What do a broken garage door, a wall painted purple and an unruly cat have in common?
They all have the potential to make a home less desirable to prospective buyers.
North Fork real estate agents say there is a list of things clients do — or don’t do — that can make it more difficult to sell their homes, often without even realizing it. But in today’s down economy, sellers simply cannot afford to neglect anything that makes their home less attractive.
It might sound simple, but Kristen Rishe from North Fork Real Estate Inc. reminds sellers to be anywhere but home when potential buyers come to look.
“Sometimes [homeowners] make it too personal about their own home,” she said. “They should be depersonalizing it.”
Ms. Rishe said people shopping for a home like to envision themselves in their new space, which might be difficult to do if the current resident is still there. When owners are around, she said, buyers may be hesitant to really look around and may feel more hurried.
“I think people are more comfortable when the owners aren’t there,” she said.
Jill Dunbar from Century 21 Albertson in Greenport offered this piece of advice: “Don’t forget the buyer’s nose. Smells can be critical.”
She noted that offensive smells will bother not only potential buyers, but potential brokers as well.
“There are agents who will walk in and walk right out,” Ms. Dunbar said. “It’s a major issue.”
The biggest culprits of a smelly house are mildew, mold, pets and cigarettes, she said. She recommended running a dehumidifier in a moldy home and, in extreme cases, mold remediation.
Remedies for homes with smokers are limited, however. Some people refuse to give up smoking in their homes, but Ms. Dunbar says it’s the only cure.
As for pets, she said homes with multiple cats usually have the worst smells. She recalled one client who quickly realized that her five indoor/outdoor cats weren’t helping with a sale.
“This particular seller got the message,” Ms. Dunbar said. “She kept two for where she was going and found homes for the other three. It sure did help.”
Tom McCarthy of Thomas J. McCarthy Real Estate Inc. in Southold said what might seem like a small repair to a homeowner can represent a huge burden to a buyer. He noted that things an owner walks by every day — missing trim around a door, a chipped countertop or peeling paint — can even be deal breakers in some cases.
“The thought is a buyer will overestimate the cost of repairs,” he said. “If it costs $100, they might think it costs $200. The buyer wants to be compensated.”
Denice Lara, an agent with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Cutchogue agreed. “I find that buyers today are not wanting to do any work to a house,” she said. “They want to move into a house as is.”
She suggested that if homeowners can afford it, they are better off investing $5,000 to $10,000 in repairs rather than reducing the asking price by $25,000.
Agents swear it will make a difference.
Mr. McCarthy recalled one seller who had a very old and damaged garage door, which he suggested the client replace. The seller did and it made all the difference, he said.
“The first two customers remarked, ‘Wow, this is really nice. We love these doors,’” said Mr. McCarthy, who is also a licensed contractor.
And don’t forget that loud or particularly bold colors and paint can scare off some buyers, he said.
He also warns homeowners to get rid of all their junk and clutter before putting their homes on the market. He said potential buyers can have a difficult time imagining themselves in a new home if its filled with the current owner’s belongings.
He admitted that purging one’s home of years of memories can be painful, but it’s necessary to sell.
“Emotionally, it is not your house anymore once you put it on the market,” he said.