Jason Robie: Undoing the ugly

We’ve all see the billboards screaming “We Buy Ugly Houses.” For the sellers in the crowd, today’s lesson is about ignoring those billboards and focusing on making your home the opposite of ugly.

The first home I purchased was a bit on the ugly side, but in that case it was exactly what I was looking for. For some buyers, the lack of attention to the home’s aesthetics can be an attraction. Many buyers are looking for a fixer-upper and the sellers don’t need to do anything to attract them. For the rest of the buyers in the market, this is a big mistake. Let’s look at some of the more obvious areas that you can ensure that your potential buyers won’t do a 180 the second they walk through the front door.

First impressions are key to the buyer’s initial “feel” for the home. Once they cross that threshold, if the first thing they see is the wallpaper from the late '60s, chances are you have already lost them. If you (or they) have ever gone through the process of removing that wallpaper, you know the exhausting process that is in your future. Buyers will also likely see that as a big turn-off and have noted that in their attraction to the home, the amount they are willing to offer and the potential future headache.

As we have noted multiple times before, as a buyer your job is to remove any possible roadblocks towards getting to the closing table. Big repairs are an obvious no-no, but wallpaper should not fall into that category. There are lots of projects that take loads of time and money and most real estate professionals will dissuade you from tackling them before listing the home. Anything that could cost you money and add a significant “taste” to the home should be avoided. In the case of wallpaper, take the time to remove it and replace it with a nice, neutral-color paint. This eliminates that initial shock for the buyers and allows them to “see” the home with their own tastes much more easily.

The next most obvious “gotcha” is the kitchen cabinets. While replacing them is most certainly a big undertaking and expense, you can paint them, replace the hardware or even replace the doors. This allows for a neutral re-facing of the kitchen and is a lot easier on the wallet. It also gives the look of an updated kitchen which we all know helps to sell the home. Take the time to be sure your kitchen is modernized and the buyers will more likely pass right through without a glance.

We mentioned replacing the wallpaper with a neutral color and this goes for those funky colors you may have added to indulge your teenagers while they were growing up. It’s OK to indulge your creative fancies while you are living in the home, and I always actually encourage getting a little wild when you are painting a room or hallway. But if you are heading down the road of selling, get the paintbrushes out and tone down your funk. Your real estate agent will thank you and your buyers will again pass right through without a comment.

Whether you are aware of it or not, your home smells. No, not necessarily in a bad way but we do all have our own distinct “brand.” Add pets or kitchen “hiccups” to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. Invite a friend over after you have had the house closed up for a day or two and implore them to be brutally honest with you about their first “nasal” impressions. It is much easier hearing this from a friend than learning, after a dozen showings, that the smell of your home is turning folks away.

“Masking smells with cookies or candles is typically a sign of trouble for our more educated and experienced buyers,” notes Badger Realty agent, Debi Davis. She continued, “I always educate my buyers on strategies to eliminate those odors rather than masking them to ensure the home is fresh. As we head into the cooler months, open windows are no longer going to be an option.”

Right along the same lines as wallpaper and funky colored paint is the carpet. If your floors have seen better days and no amount of carpet cleaner is going to do the trick, talk to a professional about the most popular options for flooring and see if it fits the budget. Again, you don’t want to install something that the buyers are simply going to want to remove, but you can put down something that won’t break the bank and will satisfy the buyers for the first months or years they own the home.

Lastly, take a hard look at your light fixtures throughout the home. These are another of those options that are easy to replace, won’t break the bank and will make a world of difference during those showings. The presence of outdated fixtures is another of those turn-offs for buyers that are easily avoided. You can swap them out in a weekend and enjoy the updated look for as long as you live in the home. If you are careful with how much you spend, the buyers will also not feel so bad about replacing them when they move in.

Removing roadblocks for buyers is your No. 1 priority when selling a home. You are certainly not trying to be sneaky and “mask” the issues with the home. You are simply doing some relatively quick and easy updates that will help the buyers feel at home and avoid any conversations about contingencies and money-back at closing because you were being lazy. Get you home in the best shape you can and go easy on the wallet. You’ll find the whole process will be easier on you, your agent and the buyers.