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The Dealkillers – Dark, Cluttered and Dank

March 31 2010

The Dealkillers - Dark, Cluttered and Dank

As a seller, you may be so used to living in your home that you may not realize that its condition is putting buyers off. For example, you may love dogs so much that you’re immune to how much their fur dander, food dishes, and bed cushions are perfuming your house. 

Your home problems may also be something else – too much furniture, or a dark, ambiance. All of these problems are easily correctable.

The silent market is talking to you

Three hints that your home needs some serious review is that you’re not getting showings, buyers are not making offers, and your real estate agent isn’t getting feedback from her peers. 

Real estate professionals expect their peers to price a home fairly, according to its condition. If a home is priced fairly, but is dark, cluttered or smells, then they assume that the home isn’t ready to show to their buyers. They’ll take their buyers to homes with more instant appeal.

The reason they feel this way is that most buyers buy what they see and they want homes to be move-in ready. If 40-45% of buyers are first-timers, they won’t know to look past bad paint colors, heavy drapes, and clutter. They won’t be able to imagine their belongings in the house because bad information is overwhelming them.  

If you’re not getting feedback on what’s wrong with your home, your agent has the job of telling you. But telling you what she thinks is only going to work if you’re willing to listen and correct the problem.

If she suggested putting the dogs in a kennel, taking up food bowls, and picking up waste in the yard before showings, and you failed to do so, you may be paying the price.

The deal-killers

Assuming your home is priced to sell based on the competition, then you have to make your home stand out by removing deal-killing barriers.

The way to do that is to show buyers instantly how attractive your home is.


Let there be light 

Light, sunshine and easy visibility are powerful positives. To get more light: 

Wash the windows. If you have heavy drapes on the windows for privacy, open them up for showings. Power wash the windows outside to remove street grime, and clean them from the inside so they sparkle.

Clean out light fixtures. All light fixtures collect bugs and dust-bunnies. 

Change the lightbulbs. It’s amazing how much more attractive the new daylight bulbs are than yellow fluorescent bulbs. From skin tones to paint colors to fabrics, the colors in your home will be brighter and more pleasing.

For showings, pull back the drapes from every window. If they overpower the room, take them down are replace with blinds.


Clutter and clogged traffic 

If buyers have to tip-toe around furniture to keep from bumping your collectible figurines, you’ve got a barrier to sales.

Stage it. The size and number of pieces of furniture in each room has to make sense to the buyer. If you’ve inherited a household of furniture that doesn’t fit, ask your listing agent to help you stage your home by suggesting what to keep and what to put it in a storage facility.

De-clutter. If your Hummel collection is important to you, get it out of the house and into storage. You’ll have to pack it and move it anyway. You might as well pack it away now before some buyer’s child knocks your favorite piece over.

Keep, donate, throw away. In your not-so-spare time, make ruthless decisions about what to move to your new home, what’s appropriate to donate, and what’s trash. Forget garage sales, they take too much time to plan and seldom net enough to be worth the aggravation.

Clean closets. Nothing screams your house is too small than a bulging closet. Pretend you’re on a trip to Europe and the Far East, where packing wisely is going to save you excess baggage fees at the airlines. Store out-of-season clothes in your temporary storage unit. 


Smells and their associations

Pamper your pets.  While two out of three households have a dog and 34 percent of households have a cat, that doesn’t mean they smell like roses to buyers. A nice day-care for pets is becoming part of modern life, so there’s no reason to let a cat’s visit to the litter box ruin your sales. Your dog or cat will have more fun away from home than you think, and they won’t get lost or frightened by buyers coming to your home. See: www.Hsus.org.

Investigate smells. A damp smell means only one thing – a leak. Buyer paranoia over mold and mildew is understandable considering how skittish insurers are about paying for damages. If you do nothing else, get your plumbing inspected and fix anything that needs it. 

Deep clean. The amount of housework you’re doing now may not be enough. Your home may need a good scrubbing from the ceiling to the floors. A deep-cleaning service may be what you need.

Paint it. Not only does fresh paint smell good, it tells the buyer – look what I did for you! Most real estate professionals agree that the best single thing you can do to help market your home is fresh paint.


Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s better than waiting for a bad offer or no offer. All you may need is a little encouragement.  Ask your real estate agent for her opinion of what needs to be done to sell your home. Shop rates on short-term storage units. And get started sorting your keep, donate, throw away piles. In no time, your home will show a big improvement.