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Avoid These Sticky Seller Situations

Abandoned house covered in moss.
You can’t change a less-than-ideal selling situation, but you can turn a lemon into lemonade. Read these tips to find out how.

Consider this potential sticky situation that almost got me stuck when I was selling a rental property: the neighbors turned their side yard that abutted my house into their own personal junkyard.

This eyesore would have made selling my rental house more difficult. But luckily for me, storing belongings in plain view turned out to be a city code violation.

The solution for me was simple. I called the city and a representative put the Animal House wannabes on notice, pronto. (After all, you can’t fight City Hall.)

My problem was an easy solve for me to tackle from 3,000 miles away. It can be awkward, though, when your current neighbor is the problem. But even then, you can deal with drawbacks.

Your neighbors are noisy

Noisy, wild neighbors, particularly ones with barking, unruly dogs, can scare potential buyers away.

J Scott Steinhorn, a real estate investor and author of The Book on Flipping Houses, has some answers.

A group of rowdy high school kids who get off the bus right in front of your for-sale house? “We won’t schedule showings between 3 and 5 p.m. on weekdays,” he says.

Neighbors who leave their loud and ferocious dogs in the yard all day? “We have bribed neighbors to keep their dogs inside on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.”

General noise pollution

If your house is in a busy area, you’re probably not going to wow buyers who long to hear the soothing sounds of crickets and a babbling brook while lounging on their back deck.

But buyers who want to be near the action and hustle-bustle of a city probably won’t mind as much. You still can improve showings at a particularly noisy abode, though. Steinhorn has some answers for this too.

House on a busy street or intersection? “Try not to schedule showings during rush hour.”

House backs up to a freeway or industrial area? “Sell in the summer when the trees are fully in bloom.” This tactic can help mask some of the noise and hide any bad backyard views.

A room with a view (but a bad one)

When Craig McCullough, a Washington, DC, real estate agent, was showing a luxury condo with two back balconies that overlooked some poorly maintained homes, he “staged the back decks with bright, vibrant patio furniture to draw the eye away from the view and to the space itself.”

He adds, “I also installed outdoor sheer curtains that ran from the balcony above to the floor of the seller’s balcony, which allowed light to flow in and kept the buyers from focusing on the property behind the drapes.”

Too many stairs

If people need to walk up four flights of stairs to get to the unit for sale, they might lose interest.

But McCullough kept homebuyers engaged by breaking up the long walk when he staged an open house.

“I printed poster-size images and descriptions of the amenities in the building and placed them at each landing in the stairwell,” says McCullough. The walk was less overwhelming when taken in stages.

Your neighbor’s a train

In the best-selling mystery novel The Girl on the Train, the main character loved living in her house near the train tracks. But that was fiction.

In reality, most people don’t love living next to a railroad. If you’re close enough to the tracks, the train can rattle the entire house — not to mention the piercing sound of the horn.

Gary Lucido, president of Lucid Realty in Chicago, says when you can’t do anything about a sticky situation, “price is your only weapon.”

If the house is priced right, you’ll find that people can get used to the noise.

But then again, fiction is often based on reality. Brad Pauly, an Austin, TX, agent, says that he sold a house that backed right up to train tracks. “Luckily, the buyers were train lovers!”

Sink or swim

Some 20% of land in the United States is susceptible to sinkholes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The biggest sinkhole problems can be found in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.

Florida real estate broker Karyn Anjali Glubis found out the hard way the difficulty of selling in sinkhole territory. Her advice is to “make sure you have an insurer lined up long in advance to help the new buyers feel comfortable.”

What sticky seller situations have you encountered and overcome? Let us know in the comments!