Sellers: how clean is your house??

valkyrie4791September 8, 2010

How much attention do you pay to the finer details when you have a home showing? How important is this to prospective buyers?

Just curious because when we've home shopped, I've noticed that a lot of the homes we looked at weren't spic n span clean. It didn't bother me, because I wasn't looking for a housekeeper. But I don't know if I'm in the minority or not.

We have a home showing tomorrow. I have a housefull of kids and a job...the house is a wreck and I'm rushing around like mad trying to clean the heck out of this place. Is it going to be a hugely negative thing if the house isn't "eat off the floor" clean? I mean it will be clean, but I may not get time to do some of the things I would do there may be a stray smudge on a wall or window. Stuff like that.

Am I crazy? Should I cancel the showing and tell them I need more time or should I simply get it as good as I can?

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No, don't cancel the showing.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 7:23PM
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Don't cancel the showing, but get it as good as you can.

You need to find a plan where you can get the house spotless and then keep it that way by daily chores. I'm not selling now, but have sold 6 homes in my lifetime and many if not most of them were with 4 kids running around and my hubby already relocated to our new area. I was a maniac about making sure each of the homes were spotless. My kids thought I was a psycho maniac, but I was obsessive about the homes being clean enough to eat off the floor. I would do the majority of cleaning after the kids were in bed and then in the mornings I'd only have a few chores to do to make the house spotless. (wiping down bathrooms, breakfast dishes, making beds).

I may be the minority here, but to me a clean, clean, clean decluttered house shows pride in ownership and that's what I look for in a new home. I've seen my share of messy homes, but honestly can say I've never made an offer on one !!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 7:48PM
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Not being snarky but perhaps you should spend more time cleaning and less time on message boards.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 7:56PM
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In the last 30 yrs. DH and I have bought an sold over 8 homes. Clean sells. It's just as important as location, layout and price IMHO.
I've seen more than a few places over the last 30 yrs. that were so dirty you'd spend the first month BEFORE you could move in cleaning them. Ovens with thick layers of burnt stuff inside them, range hoods with grease, dirty windows, rugs so badly stained you couldn't tell what color they really were.
A unmade bed, a dish in the sink, a few crumbs on the counter aren't going to matter IF the rest of the place is spotless. As someone else mentioned earlier clean in the housing market equals in a home buyers mind how much care was put into the home over the years.
If ya can't keep the part where you live clean then logic makes ya wonder how you could keep up with the big stuff like the mechanics of the house.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 8:36PM
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Orvl, not sure how to *not* take your post as being snarky. It doesn't take more than a minute to post a quick question and then spend a total of 10 minutes checking the answers later on.

Thanks for the advice. My house isn't filthy by any stretch. Oven is clean, fridge is pretty clean, toilets and sinks are clean. Floors are clean. I'm not going to have time to dust everywhere perfectly and I'm not going to have time to clean the windows (they're ok...but not spotless). Not going to have time to wipe down all the walls, chair rails, doorways, etc like I normally do. I normally leave the place completely spotless, so that's why I'm in a bit of a panic.

Cardovamom, you bring up a good point. I do need to have some structured time to clean so that I don't find myself in these panics when I get a house showing.

But bottom line, I think it will be obvious to potential buyers that we take pride in our home, even if I miss a dust bunny or two! So I'll just concentrate on doing the best I can for this time. I just wish I could do more...outside is going to have to take a back seat too. I hope to find some time to clean off the front and back porch, though!


    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 9:05PM
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A few people here posted that they kept an empty box ready for the swift pick up before the surprise showing. They would run through the house and throw anything out of place in the box, put the box in the trunk, and drive away while the house was being shown. With 4 kids, a box might be a great idea.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 10:59PM
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As a buyer, I might be put off by filth (or at least want a discount), but a little everyday mess is not going to bother me. Clean is nice, but it is awfully 'white bread'-- I'd rather have something to chew on.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 11:08PM
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When I was selling, my house was spotlessly clean and not a thing out of place for showings. When I was buying, I discovered that other people don't knock themselves out to prepare for showings. Most houses were clean enough to be comfortable in, but they weren't neat as a pin. And you know what? It didn't matter. I either wanted the house or I didn't.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 9:59AM
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When my sister in law was selling a house w/ three small kids, she emptied out the top drawers in each bedroom. That way she could quickly sweep and toss stuff in there for showings. I thought it was a great idea.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 10:43AM
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Our house has been spotless for showings and open houses - we are now 2 weeks on market - the first week we were living in the house and had 3 open houses with 1 showing - the second week we moved out and the home is now vacant.

