How to Gross Out Potential Buyers (and Maybe Some of Your Friends) Without Knowing It

buyer turn off gross

While it’s not realistic to expect your house to look like page 67 of the Pottery Barn catalog every day that it’s on the market (especially if you’re still living there), it’s fair to say that nobody expects perfection like a potential home buyer. Sometimes sellers unwittingly have disturbing, or even disgusting, issues a buyer just can’t move past.

Clearly, “grossed out” is not the vibe you’re going for when trying to sell your home. Eliminating buyer turn-offs or the types of things most likely to trigger sensitivities in your potential buyers can make a big difference in how quickly your home sells!

I believe in being both gentle and straightforward with home sellers, so to help you out, I’ve compiled a list of some of the top offenders when selling a home…

  • “Odd” stuff. We’ve all got stuff in our homes that other people may find weird. The weird stuff is quirky and fun for dwelling, but it can be a big problem when selling. At best it’s a huge distraction for the home buyer, and at worst it may have them running for the door. During staging consultations I always recommend clients remove anything overtly religious, political, or sexual in nature. But over the years I’ve encountered a number of other items that fall into the “might make buyers extremely uncomfortable” category, including (but not limited to) most forms of taxidermy, large collections of porcelain dolls, bongs and other drug paraphernalia, S&M equipment, and evidence of hoarding (e.g., piles of trash and old magazines). Bottom line: if you’re not sure something very personal to you will feel odd to buyers, just go ahead and remove it before you list your home.
  • Carpeted anything in the bathroom. Bathrooms are a high-moisture area, making carpet a breeding ground for mold and mildew, and home buyers know it. If you can afford to do it, rip it out and install tile or another flooring more suitable for wet areas before listing your home. While you’re at it, go ahead and tuck away any bath mats for photos and showings — not only will they make the space seem visually smaller, a lot of buyers will actually tip-toe and hop over them when viewing your home. And lose the fuzzy toilet seat covers as well (even if you’re not selling…this is not a trendy thing anymore.)
  • Evidence of pests. Many times I have walked into a home and instantly been hit with the smell of mothballs. After recovering from the intense, and what I consider overpowering smell of camphor, my next thought is always “What are these sellers fighting to keep out of their house? Rats? Snakes?” Potential buyers do not want a house that immediately requires bug bombing. Or that needs critters chased out. Hire professional pest control to address the issues before the home hits the market. Hide poison, bug spray, and traps when showing your home.
  • Evidence of pets. I love pets. I have pets. But not everybody does. And even if they do, most buyers don’t appreciate seeing open litter boxes or tufts of animal fur floating across the floor. Keep your home well vacuumed, swept, and mopped while on the market and regularly launder any washable textiles that can hold pet odor (blankets, bedding, pillows). Hide food bowls and litter boxes for showings, and absolutely take your pet off the premises if at all possible when buyers come calling. If you’re unable to take pets off the property, keep them in a kennel (no roaming kitties or dogs locked in a room) — it’s safer for the buyers and safer for your pet.
  • Sticky, greasy kitchen cabinets. Years of delicious, home-cooked meals sometimes result in sticky, spattered grease build-up on cabinets around the stove area. Use the vent hood often when frying food, keep its filters clean, and open windows when possible when cooking. Wipe down after every meal prep to keep grease manageable, and be sure to do a thorough de-greasing of all areas before listing your home. We really like Krud Kutter for this job (make sure to test an inconspicuous area before wiping down all your surfaces):

Krud Kutter 305373 Kitchen Degreaser All-Purpose Cleaner, 32 oz

Have you ever been turned off or grossed out by something you saw while shopping for new homes? Share it with us in the comments!

Need a Little Help?

If you need some help identifying those “gross out” triggers, contact the experts at Three Bears Home Staging to schedule a consultation!

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Published by Vannessa Rhoades, Three Bears Home Staging

Vannessa Rhoades is the author of "Just Right! Easy DIY Home Staging" and the founder of the award-winning firm, Three Bears Home Staging®. She specializes in providing positive and empowering consultations to help homeowners sell more quickly and for more money. Vannessa has staged and consulted on hundreds of properties, both in person throughout the Houston metro area and virtually across the country.

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