Sometimes you need to shield your eyes and have a sense of humorWhen you’re in and out of people’s homes, sometimes you experience things that you don’t expect and don’t want to see.  Some homes should come with a warning: shield your eyes! And have a sense of humor, if at all possible!

The other day, I met with a Silicon Valley appraiser at a home that I have under contract in the Santa Teresa area of San Jose.  She informed me that sometimes people don’t pick up at all for her visit, which is pretty surprising given that she’s armed with a camera and is required to use it.   Sometimes beds are unmade, curtains drawn, and the home a mess.  That’s not great.  But what she found intolerable was seeing the resident’s underwear on the floor.  The appraiser stated that for refinances, she makes sure that the bra or undies make it into the photo and onto the appraisal report. Passive aggressive, no?  But I understood her point.  Why did they want her to deal with that?

Usually when residential real estate is for sale, the owners do an exceptionally good job at tidying up.  Some will joke that their house looks so good now that they don’t want to sell.  Unfortunately, homes are not always in “show ready” condition. And at times, what the Realtor and home buyers see is downright embarrassing.  When consumers come through a condo or house and find unmentionables lying about  – especially if they appear on the floor rather than folded laundry meant for a drawer – they get grossed out. Embarrassed buyers don’t buy.  They leave.  They do it quickly. And they don’t come back.

Some things I’ve experienced or had happen that made me want to say “beware, time to shield your eyes!”:

  • open toilet seats (never good) – with a dirty toilet
  • dog feces in a house where everyone was required to remove shoes (the mess was on a dark brown wooden floor, and my poor client found it when she stepped into it, ew…)
  • boudoir photography of the sellers – way too much information
  • soiled diapers left on the floor of the nursery – and open, to boot
  • arriving at an appointment precisely on time to find a couple “involved” on the couch
  • arriving at the home exactly at the appointed moment and surprising a teenage boy who was watching cartoons in the buff
  • visiting a home with the sellers or tenants present – in bed (one house was packed with people and 2 of them were in separate bedrooms, inexplicably at 1pm)
  • kids with pets that get thrust at the visitor – once had a little boy show me his pet snake by putting it an inch from my face
  • “shield your nose”  situation in a home with multiple rabbits in one bedroom – the stench was unbearable (I love pets and we had a pet rabbit, but this was beyond anything I could have imagined in my worst nightmare)
  • clutter to the extreme where it suggested a problem (paths through newspapers in the living room, no open counter space in the kitchen as there were tons of tidy, stacked Tupperware everywhere, etc.)

Home buying is largely an emotional decision once the basics of price point, size, numbers of beds and baths, and maybe school district are used to vet properties. If there are 3 or 5 homes that ostensibly meet the home buying wants and needs list, most of the time, the home that is selected is the one that the consumers simply fall in love with.

If you are a  home seller, you want to make your house “the one” that buyers cannot resist.  Buyers need to enter your property and mentally move in.  They cannot do that as easily if your personal effects, photos, degrees, etc. are everywhere.  They especially cannot do that very easily if you are there.  Why?  It’s your home.   When you are there, it feels like your home – not a house that might be their home.   They need space to see the home, think about it, and chat privately with their agent about the possibilities.

Personal aside:  Once, when my family and I were house hunting, we visited a place and the seller followed us all through the home, which was here in our current Belwood neighborhood.  We went outside to walk the yard and try to see if there was room to add on.  The seller followed us, grabbed a lawn chair, and plopped down into it to stare at us.  We did not buy that house. It was creepy!

I should add one last point to the “shield your eyes” discussion.  It is absolutely imperative that photos be professionally taken when the home is at its absolute best.  Think of the virtual tour or online photos as your first open house.  If the images look bad, you will have fewer qualified visitors.  Less traffic almost always results in a lower sale price.

So close the toilet lid. Depersonalize the home. Hide not just your valuables and your prescription drugs, but anything that might put a buyer off.   I have seen buyers freak out when seeing religious items in a house if the items they saw weren’t of their same religion.  Try to make the home smell neutral – not of pets, cooking, incense, candles, etc. Smells, even nice ones like warm bread or cookies, make buyers suspect that a seller may be hiding something.  So keep it neutral and fresh.  Have a friend or your Realtor walk through the home with you and see what needs to get packed up.  Remember, you are selling a townhouse, a condo, or a house.  You are not actually selling your home – that goes with you!  It’s a very important shift in the way we think to let go of the property so that it can appeal to the next owner.  Make it so they can see themselves in it, and not be afraid that everywhere they turn, they see you instead.

Related  resources:
Links:  Tips for Sellers (on





  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.

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