Home > Blogs > 5 More Things You Didn't Know Could Get Your Home Sold

Ask Tara @Trulia

make smart decisions w/Tara's real estate + mortgage need-to-knows

By Tara-Nicholle Nelson | Broker in San Francisco, CA

5 More Things You Didn't Know Could Get Your Home Sold

Last year, we talked you through some surprising selling points - housing hot-buttons that can get your home sold, stat, like having a Trader Joe’s market nearby. There’s so much information on the web these days about how to stage a home and create compelling curb appeal, that you might think you know all you need to on the subject. Just when you thought you’d mastered the matter, we thought we’d brief you on 5 more things that can get your home sold, some or all of which might never have occurred to you.

1. Your neighbors. Most homeowners contemplating selling their homes understand the importance of well-kept neighboring homes.  Many a buyer has pulled up to an amazing house, viewed it, and left shaking their head with woe because they just can’t cotton to buying the place on account of the shoulder-high weeds, car in the yard or crumbling ruins of the house next door.  

On the flip side, your neighbors themselves - not just the homes, but the people - can actually help sell your home.  Many homeowners know people who want to live in their neck of the woods; this is one reason many seasoned real estate professionals hold their listings open to neighbors and send out postcards to neighbors announcing the listing - the neighbors might know people who are interested in your home!   Also, neighbors who are out and about chatting with each other, laughing and playing with their kids, mowing their lawns or painting their fences, or even who just offer a smile and helpful area knowledge to the buyer-to-be they pass on the street can make a very favorable impression on prospective buyers.

It’s a good idea, if and when you decide to list your home for sale, to touch base with neighbors you know and let them know; it’s in their best interests to get good new neighbors, so they might be able to go the extra mile in showing the neighborhood’s biggest asset - themselves - off to its best advantage.

2.  The right sights, smells and sounds.  It’s no news flash that the view of a used car lot; stinky foods or animal smells; and the siren song of a fire station next door could be deal-killers. What might surprise is some of the right sights, smells and sounds that can help seal the sale of your home.  My experience has been - agents, chime in here! - that the more natural beautiful sights, smells and sounds are, the more favorably they’ll be received by the largest population of prospective buyers.  

For example, playing a soundtrack of classical musical is fine, but will cause some skeptical buyers to wonder what noises you might be trying to cover up - especially if you’re in a condo or other potentially thin-walled property where neighbor noise might be an issue. On the other hand, birdsong can be attractive to some buyers. Artificial air fresheners?  Not so much.  The scent of the jasmine or lavender that grows in your yard?  Even allergy victims can appreciate that.

You might be desensitized to the amazing views of trees, mountains or even water outside your window, but pulling back the curtains so prospective buyers can see for themselves is an absolute must.

Home buying is a multi-sensory experience - visual staging of the property itself is no longer a plus, it’s a must. But homes which create pleasant impressions that fire on all of a buyer’s sensory cylinders definitely have the edge on their competition.

3.  Your dog. The New York Times ran a piece a few months ago about sweet, well-behaved dogs (and cats!) who reportedly helped sell their owners’ Manhattan apartments.  In a departure from the conventional wisdom that dogs should be removed and every trace of their presence erased from the home during showings, the article featured several buyers and brokers attesting to their belief that the presence of a particular cat or dog “help[ed] sell a property by making the place seem warmer or more appealing.”  And I’m sure you’ve all heard me tell the story of the San Diego buyer who fell in love with a tract home listed at a price higher than all the nearly identical comparables he’d seen and wanted to make a full-price offer immediately - so long as the deal included the dog!

Definitely consult with your agent before you decide to implement leaving your dog at home for showings as part of your plan.  I’m a dog lover, and would be concerned that someone might inadvertently let one of “my girls” out, if I left them there while my house was being shown; as well, would-be buyers or their agents may have allergies your pet could set off.   Lately, it seems like I’ve seen many brokers attempting to capture the best of both worlds by making sure that the family pet or even the broker’s own pet is captured in a charming tableau in 1 or 2 of the listing pictures, even if they’re not present at the home during showings.  

4.  Your happiness.  Video and even written love letters that extoll all the virtues for which you love your neighbors, your neighborhood and your property are contagious to buyers.  I’ve seen sellers help buyers see their homes through their own loving eyes by posting videos on YouTube and including the link on the listing flyer or even by putting a binder containing a letter plus menus and flyers from their favorite neighborhood restaurants, dry cleaners and other local merchants out on the counter during showings.

