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9 things that will turn off buyers

By George Hadgelias

There’s no right way to sell a house, but there are certainly a lot of wrong ways.

Every agent has their own method, and every buyer will respond differently to their sales pitch. But that variety doesn’t give you carte blanche to do as you please.

As diverse as your prospective buyers may be, they still operate within the dictates of human nature. Which means that there’s still a rulebook of sorts when it comes to selling your home.

Buyers will never tolerate dirt, bad smells, or clutter. And you’ll need to make it easy for them to imagine themselves living in your property.

With that in mind, here are the nine things most likely to scare off prospective buyers. Ignore them at your peril.

1. Clingy sellers

It can be extremely difficult to let go of a property – especially if it’s somewhere you’ve made a home and stitched together memories. But once you decide to sell, you need to commit to that process.

Give your agent room to do their job, and allow potential buyers the space they need to get hooked. Sellers that linger during an open inspection, or regale prospective buyers with family tales, typically push buyers away, rather than draw them in.

Even if your stories are actually quite charming, you need to remember that selling a property is a business transaction. You need to stay as dispassionate and objective as possible, and allow the buyer to visualise what their life would look like if they moved into your home.

2. Dirt

Walking into a property that’s not well presented is often the death knell for a sale. Buyers will walk away if they’re inundated with dust, dirt or other muck. So make an effort, and hire a professional cleaner, home stager, or both.

Thoroughly clean the entire property – including those areas typically hidden from view – and pay special attention to living areas, backyards, bathrooms and toilets. (You’d be surprised how many people use the bathroom at an open for inspection.) It’s hard to clean too much when you’re trying to sell your home, so really go for broke.

While you’re at it, make sure you address any signs of wear and tear, too. Minor maintenance issues might not seem like a big deal, but prospective buyers might view them as evidence of much larger, underlying problems.

3. Smells

Opinion is mixed on which smells help to sell a home, but most property gurus agree that the simplest way to a buyer’s heart is a dependable supply of fresh air.

That’s partly because every buyer likes different scents, and partly because many people assume sellers are trying to mask a bad smell when they go heavy on the air freshener.

And so, rather than trying to find the perfect incense, focus on eliminating bad odours instead. Open plenty of windows in the hours leading up to an open for inspection, and refrain from cooking lunch, too.

4. Clutter

There’s no excuse for a cluttered house at an open for inspection, and so you’ll need to do a little more than a quick spruce up when you list your home for sale.

Declutter strategically and systematically, starting with those areas in which buyers will spend most of their time. You may be able to explain away a cluttered garage, but you’d struggle to defend a cluttered living room.

Engaging a professional organiser is often a good idea if you’re feeling overwhelmed. A pro will look at your clutter objectively, take quick, decisive actions to remove the excess, and store the rest out of sight.

5. Temperature

Call it the Goldilocks effect: If a property is too hot or too cold, your buyers will bristle.

It mightn’t be a deal breaker, but buyers get turned off when they can’t experience your home at its optimal comfort levels, and will feel the need to ask pointy questions about the heating and cooling systems, too. So, be prepared to splash out on a bit of aircon and heating when required.

Ideally, you want to keep your property between 22°C and 26°C. Doing so may result in a tiny spike in your monthly energy bills, but the amount you spend chasing the ideal atmosphere will pale in comparison to the amount you make on the sale of your property.

6. No price

Your listing is usually the first time prospective buyers see your home, and so it needs to provide as many relevant details as possible to grab their attention.

Firstly, it needs to list the asking price. If that’s not there, many buyers will immediately rule out your property, and scroll to the next one that meets their criteria.

Budget is all important for a buyer. It’s not always possible to pin down a finite dollar figure, but if your property advertising doesn’t at least have a range listed, it will likely turn away buyers, who might assume they’re in for a nasty shock (even if the home is reasonably priced).

Give your property a fighting chance by helping buyers work out whether they can afford it.

7. No photos

Would you buy a product sight unseen?

Photos are the single most powerful tool to inspire a potential buyer to enquire about or inspect a property. People either need to imagine their lives in your property, or they need to get an authentic impression of how it will stand up as an investment.

Work with your agent to create a series of photos that show your home in its best possible light. Fail to do so and you’ll shrink your target market dramatically.

8. Personal photographs

Always remember that you’re not the person buying your home.

What works for you won’t necessarily work for your buyer, and so you should strive to create a blank canvas for interested parties to imagine what their lives would be like in your home. That means taking down provocative pieces of artwork, painting your home in neutral tones, and removing any personal photographs.

In fact, any evidence of and you and your family’s occupation should be hidden from view.

The property should still be made to feel like a home, but any notes, certificates or documents that reveal your identity should be placed out of sight, as they often interfere with a buyer’s attempt to forge an emotional connection with your property.

9. Your agent

A good agent can make or break a sale, with few things turning off buyers quite as much as rude or unhelpful interaction.

It’s important that you choose an agent with proven experience selling similar properties to yours, and that requires you to do some research.

Compare the sales histories of agents on and find one with a deep understanding of the local market. Ask them lots of questions about their experience and how they’d approach selling your property, and then take them for a test drive, by heading to one of their open for inspections to see how they interact with buyers.

You need an agent who can recommend good schools and reliable transport links to buyers, and one who has the social skills to transform a promising lead into an agreed upon sale.

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