Ever spend the night at a friend’s or relative’s house where they reveal some quirky shortcoming in their home? Say, the light switch in the guest room works the opposite way you’d expect (down for on, up for off), or you have to jiggle the toilet handle a few times to make it flush. These foibles might not seem like a big deal, but they could be—if you’re trying to sell your house.
“You can never predict what switch a buyer will turn on or what door a buyer will open,” warns Martin Eiden, a broker with Compass in New York City. “If one thing isn’t right, it sends a message to the buyer’s brain saying, ‘If this small thing is broken, what major things are?’”
But what, specifically, are some of the most common quirks that could turn off buyers? Here are some of the flaws that you really should repair if you hope for a swift and smooth home sale.
1. Stuck front door
Don’t make it so the agent has to shove a shoulder into the front door to open it. You need a welcoming and well-working front door that swings open and closes smoothly without much effort. A carpenter can usually make a well-worth-it adjustment to the frame for sticky doors.
2. Wobbly ceiling fan
Ever see one of those wobbling, rattling fans in action? It’s not pretty. Tighten or replace ceiling fans that look like they are about to take flight from the ceiling, so they don’t send buyers running for cover.
3. Backward hot and cold water faucets
Nothing says failed DIY like cold water coming out when the hot water is turned on, and hot water coming out when cold is turned on, says Candice Williams, an agent with Re/Max Space Center in League City, TX. If you have switched faucets or pipes, set them right or hire a plumber.
4. Shaky banister
The screws are about to fall out and your stair railing is so shaky the next guest could take a tumble. This issue is not only unsightly but also downright dangerous, says Nancy Wallace-Laabs, a broker at KBN Homes, a real estate investment company in Frisco, TX, and author of “Winning Deals in Heels.”
Check banisters, stair supports, and any railings to make sure they are secured properly.
5. Overstuffed closets
No squeaky doors and hinges or off-the-track rollers allowed.
“Have everything neatly organized and have all closets and cabinets at least 20% empty,” says Eiden. Overstuffed storage tells the buyer, “This home doesn’t have enough space!”
6. Cranky garage door
Make sure your garage door opens smoothly and without excess noise.
“You might know how to get that garage door up, but you don’t want the agent struggling with it when he or she is showing the house,” says broker Robin Kencel of Compass in Greenwich, CT.
7. Noisy toilet
“A noisy toilet often just needs a new toilet flapper,” says Craig Russell, CEO of The English Contractor, a contracting and building firm in Cincinnati.
For under $10, you can ensure your toilet flushes well, because inevitably, someone will use the restroom at your open house.
8. Propped-up windows
Repair or replace windows that need to be propped open because their spring is shot.
Chess Valenti, a home stager at Staged in Geneva, IL, has seen bathroom windows propped open with shampoo bottles. This is not a look that gets offers.
9. Backyard gate that drags on the ground
You don’t want the agent opening the gate to your beautiful garden only to hear it scrape noisily on the pavers, concrete, or ground. Gates should be trimmed and adjusted over time so they continue to open smoothly about 2 inches off the ground.
10. Squeaky floors
Over time, nails in the subfloor loosen and rub, creating that squeak. If you can’t get to your subfloor easily to install a few screws, try sprinkling talcum powder around the noisy floorboards and sweeping into cracks in the floor to shush squeaks.
11. Unprofessional patch jobs
“Putty, caulk, and paint make the carpenter what he ain’t,” says Russell, referencing the liberal use of these materials by some sellers to put cosmetic bandages over imperfections in a home.
He’s seen holes filled with caulk instead of being properly patched, cardboard wedged into doors to keep them closed instead of having the lock adjusted, or painted-over water spots on walls or ceilings instead of repairing the source of the leak.
Have leaks and damage repaired properly, and make sure any cosmetic work looks like it was never done.
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