle that makes it hard for buyers to imagine themselves in your home, thinking of it as their home. Depersonalize as much as you can.
Hard to Show
If you’re going to sell, be ready to do anything necessary to sell. Don’t make it hard for an agent to see the property. Be flexible. Be prepared to not get enough notice. That less than considerate buyer might just fall in love with your house.
And be responsive. When you see a phone call or text from your agent, hop into action. Don’t take a few hours to respond. Make this easy for buyers, and buyers just might make your day. You have to keep in mind that a buyer’s agent trying to see your home might also want to see 3-4 other homes around that same time. If you’re not flexible, they might just decide to pass on your home altogether.
It’s not always easy to be perfectly flexible. Life happens, kids get sick, whatever. But if there isn’t a good reason for you to bend over backwards to show your home, then do your best to make it happen.
Believe me, I know. Real estate transactions, for all their excitement and anticipation, wreak havoc with your life. So do the best you can to make it happen quickly by making sure your house, in every respect, is ready to sell.
It’s not easy to do. So if you’re going to do it, then do it right and don’t make mistakes that really only cost one person: YOU. Everything I’ve outlined above is designed to help you sell your house with the least amount of pain and the most return. So give all these ideas some serious thought.