Wide-open curtains that let light stream in, light and bright paint and decor colors and other home features that science has proven make residents more happy and functional also create this thought process in a buyer’s mind: “Hmm, these people seem happy here. I could be, too.”

Similarly, indicators that you invested a lot of love in your home, by keeping it in immaculate order and pristine condition, by tending a well-cared for kitchen garden, lovingly furnishing and making comfortable (if not overly customizing) your kids’ rooms, all create the feel that a home was happily lived in  - it’s like staging your home with a life well-lived, not just paint and tile.

5.  The freeway or subway you thought was too close.  There is such a thing as a freeway or elevated train tracks being too close to your home; if your place rattles or roars, for example, every time the train passes, chances any buyer will view that as a selling point are pretty slim.  However, homebuyer attitudes toward being located near freeways and subways or bus lines are a-changing.  Every upward click of gas prices renders buyers a tiny bit more interested in a location that is more commutable.  

Where yesteryear’s buyers were all about the posh exclusivity of far-out suburbia, today’s buyers are more interested in financial and ecological efficiency and convenience. I’ve never heard so many homebuyers looking to own homes that will allow them to ditch their cars entirely as I have in recent years!  

What might once have been seen as too close to the freeway has gotten a new spin, lately, as a highly convenient, commuter-friendly location.  

P.S. - You should follow Trulia and Tara on Facebook!


By Barbara Spears,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 04:58
Great info, I look forward to reading your info on a weekly basis.
By John Stapleton,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 05:03
I one held open a home with a busy street and rail line behind the back fence. A couple asked if the 6" privacy fence was their only option. I replied that many neighbors had 8" or added lattice. His face dropped. She said, "Oh, we were hoping to lower it and raise the deck for a better view of the trains."

A good example of why the buyer's own agent should do the talking. As a listing agent or a seller, we don't know the buyer. So sometimes our answers don't fit.

Sometimes what we think are faults are assets to certain people.
By Tean Wong,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 05:06
Totally agree any kind of smell is not good for house showing.
By Mare,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 05:14
I agree with Barbara above--these Trulia "extras" by Tara are a true boon to the layperson, well-written and full of useful info. I also look forward to them.
By Donna Matthews,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 05:22
My seller is inviting all the neighbors for a block party and viewing of the home. The glistening pool should cause the neighbors to tell their friends to come and buy the newly renovated house with the pool...just so they get to come to future pool parties!
By Philla Lan,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 05:23
Tatto shop in house , garbage in yard, regfistered sex offender living in garage, oldebeat up cars being worked on in front yard, pit bulls tied up in back yard no fence loud music, playing basket ball in street till 3am, 30 or more people a day in ou of this residence both by foot and car, etc.......This is what one neighbor rented her house to....After all my efforts...beautiful azealeas, pink dogwoods, gardenias, blueberry bushes etc....do you think my house sold???? Ph yes this is a code violation...code enforcement officer hesitant to contact owner....Just sharing with you all!!!
By Gina,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 05:31
Thank you for the well informed welcomed information!
By Manisha Jain, Broker, Realtor,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 05:50
Interesting article on additional tips Tara.
By Jimmy Hudson,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 06:04
If you are not a pet owner, the signs of one can be an immediate turnoff. Pets are hard on a home. Your other suggestions are good. I particularly like the idea of letting prospective buyers know about the friendly neighbors.
By John Stevens,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 06:06
Thanks Tara,
You are right on the money!
By Shannon M Thomas,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 06:16
Love your article! Lots of great information!
By Voices Member,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 06:29
I had the sellers Golden Retriever, "Goldie" in one of my outdoor shots in front of the home with the caption "Goldie loves her 5 acres to romp around on". A dog lover bought the home.
By Leeann Coleman,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 06:33
It was our conversation with the friendly next-door neighbor that sealed the deal for us 16 years ago when we bought our home. The house was an absolute dump - but her love for her neighborhood allowed us to see through the mess to the real potential of the property. She was absolutely right and we've been very happy! So make it a point to talk to the people on either side of the house you are considering. They can enlighten.
By Tim Tabor (573)-365-2311,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 06:44
Thanks for the information. After 27 years in the business, I still love learning new ideas!
By Novelette Witt,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 06:57
Thanks Tara for another great article; the bit regarding happiness being contagious is a big plus.
By Sandra Mittry & Kim Flatt,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 06:57
Great article!
By Jeanny Grantham,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 06:59
Thanks for the info Tara. It was very helpful! I do agree with the power of neighbors' potential help on selling a listed home. The word of mouth is still a wonderful tool in real estate.
By Helen Oliveri,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:04
Great selling tips Tara.
By 13investor13,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:09
Hi Tara.. I want to commend you as well for your work. Honestly, the internet is so gummed up with "writers" who not only can't write, they can't even stop to check their work, from the looks of things. (Sorry kids, texting is not writing!) But you clearly stand out as a person with something interesting to say and you say it with a wonderful style. I'm not in the real estate business but it seems evident from the feedback that those who are respect your opinions.
So thank you and put me in the Devoted Reader column before you print it out and show it to Mr. Trulia for that big pay raise you deserve!
By Geralda Botnick,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:11
Absolutely greqat article. Thanks
By Voices Member,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:12
Never show a house that is cold, dark, has dogs barking, or smells like cats, dogs or mold. My last sellers loved to keep the big, dark draperies shut to protect their antiques from the sun, but it was a hard sell when it was cold, gloomy, and smelled of dog. Their elderly dogs had peed repeatedly on the carpet, hence the mold as well. We finally staged (my advice from the beginning), and it did sell (over 1M listing), but it was a very tough road with those sellers. They left their three dogs in the garage during the day, so for tour and other showings, the dogs would bark incessantly and pound/scratch the garage door (it sounded like monsters lived in the basement). They also mulched once with steer manure next to the front door right before the open house! (Not to mention the six-foot Frankenstein by the front door at Halloween!) Smells, sights, and sounds make a huge impact on buyers.... Often far more than the sellers are aware.
By Kathy Ripps,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:19
Always love your articles
By Kathy Ripps,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:19
Always love your articles.
By Edyta Gryc - Broker Associate,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:23
As always I enjoy reading your blog. Personally I do not like when the dogs are present while I am showing a house. Once I showed a house, we opened the door and we saw a small dog barking at us. I was not sure what to do. Although the listing agent assured me that the dog is friendly (barking dog friendly???not sure about that), we went inside but felt very uncomfortable. Not all people are dog lovers. In my opinion it is better to keep certain pets out of the house while showing.
By Monique Cole,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:24
If your listing is a condo or town-home, then a photo including a dog or cat will quickly illustrate that the complex is pet-friendly.
By Ann Seger,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:25
By Ann Seger Realtor Hilton Head SC

