With COVID-19 limiting access to listings, buyer visits are at a premium. Sellers hoping for an offer need to ensure nothing alienates a buyer who goes through the hassle of viewing their home in person.

Because we no longer have open houses in many parts of the country, buyers are relying on the internet to shortlist potential homes. Last week, we provided a list of our top 10 online buyer turnoffs that keep potential buyers from even scheduling a visit. This week, we are looking at potential turnoffs that could occur during an in-person visit.

Truth be told, not every buyer will love any given house, no matter how nice it is. Location, amenities, bedroom sizes, layout, the direction the home faces and overall style are things that cannot be altered to any significant degree, which might cause buyers to give it a hard pass.

There are, however, many things a seller can do to keep potential buyers engaged. It’s all about removing objections, and we recommend sellers and their agents to take the following items to heart:

Top 10 buyer turnoffs while touring a home

1. Odors

Nothing gets a buyer back out the door faster than a nasty smell. Pet odors top the list, followed by food (think curry or fried fish), the rancid bitterness of cigarette smoke, mildew and mustiness. It’s not possible to effectively mask an odor by filling a home with air fresheners. The only effectual way is to tackle the smells at their source.

Although a fresh coat of paint helps, homes full of soft surfaces such as wall-to-wall carpet, curtains, fabric furniture, pet beds and popcorn ceilings trap odors and will need to be removed to fully mitigate the smells. Replace the hood vent filter as well.

2. Pets

Married to a dog lover, I have discovered a fascinating fact — most canine owners are oblivious to the fact that though they might adore Fido, many people object to a dog sniffing their crotch, licking their hands, barking, sniffing, jumping and especially biting.

In fact, many sellers with dogs think their critter’s antics are adorable, and they’re often unaware their beloved companion is stinking up the house. Although cats are less of a problem, smelly litterboxes are an instant turnoff.

Other species also come with their own unique issues, whether they be gerbils, rats, snakes, iguanas, ferrets, spiders, turtles — the list is endless. Our recommendation is to remove the critters before you start showing the home or at least have them absent during showings.

3. Pests

We recently had to pull a home off the market for a week to get a rodent problem under control. Who knew potential buyers don’t like being greeted by a massive rat at the front door? The same applies to roaches that scuttle out of sight when cabinet doors are opened, fleas attacking your legs as you walk through the home, moths that appear when checking closets or pantries, occupied mousetraps and the like.

4. Popcorn ceilings and acoustic tile ceilings

Even though many popcorn ceilings do not contain asbestos, buyers do not like the dated appearance. If possible, remove and texture to contemporary standards. We also recommend removing acoustic tile ceilings and replacing them with drywall.

5. Wall-to-wall carpeting

An emerging medical phenomenon is the increasing sensitivity to allergens. Although originally installed in homes to help manage cold feet, noise and dust bunnies, we have discovered that carpets can be breeding grounds for all kinds of unwanted pathogens. Contemporary buyers would far rather see hardwood or laminate floors. Carpet in your bathrooms? It should be the first to go.

6. Outdated heating systems

We live in a region with numerous types of heating systems, including century-old gravity heaters, wall heaters, boilers with wall radiators or radiant floors, heat pumps, all manner of electrical systems and more.

With heating costs escalating and an increasing focus on energy efficiency, today’s buyers are not keen on purchasing a home with an antiquated heating or cooling system that might be expensive to operate or upgrade.

7. Cracks in the walls

Cracks usually indicate movement and, though an occasional small crack is normal, large cracks in numerous locations are a clue for a buyer to move on to the next house on their viewing list.

Usually a sign of seismic activity, excessive water or soil instability, large cracks suggest foundation issues that are often accompanied by hefty repair estimates. Best to get this inspected and remedied before buyers start coming through.

8. Unpermitted upgrades

Many local municipalities want you pulling permits for minor things including changing light fixtures, replacing counters and the like. Sellers, on the other hand, routinely do these types of items without involving local building officials and everyone usually looks the other way.

Larger projects, however, really should be done with licensed contractors and full permits. Not only do we see fully remodeled bathrooms and kitchens with no permits, but we also see converted garages, room additions and more.

In these cases, local municipalities who discover unpermitted work might have the right to come in and insist that things be brought into compliance or even removed at the owner’s cost.

9. Locked rooms

What is lurking behind door No. 3? Because it’s currently difficult to actually visit a listing, buyers want to see all of it while they are there. Limited or no access to rooms or garages could easily mean no offer for you.

10. Odds and ends

Although not as critical as some of the items above, these last few can still rankle buyers and move them elsewhere. They include mismatched appliances, peeling paint, musty basements and, in this ever-growing age of liberation, marijuana plants.

While one of these items might not spell doom to your listing, if you have a few, it is best to deal with them before hanging the “open for viewing” shingle. The goal is to remove objections. You don’t want to hear buyers say, “We loved it, but we just couldn’t get over (fill in the blank with any issue).”

Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.

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