4 deal breakers for homebuyersby April Dykman
When a buyer walks into a home, there can be any number of reasons they might turn around and immediately walk out. Houses with these problems can sit on the market for months, if they ever sell at all.
The following are four common deal breakers for homebuyers.
No. 1: The backyard isn’t family-friendly.
“I once listed a beautiful five-bedroom house that buyers fell in love with the minute they walked in,” says Lynda Conway, a real estate agent on the Turner Team in Austin, Texas. “But when they saw the backyard, their faces fell.”
The sellers’ $50,000 swimming pool took up the entire backyard. “There was no place for kids to play in the backyard or green spaces for pets,” says Conway. “Not one blade of grass.”
The home didn’t sell until the owners eventually paid $15,000 to fill in the pool and landscape the backyard.
Conway recalls another backyard that was covered with brick walkways and xeriscaped beds. “You can’t play football or kickball in a maze of walkways and shrubs,” she says.
No. 2: There’s a crack in the foundation.
“Many buyers walk away from foundation problems,” says Janet Murdock, a real estate agent in Austin, Texas.
That’s because foundation issues can cause a cascade of other pricey repairs. Murdock currently has a seller who has to cover $24,000 in foundation repairs, plus another $10,000 for plumbing and cosmetic repairs caused during the foundation repair.
But one way or another, the foundation has to be fixed. Indeed, most lenders require foundation problems to be repaired before closing. “If a seller can’t afford to fix the foundation, they might have to take out a loan and pay it off after the home closes,” says Murdock.
Unfortunately, even a fixed foundation can be a deal breaker, explains Murdock. Buyers “worry that even with a lifetime warranty on foundation repairs, when they decide to sell the home, the past foundation issues will scare off future buyers,” she says.
No. 3: Personal belongings.
“I was showing a house to one couple, and when we walked into the master bedroom, hanging above the bed was a very seductive, life-size photo of the wife,” says Conway. “My clients walked out of the house.”
Despite the fact that the sellers’ agent said the photo was turning every buyer off, the sellers refused to take down the photo.
“Personal property that owners will take with them still affects buyers and how they view the house,” explains Conway.
No. 4: The house is dirty or smelly.
“If the house is filthy, that’s a huge minus,” says Murdock.
In particular, smells from pets, food and cigarette smoke are huge turnoffs. Conway recalls one house that two smokers lived in for more than 40 years. It required a $2,000 detox which included professional cleaning of the duct work, deodorizing the entire house, and applying sealant and paint to the walls. “If you open the front door and an awful smell hits you, buyers won’t even bother walking in,” she says.
Of course, houses with these issues can and do sell, if the sellers are willing to drop the price. “In urban areas especially, properties that are priced low enough will sell, even if the house is a mess,” says Murdock.
But sellers who need to sell quickly or want top-dollar have to remedy buyer turn-offs. “Price is based on condition and location,” says Conway. “You can’t change the location, but you can usually change the condition.”