During more than 12 years as a home inspector I
and heard clients say many things. I have been in fine homes and in distressed
homes and I have heard everything from quiet whispers to loud cries from my
clients. I am not referring to deficiencies in homes, but subtle and some not so
subtle observations of the buyers.
I have made several observations over the years. We all know how
important presentation is for the showing of a home, but some small things that
create subtle negatives are left unchecked when it is time for the buyers to
re-enter the home for a home inspection. These subtle negatives don't
necessarily impact a home inspector's report, but can have a profound impact on
the buyer's attitude. Remember, the buyer may have only spent 20 minutes in a
home before deciding to write a contract on it, 1-5 days to deal with buyer's
remorse and at the inspection they will have 2-3 hours to look around.
Subtle negatives can start at the front door and go all the way to the
attic. I will list some of the things I have heard comments on and hopefully
demonstrate how they affect a buyer's attitude.
- 1. Upon driving up to the home the grass should be
neatly cut, flower
beds and driveway and side walks neatly edged, shrubs trimmed, trash cans
picked up washed out and put away.
- Having these things
done avoids having the prospective buyers from
having that souring face. I know it may have been that way when they
decided to write an offer, but you will be amazed of people will
overlook when they are excited and in a buying mood, but things
most clients have shifted from a buying mood to a more critical
- 2. Clean the front door and glass. I mean wipe it
down and make it shine oil
the hinges and fix the door so it is easy to enter. Remove the cob webs and
bees nests, some people freak at the thought of spiders and bees. Clean the
gutters, gutters are no place for an organic herb garden. If something is
growing out of the gutters it will send strong message of neglect.
- 3. Pick up the house as if it were still in showing
mode; because lets face it,
they're still looking. Have the clothes put away and don't leave a pile of
dirty clothes on the floor topped with slightly used unmentionables. Put
them in a laundry basket. Don't stick them in the washer, all clients open
the washer and dryer and I have never seen a client open a laundry basket.
Clothes in a dryer say clean and that is ok.
- You want the buyers to
simply see the laundry area and have no
on it but leave them with a sense that they would wash their clothes
- 4. CLEAN THE BATHROOMS! Prepare it like a hotel.
That means no
hair in the sink
and tubs, fresh soap and hand towels, cap on the tooth paste, clean mirrors,
brightly lit with matching vanity bulbs, a new roll of toilet paper, use
subtle air fresheners (too strong and too many is a turn off), use some
drain cleaner to clear those slow draining sinks, de-clutter under the
vanities, wash the bath mats and if you sprinkle when you tinkle be a
sweetie and wipe the seaty.
- Chances are that the
buyers will use the bathrooms after being in
home for a couple of hours. You want them to jealous of how clean it
- If the house has a
whirlpool you must fill it, run it and sanitize
Nothing says "YUCK" more than when I test the tub and the scum from
jet lines start swirling around the water. This is known as "Other
People Soup". Who wants to see themselves relaxing in that? Click here to learn more on cleaning a
- 5. Fix all the doors so that they work easily. I
clients get injured
trying to open a sliding door that falls off the tracks and whacks them in
the head. The same goes for window blinds. It is fine to include the window
treatments with the home just make sure their not booby trapped.
- 6. Put a sold sign on the yard sign. It makes the
pumped up when
they see it. This is often the first thing a buyer says when they get out of
the car "Why doesn't the sign say sold? The sign makes a persons offer to
buy feel validated. And we all want that.
- 7. Hide all the unmentionables from those special
extracurricular paraphernalia from the master bedroom, closets and other
places. I suggest they put them in their trunk and take them away. What your
sellers do in the privacy of their home is one thing, just don't advertise
it! I have seen things that have made me question my status as a man and/or
simply scared the pants off of me. You can only imagine where the buyer's
minds and emotions are.
- 8. Shampooing the carpets is an inexpensive option
that can go
a very long way.
