Selling Your House?

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You’re ready to sell your house. It’s been on the market, you’ve had showings… but no one comes back for a second look. Here are some reasons why home buyers may be scared away… and how you can fix the problem.

1. Phew, what’s that smell?

A house that has heavy cooking, pet, mildew or smoke odors is an instant turnoff for most buyers. Ask a friend who will be honest with you – does my house smell bad? And don’t just cover up the odors with room fresheners or plug-ins. Get rid of the cause.

OK, but what if buyers are coming over and you need your house freshened up FAST? Here are some quick fixes (but you’ll still need to get rid of the cause eventually):

* Spray air freshener on your AC/heat intake filter and turn on the system.

* Put 2 cups of water into a pot, bring to a boil and add a tablespoon of cinnamon. Turn on ceiling fans to spread the cinnamon-scented steam. Be careful to turn off the pot before the buyers show and before the water is gone.

* For cooking odors or smoke, moisten a towel with white vinegar and wave through the offending rooms to catch icky remnants in the air.

* Open windows, empty litter boxes, and put dirty laundry in the washer (and close the lid!)

2. Icky bathrooms

Nothing grosser than hair in the tub. Or toothpaste smears in the sink. Seriously, bathrooms (and kitchens) need to shine.

* Make sure the paint is fresh, and update your towels, shower curtain and rugs.

* Remove everything – hairspray, toothpaste containers, lotions, brushes. Put them into a drawer or hide them in baskets. The less the buyer has to think about your personal hygiene, the better.

* If buyers are coming and the room is still damp from a shower, turn on the fan, wipe down the mirrors and air it out as much as possible.

* Always keep the toilets clean, put the seats down, and, oh yeah, FLUSH!

3. Wow, what an interesting color

You like your purple kitchen and lime-green staircase? Your buyers probably won’t.

This is not the time to showcase your artistic spirit. If a room is a bright or out-of-date color, paint it. Immediately. Something neutral, like Sherwin Williams’ Sea Salt or Blue Arrow by Valspar

4. Down, boy, down!

Not everyone likes animals. And even pet lovers may not like a dog or cat that greets them at the door, jumps on them or rubs up against their legs. Don’t stick pets in a room and then ask buyers not to open the door. Buyers want to see every part of your house.

Either crate your pets or remove them during showings (the best option). Also, corral their toys, empty their food bowls (nothing grosser than day-old moist cat food) and make sure litter boxes are clean and there are no “accidents” lingering.

5. What a dump

Your house may be spectacular and move-in ready inside, but if your curb appeal is poor, most buyers won’t even take a step inside. Keep your yard in tip-top shape, plant a few annuals for color (either in a pretty pot or by the foundation shrubs).

* Your door should be freshly painted (or at least thoroughly cleaned) and the hardware should look new. I’ve seen houses for sale with their door bells hanging by a wire. First thought in a buyer’s head: “Gee, if they can’t even fix the doorbell, what else have they not repaired?”

* Also vital: CLEAN YOUR GUTTERS. Nothing worse than little plants peeking up above the roofline.

6. Creepy things

I see a roach, I’m not buying. Even though we all know insects are everywhere, you need to give the illusion there aren’t any in your house.

Hide insect bait traps under the fridge, behind cabinets, beneath the stairs. If bugs are still a problem, call a pest control company. The company can also treat the outside of the house, so there are no more happy trails of tiny ants marching toward your foundation.

7. It’s like a crypt down here …

Is your basement damp? Is it dark and clammy down there? My first thought as a buyer: Leaking foundation.

While this is most likely not the case, it could be that your foundation is soaking up rainwater that should have been diverted elsewhere. Next time it rains, go outside and make sure your gutters are not clogged, that down spouts are facing the right way and that underground drains are open.

No gutters? Better get some, or install a French drainage system.

8. Go away.

Never, never, never stay during a showing. Worse yet are sellers who stay and then follow potential buyers around. The buyers’ agent should always stay with his or her client. If you still worry about potential theft, lock up valuables. Don’t tempt fate. But do stay away.

9. Dora, Barney and Cookie Monster

I’ve sold several of my houses since I had children, and I know it’s tough. Whether you have a newborn, toddler or preschooler, you have 3 million toys and pieces of baby paraphernalia piled in the living room.

But you want to sell, right? So make a good effort to stash it all away. Use a closet or large chest to stash as much as you can. Store as much as you can (like clothing and toys that people have bought you but your kids aren’t yet ready for).

Before a showing, empty the diaper pail, put milk-sour bibs in the washer, wipe down the high chair, stash the pump out of sight.

10. I can’t see!

You want your home to appear filled with light and sunshine and happiness.

* Replace dim bulbs with bright white ones (“natural” light bulbs are best). Make sure every room has a light in it.

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