We all have a checklist of requirements when searching for our dream property, but there will also be a list of definite viewing turn-offs that will potentially halt us in our tracks. From dirty kitchens to dated décor, some of these things could have your home buyer running in the opposite direction.
Here is a list of common problems that you might want to address before opening your doors to potential buyers.
Dirty kitchen and/or bathrooms
Many home buyers are struggling to sell across the country and, according to latest research by Rightmove, among 4,000 buyers found dirty kitchens and bathrooms to be a huge turn-off. Some people might say that this is purely cosmetic but simple things such as cleanliness can make a huge impact.
“Kitchens and bathrooms are two of the most personal and well-used areas of the home,” said Miles Shipside of Rightmove. “Many potential buyers will try to imagine themselves living in the property during a viewing, and having their senses offended by a lack of cleanliness or hygiene can be a real barrier.”
Perhaps closely linked to cleanliness and hygiene, bad odours can trigger the strongest negative reaction from buyers.
Property finder Sophia Mose-van Woensel said buyers: “might not even notice [smells] all that much at the time of viewing, while they’re concentrating on the layout and state of the house, but the thing with bad odours is that they create a subconscious bad impression that lingers. It gives them an overall ‘bad feeling’ about the house.”
So freshen up your property before any viewings. Make sure you put the bins out and air rooms, and you can go even further by lighting some scented candles or using homely smells such as baking, fresh coffee etc to entice any prospective buyers. Make sure you get rid of the source of any odours before doing this, as simply masking bad smells is unlikely to be successful. People want to imagine themselves in a homely environment so pleasant scents will help them to envision this.
Coloured bathroom suites
Different coloured bathroom suites were highly popular in the 1980s, with colours ranging from shell pink to avocado, but these days white suites look much more fresh, clean and modern. A coloured suite immediately dates the property and can knock anything up to £8,000 off the value. A white suite can be purchased for under £300, making it an affordable investment that will instantly transform your home and bring it bang up to date.
Nearby busy roads, motorways, airport runways and railway lines can all have an impact on your property, however convenient they may be when you live there.
“One of the most common instructions from my clients is that they don’t want to be able to hear any noise from aeroplanes or trains,” said London buying agent, Gabby Adler. “If your home is blighted by noise pollution, the obvious and hugely effective solution is double or even triple glazing.”
Spending money on new windows could be costly though, with a cost of perhaps £700-£900 for each window – and it doesn’t solve noise pollution when you’re sitting in your garden.
Unusual plants in the garden
“Although buyers pay more attention to the condition of the house than the garden, strange looking plants can send warning signals,” says Robert Lazarus of London estate agent, Paramount Properties. “If a buyer can’t recognise a plant, they fear it could be Japanese Knotweed.”
Japanese Knotweed is a major concern for property owners and buyers alike. The Environment Agency says that it is “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant” which can penetrate the foundations of buildings and its presence can make it impossible to obtain a mortgage on a property. Anything that resembles it, or an over-abundance of foliage in the garden, could ring alarm bells for some buyers.
Everyone will have a preference on the layout of their home, whether it’s a bungalow, house or flat. Young families might prefer open plan living over a separate kitchen/diner, and a bathroom on the first floor can be preferable to one on the ground floor.
In older properties, particularly terraced houses, it is not uncommon to find the bathroom situated on the ground floor behind the kitchen, or accessed via a bedroom, and neither option is ideal when you have young children or guests.
A dining room situated away from the kitchen so that food has to be carried through another room before reaching the table is another common problem.
Sellers who show you round
With more sellers trying to cut out the ‘middle man’ by using online estate agencies such as Purple Bricks, there is a higher chance that the person showing buyers around the property will be the seller rather than an estate agent.
For some potential buyers, there can be nothing more off-putting than the vendor doing the viewings, finding it difficult to express their feelings about the property for fear of causing offence. Your taste in décor might be very different from theirs, or they may want to overhaul the design of the whole house. Selling your home yourself can take considerably longer, opposed to the average three months it takes an estate agent.
Consider asking a trusted friend or family member to show potential viewers around.
Clutter can be a real distraction for buyers and detract from the outlook of the property, obscuring the positives and effectively making your home look smaller.
David Newnes of LSL Property Services describes clutter as a “killer” which he says: “As well as proving a distraction for buyers, having too much stuff around could give them the impression that there is a lack of adequate storage and space.”
If you can’t bring yourself to throw things away before you sell, consider putting what you don’t need into storage or look for better storage solutions. Your home can look bigger without personal items, such as ornaments and trinkets, and a blank canvas is more appealing for potential buyers. It’s good preparation for any potential move you make and makes everything appear tidier.
Untidy communal areas and limited parking
A messy communal area, inside or outside a property, can lead to buyers questioning how the area is managed and whether the obvious unkemptness extends beyond those areas.
Communal areas are often the first parts of the property seen by buyers and first impressions do count. Rightmove suggests that people often make a decision to buy in the hallway. Keep communal areas tidy, clean and clear of post, and consider a fresh coat of paint.
A lack of nearby parking can be an issue for some but, if this is the case, do your homework so that you can offer advice on parking permits or suggest nearby streets/areas where they can park for free.
Knowing that someone has died in a property can immediately put some people off, as can any signs of dead vermin or unwanted animals.
Property finder, Mose-van Woensel recently viewed a property that had been empty for approximately two years. “I walked over to the pool and saw twelve dead pigeons floating in it, in various stages of decomposition. It was an awful sight and I couldn’t imagine anyone ever wanting to swim in it. A pool can be cleaned, and dead animals removed, but that kind of thing is certain to put off buyers and definitely won’t give them the sensation that the house ‘feels right’.”
Superstition can play a role for house buyers from some cultures. Triskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia (the fear of number 13 or the fear of Friday 13th, to save you looking them up) are issues for some, but the numbers 6, 8 and 9 can positively influence Chinese buyers. In Mandarin, the number 6 sounds similar to ‘flow’ (everything will run smoothly), 8 signifies prosperity and wealth, and 9 is similar to the Chinese word for ‘longlasting’. Buyers will often include these numbers in their offer price, for instance offering £699,888 instead of £700,000. Conversely, Chinese buyers may be less motivated to look at a property with the unlucky number 4, because of its association with death!
The problem of having black ants in your home is less of an issue for those from the Philipines, though – they are an indication that you will become rich!
And finally …
Some of these issues are harder to fix than others, but you can make the property look as good as it possibly can by acting on any solvable issues. Remember, if you’re aware of the more troublesome issues then your buyers probably will be, too.
If you’re in the process of buying your dream property, make sure it doesn’t turn into a property nightmare. Ask an Independent Chartered Surveyor to carry out a building survey or home buyers survey.