We are doing different things daily beyond just having the house clean - yesterday we emptied the freezer and refrigerator and thoroughly cleaned it - 2 days ago we took out the washer & dryer and cleaned the utility room floor where the appliances were - otherwise it was wipe and clean everything before each open house or showing. Now we can just stop by every few days and check that everything is in place and wipe a few things down...

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 1:23PM
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Never cancel a showing.

As far as cleaning goes, I've bought and sold and rented a number of times (former military), so here's my perspective from a working class family (I've noticed a predominance of "well-off" retirees on this forum as a whole, which may skew the results you get from asking a question)

My perspective, being a buyer/seller of 200-300k homes in the great lakes area, is that the cleaner your house is, the better it's going to show. You never know who is walking through the door to take a look and what kind of things may turn them off. With that, you try to do everything as a seller that is in your power to eliminate "instant turn-offs". This list frequently includes things like:

-Evidence of Smoking
-Personal photos
-Religious decor items

With that, I think there's a point where things are "clean enough", though. Bathrooms should be clean, as should the stovetop and kitchen sink (no dirty dishes!). Hide your dirty laundry--don't leave it in a pile in the laundry room (no one wants to see dirty knickers). Beds should all be made.

So there are some kid smudges on the windows, maybe the sliding glass door has some dog nose prints.

Who is going to be able to keep a house perfect, hour after hour, day after day with 1-2year DOM times? It's unreasonable.

Do the best that you can, with the realization that the cleaner things are, the better. But also have the realization that if you're like me, there are two adults both working 40+ hrs a week, a couple kids, a couple pets, and you still have to work in cooking and laundry and sleeping at some point.

Don't be hard on yourself--but don't give yourself an excuse to be lazy, either. Selling takes work in this day and age.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 3:15PM
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Pay special attention to the bathrooms.

I looked at a house last week with a friend -- the big jetted tub in the master bath had hair in it and, I admit, it grossed me out!!! Probably wouldn't change my opinion of the house, but did temporarily distract be from the lovely tile, new vanity, etc...

    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 9:34PM
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NEVER CANCEL A SHOWING! They're too hard to come by these days.
I like the idea about keeping a big box handy. Stuffing clutter into the closets and under the beds/furniture works too.
Buyers make their decisions based on Location (which you can't clean), the Kitchen, the Bathrooms, and then everything else. Whatever time you have for prep, half of it should be spent in the Kitchen, 1/4 in the Bathrooms, and 1/4 for everything else.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 4:26PM
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I had a friend whose homes were always a mess. You could leave notes in the dust on his dining room table. Yet when he looked for a new home or apartment, he was the fussiest person you could imagine.

So spic and span can't hurt. But then each of us has different standards. Do you wipe down the sink faucet and handles each time you use them?

Whenever my late mother visited, she was always on the lookout for something to criticize. Running her fingers over the top of the fridge looking for dust was her favourite search. Talk about cliches!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 1:36PM
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It is probably a personal bias but I equate a dirty or messy house with poor overall maintenance of infrastructure. Even with old and run down properties, which I tend to gravitate toward, if they at least present the impression of being kept clean over the long term, I feel more favorably toward that.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 7:05PM
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Just keep in mind that this is a buyer's market and there are tons of inventory out there!! It is difficult to keep a house spotless when it is for sale but if you want to sell it takes alot of work on the sellers part. At least I felt that way and especially now!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 1:20AM
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Don't pay any attention to the snarky post, it's not like we can clean ALL the time! I have 3 kids, 2 dogs, and my own business so needless to say I am not the most organized person in the world with my house! For me right now I would call it spic and span. I have the closets in order everything cleaned down, no dirt or mess or pet hair. I do think though that for very neat people my house wouldn't be "neat" to them. I am trying my hardest though, but that said if there is a showing go with it and do your best. Kitchen, bathrooms, and a MB really need to be immaculate.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2010 at 12:55PM
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Saw this old post and thought I'd respond as it may be helpful to someone who is selling a house in this market. We looked at a lot of houses before buying and yes, the cleaner the house the better I believed it was maintained. One house we were impressed with had the cleanest smell, not candles or fragrance. Found out it was Febreeze. So, when we listed our house I used Febreeze. Sure enough, the comments were about the cleanliness and the good smell.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 6:59PM
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I'm a clean freak as it is, but when I'm showing my house, it is so perfect one of those military guys could come in and bounce a quarter off the beds. I think it tells people how you maintain the bigger things, plus it's part of the staging. I want to create a feeling when my people come into the house just like you get a feeling when you watch a play or a movie. I want it to be so absolutely perfect, that their emotions take over and they overlook that it only has one bathroom, etc. Also, I place objects around strategically so that it doesn't look like the cleanliness is planned, but a natural part of living in this wonderful home. For example, I might lay out a magazine casually as if I just put it down when the doorbell rang. I even choose a magazine I know might attract the potential buyer! I place my binoculars on the table on the deck as if we were looking at the deer on the horizon. I change all the sheets on all the beds. I used to do housecleaning for a living and I know that people's smells are in their bedding and their room even if the beds are made. So all the bedding gets washed before someone comes. I don't want anyone to have any kind of negative experience. It's major work and I certainly couldn't do all this if I was working out of my home full time, but it's worth doing if you can because you never know what could sway the buyer to make an offer.

