Places to Clean in Your Home that You Wouldn’t Expect Buyers to Check During a Showing

A local real estate expert shares tips for making homes presentable for potential buyers.

What a nightmare: your house is being shown to a potential buyer, and they decide to lift the toilet seat lid in one of the bathrooms to find an unflushed toilet. Or, imagine forgetting that there is a showing scheduled, and prospective buyers walking in while you’re in the middle of cooking chicken fajitas in a messy kitchen.

These are just a couple of examples that Grant Montgomery, a real estate broker at The Collins Group out of Saint Charles, IL, recounted from his experience showing homes in the Chicagoland area over the last couple of years.

Hiccups like these prove that nothing is off limits during a showing, and how important it is to be prepared for homebuyers that will explore every nook and cranny of your place.

“The old cliché that ‘you have one chance to make a first impression’ greatly applies to real estate.” Montgomery said. “A buyer knows within in the first 30 seconds if a home is for them or not.”

So how do you prepare? Montgomery suggests the (seemingly) obvious suggestions of: deep cleaning, organizing closets and kids’ toy rooms, garage spaces and basements, decluttering kitchen counters, depersonalizing the home by removing photos from walls and neutralizing smells, especially of pets.

But beyond the basics, there are ways to prepare for showings before a property is even listed.

“I always recommend general upgrades or changes,” Montgomery said. “The purpose is to make your home appeal to more buyers.”

A few layers of a neutral paint color like beige, tan or gray on walls and cabinets can make a big difference in the perceived freshness or cleanliness of a home. Montgomery added that on occasion, he recommends new carpet or refinishing of hardwood floors before a listing.

In terms of unexpected exploration, Montgomery said that different buyers focus on different specifics that matter most to them. He has experienced some buyers that have more detailed requests than others, such as not wanting to see any houses with staircases facing the front door, or not seeing any homes with carpet. But in most cases, people focus on kitchens and bathrooms because they require the most expensive upgrades. Some savvy buyers will examine the furnace, water heater, roof and exterior of a home before signing a deal. However, most do not, and leave that up to the inspector to asses.

Beyond the home itself, there is one key thing that a seller can do to increase their chances of making a sale: don’t be in the house during a showing.

“When selling your home, it is important that you are not at the showing when the prospective buyer arrives,” Montgomery said. “Seeing a homeowner at a showing creates a very uncomfortable feeling for the buyer and it naturally forces the buyer to rush through the showing. A buyer wants to mentally move into the home and picture their family living in the property. They also want to speak freely to their agent or significant other. The homeowner being at the showing, more times than not, does more harm than good.”

A potential buyer is going to be the most judgmental houseguest you will ever invite inside, for good reason. While hiccups can still occur, be sure there are no literal skeletons in your closet and that your toilets are flushed.