Monthly Archives: October 2018

7 Things in Your Living Room That Are Freaking Out Potential Buyers


It’s easy to think of creepy items in your living room that would be instant deal breakers for potential buyers: a coffin, for instance. (With or without someone in it.) A meth lab. A ghost with an attitude problem.

First impressions start with curb appeal, but next to the kitchen, the space that arguably carries the most weight is—you guessed it—your living area. After all, it’s where we spend the most time trying to decompress and escape the worries of the day. So buyers, of course, are going to run full speed the other way if they stumble across a living room that freaks them out.

We asked real estate pros about the biggest buyer deal breakers they’ve encountered in a living room.

1. Dead bugs

Nancy Wallace-Laabs, a licensed real estate broker in Texas, once viewed a house where hundreds of dead June bugs were piled up inside a living room window screen—“about an inch deep all the way around,” she recalls.

The insect graveyard was an instant turnoff—to everyone.

“No one was even attempting to buy the place,” Wallace-Laabs says.

Surprise ending: She and her husband ended up buying the home themselves at a steep discount, giving those June bugs a proper burial, and turning the property into a rental.

The lesson: Make sure every corner of your living room is pest-free before you show your home.

2. Your collection of _________

Those sad clown paintings on your living room walls might strike you as hilarious, but a potential seller will slowly back out the door.

“Anything too thematic should be removed from your living room,” says Marie Bromberg, a licensed real estate salesperson with Corcoran in New York City. “Keep in mind, the more obscure the collection, the creepier it is.”

Victorian dolls? An obvious no. But even a huge array of decorative items can strike buyers as icky.

Bromberg’s example of choice: cowhide and animal skulls. At some point, they veer from “Southwestern vibe” to “Silence of the Lambs.”

Pack your precious collections away, no matter how harmless they may seem to you.

“Even too many pet accessories will make the apartment feel like a shelter,” Bromberg adds.

3. Surprise smells

Without question, experts list bad—or just unexpected—odors as the No.1 living room turnoff.

“One time I brought a buyer to a listing and the owner’s tenant was cooking hotdogs on a Foreman grill,” Bromberg recalls. “It was an open layout, meaning the kitchen had no wall between itself and the living room. The hotdog became more memorable than the apartment.”

Pat Vosburgh, a licensed Realtor® with NextHome Gulf to Bay in St. Petersburg, FL, has had clients that never made it past the living room because of the overpowering scent of cigarette smoke.

“Smells can really break a deal,” she says.

The best scent in your house?

“The smell of nothing,” says Justin Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency, a Portland, OR–based firm that offers home staging. “It clearly communicates that the house is clean and stink-free.”

4. Evidence of your pets

You might accept the fact that your beloved German shepherd sheds his whole coat onto your couch cushions. But potential buyers won’t be as understanding.

“Yes, [buyers] will vacuum when they buy the home, but some feel they will never get all the hair up,” Vosburgh says.

And it’s not just hair that can gross them out.

Vosburgh remembers taking clients through one house and coming out covered in dog hair—and fleas.

“My husband had on dark pants, so he didn’t see them until we got in our car. They were jumping all over the place,” Vosburgh recalls. “We had hundreds on us.”

She had to flea-bomb her car. Her clients had to do the same.

“They were freaked out,” Vosburgh says. (Unsurprisingly, they didn’t make an offer on the home.)

“Nobody ever bought a house because it has evidence of a pet,” Riordan says. “They have, however, decided not to buy a house because it stunk, they were afraid, or allergic.”

5. Darkness

“Light is the No. 1 seller of homes,” Riordan says. “Please, for goodness’ sake, let in the light.”

He recalls one client who hated the fact that her living room window faced the street and insisted on heavy sheers to block the view—even though they kept the space in gloomy semidarkness.

“She left the sheers up against our request to take them down and when the house sat on the market for a few weeks, complained that our staging wasn’t working,” Riordan says.

He persuaded her to take down the draperies for just one open house.

“Funny enough, she had three offers by the end of it and the property sold for over asking,” he recalls. “Light. Sells. Spaces.”

6. Evidence of death or hoarding in the home

Jennifer Salomon works for a Central Florida company called Bio-One, which specializes in trauma scene cleanup and hoarding.

“We’ve cleaned everything from animal hoarding to decomposing bodies to homes covered entirely in trash,” Salomon says.

But here’s the thing: They’re not always called right away.

“We’ve had families who’ve tried to clean a past loved one’s home [before it goes on the market], and it just gets to be too much, both emotionally and physically,” Salomon says.

“I would not recommend a biohazard scene such as a crime or death that occurred in a home to be done by unlicensed professionals,” she adds. “It’s illegal and a huge safety concern for all involved.”

It’s also a deal breaker for buyers.

7. Any personal photos

A photo on the living room wall of you and your family at Disney World isn’t creepy (usually), but can still be a major turnoff to buyers.

“Everyone says this, and somehow no one believes it,” Bromberg says. “Every client I’ve had pushes back with ‘But the photos are professional,’ ‘They look like magazine photos,’ ‘My kids are cute,’ and ‘Families will want to see another family lived here.’”

It doesn’t matter.

Bromberg once toured a home where many of the family photos were “Star Wars”–themed—”like family members in full Yoda and Padmé regalia,” she says. “My buyers found it very awkward.”

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Do You Have to Disclose a Death in a House?


Do you have to disclose a death in a house? Some buyers may prefer not to think about this unpleasant subject, but others may insist on finding out what major life—and end-of-life—events occurred inside a prospective home.