Thanks Tara for the information on letting the outdoor's in. I always encourage my seller to open all the blinds and curtains especially if they have a great view weather it is a wooded lot or a lagoon or golf course view it seems to open up the house more.
By Brette Sager Baldeon,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:35
First time reading your article..LOVED IT. Great advise to give to my sellers/buyers.
By Annl,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:37
I appreciate photos with pets so I know to stay away. Those of us who are not pet friendly and do not want to buy a home where pets lived need to know. Agents must disclose this info.
By Richard Redding,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 07:45
thanks for the info, look forward to reading your views, dick redding
By Catherine Leviner,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 08:05
Great Article.
By James Foy,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 08:19
I always tell my clients to go visit the house at 10pm on Friday or Saturday to really get a flavor of what the neighborhood is like.
By Me,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 08:43
At last a few truly NEW ideas...all the other real estate stories I read are just stale, recycled ideas the past. Thanks for thinking outside the box, Tara!
By Trish OConnor,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 09:08
I love the article. I forwarded it to my seller.
By Stefanie Baber,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 09:32
Great Article.
By Shawn,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 09:42
I agree with Annl, by all means realtors take pictures with a dog or a cat in a house and it is a house you will not show me.
By Sandy Nelson,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 09:56
I really like this article. Many a time, in my experience, a neighbor has helped me to close the sell on a property!
By Summerhouse,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 10:01
I just had an open house, and the gentleman that lives next door would wave from his chair on his porch at the prospective buyers and shout "don't forget to tell them about the wonderful neighbors!" It was really funny and charming.
By Genora,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 10:12
Excellent article. I plan to forward it to my sellers.
No matter how many years you have been in the real estate business, there is always something new to learn and to be reminded of.
Genora Coleman-Robinson
By Mary Duncan,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 10:46
Great article to share with your sellers.
By Maureen,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 11:02
Hi Tara,
I had a corner lot on a busy street and on a bit of a down slope. I got a call from a woman that was most anxious to view the property as soon as possible. I met her at the property and before even entering, she said this was the home for her. We entered the home and she went immediately to the rear yard and again said "this is it! I want this home". Curious, I asked why she was so sure with after just viewing the rear yard and she just smiled and said "It is the total privacy factor! I sunbathe au natural! Nosey neighbors do not bother me but I certainly do not want to shock or intrude on their privacy!" Offer signed that afternoon and accepted that evening and now that the weather is warmer, I am sure she is enjoyiing her back yard.
By Nettemor4,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 12:41
What about cookies? I've been to a number of showings in which the realtor had a plate of cookies out, and the smell of freshly-baked dough and chocolate chips was apparent. Is that bad?
By Nettemor4,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 12:51
Your home is the most expensive and likely the most important purchase you're ever going to make. But unlike most consumer products, you can't bring it back for a refund, you have limited information on which to make your decision to buy, and there is only one of the item in question. Do whatever you can to find out as much as you can. I appreciate the guy above who said he sends his buyers around on a Sat. night to check out the neighborhood. But you should be able to see the inside of the house at night, too. What's the lighting like? How drafty is it? Etc. ...I would ask for an evening showing. Also, drive to the house in the morning when you usually leave for work. Practice the commute you're going to have. Don't assume that Sunday noon traffic - when they have the open house - has anything to do with real conditions. And you are not barred from actually ringing the neighbors' doorbells and asking (politely) to talk to them. Do that, and check out the neighborhood amenities - the grocery store, the post office, the dry cleaner's. All of these things are part of "due diligence."
By Vsestes8792,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 16:53
Sorry, but cats stink. Find someone with a farm and donate them "to the barn".

