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5 Fixable Issues That Keep Buyers Away

If you're planning to sell your house for a relocation or an upgrade to a larger one, then you're probably hoping it moves quickly. Although the housing market is heating up thanks to low interest rates and low inventory, many properties still sit on the market for weeks or months. According to data from, the national median age of inventory in June 2013 was 80 days, nearly three months.

A variety of factors can prevent buyers from making an offer, but the last thing you want is something small and easily fixable turning them off. Here's a look at five things that can make an otherwise marketable house a tougher sell, as well as strategies for fixing them.


From pets to a particularly fragrant batch of curry, strong smells can scare away potential buyers, especially those with allergies. Some people recommend the smell of fresh baked cookies to counteract other odors, but Karyn Anjali Glubis, founder of The Real Estate Expert LLC in Tampa, Fla., suggests going neutral and eliminating smells altogether.

You never know who's coming to look at your house. Some buyers might get overwhelmed by the smell of things baking. I make a point of not showing properties around mealtime.

Karyn Anjali Glubis, Founder, The Real Estate Expert LLC

Air out the house to reduce odors. Glubis recommends using carpet cleaner or pet deodorizer to remove pet smells. For stronger pet smells like cat urine, you may need to have the carpets professionally cleaned or replaced.


In addition to pet smells, some potential buyers may be turned off by the presence of large dogs or exotic pets. When Glubis showed a student-occupied house several years ago, the buyer lost interest in the property after seeing a massive anaconda on the floor.

"If you have loud pets or dogs that bark, take them out of the house while it's being shown," Glubis says. "Not everybody likes dogs. People could be afraid of animals, so if you have odd pets like a snake, put it away."

Unappealing exteriors

When a house lacks curb appeal, it's harder to even get buyers in the door because they assume that an unkempt exterior indicates poor upkeep inside, too.

"Everybody wants to be proud of where they live," says Sonny Lee, owner of Sierra Vista Home Selling Team in Sierra Vista, Ariz. "It needs to look like the landscaping is manicured and that the upkeep on the house is in good condition."

Depending on the condition of your property, that may mean hiring professional landscapers, removing a rusted basketball net and other eyesores or giving the front door with a fresh coat of paint. Oil stains from a dripping car in the driveway or garage are another potential turn-off to buyers. Fortunately, Lee adds, home improvement stores sell a variety of products for cleaning concrete.

Clutter and personal items

Family photos, oversized furniture and knickknacks can make your home appear cramped and prevent buyers from picturing themselves in the space.

"You've got to take off the wall anything that has any indication of the religion you belong to, awards you've won," Lee says. You may be proud of your gun collection but those may not appeal to a broader group of buyers, so store those items along with extra furniture while your house is being shown. In place of family photos or other personal items on the wall, Glubis suggests putting up framed pictures that are neutral and non-offensive. "If it's Florida, I recommend the beach," she says. "If it's the Smoky Mountains, I recommend the mountains."


Customizations like turning a spare bedroom into a craft room or painting a red accent wall don't always appeal to buyers.

"Most of the time when somebody has a red wall it usually was painted because of the furnishings that the last people had," Lee says. "It's hard to bring your furnishings in. " He advises sellers to repaint in a more neutral color because "it feels like it's newer and gives a fresh smell. It's a cleaner, sharper look."

As for that craft room, library, home gym or wine storage room that was formerly a bedroom, Glubis says it depends on how you've marketed the property. If you've marketed it as a five-bedroom house, it should show as a five-bedroom house. That may mean bringing the room back to its original purpose so buyers can picture themselves using the space.

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