By Brendon Desimone
As a result of our obsession with photos and visuals today, buyers make judgments of homes immediately. Many will do their first showing online, so if your photos turn them off, they may never step foot inside.
Sellers need to go to great lengths to get buyers in the door. If you can get them through, it's the small (and often obvious) things that will keep them interested. Though it's a home first and foremost, it's also an investment. Make changes or alterations that could turn off a buyer, and you risk hurting your bottom line.
If you're planning to put your house on the market, be aware of these 10 ways you might be turning off potential buyers.
1. Turn your garage into a family room.
A family room might be attractive — to a family. But if you've sacrificed the garage, the trade-off might be a turn-off, especially to people who don't have kids or who live in dense urban areas, where parking is at a premium. Even in the suburbs, most people want a covered, secure place to park their cars.
Don't forget that a garage often doubles as a storage location, housing everything from the lawn mower to excess paper towels and cleansers. If you go glam with your garage, you're likely to force a buyer to look elsewhere.
2. Convert a bedroom into a something other than a bedroom.
Aside from location and price, one of the first things a buyer searches for is number of bedrooms. Why? Because it's a fundamental requirement.
You might think that having a wine cellar with built-in refrigerators in your home will make it attractive to potential buyers because it was attractive to you. But that's not for everyone.
And while it's true many people work from home today, at least part of the time, that doesn't mean they want a dedicated home office —especially one with built-in desks or bookcases they can't easily remove.
If you must convert a bedroom into something else, make sure you can readily change it back into a bedroom when you go to sell. If you have lots of bedrooms, buyers might be more forgiving. But a buyer who needs three might see your custom home office as a turn-off.
3. Lay down carpet over hardwood floors.
People like hardwood floors. They look cleaner, add a design element, don't show dirt as much, and consumers with allergies prefer them over carpets.
If you have gleaming hardwood floors, show them off. Let the buyer decide if she wants to cover them. It's easier for her to purchase new carpeting of her choosing than to get past yours.
4. Install over-the-top light fixtures.
A beautiful chandelier can enliven a dining room. But it can also turn off buyers who prefer simpler, less ornate fixtures.
Did you fall in love with a dark light fixture on a trip to Casablanca? That's great. And you should use it for your enjoyment. But when it comes time to sell, replace it with something more neutral.
Remember, you want to appeal to the masses when your home is for sale. You want to stand out from a crowded field of sellers — but in the right way.
5. Turn your kid's room into a miniature theme park.
Little kids have big imaginations. They tend to love Disney characters, spaceships, and superheroes, and their parents are often all-too-willing to turn their rooms into fantasy caves.
But the more you transform a child's bedroom into something resembling a Disneyland ride, the more you'll turn off most potential buyers. Your buyer might have teenage children, and see the removal of wallpaper, paint or little-kid-inspired light fixtures as too much work.
If you can, neutralize the kids' rooms before you go on the market.
6. Add an above-ground pool.
Does it get hot in the summer where you live? Wish you had a backyard pool, but can't afford to have a "real" pool installed? Then you might be tempted to buy and set up an above-ground pool.
For most buyers, though, these pools are an eyesore. Also, an above-ground pool can leave a big dead spot of grass in your backyard — another eyesore.
If you must have it, consider dismantling it before going on the market. Of course, be sure you're ready to sell, or you may be stuck without a place to cool off next summer.
7. Leave dirty dishes in the sink.
A kitchen full of dirty dishes is not only unattractive, but it sends a strong message to the buyer: You don't care about your home.
If your home is for sale, buyers will be coming through, and you want to impress them. Would you keep dirty dishes in the sink for your in-laws or overnight guests? Probably not. Then why wouldn't you clean up for your potential customers?
Putting your home up for sale, and keeping it on the market, is work. If you aren't cut out for it, considering holding off until you are ready to clean up for the buyers.
8. Make buyers take off their shoes.
This turn-off cuts both ways. As an agent, I always hated being forced to take my shoes off in someone else's home — until I sold my own. Not only was it inconvenient, but also I wasn't happy about my socks picking up a random homeowner's dirt, pet hair and dust.
Once I became a first-time home seller, and one with sparkling new hardwood floors and carpet, I couldn't imagine allowing dirt and grime from the outside world to dirty up my floors.
So what's the compromise? Shoe covers from a medical supply store. Buyers and agents don't need to take off their shoes, simply cover them. It's a win-win for everyone.
9. Smoke cigarettes in every room of your house — for years.
Over time, the smell of smoke permeates your home. It gets into the carpet, drapes, wood paneling — just about everywhere. And that's a big turn-off to most buyers today.
Getting rid of the smoke smell can be a big job. If you're a smoker, seriously consider how you want to present your home to the market. For a long-term smoke-filled home, it means painting, removing carpets, and doing lots of deep cleaning. If you don't do it, don't expect to get top dollar for your home.
10. Keep Fido's bed and toys front and center.
Family pets bring a lot of joy to the home. But they don't always bring the same joy to a prospective buyer. Dog's toys, filled with saliva, dirt and dust, can be a sore both for the eyes and the nose.
If you have a pet, put a plan in place to move the food and water bowls as well as the toys and dog's bed to a better location, like in the garage.
It's your home — for now
Part of the joy of owning a home is that you can do whatever you want with it, to it, and in it. You should enjoy it. But if you want to sell it quickly and for top dollar down the road, try to picture how others might react to any renovations, additions or modifications you make.
The more specific you get — such as turning your kid's room into a miniature castle — the harder it will be to sell your home later, and the less return on investment you'll get. When considering changes to your home, always consider resale.