Halloween is just around the corner, and many Lakes Region homes are adorned with fake cobwebs, skeletons, jack-o’-lanterns and other frightful decorations designed to deliberately spook local trick-or-treaters. That’s all fine and well, but what if aspects of your listed home are unintentionally scaring away potential buyers, as if your house were haunted?

Following are a few common home-selling ghosts that can frighten buyers and haunt would-be sellers, along with some fear-busting remedies:

The undead roof — Regardless of their actual backgrounds, many prospective home-buyers peer and squint and become amateur roofing inspectors when they step out of the car to see a property. Roof concerns can have a chilling effect before they even set foot inside.

According to the roofing experts at the National Roof Certification and Inspection Association (NRCIA), a nonprofit organization that certifies more than 1,100 roof inspectors, “Roof deficiencies are the most common problem reported by home inspection associations. Thirty percent of real estate inspection claims are due to roof leaks and water penetration. Thirty-nine percent of homeowner’s insurance claims are because of roof problems.”

The fear buster — If your home’s roof is nearing the end of its projected lifespan, replacement could help you close more quickly when it comes time to sell. Otherwise, you might be able to calm fears in prospective buyers by proactively communicating the facts on your roof’s age and construction.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that most roofing products are designed to last at least several decades under normal weather conditions:

• Asphalt shingles: About 20 years (though higher-quality asphalt shingles may be warrantied for up to 50 years).

• Architectural asphalt: About 30 years on average.

• Wood shingles and shakes: Estimated lifetime of 30 years.

• Metal: The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors projects metal roofing to last 40 to 80 years.

• Slate, concrete or clay tiles: Rated for a life expectancy of 100 years or more.

Research what the experts report regarding your roofing material’s life expectancy, and list in your seller’s disclosure when the roof was last updated. Sellers and listing agents cannot offer their own warrantees on remaining roof life, but if you can provide legitimate third-party evidence to suggest there may be years or decades left in the roof, you may be able to minimize fears in buyers.

Creaking doors — Doors that shriek and moan when being opened, or that mysteriously resist opening, are expected features in haunted houses, not in hunted houses. For all my clients and I know, that coat closet we were never able to open may have had an actual skeleton inside!

But, seriously, jammed windows and creaky doors can stop showing momentum and alarm buyers who want to invest their hard-earned money into a well-kept home.

The fear buster — Expect prospective buyers to open and close all doors (and maybe even windows) in the home. It’s always a good idea to walk through the property, pretending you are a curious buyer visiting for the first time.

WD40 is to squealing door hinges what holy water is to vampires. Get out the sandpaper and smooth down door edges so they open and close quietly and properly.

Zombie appliances — What’s got a green complexion and just won’t die? No, it’s not a zombie, it’s those 40-year-old appliances still haunting properties today.

While many prospective buyers don’t actually know roofs, they know outdated appliances when they see them, which can cause them to anxiously wonder what else in the home needs replacing.

The fear buster — If your old, white refrigerator is yellowing like a mummy’s wrappings, or your stovetop is harvest gold, it might be time to update to stainless steel. New appliances can have the exact opposite effect of old ones, sending a reassuring signal that you care about and for the property, potentially making buyers less anxious and more excited. Otherwise, consider adjusting the selling price to compensate.

Title Terrors — A “title” is the very important document that demonstrates ownership, so title problems can quickly spook buyers away.

For example, conveyance without a recorded deed sometimes happens during transfers between family members, which can later interfere with or even inhibit the sale of your home. Title research can reveal accurate or inaccurate liens, such as a paid-off mortgage that is still showing up as a valid lien on the property, or a “mechanic’s lien” that was filed for work done on the house by a subcontractor.

The fear buster — Just as it is advisable for buyers to get pre-approved for financing, it is advisable for sellers to be similarly proactive with regards to title.

Contact your title company, find out what you must do to prepare for selling, and address any issues promptly. Whether valid or invalid, listed liens must be addressed. It’s better to identify and address any issues early and proactively.

The Ghost of Odors Past — There’s an adage in real estate that says, “If I can smell it, I can’t sell it.” In the fertile imaginations of nervous prospective buyers, a musty smell can quickly evoke images of mold and mildew monsters lurking and spreading behind the walls.

The fear buster — You may have heard the term “noseblind” on those FeBreeze commercials. I looked into it. It’s an actual cognitive adaptation, a real condition! If you’re noseblind to the smell of your home, get an honest opinion from a friend, neighbor or your friendly neighborhood Realtor. Then do whatever you must to tackle mustiness and other odors. Proactively address any mold and mildew buildup, pet urine on the carpet, or smoke odor.

The opposite of a haunted house experience is an inviting house. There’s nothing like entering a house and smelling something like fresh-baked cookies, whether in the form of actual baked goods or scented candles.

Have a happy Halloween, but if you’re going to spook anyone, make sure it’s trick-or-treaters, not prospective home buyers!


Brent Metzger is a Realtor® with Roche Realty Group. Contact him at 603-229-8322 or brent@rocherealty.com. To learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market, visit www.RocheRealty.com.

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