Most sellers know they are obligated to disclose physical defects, like a faulty foundation or mold infestation, but what rules exist about disclosing a death? Let’s take a look.

Do sellers have to disclose a death in the house?

In most cases, if someone has passed away peacefully in a house, “there’s no legal obligation in most states requiring that [sellers] disclose it,” says Jason Wells, attorney and realtor and partner of Wells Law Group in Phoenix, AZ.

However, if you live in California, South Dakota, or Alaska, there are exceptions to the rule. In California, for example, any death on a property (peaceful or otherwise) needs to be disclosed if it occurred within the last three years. The seller must also disclose any known death in the home if the buyer asks. So if you live in one of these three states, check with your state’s housing authority.

What about disclosing a violent death?

Violent deaths that occur in a home are a different story. A murder or suicide—especially one that’s highly publicized—is considered an event that could stigmatize the property. Like physical damage (water damage, lead paint), this is seen as something that can affect the home’s value.

“If it’s a violent death, it becomes a marked property that people don’t necessarily want to become associated with,” says Wells.

Therefore, sellers in most states are required to disclose events like a murder on the property.

If the buyer asks about a death

Regardless of which state you live in, if the buyer asks whether a death has occurred in the home, you are legally required to tell them the truth or risk legal repercussions. If you aren’t upfront with a buyer early on, you also run the risk that the buyers may pull out of the agreement because they mistrust you—and assume that you’re hiding other things about the property.

Do your research

Katie Walsh, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Legacy One in Chandler, AZ, advises all her buyers to Google the address of the home they’re interested in. That might return news stories discussing a crime or murder in the home.

You can also visit, a site that searches through millions of records to determine whether a death has occurred at the address you enter.

It’s also a good idea to check a crime map or contact the local police department to get the statistics on crimes in the neighborhood where you’re thinking of buying. (Every listing has a section with crime data.)

The post Do You Have to Disclose a Death in a House? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

6 Reasons Why Selling a House in the Winter May Be the Best Decision Ever

Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Spring is generally the most popular time of year to sell a house, with hordes of buyers looking to move into a new place before the school year begins. But if you decide to sell your home during the winter, experts say you could reap a reward in cold, hard cash.

“I have personally had my best months in real estate during the holiday season, so the idea that the markets are very tough to sell in the winter might be a myth,” says Emil Hartoonian, managing partner of The Agency in Beverly Hills, CA.

He’s not the only one who believes selling in the winter can make you a real estate winner. Read on for the top reasons why you should consider unloading when the temperatures drop.

1. Low inventory = less competition

Since spring is the most popular home-selling season, the housing market is ultracrowded with options at that time of year. And if you paid attention during Econ 101, you understand the law of supply and demand.

“Most sellers still think they need to sell in the spring, but that means there is more competition for buyers’ attention,” says Matt Van Winkle, founder of Re/Max Northwest in Seattle.

But in the winter, there are fewer homes for sale. That competition over low inventory can make winter an ideal time to sell your home.

“In the Atlanta market, January is one of the strongest months for homes to go under contract,” says Ally May of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s.

2. You get to show your home’s winter-readiness

Selling in the winter also gives you the opportunity to show that a home is designed to handle the harsh elements.

“Sellers in places like Lake Tahoe can show off features like a south-facing driveway to speed up snow melting, how snow will fall off of a roof, a short driveway that will minimize shoveling or plowing, heat tape on the north side of the roof to avoid snow accumulation, and how recently the roof and furnace have been replaced,” says Sandy Soli, regional manager at Engel & Volkers in Lake Tahoe, NV.

Plus, during winter months, homes with features like fireplaces and hot tubs are certainly more appealing.

3. New parents may be looking to upgrade

The baby boom in September may lead to more buyers later in the year. According to data from the Center for Health Statistics and the Social Security Administration, there are more birthdays in the month of September than any other time of the year. Therefore, there’s likely to be a crop of growing families looking to buy a larger house.

“Once baby is home and settled, these parents may want to start the year in a new, and more spacious, family home,” according to Melissa Temple, real estate adviser and partner at Engel & Volkers in Aspen, CO.

4. Winter brings out the serious buyers

News flash: Not everyone looking at houses intends to make a purchase. Some people are contemplating moving and may just want to see what’s on the market. Since more homes tend to go on the market in spring and fall, this is also when window shoppers are likely to be out looking.

However, these looky-loos tend to be scarce during winter months, according to Jennifer Baldinger, licensed associate real estate broker at Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Scarsdale, NY.

“When I have buyers looking for homes in January and February, they’re real buyers looking to make a purchase—especially if it’s a great house. They don’t want to take the chance of waiting until spring and losing out on the home,” Baldinger says.

“There may be less people at these open houses, but I would rather have 10 real buyers come through than 20 people who are just curious,” she says.

5. Year-end financial bonuses and payouts

As a seller, year-end performance reviews could mean that more people have money to spend on a home.

“End-of-year financial bonuses or workers retiring with large payouts could mean opportunities for these buyers to upgrade their living situations or for first-time buyers to enter the housing market,” says Robert Taylor, owner of the Real Estate Solutions Guy, in Sacramento, CA.

6. Corporate relocation

You could also encounter buyers who are relocating for a job.

“One of the biggest months for corporate relocation is January/February, so those buyers, who need to move quickly, are out in full force looking for new homes,” Baldinger says.

Relocators typically have a limited amount of time to uproot their families and, as a result, don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time looking at properties. The kids need to get settled into school, and dealing with selling their old home can add another level of urgency and stress. So it’s likely that once they find a home that meets their requirements, these buyers will be ready to sign on the dotted line.

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