Vicki Moore Pacifica CA Realtor
As a realtor, I’ve had to try to get used to having uncomfortable conversations with home seller clients. I don’t like it, but I get the difficult conversations done right away. I’ve learned that if I don’t, I end up with a stomach ache or headache. It’s just better to get it out there. It’s definitely not easy but it’s also an important part of my job to tell clients things that I know are going to make them mad or disappointed. But I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that some agents can’t tell their clients everything they need to know because they’re too afraid of the reaction they’re going to get.
When you think about the reasons people sell houses, it’s not always a positive and uplifting time in your life. And selling your house is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever go through. So when I come in and say, “Hey, you need to pack up that kitchen,” I can feel the tension while that sinks in. (Great pun, right?). Change is difficult, even if you’re moving on in a positive direction.
If there’s something that needs to be addressed, there’s no way around it. Somebody has to tell you. And guess what? You hired me to do it. I’ve had clients say no. I remind them that everything they skip on the list is going to reduce their net outcome – because it absolutely will. Not everybody is concerned with the bottom line, which is fine, but I still need to advise you that it could be an issue. I had a client who smoked in the house. I told her it needed to be painted. She said no. When I told her it was going to cost her, she said, “I don’t care.” Well, there you go. Next subject.
This is information you’ll really want to have when you do decide to sell. Selling a house is a system. I’ve done it many times and I know what works. If you follow the system, you’ll have a better income then not.
If your house is already for sale but it’s not selling or taking longer than it normally would, keep reading. If a buyer hasn’t fallen in love with your house enough to write an offer, maybe there isn’t anyone who feels bold enough to tell you why and one of these tips could change that for you.
Just like I wouldn’t let you walk around with something stuck in your tooth or your fly open, I’m not going to let you sell your house without fully understanding the repercussions of having one of these issues affect the sale of your property and cost you money.
So excuse the frankness and look at it as the glass half full: You don’t have a piece of toilet paper hanging out of your pants.
7 Uncomfortable Things Your Agent Can’t Tell You When You’re Selling Your House
1. Your house smells bad
I’ve been in houses that smelled like wet dog and pumpkin spice. You cannot mask the dog smell or the fish smell or any smell with candles. Do not use those plug-in things either. They stink and they’re poison. I’m telling you, the first thing I do when I walk into someone’s house is smell it.
That probably sounds really weird but you can tell a lot about a house just by the way it smells. Musty? Maybe there’s a water intrusion problem; a sump pump or more vents are needed in the crawl space. We live in a wet environment, not only the fog but the front of Linda Mar is below sea level.
You’ve got to find the source of the smell. You might have been smelling it so long you don’t notice it anymore. I worked with a seller who couldn’t smell that her dogs had been peeing on the area rug in the living room.
You have got to get rid of the smell.
Some of those ranchers need sump pumps, rat-proofing or more/better drainage. If you have a lot of moisture in your house and don’t have a dehumidifier, consider getting one. How do you know if you need one? Do clothes and shoes get musty smelling after being in the closet for a while? Do your walls have mold on them behind the furniture?
The Home Climates blog as 7 more tips to help you determine if there’s too much moisture in your house.
When your house is going up for sale, stop cooking fish or using strong spices in your cooking. It may be an inconvenience but it’ll cost you money in the sale if you do it anyway.
Have a teenage boy? Do I need to say anything else?
Smoke in the house? Not anymore.
if the smell has been absorbed by objects in the house, you’ll need to either have them cleaned or take them out of the house. If your dog jumps on the couch and rolls around on it like my friend’s dog, you’ll have to take the couch out or get rid of it. Take a whiff of things like pillows, carpet/rugs, drapes.
I always thought my mother was ridiculous for washing the garbage cans. Guess who washes the garbage cans. They get dirty and stinky!
The way to get rid of smells is to air out the house Open windows on all sides of the house and let it air.
The bottom line: Your house needs to smell and be clean. So do everything you can to make that happen before your house goes on the market.
2. Your baby – AKA your dog
Pets are messy and sometimes stinky. Unfortunately, not everybody loves animals. And even if they do they don’t want to smell the cat box or the dog bed.
If you have multiple pets this could be a chore but during the marketing of your home, be sure to vacuum daily, keep the pet cages and tanks super clean.
Have a cat? You have to clean it every day. Every day. Every day. You might need to throw out the litter every day depending on your cat. My cat takes steroids because she has a breathing condition. She drinks a ton of water and uses the litter box constantly. I throw all the litter out every other day and start over. I buy 25 pounds of cat litter a week. So I completely understand it’s an inconvenience.
