Your house is (or soon will be) for sale. Not everyone who sees it will like it. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s unavoidable. Different people are looking for different things. It might be a yard that’s too small or a location that is too busy. There could be too little storage or a layout that someone doesn’t like. Those features are impossible or unrealistic to change. So you will have to accept that your house won’t suit everyone. That said, you know you want to show your property in its most flattering light. As a result, you probably have some ideas about what improvements you should make. Your real estate agent has likely suggested some ideas as well. Here are the 10 most common (fixable) objections that I have heard in my real estate career:
1. The walls need wallpaper removal and/or paint.
“Tired” walls are one of the first things a buyer notices when entering a house. Paint is one of the highest ROI projects you can do to increase the value of your home. Current design trends tend not to favor wallpaper, especially if it’s dated. Consider have it removed and painting with white or something very neutral. Don’t use a dark color as that will make the space darker and may be more likely to not match a buyer’s taste.
2. The hardwood is in poor condition or there is old carpet.
Similar to paint, refinishing hardwood floors greatly improves the value of your house. If it does not have hardwood, think about replacing the carpets, or, at the very least, having them steam cleaned. You might also offer a credit toward flooring so the buyer can choose.
3. The systems (roof, windows, HVAC, water heater) are near the end of their useful lives.
These items are not as obvious to buyers, but will inevitably show up on an inspection. Clearly, replacing a roof or all of the windows in an older house can be quite expensive and unlikely to give you a high ROI. That said, if they are old, just be sure to disclose that in the Seller’s Disclosure so buyers won’t have a strong case to ask you to credit them money back–if they knew when they made the offer that the roof was 22 years old, it’s harder for them to justify asking for a roof credit (unless it’s actively leaking).
Certain items, like a water heater that is very old, might bear replacing. On the topic of systems: if any of them is not working as intended (a leaking water heater, an a/c unit that doesn’t cool the house, etc.), you should probably have it repaired. Remember, your goal is to remove objections the buyer might have. It’s reasonable for a buyer to cite a leaky roof or inoperable windows as obstacles, so repairing those items is probably wise.
4. The property needs a lot of landscaping.
Landscaping is often overlooked because the reality is that you spend a lot more time inside the house than approaching it. However, you know what they say about first impressions. Also, for people who like to entertain using outdoor spaces, the landscaping is especially important. Yes, it can get expensive, so get some advice from your agent and/or a landscaper about what makes sense as far as investment.
5. The basement is damp.
Welcome to eastern PA. Basements tend to be damp. Moisture is often remediated through the use of sump pumps, French drains and dehumidifiers. If you have water actively coming in, unfortunately, you will probably need to address it. Buyers in our region are on the lookout for this common problem as it can contribute to mold, mildew and unpleasant smells as well as rendering a potential living/playroom space unusable. You may need to call a couple of basement waterproofing companies to find out what is required to fix the problem.
6. The house smells.
Whether it’s dampness from the basement, mustiness, smoke or pet odors, no one likes a house with a “smell”. I would not recommend trying to cover the problem with perfumey candles or “plug ins”. They are cloying and draw attention to the fact that you’re trying to cover up another smell. Have your house and carpets professionally cleaned (I always recommend windows and screens, too!) and then open the windows if the weather allows. Bowls of baking soda in spaces that don’t smell fresh can help, but you’ll want to remove them for showings.
7. The house is dirty.
Similar to a smelly house, you’ll find few buyers that don’t notice a dirty house. It is money well worth spending to have the place professionally cleaned before showings begin. It’s hard to keep it spic and span; you may need to have it cleaned again a few weeks in.
8. There is clutter and stuff everywhere.
Clutter is a detriment for two reasons. One, it makes the house look like is has inadequate storage. Two, it distracts and often prevents the prospective buyer from seeing the space. Remember, people can’t always visualize well. They need to be able to imagine what their furniture and decor would look like in a room. If it’s so full of your personal belongings and furnishings that they can’t, you’ve probably reduced their interest level.
9. The kitchen/baths are dated.
In our area of mostly older homes, “it’s dated” is one of the most common objections. While it rarely makes sense to put in a new kitchen or entirely redo a bathroom (though you should ask your agent for advice on this topic), there may be some improvements that are financially wise. For example, you might reglaze a tub or replace the floor tile in a bathroom. Sometimes changing faucets or drawer handles can make a significant difference, too. Kitchen cabinets can be painted (there are even companies that can reface existing cabinets, changing the look of the doors, without touching the interiors). Updating kitchen counter tops and appliances often makes a huge difference. So consider what would be cost effective and realize you don’t have to do a complete remodel.
10. Scheduling a showing is difficult.
Don’t say “no” to appointment requests unless absolutely necessary. Recognize that some buyers may only be in town to look at houses on a single day. Also, realize that if an agent shows a buyer several houses in a day and you don’t make yours available to be shown, that buyer might very well choose one of the ones he saw. You might not have another shot at a buyer if you deny an appointment request.
Also, please, please, please, do not remain in the house or on the property during showings. All the research demonstrates that your presence makes buyers uncomfortable and they spend less time looking around when sellers are there. It’s not always convenient, but no one ever said selling your house was fun. It’s worth a little bit of inconvenience to get a faster, higher priced offer.