Fright and flight: 5 issues that’ll spook potential buyers

Our historic sizzling hot seller’s market has given sellers the impression they can do almost anything and still sell their home. We have certainly seen some horrific examples over the past few years of homes improperly prepared, yet still receiving multiple offers over asking price.

When the market shifts and slows down, however, things change. Buyers, suddenly faced with lower prices and more available inventory to choose from, will beat a hasty exit if something gives them the creeps.

Want to avoid giving a buyer the chills this Halloween? Avoid these five things:

1. Zombie sellers

This is what we call homeowners who insist on hovering around prospective buyers during showings. Buyers hate having the sellers present; it’s a known fact they prefer to freely examine and discuss properties with their key decision makers and their agent without being overheard.

Buyers will often hastily depart leave if a seller is skulking close by. This also applies to sellers who might want to monitor their homes electronically and listen in or watch video while buyers are in the home. Want to totally spook a buyer? Follow them with rotating cameras as they view the home.

2. Pet cemeteries

Anyone with a a beloved pet understands that some pet owners choose to honor the memory of their deceased pet by immortalizing their remains in the rear yard.

Unfortunately, this can cause issues for prospective purchasers who cannot imagine what they will do with the headstones, small gated areas and other memorials left behind after the sellers depart. Nothing gives buyers the heebie-jeebies more than a pet cemetery in a corner of the yard.

3. Sickly colors

Over the years, I have seen numerous colors in bedrooms. Although some can be expected, such as varying shades of pink, I have observed CalTrans orange, firetruck red, Barney purple, fluorescent lime green and more.

The worst color, however, is black. Your teen might love their Goth-inspired environment, but if sellers want to sell their home, it is best to paint over hair-raising paint schemes with more traditional colors.

4. Undisclosed deaths

With new aging-in-place trends, it is becoming increasingly common for people to pass away at home. When a death occurs, the remaining sellers (in some states) have legal obligations to disclose.

Although some occupants die of natural causes, some sellers must contend with suicides and, in extreme cases, homicides. I have personally sold a few homes where the deceased remained in the home undiscovered for an extended period after their demise, requiring removal and detoxification of the premises by hazmat crews.

Failure to correctly disclose any death can lead to serious legal issues. You can guarantee that if the seller fails to disclose, the next door neighbor will more than likely bring it up along with all the ghastly details the first week the new buyers move in.

5. Unwanted residents

Over the years of showing homes, I have waded through massive accumulations of spiderwebs, observed rats scurrying about, found mouse traps complete with deceased victims and seen unsavory insects of varying kinds.

A great way to resolve issues like this, especially in vacant homes, is to hire a pest abatement service. We have also had increasing numbers of homeless individuals “move in” to vacant homes. Imagine buyers and their agents walking into an unlit home in the evening and being confronted by “residents” who should not be there.

Buying a home can be scary all by itself: Work with your sellers to keep on top of these five issues, and you can prevent buyer fright and flight.

Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.

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