Country houses for sale

The 10 biggest turn-offs for house buyers, from dodgy smells to knickers on the floor

What are the things that turn our nose and make your skin crawl when you're viewing a house for sale? A new survey reveals the biggest property turn-offs — and they're both relatable and eye-opening.

Thinking of selling your home? If so, you’ll probably be sprucing it up ready for viewings. Spring is traditionally a busy time in the housing market. And as the season gets underway, online estate agency Purplebricks has revealed the top 10 property turn-offs for potential buyers.

The online estate agent carried out an online survey among more than 2,000 UK homeowners in February to get to the bottom of what gives them the ‘ick’ — to use Purplebricks’ phrase — when looking for their next home. ‘Ick’, if you’re not familiar with the term, is used ‘to express a feeling of shock or dislike that makes you feel sick’, according to the Cambridge dictionary.

Purplebricks explains: ‘The last thing you want when trying to sell your house is to inadvertently leave it looking less attractive than it might be, leading to lower offers or no offers at all.’

It’s a particularly pertinent point given that, according to Zoopla, a buyers’ market is taking hold. Sellers are discounting asking prices by an average 4.5% to achieve a sale, the property portal said recently. It’s the largest gap between the asking price and sale price for five years.

So, what is the biggest ‘ick’ of all? Drum roll please. Mould and damp on walls. Yes, these pesky patches would put nearly three out of four potential buyers off a property.

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Mouldy walls are an instant red flag for buyers.

Close behind in second place, 65% of homeowners would get the ‘ick’ from finding mice and rat traps in a home. Who could blame them?

And in joint third place is the presence of nasty smells as well as mould and limescale in bathrooms. More than half (56%) of potential buyers would turn their noses up at these discoveries.

Here’s the full top 10:

  1. Mould/damp patches on the walls – 70%

  2. Mouse or rat traps – 65%

  3. Nasty smells, e.g., the bin, unclean bathroom, pet smells – 56%

  4. Mould/limescale in the bathroom – 56%

  5. Cigarette smoke and/or cigarette butts flowing out of an ashtray – 55%

  6. Dirty toilet – 52%

  7. Bugs/flies in the house – 52%

  8. Plaster peeling off the wall – 51%

  9. Dog mess in the garden – 44%

  10. Dirty underwear on the floor – 39%

While some of these aren’t easy to fix (repairing plaster isn’t exactly a five-minute job) we’ve absolutely no idea who would let anyone into their house without picking up their dirty knickers (number 10) or clearing Fido’s ‘business’ up from the lawn (number nine). And you’d have to worry about buying a house from anyone too lazy to flush the loo before visitors arrive (number five).

The good news is that you could sort out many of these top turn-offs by donning a pair of Marigold gloves and doing a good clean and clear out. Purplebricks itself has various cleaning tricks up its sleeves, including mixing vinegar and soap in a cup to trap flies and scrubbing away limescale using vinegar on a cloth.

What the survey results don’t touch on much are the more serious red flags. The issues that are more likely to affect a buyer’s property maintenance costs, insurance bill or mortgage offer, for example. The things that could have a major bearing on what offer, if any, a buyer makes for your home.

‘There are many things that put buyers off a home at a viewing – so make sure your property doesn’t feature any of the things that could make selling it tougher,’ explains Vince Courtney, chief sales officer at Purplebricks.

‘A lot of it comes down to simply cleaning your home correctly. But, if you have deeper damage within the home causing issues, get it checked out before opening your home to buyers so that it doesn’t pose any further problems for you or a future owner.’