Home hunting can be an exciting time, but you need to keep your wits about you through it all. While going through an open house or private showing, you’ll be guided by the listing agent who represents the seller. If they feel that the property might be a hard sell, they will sometimes use a few staging tricks to cover up any defects. It’s up to you and your agent to stay awake. Try to look beyond what they want you to see and spot what they’re trying to hide.
Here are some signs to watch out for that suggest the sellers are trying to hide something.
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There is mood music playing
When entering a staged home, you’ll usually see a lifestyle depicted. For instance, a dining room set up like a fancy bistro with the rhythms of Salsa music playing in the background. The scene can feel very seductive which is exactly the point. But stop tapping your feet for a moment and have the listing agent turn the music off. Music is often used to mask traffic noise. Granted, this is New York, and depending on your location it will be hard to escape the noise of the outside streets entirely. But if it’s above your tolerance level, then you could be in for some tough nights trying to sleep.
No sofa, but a love seat
Another home staging technique is to make a smaller room look bigger. The easiest way to do this is to replace a 3-person couch with a two-person love seat. The difference might not seem like much, but you’ll notice it when you try to move a larger couch inside. You can anticipate problems like this by asking for room measurements or bringing your tape measure at the next showing. There’s nothing wrong with a seller using this trick, but you need to be aware of it if you are not misguided.
Every light is on in the afternoon
How natural light filters through a home depends on several things such as the time of year, the time of day and how the property is positioned. You probably don’t have all your lights on in the afternoon. If you attend an afternoon viewing and all the lights are on that should make you suspicious. All this artificial light could be used to mask the fact that the property doesn’t get much natural light. Have the agent turn off all the lights in a room to get a better sense of how the natural light filters through it.
Heavy use of air fresheners or diffusers
An open house that makes excessive use of air fresheners should be a red light. They may be trying to mask an odor and are hoping you don’t notice. Bad smells could be caused by cigarette smoke, pets or a nearby industrial factory. The first two can be eliminated overtime with some professional help, but the third will be impossible to deal with. Try to figure out what they could be trying to cover up before you make an offer.
The smell or sight of fresh paint
It’s very common for sellers to touch up a place with new paint before listing it. There’s nothing wrong with that but be aware that they may be trying to cover up mildew or water damage. If you notice patches of fresh paint on the walls or ceiling that’s a definite red light that they’re trying to hide something. Check the ceiling corners and anywhere with pipes or faucets for black or gray spots that indicate water damage.