When you have a showing appointment, hide away the pet dishes, toys and beds. And take the pets with you if you can. The worst thing to happen is for a buyer to step in dog poop when they’re checking out the yard, so do a visual sweep before you leave the house.
Bottom line: Repair pet damage, keep the house clean and smelling fresh, and keep signs of pets very subtle during showings.
3. Your clutter is uncomfortable to look at
One of the tasks in getting your house ready to sell is to eliminate clutter and clean out drawers and closets. Clutter and stuffed spaces make them feel like they’re invading your space. Buyers are really visual and need to see themselves living in the house. They can’t do that if they can’t see beyond your stuff. They won’t be able to tell how big the spaces are if they’re filled to the brim.
It will cost you money in the sale not to keep your house clutter-free.
Bottom line: Clean it out. Get rid of it. Pack it up – you’re going to be moving it anyway.
4. More clutter talk
You’ve heard depersonalizing and decluttering is important when your selling but do you know why? Yes, it makes spaces bigger to have just a few things in them. If you have closets, shelves and a garage that’s bulging with stuff, buyers – often out loud – say: “Wow! Look at all the stuff.”
First, it makes them think the house is too small and they’re going to outgrow it quickly. Then they start thinking: “What about the rest of the house? If they’re really that messy and don’t care, did they even take care of it?”
They already feel uncomfortable being in your house. They start making up stories about you. It can be really funny, but buyers will start telling themselves why your house is a mess. Really what’s happening is they’ve stopped thinking about your house and why they’re there. Now they’re thinking about you.
Bottom line: Pack everything you possibly can. Seasonal clothes and shoes. If you’ve been meaning to donate it, now is a perfect time. Keep clothes hung nicely, keep shelves sparse and the floor bare.
5. Bedrooms are private sanctuaries
Going into someone else’s bedroom is very uncomfortable. People don’t usually even go in their own friends’ bedrooms and now here they are going into a total stranger’s bedroom.
Try to make them feel like it’s okay. Remove every visual personal item possible. The nightstand should only have a lamp on it. No Kleenex, lotion, medication or used water glasses. Alarm clocks are oddly personal when you’re standing in someone’s bedroom. You immediately think about them getting out of bed in the morning. If you can tuck it behind the cabinet or on the floor hidden between the bed and the nightstand, that would be a good thing.
They want to see what the closets look like so clear them out as much as possible. Don’t hang anything on the back of the door. It sounds like a bit too much but these are things that turn buyers off by making them feel like they can’t look without invading your space. They’ll be looking at your clothes, shoes and purses. They can’t help it. We are judging creatures. So make it look neat and organized.
Bottom line: Make your most personal spaces as neutral and comfortable for stranges as possible. And then do a little bit more.
6. The bathrooms
Nobody wants to see your bathroom but they do because it’s important. We all know what goes on in the bathroom home buyers just don’t want to think about it happening while they’re looking at your house. It’s a huge feeling of invading someone’s space. You need to make it look like it’s not your bathroom or anyone’s bathroom. It needs to be completely neutral and spotlessly clean. You want your bathroom to look like it could be in a hotel.
If you have open shelving, take out all of your personal items. Strip it down. No toilet brushes, plungers, magazines, used towels, or personal items. Pain in the neck? Yes. Get some baskets that you can move in and out easily. Toothpaste in the sink, hair, or worse on or around the toilet or in the shower could kill anyone’s appetite let alone their interest in your house.
So what should be in your bathroom?
Think about that hotel. A few things perfectly placed on the counter. Fresh, nicely folded towels. Maybe a candle or a small decorative item.
Bottom line: Clear out all signs of humans. Get it super duper clean and leave just a few things out to decorate the space.
7. Your dirty laundry
Nobody wants to see it or smell it. It’s too personal. There goes the buyer’s imagination again.
Bottom line: Hide the dirty laundry. If you have a basket in your closet, put a towel over it. You know they’re going to open the closet.
Bottom line: I hope this list is helpful.
I probably over-explained my thinking but these are important tasks to accomplish.
Some of these suggestions probably sound silly. Homebuyers are visual and they’re also emotional. Buying a house is a huge decision that they’ve been thinking about and talking about for months, if not years. It’s also a feeling. If a homebuyer walks into your house and doesn’t have a good feeling about it, your chance of getting an offer just slid out the door.
You may not realize this but even in a market with low inventory, you’re still competing. You’re competing with dreams, expectations, what they’ve seen on TV or the house they looked at last week in San Bruno.
All of my tips will help you sell your house for more money in a shorter period of time. And that’s a good thing.