Traffic marks and stains will often translate into replacement costs in the
buyers mind. You can often avoid this by renting an inexpensive cleaner from
your local hardware store. If the carpet is trashed...clean it anyway. I
watched my father for my entire life, a mechanic for 45 years, take $1500
cars that run great but look like a day old fecal mass and with a couple
hours of elbow grease and wax turn around and sell it for $3500. The car was
always worth every penny, it was just not able to be seen through the layers
- 9. The kid's room is often a place where the buyer
their children to
the sellers. If the kids room is neat as a pin and well organized. The
buyers have a tendency to fantasize that when they move into this house the
mystical forces that surround the dwelling will inspire their children to
keep their room the same way. Give them hope and a warm fuzzy feeling, it
can be worth thousands.
- 10. Don't let rover and Garfield run free. I would
say that 25%
of my clients
are not dog friendly and 75% are not cat friendly. Personally I would like
to see the cat number reach 100%. Leaving your pets run free is fine, but
some clients are deathly allergic and the having Kitty and Spot rubbing
themselves lewdly on a leg is not the best way to say that our house is
fresh and clean.
- 11. De-funkify the basements. Basements are often a
fantasize. The wife sees a place for the kids to play and the husbands see a
place to keep the kids out. Regardless of who wins all areas of basements
should be clutter free and left as empty as possible. A cluttered basement
prevents buyers from fully projecting themselves in this space. Their focus
will turn from fantasy to how someone accumulates so much stuff or live like
this. Remove all signs of Rovers mishaps and for goodness sakes clean the
- 12. Attic access should be made readily available.
want to see how
much stuff they store up there. If the attic is capable of storage, just
simply have it straitened up. This is not an area that has caused too many
negatives over the years.
- 13. The garage should be swept, well lit, cob web
free and odor
Remember those washed out trash cans? Having storage in the garage ready for
a move is expected, just don't pile them along the wall. Leave access for
the buyers to see all the walls so the thought of "Are they hiding
something" does not enter their minds. Neatly stacking boxes along a 20 foot
wall may look nice but that can create 20 feet of questions.
- 14. Make sure every light switch works and all bulbs
working. If there is a
switch that may seemingly do nothing-Label it! It may be a switched outlet,
a spare fan switch or to some outside flood light. Take the time to label
- 15. The outside condition of the home is critical
to see green
algae on white siding, unkempt shrubs, stains and algae on a deck, loose or
missing siding and trim, broken shingles pieces in the yard or bushes, holes
from rover or his strategic placement of organic mines, evidence of the
existence of children should be kept to a minimum, wash and sweep the
driveway (even little Suzie's latest chalk art), plant grass or buy some sod
patches from Home Deport for the spots in the yard, leave out clean door
mats for everyone to wipe their feet. Having all these things and more ready
will allow the buyers to see themselves doing the weekend barbeque thing.
That can be very powerful.
- 16. Now to the most important area of the home. The
will can make or
break attitudes. Let's face it when Mom wants the house because at first
glance the kitchen was perfect and she's going to go though it like the IRS
through my 1999 returns. Clean everything now! Don't wait to clean the day
before you move out, it will cost you. The kitchen should shine like it was
new. That means cleaning the knobs handles, gaskets, drawers, sink drains,
faucets, hood vents and the filter on top of the refrigerator. Don't leave
week old food in the fridge-YUCK! Keep it organized and odor free. Allow mom
to see how much space is in there.
The overall message of this is to prevent a litany of subtle
negatives to form in the buyer's mind. So when it comes to presenting the
findings the buyers will have on a positive feeling about the home and not mix
their negative experiences when they think of what to ask for repairs. If these
things were not addressed, and I have seen these scenarios happen time and time
- 1. Some cracked roof shingles or old water stains
turn from a
request for repairs or further evaluation into asking for a new roof.
- 2. Traffic marks and stains in carpets quickly go to
- 3. A non working light over the tub will turn into
Don't underestimate the power of subtle negatives.
A dirty bathroom in a five
star restaurant can turn into someone telling their friends "Do Not eat there".
A subtle negative can diminish the reality of a situation. I'm not saying that
doing these things will get you more money for your home, but they seem to
always do. Allow the buyers to focus on the task and see the reality of
Nothing I mentioned in this diatribe will affect
the findings of the inspections,
but it may affect the light by which the buyer chooses to view them in. Reality
in sales is only 20% the other 80% is how the product makes the other person
feel. Sellers, don't relax just because you have a signed contract.