Don’t Scare Away Buyers: 6 Things That Give Real Estate Pros ‘The Ick’ About Your Home

by Garcia Chris
7 minutes read
Don’t Scare Away Buyers: 6 Things That Give Real Estate Pros ‘The Ick’ About Your Home

Selling a home is a lot like dating. If you need proof, simply look at the language we use when we’re home shopping, from finding The One to “marrying the house but dating the rate.”

So when you’re preparing to sell your home, it’s natural to wonder: What will make a buyer say, “I do … want to make an offer”? And perhaps just as important, what are the things that will almost always keep people from lingering during an open house?

Look no further than the latest TikTok dating lingo finding its way to the real estate world. Take beige flags, warning signs that a house you are in love with could turn out to be a home you will grow to hate. Or “the ick”—that instant feeling of distaste that comes over prospective buyers when they encounter a negative in your home.

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The ick can be as much a deal breaker in real estate as in dating. But never fear: Your real estate professional can give you a heads-up before a potential love match swipes left. Here are the top six things that give real estate agents—and their clients—the ick.

1. Junk in the yard

“We all know curb appeal is a big factor in real estate value,” says Michael W. Barker, an agent with Compass in Hawaii. “So there’s no better way to put a buyer in a negative mindset than to have junk strewn about the front yard.”

When Hannah Burcham, an interior designer in Portland, OR, was house hunting, she was confident that aesthetic flaws wouldn’t bother her. She has a good idea of how much it costs to fix things from her work. Plus, she enjoys doing small renovations herself.

But then Burcham met her undoing: “A trailer parked outside. I’m not talking about a work trailer or a well-kept camping trailer. I mean a broken-down, falling-apart house on wheels. It immediately set a bad tone.”

“A seller that can’t maintain their stuff probably didn’t maintain their house,” says Barker.

The ick fix: While you might not have a recreational vehicle rotting in your yard, consider getting a dumpster and chucking anything broken or rotting in your outdoor area.

2. Dated wallpaper

While wallpaper is having a revival, outdated, decades-old wallpaper definitely isn’t going to cut it. In fact, ancient wallpaper can be an instant turnoff.

“Floral wallpaper might have been the rage once upon a time, but that time isn’t now,” says Ryan Fitzgerald, a real estate professional with Up Homes.

Indeed, many agents balk at seeing old wallpaper as they know it will turn off prospective buyers.

“Many would argue it’s superficial and can be changed,” adds Fitzgerald. “But first impressions matter, especially in real estate.”

The ick fix: If you have dated wallpaper in your home, remove it before putting your house on the market.

3. Too many pets

Dog hair on the upholstery or a litter box smell that permeates the house equals the ick.

Even if the pets aren’t present, agents say that the signs they were there can turn off potential buyers.

“We do our best to eliminate all evidence of pets from photos,” says Karyl Allen, a real estate professional with Pearson Smith Realty in Gainesville, VA. “We don’t take pictures that show dog beds, bowls, cat trees, litter boxes, etc. But if you walk in the front door and immediately smell dog or cat urine, it’s a hard pass.”

The ick fix: We all love our pets like family, but consider having them stay with a favorite aunt or uncle while you sell your home. That will allow you to do a deep cleaning of your home before an open house.

4. Mismatched flooring

Is there anything that can give a more disjointed feeling about a home than walking over different types of flooring in every room? Too many flooring types significantly break the sense of harmony and flow.

“Patchwork flooring screams neglect, even if the rest of the house is in tiptop shape,” says Eric Bramlett, a real estate agent with Bramlett Residential. “Sort your flooring out, because it speaks volumes about your care for the home over the years.”

The ick fix: Consider replacing the patchwork parts of your floor with new wood flooring.

It’s a big project, but consider this: The return on investment after installing hardwood floors is in the 70%–80% range.

5. Damp smell

“Ever walked into a place and got hit by an indescribable aroma that’s a mix of old books, dampness, and maybe a hint of something else?” asks Fitzgerald.

While the smell of dampness is hard to describe, everyone knows it when they smell it. Not only does it smell bad, but it is also a sign of water intrusion, often from a plumbing problem. Potential buyers could see dollars flying out of their pockets.

The ick fix: If your house is damp, call a professional to figure out the source of the water intrusion and fix it before you put your home on the market.

6. Dirty grout

Old bathrooms get a bad rap, not so much due to the pastel colors but often because of old, dirty-looking grout.

“Any organic material on the caulking or grout in a bathroom will have the buyers thinking black mold,” warns Allen. “Even if it’s not, that’s what they think.”

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The ick fix: Before you even think of listing your home, clean up the grout. All it takes is a bit of elbow grease to make it look as good as new. And while you’re at it, freshen up the caulk.

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