Your house is on the market, and you’ve thrown all your energy into sprucing up its curb appeal and scrubbing your kitchen and bathrooms until they shine. So you think to yourself: The bedroom is just fine the way it is, right? After all, you made the bed!
Here’s a tip: Your bedroom is not fine the way it is.
“While your bedroom might be your private sanctuary, it is made public when your home is on the market,” says Daniele Kurzweil, a licensed real estate salesperson with the Friedman Team at Compass in New York City. “We’ve always found that the intimate nature of someone’s bedroom seems to get a reaction when the sellers don’t let their real estate agent stage it.”
And that reaction is by no means always positive.
According to the pros, here are the items in your bedroom most likely to make potential buyers run for the exit.
1. Mr. Whiskers’ litter box
Brett Ari Fischer, an associate broker at Lee & Associates Residential NYC in New York, has had buyers who were turned off because a bed wasn’t made, there were light stains on the floor, or even worse, a strong odor from a pet.
“I had a client legitimately almost throw up when she walked into a bedroom that smelled like cat urine,” Fischer recalls. “It was especially unfortunate, as the apartment was actually quite gorgeous.”
Remove any evidence of your pet before a home showing, including litter boxes, toys, and, of course pet hair. And remember: Even if you can’t smell your pet, other people can. Remove dog and cat odors before you throw open the doors for the public.
2. Boudoir photos
“I’m sure it’s fun to take saucy boudoir photos for your spouse,” says Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect and founder of the Portland, OR-based home-staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency. “But honestly, it only will evoke one of three emotions with potential home buyers: laughter, disgust, or ill-timed physical responses—none of which will help you sell your home.”
Riordan’s rule should be easy enough to follow: “Time to put that glamour shot away.”
3. Medical equipment
“I know CPAP machines keep you from suffocating in your sleep and are the absolute best for curing sleep apnea,” Riordan says of continuous positive airway pressure therapy. “However, they’re super gross for anyone that is not the user of the machine.”
Because CPAP machines—or any medical equipment, for that matter—evoke feelings of anxiety rather than inspiration, put them away prior to showings, Riordan advises.
4. Sex toys
You knew this one was coming into play. Bob Gordon, a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Boulder, CO, once worked with a home inspector who, during a routine inspection, checked under the master bedroom sink for leaks. What he found there instead? A pair of sex toys.
“He told me he sees stuff like this ‘hidden’ all too frequently,” Gordon says. “You’d think owners would understand that if they really want something out of sight, they need to get it out of the house for that day.”
5. Lotion or other lubricants
It’s not only explicit sex toys that are a problem. We know the bedroom is where the magic happens, but let’s be honest: Even a hint of sexual activity can turn off a buyer, the pros say.
For instance, “Your hands get dry sometimes, right? Mine too,” Riordan says. “However, lotion combined with a box of tissues on your nightstand connotes a whole other activity that has not a single thing to do with eczema. Put them away.”
Another thing potential buyers don’t want to think about? Your grubby clothes.
But a hamper of clothes on the floor—or even neatly folded socks left out on your bed—makes that hard to do.
“It doesn’t matter if [your laundry] is dirty or clean,” Riordan says. “Other people’s laundry is downright gross. Fold it up and put it away before showings.”
7. Locks on bedroom doors
While touring a home once, Riordan spied a lock on the outside of a child’s bedroom door.
“It was very subtle, but it was more than three years ago, and we still wonder what the heck was going on there,” he says.
“If you need a lock on a bedroom, fine,” he adds. “Just make sure it locks from the inside.”
8. Mirrors (and more)
Kurzweil recalls touring a listing with a client where all was going well—until they walked into a bedroom with mirrors on the ceiling and a life-sized photo of the wife—nude—hanging above the bed.
“The agent showing us the apartment was so embarrassed, and explained that no matter what she said, the owners would not take down the photo,” Kurzweil says.
The reason? The couple “thought the wife looked ‘smoking hot’ and wanted to show off,” she says. But “my client was turned off to the idea of the apartment and could not see herself living there, no matter what the renovations.”
Kurzweil’s advice when you prep your bedroom for a showing is: Play it safe.
“You want people to walk into your bedroom and feel like they’re walking into a hotel suite at the Ritz,” she says.