On the other hand, a dirty house has never stopped me from making a purchase.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 9:48PM
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My goal with cleaning is to seduce. To make then fall in love. I believe that things that glow -- countertops, floors, and hardware -- or those vacuum cleaner marks in the rug, have an actual physiological impact.

To me, well-scrubbed = well-loved = desireable, on some limbic brain level. Shine is a hook.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 12:14PM
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Jamies is 100% correct. When buyers first start their home search, they are using the analytical part of their brain... they are looking at facts and figures concerning the home. In order to get an offer out of a buyer, they must be forced to cross over from the analytical side, over to the emotional part of their thinking. All of the things that jamies mentioned do just that.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 12:30PM
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So, Ncrealestateguy, make me fall in love. We are living in a furnished apartment, all our stuff in storage, and we can't force ourselves to buy anything. We keep seeing problems. We keep being underwhelmed. We see the negatives that the next buyer will see when we try to sell, and we don't want to be trapped and we don't want to lose a bunch of money. (We just sold and took our big loss already, thank you very much. And that house was very desirable.)

What do you do with buyers who can't commit and desperately need to?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 12:43PM
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Maybe you and your husband just do not fully understand what you are looking for in your new home; on an emotional level.
You and your husband should sit down and ask yourself, "What is most important to us about this next home?" Keep your answers short and pointed. Once you come up with an answer ask yourself the same question again... "What about THAT is so important to us?" Come up with an answer, and repeat this process about 7 or 8 times, asking yourselves "What about THAT is so important to us?" (You will know when you are finished) If you are open and honest with yourselves, you should arrive at a point where you two realize WHY it is, that the things that are important to you are important to you. This is better done with an outside third person (RE agent). But if you remain open and honest, you will be amazed at what insight that your last one or two answers can give you. Once you have this insight, you will commit to the home that fulfills this newfound insight.
I know, I know... it sounds corny. But it works on the people who are finding it hard to commit.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 8:28PM
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Thank you. We did the exercise. It showed, on the emotional side, that we both depend on our home to make us happy and we fear being depressed, embarassed, or misrepresented by it. An ill-fitting house is very hard on me. (The money side is important, too.)

It doesn't help that I'm seeking a silent environment in SW Michigan/NW Indiana. That _really_ narrows it down.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 10:09PM
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Jamie, you need the book "Cape Cods Are From Mars, and Ranches Are From Venus," or "What Color Is Your Vinyl Siding?" lol.

Seriously, I love what you said--that your goal is to seduce. You said it much better than I did. Now let yourself be seduced!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 11:47PM
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My husband and I have been looking and looking for a house in Florida. We've seen so many, not one sticks out individually anymore. Nothing feels right.

We also sold our home of 40 years, 1 1/2 yrs ago. We loved our home. It fit us and was everything we could want. Not the material things but the feel, the land, the sunlit windows. It had lots of faults but it was home.

We can't find it anymore. Our poor agent continues to be patient but I fear it is wearing thin. We rented for a year and are now staying with family in Florida. We want to be here because of family and climate. Yet, we can't feel comfortable with any homes we see.

I feel a house becomes part of your identity, an extension of who you and what your life is about. For many it is just shelter, for others, like us, it is much more.

Jamies said it best..."we both depend on our home to make us happy and we fear being depressed, embarrassed, or misrepresented by it. An ill-fitting house is very hard on me."

Exactly our feelings,


    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 12:28AM
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Wonderful book recommendations, Love! Or, how about "The Heart is a Poor House Hunter".

And Jane, I don't know about you, but I think the universe is telling me I need to stop being so house-involved. Somehow, I guess I just have to take the importance of it down a few notches. I should be able to do that, and I have, to a certain extent, but I have a ways to go.

When I think of all the cooking and cleaning and decorating and sleeping and bathing I will do in the place it's hard to let any of my "wants" go. But no house is going to please me until I manage to get less fraught.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 8:30PM
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After renovating 4 houses (and now on the 5th) I no longer am looking for a house that fits me. Most of the time, I can make the house fit me. I now just look at the location.

I saw one last week that caught my eye because it is on the the Potomac River. Dated and in need of work, it would be my dream house, except for the His & Her bathrooms.... His & Her Outhouses will not make my list :)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 9:52PM
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