The prospect of selling your home effectively makes you a marketer. And effective marketing requires that you understand the mind and priorities, likes and dislikes of your target buyer. In real estate, we all know that buyers like to see homes that are pristine, huge and well-located. Sometimes, though, it’s much harder to recognize when our own homes might actually be triggering buyers’ distaste – or disgust.
Whether you’re preparing to sell your home, or you’re in the market to buy a home and want to be aware of what the property’s resale prospects might be, here are five home features and characteristics that are big-time turn-offs for today’s home buyers.
1. Pools. Twenty years ago, having a pool was seen as a luxurious amenity – almost a status symbol that you had made it, if your home had one. Fast forward a couple of decades, though, and many home buyers are turning down homes specifically because they have a pool.
There are a couple of core buyer subgroups who love pools: people who live in places where summers are super hot and people who really like to swim. But those buyers are vastly outranked in number by these other subgroups:
- people who know they won’t swim enough to use a pool, and think that maintaining one would just be a waste of their time, energy and money
- people who would rather have a yard, and are looking for homes in areas where they either have a pool or a backyard – but not both, and
- people who have young children and see a pool as a safety hazard.
If you happen to have a pool, your best bet is to market your home as best you can to those buyers who truly want one, and to mitigate the perceived negatives of pool ownership by being both pragmatic and creative:
- ensuring the pool has a well-functioning fence and cover,
- staging the rest of the backyard in a way that maximizes the non-swimming activities a buyer will see as possible in the outdoor space, and/or
- offering to pre-pay for a year of the buyer’s pool maintenance as an incentive of the home sale transaction.
2. Your stuff. Yes – your taste is immaculate. But it’s your taste. What buyers are really looking for when they come to view a home is a palate on which they can envision easily applying their tastes. Accordingly, a primary goal of smart home preparation is depersonalization or neutralization, simply removing most or all of the personalized touches that make your home reflect you unless they are also neutral enough that any buyer, from any age group or cultural background can step in and put their mind’s eye to work at filling in what the place would look like if they lived there.
That said, it’s also entirely possible that your things might not be as attractive, nice or tidy in the eyes of a buyer as you perceive them to be. In the same vein, the chotchkes, knickknacks and memorabilia that you see as cozy and warm are highly likely to be seen by buyers as dumpy clutter. I have personally been in homes with a number of buyers where the fact that the sellers still had so much stuff or such bad stuff throughout the home distracted the buyers from appreciating the property’s true potential, and what it might be like if they simply made some cosmetic edits and redecorated.
We’ve talked a lot over the years about the idea of simply pre-packing, staging by boxing up everything but the very most basic daily essentials and get them ready to move – some sellers find that to be a much more effective way to think about the project of de-cluttering. Also, you can reset your own perspective on what you need to get rid of or move out to put your home on the market by visiting professionally staged Open Houses, hiring a stager just for an hour long consult or even asking your real estate agent to walk through your home and stick mini-Post It notes on things that need to be moved out before the listing goes live.
3. Carpet. Obviously, old, dirty, pet-impacted and bizarrely colored carpets (red?!) are not a draw for buyers. But this generation of home buyers takes the carpet conundrum even further, exhibiting a distaste for carpet – period. Concerns about the relative difficulty and expense of cleaning carpets, to the cost of replacing them when you want a decor change, to the tendency of carpets to hold pet hair, mites and other allergens that may impact family members with respiratory issues are, collectively causing carpet to fall out of favor with today’s home buyers.
The majority of home buyers express a desire to have hardwood floors in their next home; other hard floor surfaces, from bamboo to tile to concrete to cork, are rapidly outpacing the popularity of carpets (though some buyers do still prefer the softness and warmth of carpets in their bedrooms).
If you were thinking about replacing your carpets before you put your home on the market, consider replacing at least the living and dining areas with hard wood or a similar finish. And if your home has carpet over hardwood, talk with your agent about exploring the idea of ripping it up – it might not be as expensive to repair or refinish as you think, and in many areas, buyers prefer even an imperfect hardwood floor over nice carpets.
4. Gold bathroom fixtures. Gold bathroom fixtures are part of a larger category of buyer turn-offs perhaps best described as things that are old, but not old enough to be vintage, retro, classic or historic. As a general rule, this includes household appliances, finishes and decor that dates from the ‘70s and ‘80s, give or take a decade, depending on where you’re at. For instance, the popularity of Mad Men has driven a massive amount of interest in all things mid-century modern, bringing the 50’s and 60’s decor and design aesthetics that just seemed plain and old when I was a child back into vogue – but somewhat more in urban than suburban taste zeitgeists.
This means that those goldenrod refrigerators and wallpapers with marigold, orange and avocado floral patterns are decidedly passe. Similarly, gold bathroom and lighting fixtures, popular in the 80s and 90s are seen as dated by buyers, who much prefer sleeker, matte-er stainless, brushed chrome and even bronze or white finishes where metal finishes are necessary. Is this just another trend? Yes. But replacing gold bathroom finishes and recessed lighting can covers is relatively inexpensive to do; touch base with your stager or agent regarding whether they think these micro-home improvements will make much of a difference with buyers in your area and your home’s price range.
5. Elaborate gardens and/or vast landscaping. A huge backyard seems like it’d be a big draw. So do the flower and botanical gardens that the seller obviously spent hour upon hour designing and tending to. But they also seem like a lot of work to today’s time-strapped and cash-conscious buyers. Not long ago, a buyer I know actually de-prioritized a home they otherwise loved, because it was surrounded by an enormous Japanese garden, bonsais and all, that the buyer admired, but knew they could and would never be able to care for. Same can go for elaborate, high-maintenance food gardens or even super-large front and backyards: some buyers simply know they don’t or won’t put the time, money and water into their care, so would rather not take them on.
Nothing about this should stop you from creating such an outdoor space if that is part and parcel of the lifestyle you want to live in your home. But it should be a factor you consider if you are concerned about reselling your home in the near future, and it might impact how you market your home if it has any of these sorts of features. If you have a miniature botanical garden at your home, why not find out if the local botanical garden or garden society has a newsletter you can place an ad in? If you have bees and chickens in the middle of Chicago or the heart of L.A., is there an urban farming club or blog that reaches that audience?
Work with your real estate agent to research where local buyers who would love your home’s unique or high-maintenance features, then market your home to them via publications, websites or organizations in which they already participate. Once you understand that the average buyer might find these features to be less-than-desirable, it’s time to get creative about finding the buyer who will find them to be just what they’ve always wanted.
Resource: Trulia September, 2012