When you put your home on the market, your to-do list expands by about 1,000 items. You want everything in your home to be perfect, or as close to it as possible. So you get to work scrubbing the kitchen and bathrooms, clearing out the clutter from your closets, and putting fresh flowers in all the right places.
But for goodness’ sake, in all of your indoor hustle, don’t forget to give some TLC to your outdoor space. Not only will potential buyers most certainly check it out, but what they find there (cue the spooky music) could make them walk.
Here are a few true stories of things that have turned off buyers before.
Ryan Fitzgerald, broker and owner of UpHomes in Charlotte, NC, remembers touring a property once with an enthusiastic client. An offer seemed likely to happen. And then, “That’s when we ran into massive spiderwebs and spiders,” Fitzgerald recalls.
Not only were they all over the exterior siding of the house, but they were hanging between trees.
“It became clear that no one had been to this home in a while,” Fitzgerald says.
And his clients couldn’t see past it.
“They said, ‘Ew, I hate spiders. No thanks,’” Fitzgerald says.
Are you sensing a theme here? Just a few weeks ago, Cassie Nichols, president and owner of Origen Realty in Baytown, TX, was walking around the backyard of a home with potential buyers when she stepped into an anthill.
“A huge pet peeve of mine, that I’ve seen all too often, is a neglect for pest control,” Nichols says. “It’s hard to look professional while kicking off your shoes and slapping ants off of your feet.”
After that debacle, the numerous other ant beds all over the yard were impossible to ignore.
“It certainly didn’t leave [my clients] with the best impression,” Nichols says. “When a homeowner doesn’t take care of their yard, which is clearly visible, it’s not a leap for a buyer to question if other home maintenance was also ignored.”
3. Fresh kill
Talk about killing the deal. Dusko Sremac, a real estate professional at Re/Max First in Calgary, Alberta, recalls recent clients who were interested in properties with lots of acreage, with a price point over $1 million. More specifically, they were shopping for newer homes, with cabin-style features.
“These buyers weren’t the outdoorsy type, but liked the idea of a space outside the city with a rustic, outdoorsy feel,” Sremac explains.
But when they got to one property, “They immediately felt the vibes that ‘A hunter lives here,’” Sremac recalls.
It wasn’t hard to see why. In the backyard, a recent kill—a big buck deer—was prominently strung up, and still being worked on.
Sremac’s clients asked to leave.
“Sellers should keep in mind that what’s normal or acceptable to them isn’t always going to be OK for everyone else,” he says.
You already know dead animals and live pests are sure to freak out potential buyers. But just in case it’s not clear, make sure to keep wayward people out of your outdoor space, too.
Several years ago, Michael McGraw, president of Northcap Residential in Las Vegas, was showing a client a home.
“When it came time to go to the backyard, we noticed it was a complete mess, but decided to walk the property anyway, because my client felt it had potential,” McGraw remembers.
Then they noticed a blue tarp, with legs and boots sticking out from under it.
“After my client and I grabbed onto each other, I called 911, thinking it was a dead body,” McGraw says.
Within minutes, several police cars arrived, but it turned out to be a homeless person, alive, but fast asleep.
“Needless to say, my client passed on the property,” McGraw says.
5. Confusing smells
When Bob Gordon, a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway in Boulder, CO, toured the property of a potential client, he noticed a door on the barn had several padlocks and warnings to keep out. Of course, he asked the seller why.
“That’s my marijuana grow,” was the answer.
“I suggested he just keep it locked and remove the signs,” Gordon says. “Nope, he had to have the signs, and said the last Realtor didn’t address the smell or grow space.”
As a result, a string of would-be buyers complained about the pungent, skunklike odor.
6. A real-life pet cemetery
Lewis Friedman, a licensed real estate salesperson with the Friedman Team at Compass in NYC, didn’t lose a deal because of a property’s odd outdoor environment. But maybe that’s because his clients didn’t realize what was in it.
The brownstone that Friedman’s clients purchased had previously been inhabited by four generations of the same family.
“The backyard was a jungle—completely overgrown,” Friedman says. “You could hardly walk 2 inches.”
Not until they did a renovation did his clients cut all the weeds back.
“That’s when they saw all these strange little stones,” Friedman says. “A few generations of the previous owners’ dogs were buried in the backyard.”
7. Mysterious holes
Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of the Portland-based home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency, still vividly remembers walking through the house of a new client.
“He gave me super creepy vibes, but wanted us to look at the backyard for our opinion,” Riordan says.
Once Riordan and his team went outside, the client showed him a very large hole he had dug that was about 6 feet deep, 3 feet wide, and 6 feet long.
“I kid you not,” Riordan says. “It looked just like a grave.”
The client then prodded Riordan to guess what he thought the human-sized hole was for.
“I seriously expected to get hit over the head with shovel at any second,” he says. “The only thing that would have made it creepier was if he’d been wearing a kimono, and ‘Goodbye, Horses’ was playing.”
Riordan faked a phone call on his cell, said he had to leave, and did so ASAP.
Moral of the story: If anything on your property makes visitors think “Silence of the Lambs,” your home’s probably not going to be a quick sell.
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