Almost every Realtor has had a listing that just sits there…no offers, maybe even after a price reduction or two. Why? Because if it’s not on top of a hazardous waste landfill, there are two things wrong with the house: Buyers either don’t like the price or are turned off by the MLS photos.

The price is your specialty, so I’m not touching that one! But the MLS photos are in my wheelhouse, and I’ve seen a LOT of bad photos of unappealing rooms and houses in my dozen years as an Accredited Home Staging Professional (ASP). Here’s my list of the top 10 “sales killers” you should counsel your sellers to address when prepping their houses.

  1. Overgrown, weedy vegetation, dirty/moldy house exterior, cracked walkways and driveways.  If buyers don’t get a fantastic impression before they even walk into the house, you’ve lost them already. And the front porch has to be impeccable because buyers often are cooling their jets while their Realtor is fiddling with the lockbox.
  2. Insufficient or outdated lighting. I call light fixtures the “jewelry” of MLS photos. Up-to-date, bright lights tell buyers that the sellers have kept the house well maintained and take pride in the property.
  3. Wallpaper and wallpaper borders. Yes, wallpaper is gaining popularity, but it’s risky. It’s tied to sellers’ decorating tastes and hardly ever looks neutral enough to appeal to everyone.
  4. Outdated appliances/bathrooms. Buyers are paying far more than they want to for houses in this market, so they’re short on funds to take on renovation projects. They may be stuck with what’s in the house they buy.
  5. Colorful wall paint. It’s the same issue as wallpaper. StagingCraft has a list of tried-and-true neutral colors for interior and exterior walls.
  6. Personal photos/belongings. Buyers need to be able to easily imagine themselves living in a house they tour. Rooms filled with the sellers’ personal items make that difficult.
  7. Clutter. The worst house photos online are the ones with rooms jam-packed with furniture and “stuff.” Pack up as much as possible BEFORE the photos are taken.
  8. Dirt/dust/mold. Every house needs to be professionally cleaned once just prior to listing, by a reputable cleaning service that does NOT already service the listing. Sellers and their regular cleaners may have stopped noticing problem areas years ago.
  9. Outdated furniture. It may not be practical to replace older, large, dark furniture (think flowered sofas, worn recliners and armoires/oversized bedroom sets). If possible, move some of it to the garage or a storage unit and then refresh rooms with inexpensive, colorful canvas art (Marshall’s, Home Sense, Walmart). Add plain white or off-white pillows to dark furniture, and replace dark, heavily patterned bedcovers with white or off-white spreads and pillows to make bedrooms look brighter and bigger in photos.
  10. Cooking or other odors. Every house has a particular “smell” based on how people live in it. Sellers should professionally clean carpets and upholstered furniture, avoid frying food or using heavy spices, keep bathrooms and kitty litter boxes immaculate, and take mothballs and cedar out of clothes closets.

Use this list as a tool to guide your sellers in prepping their houses. My one-time Walk and Talk consultations cover these areas and more!