Home buyers and their Realtors don’t have many properties to view in Silicon Valley due to the critically low inventory. So it may be easy to get showings if you are selling a home. But are there any hidden messages once they get there? The best real estate agents are looking for the “red flags” and will be sure to alert their clients to potential issues.
Hidden messages about home odors
Perhaps the most common property issue that some home owners want to mask is a bad odor of some kind. Frequently it’s pet odor, but it could be cooking smells, mildew, cigarette or other smoke, incense, or any number of things that may not appeal to home buyers.
To try to freshen up the place, windows and even doors may be left open – even while the heat is running full blast. This may be a signal of an odor challenge. Sometimes scented candles may be lit, or air fresheners utilized. One old piece of advice had been to bake cookies or bread, which is supposed to give the buyers a homey feel – and may send them running for a snack instead.
Of course, the opposite could be true, too, if there are fumes coming from outside (mushroom farms, sewage processing plant, farms, some food processing plants) and the house or condo is totally closed up on a beautiful, mild day.
While these actions may mean nothing at all, they could be a red flag for odors.
My suggestion is to try to remove or neutralize the odors, and to disclose the past presence of them, rather than to try to mask them. Neutralizing bad smells can be a bit of work, especially if you’ve had a smoker in the house. In some cases, it may not be possible to eliminate the unpleasantness, and the next buyer may have to do extensive renovations, such as removing sheetrock. Simply disclose it. There are buyers looking to renovate.
If the buyers find out about a problem after the close of escrow, there will be a much bigger problem on your hands. It’s never worth it to skirt or minimize disclosures. They are “disclosure obligations”.
Hidden messages about noise
In urban and suburban Silicon Valley alike, it is difficult (if not impossible) to get completely away from vehicular noise. In some communities, it’s freeway or road sounds, worsened by heavy buses or trucks – where allowed. In others it could be a train. And others still may be in the flight path to San Jose’s international airport. Or multiple problems.
To mitigate unpleasant sounds, some home owners or their listing agents will play music or perhaps add a fountain or other water feature. These may create a better ambiance, but it’s best to be upfront about every potential issue so that buyers are not fooled – and angry later. Buyers’ agents may perceive white noise added to the mix as a red flag.
Things don’t stay hidden when you move out
Whatever was hidden will eventually be noticed – the big stain in the hardwood floor that was concealed by a large area rug won’t be a secret when the place is empty. Nor will the plate sized hole in the sheetrock which was unseen due to the careful placement of a tall trash can remain a secret. So, too, with smells and sounds. Once the buyers move in, whatever a seller might be tempted to hide will no longer be hidden.
At the end of a sale, the sellers have the money and the buyers have the house – and any issues. If the new owners buy knowing all the problems upfront, they will be far more likely to be happy than if they have a bad surprise later.
In other words, the best “hidden messages” you and your home can give is this: we’re giving full disclosure, we’re transparent. What you see (and smell) is what you get.