Whether it's an off-putting odor, kitschy decor or questionable artwork, a good real estate agent knows how to disappear such sale-killers for potential buyers without offending the home seller.
If professional staging isn't an option, real estate agents are left to tell clients, delicately, how to literally and figuratively hide the dirty laundry — or the litter box, prurient artwork or even that collection of family keepsakes that can be a bit too personal.
"There is no more emotional product on the market. This is their nest egg, their inheritance," said Sharona Alperin, of Sotheby's International Realty in West Hollywood.
"I tell them I am here for one reason and that's to maximize their return on the sale. And it's a business at this point. They have to realize they have to turn it from a home into a house."
The process begins with an overall deep cleaning and de-cluttering, but what agents have found in the process can be surprising.
Mike Deasy, chief executive of Deasy/Penner & Partners, has seen his share of oddities throughout his career.
"We have had, I think twice, collectors of insects, but they kept them in a glass case," he said. "And there was one instance where there was a pathologist, and he had various specimens of things in jars. We told him to put those away."
Home offices also offer the unexpected, particularly among medical professionals who may have diagrams and three-dimensional models of things you'd rather not think about.
Though many potential home buyers are animal lovers, there are limits. Deasy has more than once seen a departed furry companion preserved in taxidermy and proudly displayed.
"That freaks people out," Deasy said. "And animal trophies — mounted heads — that disturbs a number of people, especially in L.A. Sometimes you see them in a gentlemen's pub room or pool rooms. Men think it's a sign of macho, but a lot of men and women don't think that way."
Living pets can pose an equal hazard.
"People love pets, but they don't want to see any traces of them when they go to buy a house," said Ken Winick, a Coldwell Banker agent in Silver Lake. "I've seen houses where you walk in and they haven't cleaned up after their dog and there are clumps of hairballs that roll across the floor and blow away."
Winick advises sellers to fix pet damage — clawed doors and screens, scratched floors and lingering odors — or expect a 5% to 10% hit to the home's selling price.
Brian Ades of Sotheby's isn't staunchly against clutter. However, he's careful about leaving remainders of a former resident's illness in homes, including medications or special equipment such as medical beds or walkers.
"One of the biggest things is what do we do with the mechanical chair that takes you to the second floor. You should have it removed. It's a little Debbie Downer," he said. "It's expensive, and it served its purpose, but now it's time to go."
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