Even if you are a responsible cat owner like I was years ago and maintain as clean a litter box as possible, the stinch their urine leaves behind is repulsive and obvious. Get rid of the cat(s) and use alot of bleach which might help get rid of some of the smell. But just get rid of them. Cats just aren't as special as all the hype insists. I swore off cats years ago and have been a dog person ever since. ..
By Christine Ferringer,  Thu Jun 9 2011, 17:14
Ironically enough, I have a listing here in a few days to which there are pets present (& I was amazed that due to the pristine care & cleaning of the home, if I hadn't seen the pets & their 'markings - dishes, Cat condominium, etc, I would have never known! And so true to the statement about pets being a part of the family & making a house feel like a home, especially when in the country w/ all the natural sounds of birds, frogs, etc..... only adds to the ambiance! Thanks as always for this quite informative & true to color article Tara!
By Butch Losbanes,  Fri Jun 10 2011, 08:40
When I saw your article, I love it. It was very informative you gave me an idea, anyway thanks for sharing.


By Pjcondon1215,  Fri Jun 10 2011, 14:33
I just put my home on the market after having 4 different realtors come to check it out. ALL of them said they would never have known that I have 5 dogs and 1 cat. I keep my home impeccably clean at all times and that really pays off. Our pets are our family and deserve a clean home just like the rest of the humans who live here. We will be looking for our sixth house to make our new home and the cleanliness of that buy is very important. Sellers need to always be aware of cleanliness as it is a great part of the pride that owners take in their homes!
By Martha Wooten,  Sat Jun 11 2011, 12:41
One of Tara's best articles. Pets really do take extra effort indoors & out,...effort worth making if your house is on the market TO SELL. Make sure pets are not present for showings. Cats present during a showing & cat odors (& litterboxes in view,etc) are the "kiss of death" for a house in the eyes of MANY...ANY animal odors inside a house are off-putting. Also, if a seller has a neighbor that needs to be reported to a code enforcement officer, then DO IT for your seller if they are hesitant. These employees will tell you, for the most part they are RE-active, not PRO-active due to the nature of their work, so don't hesitate to make the call & follow up on their findings.
By Isobel Hyman,  Sun Jun 12 2011, 11:33
Great points - neighbors can definitely help sell the house! or kill it!.....most important point here is that buyers are not just buying a house they're buying a lifestyle...people w/kids want a kid friendly street, people who are private don't want a street that's always having block parties. Helping your buyer identify what lifestyle they are looking for is so important - they can be so focused on the house, they don't think about the lifestyle they're also buying. When they focus in on that, I see buyers pull the trigger much faster as they're looking for a combination of house and neighborhood that can't always be replaced with another listing...gives more of a reason for them to pull the trigger, something lots of buyers aren't doing!! They realize it's the combination of the house and the area, not just another house!
By Fawn,  Sun Jun 12 2011, 12:34
Dear Tara,
Much appreciate for the review and ideas. I need help from you and other colleagues => My listing at $450,000. price has some comments from a few Buyers at the open houses: " the smell " . This is a 1984 custom built - very nice floorplan with two master suites. Total of 3,376 sqft with 4 bedrooms & 3.5 baths. It has a smell when you first walk in to the house. It looks like only smell at the foyer - open to the living & dining combination... It smells like in the many old houses built in the 1980's. I can not figure out . Current owner has NO PETS for ~ 4 yrs. Neither the previous one... Is there anyway we can find out where the smell come from?
