7 features that could deter property buyers

house hands ladySelling your house can be stressful as it is, but you'll be facing an uphill battle if your property has these issues.

A few months ago, it seemed an easy task to sell a home in most Australian capital cities. The news abounded with stories of derelict properties fetching mind-boggling prices.

However, times are changing rapidly. The property market is cooling, and sellers now face an environment where buyers are gaining the upper hand. Some of the defects, oddities and quirks buyers might have overlooked in a property during the red-hot housing boom could now be dealbreakers.

If your property has any of the seven features below, you could be discouraging potential buyers.

1. Dirt and grime

Research by UK property website Rightmove found that dirty kitchens and bathrooms were the number one turn-off for potential property buyers. In a poll of 4,000 buyers, 26% rated dirty kitchens, while 28% flagged dirty bathrooms as major deterrents.

If you're trying to sell your house without first doing a deep clean, you could be putting off potential buyers. Unlike some other items on the list, this one's fortunately an easy fix.

If you're planning a number of open homes, it can be difficult to keep your house in constant showroom condition. However, what you can do is make sure your home is free of clutter.

Also, focusing your cleaning efforts on the kitchen and bathrooms before each inspection can pay huge dividends. They're the areas buyers will give the most attention.

2. Graffiti

Brick wall tagged with graffiti.

If you live in an urban environment, it can be hard to avoid graffiti. While legitimate street art could actually be a point of difference and attract a certain type of buyer, wanton tagging can make even the nicest home appear rundown.

The best deterrent to graffiti is to clean it off as soon as it appears, so the perpetrators don't get the satisfaction of having their work on display. To clean graffiti, start with a small test area to ensure you don't do widespread damage. Try using detergent, and if this doesn't work move on to methylated spirits.

If you have an exterior wall that's graffiti-prone, you may want to also invest in some motion-sensitive security lights. This can scare off would-be vandals before they even get a chance to shake their spray cans.

3. Landscaping

An overgrown garden can be a huge damper to potential buyers, but a bare patch of dirt can be nearly as off-putting.

It's worth investing some money in your garden before you show your property to potential buyers. Your front garden will help make a first impression and boost your home's kerb appeal. Your back garden will help potential buyers imagine the lifestyle your home could afford them.

Gardenworld.com.au puts the investment you should make in a tidy garden in good perspective. The site points out that if you're selling a home for $750,000, a $1,000 investment in getting your garden up to scratch represents a mere 0.13% of the sale price.

4. Garish decorA bass fish mounted on a pink wall.

Even if it's design-forward, divisive decor can limit your pool of buyers. While you might love your brightly-coloured feature wall, outlandish light fixtures or unique wallpaper, you're banking on buyers having the same tastes.

Most design elements are easily-changed by would-be buyers, but that doesn't stop them from being put off by your aesthetic. In general, err toward a neutral palette. You want buyers to be able to envision themselves living in your home, and it can be difficult to see past decor that is too eclectic.

5. Bad smells

If you have indoor pets or are a smoker, odds are you don't notice the lingering smells around your home. However, rest assured that potential buyers will.

If a buyer's first impression of your home is a bad odour, it's likely to be the one thing they remember about your property. Fortunately, this is often easily remedied.

If the odour is the result of pets, you can purchase enzyme sprays at most pet supply stores that help break down pet odours on a molecular level. If the damage is particularly bad, you may have to remove carpets, or in the case of timber floors, put rugs down over problem areas.

If the odour is the result of cigarette smoke, you'll have a bit more work ahead of you. You'll need to wash down every non-fabric surface in the house with diluted vinegar. You can use baking soda to remove odours from furniture and rugs.

6. Strange floor plansQuirky floorplan map.

Different buyers may have different preferences when it comes to house layouts. Some may prefer to enter from the street into the lounge, while others prefer bedrooms at the front of the house and the lounge and kitchen at the rear. However, strange layouts can be a near-universal turn-off.

Older houses can often have floor plans that seem to defy explanation or common sense, with toilets entered through the dining area, bedrooms directly adjoined to the lounge or claustrophobic kitchens walled off from the rest of the house.

These strange floor plans can deter potential buyers. It may not be feasible or practical to rectify a bizarre layout, but it could be worth looking into the cost of renovation if your home’s floor plan proves too big an obstacle to buyers.

7. Proximity to a main road

If your house is on or close to a main road, it could give buyers pause. Road noise, traffic dangers and difficulty parking could seriously narrow your market.

This is a feature that you can't really fix, but you may be able to mitigate the damage it does to your potential pool of buyers. Try to add features to your home that minimise road noise and maximise privacy. Heavy shutters, double-glazed windows and trees and hedges can help create a feeling of serenity in spite of traffic noise.

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Image: Shutterstock

Adam Smith

Adam has more than five years of experience writing about the Australian home loan market.

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