Would love to hear from everyone' s feedback. Thanks in advance ...
By Rose Yanxia Yang,  Sun Jun 12 2011, 22:14
Thanks for sharing. You made some great points.
By Rose Yang
By Nikki Gianulias,  Mon Jun 13 2011, 09:07
great article.
By Carmen Brodeur- Top 1% Realtor,  Mon Jun 13 2011, 17:17
Great Information. Thanks!
By Jerry Cibulski,  Mon Jun 13 2011, 21:54
Great Point Of View
By Anita Clark,  Tue Jun 14 2011, 13:05
All good tips that can help turn a home into "The One" for potential buyers. Good information.
By Brian Petrelli,  Tue Jun 14 2011, 18:24
Great post. I wish my clients' dogs helped sell homes. I get the other kind of dogs ;)
By Tamara Schuster Broker, Agent,  Tue Jun 14 2011, 19:29
In this post I found the part about neighbors to be the key. Neighbors can make a difference and if they do not keep up their yard or landscape with unusual statues it can stop a beautiful home from selling. The onl thing you can do is try and buy in a neighborhood where they have rules against unkept grass, too many cars out, boats in driveway etc. It is really touchy. I always suggest to my clients to drive around the neighbor when everyone is home to get a feel. Drive to your office to see how long the commute is. Absorb the whole area including your local grocery store.
By Carol Gordon,  Wed Jun 15 2011, 00:44
It's a very interesting and informative article. I always look forward to reading articles from you, Tara. I am learning so much about the real estate market from you... Keep up the good work!

Eager for the next one (smile).
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Sat Jun 18 2011, 14:13
Great article and surprising advice. Thanks for sharing!
By Linda,  Mon Jun 20 2011, 13:11
I like #4 -- "Your Happiness" -- makes sense to me!
By Kathy Weber (951) 551-7587,  Sat Jul 2 2011, 10:30
Love the information Tara. Well written...
By Charles Balducci,  Sun Jul 3 2011, 11:42

Very thoughtful advice for any home seller, and a proactive effort that can reduce obvious obstacles to a sale.

Thank you!

Charles Balducci, Philadelphia
By John Wertheimer,  Mon Jul 18 2011, 14:03

great article; my Real Estate clients are reading your articles.


John Wertheimer
By John Wertheimer,  Mon Jul 18 2011, 14:04

great article; my Real Estate clients are reading your articles.


John Wertheimer
By - Cheryl Hoover -,  Wed Aug 3 2011, 11:55
I also sold my home to dog lovers (Owner-Agent). They saw that our 7 year old chocolate lab, Happy Molly, could readily get up the stairs to our loft bedroom even though she was a somewhat damaged rescue and has severe arthritis in her legs. They also had a rescue (golden retriever) with severe arthritis at 90 pounds - just like Molly. Molly truly sold the house for us and was rewarded by retiring with us to a large farm in the mountains where she can exercise and swim in the Greenbrier River all she wants, but only has to live on the main floor as she ages, since that is where our bedroom is located. The buyers of our beautiful, pristine, large log home are also setting up a non-profit rescue in the detached 3 car garage, so we left them our spare wood pellet stove (which was not included in the listing) for the animals.. It was a win-win. I only wish I had added Molly to the listing photos at the very beginning.

95% of the people who came to the open houses and showings had one or more dogs and thought that our log home and acreage was perfect for their family AND their pet. It is all about knowing what buyers want and need. If the home is SPANKING, SPARKLING CLEAN with pets, well, even a non-pet owner can get past that. We also feel wonderful that the buyers absolutely love our home (and already our wonderful neighbors) as much as we did and have even kept in touch! It made it a much easier transition for us to retire - knowing that our family home was left in good hands and loving paws!

Copyright © 2014 Trulia, Inc. All rights reserved.   |  
Have a question? Visit our Help Center to find the answer